Toddler BelliesDance or Mommy and Me Bellydance in Los Angeles

This is official! And it’s exciting!
I’m starting to teach a weekly Mommy and Me Bellydance on Tuesdays (Starting January 26th) at 10:00am at the 101 Dance Center. Yay!

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I wanted to say so much about this class that won’t be written on the flyer or Facebook event. So I decided to write a blog.
This project is so special to me. I think about it literally every day.
My beautiful daughter Michelle is 13 months old now. But when she was born a year ago, I went through a roller coaster of emotions. This is totally fine for a new mother (and a first time mom, too!). From joy and happiness I easily could feel sadness, disappointment and discouraging. It felt like my life is over and all I’ll be doing from now on (and forever) is just changing diapers. I didn’t like the way I looked (I’m not talking about the body shape), I didn’t like my lifestyle, I didn’t like not to sleep or eat or, most important, dance whenever I wanted. It is especially hard because these feelings are not welcomed in the community. All new mothers are required to talk about joy and happiness of motherhood. And, if someone is brave enough to say something like: “I’m feeling sad/upset today.”, do you know what almost everybody will answer? “It’s your hormones, babe!”. And yes, maybe it is my hormones. But this answer doesn’t help. It doesn’t heal. It doesn’t motivate. In fact, it just triggers more anger – I can’t “control my feelings” now because of these stupid hormones.

Don’t get me wrong. It is truly a blessing to raise a child. This is not about it.
It’s about how we, as mothers, as women, forget to treat ourselves after the birth of our child. Yes, our little ones mean the world to us. But before I met my Michelle for the first time, I had a very long (a 26 years old!) relationship with myself! And this relationship was in danger…

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A friend of mine (a doula) recommended me a book. This book was very inspiring because it allowed all feelings I had. I was surprised to discover I’m not the only one feeling this way. Actually, the book even said something very interesting and, sadly, true – most of the postpartum depression are caused because of isolation (of a new mother) from the world in the first weeks/months after the baby arrives. Suddenly, it seems like there is a world behind the door of your apartment and there are two of you (you and the baby) on the other side of this door. And it might be cozy and a great bonding time, but it is also might be very hard.

So the first thing I decided to do was meeting new people. New mothers. I realized, you don’t have to force friendships. It is just enough to see another human being (a mother) taking care of a new human being (a baby) and feeling exactly like you (sleepy).
To not make this post very long and to stay close to the subject (Mommy and Me Bellydance), I’ll get to the next point 🙂

Then I realized I need to dance. Dance has always been the best therapy for me. Do I need to say that teaching or taking a dance class with a newborn (with no help) is almost impossible? Just trust me, it is.
So I started to dance with Michelle at home.
And I thought – why to keep this joy away from other mothers like me? Other mothers who need to find new friends, feel belonged to a community, other mothers who want to dance… Other mothers who just want to get out of their house and come to a baby friendly place! Where you don’t have to apologize for bringing your baby with you and where you will feel welcomed and wanted by others! A safe place where mothers can share. A place where all feelings are accepted (not only joy and happiness) and can be expressed though dance!
This is how Mommy and Me Bellydance was born for me.

I don’t chaise the “educational” aspect. Or a dancing/music development place. (However, this project has it all!)
This project is for Dancing, for feeling belonged and accepted, for enjoying yourself and your baby. This project is for all new mothers and their little ones!*

So if you want to join Michelle and myself, and Bellydance, you are w e l c o m e anytime! You don’t have to be a dancer. Actually, you don’t have to be anything, but y o u and your baby. Everybody are accepted, welcomed and wanted. We will be here for each other. With the joy of dance.

*This specific class is called Tuesday Toddler BelliesDance and it’s for babies of crawling ages and up (up unit 24 months). If your baby is younger, please contact me!

First Mommy and Baby Bellydance class in Los Angeles 2015!

Do you know what dancing and motherhood have in common?
Flexibility.

