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  1. #41
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    I think we need a sticky on why teaching "free" classes is actually undercutting, and why it DOES hurt our business. We've had several threads dealing with the matter, and they should be easily accessible to new posters.

    In short, offering "Free" classes DEVALUES the product to the public.

    One free class is one thing -- it's a taster. Just like a series of 2-minute videos. An entire free beginners session is another altogether.

    This is just basic business practice, and ALL dancers should understand what kind of business model they are setting up for both themselves and the dance community when they offer even a 6-week course in bellydance for free. There have been a lot of good books written on the subject of upping your prices and getting more business because of the perceived higher value.

    Xela-- not to attack you directly, but I have to comment. When you give it away, you aren't just hurting yourself. You are hurting your community of dancers and other teachers who DO rely on those beginners to allow them to teach more advanced classes. If you work as a professional dancer in a restaurant, you should understand what happens when another dancer comes in and decides she will give a "sample" performance for free. That's one of the oldest tricks in the book.

    I'm sorry, but I don't think that just because a person teaches at their high school or college campus they should get a pass to do what the rest of the dance community recognizes as undercutting and devaluing the market for the product.

    And this: Most of my students in my free class wouldnt even be taking the class if it cost money, so it isn't taking away business is the current justification for counterfeiting designer items and pirating music and videos, so that doesn't quite wash me with either.

  2. #42
    Junior Member XelaHayam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    I think we need a sticky on why teaching "free" classes is actually undercutting, and why it DOES hurt our business. We've had several threads dealing with the matter, and they should be easily accessible to new posters.

    In short, offering "Free" classes DEVALUES the product to the public.

    One free class is one thing -- it's a taster. Just like a series of 2-minute videos. An entire free beginners session is another altogether.

    This is just basic business practice, and ALL dancers should understand what kind of business model they are setting up for both themselves and the dance community when they offer even a 6-week course in bellydance for free. There have been a lot of good books written on the subject of upping your prices and getting more business because of the perceived higher value.

    Xela-- not to attack you directly, but I have to comment. When you give it away, you aren't just hurting yourself. You are hurting your community of dancers and other teachers who DO rely on those beginners to allow them to teach more advanced classes. If you work as a professional dancer in a restaurant, you should understand what happens when another dancer comes in and decides she will give a "sample" performance for free. That's one of the oldest tricks in the book.

    I'm sorry, but I don't think that just because a person teaches at their high school or college campus they should get a pass to do what the rest of the dance community recognizes as undercutting and devaluing the market for the product.

    And this: Most of my students in my free class wouldnt even be taking the class if it cost money, so it isn't taking away business is the current justification for counterfeiting designer items and pirating music and videos, so that doesn't quite wash me with either.

    Aziyade & Kashmir,
    I teach these classes on a University Campus – But I’m not just teaching them as my self, I am teaching them because I was elected to do so, from the Organization I am a part of. Think of it like a club. We are a university club that provides service and education to other University students. Just like any other campus club; art classes, salsa classes, singing troupes – we do it for free. It’s all about exposing people (students!) to our art-form, who otherwise would not have looked into it. (College is all about trying “new experiences” Right? That’s what these organizations aim to provide – and to the “Poor College Student” too)

    We are not competition, and you shouldn’t be so scared/angry at us. If I was only offering “Free” classes or performances to get myself out there and get a job, that would be undercutting and that would be selfish. But I’m not. I know that those people and things exist, but of course I am not defending those. Student troupes and organizations are a valuable part of the belly dance community, and I think your should reconsider your outlook and learn to embrace us.

    So many people still think of belly dancing being “dirty” and “bad,” and of course the people paying for classes or tickets don’t think that, so how do we reach the ones who do, but won’t pay or take interest otherwise? We do not advertise ourselves as professionals, we make it known that we are a Student Troupe. My organization does not take away business from local dance teachers, in fact we work hand in hand with them to not only promote their classes to students who show interest (because you’re right, classes and troupes you pay for and have commitment to are much more effective and higher quality) but support them ourselves as well; we pay rent to local studios and hold our practices there. Because it’s a University organization, most of the poor college students attending couldn’t go to a local studio. But now that many of them have had access, they love it, they are taking local workshops and classes… because you know as well as I that belly dancing is an addiction I know that we have earned the respect and trust of our local dance troupes and studios, so that has to count for something right?

