After another fabulous weekend of workshops with Aradia of Las Vegas, I've been thinking about what it is exactly that makes her workshops so fabulous. Comparing them to other dancers I've had the opportunity to learn from, I think it comes down to one major thing - where most dancers present "dance moves" to you, Aradia presents the dance, along with its context.
Let me give an example of what I mean - Dancer X may explain a move like so: "This is a hip circle, but it only goes to the front, so push to the front and then contract back in before you start to circle back." Aradia, however, will say "This is a hip circle that only goes to the front. We do it this way when we are dancing in the style of the Golden Era, because the dancers back in those days considered pushing their butts to the back to be vulgar. So, before you start to circle around to the back, contract back in to center."
Or, Dancer X might say "now we are going to do tush pushes to the left." Aradia would say "Now we will do Mona's gooey tush pushes to the left. Mona El Said does these while looking over her shoulder at her hip; she's very flirtatious with this step so that is how we will do it."
Just looking at the notes Aradia hands out after every class, you can see they contain not just the descriptions of dance moves, but the names of the dancers to whom the signature move belonged. Learning a choreography from Aradia means you are also learning the history, culture, and context of the dance.
Aradia is the ultimate student. She absorbs information from dancers all over the globe, and spanning across generations, and is able to pass that information on to her own students. It makes for a so much more of a rich class, when you can learn more than just a dance move, but the who, what, how and why of that move as well.