When you are a professional bellydancer, you have to be flexible. This is not about your physical body. It’s about quick decisions you are making and smooth adjustments to everything. Planned one show but the client needs two? No problem. Prepared you CD, but there is only live music? Perfect. Started your routine with cane, but the kid from the audience wants to dance next to you? Let’s get this cane far away. Need to change costumes in 25 seconds, sharing the tiny room with 3 other dancers? Ha-ha, easy! How many of those did we have?

Motherhood… It’s pretty much the same, every day. Balancing between naps, feedings, planning your day and sleeping at night (well…). Instant change, from one thing – to another. According to your baby’s needs. Flexibility.

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Yesterday I taught my first Mommy and Baby Bellydance class here in Los Angeles! I’m not sure I told you before, but I created this project for new mothers who want to Bellydance. This is unique because these classes are baby friendly and let the mother not only enjoy herself, her body and bellydancing, but spend quality time with her little one.
I’m very proud of this project. Michelle was my inspiration… And one day I’ll tell you more about it. As for now, I’m still developing, learning and making my classes better each time.
To tell you the truth, these classes are harder to teach than my regular ones… I wasn’t getting that tired after three hours of teaching the way I do after one hour of Mommy and Baby class. I have to change, adjust and stay focus constantly! Constantly!!! Constantly flexible!

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And as always, motherhood was teaching me a lesson yesterday.
Michelle refused to take her morning nap. Just like that. That was my plan – put Michelle to nap, get ready and when she wakes up, go to class! Nope. Michelle had another plan in mind.
So I started to improvise!
I got dressed and took Michelle out an hour before planning to leave! I wanted her to fall asleep in the car and she did!!! I was happy about this decision. But suddenly Michelle woke up about 15 minutes after she fell asleep! Whaaaat?!
Should I tell you that during the class she was upset and tired? She cried, refused to dance and play music (which usually she loves!) and all she wanted is to stay in my arms.
Besides that, my speaker didn’t want to connect to my iPad and play music!
Everything. Everything went not the way I planned that morning! I specifically don’t use the phrase “everything went wrong” because it didn’t. It just went differently.
But hey, welcome to Motherhood! This is how it is!

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Despite all these, I think we had a wonderful class. I’m so proud of every single women who decides to come and try something new when there are too many new things around her already (motherhood, duh!)! Despite the sleepless nights and difficult car rides, these women are coming to Dance, to take care of themselves, to discover something new about themselves and their bodies. It inspires me every.single.time!!!

Thank you to my beautiful friend Eva (she was one of the first women I met when I came to Los Angeles almost 7 years ago and she is a mother of a handsome 8 month old baby boy now!) who organized this class. And thank you to all mothers who shared this hour of dancing with me.
I hope there will be many more in the future!

Bellydance. Where do I like it better? Israel vs. US

I’m spending my summer of 2015 in Israel.It’s hard for me to say “I’m visiting” and it’s been not easy to think: “I’m home”… Despite the fact, that my family lives in Israel and I absolutely love this Land, Los Angeles stole a part of my heart and I miss it.
No matter what country I stay in (US or Israel), people always ask me: “Where do you like it better?”. And this question people like to apply to everything! I used to compare, analyze and choose sides… But with time passing by, I see it’s getting harder to compare. You can’t compare. Because everything is different. And everything is the same.

So Bellydance. Where do I like it better?
Let me tell you what I like about Israeli bellydance, dancers and dance community.
First of all, I love my teachers here! I had quite a few teachers along my way and I respect all of them. But there are MY true teachers that inspire me every time I see them! (I’ll tell you about them in a separate post, because you have to know them! 🙂 ). There is something about teachers I meet in Israel. The US teachers usually teach me techniques, give me tools and make me stronger. Israeli teachers motivate me, inspire me and make me more creative… They make me question and discover. When in America they make me drill and practice. (I’m not saying one is better than the other. I’m just telling you the difference.)