    The point is, there is a balance. And you shouldn’t be so quick to judge. As with everything, there are people who do it for wrong and selfish reasons, but in our case, and many other Voluntary teachers and Performers, it’s beneficiary to the dance community as a whole.

    We all should be thankful that my organization helping reach new generations of dancers who will carry on, share, and develop this art form we love. Dancing should be just as much about Education as it is about Profit. If we aren’t willing to share our love for it, how can we expect for people to show enough interest down the road to employs us or watch us anyway?

    Maybe I am taking it to personally, but I did feel offended by what you’ve said about my goals and mission. I go out of my way to respect teachers like you and their business. I am only trying to defend myself and maybe help you better understand if you misunderstood my intensions.

    (We’ve gotten wayyyy off topic however, lol, so I would just like to reiterate that yes this “FREE” video series is probably a cruddy gimmick, and it’s a shame that it’s advertising it’self as a sole instructional. However I still say it might be out of context, so who knows, I haven’t seen the videos, but if it is only introducing curious people to bellydance, and then encouraging them to seek further and actual human instruction, that might not be *so* bad. I first taught myself to sew from a youtube video, and the video told me to buy books and take classes, so now I am! That’s what free demos should be about, however… it’s unfortunate that a lot of times its not, and the people producing this stuff are just selfish and after add dollars.)

  3. #43
    Junior Member XelaHayam's Avatar
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    [More... sorry, lol]

    …I apologize for defending myself so ferociously, but I really do feel as though I deserve respect. For who I am, who I represent, and what I am doing. Just because my title on this board says “Junior member”, and I am younger and attending University, you shouldn’t look down on me*. I chose this forum because of out of all the others I thought this one was full of the most kind and respecting members; who weren’t just going to tear each other down. This isn’t a competition, this is a community. And I deserve as much of a spot and respect as anyone else who is passionate about this style of dance we all love.

    I plan of teaching for a living one day – It is one of my goals to open up a studio with my mother and teach all different styles of mulit-cultural dance. So don’t get me wrong. Please try to understand that our community, even though ones trying to make a living off students, needs people to volunteer and “spread the love.” Like I said I go out of my way to work with local studios and earn their respect (because unfortunately, even though we all deserve to be equal, student troupe like mine are looked down upon for stereotypically being “unprofessional” and “bad examples.” But we’re not. And how are those stereotypes and connotations any different that people assuming belly dance is “naughty” and “stripping.” Gossip and stereotypes are detrimental. We should all work to support each other and work within a system. …If theres one thing I hate about belly dance, it’s about how catty and mean the business side of it can get. Can we all just put that aside for one minute?

    I apologize that people like me, have offered free classes and performances and have hurt you’re business is the past. No that my organization (and others in FL that I know of) are now working hard to prevent that. Like I said, we should work together… because really, we may not be helping the “business side” of it, but we are helping the community.. If you have been or are being hurt by a local dancer who if undercutting you (assuming they are of good quality; if their not, then… I don’t know, kick their butt or something for mis representing us) – Try talking to them; that’s what the Local Womens Belly Dance center did with us 4 years ago. Try establishing some kind of agreement or partnership… They can promote your classes and events, or maybe rent out your studio and teach their freebies there so curious students can buy your hip scarves and jewelry and start taking other classes…. Or just set boundaries – “I don’t like you teaching a whole 6 weeks for free, how about 2 free classes then send the ones who stick with it over to me” – I guarantee you that these dancers (assuming their of good quality and intensions) wont want to piss you off. They want to be accepted and respected, and they will be willing to work with you. Also, if you’re looking for it just from a business stand point, working with these voluntary teachers/performers will probably give you an edge over other teachers in your area. You will now have access to those poorer or less interest individuals who now suddenly love Belly Dance, but wouldn’t have saught out a teacher or studio otherwise.

    Hope this helps and clears the air. I really do want to be friends with all of you, or at least respected by you. I work very hard to keep the name of Belly Dance in good standing. I’m sorry if at first you misunderstood me or I misrepresented myself, but hopefully now we’re all on the same page.


