Friday, November 20, 2015

When the student becomes the teacher....

In my recent China tour I met numerous talented and dedicated dancers all over the country. This was my 3rd trip there and I visited 6 cities and everywhere it was the same, the students wowed me. Their spongelike ability to learn and unparalleled motivation to improve themselves means that China really is progressing fast as one of the top countries to be looking to in the future for great dancers.

The thing I hate though, is the copies.  Everyone knows that China is no.1 in the world for copies. In fact, I just have to say this and mention 'handbags' for all my students there to laugh and agree proudly!

Copying other people's dance, their style and their choreographies, will get a student so far and certainly will speed up their learning in the beginning. However, in my opinion, this should only be viewed as part of the learning process- not as the end goal!

To me, dance is art. 'Tracing' and 'colouring in' can certainly look pretty and can have elements of creativity in it, however I am not sure I would call it art. A print of a painting is fabulous is you don't have access, or funds, for the original canvas, but I think everyone would agree- it's not the same! Especially if people then pass this off as their own work!

Sadly I still meet many dancers, many of them teachers, who only every perform (and teach), step for step, other people's choreographies rather than improvising, or creating their own. 

My aim with the work I do in China (and elsewhere around the world) is to try to show my dancers how to think for themselves (something the culture there does not really encourage) . How to listen to the music and think about what sort of experience they want to create for their audience and for themselves. To examine their reasons for making dance such a huge part of their lives and to recognise what they need to put into it (physically and emotionally) in order to get the most out of it and to give the most to their audiences. 

Without fail, at the end of each course I have taught, I've been bursting with pride at the mental and emotional effort the students have made and how they have opened up to the music and dance. 

Not everyone will become a professional dancer, but that is not everyone's aim anyway. I just really want people to feel good about what they are doing and be aware how they can improve themselves. 

I feel honored to have to opportunity to tour such an amazing interesting country and teach such thirsty students. They don't realise it, but they teach me so much. 

I can't help but be a little intimidated by the hours, expense and effort that these dancers in China will spend in order to improve themselves. Never too proud to be the student. Skipping sleep in order to work, learn and raise families. All at the same time. Even the way they learn is different. Setting aside an entire week to learn for 5 hours a day with one teacher. It's quite a commitment. Many of them also attend classes in order to learn other skills to help them improve their own dance, from yoga to pole dance to ballet. 

How much are you committed to improving yourself? I know I cannot even begin to hold a candle to the majority of my students efforts and they have inspired me, yet again, to take a more active role in my own life. I have found in nearly 10 years in Cairo that it is too easy to sit back and let it all just happen to you. I've become lazy.

Thank you to all my students, especially those all over China, who have shown me how much you can improve yourself if you set your mind to it. I will endeavor to be less complacent in the future and push myself harder. The teacher has become the student! 

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Camels across China... A Shimmying Scot abroad (again!)

... The dance move that is.... Not the humped 4 legged version! 

Today is the last day of my 5 week Bellydance tour of China, and the first chance I have had to even think of writing a blog entry! It's been non-stop work/fun/sleep/ travel - repeat. 

I flew from Cairo to Shanghai. Qatar airlines are very comfy, but the luggage allowance is more generous on Egypt Air- an issue which has stressed me out for the entire trip as I saw so many things I wished I could buy, but couldn't, due to my already heavy bags! 

The trip itinerary was as follows:

Shanghai - (2 nights) this time was officially to sleep off jet lag - but ended up doing so many varied and fun things;

taking part in a make up class, 

Chloe's table here, when not being used for make overs usually holds the Lorna shrine:

(Felt very weird.... Especially with the lilies there!) 

a  'FlyYoga' class,

(This Photo was taken later in the trip in Gaochun studio... No evidence of my first FlyYoga attempts- thankfully!!!) my nails done,  went to an art installation with giant ants;

And wine coolers made from scooter helmets;

Admired pink painted poodles....

and later went clubbing all night instead- 

oops so much for sorting the jet lag but hey ho. ... Love Shanghai and all my friends there!!! 

Chengdu- (12 nights) I flew on the much celebrated 'moon festival' where everyone gathers with family and eats moon cake; 

(Super tasty moon cake!) 

and was awakened by my fellow passengers mid air snooze because the air stewards had pulled my seat number in a lottery and awarded me with a beautiful Chinese tea set which I had to walk up to the front of the plane to collect. I had to speak over the microphone to all the other passengers. It was the most surreal moment of my life! 

