This may come as a surprise to those who do not know me closely, but when I began to teach a few years ago at workshops an odd thing occurred…I underwent anxiety and had somewhat of a small phobia leading up to and during teaching my workshops.
My first belly dance workshop ever was here in Orlando, FL many years ago, and I was truly figuring things out. I thought the anxiety and nerves I felt was normal, similar to before performance, but this anxiety remained during the entire span of the workshop, and no matter what I did, I just couldn’t relax enough to feel like my true self.
Fast forward to 2012 and 2013 when I had been teaching a full schedule of privates steadily for 2 years (and found my juju doing so) and the problem still prevailed when it came to workshops specifically. When the time came to prepare then perform the topic, the anxiety and feeling of not being myself would come upon me again.
So What Changed?
The turning point came right before world last year when I taught a workshop in Texas. The solution came in the realization that “performing” a workshop and “giving” a workshop were two totally different things. For years I felt anxiety because I felt that I was so young compared to my students, because I had been belly dancing for few years compared to the other belly dance instructors, because I felt I was expected to teach “serious” at a workshop if I wanted to be taken seriously as a workshop instructor and the pressure of all this I guess got to me.
I woke up and decided I wasn’t going to give a hoot anymore a couple weeks before Texas. I scrapped my old notes on the topic and took out a fresh sheet of paper. My preparation would be to simply draft a detailed outline of my workshop (but not a scripts worth), choose my music accordingly to each section of the outline to keep my timing in check, and just let everything I knew pour out when I was there. You know what? It worked!
Many workshop instructors probably do this naturally, but for me that was not the case when it came to teaching workshops. Finally, the dancers in Texas saw the real me while teaching, the one my private students saw each week. The goofy, happy, nerdy woman who is passionate about learning and giving all she can to her students, and not the one trying to seem more serious and older than she was.
Last Month I was asked to teach in the British Virgin Islands and in the Dominican Republic and I had the most amazing time being my goofy self during the workshops and feeling the great energy from the students. Maybe some teachers are more serious and it works, but for me it simply hadn’t. In 2014 I made it a goal to watch talented instructors and choreographers and learn different methods of teaching and styles. It has been quite amazing, inspiring and humbling. I honestly feel it is what has led to this point of finally finding the solution to my old phobia.
I think of teachers such as Lulu Sabongi, Karen Barbee, Yamil Annoum, and most recently Derrick Evans of BVI among many others, and I hope to one day be at least an ounce as amazing as these artists.
Overcoming Your Obstacles
I guess the moral of the story is, never give up, always try to overcome your fears and obstacles, and yes… while I may be young, and have not danced since I was 4, I feel confident in myself now as a woman and artist to teach the topics I have chosen to develop.
The anxiety is gone now because I went through a lot of mistakes in workshops to figure out what finally worked, did some research, watched inspiring artists teach and I hope that if other dancers/instructors have had anxiety over something similar, that you find that happy solution and persevere. Dance instructors are humans too, we go through pressure and our little voices of anxiety as well as we culminate our topics, but I hope this blog offers you a safe place to express yourself freely too. Much love and xoxo.
p.s. photo above by Carrie Mullins LLC.