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  1. #1
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    Default Teaching standards and quality of instruction

    I would like to raise this topic in response to what I read in another thread about dance styles.

    I do not mean to be ill speaking or overtly critical about someone's style or way of dancing (since i feel that i myself am in no position to do so)

    but really and truly how does one know if someone who calls themselves an instructor is good or not?

    Where I am from that seems to be an issue, and although there are belly dance instructors, (there are at least 5 that i know of) I have heard some comments made by other people who are professional belly dancers or certainly have some knowledge of the dance, that what it taught (based on performances seen ) is not of a very high standard. Yet there is a clientel and a seemingly healthy one at that, and they have shows and invite top notch international belly dancers to dance with them etc etc.

    anyway, i digress.

    my main thing is has there been any standard at all set by the belly dance community in terms of teaching instruction?

    how do you know if someone is good or not? or is it totally subjective?

    what is the bar, if any that determines that?

    and what if in my case one is not satisfied with what is out there (within the confines of an island) and wants to get qualilty? what would you do?

    I invite comments.

    thanks!

  2. #2
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kayshier View Post
    but really and truly how does one know if someone who calls themselves an instructor is good or not?
    SUCH a good question, but with no real good answer.


    1. Reputation -- some people's reputation as outstanding teachers is enough to make me trust what they have to say. But you have to know who to believe. The names "Betty Bellydancer" and "Sahra Kent" may not mean anything to the new student, but in our community, Sahra has TERRIFIC credentials, and is regarded as a master teacher. BUT -- you don't know that unless you're part of the "community."


    2. Their students -- sometimes you can judge the teacher by the students. Sometimes you can't.

    I've always wondered about Isis of Texas, because her students are PHENOMENAL dancers and they are extremely polite and professional and cool people to be around. Plus you see her students at workshops and seminars all around the country and they are studying hard. This leads me to believe they learned this from Isis, which would make me think she's a fab-o teacher.

    And then I see students of some so-called "Master" teachers and I wonder how much time they actually spent in class. Or how much time their TEACHER spent in class.


    3. If when you mention her name on Bhuz or OD, and people groan and roll their eyes and say "oh here we go again" -- that's a good indicator that the teacher in question may be, at very least, a crazymaker, and you may not want to make her part of your life (no matter how good a dancer she is.)


    4. If she has a website with articles that make SENSE, or if you see her publishing credits center around a specific topic, or you see she lived in Egypt for x number of years, -- that's a sign that she MAY know what she's talking about when it comes to an ethnic dance. I trust Habiba of Philly (Barbara Siegel) when it comes to Ghawazee and Andalusian dance, based on her research. Same with Artemis and Turkish dance.

    If the website makes spurious claims about origins or cultures, it's possible she's a flake. I also usually avoid people who advertise they were the FIRST or the ONLY or whatever, 'cause a lot of people get really hung up in authenticity and their version of it -- to the detriment of actually TEACHING the dance.


    5. What musicians has she worked with? This can be a big tell-all if you know anything about the music scene in that area. Some musicians refuse to work with some dancers. Often there are very good reasons why!


    I have heard some comments made by other people who are professional belly dancers or certainly have some knowledge of the dance, that what it taught (based on performances seen ) is not of a very high standard.
    Yep - I can name at least 3 that have HUGE internet presences but can't appear to dance or teach the dance.

    Yet there is a clientel and a seemingly healthy one at that, and they have shows and invite top notch international belly dancers to dance with them etc etc.
    99 percent of the clients don't know what to expect when they hire a bellydancer. Take a look at Youtube -- all that crap IS what a lot of clients see and equate with bellydance.

    Oh and you can have Jillina, Suhaila, Dina -- ANYBODY dance at your show. If you pay them enough. I've never heard of a famous dancer refusing to dance someplace because the local dancers or the workshop sponsor suck. If that were the case, we would have a LOT fewer shows!

    It's an off-hand compliment, but I was once told by an audience member that she was surprised by my performance because I could actually DANCE. Suhaila has said that she heard for years, "If you can't make it in the dance world (ie ballet, modern), you can always bellydance." We ARE viewed as the "easy" class, compared to ballet. Unless your instructor has a different approach -- like Hadia, Suhaila, Rachel Brice.

    my main thing is has there been any standard at all set by the belly dance community in terms of teaching instruction?
    Oh yes-- we've talked about this for ages. And the good teachers always contribute to the discussions. It's the crappy teachers who don't go to the seminars, don't stick with the discussions, don't CARE.

    Check the internet for people who have written articles about what constitutes a good teacher. There is some really good literature on the subject. Unfortunately, there are more bad teachers who don't care than there are GOOD teachers who do care. Or so it seems.

