For many years I was a Bellydancer, then I was a Gypsy Dancer, and to some I might have become the American Tribal Style (r) lady, but to me, I am all those things, but I identify simply as a dancer. The danger of putting oneself in a box is that you are likely to grow only to the limits of that box, rather than taking leaps and bounds into all types of genre and performance that live as possibilities within your poetic spirit. At the contemporary dance intensive I finished last week, a guest teacher Craig Bary, gave all the participants this golden piece of advice. Don't call yourself a ballet dancer. Or a contemporary dancer. There will be other people who will want to put you in a box. Don't do it for them. Give yourself space to grow. Try lots of styles. You will learn from every style you do. I got thinking about this advice and thought about all the other boxes we put ourselves in that go beyond dance styles... particularly to do with age and abilities. I have some incredibly inspiring students with boxless thinking who probably respond to the fact that I have high hopes for every dancer in my classroom regardless of when they started and where they have been. As a teacher of American Tribal Style (r) Bellydance, I sometimes feel the need to be very purist about the style. But having seen its mutations and Australian twists, and the way each dancer and tribe imbibes it differently, I now feel very happy to celebrate my tribe's own flavour. I still feel like an ambassador, but it's like a beautiful technicolour coat I get to wear, not who I am. And I feel its my own. In this coat, i've included materials and decoration from my teachers (including my students who teach me so much), my values, my cultural heritage. One day I might find a way to bring contemporary dance into more than just my class warm ups, who knows. Or maybe I will keep them to separate, equally special worlds. I am coming to terms with the idea that it doesn't matter - as nothing is final; no style lasts forever without morphing and changing and being moulded by the hands that carry it. So stay creative. Stay open. Stay away from the box.
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