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  1. #1
    Member Bellydance Oz's Avatar
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    Default Advice on how to teach complete beginners

    I'm doing some relief teaching for a friend. I still regard myself an intermediate rather than an expert belly dancer, but I do have experience teaching aerobic dancing and flamenco and years of studying other dance genres, so I know how to teach safely.

    I had no difficulty teaching the intermediate students, but I'm really struggling with the beginners. There are students in the class who've been learning for a whole term and are still moving as though their torso is a solid block.

    Part of me thinks that if their regular teacher hasn't managed to teach them, I don't stand a chance in three lessons - but another part of me feels there must be some way to get through to them. I did have a little victory last night when I got two of them to do a shoulder shimmy without moving their whole body, but chest moves are a mystery and as for hips...

    I think the problem is that when I started belly dance, I found it totally natural to move my hips and ribs independently so I've never gone through that phase myself.

    It may be too late for this group, but if I'm going to do more teaching, I need to work on a beginners' lesson plan that can deal with inflexible people. I have a few "beginners" DVD's but they are all just "watch and copy" which isn't much help. Does anyone know of any good 'absolute beginners' DVD's that would give me some clues?
    Last edited by Bellydance Oz; 11-19-2010 at 01:58 AM.

  2. #2
    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    If you're going to use videos for inspiration on how to teach beginners, grab one of Rania Renee's instructionals for some great ideas on how to get the ideas across. I've had great success with beginners by pinching her ideas and using them in the classroom.
    Bellydance in Kyabram!
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    Email kyabrambellydance@gmail.com for more information.

  3. #3
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    This is a really good absolute beginners dvd:

    Visionary Belly Dance | Absolute Beginning Belly Dance with Delilah

    She has thi

  4. #4
    Member Bellydance Oz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darshiva View Post
    If you're going to use videos for inspiration ....
    I guess that's the only thing I can think of right now.

    I'm contemplating approaching one or two local teachers to ask if I can enrol in their absolute beginners' class for a term - but as it's nearly the end of the school year, that will have to wait till end January next year.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    This is a really good absolute beginners dvd:

    Visionary Belly Dance | Absolute Beginning Belly Dance with Delilah
    Thanks - your comment got cut off in midstream so I hope you come back with the rest!
    Last edited by Shanazel; 11-19-2010 at 04:12 AM. Reason: merge

  5. #5
    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    This is actually part of the reason behind why I am such a strong advocate of (good) teacher training.

    I hope you find the information you're looking for.
    Bellydance in Kyabram!
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    Email kyabrambellydance@gmail.com for more information.

  6. #6
    Member Pleasant dancer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellydance Oz View Post

    I had no difficulty teaching the intermediate students, but I'm really struggling with the beginners. There are students in the class who've been learning for a whole term and are still moving as though their torso is a solid block.

    Hi, This is not unusual, especially if they are slightly older students who haven't dance before in any way. It obviously varies with each individual immensely but I often find that some students take at least 6 weeks of hourly lessons before they can achieve any form of isolation, some others however, as you found yourself, can achieve it almost immediately.

    I think the problem is that when I started belly dance, I found it totally natural to move my hips and ribs independently so I've never gone through that phase myself.

    Can you remember what it was like for others in your group when you started? Everyone needs a different form of stimulus to understand what they need to do (different learning styles etc).

    It may be too late for this group, but if I'm going to do more teaching, I need to work on a beginners' lesson plan that can deal with inflexible people. I have a few "beginners" DVD's but they are all just "watch and copy" which isn't much help. Does anyone know of any good 'absolute beginners' DVD's that would give me some clues?
    I think perhaps joining in on a few beginners classes again with view to learning the best way to approach this is an excellent idea. Also, speak to your teacher about his/her experience.

    In my opinion, teaching beginners is very hard, cannot be rushed, can be rather boring for a teacher sometimes, but it's absolutely necessary to get it right. So much depends upon it if students are to grow as dancers. Best of luck!

  7. #7
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    This is a really good absolute beginners dvd:

    Visionary Belly Dance | Absolute Beginning Belly Dance with Delilah

    She has thi
    Thi?


    I think what I typed was that she has this visual where you think of your hips on a clock face, and does some really basic exercises to help you learn to move your hips and torso upper body independently. She also has a great introduction to the shimmy, getting students used to pushing against the floor to feel the resistance of gravity and the weight of the body.

