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  • Writer's pictureby Zara Dance

A weekend at JoY - My first festival by Zara Dance

My weekend at JoY. I have never taught at a festival before so this event was going to be a learning adventure for me to say the least: and that it was.

In true Zara form I had to do everything: I taught three workshops, performed in the Saturday night show and I also travelled down with the Zara’s Zouk stall – thank god I had my lovely mum to help! When I returned to London on Sunday night – the word exhaustion would be an understatement, but in a strange way that tiredness was so invigorating and energising - I had learnt so much, it had been such a JoY (ahh cheesy I know)

When setting off on the weekend I was slightly nervous:

I had consciously made a decision not to teach choreographies in my workshops but instead to teach concepts. I made this decision for two reasons:

The first: over 49 workshops were running on the weekend, I wanted to add variety I am sure that many would be teaching a choreography and technique and hey variety is the spice of life.

The second: was because for the topics I had chosen to teach - it was actually in my own learning process that the concepts and understanding of those topics were what really what helped me in mastering them. Some of this understanding and these concepts had taken me YEARS to realise, so why not share them and hopefully fast track others in their learning.

It was a risk. When you have a choreography prepared it’s easy, you teach it and the students leave having learnt something and feeling they have got something for their money. When teaching concepts, it is so much more difficult. I mean how do you teach concepts? How do you know if the student has understood them and do they find them of value?? Do they feel they have got something from the workshops – it is a lot less physical than a choreography. Truth be said to actually share the concepts I was teaching in each workshop I could have listed them in the first 5 minutes and just said meditate on these for the next hour and 55mins.

But is telling someone a concept of the dance enough for them to understand it, to get it and be able to apply it to their dance?

No it isn’t! I needed to delve deep and think of some exercises to get across what I meant – what from my own experiences I was trying to pass on. I had to do this in two ways: one to be creative in coming up with exercise to learn through (some worked and some didn’t) and second of all really pull on personal experiences and things that were close to my heart.

When you share something close to your heart and that means something to you – you are putting yourself out there in a vulnerable situation. This is something scary to do as teacher (and actually as a dancer – a concept I covered). If you share with someone, your students/ you audience a piece of you – it personally hurts if isn’t received well, you get nothing back from it, no reception, it isn’t valued or it falls flat on its face…

For example the Releasing you Inner Egyptian workshop was so very scarily personal (I didn't realise how so until actually in the workshop and in front of a room with 30+ people). I was sharing with complete strangers what I learnt on my own journey of discovering myself as an Egyptian. I am someone that is mixed race ( I am half Egyptian) and as a child I somewhat hid the fact I was a bit “foreign”, my other half being a very old school British, East End, working class Caucasians – (not that they at all cared, just as a youngster I was conscious I wasn’t the same). Just one example is that as a teenager I would dye my hair blond – a far cry from who I am now: someone who wears her Arab heritage badge with pride and yearns her darker roots to grow out lol ;)

Luckily ( I am relived to say) the workshop proved REALLY popular and one I have received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from:

"Hi Zara, I just wanted to say your 'inner Egyptian' workshop was wonderful. After 7 years of dancing I have never felt so inspired. Your workshop was exactly what I needed to fall in love with the dance all over again. I wish I had booked on more classes of yours now! I hope to have another workshop with you in the future xxxx" -Sofire

But that is my point:

On the other side of the coin when you share apart of you and it is well received (as it was at JoY) it just feels magical. It is a feeling like no other ! Do it!!! I can't recommend this enough - Try it in you dance and in your classes. All too often as teachers we keep our secrets to ourselves and as dancers we don't put our heart into our performances - I have come out of this festival havign grown as a person, developed and learnt further about what I was teaching and I feel: Improved myself as a teacher and most importantly AS A DANCER.

When you release and share your knowledge – you gain loads. You yourself understand it better. The knowledge breaths, keep it to yourself and it dies- you even kill it for yourself, it is as if you don’t even have it.

The Fantastic Show:

Both the Friday and Saturday night shows were such fun to watch – such variety of dance styles from around the world. A great selection of group, duets and solo performances made every act individual and engaging.

Completely exhausted from the long drive, setting up the stall and teaching two intense workshops, I had very little physical and mental energy to perform. But luckily the amazing audience’s energy fuelled my performance. I did a fun Egyptian style pop piece with a veil entrance – lots of self-indulging bum shaking was involved.

All the international guest performers were top quality. It was also nice to see was that our own UK based dancers like Tara and Giselle were just as fabulous. How lucky we have that world class talent right here in the UK at our finger tips.

Over all I enjoyed every second of JoY: and will be defiantly going back –I mean WOW THEY HAVE DANDASH at the next one in October. I learnt so much, met so many people, watched some great dancing and enjoyed every second!

My final (yet MANY) Thank you-s:

Thank you to the organisers Mandy and Chris – It was an experience I can’t thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to have had.

​Thank you to all those that attended my workshops and also that went out of their way to send me feedback. Also a BIG Thank you to everyone who visited me and my Mum (Sandra) on the Zara's Zouk stall - we hope you enjoyed your shopping!

Photo credits: The amazing photos from the Saturday night show are by Sarah Selwood - A TALANTED PHOTOGRAPHER ! Thank you :D

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