Having a happy moment! Our new beginners’ course started last night and I got to do some of my favourite things:  meeting new people and sharing the wonderful world of Oriental Belly Dance with a new group of ladies.

We run three beginners’ courses every year and this is our last one for the year. It’s both a happy moment and a little sad for me, as I realise that this is the last group of ladies we will directly impact and start on what is sure to be a fabulous, fun journey.

I often have the “can’t we squeeze one more session into the year?” feeling, but it’s very important as teachers to take a few weeks’ break and recharge. This is what Jessica and I do over two weeks in December – well, sort of. We spend that time looking at the many ladies we teach and we do our best to decide what we are teaching them during the following year.

It’s important to us to expose our dancers to as much as possible, without overloading them or pushing them too fast. When we focus on a particular style, it’s important that we do it justice. We don’t just create another choreography – we instead focus on the history and evolution of a particular style of dance. This way, we honour the culture that from which the style originated.

With all the drama around cultural appropriation, it’s specially important to honour the roots of that particular style, whether it’s been around for 40, 60 or more than 100 years.

With so many dance styles under the “Belly Dance” banner, it’s impossible to say that you are proficient in them all. As a teacher, I believe it’s very important to have a basic understanding of as many as possible and choose the best style for you.

In our studio, I feel very lucky! Between Jessica and myself, we have completely different backgrounds and different learning styles. When you meet us, most people struggle to understand how we can be friends and not just friends, but best friends and business partners with such a large array of differences.

But that means our students get a lot more value from our different approaches. We both study intensively, we work hard on the styles that talk to us. There is plenty of overlap with the folkloric and drum work.

Jessica loves the pops and locks and freedom of “fusion dance”. I love the more traditional styles of dance, hopefully without being too much of a purist.

Can you tell I’m in a happy space, having a happy moment?  I can’t wait to share this belly dance journey with a new group of ladies.

Melanie Wallis

Melanie started dancing and performing for Janka’s Oriental Dance Studio in 2006.  Under the mentorship of Janka Kliment, Melanie began her training to become an Oriental Dance teacher in 2008 and completed it under Asja Samia in 2011.  Melanie is also a certified health and fitness instructor.   Following Janka’s return to Slovakia in 2013, Melanie and Jessica chose to carry forward the vision of their friend and mentor.  They purchased the studio and continue to teach the art and beauty of the dance to all aspiring belly dancers.