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  1. #1
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    Default curious about teachers' perspectives

    I have no desire to become one, but I am curious what it is like to be an Oriental dance teacher. It seems more like a calling given the amount of work it obviously requires vs. the financial rewards. How did you get into teaching (as opposed to performing), and why? Was it to improve your own dance, just sharing the joy of what you have learned?

    How did you develop your teaching style? Warmup routine, etc. Did you find that your students had different ways of absorbing information from what worked when you were a student? If so how did you cope with that? Do you ever just give up correcting certain students or certain kinds of problems? How did you decide whether to set a lot of rules and structure vs. go with the flow of who is there, what issues come up that day, etc?

    Do you sort students into types (loves the music, but says will never perform, loves the stage, seeks new way to be on it, seeking exercise only, etc) Can you tell who is going to stick with it, who can really hear the music, etc.? Do you find there are certain points where it is typically difficult to keep students motivated to improve? What really makes you proud in a student? Is it weird for teachers that students can develop at really different rates? Do students ever surprise you and turn out a lot better or worse onstage than you thought?

    Given the size of the market it seems unlikely that any given teacher will produce that many professional dancers so what are the other high points for a teacher?

    These are things I wonder about.

    Thanks, Cathy

  2. #2
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    I used to perform when I was in my twenties. I started teaching about the same time, but didn't make the switch to primarily teaching until I was over thirty, married, and not interested in performing any more. (My moment of truth came when I was waiting backstage to go on, and realized I was looking at the clock on the wall and thinking that in only three hours I could go home, put my jammies on, and be done with the lights, noise, and cigarette smoke.)

    I teach two classes a week for the city recreation department, so I get a lot of beginning students as well as a handful of continuing students. It is very difficult to teach women (I have never had a male enroll) who are so diverse in dance background, though it helped a lot when the rec center divided my classes into beginning and continuing students. If I get a student who is "serious," I send her to a friend who teaches privately and is more involved in performing than I am.

    I teach because I like to see women blossom into more than they were before they walked into class the first time. This blossoming encompasses everything from the girl who thought she was a klutz until she did her first perfect spin and drop to the woman with breast cancer who came to class to remember she was beautiful. I teach because belly dance fulfills dreams for ordinary women. I am not dedicated to the dance nearly as much as I am dedicated to the dancers. Every time I watch one of my students perform on stage for the first time, I am torn between wanting to cry and wanting to yell "YEEHAW!" (I've done both, sometimes at the same time.)

    Whether or not a woman intends to ever dance in public again, that first time is very, very emotional for all of us, and she is never quite the same again.

    That is why I teach.

  3. #3
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    Wow Shanazel that was incredibly beautiful.

    I started to teach because I felt I was ready to do so. I have taught men (also hard to teach, but no harder than the women in my opinion). Also it was extra money when I needed it. Mainly because I love Oriental dance...I do think there are some people that just don't get it right away, but they will eventually. Although I have performed all over the world, as a performer I still feel like I haven't quite 'made it' in the sense of a steady gig. Teaching is a lot easier to do...besides, I see so many dance teachers out there that teach so many false things about this dance that I wanted to be somewhat of a voice of reason. I am a natural teacher and I love doing it, especially seeing my students perform. That is the most gratifying thing about it in my opinion.

  4. #4
    V.I.P. Jane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cathy View Post
    I have no desire to become one, but I am curious what it is like to be an Oriental dance teacher. It seems more like a calling given the amount of work it obviously requires vs. the financial rewards. How did you get into teaching (as opposed to performing), and why? Was it to improve your own dance, just sharing the joy of what you have learned?

    How did you develop your teaching style? Warmup routine, etc. Did you find that your students had different ways of absorbing information from what worked when you were a student? If so how did you cope with that? Do you ever just give up correcting certain students or certain kinds of problems? How did you decide whether to set a lot of rules and structure vs. go with the flow of who is there, what issues come up that day, etc?

    Do you sort students into types (loves the music, but says will never perform, loves the stage, seeks new way to be on it, seeking exercise only, etc) Can you tell who is going to stick with it, who can really hear the music, etc.? Do you find there are certain points where it is typically difficult to keep students motivated to improve? What really makes you proud in a student? Is it weird for teachers that students can develop at really different rates? Do students ever surprise you and turn out a lot better or worse onstage than you thought?

    Given the size of the market it seems unlikely that any given teacher will produce that many professional dancers so what are the other high points for a teacher?

    These are things I wonder about.

    Thanks, Cathy

    The main reason I started teaching was because I love it. Other deciding factors were that dancing for money seemed like I was only an entertainer and not an artist. I had to do everything on the terms of the people paying me. It was always more about the body/costume/novelty than it ever was about the dance as an art and it always bothered me. I wanted to do things my way. It was lonley as a soloist and too limiting both financially and creatively as a troupe. Also the market was starting to be saturated with amature dancers and the money was going down. Another big factor was that the teachers in my area weren't offering what I wanted to offer students. My old teacher had stopped growing in the mid 80's and was still teaching the same seven choreographies, all written by other people. All the other teachers in town had less than three years of any dance experience. One of the "teachers" couldn't even walk and shimmy at the same time. I'd been dancing about nine years and I decided I had enough knowledge to start teaching.