Dance in Israel
(Celebration in memory of Yardena Cohen. Photo Credit to Robert Urbaniak)

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Shaabi Dance – Salam Alaikoum by Saad (translation)

shaabi3On March 1st LABA held a showcase where I danced a fun Shaabi improvisation. I was surprised how many people came to me after this asking about the style. I even felt guilty for not performing a true Shaabi piece, because the thing that I danced was more Shaabi-inspired improvisation, but maybe not the purest Shaabi dance.

Ok, let me explain it.
 
 
What is Shaabi?
Shaabi – is an Egyptian musical genre. It is a form of popular working-class music which evolved from baladi in the second half of the 20th century.
Shaabi literally means ‘music of the people’. It originated in Cairo in the 1970s, as a new form of urban music expressing the difficulties and frustrations of modern Egyptian life. Shaabi lyrics can be both intensely political, and filled with humour and double entendre. (c)

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Introduction to Bellydance class: First performance!

Introduction to Bellydance class: First performance!

I would like to say how PROUD I am of my Introduction to Bellydance class! These dancers came to take their first Bellydance class 8 weeks ago! Only 8 weeks ago!!! And yesterday they were amazing! They were fabulous and brave! This little video shows so much… The dedication that they brought during the 8 weeks period, the determination they had, the commitment to themselves and to each other as a group!

Dancers, you were very beautiful! Your smile, energy and dancing moved me so much… You inspired me! And you showed me again why I love bellydance so much and why this dance has so much power!

P.S. To those of you who have taken this class and haven’t performed: I’m proud of you, too! I know how much energy and love you brought to this class. And your support at the showcase meant the world to the rest of the group. Thank you!!!

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Picture credit to Clint Marien

Intro to Bellydance class

Tips for your first Bellydance performance

Tips for your first Bellydance performance

As I told you in my previous post my Introduction to Bellydance class will perform at the LABA Showcase March 1st. These dancers have been bellydancing for just 8 weeks and it will be their first performance ever! This post is for them, for my other students who want to perform and for anybody who are ready to showcase their talent, but need just a few tips to feel ready!

We perform everyday and everywhere. We go to work and perform there (do our job). We get into our cars and perform our driving. We cook dinner at home and perform in front of our families with a meal. To bellydance in front of the audience is one of many other performances we do all the time. So don’t let it scare you! Just be ready for your show and enjoy every second of it. You will be surprised how fast it will be over and once it’s over you know one thing right away – you are addicted to it now and can’t wait for your next show!

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Here are some tips for your performance! What to do days before, the day of the show and of course, on stage.

Days or weeks before your show.

1. Practice.
Practicing – is not necessarily standing in front of the mirror and repeating the steps and combinations. Don’t get me wrong, you DO need to do it. But not ONLY that.
Practicing – is listening to the music of your routine. Just listen to it as many times as you can, find accents, recognize different instruments. Make yourself so familiar with the song, that you know every bit of it!
Watch inspiring youtube videos. Watch your favorite dancers walking on and off stage, watch their grace. Get inspired by their energy or moves.
Dance your routine in you head. It doesn’t matter if it’s a choreography or you plan to improvise. Listen to your music and dance it in your mind.

2. Prepare your look.
Everybody know we need a different hair and makeup when we perform. But it’s wrong to think you will be okay the day of the show. Practice your stage look before! There are many youtube tutorials that teach you how to apply stage makeup. Try to experiment with your makeup couple of times before you know what you like. Just surprise your family and friends with everyday-new-look a week before your show! 🙂 I do that, too. I start practicing my makeup ahead of time by applying variations of it days before.
Get your costume ready. Not it your mind. Try your costume on. Dance in it. See if feels comfortable and if it looks good on you. Think if you want to dance barefoot or have your shoes on. Practice in your shoes! Don’t wear your dance shoes for the first time on the day of the show!
Trust me, the last thing you want to worry about during your show is your costume. Don’t count on putting safety pins all over your body. It’s not safe 🙂

