Belly dancer in a Ballroom World
“So, how long have you been dancing? Do you have a specialty?” Jim asked, while leading her onto the dance floor. “I teach SharQui – The Bellydance Workout”, Charissa answered, as she stepped confidently into his tango frame. “So you’re a bellydancer? Hmm. That seems like an odd transition”, he responds. “Does it? You should try out my class. You’d be surprised how quickly I can help you learn how to stabilize your shoulders”, Charissa stated.
At first glance, Ballroom seems the antithesis of belly dance. So, when she started at Society Hill Dance Academy, Philadelphia’s premiere ballroom dance studio, she knew she would be met with some skepticism and curiosity. Charissa even had some doubts. She didn’t think her SharQui certification would have any effect on her ballroom students. Yet, within her first year it became apparent how SharQui had not only made her an asset to the studio, but had prepared her for her career in the ballroom community.
As a SharQui instructor her understanding of anatomy makes it easy to safely teach controlled movements like isolations, which are a pivotal to rhythm dances. In addition, she owes her balance and agility to the core strength she earned in belly dance. Finally, it was in SharQui class that she found her musicality, which is arguably the most important element of dance in general.
Hip, stomach and arm isolations are not only fundamental to belly dance but also to rhythm dances like Samba, Cha-Cha, Salsa and Rumba. Ballroom Dance teachers know very well how frustrating (and potentially dangerous) isolations can be for budding dancers and knowing how to teach the SharQui format requires her to be able to identify the muscles involved in creating isolations so that students can safely internalize and execute them. “The fact that I can communicate this information gives me confidence in the integrity of my teaching and makes it easier for my students to grasp”, Charissa claims. “As a dancer, the balance and agility that I developed as a SharQui instructor not only makes it easier for me to maintain that connection with my partner but also to respond to acceleration, deceleration or impromptu directional changes”, she continues.
For Charissa, one of the most beautiful things about dancers is the aptitude for musical expression. A simple twirl of the wrist, a leisurely développé or a swift head flick can add so much volume to a performance and to the viewer’s delight. In the world of ballroom dance teachers are often so fixated on patterns and foot placement that they overlook expression. Despite the emphasis on athleticism, she learned how to emote as a SharQui student and continues to do so as an instructor. “As a teacher I encourage my students to do the same. Whether it is a breathy chest drop or a sweeping waltz, I give them the permission to engage their audience while also engaging in it myself.” To this day, I am still amazed by how much I owe to the SharQui format. I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I ever made”, she says.