Arms, the Mood Makers of the Dance

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I’m going to share a story from my past with all of you that I think is important because arms are can be a very personal matter. You’ll find many people have their opinions on where to place arms, how they should move, extend or express movement. There are self imposed arm critics out in the world who will suggest, comment or advice you on your arms. I am not talking about a teacher’s authority to advise her students, I am talking about self proclaimed so called experts who call themselves teachers. Arm expression has to come solely from an individual’s way of timing and moving her body. It is really “you” understanding how to move your arms in a synchronized way that works with the rest of your body. As I learned years ago if the amateur critic makes an effort to call you on your creativity, then you know she has more on her agenda plate then meets the eye.

So the story goes…….

I was on a high because I had performed in a workshop show and I received glowing reviews for my performance. In our dance field you can’t get much more of a high then that! A few weeks later I was asked to perform in another show and I jumped at the chance because here in Albuquerque there aren’t as many chances to perform unless you create them yourself or go out of state.

As the time approached for the evening show I walked into the performance space and was directed to where the dressing room was. As I was strolling to the dressing room a tap on my shoulder made me turn around. There were a couple of dancers trying to get my attention. One of the dancers is a local teacher here in town who performs occasionally outside of teaching. The other dancers were what I call hobbyist dancers who also perform occasionally. The dancer who was the local teacher started to tell me what a wonderful job I had done performing in the workshop show but that she felt she needed to address a few areas that bothered her. Now, imagine the three of them standing around me with this gal talking very loudly in front of the main audience who were already seated and eating their food. She then began to tell me what was wrong with my dance, which was I danced too fast and she felt I should slow down. If I slowed down to the speed she was speaking of, I could never have worked with live bands. This she has never done so she didn’t understand that I danced to music according to how I learned from my nightclub days. The main area she addressed was specifically my arms and proceeded to tell me how to improve myself all under the same breath. As I looked at her in silence she looked at me with a smirk. There was a hushed silence over the whole area where we were standing and all I could think about doing was turning around and walking away. I was in disbelief that someone would be so callous as to address a personal issue in public.

That night I danced with such passion; it was all I could do not explode before I danced. I let out my frustration and anger in every movement especially my arms. As a matter of fact my arms said everything I was feeling at that moment; they spoke volumes. I finished with a Turkish drop to the floor and fortunately received a thunderous applause. For a minute I was just lying on the floor breathing hard and as I slowly stood up I felt a hundred percent better and the local dancer was no where to be seen.

The reason why I wanted to share this story with you is this; after all these years it has stayed with me becoming a reminder of how exposed we can become to negativity. I don’t want to be a task master teacher, I want to be an inspiration for you all to be the best you can be. My job is to help every dancer express dance “her” way, not my way. Adding to this as a teacher it is my job to help you find your dance. The only way this can be done is by respecting your individual creativity and knowing there is only one of you in the whole Universe. This in itself is a true miracle.

In the end when it’s all said and done and you are either dancing with a troupe, solo or both your journey includes me only for a brief moment. And when that moment is gone I want you to have fond memories of someone who not only believes in you but was a support system as well. If we don’t have each others back, we have a lot of women talking about dance but not walking their dance. The best testament to a teacher is students performing and creating their own unique masterpieces day after day. Eventually the teacher has to stand aside and let the student become her own dancer.



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About Leyla Najma
Lifelong professional Belly Dancer dedicated to providing "Belly Dance Instruction That Is Easy To Understand And Learn That Connects The Dots"


7 Responses to “Arms, the Mood Makers of the Dance”
  1. Belly Dance Husband says:

    I don’t think you ever told me this story. Hm? Wonder what else I don’t know.

    • Leyla Najma says:

      I didn’t speak of it to you because sometimes talking about negativity gives it more fule for the fire. Unfortunately I held it in all this time but writing is a good release. I keep it as a memory only so I can remember not only how I felt but to make sure I don’t do that to anyone! No secrets from you Baby……….

  2. me_dancer says:

    I can´t believe a dance teacher can behave like that… What a nasty person.

  3. Belly Dance Husband says:

    Ditto for my Belly Dance Wife!