    Peace and Blessings everyone <3









    *Oh, and If you were assuming that the free class is of bad quality; lol, it’s not. I try really really hard to keep the name of Belly Dance serious and Highly respected. I’ve been dancing for 6 years. I grew up in a household where my mother was a professional Turkish dancer, I’ve danced professionally, for money, for big time shows, showcases, and festivals (Miami, Orlando) and I’ve studied all different styles with all different teachers…… so I’m not just a “student dancer” teaching other students. I’m sorry if I misrepresented myself that way. I try very hard to be an active part in both the South Florida and Tallahassee Middle Eastern Dance community; and I know better than having the blind lead the blind. – HOWEVER, I push and push and push interested students to seek further outlets.

  4. #44
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    It’s all about exposing people (students!) to our art-form, who otherwise would not have looked into it. (College is all about trying “new experiences” Right? That’s what these organizations aim to provide – and to the “Poor College Student” too)
    There is a difference between private instructors undercutting private instructors and offering classes to students through a university or high school service club. For several years in a row I gave free dance classes to a local high school group to prepare them to perform in a school Elizabethan Faire. Such classes come under the heading of community service. If the other teachers in town felt I was undercutting them by not charging girls who made their extra money babysitting, well, they had the grace to remain quiet about it.

    Xela is performing a service for her college community. She is not a business woman and comparing her community service to ripping off copyright-protected designs is not fair. Any professional teacher whose livelihood is seriously threatened by university student programs had better look a little more closely at her own business practices to figure out why she isn't pulling in sufficient business from the non-university community.

    I have been teaching and/or dancing for some thirty-five years now, and it is my firm opinion that society does not owe us full classes simply because we choose to make all or part of our living teaching dance. You offer the best product available and people will beat a path to your door even if the kid in the university dance troupe is trying her wings by teaching sister students how to shimmy. I am not threatened, nor do I feel undercut by anything the kids at the local college are doing. In fact, I get a fair number of them in my classes when they are done with school.

    Any teacher who is seriously concerned about the practice of undercutting (and it most certainly exists among professionals) could look into forming a union of like minded dance teachers. However, despite claims of being professional people who approach teaching as a business, I have never met many people actually willing to take this step to protect themselves and the community. Exotic dancers tried it in San Francisco years ago but the movement eventually fell apart. Perhaps we're sophisticated enough now to make a union fly; I don't know and wouldn't join a union if offered the chance, but it might work well in areas with large dance communities.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  5. #45
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    Xela is performing a service for her college community.
    Yes - but she never made that clear in her first post.
    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    You offer the best product available and people will beat a path to your door even if the kid in the university dance troupe is trying her wings by teaching sister students how to shimmy. I am not threatened, nor do I feel undercut by anything the kids at the local college are doing.
    Actually my target age is quite older so there would be little overlap So, in theory I have less problem with it. Her real experience is also a plus. But in general (not talking about Xela in particular) there are problems associated with clubs of amateur enthusiasts teaching each other (whether for free or not) - because they often do not have the depth to teach and have no idea what they don't know.

    So, yes, a group get together and teach each other how to shimmy. Then that group's understanding of belly dance is the limit of most of its members. And we have another wave of misinformation of belly dance circulating in the community. It may be different from many of the stereotypes we have fought against - but the first thing you learn often goes deepest - whether it is posture, movement generation, myths or an understanding of what the genre actually is. If it's wrong it's hard to eradicate.

  6. #46
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    Ah, Kashmir, comfort yourself by thinking of all the business we get from correcting poor habits learned in an earlier experience.

    Those of us who love belly dance tend to get very indignant at the merest hint of misinformation and want to leap to defend it from anyone and anything that could conceivably damage the reputation we wish it to have. In the best of all possible worlds, we'd all have RanyaRenee or Morrocco as our first teacher, but we just have to do the best we can in the world we've got. I do not believe that a bunch of student amateurs enjoying themselves is a serious threat to the well-being of belly dance or teaching professionals.

    I've had students in dance, art, writing, and row crop technology who had learned poor practices somewhere. Yes, new dancers might get some questionable information from a student teacher- it has happened in every subject and artform since teachers first undertook to teach. Correcting misconceptions and mis-learning is an important part of being a teacher; if a person doesn't want to deal with this, she might need to re-evaluate her career choice.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  7. #47
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    a comment to the video topic: I have had several very good instructors that never had a video their performances. Does this mean that they are bad instructors? NO.
    a comment to the classes spread knowledge: If you want more people to know more about the culture, why not do a free class about the culture, THEN promote your dance class? You will get more people informed in a culture class than a dance class because there are a lot of people out there that don't want a dance class! Then you would have a possible informed audience.... maybe even an appreciative one.

