Our resident belly dance teacher, Zahida Palma, gives us some wonderful insights on her journey with belly dance. Read on to find out more…

1. How did you first get into belly dance?

When I was 17 years old my mum and me were thinking on make some plans together. She found a local belly dance teacher and we thought it would be a great idea to join to the class. After 3 months of classes, the teacher approached me to offer me to teach one of her beginners groups under her supervision. I had danced some contemporary and flamenco before but I felt really insecure. She insisted and convinced me so I practically started belly dancing and teaching at the same time and my mum ended up being one of my students as well!

2. Has belly dance taught you anything about yourself or your life?

Belly dance has taught me to value my body beyond the aesthetics, to value my body for it’s expression capacity and for it’s self-healing & regenerating power. Dancing put me on the path of developing my self-esteem which is something I really needed when I first started. On the downside, being a bellydancer has put me in the position of being objectified and in some dangerous situations, but it all came with a silver lining which was – guess what? – feminism!

3. Who is your biggest inspiration in dance?

Every single teacher I have had has been an inspiration for different reasons. It’s really difficult to choose just one dancer but I’ll go for the one I miss a lot. She is my beloved Sonia Sampayo, a teacher and dancer from Madrid who I considered to have transformed my dance and raised it to a totally different place, more comprehensive, expressive and meaningful.

4. What advice would you give to someone who wants to start belly dance?

To enjoy the path from day one and keep your mind open to different styles, music & feelings.

If you want to become a professional: develop your discipline and be gentle and demanding with yourself at the same time.

If you are just looking for some fun at class: cut out judgment before it starts arising. Self judgement won’t let you enjoy, and judgement of others won’t teach you anything.

And on the practical side: come to my classes!

5. What is your favourite thing about teaching belly dance?

Teaching has brought me even more than just dancing and again, it’s really difficult to choose just one thing out of millions. Just to mention a few things: not to judge others, creativity to explain steps and movements, the capacity to encourage and get people to dance when they think they can’t, reading people’s bodies and realising how strongly connected are our emotions with our movement, etc.

All of these are things that I’ve been applying to my own life and self development while I was teaching others. The feedback and the face of satisfaction I see in my students when they get to do a movement is something that can’t be described with words. All the chills!

*Find out more about Zahida’s classes here: https://www.academydancestudios.com/project/pilates-belly-dance-zahida-palma/

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