I was lucky as so well looked after my entire trip and everyone went out their way to make sure I sampled all the local foods and saw all the sights. 
(Hot Pot- it just has to be done!!!) 

Chengdu is the home of the panda and I was taken on my last day to see them, and I can't actually tell you how many baby pandas I saw! Super cute!

The pandas in Edinburgh Zoo actually come from this centre, so it was great to see where they had been born! 

The enclosures were a lot better than I imagined they would be too. although its not too obvious from these photos....

It was only a shame we got there so late and missed the red pandas too! 
We had gone for some lunch ...

, via a temple, (I've lost those photos sadly) but of course all that took longer than expected
Then it was direct to the airport..... 

Changsha- (3 nights) here I ended up being in a TV documentary with my student and host,Cici, all about Bellydance in China. I'll add the link to the program if I can find it (although be warned- it's all in Chinese- part from when I am talking of course!!!) There is footage from the classes and also from the show. 

Jinan- (7 nights)- where I tried to only eat one meal each day to reduce the size of my every growing belly. Why does the food in China have to taste SO good ? (And how do the Chinese manage overall to stay so skinny when they eat so much?!) 

(I have to say, I was actually on cloud nine when I tasted this delicious hot and sour soup!) 

And this city had me feeling all angelic...! 

Jinan is famous for the fresh springs there and I was amazed to find this amazing park in the very centre of the saw seals and fish and so much beauty. 

Also, I found a man I want to take with me all over the world- I went for a massage and this talented Doctor managed to completely take away the severe nerve pain I have been suffering with my hip for the past 8 months. After 3 nights it was back- but at least now I have hope that it is something fixable at least (which up until now I had fact- I went for a massage in nearly every city I went to and was very impressed with the the price and quality of the work, even in the shops that are open onto the street! 

Shanghai - (6 nights) where my iPhone 6 was stolen out my handbag in a bar. This has been the only bad thing to ever happen to me in China. Sadly it means I have lost a great many of the took during this month and although my students have been able to supply me with some, and I had thankfully uploaded a lot onto wechat, I have lost most of the ones I took especially for the blog!!! 

However, on the plus , I did get to hang out for a few evenings with the beautiful and fun Valerick from Miami who was also here to teach 

(Before our performances at one of the coolest nightclubs in town that we had taken over for the evening to celebrate AM studios 3rd anniversary. ) 

(Heading down under the Bund to cross the river, underwater to go up the tallest building and see the view!) 

and I also had the pleasure to meet another famous (and charming) dancer from the states, Tamalyn.

So much fun.....

Nanjing - (3 nights) my first time on a high speed train (which we nearly missed - no pun intended ) from Nanjing we travelled to  Gaochun, a small town an hour away from there. I went horse riding and even tried (and failed at) pole dancing. I did a little shopping and inspired by the fashion of few of my hosts this trip, bought some lovely Chinese style clothes.....

(Photo taken at the west lake in f me in my new chinese top!) 

Oh, and I met a pirate who has decided that he will be my Chinese husband. Hmmm.  

Hangzhou - (2 nights) where we went on a boat on the famous West Lake and I cried at the beauty of the place. I saw fishes jumping and was told this was very good luck (must remember to take any Chinese friends to the salmon ladder in Scotland if they come to visit me there!!) 

The last night here found me watching an old fashion picture show in the street, 

......fending off donkey meat, shopping for scarves (no one can have too many scarves) and then drinking a margarita in a pirate ship whilst listening to KTV- Chinese karaoke. 

Shanghai - (1 night) - a beautifully relaxing evening with a friend going for a massage where all the therapists are disabled. What a wonderful idea. a blind man has to feel his way.... and i had the second best massage, possibly of my life!! on my last day, after shuffling around all my luggage so as to bring back as much as possible but also allow for a little extra shopping... I went with a friend to the Shanghai Museum in Peoples square.

It was much better than either of us had anticipated, and she found it very interesting and would encourage all her friends to go there too! oh and bonus- it was free to get in too!

 I will do a whole blog entry on the museum, because I took so many photos there!! Oh... And underneath the entire square is an underground shopping mall... With fish, and streets and ... Oh, just fabulousness..... Loved it! A great last day in China!

All this, (and I haven't even mentioned a fraction of the things I got up to!!)  and not one mention yet of Bellydance..... Because there is too much for one blog entry. So the dance enthusiasts amongst my readers will have to wait for a future blog entry for that stuff!!!!!