I am honored to have been accepted to teach Middle Eastern Dance for my seventh “Season.” For two separate weeks in July it will be my privilege to instruct students who are enthusiastic, multicultural and all ages. By the third class they will be baring their midriffs, shimmying like there is no tomorrow and learning choreography. I have the joy of mapping their progress while enjoying a respite away from husband and home.
This is a working vacation. The planning, preparation and amount of packing is overwhelming. Instructing at Chautauqua is the equivalent of being a professor at Harvard. You have to be at the top of your game. After all, some students are professors from Harvard! I have taught doctors, ministers, lawyers, millionaires, teens and the elderly. I have even had retired and current professional dancers as students. When not instructing, I’m networking as a dancer and writer.
This first week will be special because the theme is Egypt, a place that I hold dear to my heart and fondly in my memory. In 2008, I had the opportunity to attend the famous Ahlan Wa Sahlan dance festival in Giza and tour the country for three weeks. The theme and its speakers will surely bring back fond memories. Sharing the dance during this week will be special as well.
I will further my own education through lectures and concerts, reconnect with old friends, meet new friends and relax a bit in an unhurried, peaceful, wholesome and safe atmosphere. I may be able to fit in some writing time.
Located only a scenic two-hours drive from Cleveland, the Chautauqua Institution is known as “the Disneyland for Intellectuals.” Each summer for 9 weeks (the “Season”), the gates close and stimulating lectures, programs and concerts take place. Victorian ambiance on a lake setting gives it a resort feel.
From the moment one walks through the gates one is transported back to a wholesome, safe, friendly, educational environment. One either “gets it” or doesn’t. If you are looking to drink, party hearty and go crazy, this isn’t the place for you. However, I do a fair amount of BYOB drinking, as do most guests, and have fun.
The admission fee, though, can be daunting, as are the cost of accommodations and expenses. I don’t get a free ride, contrary to what some people think. Getting accepted isn’t easy or guaranteed. I must reapply every year and out of over 2,000 applications, around 200 are accepted to instruct. To be accepted is like getting an acceptance letter from an Ivy League college.
I save up for this retreat from the real world and look forward to attending. I’ve been blessed to have been accepted regularly, from one to three weeks at a time.
Every summer there is a gift and I don’t take it for granted.
Chautauqua holds a special place in my life and in my heart.