I just think it's ridiculous to expect someone to express themselves before they have a reasonable level of technique mastered, I feel like it's too much to ask them to focus on at once.
However, in my post on facebook, I wasn't talking about SELF expression, I was talking about EMOTIONAL expression. There are things that can be done even at the level of brand-new beginners to help people capture and feel the FUN and JOY of dancing. Ie, the teacher can choose to use joy/fun as the emotion to be expressed, and then do exercises in class that will allow those emotions to come out while dancing.
But even for something like that, you need at least some mastery of basic technique, wouldn't you say? Or are you telling me that from Day One (or Two, or Three) you are doing exercises to allow emotions to come out?
I felt the same way. But it took time to get "a handful of moves" under my belt. By the time I started belly dance classes I already knew how to move because I was already doing it on my own while searching for classes, but if I had started classes before that, I would not have felt ready to improvise on day one, and would have found that to be stressful rather than fun.Maybe it's because I already was a dancer, but the thing that really captivated me about bellydance was that with just a handful of moves, I felt like I COULD self-express.
That is most certainly a problem. Think about how much more information we would be able to add if our regular students came in 3x a week for 1.5 hour classes each time? And how much faster they would progress...I think the problem so many teachers have is simply limited time. I teach a 6-week session of one hour each week. So I have SIX HOURS to teach basic movements, demonstrate different rhythms and get students used to Arab music, inform on the "cultural bits" and dispel misconceptions, make sure everybody is moving in a safe fashion and doing okay with transitions ... and whatever else I've forgotten to list.
It generally takes more than just one class to be able to execute half a dozen moves, even not very well... let alone to remember them and be able to "pull them out" in an improvisation scenario.
I'm not saying it's wrong to add improvisation to the first class, just defending my choice not to do it.
But I do think another problem is that many teachers either do not know much past technique, or do not know how to teach it or think it's not necessary to teach it.
I think the problem so many teachers have is simply limited time. I teach a 6-week session of one hour each week. So I have SIX HOURS to teach basic movements, demonstrate different rhythms and get students used to Arab music, inform on the "cultural bits" and dispel misconceptions, make sure everybody is moving in a safe fashion and doing okay with transitions ... and whatever else I've forgotten to list.
I have my students do their first improvisation exercise when they only know TWO moves. At that point, I tell them to use ONLY those two moves, even if they may have learned others through DVD, other teachers, etc. I tell them the purpose of that exercise is simply to get used to transitioning between the two moves they know. And I come out and say, "I don't expect great art, I just want you to get used to switching from one to the other."
So the tradeoff I've chosen is this: I choose to NOT teach every basic move in 6 weeks. I pick 3-4 step combinations, and teach the building blocks needed to do them, but moves not used by the combos don't get taught. So, for example, someone might make it through my first 6 weeks without learning how to do a rib cage circle or snake arms. I teach different groups of step combinations each 6-week period, and I encourage my beginners to stay in Level 1 for 2-3 times before moving on to Level 2, as a way of learning moves/combos that they didn't learn their first time through it.