The Light and Joy in Their Eyes

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Etang's blog headshotJust three months. Tammy and I started teaching Your Body Raks weekly group classes at two Oakland locations just three months ago, on February 13, 2012. Wow. In this time, we have been so lucky to build community with some amazing, courageous women. Your Body Raks women cross intersections of age, race, size, sexuality and personal experiences.

This past Saturday, we held a hafla (Arabic for party) to celebrate our Monday night and Wednesday night students at the Center for Third World Organizing Retreat Center. At our hafla, it hit me just how much our students have learned in three short months. I think back to my own steep learning curve as a baby bellydancer, and just remembering to look up, breathe and let go of negative self-talk was plenty for me to handle. Choreography and performing was a whole other level of fear for me. Tammy and I believe that movement vocabulary and muscle memory drills through the teaching of choreography are strong ways to accelerate learning and musicality for our students. Besides that, it’s fun, and our students just love the choreography part of our class.

In front of a small, supportive audience of family and friends, our students danced the two short choreographies they have learned—Hossam Ramzy’s samba-inspired drum solo, “Brazilian Pearls” and Malik Adouane’s funky rai fusion, “Get Up”. One of our students made a colorful drawing with the word “breathe” written on it as a reminder for herself and for the group. What made this performance especially fun was that both classes for the first time danced together as a group. We loved watching the women in call and response to each other—strong knee shimmy from Monday night to sassy shoulder shimmy from Wednesday night. Watching our students dance was thrilling and reinforced why this work is so important to us. It’s that budding confidence, the internal transformation in progress and witnessing the light and joy in their eyes. This hafla inspired us so much that we plan to host them every few months for our students.

Our weekly group classes are open enrollment and new students can start at any time. Your Body Raks women can shimmy like nobody’s business, and we want to shimmy with you!

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