    I'm cheesed off at ACE (American Council on Exercise) right now, because they keep promoting these weekend workshops to learn to teach Yoga or Pilates or whatever. You can take these classes for continuing education but you're encouraged to use the material in your fitness classes. WHAT????????? I sure as heck don't want to take YOGA from somebody who learned it in a weekend workshop. And the same is happening with Bellydance. Learn it on Friday, teach it on Monday.


    how do you know if someone is good or not? or is it totally subjective?
    It's somewhat subjective. I have encountered some really fantastic teachers who didn't really impress me as dancers. And the reverse.

    And if you can't learn by "follow the bouncing butt," there are some Egyptian instructors who would rate as "BAD" because they don't break everything down like Americans tend to want.

    But until you know what to look for, usually a student will go to the cheapest, closest, or coolest teacher. If you like HER, you think she's a good teacher. It's not necessarily so, but you don't know that until you branch out. AND she may be a great teacher, but her knowledge is limited on one thing or another.


    what is the bar, if any that determines that?
    I think the bar is totally subjective and depends on your level of ability and level of commitment.


    and what if in my case one is not satisfied with what is out there (within the confines of an island) and wants to get qualilty? what would you do?
    I'm with ya sister, except I was in a cornfield, not an island. Here's what I did:

    1. Got a private teacher. I had to drive 2 hours each way, but I managed to get a monthly private lesson with an instructor I respected.

    2. Created a plan. I wrote down what I knew and told my private teacher to fill in the gaps.

    3. Studied EVERYTHING I could. Music, culture, recipes -- you name it, I researched it. That helped me know more of what I DIDN'T know. And it helped me narrow my focus of what I wanted to learn in depth. I totally love old school Turkish music. So I decided to try and learn old-school Turkish belly dance and folk dance. (Of course, I liked everything and now I've decided I simply must learn to play the oud, so if you're as scattered as me, this may not work for you lol.)

    4. Took classes with as many "masters" as I could -- Suhaila, Hadia, Morocco, Sahra, Zahra, Shareen, Dina. Each one of them revealed another part of the dance to me and helped me figure out what I needed and wanted in a teacher, and also helped me figure out what kind of teacher I wanted to be.

    5. Watched as much dance as possible, via video and live. Watching and observing is a powerful tool. You can't do enough of it. Even watch OTHER dance forms, like ballroom, Flamenco, Samba. It's really helpful in the weirdest ways.

    6. Picked a couple of "methods" and tried to learn more about them in detail. I've had a lot of experience with Hadia and Shareen el Safy, and I think they have their own "methods" for teaching, for hearing the music, for interpreting the music. And I started studying with Suhaila in 2005 because I realized she had a different approach, and I liked the way she went about teaching the basics and building up to dance, instead of saying "okay here are a few moves, now you're dancing."

    7. Listened to the music CONSTANTLY!!! I seriously believe that if you listen to the music long enough you will figure out how to move to it and what's "right" and wrong. I tell people the differences between the styles lies primarily in the MUSIC -- and I firmly believe that. Turkish belly dance music REQUIRES a different kind of physical interpretation that Egyptian folk music, or Raqs Sharqi music. Maybe I'm crazy, but it just seems obvious to me.


    You're on an island, literally, but you're not DESERTED on that island. You have the net, you have videos, you have workshops that you can go to. There are some very good dvds out there to guide you through your process. But eventually, yeah, you probably will have to get on a plane and go TO a good teacher. Sure it's expensive, but anything worth doing is worth doing WELL, doncha think?
    Last edited by Aziyade; 07-16-2008 at 07:31 PM.

  3. #3
    V.I.P. Yasmine Bint Al Nubia's Avatar
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    Excellent reply Aziyade! I can't think of anything else to add.
    Yasmine

  4. #4
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Dance instructor, etc.

    Dear Kayshier,
    I would agree with almost everything that Aziyade says except for one thing. I AM admittedly one of those "crazymakers", as you will find out on this forum. And, there are people who make ME crazy as well, with whom I have studied, much to my benefit as a dancer! Often we are the ones who dare to ask the hard questions, dare to buck the system when it is failing, and dare to not follow along just because someone makes claims. The other thing is that some people who are supposed to be great teachers and dancers got their reputations for some other reason, and they are not. There are people who know a great deal but can not teach or dance. Their knowledge is strictly academic. There are others who know very little about history or care, but they are phenomenal teachers or dancers. There are those who have done their homework all the way around and still come up with very different responses than those who have done an equal amount of homework. There are are also people who nitpick the heck out of everything and therefore usually know their stuff inside and out and see it very differently from the majority.
    Watch out for people who claim to teach a whole bunch of different styles. Usually most people are truly expert at a few things, but not everything.
    Also, a lot will depend on what you are trying to learn. Jennet is a great Turkish dancer and teacher, for example, but I would not go to her for Tribal fusion. I am a very good Egyptian belly dancer and teacher, but I would not even TRY to teach Turkish Roman because my knowledge is too limited. If you want to learn a certain style, it is necessary to seek out instructors in that style. I usually recommend that people study for awhile before choosing as style, but you appear to have been studying. Is there a specific style you are interested in learning?
    Regards,
    A'isha
    Last edited by Aisha Azar; 07-16-2008 at 08:22 PM. Reason: spelling

