Standing in the Beginner’s Shoes

August 4, 2010 4 Comments

When you’ve been doing something for a long time, it’s difficult to remember what it was like to be a newbie. Once time has woven the once-unfamiliar into the fabric of your being it’s hard to recall when it wasn’t part of you – or the struggle to get there. It is usually (hopefully) those that have been down that road who are teaching the newcomers.

As instructors, we regularly stand before an eager group of women ready to try bellydance for the first time. We demonstrate hip drops and basic Egyptian walks. We explain and count and cue, and often watch them flounder to find the beat and step on it. Do you remember when that was you?

Getting some “beginner perspective” every once in a while is a good thing for an instructor. This past weekend I was one of a group of workshop presenters at a bellydance event. I dropped in to a Bhangra/Bollywood workshop for fun. I picked up a few moves, but the most valuable thing I got was the opportunity to stand in the beginner’s shoes.

The rhythm count was unfamiliar, the hopping around was not my style – I’m not a “bouncy” type. The wide low stance felt weird and un-dancelike to me. The arm movements and hand gestures were hard to remember. I felt awkward and self-conscious. All this might make it sound like I didn’t like the style or the class but that wasn’t the case at all. I did enjoy it and it’s also a style I enjoy watching.  If I decided to learn it, it would clearly be a long time before I looked Bollywood-cute or like anything more than a spastic marionette.

I do consider myself a patient teacher and my students’ comments back that up. However, tonight as I started a new session with a large crop of total beginners I had both patience and a renewed connection to how awkward it can feel to stand in their place. I’m always excited and proud to watch new students execute their first steps, but as tonight’s students hip twisted their way across the floor it was just that much better.

Mahin (121 Posts)

Professional instructor and performer of Middle Eastern belly dance, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and author or the “Daily Bellydance Quickies”. Belly Dance Artrepreneur, Workshop instructor, performer, event producer, and bellydance writer.

  1. Kis
    August 4, 2010 at 11:16 am

    …like anything more than a spastic marionette…

    I love this description. It’s so easy to feel awkward when you’re learning something new. Tonight in my class, we were doing work in improvisation. It’s amazing how awkward it can feel, and yet, it looks right. It’s all about the passion showing through and making it right. That is always the hardest part to learn for new starters I think.

  2. Nielle McCammon
    August 4, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    LOL spastic marionette 🙂 hahaha

    GREAT post Mahin! I forget what it’s like to be a beginner too and maybe that’s why I’ve lost some students?

    Good idea to take a brand new dance style class and be put in that beginner position again.

  3. Taji
    August 4, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    This is such a good lesson to remember. We all try to be patient—some nights it works better than others. Also—to catch people doing things well and complimenting them instead of just correcting the mistakes.


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