  8. #48
    Senior Member goddessyasaman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adiemus View Post
    Maybe I'm being too harsh - but the advert just tangled my tassles! I'm still not sure why someone would offer free lessons? Knowing how hard it can be to run a business as a teacher, why would you do it?
    It sounds good but you know you have to check into things, I have been dancing for 14 years and teaching for 3 I did the studio thing and charged people an ok price, but now I just perform and I'm getting even more into the belly dance world, so I plan to very soon Teach by video online for free, I thought why not. But then again I am Fiction writer so I'm not in the art of belly dance for any money, maybe her reason is not so far?

  9. #49
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Xela -- there's no hating from me But you have to expect a certain amount of controversy and differing opinions when you do something the rest of (or most of) your Sisterhood agrees is bad business. I'm just trying to explain something we've been discussing quite a bit recently in a group devoted to better business practices for dancers.

    It is our firm belief (and the belief of others in that group) that until we start treating what we do as a serious BUSINESS, we will never manage to be anything more than "an unusual hobby housewives do for fun." We lament that nobody takes us as seriously as ballet. Why is that? Perhaps it's because we don't treat our own art form as a serious business.

    This is directly directed at you, Xela, but people seem to often have the attitude that "I don't do it for the money, so I'm not hurting anybody." You may not be hurting any BODY, but it definitely hurts the art form.

    I'll see if I can get some of the professionals in that group to chime in. It would be nice to see all the reasons for the differing opinions.

    Shan -- several of the teachers I know make their primary income teaching in a university setting, so I'm not sure they'd agree with you that free classes at a college are a community service. I mean, if you take that to the extreme then shouldn't we have free classes in Arabic or gardening or algebra or any other subject students enjoy learning about? How about free college altogether?

  10. #50
    Junior Member XelaHayam's Avatar
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    Yeah, thats why we need the real classes that are accessible to young people and such... So that the people who cant pay, don't end up just lazying out and teach eachother wrong, or learn online or learn it wrong. So I think you are agreeing with me ? lol.

    It might make you feel better to know that University organizations have to go through a series of authentification tests and approvals before they can be established, so it's not the Student Clubs that are spreading the bad, it's mostly just individuals, who just like you said "dont know what they dont know" he keep ruining it for the rest of us. So it's not University Student teachers, it's the teachers who try to teach but are merely students themselves, if that makes sense. I guess the only think we can do is try to get to the students before they do? lol

    For anyone really interested in the matter, you could always sponsor a student club, so that you can keep an eye on them etc. I know some of the latin dance clubs on campus and at local high schools and community centers, are all partnered with and sponsored by a local latin dance studio;they charge dues, offer discounts for students who actually want to come to the studio, and they make sure that the student performance troupe is doing everything correctly, etc.


    About the business side of it; I guess we can agree to disagree. I DO dance for the money, but I also do dancing as an art form. By sharing this artform I think it absolutely does help the dance form and our community. In the long run its going to expose more people to the dance form and help our community and love for the dance grow. - Business is about changing with the changing scene. Any business (not just dance) that doesn't adapt to the changes in the world & technology (the internet; FREE how-to videos are going to happen no many what) is doomed. We have to change our game plan, roll with the punches, and increase the incentive to learn with real teachers. A part of that, I know at least for poor-cheap-lazy college kids, is to provide a REAL class, but for less. (Note: I dont teach non-campus students, and as I've said before I encourage every one who stays interested to take off-campus classes) With the internet and everything, a lot of young people think that we can just learn everything with out ever consulting an expert (I'll admit to this too - I tried to teach myself point ballet from youtube. You can guess what a disaster that was! lol) But thats the reality of it. You know how many girls come to my intermediate class because they've already "learned from a shakira video"!? I send them packing right back to my beginners. lol We just have to learn how to adapt and reach more people. Other wise there will be no market for a business down the road.
    Last edited by XelaHayam; 02-03-2011 at 06:21 PM.

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