3. Go through your performance day in your mind so you know you are ready for anything!
This is what I do before every important day or show! Right before I go to sleep I imagine my next day in a very small details. I imagine everything – from when and how I’m going to wake up to what I put in my purse before I leave my house.
Go through the moment you arrive the venue until the moment you are done with your show. Here is an example of what I usually have in my mind: “My show is at 7pm, I need to arrive at 6:30pm. I need to get to the venue and park my car. Parking! I need extra 10 minutes for it, so I’ll plan I need to arrive at 6:20pm. I need to leave half an hour before. Traffic! I have to check the traffic, if there is one, I have to leave 45 minutes before. I arrive to the venue. I’m going to my dressing room. First thing I’ll do – find my spot and put my costumes out of my suitcase…” And so on. It seems silly but it helps to lower the level of your stress, because you are READY for everything and nothing will make you panic.

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Before you go on stage.

1. Relax.
Stop practicing 🙂 You can still listen to your music and even go over some steps, but don’t make it a priority. You’ve practiced enough. You are ready. Don’t overkill yourself before your show.
Take a nice bath. Do your nails (beautiful nails are important!). Do your hair. Do your makeup.
Wear something comfortable and nice. Wear comfortable shoes, you don’t want to make your feet tired before you even got on stage! Make it a fun and special day for yourself!

2. Don’t be late.
Never. Ever. Know the difference between your call time and show time. Know when you need to be ready. If you are performing with a group, know when is (if there is) your tech rehearsal or bow rehearsal.
Being in time to everywhere you need to be, will make your day easier and less stressful. That means when you get to dance, you are not tired after running around. Don’t be late. Neither because of traffic or parking, nor because of your makeup or inattention. Just don’t be late.

3. Check in with yourself.
Give yourself some time to check in. Do I have my costume ready? Do I have everything on? Do I know where is the entrance and exit of the stage? Do I know who dances before me? What is happening after I’m done?
Check in with your routine. Go over some steps in your mind.
The point is don’t get out of your car, put your costume on and then talk with other dancers up until you need to dance. Give yourself some time to get mentally ready for what is going to happen.
Don’t spend all your time on taking backstage pictures, uploading them to Facebook or Instagram. Don’t talk before your performance. Just give yourself a minute or two to check in.

4. Remember your intentions.
Every time before I step on the stage, I remember my intentions: why do I do that? I do that, because bellydance – is the love of my life and I want to share it with everybody in the Universe! I could have had a bad day, but I always remind myself – there is an audience that came to see me and my job is to deliver. To dance for them.
I can’t stress about my look now or the camera not being ready to record my show. It’s not about it. A moment before your showtime stop and think – what brought you here today? What IS important in YOUR performance?
Sometimes, when I’m very nervous and the crowd doesn’t look very friendly, I imagine my mother sitting in the audience and I know that I will dance for her. She is always happy to see me dancing. And I’m always happy to dance for her. That helps me to find balance. Find what helps you.

5. Warm up!!!
Yes, exactly this thing you try to be late for during your class 🙂 It is so important to prepare not only your mind, but also your body. Even if it’s two-three stretches or a breathing exercise. Warm up.

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ON stage, your show time!

1. Be present and aware.
Here it is! Here is your time to dance! There is no time for doing the routine one more time or getting stressed because your fake lashes don’l look the way you wanted them to. Or your boyfriend is stuck in traffic and didn’t make it to your show. Or the music is to low. Or what not! The only thing you need to do now is to be present in the moment. Enjoy your showtime! Drink every sip of it. Look at your audience. Have fun. Dance! Nothing else matters.
Be aware of your dance partners. Of your stage. Be aware there might be a kid running to the stage while you perform your cane routine! Just don’t check out and don’t think about anything else, but your dance!