    I'd been the "sub" for a few years for my old teacher and had a clear idea of what I liked and disliked about her format. I also took from a lot of other teachers, some big names and others not, and decided what I liked about their classes. I also studied and reviewed many beginner videos to come up with teaching ideas and different ways to explain and break down moves. Veda Sereem (sp?) has a wonderful how to teach video. For the basic body mechanics and such I took classes and got certifications. I talked to dance teachers I admire and picked their brains and read everything I could on the net about teaching from both the teacher and student perspective and put a lot of thought and time into it.

    I always have a set plan for every class, but I'm not afraid to change depending on the situation and needs of the students. I never give up on anyone, but I've come to terms with the fact that not every student will be as passionate about the dance as I am and they are all there for different reasons. I use more carrot than stick. I have no patience with instructors who treat students like subordinate dirt and rip them apart under the thin guise of correction to feed their egos. No teacher is so good that they can get away with treating people like crap. Correcting with tact is a hot button of mine, can you tell?

    Students all learn at different rates. It's been my experience that typically the younger dancers learn more quickly and can do more physically demanding moves, but the older dancers bring depth and charecter to the dance much sooner. Students with a music background pick up almost everything sooner and the students with other dance background memorize choreography very quickly, but fight their former training in other forms.

    The students who come in to their first few classes with grand plans to go pro and buy tons of stuff never seem to stay very long.

    The thing that makes me proud of a student is when I see a them dancing in the moment and really letting go. Thats what makes it all worth while.

  5. #5
    V.I.P. Lydia's Avatar
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    I am performing sinds 1978....teaching only for 6 years now
    ..i performed daily untill 4 years ago
    my mom passed away and i realized that dancing was the only thing i am doing and i hade no time for anything else
    i did not spend time with my mom neither and than she was gone...
    so that made my slow down ,and cut down on shows from 10 a week to 4,5 a week
    And i felt i wanted to teach more,so i would have more contact with people
    I am that kind of dancer that go,s from the backdoor always so did never talk to anybody but my musicians and the poeple from the function where i was working ,but that is just business
    I felt that this is the only way that i could get respect from people as a dancer ,being a good dancer,but also of stage keeping very low profile and i am realy never seen in publick places,so poeple can not gossip about me
    But on the other hand it was very lonely
    So now when i teach i get so much kindness and love from my students its realy great i see them all like my sisters,and we are like 1 big happy family in the classroom Dubai is a city in a country that 80 procent are foreigners so most of us are here to work and alone ,so the classes make like a get away and supportsysteem for everybody and its realy nice
    But i have to tell you this the first time that i booked my students for a show it was my show that i made them do
    I stood there and watch them and it went great ,but i sopped my eyes out ,i felt somebody took my wings and fly away with my ,,me,, so it was realy diffecult to give away my show and my audiance for the first time.....
    It hade always ment so much to me ,and i felt i gave away my biggest tressure....
    But i love to teach and ,,stuff,, them with everything that i learned and practised over the years and give them aaaaaaaaaaaaaaal they want to know and just want now that they become the best..... Lydia

  6. #6
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Teachers, etc.

    Dear Cathy.
    Responses in context

    .[QUOTE=cathy;56404]I have no desire to become one, but I am curious what it is like to be an Oriental dance teacher. It seems more like a calling given the amount of work it obviously requires vs. the financial rewards. How did you get into teaching (as opposed to performing), and why? Was it to improve your own dance, just sharing the joy of what you have learned?

    A'isha writes- When I started teaching, there was literally one other teacher in town. she and I had started taking lessons at the same time. She wanted to open her own studio, and did not have time to teach at the YWCA also, and she offered her job there to me. I was interested and I took the job and taught there for about 3 years. I found that I LOVED teaching the dance, and that it not only helped me to become a better dancer, but that I seemed to have an aptitude for helping others to find something for themsilves in the dance.

    How did you develop your teaching style?

    A'isha writes- I developed my teaching style from two things. One of my Arab teachers said to me one day "Belly dancers are only doing 10 things". I asked what they were and she said,"You come back in 5 years and you tell me what they are." I spent that time watching Egyptian belly dancers on video and later in person, and I discovered that she was correct, though I had initially thought she was just trying to simplify for me.
    The other element from which I developed my teaching style from attending so many workshops where I felt that the instructor could care less about the students. I call my teaching style "Student Awareness", meaning that there are two really important things going on in any teaching environment. One is attention to the dance itself on physical, cultural, emotional and musical levels. The other is the awareness at all times that the instructor is there for the students, NOT the other way around!!

    Warmup routine, etc.

    A'isha writes- I am SOOO not into long, complicated warm ups where the teacher tries to wear you out so you have no energy left for dancing. We do about 4-5 minutes of stretching excersizes. ( Note that I am not buying into the new thinking that stretching before excersize is harmful. I learned this from my animals, who always stretch before the get up to do something!!)