    You know, slightly OT and Oz, this is NOT at all directed towards you, but I've never understood why 6-week wonders think they can teach absolute beginners. Beginners need the MOST experienced teachers to help them understand how to use the right muscles to drive the movements, and to diagnose what's wrong when they can't get the right "look" to the movement. As you're finding out, it's DARN HARD to teach raw beginners. And yet this is where the most inexperienced teachers often start out.

    ???

  8. #8
    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Thi?
    You know, slightly OT and Oz, this is NOT at all directed towards you, but I've never understood why 6-week wonders think they can teach absolute beginners. Beginners need the MOST experienced teachers to help them understand how to use the right muscles to drive the movements, and to diagnose what's wrong when they can't get the right "look" to the movement. As you're finding out, it's DARN HARD to teach raw beginners. And yet this is where the most inexperienced teachers often start out.

    ???
    Teaching raw beginners and teaching advanced students are both very hard to do, IMO. But they are hard in different ways.

    Someone who is not very advanced would not be able to teach an advanced class because their skill isn't there yet, there is very little (or nothing) someone can possibly teach to someone who is at their level, or at a higher level than they are. Plus, advanced dancers can pick up on detail, so if there are flaws in your dancing they will see it, whereas beginners would completely miss minor flaws. So teaching advanced students requires a lot more dance experience, ability, and knowledge.

    On the other hand, teaching advanced students doesn't require as much of an ability to break things down as teaching beginners does. Sometimes, a dancer that is not that advanced is able to break down and explain movements and posture a lot better than some more experienced and advanced dancers. Some dancers have been dancing for so long that everything feels natural to them, and they've forgotten how to break everything down for someone who is just starting out.

    So there is some logic in thinking that you don't need to know as much to teach beginners as you do to teach advanced dancers, in a way. It depends on how you think about it, or how it is worded. You need more of a certain type of knowledge and skillset to teach beginners than you do to teach advanced dancers, in a way. But you also need more of another type of knowledge and skillset to teach advanced dancers than you do for beginners, if you know what I mean.

  9. #9
    Senior Member LadyLoba's Avatar
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    As someone who is not a fellow teacher, but is someone who would be in the absolute beginner class....I would say, go a lot slower than you've become used to going and explain everything, even when it seems very very obvious to you and you're afraid somebody is going to go "Well no kidding. How stupid does she think we are?" Most of us at that level would feel thankful, not insulted.

    I know with the DVD and online instruction I'm depending on, I'm doing best when it's presented as "This is a hip crescent. It is the front half of a hip circle" than when I put in a DVD and it's someone going "Let's focus on hips. Here's one move then this one now this and here's another way to do that."

    I'm sure absolute beginners are hard to teach....the things that I have to study, learn, practice, study some more than practice some more...over and over and over again...are probably things that are second nature to you intermediate and advanced dancers.

    Another thing you might be facing with an absolute beginner class is attitude. By the time someone is in an intermediate or an advanced belly dancing class, it is safe to assume she is genuinely interested in belly dance and has either taken beginner classes and taken them seriously, or studied on her own extensively or both. Some people who sign up for beginner classes in anything don't do well because they aren't there with the intention of learning to do something well....it's just for exercise for them, or they signed up on a whim and aren't really trying....I'm not saying this class is full of people like that...but that could be a problem in any beginning class.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Marya's Avatar
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    I specialize in teaching beginners, especially older ladies, I have come to absolutely love it.

    I have developed a number of tricks and tips.

    for shoulder shimmies I hold their hands. I have them spread their arms out into the inverted V position then I hold their hands and do shoulder shimmies with them. this helps them to feel what the movement should be while keeping their hands still. This does not mean they will instantly be able to do shoulder shimmies but it gives them a reference point and also a way to practice.

    Use chairs if there is no barre and they need help balancing.

    for hip drops I have them stand erect with one foot flat one on the ball of the foot and then ask them to drop the hip joint of the leg with the foot on the ball. many will drop the foot. If that happens I put my foot under theirs (the one on the ball of the foot) so that they cannot lower that foot. This prevents them from dropping that foot flat and focuses their attention on the proper body part.

    Teaching beginners is way more intensive and hands on. I ask permission first, of course, to touch them. I also have them put their hands on my hips so that they can feel what they should be doing.

    Older beginners sometimes have lost touch with their bodies and literally cannot make the connection from their brain to their feet, hips, shoulders, arms etc. This dance is an excellent way to them to reconnect and reestablish those connections.

    I have found that holding their hands or having them hold hands with each other somehow helps them make those connections stronger.

    I had one lady who could grapevine only if I held her hand, otherwise she just seem to stumble and wave her feet aimlessly around.

    Marya

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