2. Not only your routine matters, but the whole presentation.
Don’t talk during your performance. Don’t talk right before or after behind the curtains.
Don’t run away at the end of your routine! Let your audience applause for you. Let them take this last picture! Pose just for a second longer
Walk off the stage gracefully. Your exiting the stage time is part of your performance. Don’t ruin it. This is the last thing the audience sees about you. Let them remember you right!

3. Be confident. You are in control!
Only YOU know what your routine looks like. Nobody else does. So even if you make a mistake, don’t give it away. Only your face expression can show the audience something went wrong. Nothing else! So stay positive and happy no matter what. Everybody is on the left foot and I’m on the right? Instead of an “oops” face, make it “everything goes according to plan” face! 🙂
If you need to have an “oops” face – it’s ok, too! Just make it theatrical and be fun or even funny about it. Who knows? Maybe there is a part of your routine where you act confused? 🙂

If there is anything you really need to know about your first performance – is to stay positive. Performance time should be a fun experience. There will always be people who are better than you. It doesn’t matter. And conversely, there will always be those who are less than you. Your performance is not about it. It’s about your love for dance and sharing your experience with the audience. And the audience will always love you, if you stay positive and fun.
My teacher used to tell me: technique of the dance – is like your clothes. It’s very important simply because you won’t go anywhere naked, right? But do you judge or love your friends only because of their clothes? No. You love them because of who they are. Your soul and your style – this is what important!

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Introduction to Bellydance

Introduction to Bellydance

I love love love blank notepads! They make me excited and inspired. I start a new notepad every couple of months, because it’s a sort of meditation for me – to re-fresh, to re-start. Need I say how much I love the first days of a New Year with its resolutions and motivation?! 🙂 This year the New Year’s Day was combined with a New Moon, so you can only imagine how far I can take it!

Have you ever noticed how many people go to the gym on Mondays? It’s all about this promise you give to yourself – to start a new life on Mondays, New Year, etc… Only few of these promises survive 🙂 That’s why my favorite class, Introduction to Bellydance, falls on Monday! You can start your new life every Monday!

Introduction to Bellydance is my favorite class because of so many reasons. Besides the fact that it keeps me focused on my technique and lets me drill moves over and over (there is a Russian saying “Repetition is the mother of learning” 🙂 ), this class allows me to meet new beautiful dancers! New people always make me fall in love in Bellydance again! I see new eyes lighting up, excitement and a little timidity… First Bellydance class is like a first good date, when you just get to know someone but already so excited for the next time. And there is no better feeling than seeing someone dancing in the circle, after 5-8 classes, especially when you, as a teacher, remember how shy your student was on the first date in the first class.

Add one more resolution to your 2014 list – keep promises to yourself! Start doing something you always wanted to, but delayed it and came up with new excuses for why not… If you ever wanted to start Bellydancing, the doors of LABA are always open and I personally will be there to guide you through this process. Come dance with me on Monday nights at 7:15pm. If it’s you first class ever or if you want to go back to basics, you are always welcomed here. If you need more details about this class, please click here.

…As for the new notebook 🙂 I got this wonderful Date book that reminds me: Everything you can imagine is real! And the mantra of January will be: Spread your wings and let the fairy in you fly!

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4 Elements of Nature: Bellydance

4 Elements of Nature: Bellydance

I was 17 years old when I first found out how Bellydance is connected to Nature and its Elements and since then I saw bellydance in a completely different way! I find it very interesting how dance can be affected by Elements of Nature and how much we can learn about ourselves and about dance through Nature.

Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, these are the elements of nature. Each one has an energy and a spirit of its own. Each has its likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses… And each one of them we can DANCE. Nature helps us to bring more awareness to both – our body and soul.

We were born with a lot of knowledge that we just forgot. Nature is always there to remind you how simple things actually are. And I can’t wait to start teaching a new 8 week dance session “4 Elements of Nature: Bellydance” at the Los Angeles Bellydance Academy. The session will start January 8th, 2014. We’ll dance every Wednesday at 7:15pm. The level will be intermediate. However, you can combine this session with “Introduction to Bellydance” and you won’t feel lost!
Explore your Bellydance world and discover something new in your dance that has been there all along.
***To sign up for the session, please click here.