    Did you find that your students had different ways of absorbing information from what worked when you were a student? If so how did you cope with that?

    A'isha writes- On my website, there is an article called "Multiple Intelligences", that discusses some of the different ways in which people learn. Basically, I studied the work of Howard Gardner and applied his theories to teaching dance. It is in the library at Raqs Azar

    Do you ever just give up correcting certain students or certain kinds of problems? How did you decide whether to set a lot of rules and structure vs. go with the flow of who is there, what issues come up that day, etc?

    A'isha writes- Yes, I do sometimes give up correcting a student. For two reasons: 1. Some students will perhaps may never really certain movements or concepts and it only leads to deep frustration for them if I keep pushing. 2. Sometimes the neurological connection is just not there yet, but the student will eventually get the idea after more practice and experience with the movement or concept.
    There must always be room for change from the class schedule. I find with my beginners, when we get an influx of new people, we need to forget the current class schedule and go over our fundamentals. When I go out to teach workshops, I need to keep in mind that I need something for everyone, and I plan my classes according to that, including movements and concepts for students and dancers of different levels. I may or may not get to everything and I make that clear when I hand out the class notes. My job is to be prepared to meet the needs of the students.

    Do you sort students into types (loves the music, but says will never perform, loves the stage, seeks new way to be on it, seeking exercise only, etc) Can you tell who is going to stick with it, who can really hear the music, etc.?

    A'isha writes- Each student is an individual. Sometimes the one who looks the most clumsy on the first day has a real firm hand on it 5 years later. Sometimes the most promising student in class decided she/he would rather become a great snow boarder. In the first year or so, I find that many students are there for different reasons, such as excersize, because they want to be sexy for their husband, or because their friend wanted to try it. By the 3rd year, I find that everyone in class is generally serious about the dance itself. Frankly, I try to live in the moment with my students, and not analyze who is going to be great and who is not. In class, my job is to note who might go on to become a really great dancer, but to give equal attention to all. You never know who is hiding their light under a bushel!

    Do you find there are certain points where it is typically difficult to keep students motivated to improve?

    A'isha writes- This is also very individual.

    What really makes you proud in a student? Is it weird for teachers that students can develop at really different rates? Do students ever surprise you and turn out a lot better or worse onstage than you thought?

    A'isha wirtes- the thing that makes me really proud of a student is when they discover their own abilities within the dance, or the music, or some other aspect of the dance world. I do not think it is weird that students develop at different rates at all. I think it is normal. Yes, I have had students who surprise me when they get on stage, either for better or worse, because performing is a whole different thing than being in class.

    Given the size of the market it seems unlikely that any given teacher will produce that many professional dancers so what are the other high points for a teacher?

    A'isha writes- There are so many high points for instructors that I can not begin to name them all. For me, the highest point, even higher than producing a professional dancer, is seeing the sure knowledge and joy in a student's being when they recognize that they truly, truly grasp what we are trying to do. I think that moment is one of the most motivating things in my life as a dancer.
    Regards,
    A'isha
    Last edited by Aisha Azar; 12-13-2007 at 03:07 PM.

  7. #7
    Member Q-Tip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    I used to perform when I was in my twenties. I started teaching about the same time, but didn't make the switch to primarily teaching until I was over thirty, married, and not interested in performing any more. (My moment of truth came when I was waiting backstage to go on, and realized I was looking at the clock on the wall and thinking that in only three hours I could go home, put my jammies on, and be done with the lights, noise, and cigarette smoke.)

    I teach two classes a week for the city recreation department, so I get a lot of beginning students as well as a handful of continuing students. It is very difficult to teach women (I have never had a male enroll) who are so diverse in dance background, though it helped a lot when the rec center divided my classes into beginning and continuing students. If I get a student who is "serious," I send her to a friend who teaches privately and is more involved in performing than I am.

    I teach because I like to see women blossom into more than they were before they walked into class the first time. This blossoming encompasses everything from the girl who thought she was a klutz until she did her first perfect spin and drop to the woman with breast cancer who came to class to remember she was beautiful. I teach because belly dance fulfills dreams for ordinary women. I am not dedicated to the dance nearly as much as I am dedicated to the dancers. Every time I watch one of my students perform on stage for the first time, I am torn between wanting to cry and wanting to yell "YEEHAW!" (I've done both, sometimes at the same time.)

    Whether or not a woman intends to ever dance in public again, that first time is very, very emotional for all of us, and she is never quite the same again.

    That is why I teach.
    I hereby nominate this for the most beautiful post of the year.

  8. #8
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    Thank you, dear.

  9. #9
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Q-Tip View Post
    I hereby nominate this for the most beautiful post of the year.
    Seconded.

  10. #10
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    Yes, thanks to all the teachers who responded, all very beautiful. I loved Lydia's reply too! I am so glad to know that it can really be rewarding for teachers too, even if the students never achieve the professional level. Learning dance and finding the courage to perform has really made a huge difference in my life, so I like to think it is worth it for my teachers as well.
    In some way I feel that every dance I ever do is about honoring my teachers.

    Cathy

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