Do you remember that game “Go to the Head of the Class”? Yeah. Never played it, but I am familiar with the concept, one desperately frowned upon by education researchers nowadays. But that’s a rant for another day. Have you ever gone from peer to student? I have, and it’s really weird at times.
I am currently taking a belly dance class from a woman with whom I started belly dancing back in 2007. Back then, we were both students, totally new to this form of art and exercise. We had our first class performance together, we both performed in public for the first time together. We were invited to and performed in student troupe together. But there was always a difference between us. She had a goal: to someday teach belly dance. I had no such goal. I just liked learning and performing because dancing made me feel beautiful. So, life went on, life got busy, and I stepped away from dance twice for a year, One year, it was because of the sheer busyness of life and other hobbies, and then the second when I became pregnant with my daughter. In all of that time, she continued to dance, to go to workshops, learn from the greats, step out onto bigger and bigger stages, and start taking on more responsibility within the troupe. Now she is a member of a professional belly dance troupe, Intoxique, along with two of the gorgeous ladies who were our teachers, as well as directing the student troupe, and heading up one of her own, Rebellyon, a dub step fusion group, a style she has pioneered and continues to forge into something great.
So sometimes, it’s really weird to stand as student to a woman with whom I was a peer not too many years ago. Please, don’t take this for jealousy. OK, well, maybe a little bit of jealousy. But, the fact of the matter is, she had a goal to work towards and kept on working towards it. I didn’t have a goal; I taught for a living, I didn’t really want to do it for a hobby, too. Belly dancing is a hobby. I did it to get into shape and feel lovely and that’s what I’m working towards again. But here’s the other thing:
I’m not at the head of the class anymore.
She and I were two of the best in our day, I think, and I’m not saying that to brag. Just to put things in perspective. I never imagined to ever be a peer to our belly dance mamas but she was a fellow student. I guess I kind of expected that we would always be peers somehow. Now she has students who are far more skilled than I am and who can do things that I can’t. I’m not at the head of the class anymore and, to a chronic overachiever, that’s a blow to the ego. But I’m working on my vanity – well, trying to anyway. I don’t need to be the best. I just want to be better; I want to be stronger, more graceful, I want to be in shape again. So, when I go to class, I try to shove that ego into a box and lock it there while I am in studio. It’s like when I took horseback riding lessons. My mother told me, “Now, don’t tell the instructor what to do. You’ve only read about it; he’s done it.” And I try to remember that. She’s done the work: the learning, the study and research, the practice, the performance. She knows way more than I do and can teach me new things, as well as how to better execute the moves I THINK I already know.
I’m not a peer anymore. I’m a student, and I need act like one and do my best to learn. And it doesn’t matter that she’s my teacher now; she’s still my friend.
Thank you, Jenny. 🙂