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!
1- Wendy Valera, 2- Joanna Devoto, 3- Tricia Slocum, 4- Saritza Velilla, 5- Margot Steffenhagen, 6- Cindy Edgin, 7- Lilliana, 8- Sa’diyya
Ready for more?
- 1-23-12 Gigbag Check #33 with Sa’diyya of Texas!
Gilded Serpent catches Sa’diyya backstage at the Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition in February 2011. She shows us her tools of the trade, including:safety pins (of course), mirror, curling iron, carpet tape, and all of her jewelry organized in a binder full of zip lock bags. She also tell us about using a fedora in a modern folk dance from Iran or Persia. Her mother helps her with her costumes.
- 3-24-11 A Transformational Week, A Fan’s View of Jillina’s Weeklong Intensive Report
I think that’s another benefit of having scholarships in the world of Bellydance because it gives dancers another goal to work towards: “What do I have to do to rise to the occasion, to receive this other kind of award?”
- Teacher or Coach: What’s the Difference? Why All Performing Dancers Need a Dance Coach
Most performers have a great deal of untapped potential; additionally, many consider it cheating to engage a professional coach and yet, that is exactly what they would look for if this were the Olympics and they were competing for the gold!
- Improvisation: Method Behind the Madness
One of the biggest mistakes we western Bellydancers have made is presuming that the dancing to which Arabs refer as the “Eastern Dance” is a theatrical dance that ought to be choreographed as if it were a ballet, or that its steps and movements are traditional like those of the Greek Hasapiko, an Arabic Depke, or a Hawaiian Hula.
- 6-19-09 The Dance Teacher: By Divine Design or Default?
…nearly everywhere, dancers in this particular form seem to have found it necessary to “do it all” in order to earn a living by dance career alone
- 9-7-10 Cult or Bellydance Class? Cartoon
"Pity those who do not study on our path, for they know not what they do not know!"
- 7-18-05 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 3, Community Warfare
Time and again I hear dancers deplore the fact that in many parts of the country there are warring camps among dancers; that is, groups that openly oppose each other and that try to keep all useful information and all jobs to themselves.
- 2-12-13 Everyone’s Uncle, In Celebration of the Life of Drummer Armando Mafufo
In fact, so many artists wanted to perform in his honor that many had to be turned down or else we might have had to stay all night.
After living in the Middle East for 25 years and continuing to work in the region for music and dance, I have a pretty good idea of what talent and creative ideas exist in the region.
- 1-31-13 The Evolution of Jillina, An Interview Regarding Change, Flexibility and Lessons Learned
Working with Jillina for the last six years or so, I’ve been a fly on the wall for a lot of this transition. I’ve been there for marathon rehearsal weeks, brainstorming sessions, the stress of taking a show on the road, the flops, and the standing ovations.
- 1-29-13 Have I Left Yet? Queen of Denial, Chapter 12
Baghdad was the first place I had worked in where a complete communication blackout was ordered (no post, no newspapers, no telegrams, and no telephone access to the general public), and a mere two weeks after my arrival. For the very first time since I started traveling and dancing abroad, I was unable to call my parents (and vice versa) to assure them that I was fine regardless of what they were reading in the local newspapers.
- 1-20-13 Behind the Scenes, 3rd Coast Tribal Festival
I had never been to a tribal dance convention before, even though I have been a professional (Egyptian style) belly dancer for 40 years. From my “glitz and tits” perspective, this belly dance offshoot wasn’t something I recognized as mine.
Originally written for Caravan Magazine 1992- The one thing on which you depend about dance in Egypt from year to year is that everything slowly changes. I’ve returned to Cairo each year now for nine consecutive years, and last year my visit was just before the short war we had with Iraq in which Egypt was our US ally. Cairenes seemed sad last year, because Cairo had lost most of its income from tourism, and many Egyptian nationals were returning from Iraq and Kuwait, where they no longer had employment. I did not know what to expect this year, except the inevitable fact of surprising, yet subtle, change.