10 years of hafla

Last night was hafla. I host a hafla to celebrate the end of each dance semester and to thank my students. It’s part of creating a bellydance community…so that students feel they are a part of something. I always enjoy hafla, and even though it’s a lot of work the students always pitch in and help out. And let me say how much I appreciate it! Last night the party was different than usual. None of the classes learned choreography this term, so we played “spin the ipod” and danced to whatever came up. It was funny. I got a drum solo (aaak!). Kim’s bra hook …unhooked. Someone’s 7-year old daughter got up and did an improvised ballet/jazz/belly dance. Amber set up her henna paints and created beautiful art on a variety of hands & arms. It was the smallest hafla ever, but maybe one of the most fun.

This dance year (September 2010 through April 2011) is the 10thdance year for Celebrations Bellydance. I know I’m not supposed to celebrate the birthday until the anniversary of the very first class, but my 10th birthday is at the end of my 10th year, right? That makes it the end of April 2011. Well, maybe it’s math “Nita style”. I don’t care. 10 years is a long time. I’ve actually been teaching longer than that – I taught during the two years that we lived away (in Manitoba & New Brunswick), and I taught for Lana’s dance troupe (Jewels of the Yukon), and I taught as her assistant even before that. So I figure, all things accounted for, that I have been teaching for about 14 years.

When we returned to the Yukon in 2001, I decided that I didn’t just want to teach a little class here or there – I wanted to be a dance school. You know, with a student handbook, with subjects & lesson plans, with goals & themes to teach around for each semester & each dance year. I wanted to introduce women to the magic of dance – to show them they could appreciate their bodies no matter what size – to facilitate their discovery of themselves as dancers. I wanted to teach progressive classes, beginner through advanced. I wanted to train a performance group to give public performances. I wanted to educate an audience and entertain them at the same time. I wanted to put Oriental dance on the same theatre stage as ballet and other “high performance art”. I obsessed over it. I wanted to create a bellydance community.

I found a studio space to rent – a little tiny space in a converted garage in Porter Creek. It would hold 8 students if we were all friendly. 6 students if we wanted to swing our arms & legs. I picked a date in early October, put an ad in the newspaper for Tuesday night beginner classes and held my breath. I needed 4 students to pay the rent and 6 to make it worth my while. Then the phone started ringing. The class filled up. I reserved a Thursday night space. It filled up, too. I had held my breath to get 6 students and I ended up with 16. Three of those original 16 are still dancing with me.

Thanks, everybody for another fabulous dance semester! Raq on!


  1. Hi Nita – I was missing you and the ladies and found your blog on the net. Wish I could have been there to celebrate 10 years of dancing with you all at the hafla. I was one of those original students in Carol’s garage, too. I’m still dancing and feel so much gratitude in having you as a teacher. I always appreciated your generosity in teaching and attention to detail – including whatever you knew about the history and culture of the different music and dance forms. My new dance teacher is Egyptian and also passionate about these things, so I’m grateful to be prepared with a good b.dance foundation and knowing a little about people like Samia Gamal and Oum Kalthoum or the difference between instruments, a beledi rhythm and a masmoudi – all thanks to you. Congratulations on reaching all these goals you have set out for yourself! Take care, Jo

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