I Accidentally Became a
Successful Belly Dance Teacher
(and you can too!)
five year professional belly dance career, I started feeling
like I would enjoy teaching the art of belly dance to others.
However, living in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is practically
impossible to compete with the fabulous line-up of teachers.
How could I, an impoverished part-time belly dancer, find
the resources to detract attention from the propaganda machines
of Suhaila Salimpour, Fatchancebellydance,
or Jill Parker?
As an ex
personal trainer and aerobics instructor, my first instinct
was to approach the gyms. At first, no one was interested
because I was asking them if they would consider adding "belly
dance" classes. However, once I started approaching
them about "belly dance aerobics" classes they
was easy: the gym took care of everything! They paid for
the advertising, they announced the start of the class to
all their aerobics students, they provided the fabulous space,
and they answered all inquiries. Now mine is the most popular
class, which led to a snowballing of other gyms adding belly
dance aerobics classes.
a simple step-by-step guide to selling belly dance aerobics
classes to your local fitness center:
Of course, you will want to approach places with large group exercise rooms
and giant mirrors (because your class will be wildly successful, it is important
that there is floor and mirror space for all of the participants). You will
be making commission off the drop-in students, so it is important that your
gym allows drop-ins. Also, you should look at the location. Ideally, you will
be close to a college campus or somewhere where there may be a high concentration
of potential belly dance aerobicizers.
forget that the giant gym chains are not the only places
that offer fitness classes. Fancy hotels and resorts can
be a gold mine! Plus, you will usually get a free membership
to the place you end up working!! One of my classes is at
an expensive tennis club near my home that has a pool, steam
room and massages.
This is the tricky part. I called the gyms I was interested in and asked the
name of their Group Fitness Manager. Then I sent her a packet of information.
A few days later I called her to make sure she had recieved it and asked if
she was interested in conducting a pilot class.
consisted of fabulous flyer (complete with clip art) explaining
just what belly dance aerobics is. The purpose of the flyer
is to assure them that belly dance aerobics is a craze and
that you have a well thought out lesson plan. I also included
a resume listing classes taught, workshops attended, performances,
and fitness qualifications (more on this later). Plus, I
threw in a photo of myself in costume (they later used this
needs to be in fitness lingo, so you could say something
like: "The student will get a thorough workout and achieve
tone, balance, posture awareness, and strength." You
can mention that the class has a cardio component and that
it is a low-impact, safe workout for all ages.
TIME magazine in my flyer, as they recently published a very
positive article about belly dancing:
the current resurgence of belly dancing, its reputation
as a seductive art is played down. Rather, it is promoted
as a way for women of all shapes and ages not only to
tone their oblique's but also to deepen their souls.
The success of this message explains why sales of belly
dance aerobics by "belly twins" Neena and Veena are
soaring and gyms in New York City and Los Angeles are
scheduling belly-dancing classes during hours once reserved
for Pilates. It's why dance studios from Omaha to Anchorage
can't accommodate everyone seeking to enroll. (TIME,
Generally, an aerobics class is one hour long and has at least 30 minutes of
non-stop cardio. My class has a 10 minute warm-up, 30 minutes of cardio, 10
minutes of slow movements, and 10 minutes of sit-ups, butt toning exercises,
and stretching. Keep in mind that during the 30 minutes of cardio you should
not stop moving! I generally do traveling hip bumps, egyptian walks, shoulder
shimmies, etc. We walk the moves in all directions (sometimes we get in a giant
circle) and put
together simple combinations. Keeping the arms up will increase heart rate,
as will doing the movements on different levels (on toes or lowering to the
Here is the bad news: the typical fitness instructor only makes about $30 -
50 per hour. Here is the good news: you are not a typical fitness instructor!
You are a specialty dance instructor that offers a unique service and can attract
new members to the gym. If you have a web site, a yellow pages ad, or perform
regularly, these are all opportunities to promote your class and should be
taken into consideration.
to commit to a large hourly rate, but they are certainly
willing to discuss giving you a commission. For example,
at one gym I make $50 per class if there are under 12 students,
but for every student after that I earn $5. Your commission
is where you will make the money. I post flyers at universities,
tell all my friends, and hand out flyers for classes at every
performance. As a result, I usually have at least 25 people
in each class.
Many gyms now offer dance classes, meaning that the instructors are not certified
aerobics teachers. If you are not certified, you will need to be careful about
how you sell yourself. On one hand, you want to convey that your class is a
great aerobic workout, but you will want to call yourself a dance instructor.
You will definitely need to get your CPR certification (available at the Red
Cross for about $40), but the fitness instructor certification is optional.
However, having the certification will certainly make you more marketable.
If you do decide to get your certification, make sure you get it from somewhere
reputable (the American Council on Exercise offers the certification test for
a comment? Send
us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
More by Rhea
Loss The Bert Balladine Way by Gladys Harrison aka Al Qahira
That was not
the first time I had nearly starved to death “on the road
from "Rockin' the Casbah"
An event produced by IAMED on Sept 28, 2002. The best from multiple photographers.
Adventures in the Big Apple”by Nisima
So there was really a “mystique”in the 1980’s about dancing
styles in other parts of the US, and especially about the New York style, so
different from what we were used to in the Bay Area.