I had to leave behind many things when I came to Egypt, one of them my school… and of course my students. Although I started teaching not by “vocation” (my father refused to afford me dance, whether classes, costumes or whatever was associated with it) I must to admit that I found a great satisfaction in teaching. I went to the local news paper and I post on classified ads and I received my first students in living room. That was the beginning but more students joined, then more and more until we had no place and had to move to a real “dance hall” where we were able to work.
There is nothing more rewarding than watch a student grow. To see her evolution and feel that you give something. Not all my students wanted to become a “Professional performer” or “teacher” but I was teaching them all equally. I was quite demanding as a teacher and I still am. In class there is time for everything and by that I mean that work and rehearsing must be priorities… We can talk, exchange opinions… but only when the work is done. Rehearsals were sacred: If you didn’t show up you should send a death certificate to justify that…
I loved to make choreography, specially the “solos” because those “solos” were their moment. True, my students had something mine in their dance but they always put their personality in each song.
I have wonderful stories! laughter, tears… anger… So many memories… stories… If I remember just one I feel moved. I miss them, of course, but I’m happy to had shared so much with them and I learned a lot.
Good teachers and bad teachers
When I started in Belly Dance I had a teacher whom I admired very much. I remember that always before any competition or festival we used to have so much rehearsal and in the end of the day we stayed just to watch her rehearsing. Once, when she finished dance we gave her a big hand and she said: _“Someday you will dance like this…” I swear, just to hear that, I felt like something inside me was broken. Over time I realized that teachers not only teach what you need to learn… some of them teach what you should never learn.
A good teacher is the one who is by your side from the “teacher position” but without feeling superior… A good teacher is who you admire and respect without he demands for it. A good teacher always remember that once he was also a student… therefore he “reads you” and he knows how to guide you. When I met my teacher in class I knew that it was him who should guide me. Never wanted to be like him because he is unique but I wanted to follow his steps and learn from him every second. Besides being an excellent teacher, is a being full of light… loved and admired worldwide, he walked in many stages but he still sit beside you and talk with no arrogance… Those who have the pleasure to know Amir Thaleb sure understand what I’m talking about.
Teaching in another language
When I had the opportunity to teach here in Egypt had been a year without teaching and on top of that I had to teach in English. Which represented a challenge for me because, even though my English is not bad (and my accent is very Latin) is not the same… Especially in the beginning. I always had more foreigners students than Egyptians, sometimes groups others private lessons. It was no long until the language stopped bothering me and I felt again the pleasure of share what I’ve learned and what I love… again… Teach or give for me is the same.
The language issue is not minor in some countries where English is not spoken much, such as Japan. Where at certain times in the class I needed the collaboration of a translator because I prepared a class with a song translated from Arabic to English. But I can assure you that DANCE, like any area of art, is UNIVERSAL.
Every country I visited has nurtured me professionally and of course I have precious memories of each place and the students who passed through my workshops… They have passed through my hands. Now I don’t have a dance group or my students like I used to have when I was in my Tucuman, but I’m still the same and when I teach I give my best because I want the students take something from me… that’s my wish. I just have one problem: When I start the class I forget the time… also I don’t count inside the time “the break”… maybe that’s why in my workshops we always finish the choreography. In Japan my workshops were 3 hours and half each. I didn’t stop for 2 hours and half and when I did a pause to explain something some girls came and spoke to me in Japanese… their faces were like “PLEASE!”… with the help of the translator I understood that the girls wanted 5 minutes to drink water and relax… The Japanese people are the most polite people I’ve met and the students are also applied.
I teach here in Cairo to foreigners visiting and foreigners girls living here… from Korea, China, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Italy, France…to name just a few, and of course from Latin America. Also I have Egyptian students.
I have also recorded online classes for http://www.cairobellydance.com and I want to thank Aleya for trusting my work.
The big difference
When I was in my country I was teaching more often than dancing in any celebration. Is not in our tradition to bring a belly dancer, is not a “must do” and in turn there are many girls who want to learn to dance. So all the dancers teach more than dance in shows. I remember when I was called for a show in a wedding I used to spend all day preparing myself for the occasion… Although you can dance in the end of the year in your festival but is not enough.
Here in Cairo, Alhamdullah, I dance almost everyday and I teach from 3 to 4 times in the week. I don’t have to much time to “prepare myself for the occasion” but it’s worth to have 2 or 3 shows per day… The stage is a great teacher, and what you learn on stage you can not learn it elsewhere…
To devote myself to what I love for me it’s a blessing. Meeting people from different places in my shows and in classes it’s a unique experience. No day goes by without I remember how I started my journey… my beginnings… Those evenings when we went out with some of my students to hand out flyers, whether “start of courses” or “festivals”… every time I traveled to Buenos Aires to learn… every time when I used to sewing and make designs with countless beads and sequins… Every time I told to my students: _“Today you get on stage, some of you for the first time, for some of you will not be relevant but others will never leave the stage.” And of course that moment when my father told me:_“If dancing is what you really want… then dance!” … His words were like a release for me… Because it’s not important to do what you want, but LOVE what you do!