Fifi’s teaching style
How would you describe your teaching style?
“Most of my students are adults and I feel that when you’re picking up a dance form as an adult it’s important to learn good technique right from the start. So I would say that the fundamentals of basic posture and creating good habits are very central in what I teach.
Oriental dance (bellydance) is such a subtle and complex art, if you haven’t learnt the basics well it is harder to move on to layer movements and create the variations of movements that allow you to convey different feelings through your dance.
So yes, technique is a focus. But also fun. I studied psychology and my cognitive psychology lecturer used to have a ‘joke break’ in her lectures. She would tell jokes and they weren’t even related to the lecture topic – she said that the humour helped retention. Let’s hope she’s right! It’s a nice way to learn something, so I like to joke around, especially in the beginner’ class because it also helps people fell less self-conscious.”
What about the more advanced classes? What do you do differently there?
“With the intermediate/advanced class I tend to think that these ladies are here to really learn. They’re not just trying something new, but have decided that they’d like to master it. I offer challenges because it’s good to be on the edge of your comfort zone – a lot of learning happens there. You also need to ensure there’s a sense of achievement bringing in familiar moves and working with them, you know, working with energy and quality in movement. It’s all good stuff!!”
So what about the dance itself? What are your influences?
“I have had such wonderful teachers. Terezka Drnzik, here in Sydney, has been a tremendous influence over the past decade. She really brought the dance to life for me. She is a one-of-a-kind teacher who can bring out the dance within, you know, not just teaching moves but teaching the spirit of the dance as well. Then there’s Asmahan in London – a woman of extraordinary talent and experience.
I guess another influence is the country of Egypt itself. I’ve been there four times (and counting!), and whether it’s just walking the streets of Cairo or standing with your feet in the sand by the Nile you just get this sense of shared history and timelessness. The people, the landscape and the modern colonial history of Egypt all contribute to the dance we do.
I also read all of the Middle Eastern dance literature I can get my hands on so having that understanding of where the music and the dances come from is really important to me. It helps you know your dance in a context so that you can respect it, and it connects you with other cultures and their history, and their art.”