Interview with Angel By Jemina, WAMEDA Newsletter Print E-mail

Q: Angel, first please tell us a little bit about your philosophy of the dance.

A: Most of all, I see belly dance as a powerful spiritual discipline and an art form. No matter the size, shape, age, or physical condition of the dancer, this feminine art form has something positive and magical to offer to those who truly embody it. I am always amazed at how the belly dance movements enhance the inherent beauty of the dancer and lead women gracefully on the path of self-knowledge and self-appreciation.

I truly believe that each and every woman in this world is born a powerful belly dancer even without training, and that this knowledge is encoded in the very cells of the female body. Thus, for each woman, learning to belly dance is a process of remembering what she already deeply knows. And, for each dancer, the path of remembering is unique and completely holy. As such, each woman's journey is to be honored as a sacred pilgrimage back to her divine self.

To me, all women who dance from the heart of their inner truth are equally beautiful, no matter their level of technique. When a woman learns to truly express her soul, a special and gorgeous radiance surrounds her body. This light blesses not only the dancer, but also sends a silent and profound prayer of support to all women everywhere.

 

Q: What advice so you give students when they start to teach?

A: Teaching is a great honor and a great responsibility. One of the best ways to learn to dance better is to teach, as each student always brings important lessons to the teacher. I feel teachers should be humble and constantly curious in their own education, always open to finding new ways to learn and grow. This attitude requires discipline and complete devotion to invoking the highest good in each student. At the same time, teachers must allow their students the freedom to make their own choices and to develop at their own speed and in their own way.

Not every good dancer is born to be a teacher, for teaching requires a special ability to step outside of oneself and to completely focus on another person. This outward focus is as much of a sacrifice as it is also a blessing. Teachers must be willing to make this effort with a grateful heart full of unconditional love for the student.

I feel it is important not only to teach the steps and movements of dance, but also to weave the threads of emotions and the ribbons of light from the soul into the body of the dancer. Addressing the whole person is essential to being an effective teacher. Good belly dancing should help women to be happier, healthier, and more empowered in all aspects of their lives.

 

Q: Angel, what advice do you give students when they start to perform professionally?

A:  Along with being a strong, fit, and technically proficient dancer, well costumed, good at zills, and knowing how to dance a full 30-minute routine of music; there are many other characteristics I encourage my students to possess if they want to dance professionally.

Most of all, I expect them to be ladylike in their demeanor and comportment, and to be decent human beings. As they step into the highly competitive market place full of adventures, I wish for them to show grace under pressure and to have the courage to take the high road in even the most difficult situations. I expect them to always be polite and considerate to others- customers, employers, musicians, and especially their fellow dancers.

In my experience, I have found that respect, kindness, and consideration toward other professional dancers is the best way not only to enhance one's own career but also to help raise the level of belly dance as an art form. I encourage all professional dancers to dance from a place of gratitude and abundance within themselves. After all, as American women, we have the most freedom of any culture in the world. Good and influential jobs will manifest out of this positive mindset.

 

Q: What are some of the worst mistakes you have seen dancers make?

A: I think the worst mistake a dancer can make is to dance from the place of fear. This fear takes many faces such as: cattiness, jealousy, malicious gossip, cut-throat competition, back stabbing, price undercutting, auditioning unannounced during another dancer's performance, and stealing choreography. Certainly this fear lowers the level of the dancer's performance, degrades belly dance as an art form, and most of all does absolutely nothing to help women embody their higher natures.

To me, belly dance is a joyful dance, and if the dancer focuses exclusively on bringing this joy to the audience, there is no room for fear. Indeed, this is a noble challenge given the level of terrorism and fear currently in the world. However, what better way to transcend all this darkness than by engaging in an activity as beautiful, fun, and creative as belly dance, plus sharing this with others?

 

Q: Do you incorporate dancer ethics into your teaching?

A: I incorporate dancer ethics in my teaching, first of all by being the most ethical dancer I can be. When appropriate, I verbally impart my understanding of dancer ethics, often using humor to bring out the positive learning in possibly difficult situations. I try to be as open minded as possible and encourage my students to come to me at any time with their questions. I believe in sharing my point of view rather than imposing my opinion. If I do not know the answer to a given question, I refer the student to someone who I feel might know better than I.

 

Q: What is the most important advice you can give a student?

A: When students come for the first time to my classes, I always say that the most important thing is to breathe and to have fun. Beyond that, I try to encourage them to find the way of appreciating their own unique style of femininity.

I encourage new students to study regularly with a good teacher for at least one year to learn the basics. After that, I encourage them to study with as many teachers as they wish, as long as these teachers have positive and supportive attitudes toward their students.

 

Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for the dance community?

A: I encourage more positive interaction and communication between teachers, perhaps in the form of joint teaching ventures. Certainly, teachers should recommend students to each other's events. I suggest that professional dancers go watch each other perform in order to support each other and to know what is going on in the business, whenever they can find the time.

Finally, I think that dancers should focus on supporting live musicians in the DC area, helping to create performance venues where live music is included. There is nothing like live music to make belly dance even more exciting for both the dancer and the audience!

 

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