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  1. #1
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    Default Issues with my teacher?

    I'm 55, and I've always been overweight, a wallflower and somewhat alienated from my body, if that makes sense, but seven friends called or wrote to say I should try belly dance, and my husband surprised me with beginner lessons at the local rec center. It was the coolest gift ever, and also the scariest.

    At the first class the teacher taught the basics, and I was the only one out of eleven who hadn't taken the class before. I felt enormous and awkward, but I liked it and wanted to learn more, so I asked the teacher for resources to practice with at home. You know, maybe YouTube videos, or dancers whose DVDs she could recommend.

    The next week she forgot my request, and she forgot again on week three, when she passed out music and copies of the 27 steps of choreography she wanted us to learn. In a beginner's class.

    At class four, she still hadn't remembered, so she said to send an email reminding her. I didn't hear from her and when I saw her in the fifth class she said she never got my email.

    In classes leading up to week five, we'd spend 45 minutes learning the basics and the last 15 on choreography, which was incredibly confusing, but by class five she was teaching only her choreography, which changed as she decided hips might work better here, and let's add a shoulder shimmy there, or do this three times instead of six... rendering the written directions (which I pasted below) useless.

    I asked if she could spend more time on the basics since I've had trouble with my knees, but she said basics are too boring, and to make sure I never straightened my knees. That's it.

    I'm planning to quit the last three classes since she'll only be teaching choreography, but I want to stop by and give her a letter saying why, and I may send a copy to the director of the rec center.

    I know there's a belly dancer inside me. We live in a small town in central Pennsylvania, and she's the only teacher here, so I'll use videos to practice with until I find someone else.

    My reason for writing is, what do you suggest I say in the letter?

    Thanks for your thoughts,

    Starling

    Oh, here's the choreography:

    INTRO- FACING REAR. 8C SHOULDER SHIMMY
    lAC Rock step, (r foot), Double hip thrust, R& L
    2. Repeat 4c rock step, turn to Lwith double Hip thrust
    3. Repeat again, Double Hip Thrust to face front.
    4. Repeat 4th time, after 4c rock step, 4c Hip circle bounce.
    5. RHip uu/dd (switch feet)
    6. L Hip UU/dd.
    7.3 pt turn to Lt., 3 pt. turn to Rt.
    8 .R Hip isolation, 4c, L. Hip isolation 4c
    9. Hip circle 6c. Shoulder shimmy 2c
    10. Rock step to left side, then to right, 4c ea.
    11. Figure 8 with accents. (Start Rhip)
    12. Step point (start Rfoot) fwd 6c, Pivot turn to face rear.
    13. Hip pushes out, LRLR 4C
    14. Hip shimmy, 4c.
    MUSIC CHANGE. (Facing rear)
    20. Basic back 8c
    21. Camel Right 6c, shoulder shimmy, 2c
    15. Mya step R&l x2, 4C
    16. Look back over l shoulder, Look back over R. shoulder. lc ea.
    17. Step slide step, start Rfoot, 6c. , Pivot step, 2c to face front,
    18. Accent shoulder shimmy, facing front
    19. Harem waltz, 8c
    22. Camel Left 4c, hip circle bounce 2c.
    INSTRUMENTAL- CHANGE LINES
    23. Back line step point fwd, 8c.
    24. Front line, step point back, 8c.
    25. Isolated (R) hip around self, Bc
    26. Hip thrust walking fwd. 8c, RlRl with shoulder shimmy
    27. Camel off, first line to R, Back line to L.
    END.

  2. #2
    Member mahsati_janan's Avatar
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    I am not sure I completely understand your question. It isn't unusual for beginner sessions to spend some classes on movements and some on a choreography using those movements. It depends on the type of class and the teacher's goal for it.

    If you are just looking for how to tell the rec center that you didn't enjoy the class, I would recommend just letting them know that you were hoping for a more technique oriented class than a choreography oriented class. Without knowing how this session was advertised, it's difficult to say whether or not the teacher's methods were in line with her goals for the class.

    As to the dvds/instructionals, honestly as a teacher myself I can't tell you how many questions I am asked at the beginning/middle/end of class that would require me to go do research for a student or send them something outside of class. I don't mind doing it as long as it is a reasonable amount, but I do ask that students email me their requests so that I can pull things together when I have time. When you attend a class, you are purchasing the teacher's time and knowledge for the period of the class. Anything they offer to do for you free of charge outside of class is a bonus, not a requirement. Remember, your teacher is there to help you learn and act as a guide/mentor, but they are not always able to answer all of your questions. You can supplement by visiting boards like this one and talking with other dancers and students.

    There are a number of good dancer instructor directories available online, so you may be able to find another instructor in a reasonable distance from you. The search at Shira.net is one of the most comprehensive. She also has a lot of articles about this dance form from both a student and teacher standpoint.

