The Dancing Critic

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Tammy's HeadshotThese were the voices in my head during my last practice video review session: “Walking around. Listening to the music. Good. Hmm, the arms are a bit busy here. Oh, that was a nice shimmy-arm circle combo. Get that hand off your hip. Stop fidgeting! You can’t see the movement! OK, you are in your head here and are not listening to the music. You’re thinking. You’re not dancing. Come on, you know this song. Relax into it. Umm. Missed the first set of takk, takk, takk. The next accent was so, so.”

Song: Taht El Shibbak as performed by Al’Azifoon

And so it goes. Picking myself apart during a video review session is easy. Somewhere deep in my subconscious there is a film clip of what the dance is supposed to look like. It may even be an image of another dancer performing the piece perfectly. And that, what I am seeing on the screen, is not the way it is supposed to be! Or at least in that moment that’s what I tell myself.

TJ Video Review

It is difficult to find the balance between productive reflection and soul crushing self-criticism, especially when our bodies are a part of the running commentary. It happens more often than I care to admit. I could be getting dressed for a coffee date with friends (oh that blouse makes me look like a box!) or preparing to facilitate a meeting for a client (will wearing my locks in a bun make them take me seriously?) Those voices make it difficult to show up and be my genuine self and bring something unique to the situation.


Showing up for life, being fully present, is not about being perfect. In dance, technique is important. In our weekly classes our students often remark how surprised they are by the difficulty of the movements. Bellydancing is hard! You can learn the movements, the fancy combinations and dazzling travel steps. Luckily, the Bay Area has several wonderful bellydance teachers who can help me with my technique, like quieting those busy arms and adding a show stopping combo or two to my repertoire. Perfecting my technique is one thing. But learning how to get out of my own way, to really enjoy the music and dance with it, and not at it, is a whole other matter.


This has been true for me in every aspect of my life. For instance, I almost didn’t write this blog. Was I really brave enough to show the world a raw, unpolished practice session, with me fumbling and looking awkward? Etang and I have been careful, especially with the criticism that full figured, bellydancers of color face, to present ourselves in our full sparkly glory, whether it be through our website, Facebook page or at live performances. But the fact is, this is me too. Imperfect. Learning. Fully embracing life as it presents itself to me. This blog was a risk worth taking. Why? Because as the author, H. Jackson Brown has said, “Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.” So here I am, center stage, shimmying!

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