  5. #5
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Dear Aziyade,

    Quote Originally Posted by Aisha Azar View Post
    Dear Kayshier,
    I would agree with almost everything that Aziyade says except for one thing. I AM admittedly one of those "crazymakers", as you will find out on this forum.
    Well, you may be crazy (LOL) but that's not the kind of crazy I was talking about. Julia Cameron (in her book The Artists' Way) calls "crazymakers" those self-centered people who thrive on drama and chaos, to the detriment of the people around them.
    Oh, I get it!! Though some here would say that IS me, I don't feel that it is. I am crazy, but I generally have a Sweet Spirit as one of my friends is fond of saying about me!!

    I
    f your teacher gets all spastic and out of shape when you want to go take class elsewhere, or she spends class time dissing other teachers or whining about how the dance community is a bunch of bitches and they just don't understand her "art" and oh by the way look at ME, it's all about ME, and you're just my student, and will never be as good as ME ... THAT's the dangerous kind of crazy.
    I could not agree more!! I rescind my disagreement!!


    A'isha -- you and I are just nuts. That's a different kind of crazy - that's the kind of crazy that's fun at parties. (At least, the kinds of parties I like to go to.)
    Ditto!!
    Regards,
    A'isha

    Last edited by Aisha Azar; 07-16-2008 at 09:50 PM.

  6. #6
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    Aziyade

    Thank you for your input, it was quite a lot and very informative
    i laughed at the part where you said you listened to the music all the time
    right now 95% of the music on my ipod is egyptian music.
    my collection of bellydance music now stands at about 30 cds and counting..(everything from George Abdo, Mario Kirlis, Hossam Ramzy..etc etc)
    *so you guessed i have an obsession*LOL
    and i listen to it constantly
    what helped me understand the music more was getting the Ritmos Arabes cd's by Mario Kirlis, that breaks down at least 40 of the more common arabic rhythms.
    i have listened to this so much so that i could identify in the other music i listen to which rhythm is playing...although most people like Baladi or Saidi, I love Masmoudi, Fallahi and Mosalas Iraqui, I also like the zar rhythm, but i suppose when i am more versed in the dance and able to do the head movements that go with it i will.

    I was lucky that i got the initial instruction that i did. My teacher is a professional belly dancer of 15 years experience, from Argentina. She has become my mentor and friend. Although she is back home right now, i still keep in touch with her. She has encouraged me to keep going because she recognizes my love for belly dance and my desire to continue learning. Believe it or not i only began to learn about 6 months ago.

    I have read up on the history of the dance and middle eastern culture, various opinions, styles, i have even studied the costuming. So much so that I intend to make my own costumes...the materials are readily available in trinidad (we have our own carnival with full costumes etc)

    at the moment having seen what i have seen, I have a particular preference for Egyptian belly dance, in particular the more folkloric type dance.

    Although I am still a novice and still have a lot to learn before i consider myself ready for anything, I have developed a love and a very intense one at that for the art form, and I just want to keep going at it.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aisha Azar View Post
    Dear Kayshier,
    but you appear to have been studying. Is there a specific style you are interested in learning?
    Regards,
    A'isha
    Yes, at the moment i have a preference for the Egyptian "style" of belly dance.
    I love the folkloric especially.

  8. #8
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    Thank you for you inspiration. I seem to live in an area of Ohio that has no one around to instruct me, hence the $$ I have spent on dvd's to try to learn as much as I can. i hope to make a trip into Cleveland or Columbus to see about a possible class. Until then the dvd's and the internet will have to be my teacher for now.

  9. #9
    Junior Member Ankebuzz's Avatar
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    Haven't read the whole thread, but check this out... I am doing Grade 1 belly dancing in August!

    Quick Guide - Welcome to The Belly Dancing Association of South Africa

  10. #10
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    I agree with everyone who has posted so far. Watch as many dances as you can, youtube, show vids whatever, and don't forget to give yourself some time!
    It's admirable that your are so enthusiastic and learning so much from the dance, but simple experience will help as well!
    Keep up the good work, and remember that if there aren't any good teachers around, YOU can become that good teacher!

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