For Amel Tafsout, teaching foreign languages is like the best passport she has ever owned. She is not only working with people of different backgrounds, she said, she is helping them understand different cultures.
Tafsout has been a French and German instructor at Umpqua Community College for the past couple of years. Now, in the upcoming semester, she will bring Arabic and Maghreb dance to the curriculum.
The Algerian-born dancer has taught both dance and language for more than 20 years as she moved across Europe, living in Great Britain, Germany, and France. She relocated to the Sutherlin area in 2008 with her husband, Ishmael.
"After all of that," the instructor said. "Life brought me here."
The couple have been married for five years after meeting through their mutual love of music and performance. Ishmael Tafsout plays a Middle Eastern harp and often accompanies his wife's dance performances.
The American-born man was seeking the serenity of a life in the country and persuaded his wife to join him.
"I took the big city cosmopolitan girl out of the big city and put her on a ranch in Douglas County," her husband said with a laugh.
As Tafsout adjusted to her new life — learning how to plant flowers, feed donkeys and drive a car — the coupled decided to explore their new home.
Soon, they came across the UCC campus and decided to check it out. There, Amel Tafsout met Ni Aodagain, a language professor.
"She looked at us as if she saw aliens arriving or something," Tafsout said. "I said, 'I teach different languages,' and she was so excited because it is not every day you have someone coming like that."
Shortly after the meeting, Tafsout was offered a job teaching French and said she has been very happy to meet and work with members of the UCC staff.
"They really want the community to be educated," Tafsout said.
Adding a new language and a dance class are all ways to keep the community learning, she said.
"You can't separate a language from a culture and dance is the same. It is also communication and it is about the movement. You don't have a dance that came from nowhere, the dance has a culture also," Tafsout said.
The dance she will be instructing is a mix of Middle Eastern and North African styles. Her curriculum includes traditional and contemporary styles. To her, dance is also an important way to accept one's body and to not be manipulated by commercials or models.
"That is what I would like to bring to the area — to enjoy music and enjoy moving, because we need to move. The brain needs to work and the body needs to work," Tafsout said. "It is not just about the culture but to learn also about your own body. It is enjoying movement."