Written by Vanessa John
When I first started belly dance in 1999 there were only a few studios in the Johannesburg. Choosing a teacher was easy! Mostly because there were fewer options and it was easy for me to find the right person.
Nowadays, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding belly dance studios. In times like these people are realising that it is more important to find the right studio for YOU.
We also have a ton of online options these days and a number of students are looking to the internet for their bellydance training. But we know that doesn't always go according to plan. Setting aside time to learn by yourself is way harder than expected and following through on your plans takes grit and perseverance and sometimes a good talking to yourself in your sternest of mom voices. Having a real-life teacher adds accountability to the mix which guarantees an upward progress trajectory.
Here is my list of 10 things to consider when deciding on a teacher or studio:
1. are they professional?
Do they have an website? Did they respond to your enquiry in good time? Do they have active and well managed social media platforms? Do they have signup and indemnity forms? Can you find photos and videos that support their advertised experience? Were they easy to chat to and able to answer your questions? A reputable studio will have all of these boxes checked.
2. you get what you pay for
The whole world is in an economic crisis and we're all feeling the pinch. Not everyone has the option of paying for luxuries like dance classes. That being said, what may seem like a good financial decision at face value could prove to be a bad decision further on down the line. I can assure you that with bellydance classes, as in most things in life, you get what you pay for.
Studios who charge the least are often run by newer teachers with little experience in teaching group classes. A studio worth their salt takes themselves seriously and doesn't view themselves as hobbyists. Belly dance hobbyists often wouldn't dream of charging industry standard rates for something that they love and want to share with the world. Don't get me wrong - most of us dance teachers have day jobs too - it is seriously hard to work in the arts and feed your family at the same time so we supplement our income to keep the dance flame alive.
Make a sound financial decision by investing in the calibre of training you deserve. Do your homework.
3. do you Feel safe?
Not only should your physical safety be a priority for your teacher, you should feel emotionally safe too. Students who feel secure in their environment progress at a higher rate than those who don't. It's a win-win situation for the teacher and the student! If you feel intimidated, unwelcome, or insecure in your environment your teacher should be the first person to put you at ease instead of adding to the stress you're already feeling.
4. Are you inspired?
Every student should be inspired by their teacher. The same for any mentoring relationship, it's important to be inspired by the person with whom you've entrusted your dance education. Your teacher should be your first dance crush - someone you want to be like when you grow up. From a dance perspective, of course.
Respect, admiration, as well as a few fan-girl moments are all part and parcel of the learning process. If you can't relate to what we're on about here than it may be time to look around for a new teacher.
5. do they know their art?
6. are they good with people?
Not every teacher is good with people believe it or not. You can easily get a sense of this by seeing how your teacher interacts with others in the class environment. Dancers who have been with the studio for years are a good indication of this. The mood and energy of the class and your fellow students is also a great way to tell if your teacher is good with people. Trust your gut here as your instincts tell you a lot about people.
7. do they communicate well?
How does your teacher deliver your feedback? Feedback is always hard as a student but how your teacher handles this is a great indicator of whether the studio is a good fit. Is her critique constructive? If not, it's not particularly helpful if she doesn't demonstrate the correction. In fact, that's just mean. A great teacher should be able to explain difficult movements in an easy to understand way, critique should not make you feel picked on, hurt, or targeted in any way.
8. do you like what they do?
Looking into the culture of a studio is important when deciding on a dance school.
9. have they asked you what you want from your classes?
It's very easy for teachers to slip into assuming that their students want the same thing out of their classes. Each student, however, has their own reasons and intended outcomes for their belly dance journey. A great teacher will want to know what YOU want out of the experience and will take the time to ask you.
Being aware of and concerned about YOUR personal progress is just as important as focusing on the progress of the class in general. You should never feel like you're just a number.
So there you have it! My list of things to consider when choosing a dance school. I hope it helps you to make the choice that's right for you and where you want to go in your dance journey.
If you're interested in trying one of our classes be sure to get in touch with us.
Do you have any other points that should be on this list?
Let us know in the comments.
Written by Candida di Giandomenico
Recently our performing troupe had the luxury of participating in a photo shoot with our fabulous photographer Sarah de Pina. This shoot was part of the preparation we’ve been working on for the re-branding of our studio. The hours of preparation beforehand were just as intense as the rigmarole before a major performance.
Some of the newer members of our dance team haven’t been in the game for too long. As we were chattering noisily and preening backstage, I couldn’t help but realise how valuable it is to have seasoned performers around to share tips and tricks of the trade. These little gems make your dance life easier particularly if you’re planning to perform regularly.
So, after a little consideration, I identified a few of the less obvious items that I've personally found to be game changers in my dance kit! The list below is also a fabulous reference list for belly sister birthday or Christmas gifts.
1. instant tan
I prefer the rub on, wash off variety, that way I can quickly apply the product and not have to wait hours for it to set and darken. It also means that if I streak it a little, there’s nothing that a quick wipe with a damp cloth can’t fix! Caribbean Tan is great and has a lovely shimmer that adds to the final look. Available at most pharmacies.
2. glitter spray
I love my glitter spray. It’s light, provides a great even spread on the body and hair and I find it very cooling between performances too.
3. makeup fixative
4. false eyelashes - top and bottom
They’re also surprisingly comfortable. If you can find a set - buy them, and reuse them because they can be quite difficult to find. We like these.
6. travel straightening iron
7. jewellery pliers
I’m well known for McGuyvering costumes mere minutes before showtime with the aid of my trusty pliers.
8. travel-sized sewing kit
Got any other great Box-of-Tricks tips? Share your suggestions in the comments.
Yes, you heard right. Gypsy Rhythms has undergone a major brand overhaul - or as we performers like to refer to as a makeover, we've changed our name to Janan Bellydance.
We began by unpacking who we are, what we do, why we do it, and how we do it. Through this process we found a number of things we wanted to change - on the inside and the outside.
We wanted our name to reflect who we are and what we believe in.
We began revising our syllabus and introducing new classes and soon realised we couldn't stop there. Our new teaching methodology triggered a process of clarifying our values, goals, and core values. A realignment.
What began as an inspired doodle, quickly became the front-runner, spearheading our re-brand to represent us as well as to serve as a reminder of what's important to us...
Excellence. Sisterhood. Passion. Or, ESP.
(see what we did there?)
So, after working furiously on our re-brand for the last year, and after 9 years of trading as Gypsy Rhythms we have officially changed our name to Janan Bellydance.
We're so excited that we finally get to share this with you!
What does it mean?
Janan: an Arabic female name meaning heart, soul, and heavenly.
Bellydance: its what we do, yo!
Hamsa: also known as the Hand of Fatima, used to ward off the evil eye. It is believed that Fatima (daughter of the prophet Muhammad) would bless belly dancers by laying her hands upon their backs. From the Arabic word for five, the hamsa is seen as protection against the evil eye in Middle Eastern culture. The amulet consists of five spread fingers, often with an eye on the hand.
Tons! We've refined our class formats, we've expanded our syllabus, and added extra classes to our schedule. We've upgraded our systems and processes so that we can focus on what we do best - making dances and making dancers.
Our new approach empowers students to learn at their own pace, covering the themes they've chosen, at the frequency and pace they desire. The power is in your hands!
What's stayed the same?
Loads! We're still the same people, with the same high standards, fastidious about technique, and who really love what we do. Our core vision is the same too except now it's more refined and clarified:
To empower and transform everyday women through bellydance, maintaining excellence in our standards, creating a loving sisterhood, embracing our differences, celebrating our bodies, and sharing our passion.
Curious about our new classes? Complete the form below and we will send you our brochure.