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In the professional endeavours I’ve been involved in, feedback is an essential element of development.  As a high-school teacher in training I was observed by experienced teachers throughout my training period and again a few times in my probationary period.  After these (feared and dreaded) observations I was given feedback – their perception of my areas of strength were shared as were those areas that they felt I could do with developing.  These comments, as well as my own self-monitoring, provided the basis of my attempts at self-improvement. The same is true of my counselling training.  We work in triads – one student is the ‘counsellor’, one the ‘client’ and the third is an observer.  All 3 give their impressions of how the session went after it’s finished.  In addition to this we record (video or audio) sessions and use these for self-monitoring and to facilitate monitoring and feedback from others.

It’s a key element in the training stages of both teaching and counselling and recognised by the establishments therein as necessary.  I imagine it’s the same in many other fields, from medicine to, perhaps, fields like writing.  And yet… it’s not something that I’ve really had much experience with in bellydancing.

The art of giving and receiving feedback can be a subtle one, especially so in a field like bellydancing where our appearance is an integral part of the ‘art’ – but to critique someone on this or, worse still, to receive feedback on that could be incredibly damaging to self esteem, something that is often in short supply in women at the best of times.

Furthermore bellydancing is now such a diverse art.  Who is ‘qualified’ to provide the feedback that you (or I) need?

The question has also been raised with me by Fereshteh as to who should give feedback to bellydancers – other dancers (peers or more experienced dancers) or the audience (regardless of their bellydancing knowledge and/or experience)?  My experience of feedback in school teaching and counselling has always been from more experienced professionals, and sometimes peers.  My students were never consulted on my teaching abilities.  Perhaps they should have been?  I do now ask students at my dance workshops for feedback, but the thought of giving (for example) feedback sheets to a paying audience seems completely inappropriate, like it would spoil the mood for them.  I mean they have come to be entertained, not aid my professional development.  I know I wouldn’t like to switch from the mode of ‘being entertained’ to ‘paying enough attention to give good feedback’ at a show I had paid to watch.  But I do – and I’m positive I’m not alone in this – pass judgements in my head on people’s work/performance/etc.  Perhaps if these were shared they could help that person develop further? If they were interesting in that, of course.  I think offering feedback without being invited is not an especially cool thing to do.

And there’s something else in this whole thing about the person who gives the feedback.  I find it hard to really ‘hear’ somebody that – for example – really irritates me.  They could have something amazing to share with me, the key to making me the most perfect dancer that ever was, but if they bug me chances are I won’t hear it.  Or rather I won’t take it in.  I’ll probably dismiss it because it came from them.  I am working on changing this aspect of myself, but I’m sure it’s not just me who has these blockages to hearing what others have to say.

As you may have gathered I’m chewing this over at the moment.  I welcome your thoughts & experiences in this field.


It seems like we’re entering hafla season! Thursday just past was the Edinburgh University’s hafla and now Caroline Rose tells me that she’ll be having a hafla in the Pleasance Cabaret Bar on Feb 27th – which, I think, would be a fabulous end to a day of workshops thatI’m throwing as part of Festival of the Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace (there are more details and the ability to book my workshops on my website and there is, of course, info on the Edinburgh Bellydance Calendar – see links at the top of the blog page).  I’ll add more details to this on Caroline’s hafla when I have them.

[EDIT 2/2/10: I’ve heard on the grapevine that Caroline might be shifting the date of this hafla to March. Will update when I know more.]

AND… the weekend after that there’s a hafla at the Inchture Hotel in Perthshire on March 6th.  There’s event details on facebook here and a facebook group for the hafla here and it has it’s own website here!  This hafla raises money for Talking2Minds  ( a charity that works with people who have Post Traumatic Stress disorder.  Tickets cost £8.

And for your viewing pleasure here are some videos from the University hafla last week:

Habiba Dance



Given the responses I received to the idea I floated of putting together an online calendar of events for the bellydance community in Edinburgh, I’ve gone ahead with it. You’ll see a shiny new link at the top of this blog called “Edinburgh Bellydance Calendar“. If you click on it the link takes you to the calendar, which is hosted on my own website.

I currently have classes, workshops, etc run by myselfHabiba Dance, Edinburgh University, Hilary Thacker and Caroline Evans.  If you would like your event(s) included please send me the details.

Also, if you want to embed this calendar on your site as well please let me know and I’ll send you the little bit of html you need to do so.  As it’s a Google calendar I’m using you don’t need to do any maintenance on this, it’ll all be maintained by me updating the Google calendar.

