When I started a belly dancing class almost ten years ago I wasn't advised or coached by anybody who had experience running classes I did it alone. Along the way with trial and error I have learned many things about running classes and I also learned that it wasn't easy. Now I have so much experience and some of that experience I will share with you today. Although there are many, here are ten things that you need to teach belly dance and they aren't what you think.
Belly dance is a performance art first so if you have experience performing professionally at different types of gigs or events it can come in handy when you are considering whether to run a belly dance class. There are many places where belly dance is performed from the local hafla ( dance party) event and restaurants to high end theatre productions and classy Arab weddings. Some gigs require more entertainment over high quality performance where others require top notch artistic performances. If you decide to teach the dance as a performance art having some professional performance experience can benefit your students however, if you don't have any experience as a professional it doesn't mean you can't teach. Some teachers have never performed professionally before but may have performed on an amateur level and they respect the dance as an art form, still being able to run successful belly dance classes and create choreographed amazing routines for their students. Some teachers have attended belly dance classes for a long time and gone on to run their own with success. I have even heard of teachers who set up their own classes after only attending ten beginner lesson and became very successful. Although professional experience can help you to train dancers who want to further their dancing and go into it on a professional level, it may not benefit people who attend classes for recreation or exercise. Having professional experience doesn't make any body a better teacher and very good teachers are not always incredible performers. There isn't one way into teaching belly dancer there are many ways and there are no right or wrong ways as long as you have some experience learning and you have strong technique and are good at teaching what you know well and safely.
A Thick Skin -
Before I started a class I was warned that I better grow a thick skin because the belly dance industry could be cutthroat and even the nickname of belly dance mafia was mentioned several times. I laughed and paid no attention but soon learned that the warnings where kind of true. Although my experience has been ninety percent positive the other ten percent has been extremely negative. It can be tough at times especially when certain people with narsitistic personalities find you and others close by to be a threat especially if you are running classes or working in the same area. Most people play fair and get over the initial fear of competition but narsitistic personalities dont play fair and things can get very dirty very quickly. There isn't any point in getting into it with people who are problematic because you won't win. There's a saying that if you roll around with pigs you will get dirty and the same can be said when dealing with unfair people.
From a buisness perspective it is expected to see similar establishments like pubs salons shops Zumba classes all competing close by and where I live several yoga classes run at alterate halls on the same road at the same time and day but people seem to get along okay. running classes in the same area as some dancers caused me trouble. My advice is to research the area you will be running your class from, see who is running classes and where and what day's if the week and try to avoid clash with other classes. There used to be a discretion run in dance which was dont to run a class within a three mile radius of another class in an area that wasn't a city centre. I never did step in anyone's toes purposely in the first eight years of teaching but I still attracted big trouble, apparently I was one of many teachers who experienced trouble
Fortunately this was an isolated situation separate from the belly dance community where I had made many friends and continue to work within and support others. Sometimes you can't win even when you try to respect boundaries some people just don't like or want competition close by unfortunately. Which is a shame because where does competition or rivalry fit in art? Nowhere but that my opinion.
To Be Able To Teach As Safely As Possible -
It's no a secret that when teaching belly dance you don't need to have any type of formal belly dance fitness or teacher qualifications or certification to be able to run classes. There isn't specific governing body to access or observe quality control professionalism or to watch over belly dance teachers to ensure we are teaching properly or safely. However if you want to teach it us advisable to educate yourself about teaching because alot goes into it. We don't just rock up to class and practice backbends whilst gossiping about students or other teachers. We need to know about lots of things like assessing people's dance levels and needs along with making sure students are learning what is taught. We need to know about health and safety of the building and our class along with fire drills ect. We also need to keep records in the case we need to look back at them to gain information about some bodies health or a contact number fir a next of kin in the case of an emergency and also if there is an accident we need to record it. We need to ensure we are incorporating many teaching styles to fit all students who participate, anyone can teach a class if one hundred people by putting music on and have everybody follow the bum, is that really teaching? No it isn't. Every person has a unique learning style, some learn by watching or listening or doing while others learn by following or discussing ect. As a teacher you need to understand the different techniques of teaching to ensure everyone at your class has the opportunity to learn. What about group ground rules? If you don't put some in place you may find that people are disruptive and worse you may start banning people from class. With ground rules you can avoid all if this to an extent. What about having a disclaimer? Do you know first aid? What about inclusion? Have you noticed that I haven't even started with correct safe technique yet? That's because there is more to running classes as apposed to must teaching technique. How do you know the technique you have been learning practicing and performing is safe? Have you ever experienced ongoing pain or aches or injury? If so have you thought that your technique maybe off? How would you know if it was if there isn't anybody with formal dance or medical qualifications to monitor us? Like I explained there isn't a governing body and legally we don't need a formal dance fitness or teaching qualification to be able to set up classes. You could have a PhD in buisness psychology or art but that would be irrelevant qualifications that still wouldn't make you qualified to teach physical movement. The good news is you can study towards exercise to music fitness qualification, safe belly dance qualification with belly dance now or enroll onto teacher training for the likes of yoga as these subject give you a great understanding about kinesthetic anatomy and physiology and give you a forms.. y recognised qualification. Another course that is beneficial in teaching is the Certificate in Education and training which is also formally recognised qualification that covers everything about teaching. Do you need to do these courses? No you don't but if you do you will come away with valuable skills that Will help you to be more professional and knowledgeable. You will know how to teach properly and you will gain a recognised qualification that can open new doors ic opportunities to teach at gyms colleges ect plus you have a duty of care to the people that you will be teaching.
