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.