Hi, I’m Nadira Jamal. I’m a professional belly dancer and a serious geek.
These aren’t qualities we usually associate with each other. After all, we usually assume:
Belly Dancer = glamorous, mysterious, creative
Geek = awkward, analytical, obsessed with computers and science fiction
But that’s because most people don’t understand what a geek really is.
Yes, I like computers (I have a day job in IT), and yes, I like science fiction (especially audiobooks). I even have engineering degrees from MIT.
But I’m also a cooking geek:
And a knitting geek:
And a languages geek:
What people don’t realize is that geekery is about so much more than technology.
It’s about digging deeply and enthusiastically into a topic. (Any topic! Lots of topics!) It’s about coming to understand something deeply (how it works, what it’s for, why it matters), not just learning how to use it. Most importantly, it’s about having a really good time in the process.
So when my mom (a dance reviewer for our local newspaper) returned from a belly dance show and suggested I try it, I couldn’t resist.
I fell in love with belly dance at my first lesson.
I arrived early, and the teacher let me watch the intermediate class practicing their hipwork. I noticed one student in particular, who had long hair, wide hips, and a tee shirt rolled up to show her belly. I watched her hips drop, twist, and shimmy, and I decided right then and there that I wanted to learn to move with her control and supreme confidence.
When the beginner class began, I felt a pretty dorky at first, but then I started to get the hang of it, and by the end of class, I knew this was something special. I had done some ballet, jazz, and West African dance in as a kid, but none of them felt like “me” the way belly dance did. I spent the bus ride home daydreaming about performing on stage.
I daydream about a lot of things, but this was different. This one “stuck”.
What kept me coming back week after week was how much there is to learn
My mentor Amira Jamal doesn’t believe in turning out students who are carbon copies of herself. She gave me a solid technical foundation, but also lots of encouragement to explore and create my own personal style.
We didn’t just study movements, but music, dance composition, and working with props. When I began to perform, I discovered there was even more to learn about costuming, culture, regional styles, stagecraft, and interacting with the audience.
This exploration has been what keeps me hooked. I continue to take workshops and cross-train with other teachers, but the more I learn, the more I realize there is left to learn – and that’s just the way I like it!
But I didn’t learn how geeky dance could get until my teaching apprenticeship
Amira has a master’s degree in education, so her teacher training program and apprenticeship was an education in itself. It gave me so many new things to geek out about: lesson planning, teaching to different learning styles, accommodating students with different experience levels, and so much more. And looking at the material through the teacher’s lens gave it an entirely new dimension.
When I started my own class, it got even better.
The skills I learned from Amira have helped me teach dancers all over the world through my instructional DVDs, video podcast, and remote critiques. But my live classes are still the most challenging and fun.
I love trying out new teaching methods to find the most effective and fun ways to share the dance with you. (Just ask my students about the chocolate lesson!)
I love getting to know my students, learning what’s special about each of you and how you learn best, and then watching you blossom into lovely, confident dancers.
I especially love using my “geek fu” to make the dance more accessible to geeks and non-geeks alike
I geek out so the non-geeks don’t have to. Learning always takes effort, but it doesn’t have to be confusing and scary. So I analyze the material, figure out what is important to know and what isn’t, and how to teach the important stuff with less fuss.
For those with geeky tendencies, I get to introduce you to the world of dance geekery. I love sharing in your excitement as you discover all the wonderful things to learn about belly dance.
And hoo-boy, do I get excited.
Geekery is like caffeine: the more I geek out, the more excited I get, and the lower my inhibitions get. This means that I regularly make a complete fool of myself in the service of teaching you.
Corny jokes, silly sound effects, off-key singing… I’ll bend over backwards to teach you!
But the best part is how great I feel at the end of class. No matter how cranky I am when I arrive at the studio, I’m always smiling when I leave.
And drop me a line if you have any questions, or just want to say hi.
p.s. Since I’m an aspiring crazy cat lady, you can’t leave until I show you pictures of my cats: