Gilded Serpent presents...

Does Your Teacher Have Your Best Interest at Heart?


by Sa’diyya
posted February 18, 2013

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” ― Erin Majors

How do you know if your Belly Dance teacher has your best interest at heart? Here are some important questions to ask yourself and, perhaps, others:

  • Is your teacher qualified to give you a proper foundation for technique as well as cultural references?

    When searching out a Belly Dance teacher, don’t be shy about asking for the teacher’s credentials. If you are going to spend time and money learning to Belly dance, make sure you start the journey off with the right teacher so you won’t have to back-track later.

  • Does your teacher give you honest critiques and feedback?
    Do you have to constantly wonder what your teacher really thinks about your ability? If you can’t get an honest answer out of your teacher, even in a "one-on-one" situation, then it may be time to look elsewhere if you expect to progress. Sometimes, teachers can’t bring themselves to risk hurting a student’s feelings, even if the student is asking for the truth and even if it means the student will benefit from hearing honest feedback.

  • Are your teacher’s classes and troupe a positive and healthy environment?
    Most teachers of Belly Dance truly love to teach so they can pass their knowledge on to others. However, teachers exist who thrive on belittling and controlling their students. This type of environment may not be apparent at first glance, which is why it is important to occasionally take the time to analyze your dance classes and troupe experience. If your Belly Dance teacher tries to manipulate you, control you, put you down, especially in front of others, or if she tries to make you feel guilty or unworthy about anything, especially for having any ambitions regarding your Belly Dance goals, then you should consider finding a more loving and healthy dance teacher/troupe/studio.

  • Does your Belly Dance teacher encourage you to learn from other teachers, even from other local teachers and at other local events that offer workshops?
    If your teacher is threatened by the idea of you enrolling in workshops and lessons from other people, then you have a clear sign that she does not have your best interest at heart. However, if she does, then she would be happy to hear that you are expanding your skills. A healthy-minded teacher should be confident enough to not worry about losing students as long as she is constantly updating her curriculum and performance opportunities that she offers to her students.

  • Does your teacher offer performance opportunities, or at least routes for you to gain them on your own?
    If you answered “No” to the question above, you may want to consider finding a teacher who encourages performing experience for those students who are interested.

  • Is your teacher helping you develop your own style?
    If you have progressed past a certain point and are desiring to perform as a soloist, then you need a teacher who wants to see you become “your own dancer”, meaning that you will probably no longer want to emulate the exact style of your teacher. If you are put down or restrained for experimenting with your own style and for branching out, then you should find a teacher who can assist you in your journey to find your unique style.

  • Is your teacher helping you accomplish your personal dance goals?

    This question becomes really important when students get to an advanced level and they start to develop ambitions to perform, teach, and produce events. Sometimes, teachers can feel threatened when students express that they want to do what their teacher is doing, whether that is performing professionally, teaching Belly Dance classes, or even to produce their own events. Teachers who have your best interest at heart will feel genuinely happy and proud when students achieve goals! Talk about leaving a legacy! If you have a teacher who discourages you from your ambitions for whatever reason (the real reason is often hidden behind other excuses) then you need to find another teacher or a mentor who will put you on the right track. It is to be noted that some students who desire to perform professionally, teach, or produce events may not be ready, but it is the teacher’s duty to train correctly students who have these goals, or to lead them to a teacher who will help them. Even if a teacher feels that an insistent student is not ready for a particular endeavor, the student should never be put down or discouraged. There is a always a positive way to handle any situation.

  • Lastly, does your teacher make you feel that if you leave her classes/troupe/studio, you will have no opportunities without him or her?
    Teachers should realize that when accomplished students reach a certain level, they will need to "leave the baby bird’s nest." It is a natural cycle and should be viewed as such. Many students will stay with a teacher for years upon years simply for social and recreational purposes, but oftentimes, advanced students will want to move on in order to progress further. If your teacher makes you feel bad or guilty for leaving the classes/troupe/studio, then you know that teacher doesn’t have your best interest at heart.

Remember that you are your own person and you can use your talents any way you want. Nobody owns anybody else. And nobody owns Belly Dance. Belly Dance is an exciting world that gives women and men many artistic and entrepreneurial opportunities. Everyone is benefited by the success of others within a community!

Sa'diyya and troupe
1- Wendy Valera, 2- Joanna Devoto, 3- Tricia Slocum, 4- Saritza Velilla, 5- Margot Steffenhagen, 6- Cindy Edgin, 7- Lilliana, 8- Sa’diyya

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  1. Cindy Edgin

    Feb 18, 2013 - 01:02:53

    The names of dancers in the picture at the bottom of the article, as per your request, are: 1- Wendy Valera, 2- Joanna Devoto, 3- Tricia Slocum, 4- Saritza Velilla, 5- Margot Steffenhagen, 6- Cindy Edgin, 7- Lilliana, and Sa’diyya of course! 🙂

  2. Kathleen Carmel

    Feb 18, 2013 - 01:02:52

    Thanks for doing this kind of update. I have moved from LosGatos,CA to Corvallis, OR to try to be a grandma (ha ha) as my son is here (Jason Bradford PHD)and wife and fraternal twin boys now just turned 14 so I have to hurry and be a grandma before they become real teen agers right? I sort of stopped dancing after doing it off and on for 40 years. Had ballet, ice skating and jazz background so it came naturally and love all the costuming but had to let my stuff go for cheap just to get up here with all my furniture and stuff so just glad to have my own house instead of the condo. Go bike riding taking my old cat Squeaker, a female Maine Coon out for air and also twice to the snow which is not too far at Mary’s Peak. Still this is a small town but has everything and getting used to this colder weather so gained a few pounds. Doing a little dancing at Odd Fellows Club as the unofficial free teacher. Also we have Belly Dance Guild shows at the Old World Delli. Keep your stuff coming and I am passing it on. Thanks

  3. mima

    Oct 5, 2013 - 08:10:44

    Thanks for sharing, I’d wish I’d saw this much, much sooner. While I love my teacher with all my heart, I wish I’d searched elsewhere for an instructor when I first started. Years later I’m now learning basic rhythms and movements that I’d wish I’d learn so long before. It took a while for me to realize that I wasn’t learning anymore from this teacher and just recently decided to search around for someone more knowledgeable in ALL aspects of belly dance. I found her and I’ve learned more in three months with her than I did this past year. Again, thanks for sharing! 

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