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TitleFrom the Classroom to the Stage# of Comments1ContributorJLKjillian
From the Classroom to the Stage
Three short years ago, I never couldhave dreamed that a henna tattoowould turn me into a belly dancer. Nowhere I am, three years later, preparingfor my fourth show: not only am Ireturning to the stage with moreconfidence than ever, but I am excitedto share my performance with friendsand family.For years I've celebrated summer withhenna tattoos, but had never had muchoccasion to appreciate this art in thecontext of its cultural origins. However,in 2003 I attended a traditional, femaleonly, Moroccan henna party (albeit in avery non-traditional location on AtlanticAvenue in Brooklyn), and saw whatturned out to be a life-changing MiddleEastern dance performance by thewoman who would eventually becomemy teacher: Autumn Ward. Autumn'sdancing was unlike anything I had everseen – she moved in a way that seemedimpossible yet effortless, perfectlymatching the music.Months later, I pulled out theinformation Autumn had given me abouther classes and decided to give it a try.While I am long past the point of making New Year's resolutions (atradition I was never good at anyway), Ilike to kick off each new year by tryingsomething new. Thinking that bellydance might be a fun new way to getsome exercise, I attended my first class just after January 1, 2004.After only a few weeks, I realized that I had stumbled onto something much moremeaningful than an interesting workout. With every class I gained a greaterappreciation of the beauty of this dance form, and looked increasingly forward to thecompany of my classmates. From basic techniques, Autumn easily moves herstudents into learning simple choreographies. Simple choreographies give way tomore complex choreographies, and Autumn eventually adapts some of thesechoreographies for stage performance by multiple dancers. With each class,excitement builds. It's not only fun, but thrilling, to reach a point when you can seehow those singular moves you learn are tied together with the music and each otherinto beautiful flowing expression. You feel the growing anticipation of what the entiredance will look like; then, like magic, you are performing it! When I'm in my danceclass I feel such a wonderful connection to the music, the other dancers, thetraditions, and to the past and exciting future of my own journey in dance.Most fortunate is that I've found such an exceptional teacher and choreographer.Although Autumn creates a relaxed and supportive classroom environment, herclasses are technically demanding, and she has pushed me to be self-reliant andtake ownership of the dance. While she inspires dancers with her compassionate
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Photo: Sal Denaro
Aututmn Ward's student recital, Fall 2005.
6/15/06 7:45 AMThe Hip Circle:: online bellydance magazine, belly dance discussion and communityPage 1 of 2http://www.thehipcircle.com/article/display.asp?ArticleID=176