My encountering with the Salimpour School and certification programs seems like a random affair: my cousin who lives nearby the studio drove by one day and she saw the sign of school. Later she dropped me there on one of my regular visit to her and other relatives in the States.
At that time, I was just a baby in this big bellydance world. I love travelling and I love to see what locals do. Since bellydance is my new flame, why not just drop in few classes wherever I go?
The class I dropped in was so different from what I had back to my country: it is very physical challenging. The most amazing thing to me is that they sat on floor to squeeze their butts!! Then students all walked in a circle following instruction, which obviously is English but I was not quite sure about those timing, downbeat…. But I like the little combo we had by the end of class. It is pretty and fun.
I didn’t quite understand the whole thing. However, when I return home and back to my regular bellydance class at Taipei, my teacher saw the huge difference and improvement on me. She was curious about what changed me from this experience, so we decided to visit this school.
In 2007, we went dropped in all evening classes at the Salimpour School as we could. This time we had finger cymbals – as ATS dancers, we were more than happy and confident at playing finger cymbal and dancing at the same time. But, what do those numbers mean? It is like magic spell. When the instructor called out some numbers, those dancers would immediately change into something else and delightfully go cross dance floor.
It became a little serious when I shortly taught ATS for a period of time and students asked me the difference between ATS and Jamila Salimpour format. Honestly I had no idea and as a responsible teacher I went join one Jamila Salimpour workshop at Rakkasah Festival to check it out. It was so overwhelmed in terms of stamina and techniques. So I ended up having a banana sitting by corner and I could only just watch them. But I like this circle. It is beautiful to watch. All women in different size, shape, age, race, are so beautiful and powerful in this circle.
I like it. I want to be part of this circle.
In the meanwhile, I had a small surgery to remove tumors around my womb. My doctor estimated that I could check out hospital within three days. It is not. It took me two weeks of intensive care, 5,000cc blood transfusion, and few comas. During my hospitalization, I thought of the butt squeeze and cymbal numbers – I already studied Suhaila technique with another local instructor then. Since my both hands were needled for all kinds of injection all day long, the free parts of my body were my butt and my brain. I had some weak and uncertain butt squeezes and listened to “Cymbal with Jamila” during those endless injections. At first I just thought this was great way to distract from the painful waiting time. Then I realize this actually helps me to feel alive.
I learned that the first Jamila Salimpour certification workshop was about to happen in upcoming September during my hospitalization. I told myself that if I would walk out of this hospital, I want to take this workshop to celebrate my rebirth.
So I did, with medical girdle.
Is the rest just history? No! Little do I know that it is only a start point of my long journey in training and education on the field of Arab music, culture, dance, and beyond.
There are several levels in this certification program. In each level, I also pave myself into different goals and mindset: from Level 1- just give myself a chance to try, to Level 2 – stamina and fight against resistance, till now I am working on “be ready” for Level 3 testing. The journey is long and challenging, sometimes frustrated and self-doubted. It is never easy.
And it is so real. In an era the world is so flat and seemingly borderless via internet, life can be very superficial and virtual-real: You swap on cellphone and you buy things. You send an email and someone will do something for you. It is fast but sometimes you don’t feel. Those training, drills and practice on dance floor make my life very real and momentum. Also I can see myself improving little by little. Sometimes my body does not feel right, and I learn to live with this frustration. I feel centered and focused. I also learn to live with things that are important to me in an ordered and yet flexible way: there is always something I can do to train myself, even just research a classic Arab song or some historical material reading.
This certification program is especially important and meaningful to me because in a culture that traditionally women are commonly asked to “sacrifice” or “compromise” for their family, husband and children, this certification program delivers a positive message: you have to take care of yourself, to fulfill your dream, and to develop before you can take care others. You have to nurture yourself as a human being and as a woman. It is not selfish. It is, for a long run, mutual benefit for us, friends, and family because we are more capable to be there for them. This may sound cliché, but it is so true.
I really love to dance and this program helps me to dance in a genuine and well-prepared way. I love to learn about other’s culture, art, and myself. This is a place where all the above can happen organically. This is a place that is safe enough to express and to share. I met so many incredible women/men here and we share a sweaty classroom, tears, laughs, and life!! It is a family in a sense. Even when I saw friends on social media, I feel this expanding family grow vividly. I am not alone. We spend real life together on this dance floor and we are here for each other.
As Maya Angelou said: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” This random affair almost ten years ago, eventually led me to a homecoming journey. I came to learn and to nurture, and then I have more courage to walk on my own journey to reach out the world and life.
For more information on the Salimpour School and certification programs please see http://www.salimpourschool.com/