Most places where you can teach from will require you to hold your own public liability insurance policy. You will be asked to provide a copy of the document each year and costs around £80-£100 per year. Each policy is different however most covers you when teaching the public in your class from injury where a claim may be made against you but some may cover you from injury also. When signing your agreement with the insurance provider most companies require you to sign a code of ethics agreement.
Some halls and studios may already be covered with mysic licences however some are not so you will have to apply for your own in the case the hall doesn't have one.
An Idea Of What You Want To Teach -
It doesn't matter if its a full on technical artistic Egyptian belly dance class with history and culture and everything in between or if it is a recreational type class at beginner level with exercise benefits, you have to know what you want to teach and how you want to teach it and who you want to teach. Teaching beginners can be challenging and intermediate or advance students are easier to teach in my opinion because they already have a good base of technique that you can encourage improvement in or work on creative ideas however having a mixed class can be tricky. The intermediates are usually in it for the art at a serious hobby level whereas many beginners want to try it out for fun recreation or exercise many will go onto make improvements where other either don't want to work at it or drop out. As a new teacher it can be daunting teaching intermediates and advanced studebts because they have so much knowledge but you will be able to create great routines. Start with teaching beginners and encourage them as much as you can. Keep classes informative as well as fun and interesting and incorporate several teaching techniques abd encourage practice so that your beginners can improve.
Learn How To Choreograph -
Although traditional belly dance is based upon Improvisation choreography is used in traditional dance to especially in the old movies and mahmud Reda created some timeless technical choreographies. Choreography at class will be your go to events when creating sequences or combinations for drilling it really benefits students and their muscle memory plus they will feel great when learning and memorising a full routine. It will give your class structure.
Lesson Plans -
A lesson plan is a creative work or map if how your class is structured, time frames, assessments, evaluations ect. All of the things that will structure your class so it flows well. Anyone can rock up to class and do a fol,ow the bus type class but that is lazy teaching and disrespectful towards your students even if they don't know it, you know it and you owe it go them to have a plan, yes you may go off plan somtimes and that's okay.
Get there early to be ready to teach your students. Don't turn up on the dot or five minutes late its unprofessional and messy. Be there to greet your students, set the mood of the class before anyone turns up. Get the temperature right the lighting, tidy a round, set up your music accessories and paper work and put chairs out so people who are less mobile have access to seating. Yes it can't be helped if you are running late because of traffic or your kids babysitter came later but try each week to be there ar least fifteen minutes before class starts. If you run classes from a venue where they don't allow extra set up time you will have to include it into your timing
The Right Attitude-
Remember that teaching is to be of service to others and it really isn't about us. Group dynamics can change all the time at class and everybody has personal lives outside of class. Problems can flow into class but it is up to us as teacher's and service providers to ensure that everybody is happy feels safe and everyone understands ground rules. It is not for us to dominate the class as though we are above students or to treat them as disposable. They should feel and also be included regardless. Be natural at class but always stay positive. Don't alienate your students by speaking negatively about other teachers or other students. It only make them feel uncomfortable and they don't come to class to feel bad they come to dance and feel good. No need to brag about your TV appearances or how long you have been established for no-one cares and the majority of people won't be able to relate to someone who sees themselves as a superstars, whe teaching we usually have ordinary people who attend our classes. People take to down to earth people.