    Good luck! I hope you find a class that is a better fit for you!

  3. #3
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    That's fair. I wasn't sure what I was asking either. I asked my husband to read it before I hit send, and he said, "You just want to know what to write in your letter."

    I want confirmation from professionals that the teacher phoned it in. That she didn't try hard enough to teach, and that she failed, at least in my case, to help a beginning (clearly terrified) student to learn to belly dance, which was what she was paid pretty well to do.

    It seemed like the class was designed for her enjoyment. Is that okay? Maybe so. She's my age, maybe she feels like she's paid her dues, and she just wants to have fun.

    And maybe we just weren't a good fit. I'm an artist, and I gravitate more toward funky, and she seemed pretty traditional. And that's okay. It's like making friends. It's hard to find a good fit between friends. But I looked, and my husband looked, and she's the only teacher in town, so I think she has a certain responsibility to deliver what she advertised.

    Here's the ad for the beginner class:

    Beginner: 6:00—7:00 p.m.
    Learn basic moves and steps while toning muscles and increasing
    flexibility. "SPRING" into shape and get ready for summer
    swimwear! Learn the ancient art of Oriental Belly Dance for fun,
    fitness and femininity. A good dance form for all ages and bodies.
    *Please bring ballet slippers or go barefoot.

    Here's the intermediate:
    Intermediate: 7:15—8:15 p.m.
    This faster pace class will focus on different combinations using
    more advanced moves and steps ending with a professional
    choreographed dance.
    *Pre-requisite: Must have 1 year of belly
    dance experience.

  4. #4
    Member mahsati_janan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starling View Post
    I want confirmation from professionals that the teacher phoned it in. That she didn't try hard enough to teach, and that she failed, at least in my case, to help a beginning (clearly terrified) student to learn to belly dance, which was what she was paid pretty well to do.
    To be 100% honest, this isn't something that anyone who hasn't been in this class can confirm for you. We can't know whether she was a poor teacher and phoned it in or if she was a good teacher who just isn't a good fit for you. Some teaching and learning styles don't mesh well together. Some classes are more focused on technique. For some it's fitness. Others focus on learning a choreography. In some classes, the focus is on having fun and being social. A student looking for one kind who finds themselves in another kind will likely think it was a poor class even if it is being taught well for its goals.

    If you would like to try again with the same teacher, I would recommend trying private lessons with her so that you can focus on what you need instead of the standard beginning class she offers.

    I am really sorry to hear that you were frightened and didn't feel supported. Was there anything in particular that the teacher did or didn't do that led you to feel that way?

  5. #5
    Member chirel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starling View Post
    I asked if she could spend more time on the basics since I've had trouble with my knees, but she said basics are too boring, and to make sure I never straightened my knees. That's it.
    Hi, I don't have much experience on dance teachers, but to me any teacher who says something like this on a beginner course should stick to advanced courses or start doing something else entirely. Of course basics can become boring if you teach them year in and year out, but they are still new stuff to the students and the foundations of any dance (or any other thing), so they should be taught thoroughly.

    And I hated when they started to teach choreos before I had learned the basic steps. Seems like the fastest way to frustration and injury to me. That's why i stopped belly dancing years ago. Thanks to internet I got inspiret to start again. I find Irinas videos good (and some more experienced people have said so here somewhere) Belly Dance Moves: Basic Posture - YouTube But I do recommend staing in class, because it's difficult to know your mistakes when you are a beginner.

  6. #6
    Member Janene Aliza's Avatar
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    It sounds like in your first post you said you were taking the beginners' class, but in the class descriptions the intermediate (not beginner) is the one that mentioned choreography....???

    Did the teacher ever indicate whether she received your e-mail(s)? Did she respond to your questions? From your posts it sounds like she never got back to you....that would definitely discourage me if I felt like I couldn't get much feedback from my teacher, either in person or via e-mail.

  7. #7
    V.I.P. khanjar's Avatar
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    Just wondering, of teachers, is it necessary that they have to have a dance troupe ?

  8. #8
    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starling View Post
    Here's the ad for the beginner class:

    Beginner: 6:00—7:00 p.m.
    Learn basic moves and steps while toning muscles and increasing
    flexibility. "SPRING" into shape and get ready for summer
    swimwear! Learn the ancient art of Oriental Belly Dance for fun,
    fitness and femininity. A good dance form for all ages and bodies.
    *Please bring ballet slippers or go barefoot.

    Here's the intermediate:
    Intermediate: 7:15—8:15 p.m.
    This faster pace class will focus on different combinations using
    more advanced moves and steps ending with a professional
    choreographed dance.
    *Pre-requisite: Must have 1 year of belly
    dance experience.

