A note before I begin: I’ve seen highly skilled, beautiful dancers from all over the world. None of the following is meant to suggest that you have to be in San Francisco to be an excellent dancer. Please read this post with that in mind.
Ever wonder why the overall skill level of dancers at the FatChanceBellyDance® studio is so high? Yes, there exist varied skill levels even within the advanced groups, but in the aggregate, the bell curve at FCBD® skews quite high.
Obviously, a huge part of it is the quality of instruction. There is absolutely nothing like learning from the source, and being immersed in Carolena’s aesthetic. You will improve so much faster if you learn from Carolena and her teaching staff than if you learn elsewhere.
What also lifts students up, though, is dancing with people who are more skilled than they are. You get to pick up good habits this way, and “go with the flow” in a way that’s harder if everyone in the group is floundering. You might pick up bad habits too, but you might even learn something from someone else’s bad habits.
Your takeaway, as a student, is this: if you are newer, don’t be afraid to practice with people who are more experienced than you from time to time. That’s the fastest path to learning. You’re not dragging them down; it is in part their job to help lift you up.
Don’t be obnoxious about it, of course, by acting entitled to their attention. Try not to be clingy, or the biggest personality in the room. But if you approach someone with humility and friendliness, they may be more than willing to partner with you.
If you are a more experienced student, allow some energy (and it does take energy!) to partner with those less experienced than you. Don’t let them latch on to you — you need to improve your skills too, by dancing with people at or above your level — but remember that everyone was there once, even you. Come to Level 1 as often as possible, both to refine your own technique and to be a dance partner for the newer students. You may also surprise yourself, and deepen your own technique by observing what the newer students are doing (wrong or right!) and why that might be.
And here’s a bonus: if you’re patient, you may find that you’ve helped cultivate a wonderful dance partner in a few months or years.
(To be clear: I’m talking about a class setting, where we’re all working on our technique together. Performances are a different story, of course – when there is an audience to consider, we add another variable into the mix, and the considerations are very different. More on that in another post.)
Bottom line: Everyone gets better, faster, if we all invest in each other.
An update: someone pointed out to me on Facebook that this post could be interpreted as saying that only the original FatChanceBellyDance® studio can produce high caliber students.
That’s not what I meant at all by this post. I want to make it clear that the overall gist of what I’m saying is not that only the Mothership can produce good dancers. Rather, I hope it’s clear that I’m saying dancers advance faster when their fellow students help lift them up. And that can happen in other places, for sure.
It’s also a call for the teacher, removed from the FCBD® studio, to invest in herself and her continuing education, so that she constantly improves. Luckily for you, Carolena and Megha have just launched Sister Studio Continuing Education and Advanced Teacher Training programs! There are some other new programs too, to help you improve even if you’re remote. Please go check it out.