Friday, 18 January 2013

Unexpected Inspiration

Numbers in my belly dance classes are at an all-time low, and none of my adult ed classes are running, because not enough people signed up for them.  It's affecting all sorts of classes at the moment, not just mine and not just dance.

Let's imagine a class of 20 lovelies.

Anna has just found out that she is pregnant, so is not dancing, at least for the next couple of months.  Brenda is ill, and Celia relies on her for transport, so they aren't coming.  Dee's children are ill, and she feels she should be there with them. Eva's father has just died. Fiona's babysitter has let her down, and Gina's husband has forgotten (again!) that it is her night off and has gone out, leaving her without childcare too. Helen's shift patterns have changed and she can now only make one week in three, if that. Iris's car has broken down in the back of beyond and she's waiting for the AA to turn up. Jackie has stacks of homework and revision to do and feels she should be studying hard on weeknights. Karen is busy packing and sorting, due to move next week to another part of the country. Lisa has just lost her job and has no income. Mary has just had to have her car fixed on top of lots of bills and can afford either fuel in the car or a class, but not both. A couple of days ago, Nessa fell down the stairs and sprained her ankle badly, so she might be out of class for 6 weeks or more. It's cold, pouring with rain and the wind is playing across the boiler outlet pipe like a bored and tuneless aeolian harp, so all Olive wants to do after a hard day at work is put her feet up with a hot cup of tea. Penny is so stressed she forgot which day of the week it was and that she should be coming to class. Rona has friends and family visiting. Stella is there as usual, like a bright star, her enthusiasm dimming as she realises she's the only one to turn up, again, because Tessa is at a parents' evening and Vera is away on holiday.

I should be so lucky to have so many in one class.  These are all assumed names, but over the years I've had dancers all offer these reasons for absence (or similar, and more besides) and not always before the class. Recently several classes have only had one or two turn up each week, which is pretty dispiriting. We may be adults and theoretically in charge of our own lives, but complications arise with relationships, expectations and accidents and things happen to conspire against us. Life just takes over, sometimes for weeks at a time.  It's why I like to keep my independent classes as drop-ins/pay-as-you-go rather than wanting people to pay up front for a course. I know several people who are reluctant to sign up for the adult ed classes, because they have to be paid in advance and they know they will miss some, and feel they won't get their money's worth. And then there are those who would love to come to classes, but suffer from 'not-enough-hours-in-a-day-nor-nights-in-a-week' syndrome, with its symptoms of clashing activities and difficulty finding time to feed the family, eat, shop, do housework .... Bearing all this in mind, it's amazing anyone can get to class at all.

I was musing upon (whining about?) all of this back in November, chatting and sympathising with other teachers who were finding the same thing. One of the adult ed coordinators described how she had someone complaining that there was no information on a class while standing in front of the poster containing the information! (A cue for the famous pantomime response - 'It's behind you!'.)  So, I was delighted to have a couple of new faces drop in for a taster. They had seen and been inspired by 400 Roses, the Yorkshire-based British Tribal Fusion group who fuse improvised tribal style vocabulary and costuming with English country dance and Cotswold Morris and often perform for charity and other events. In class, we were doing some tribal fusion, tweaking Sandstorm, so they were able to learn a couple of steps which made up a section of the choreography, join in with that bit and see how it fitted into the whole piece.  I think they enjoyed themselves, but haven't been back - perhaps it wasn't what they were looking for.

Even so, I found some unexpected inspiration. Thinking of Christmas, I found myself humming In Dulci Jubilo.  Mike Oldfield's version always makes me smile and want to dance, so I choreographed a little light tribal fusion frolic for the season, complete with a reference to English country dance.
There was nobody in class to learn it and it really does need a group of at least 4 or 6. Never mind. I'll teach it in bits over the year and perhaps we'll get to dance it in haflas leading up to Christmas this year.

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