    With the ads, I'd want to know what her fitness qualifications are, because (at least in Australia) you can't advertise the fitness benefits of what you are teaching unless you have fitness accreditation.

    I would definitely write to the admin & let them know that the class isn't what was advertised and let them know what was in the classes you attended and why you dropped out. Let them know that your correspondances with the teacher were brushed off or ignored and that you find that unprofessional. Follow it up with a request that they let you know immediately they find a replacement teacher because you have a passion for this dance form and would like to continue. I wouldn't bother telling the teacher why you left, from her actions as you wrote them she doesn't care and will probably just ignore the email/letter you give her anyway, so it's a waste of time and resources on your part.


    In the meantime, check out the dvd sticky at the top of this subforum, as it contains the information your teacher was so reluctant to give you. Alternatively, pm one of the teachers here (there are a few of us) and ask for advice on how to tackle your self-education.
    Last edited by Darshiva; 05-04-2012 at 10:23 PM. Reason: I haqte my keyboard. That is all.
    Bellydance in Kyabram!
    Skype classes a specialty.
    Email kyabrambellydance@gmail.com for more information.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mahsati_janan View Post
    I am really sorry to hear that you were frightened and didn't feel supported. Was there anything in particular that the teacher did or didn't do that led you to feel that way?
    Mahsati, the reason I said I was terrified is because I'm really shy about doing any kind of dancing. I didn't feel supported because after only three lessons, I didn't feel prepared for learning a dance. What mattered to me was learning the moves until I understood them. I have three advanced degrees, so learning isn't hard for me, but I think learning needs to start from a strong foundation.

    Quote Originally Posted by chirel View Post
    I find Irinas videos good (and some more experienced people have said so here somewhere) Belly Dance Moves: Basic Posture - YouTube
    Chirel, thanks for the excellent link! Wow. I really like her awareness of where her body is in space, and her attention to detail when she explains the moves.

    Quote Originally Posted by Janene Aliza View Post
    It sounds like in your first post you said you were taking the beginners' class, but in the class descriptions the intermediate (not beginner) is the one that mentioned choreography....???

    Did the teacher ever indicate whether she received your e-mail(s)? Did she respond to your questions? From your posts it sounds like she never got back to you....that would definitely discourage me if I felt like I couldn't get much feedback from my teacher, either in person or via e-mail.
    Janene, I was taking the beginners' class. When I told her the catalog only mentioned choreography for the intermediate class, she said I was wrong.

    Every week at the beginning of the class, I'd ask if she found me anything I could practice with, and every week she said she forget to check. After three weeks, I sent her an email because she said that would help her remember. At the last class I went to, she said she never got an email from me and still hadn't found anything.

  10. #10
    V.I.P. khanjar's Avatar
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    Mahsati, the reason I said I was terrified is because I'm really shy about doing any kind of dancing. I didn't feel supported because after only three lessons, I didn't feel prepared for learning a dance. What mattered to me was learning the moves until I understood them. I have three advanced degrees, so learning isn't hard for me, but I think learning needs to start from a strong foundation.
    I agree with you Starling, ( Oh I have to admit, I love that name, it brings back fond memories of rescuing chucked out starlings, nursing them back to health and letting them fly in my youth), I agree because even though I do not have the paper qualification , my IQ is Mensa, but I also believe if anyone if they are to become proficient at anything, then it starts with a firm foundation and I am an ex civil engineer. You Starling I believe are similar to myself, I will not allow myself to progress into uncertain territory until I know everything to know about the territory I am already in as without foundations what do we have but uncertain structures.

    Your teacher sounds to me as a bit off, it is why I asked the general question, is it necessary for a teacher to have a troupe. I asked this because it is my perception that teachers by having a troupe are advertising their abilities and with a troupe if they dance with the troupe, which is my observation, then they set themselves up to shine compared to the troupe. Now whether this is wholesome or it is not, I don't now, but one thing I understand of good teachers be they teachers of anything, they tend to prefer to stay out of the limelight and shine through those they have taught.

    I think you mentioned that this class was the nearest, sometimes we have to travel further to do the things we need to do, but only you know what your true feelings are, what you have conveyed here, to me is you are not happy, so what of further classes ?

    But just to let you know, perhaps out of interest I attended a BD festival once, forty miles from where I live, the getting back involved sleeping for a while in a bus shelter, walking around about twelve miles through unlit country lanes then giving up in the next town , to get an expensive taxi to get home, 40 miles and it took me 8 hours and all that because not having a car, unbeknown to me at the time the part of the country where I live, what passes for public transport quits at 10 pm. I left the BD festival at midnight when it quit, if I had left to get the transport, I would have missed a world famous male dancer doing his stuff.

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