Friday, August 22, 2014

A Durga Approach to Dance

Durga is a Hindu goddess, a calmly fierce, protective mother/creatrix figure wielding 10 arms. That's a lot of arms! But she keeps it all together.

 I have quite the affinity for Durga (having named 2 nationwide tours after her), and feel as a dance teacher, each "arm" can be something to remind us of what we need to do - as we break down past barriers and help our students find themselves through dance.

Here are my 10 arms of dance:

1) Teaching is about the students, not about the teacher.
Teaching is not about ego, it's about the information, and transmitting that information in the best way possible to the students.

2) Not everyone learns the same way - no one system works for all. 
Some folks learn better by numbers and counting, others need to copy and follow, others need imagery, others want to know the specific muscles, some need mirrors and some do better without, some need a choreography to follow and others work better via improv, etc. A specific method may attract/appeal to certain groups, but it doesn't mean it works for all, or that other systems and methods are wrong.

3) It's not how much material you cover, it's how well they get what you do cover. 
What's better? "I taught my beginners 60 new moves in 6 weeks!" or knowing that your students got a dozen movements down solid and feel confident about what they learned?

4) A syllabus is a good thing.  Flexibility to cover what's needed is even better.
It's good to have a plan for what you want to cover.  But it's not a failure if your students want to go over material from last week, and if that wanders into a different plan, that's fine.

5) Understand that every person takes class for different reasons. 
Some folks take dance class for pure fun, others want to learn about culture, some want to perform, some want exercise, others are looking for something mental or spiritual. Sometimes it's all of the above.

6) Every BODY is different. 
Being a dance teacher means being a student of the body. Movements will vary depending on weight, shape, muscle structure, frame, health, etc. Be respectful of their bodies.

7) It is never too early to teach musicality and culture. 
From the very beginning, I talk about rhythm, history, etc. It may not soak in immediately, but it does bring familiarity.  Don't short-change your students by thinking that it's "not interesting" or "relevant" to mention rhythms, artists, etc.

8) It's OK to not have all the answers. 
You don't know everything, and there is nothing wrong with that - unless you're claiming that you DO. If someone asks me a question I am not sure about - I either reference someone who may help, or look it up to find it out.  We can learn together!

9) Create a positive environment. 
Respect your students, respect your community. Don't mention names in negative situations. If there's an issue to correct/address, be general, and offer solutions. Catty time is not for class time.

10) Teach them to DANCE. Ask yourself what does it mean to dance, and are you helping your students truly do that?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Talhakimt Story

Being a huge fan of adornment, I have long been fascinated by talhakimt (check out The Red Camel's lovely blog post on them).  My attention was more intently directed to them thanks to a workshop I took on the Guedra given by Kajira Djoumahna.  Kajira brought actual pieces as well as photographs showing how the women who do the Guedra wear these objects in their hair. It was clear to me that there were several magical aspects to these wondrous objects.

Looking at the symbol, on the most simple of terms, it's a balance between the concepts of male (the long point) and female (the opening).  I have heard interpretations that the lines represent the directions and/or the elements, that they ground as well as direct energy, that they protect the wearer. This pairing of the circle and the triangle show up repeatedly in body adornment throughout Africa, the Mediterranean, and Asia.

Back in 2010, I decided to design one made out of metal, as they're most often found made out of glass or stone (particularly carnelian/agate/etc). The easiest thing to do would have been to simply "sink" an existing piece.  "Sinking" is a jewelry industry term for casting/making a mold out of an existing object.
glass and carnelian
 from my collection

I chose not to do this for three reasons:
1) It felt disrespectful to do that (my own gut take on it, and I feel similarly about the animal pieces as well - all of my "skulls" are sculpted by me, not taken from actual animals)
2) I wanted to do my own take on the design (the artist demands it)
3) The result of such a metal piece, as-is, would create sharp edges/points of irritation not found in the cast glass or carved stone pieces. (practicality and safety are good things)

So in my design, I chose to make my talhakimt similar to the shape of the glass pieces, but closer in texture to the stone pieces. The side prongs were made slightly softer, the back part of the piece is completely smooth (both for comfort/safety).  Lastly, there are "reservoirs" that can hold color/enamel - meaning not only can one enjoy the finish of the metal, but the piece can easily have color added to it.  I then took this design and made another version, about 75% smaller - as a pairing.

The end result for both is a well-weighted pendant that is comfortable to wear, virtually unbreakable, and can be modified by the wearer to suit their own desires - AND they're made entirely here in the United States, out of lead-free, nickel-free metal, cast and plated in small quantities by skilled, dedicated craftsmen/women - not mass-produced in a factory in China. Having worked in the fashion jewelry industry for years (where nearly everything is made overseas), it's VERY important to me to have my work duplicated on a small scale here by people I know, ensuring high quality results and supporting their small businesses at the same time.  It may cost a little more, but it's worth it.

I love that the talhakimt appeals to folks of all genders and persuasions, rather than just those "in the know."  I believe that's part of the magic of the piece.

Women-owned businesses who have helped fuel my obsession are reliable resources for purchasing the actual glass and stone pieces:
The Red Camel
Silk Road Tribal

If you're interested in purchasing pieces from me, check out my website - and contact me before ordering, as my stock is always moving, and I often have more metal finishes than are listed.  I can also custom make a batch for you in certain colors/shapes.