I promise

If you take my class, I promise not to videotape said class and put it on the internet to advertise. If I ever need some sort of video of me teaching, I will ask/notify you ahead of time and even more likely I will set up and offer folks who take class with me a free class in exchange. If we ever need to video in preparation for a performance, I won’t share it outside our circle.

If you take my class I promise not to act like I own your time outside of the set parameters of class. If we choose to do other things outside of class—student shows, performances, community outings—there may be additional parameters and behavior and other things we agree to, of course. But—always—you are free to take class with anyone else you want to, and to stop coming to my class if it no longer serves your needs. You don’t owe me an explanation.

If you take my class I promise to teach you what I know. I promise to tell you if I don’t know something, and I’ll either find out for you or get you resources to find out for yourself. I promise to be honest based on my experiences and I promise not to make shit up if I don’t know the answer in order to look good or save face. I promise not to teach you what I am still in the process of learning (and I promise to be always still learning). If I am excited about something new to me maybe I’ll tell you about it (probably outside of class), but I won’t pretend to be able to teach it to you.

I promise to be honest in my offerings.

Oh, dear readers, the things I have heard and the things I have seen. It makes me vow to do better by my own peeps.

And now, a word from your sponsor…

I have been sponsoring visiting dance instructors in my town for 7 years now. Like many, I started doing it because there were people I wanted to bring to town that no one else was, as well as to bring teachers who were explicitly focused on more traditional forms of “belly dance” to San Francisco proper. It also made good business sense as part of my own dance work, and I greatly enjoy the connections that are made between the small businesswomen (and men, but we are a largely women driven industry) of belly dance when we work together to make something happen.

sponsors-300x300After working with a few California artists (notably Shareen El Safy, Sahra Kent, and Amel Tafsout), I branched out to dancers from way across the country (Ranya Renee and Jim Boz) and even the world (Outi of Cairo).

Sponsoring teachers in San Francisco remains part of my larger business plan, though I have gone from bringing people two to three times a year to one, or maybe two, times a year. The global belly dance world is vast and seemingly grows more and more each year, and what was once a unified, albeit loose, subculture can sometimes feel like many more fragmented subcultures, with not a lot of crossover between people working even down the street from one another! There are folks who don’t venture past their city limits or past what their own teachers bring or recommend, as well as folks who are working hard on one particular style or offshoot of belly dance (and I can definitely relate to and respect the latter!). There are also a lot more events to choose from, and the average belly dancers budget and time can be stretched thin having to choose from a plethora of often fabulous things to do. The rise of online classes, private lessons via skype, and dance destination festivals where we can choose from many teachers in one convenient spot also have–perhaps?–lessened the need to bring dancers to the area as often.

temporarily_lost_our_sponsor_133035I have decided to tweak my sponsorship offerings a bit to bring dancers who can truly augment what I see from the amazing women and men in my local scene. I always remain loyal to dancers working from more traditional starting points, and work with the instructors I sponsor to keep the material focused on the advanced dancer, the working dancer, the teacher, the serious student, and the long term amateurs. I want to show respect to my Bay Area colleagues, dance friends, and students by offering them something slightly different that also has a clear value for their own continuing education, dance work, performances, and classes.

I’m ruminating on this topic today as I get more and more excited to bring Ranya back to San Francisco for the fourth time. Through some long phone conversations and a flurry of emails earlier in the year, we ultimately decided to focus on presenting two different approaches to Egyptian Dance, which is a phrase that sounds specific but can can actually–and hopefully!–be broad in its meaning when used by dancers (I usually want to know if it is referencing a specific time period, region of the country, audience, musical style, urban or rural, beledi or sharqi…). Ranya and I decided to offer two approaches to the form this time. One is what she terms an ‘organic’ style, one that is melody driven and derived from strong musicality. This has been my own preferred style and approach over many years, and I am so excited to get Ranya’s take on it! The other we are terming ‘combination-driven’, and is derived from the work pioneered by Mahmoud Reda and Farida Fahmy beginning in the 1950s as they presented staged Egyptian ‘folkloric’ dance to the Cairo stage. Their work has influenced many belly dancers today due to so many top Cairo dancers and teachers getting their professional dance start with the Reda Troupe.

It is teachers and topics like this that make me not quite ready to hang up my sponsor hat!

Ranya Renee teaches at Lines Dance Center in San Francisco on March 27 and 28, 2015. Please visit www.monicaraqs.com/ranya2015.html for more details and to register.