Well, despite have the dreaded lurgy (aka the common cold) I managed to teach all three sets of classes this week… and enjoy myself… and not die! (Apologies, being sick tends to make me a little over-dramatic 🙂 ).  It’s been absolutely lovely to see the familiar faces of my old students and to meet the delightful new students who have come along for the first time.

I’m not sure where I found the energy to teach; perhaps it was the chicken noodle soup, some have suggested it’s the magic of dance.  I think a lot of it is to do with the energy I get back from my students, the buzz and adrenaline rush that comes with teaching.  I am reminded that it is privilege to be able to share the knowledge and skills I have about something that I have a passion for.

I am gutted that I had to pass on the Edinburgh University Hafla that’s on tonight because of how poorly I feel, and I really hope that the good folks in attendance get some videos of it up on youtube shortly.  I’ll post up links if they do.

Good night folks x

When I started looking for bellydance classes in Edinburgh years ago I found it difficult to get accurate, up-to-date information about what classes where on, when & where they were and how much they cost. I remember that I found it quite frustrating trying to “break in”. Several years later I’m now on mailing lists, connected to bellydance friends on facebook and, in general, know the scene a bit better – so now I find out things a bit more easily. That said there have still been things going on I haven’t heard about until either right before the event or sometimes afterwards.

So to this end I’ve been playing around with creating an online calendar to list ALL the bellydance events, workshops, classes, hafla’s etc that are going on and planned for in and around Edinburgh. I’m thinking of embedding it here, on my website and anywhere else that would be willing to have it.

It’s a resource I would have been very grateful for when I was first starting out, and so I believe that it would add value to the bellydance community locally – both the current community and those thinking of, or trying to, join it.

But… I don’t want to tread on any toes. So I’m wondering… is this a cunning plan? I’d really appreciate hearing your thoughts on this.

When I first learned the “Egyptian Walk” in class I had real trouble getting it to it’s proper speed.  I learned the slowed-down version and was able to do that quite well but just couldn’t get it faster.  Part of the problem for me was the leap where I had to double the speed of the movement to keep in time with the music in class, i.e. going from half time to full time, or from full time to double time.  It was just too much of a big leap for me.

At home I poured through my music collection listening for songs where the beats fell in at intermediate speeds but this was really just pot-luck and ultimately quite frustrating.  After a while it dawned on me to use a metronome.

I’d used them before, years and years ago when learning the violin and then later flute, but I didn’t own one myself.  However, as well all know, the internet has pretty much everything… I had a hunt about online and discovered this marvellous website:

With this online metronome you can select the speed you want, change it, start it, stop it.  I found it useful to get to a speed where I could do the movement comfortably and then gently increase it, pausing at each increment to get fully confident at that speed before moving onto the next.  By the time I came to my next class I could do the Egyptian Walk at at full speed!  I felt that warm glow of having achieved something I really wanted; it was wonderful.

I give this advice to my students to help them get their “Egyptian Walk” up to speed.  I’m curious to hear – does anyone else out have other tips and methods that help with this?

Juliana Brustik (pictured below) is an Egyptian dance teacher and performer based in London.

Read the rest of this entry »

As I mentioned earlier I recently had the great fun of dancing to some live drumming courtesy of John McLeod. Well… here’s a video of it (which was very kindly filmed by John’s friend Will Jackson)!

Will also made a funky edited version but youtube has decided it didn’t like my attempt to upload that earlier. If I can get it to work I’ll post it up here too.

I haven’t had access to any videos of my performances in literally years so it’s quite eye-opening for me to be able to watch this. It’s given me lots of food for thought, and (despite the many things in the performance that I want to improve) I actually like it. I really hope you do too.

I had a lot of fun at Lauryn’s Level 2 class at Zanzibar last night!  It is soooo awesome being a student, Lauryn is a lovely teacher and the other students were super friendly.

To start the class we all stood in a circle and introduced ourselves with a little bit of our dancing background – this was novel to me and was a really nice way to begin a session.  Group bonding can be such a huge part of a class – I know I enjoy and have enjoyed classes much more when I feel connected to the other people I’m learning alongside (as well as having a connection with the teacher). Read the rest of this entry »

I had the great pleasure of being a student again at Zanzibar Studio, Chattanooga.  Lacy Dickerson took the Level 3 class which began with a little bit of pilates and some yoga mainly focused on our core and low belly, before we put the mats away and got our boogie on.  It was so different from the classes I’ve taken in the UK, both because of the yoga/pilates emphasis and also due to the movements that are considered ‘fundamental’ – the four points of the Umi/Omi/Oomi were our starting place, which we smoothed out into the full, tilted hip circle.  To this we added beautiful “floating arms”.  It was something else to see the studio jam-packed with ladies all circling their hips and gracefully moving their arms in unison. Read the rest of this entry »

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January 2010
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