I did something slightly out of character for me a few months ago. Having heard from one of my coworkers (with whom I am really friendly because we both share a love of all things belly dance) that the wellness program’s open fitness belly dance class had been cancelled because the old teacher left, I got up my gumption and emailed the kinesiology program coordinator. I told her that I heard she didn’t have a belly dance instructor anymore, and well, I’m a belly dancer. I’ve been dancing for five years with a primary focus in belly dance fusion, am part of a dance company, and was thinking about maybe starting to teach. But I don’t have any experience, and because I’m non-exempt (which means I can earn comp-time/overtime, and therefore am ineligible to teach classes at work) I’d be willing to volunteer for a semester or two just to get my feet wet and see if teaching is something I actually want to do.
My class starts today at five. I am equal parts excited and completely freaking out.
Dance has, in the last year or so, completely engulfed what used to be my boring, normal little life. I joined the dance company, we opened a studio, I started taking more and more classes and attending more and more rehearsals and taking on side projects like my duet with Ren (we had a performance last night in which she stepped on my skirt, but no one noticed and everyone thought it was great), and and AND AND…And now, I have the additional responsibility of creating lesson plans, warm-ups, and combinations for a so far unidentified (because it’s open to all faculty, staff, and students, so they don’t have to sign up ahead of time) group of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and potentially-advanced or potentially-baby-beginner students.
And since the class is just billed as “Belly Dancing” (which for some reason makes me think I’m expected to detach my belly and it will spontaneously start doing a tap number with a tiny top hat and cane; FYI, most belly dancers just call it “belly dance”), I have a feeling they will show up expecting an hour of Arabic music led by a skinny woman with dark hair and olive skin wearing a jingly scarf around her ass.
Oh what a surprise it will be when they get chubby, white and freckly me.
I have a feeling I am not the only belly dancer who has this problem. When I tend to tell non-belly dancer types that I am, in fact, a belly dancer, I am often met with looks of mild confusion. Most laymen seem to have the same mental picture described above, of the classic, “traditional” belly dancer. This is a picture I just do not fit. Most people also wouldn’t readily know that there are a multitude of branches of belly dance—from folkloric styles to improvisational tribal to the experimental weird shit I do called fusion. It’s something you wouldn’t be aware of if you’re not already a part of the community.
So when I went by the dance room to check that my laptop could connect to the stereo so I wouldn’t have to burn CDs and tested it on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” and the kinesiology coordinator said, “That’s belly dancing music?” I was not all that surprised. I took a moment to remind her that I’m a fusion belly dancer, and Beats Antique is about as close to Middle-Eastern music as my collection gets. The playlist I created for my first class (because I’m a total nerd and spent an entire week creating two and half playlists for class so far) contains such gems as Beats Antique, Wax Taylor, Zee Avi, Little People, and Cake. There are also appearances by Melody Gardot and Alabama Shakes in the warm-up. I am quite proud of this playlist, but part of me is like, “Oh god, what if a bunch of people show up and they’re expecting Egyptian or Cabaret or even Oriental, and they leave all mad because it wasn’t a real belly dance class!?”
Of course, that bunch of people part may not be a problem. They didn’t get the open fitness class schedule sent out until 5:00pm Friday, so I doubt a lot of people saw it until this morning and therefore were not planning on staying this evening. So far the only person I know will be there is the coworker who told me the old instructor left, and I told her about it a few weeks ago when we’d gotten the time finalized. She came by this morning all excited to double check that we were starting tonight because she brought her clothes and put it on her calendar. She’s so cute.
I know this post is kind of all over the place and flows like a big river of crap, but I’m too distracted to be cohesive. I’m excited, and I keep reminding myself that I know what I’m doing. That they wouldn’t have wanted me in the dance company if I wasn’t any good. That I’ve been to a ton of classes and have heard every move described and broken down in every imaginable way, so I don’t doubt that I can explain them or answer questions. I have planned the class so much I have the music coordinated to the appropriate amount of time for shimmies, warm-ups, drills and a short cool down. I remind myself that my fear is simply the fear of the unknown, of not knowing how many students or what level they’ll be at or whether the class will meet their expectations.
All I can do is go and give it my best and hope for the best. If it’s a great class, great. If I hate teaching, I don’t have to do it again next semester. If nobody else shows up, I get to hang out and dance with my friend for an hour. It’s going to be fine.
Now excuse me while I run listen to my playlist again and check my lesson plan and analyze the complexity of tonight’s combo for the tenth time…