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In the beginning of 2009, just before I moved to Los Angeles, I created and produced a show in Israel, “The Fifth Element“. I had my beautiful students dancing the elements of nature in the costumes my mother and I developed and made. It was truly an amazing experience and such a beautiful collaboration of so many strong and talented women.

By the end of our session, LABA will be hosting a showcase (March 1st, 2014) and I’m sure we’ll create an unique dance that we can perform with!

Here are some pictures from the show of 2009! I hope you enjoy them and feel inspired! 🙂

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Freestyle!

Freestyle!

I finish all the classes that I teach with some freestyle time. I think it’s one of the most (if not the ONLY) important thing during a bellydance class – to dance by yourself, with no instructions or frames, but just dance. Very often I hear the same things from different students – “It’s too hard to dance when people watch me” or “I can’t dance, I don’t know how” or “I’m not that good yet, I’ll dance later”. Despite all these fears, I still encourage my students to freestyle. And I want to share with you my experience and thoughts about it, that might help other beginner dancers to feel more comfortable while free-styling.

Will it be it too cliche if I star from reminding how beautiful you all are? It it so true, we all know it, but nobody can really remember it when it comes to dancing. Don’t compare yourself to other people! I really like what Osho tells us… He is saying that comparison brings inferiority, superiority. When you don’t compare, all inferiority, all superiority, disappears. Then you are, you are simply there. Let’s face it, there is always going to be somebody who is more beautiful, more talented, stronger, more intelligent, or apparently happier than you are. And conversely, there will always be those who are less than you in all these ways. The way to find out who you are is not by comparing yourself with others, but by looking to see whether you are fulfilling your own potential in the best way you know how.
So stop thinking that you are not as good as others. Your dancing is unique and it doesn’t have to do anything with other’s dance experience!

Speaking of experience… You will be surprised to find out that other people don’t even think about you as much as you think they do! I’ve been teaching bellydance for more than 8 years and I know for a fact that people who dance with you in the class, actually think about themselves. We are all concerned about our shapes, styles or even the way we put our make up on the day of the class! So everybody is watching themselves only and everybody is so busy judging or loving themselves, they just don’t see you! Let’s not get into how good or bad this habit is, but focus on our main idea – other students just don’t have time to judge your dancing, simply because they are focused on their own!

That leads me to another point. Dance classes are there to help us understand what we don’t want to do on stage (when I say “stage” I mean everything – from dancing in the theater, restaurant show or in front of our family. All these have a common thing – audience, your audience). There are so many mirrors where you can see your reflection for a reason. You have to try some things first, before bringing them to your performance. But how would you know what not to bring to the stage if you haven’t tried it and saw how it looks? Dance anything you want, allow yourself to be silly, experiment. This is how you decide what you like about your dancing! There will be things you will think: “Thank God I tried this move here and not in front of the audience!” But you have to start improvising and trying things out!

The society taught us that we can’t be free and open minded in a room full of other women. It’s sad, because long time ago bellydance was danced by women and for women. Women were spending most of their time together, while men were hunting or fighting. Women knew how to support each other and fulfill each other with strong positive energy. If we think how great it can be to dance in the circle for other women, give and receive each other’s experience and support each other’s dancing, we can truly enjoy the freestyle time! But you have to be the first one to set up an example that you are not afraid dancing in front of your classmates and show them trust of knowing they won’t judge you…

We forget that dance exists to give us the feelings of freedom, happiness and joy. We try so hard to create a perfect figure eight with our hips that miss the main idea of dancing. Enjoy the music, the ability to move, let yourself be open and free! My teacher always used to joke – you already paid for you class! Why not trying something you wouldn’t do at home? 🙂