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  1. #11
    Member Bellydance Oz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    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. ... 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.
    I agree, Aziyade! I think the trouble is that belly dance appears so simple and natural, new dancers often don't realize how little they know. So they're off performing gigs after three or four lessons, or starting up their own dance school on the strength of a couple of terms.

    I've actually been studying belly dance for four years - but because I spent 30 years of my life studying ballet and flamenco before that, I'm aware how much depth there is in any dance genre and how much I still have to learn.

    Quote Originally Posted by LadyLoba View Post
    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.
    Thanks for that reassurance! I am conscious of what you said about attitude, too - here in Sydney, there are a few teachers who don't correct students much or push technique, because they say most adults are there to have fun rather than to learn. My instinct is the opposite because I'm used to ballet and flamenco, where students are usually there to learn and improve. So maybe I need to chill a bit!

    Quote Originally Posted by Marya View Post
    for shoulder shimmies I hold their hands. ...
    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.

    ...
    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.

    Marya
    Marya, your post was wonderfully helpful. My little trick (which got the shoulder shimmies going) was to do the upper body work seated, so they didn't have to think about posture or balance. I'll certainly use your idea for the hip drop, and maybe holding on to a chair will stop them moving their upper body during hip work.

    I absolutely agree with you that older people lose body awareness. In fact it happens quite young - I remember teaching dance aerobics in the Jane Fonda era, to a group of thirty-somethings. A common move was to stretch one arm above their head. They lifted their arm but the variety of shapes was astonishing, and no amount of calling seemed to make a difference. When I marched over and straightened their arm myself, most of them were astonished - they really thought their arm was straight already.

    The other thing I tried with the belly dance class was to get them to visualize their skeleton, with nothing but air between their rib cage and pelvis to stop them moving. That seemed to help one student.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yame View Post
    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.
    Yes and no, IMO. If you're only going to teach simple moves, then it doesn't matter if you don't know more advanced ones. However, as you progress in dancing you don't just learn steps, you gather a lot more knowledge as well. The most dangerous thing about "6-week wonders" teaching, to quote Aziyade, is that they don't know enough about the anatomy of the movement - they may not realize, for instance, that you can injure your knee if you do a hip twist incorrectly.

    Sorry for the multiple posting but everybody had such great posts, I had to answer them!
    Last edited by Shanazel; 11-21-2010 at 09:15 PM. Reason: merge subsequent posts

  2. #12
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellydance Oz View Post
    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.
    A friend who started her own school had the same issue. She was a natural (and good) dancer and couldn't understand why people couldn't get it. Her solution was to hire a left brain type who liked reverse engineering (me) to teach the beginners.

    You want to do a hip drop? Okay, identitfy all the individual skills and make sure the student can do each one on its own before lumping them all together.

    With some you also need to consider safety. For instance there are obvious movements that someone needs to be able to do a camel. But the automatic engagement of the abs to protect the back may not be obvious - so we put this off until the students had had considerable time doing movements which (we hoped) would develop this skill.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bellydance Oz View Post
    My little trick (which got the shoulder shimmies going) was to do the upper body work seated, so they didn't have to think about posture or balance.
    Put the two together - learn on a motorbike As few people ride motorbikes these days I suggest they practice while seated at the lights when driving (while moving may be a little distracting)

    In class, along with pairing people up to hold hands steady, I pass out the canes (pseudo-bike handlebars)
    Last edited by Shanazel; 11-20-2010 at 09:40 AM. Reason: merge

  3. #13
    Senior Member Marya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir View Post

    In class, along with pairing people up to hold hands steady, I pass out the canes (pseudo-bike handlebars)
    Yes, the day I taught Raks Asaya everyone did really well, I hadn't thought about the cane providing a stabilizing effect.

    Marya

  4. #14
    Super Moderator Mosaic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marya View Post
    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
    I have a class of older ladies and they are absolute beginners and it is hard work. I must try the holding hands for the shoulder shimmies as they are having so much trouble with finding just their shoulders. Even posture doesn't always register. I go over that every single week. They are lovely though and so enthusiastic. We did hipdrops last week and all of them were beginning to get it by the end of class except for one lady, they are so happy when they begin to 'get' something. Most have finally got the grapevine YAY! That took a while. But we have fun and they always want homework, so I always have a small handout with a description of a step/movement we have learnt and get them to practice that, as well as the previous ones. The other class I teach is beyond beginners of mixed abilities ( I took this class over from a friend who could no longer teach it and she asked me if I would), they are a lot easier to teach but also can be difficult because some think they know it all so to speak, and have excuses when you correct them ( nicely). Overall even though they may not be perfect the understanding is there, these ladies are younger 30s early 40s. I can use the holding hands shoulder shimmies for them too, as some of them look awkward and a bit jerky. Thanks for the tip!
    ~Mosaic
    Dance is like glitter, it not only colours your life, it makes you sparkle, you find it everywhere and in everything and it's near impossible to get rid of. (unknown)


  5. #15
    Member Shakti's Avatar
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    I am partial to any DVD by Mesmera. I have taken seminars with her a few times and when I was beginning bellydance she was the one I had the most breakthroughs with, especially with learning layering.

    I used to cover classes for my dance partner when she would travel to get things to vend. My advice is to keep it as fun as possible. At the end of class I would take 15 minutes and a simple piece of music and have the students do every move in an eight count, like an easy choreography. They would decide how to arrange it. I was the audience. It gave me a chance to really praise them , they got to know each other and bond and it got them used to performing. Everyone is there to learn and make a new friend. if you have a friend in class you are more likely to stick with classes and continue learning.
    Last edited by Shakti; 11-21-2010 at 07:59 PM.

  6. #16
    Member Bellydance Oz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir View Post
    A friend who started her own school had the same issue. She was a natural (and good) dancer and couldn't understand why people couldn't get it. Her solution was to hire a left brain type who liked reverse engineering (me) to teach the beginners.
    Kashmir, every time I read one of your posts, I think I should hop on a plane to NZ - you have such a fund of exactly the kind of knowledge I'm thirsty for!

  7. #17
    Senior Member Marya's Avatar
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    I just remembered one of my tricks for teaching beginners. I have them hold very light weight gauzy nylon scarves in their hands. This helps them "see" where their arms are and gives them something to do that looks pretty.

    I also noticed once at a African Drum party that was at my studio that no one was dancing. I tried to get a friend to join me but she was tired. She suggested passing out my scarves to everyone. Soon they were all dancing, just like magic.

    Marya

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