I started a new round of classes in AmCab style bellydance last evening with a new teacher.* Mirjana was offering both beginner and intermediate level classes Monday evenings and I agonized over the class for which I should register. At this point, I'm beyond hip slides and snake arms and would like some more varied material, but I'm extremely hesitant about considering myself an intermediate level dancer.
As there is no universal standard of what distinguishes a beginner from an intermediate level class (a class with one instructor could be much more challenging and involve such different material than one with another instructor) it is difficult to gauge where one might be properly situated within a certain teacher's curriculum unless you are already very familiar with it. I did not want to assume that I would have the skills and knowledge necessary for an intermediate class. To be honest, there is also the fear of overestimating my abilities and constantly embarrassing myself in front of more experienced dancers should I choose the higher level class. I'm reminded of a quotation which was posted on the cork board at the Tribal Bellies studio which, to paraphrase, says: "Beginning dancer: knows nothing & is willing to learn from anyone. Intermediate dancer: thinks she knows everything & only wants to learn from masters. Advanced dancer: realizes that there is always more to learn, is willing to dance with & learn from everyone." Although this is only a generalization, it definitely does hold some truth in my experience, and I do not wish to find myself in the middle category.
So I wrote to Mirjana, explained my dilemma, gave her some background on my previous classes, and asked which class would be more appropriate for me. She recommended the intermediate level so the decision was made, but the anguish was not over on my part. After actually registering for the classes I had nightmares akin to those I had prior to the first day of school. I realized how much I had been working myself up over the "intermediate" issue, beyond the conscious and into the subconscious level.
I arrived to class, which strangely enough is held in a building which was once my father's elementary school, very nervous and unsure of what to expect. The room where the class was held looked like it was converted into a wrestling practice space complete with thick, plastic-coated padding covering nearly the entirety of the floor. I wasn't really prepared for that and during class my bare feet kept sticking to it, but where the chalkboards once were are now large mirrors which is a plus. The class itself was not as intimidating as I had feared. Most things I picked up quickly however there were one or two things I struggled with, but that also seemed to be the case with the other students so I didn't feel hopelessly inferior. It's hard to make an assessment after just one class, but for the moment I'm glad to say that my fears were probably just an overreaction.
* A few months prior I was taking Cabaret classes with Suffiyah Monday evenings and was really enjoying them, but the person she was renting the space from apparently was months behind on paying his rent to the landlord and was subsequently evicted so we lost the studio space. A few weeks went by and no suitable alternative was found. Most of the other students were able to move to Wednesday nights which wasn't an option for me since my Tribal classes are that evening, so I've been on the lookout for other Cabaret on Monday classes.