Teressa-Belly Dance Artist in Toronto

Cross Training…or tales of a bellydancer in ballet & jazz class

Date posted: July 4, 2011

I took my first bellydance class when I was 16 and before that, the most dancing I had done was a short stint in an 8-week hip-hop class for teens and before that, coming up with dance routines to songs by the Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child with my cousins that we then performed in front of our family…yes, we were that awesome! I wasn’t a child dancer who took classes in ballet, jazz, and tap, the fundamentals of all childhood dance training, so jumping into belly dance training intensively was my first real foray into the dance world.

When I became serious about belly dance, I still sometimes felt as though I was “missing” some dance training. When I first started dancing for example, traveling steps and turning were not my fortés and I knew that it was my lack of this childhood training that left me stumbling over my feet, while others glided effortlessly.

With the rise of shows such as So You Think You Can Dance and their amazing contemporary routines that I fell in love with, along with the understanding that I needed ballet and jazz in my life, I hopped on over to a local dance studio to take adult ballet and jazz classes. I started this adventure over 2 years ago and the training has been amazing for my bellydancing.

Ballet was a huge challenge at first. Did they say that I have to move my legs without moving my hips? No, that can’t be right because that’s impossible! I was trained as a belly dancer, which meant that my hips were directly connected to my legs, so if my leg moved, the hips obviously followed…obviously. In ballet, I had to learn to keep everything still, whilst only moving my legs. Ballet was also instrumental in helping me to create strong lines and pointed toes when I dance. Although I’m no ballerina, my toes now create a much stronger arch and line than it did before these classes. Trust me, there are results!

I also decided to try jazz/contemporary since one of my dreams was (and to some extent, still is) to become a fab contemporary dancer. It’s a long shot, but I’ll keep trying. Jazz was and continues to be amazing at helping me with turns and traveling steps. No longer do I look as though I’m about to tip over when I’m turning. It’s also awesome that after 2 years, I feel extremely confident in class about doing those scary across the floor exercises.

In addition, the new movement vocabulary provided in jazz classes has given me a lot of new options for my bellydance movement vocabulary. New foot patterns, jazzy kicks, even a few jumps are a part of my bellydancing repertoire now!

So bellydancers, get out there to your local dance studio to find a ballet and/or jazz class and jump in! It’s a bit scary at first, especially if you’ve never heard of pirouettes, jettés and a lot of other French words being yelled out by your instructor whilst you look around in confusion. But trust me, after a few classes, you’ll get the hang of it and will be pirouetting and jetté-ing all over the dance studio (and possibly in your kitchen and hallway after class).

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