Posted on 30/09/2019 by siteadmin
Getting to know: Claire Barnfather
Though Claire studied with me for years, she has gone onto develop her own style – both as a bellydancer and as a bellydance teacher. I love teaching the accredited courses with Claire – her teaching is so clear and concise. She pulls out the best from people and identifies things that really help their dance.
I love watching Claire perform – especially an emotional piece – she makes you cry …. in a good way! – Kay
Tell us a bit about your dance journey – how did a geologist get into bellydance?
I got into bellydancing when I was doing my MSc at Durham Universit and was looking for something different to do other than a fitness class. I stumbled across the university Bellydance Society being taught by the lovely Oona Leppington and it didn’t take long before I was hooked. On moving to Newcastle I was lucky enough to discover Kay Taylor’s classes. Her teaching was an inspiration for me, and her support unwaivering. I had always been “the shy one”, and nothing could ever have been further from my mind than performing in public. Yet, with Kay’s encouragement, I got to the stage where I could not only get up there, but I could actually enjoy performing and sharing my love of dancing with people. Since then I have had some fantastic experiences through dancing…being part of the Tarab Dance Company, performing on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe, Glastonbury Festival and in Algeria, learning to dance in Cairo and meeting the most incredible people. I remember my dad rolling his eyes at my latest hobby when I bought my (first) hip belt…I don’t think either of us would ever have guessed how it would take over my life for the next 20 years!
How did you start teaching? Tell us a bit about your teaching journey.
I started teaching occasionally about 15 years ago to help provide cover when a local teacher was ill, before starting to teach my own regular classes. I did enjoy it, but the turning point in my teaching didn’t come until after I’d been teaching several years and decided to do the JWAAD Teaching Diploma. The background knowledge it gave me was invaluable, but it did more. It opened my eyes and gave me the tools to develop my own distinct teaching style; which focuses on experiencing the music, developing body awareness and encouraging students to be themselves and develop their own unique style. Knowing how the JWAAD Diploma changed the way I look at both teaching and my own dancing, I’m really proud to currently be part of the teaching team on JWAAD’s accredited courses. I love the moment (which seems to happen whenever I get to teach on one of the courses) when I see something click for one of the students and make them see what they do in a whole new way!
Over the years I have found that I have a real knack for spotting those small changes that can make a big difference to a dancer, and as such absolutely love helping dancers to develop one-to-one. For this reason I’ve run two “Leyl el Raqassa” performance projects; working over a summer with soloists of all levels to develop unique performances that help them develop their dance in new ways. The resulting shows have been fantastic, intimate, supportive events where the dancers have been able to take risks and really push their performances to a new level – I’m really hoping to be able to run one of these courses again soon! These shows have been some of my proudest moments in my entire dance career, alongside the absolute jaw-dropping surprise of receiving the 2017 NADA Glitter Award for Most Inspirational Teacher.
You have a young son – how do you manage to combine your day job and dancing and motherhood?
Bellydancing has been such a huge part of my life for so long that I was really shocked at just how tricky it can be to create both time and headspace to dance in between juggling babies/toddlers and doing the day job. Having my son has given me so much respect for the job that mums do! What has kept me going during the tough times is the enthusiasm and love for the dance that my students have…I adore teaching them and they’re a constant reminder of the joy that dance can bring and why I love it so! If I ever feel exhausted before a class, I always leave buzzing. I find these days that I have to guard some time for myself, so my big tip to new mums would be to try to book some time and space away from the house to just really dance and blow the cobwebs away every now and again!
What do you like to do to relax?
Nothing beats a walk along the sea front on a blustery day (maybe followed by a coffee or hot chocolate to warm up again).
What is your star sign?
What is your favourite colour and why?
It varies – I like rich jewel colours: turquoise; the blues and greens of a peacock’s tail; magenta and fuschia pinks; flame orange; and dairy milk purple. I don’t know why – these bold and beautiful colours just make me smile!
At Fantasia you are teaching ‘Dodo wings to dancers arms’ – can you tell us a bit about what to expect:
Arms and hands seem to cause trouble for many of us as dancers: sometimes they’re an afterthought to the rest of our dancing and we find them flapping around; sometimes they’re drilled into position so hard that they can feel and look dead and unnatural; or other times they occupy all too much of our headspace and distract us from the rest of our dancing. We’ll be looking at a few techniques and tricks you can take away and practice to improve arm and hand alignment and energy, develop good habits and build muscle memory of some helpful arm movements. Dramatic results are possible!
What does the dance world hold for you in the next 6 months?
My post-baby return to dance has been longer and harder than I had ever imagined it would be, and I have been developing my very own toolkit to help me get back into the swing of things… I’m hoping down the line that this is something I can share with other dancers coming back from a break! Now I’m back, I really want to make the most of and enjoy every moment of my dancing. So, for the next little while I’ll be dancing and going to events for my own pleasure; helping my students to develop and flourish; and plotting and planning for my next performance project!
Lastly, what would you like to be doing in 5 years time?
In 5 years’ time I’d like to be back teaching again more regularly, helping more and more dancers to reach their potential!