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6/15/06 7:45 AM

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Title # of Comments Contributor From the Classroom to the Stage 1 JLKjillian

Search by style: • • • • • • • • Raks Sharqi Fusion Turkish Gypsy Gothic Sacred Tribal Fusion Fitness

From the Classroom to the Stage
Three short years ago, I never could have dreamed that a henna tattoo would turn me into a belly dancer. Now here I am, three years later, preparing for my fourth show: not only am I returning to the stage with more confidence than ever, but I am excited to share my performance with friends and family. For years I've celebrated summer with henna tattoos, but had never had much occasion to appreciate this art in the context of its cultural origins. However, in 2003 I attended a traditional, female only, Moroccan henna party (albeit in a very non-traditional location on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn), and saw what turned out to be a life-changing Middle Eastern dance performance by the woman who would eventually become my teacher: Autumn Ward. Autumn's dancing was unlike anything I had ever seen – she moved in a way that seemed impossible yet effortless, perfectly matching the music. Months later, I pulled out the information Autumn had given me about her classes and decided to give it a try. While I am long past the point of making New Year's resolutions (a tradition I was never good at anyway), I like to kick off each new year by trying something new. Thinking that belly dance might be a fun new way to get some exercise, I attended my first class just after January 1, 2004.

Aututmn Ward's student recital, Fall 2005. Photo: Sal Denaro

Editorial Staff: Editor-in-Chief: Blanca Senior Correspondent: Sarah Skinner Publisher: Neon WorldDance New York

Rakkasah 2004

After only a few weeks, I realized that I had stumbled onto something much more meaningful than an interesting workout. With every class I gained a greater appreciation of the beauty of this dance form, and looked increasingly forward to the company of my classmates. From basic techniques, Autumn easily moves her students into learning simple choreographies. Simple choreographies give way to more complex choreographies, and Autumn eventually adapts some of these choreographies 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 see how those singular moves you learn are tied together with the music and each other into beautiful flowing expression. You feel the growing anticipation of what the entire dance will look like; then, like magic, you are performing it! When I'm in my dance class I feel such a wonderful connection to the music, the other dancers, the traditions, 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, her classes are technically demanding, and she has pushed me to be self-reliant and take ownership of the dance. While she inspires dancers with her compassionate

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The Hip Circle:: online bellydance magazine, belly dance discussion and community

6/15/06 7:45 AM

approach, she's given me the greatest confidence in myself by making sure I didn't start performing without the knowledge and skills I needed to strive for my personal best. Each performance I feel a growing confidence and feel less nervous. I find myself more interested in sharing this beautiful dance form with my friends than worrying about my stage fright. I love the dances that I am performing this year, and have really benefited from learning so much about the choreographic process. In Autumn's class, it's fascinating to experience a dance coming together from the very beginning stages through the moves, the combinations, the transitions between them, and finally the full piece. Even from my earliest performance as a member of Autumn's beginner class, I could easily hear the subtleties of the complex music. Thanks to her choreographic choices everything about the movements she chooses just goes perfectly. From my first performance just two years ago when I was a beginning dancer – somewhat frightened by the idea of dancing in front of an audience – to now, being in Autumn's classes and shows has taught me so much about dance and about myself. Each new dance I learn is a bit trickier, with more challenging transitions, and more intricate staging. This June, I'll be performing for the fourth time as a belly dancer. Something I never thought I'd say back on that day when I was surrounded by women enjoying the luxury of a henna tattoo. I'm more excited than ever about this recital. The group numbers are the most gorgeous I've been involved in and with a number of students performing solos as well its bound to be a fun and enchanting evening! Autumn's recital, Autumn Raqs 2006, is on June 4th, with two showings, at 5:00 and 7:30. Tickets are $15, available at, and advance purchase is strongly recommended. At Teatro La Tea, 107 Suffolk St., Lower East Side. This is a 75-seat theater with riser seating and theatrical lighting. Autumn has been creating theatrical performance opportunities for her students since 2000, and this is her seventh large-scale student recital. Jill Lewis Kelly

Post a new comment to this article . Comments Divyana
I am speechless to say the least. I have read about Autumn and have checked out her website. I am thinkig very hard about my direction in middle eastern and fusion dance. I want to perforem in choreographed shows in theaters myself. I have had my own dance groups in the past but Middle Eastern is a new path in my dance career. I have been in practice and study now for 6 years. I think I myself willstart taking her classes. Thank you so much for this beautiful warm article about Autumn she is wonderful!!

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