The Inner Dancer, aka winner of the pro soloist category in 2013's Belly Dance Queen competition. I interact with Samantha on Facebook via her "Leave It On The Dance Floor" group and had seen her dance at Club Bellydance, but this was the first time I had the chance to study with her and she did not disappoint!
I signed up for the Dance Like a Queen workshop which was about the mental and emotional aspects of dance rather than physical technique. I really love classes that dig down into things like motivation and stage presence and dance persona and how you approach dance, and this covered all of those things. I feel like in the long run, this sort of workshop stays with me and has more impact on my personal dance journey than learning physical technique, which is harder to properly absorb in two hours.
It's hard to describe this workshop. It was a very personal process, with a lot of self-evaluation, group interaction, and really thinking about, well, how we think about dance. I feel like overall, the theme was about having a healthy view of where you are in dance and a good idea of where you want to go and how you're going to get there. It's about not seeing yourself as two separate people (AJ the regular person and Sophia Ravenna the dancer), but as one person who feels pretty good about herself and is able to bring a genuine expression of who she is to the dance floor. It's about intertwining your personal development with your dance practice.
As it turns out, one of the things that I love about Samantha as a dancer, teacher and person is that she thinks that technique and emotion are equally important. She knows that the really amazing dancers are the people who have both of those, and she wants to train people to bring it all to the dance floor. I'll have a couple of opinion posts in the near future that expand on my feelings on the topic, but let's just say that it always makes me happy when someone else backs up my opinion that you have to work hard and bring authenticity of emotion to your dance, too.
What really stood out to me about this workshop specifically was that my classmates ranged from really new beginners to established pros and teachers, and it seemed like everyone was getting at least a little something out of it. It's rare to be in a really good all-levels workshop.
I'd definitely recommend this workshop to just about anyone who is serious about dance, but especially those who are looking to go pro, who feel like they've got an unhealthy relationship with dance (for instance, carrying around a lot of negativity about where you are or what you can't do), or those looking to really dig deeper into how they think about themselves as a dancer.