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Thread: Suggestions for how to Teach Beginning Bellydance at a Sensual Fitness Studio?




  1. #1
    Master BHUZzer shimarella's Avatar
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    Suggestions for how to Teach Beginning Bellydance at a Sensual Fitness Studio?

    I'm re-phrasing a comment I made on Lauren's thread so as not to hijack her conversation, but also because I could use some help from my fellow Bhuzzers.

    I'm starting to teach bellydance "for fun & fitness" at a studio that specialises in what I call sexy dance/sensual exercise (pole..which I am now an advanced student of...lapdance...vegas stiletto fitness...burlesque aerobics etc). I definitely want to retain and build on my student base ( in part because it pays for my pretty expensive pole classes!) but I am constantly concerned that I am focusing too much on a purist approach and possibly freaking them out. I'm using the structure that worked just fine at a bellydance studio but now I'm rethinking the structure of the class because while I want them to appreciate the music & culture & learn a different way of making the hip circles & undulations they'll use in other classes, I'm fearing they're not getting to dance enough. I think they enjoy my rowdy, raucous instruction style just fine but in a way I get nervous when I hear them say to their friends " That class is hard!" I want to challenge them but I want them to come back, not slip away into the ATL Booty Clap class!

    My basic class structure: Full-body warm-up ( spinal rolls, shoulder rolls, lunges with sexy arms etc). Then some work on arm/shoulder jive ( snake arms etc), rib isolations, hip isolations and then a little combo that ends in some drama-queen stretching. I haven't had them move very much because I tend to want my beginners to get their isolations down before freaking out about their arms and feet going all over the place. I am about to start them on getting used to weight shifts on their isolations so they can start moving...yes, I am that neurotic.

    Maybe I am overthinking this...they are having fun and feel like they are improving...but I am wondering if anyone else has ever taught at a studio like this and how they tweaked their usual syllabus? PS- My playlist is a huge mix of classical & contemporary Arabic music plus some world-fusion/tribally stuff...they have also seen me perform at the studio instructor showcase in a cab costume to a taqsim.


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    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions for how to Teach Beginning Bellydance at a Sensual Fitness Studio?

    Interesting dilemma!

    I think the point of having a bellydance class at a Sensual Fitness Studio would be
    1. teach movement vocabulary that might transfer to other styles
    2. Provide variety for students taking multiple classes.



    1 is easy, and since you are a dancer across styles it's going to be totally natural for you to point out how a movement might be changed up or incorporated into a sensual dance performance.

    2 is where the fun is, and the freedom. You're not teaching them yet another sensual dance, you're teaching them a cultural art form that intersects with the sensual dances but is tangential. If you alter the teaching so that it's easier to master & more purely sensual, it stops offering much counterpoint/variety to the other offerings at the studio.

    My studio is primarily bellydance but we also offer burlesque, Latin, ballroom, African and Bollywood classes. (one of each, vs. 6 or 7 bellydance classes!). Lots of my students take multiple classes across the platforms, because they want variety. So we make no effort to make those other dance forms relate to their bellydance training (they are all world dance forms, that's the only connection). In fact, those instructors have no bellydance training and wouldn't know how!

    So I think teaching unwatered-down pure ethnic bellydance is the perfect thing to do in this situation, with the added bonus that your students won't come away thinking they've learned bellydance when they've really been learning belly-lesque.

    You might not get serious, long-term students persuing advanced levels in this venue, or dancers interested in related folk forms. It might always remain sort of a 'taste of bellydance' class with perpetually rotating beginners, but that's OK.


  3. #3
    Official BHUZzer Kat144's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions for how to Teach Beginning Bellydance at a Sensual Fitness Studio?

    I'm with Lauren, and would add that my worry with "watering it down" might be that it would be TOO much like the other forms of dance, and the bellydancing = stripping misconception would be strengthened. I would think it would need to be more obvious, not less so, that BD is a completely different art form that has a long cultural history and has nothing to do with being "sexy," even if some of the moves may translate to different types of dance as well.


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    Mega BHUZzer kashmir's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions for how to Teach Beginning Bellydance at a Sensual Fitness Studio?

    Hard one on several fronts. I was recently offered space in a Pole studio - the draw was a big client base of young, fit women with lots of disposable income - very different from my current base. But -- studio cost was 3x any where else (okay if I could get those numbers up though) -- and I did not want my brand associated with the owner -- and I do teach straight belly dance. Sure, I can toss in a non-technical fun hour workshop from time to time - but that is very different from an ongoing class. I want, I need, to have my students learning to belly dance - not party in the studio. Hard.

    OT - also do something with their legs at the start. Those big muscle pump blood and get a good warmup started. Arms above the heart also help. Small movements and undulations should wait until there has been some warmup underway.


  5. #5
    Master BHUZzer shimarella's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions for how to Teach Beginning Bellydance at a Sensual Fitness Studio?

    Yea, I don't want to "water down" the class..I feel LIke I do teach beginners with integrity. But I am thinking that the technical way I've structured my class could use some tweaking in this context...I'd like to shake up the way I teach the basics so that they get to dance a bit more...


  6. #6
    Advanced BHUZzer la_soraya's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions for how to Teach Beginning Bellydance at a Sensual Fitness Studio?

    I think that's a hard line to walk. If you give them too technical, history of middle eastern dance lectures, over-structured dance class, you're going to continue to hear 'that class is hard' and have less repeat dancers. In my opinion, you need to focus on why they're coming to the studio, its a sensual dance studio right? So under that need to feel sexy, ,there's a deeper yearning to feel good about themselves and their bodies. Stress that, let them know belly dance is for every woman, every size. Focus on the basics, and throw in dance 'tidbits' along the way ("This is a saidi step, "saidi" is a term that refers to...etc).

    There's a reason zumba has gotten so popular, it's fun, its exercise and most importantly, it doesn't feel like exercise. If you want to compete with that, you need to make class fun and educational but not the kind of intense belly dance classes we as instructors and professionals yearn for from master instructors. I end all my beginner classes with some simple improv from the building blocks they've learned in class (like snake arms, hip circles, beginner musicality, shimmies etc). It gives students a chance to exercise what has been 'stored' in their muscle memory and just enjoy (it is a dance class not a lecture..).

    I'm teaching a group class for the women that I work with during my day job at the finance office and I know they could care less about the difference between a beledi and a taxsim, they're looking to feel good about themselves and their bodies and learn something new. I know, I know its more fun to teach serious students that want to learn complex drum solos and double sword taxim choreographies, but the reality is that the majority of our students to start will be the average woman looking to feel better about herself. While the opportunity to educate is always important, don't lose sight of why they came to class. From personal experience, if beginner classes give students a good taste of the dance form, you will have dancers wanting to take it further and be given the opportunity to dig deeper, give more info, a more beginner 2 class.
    ~Mariana ~ Award Winning Professional Bellydance Artist: www.marianabellydance.com


  7. #7
    Mega BHUZzer kashmir's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions for how to Teach Beginning Bellydance at a Sensual Fitness Studio?

    Quote Originally Posted by la_soraya View Post
    There's a reason zumba has gotten so popular, it's fun, its exercise and most importantly, it doesn't feel like exercise.
    ... and the instructors are told not to stop the class for boring stuff like correction - even when the student is doing something dangerous. I couldn't live with myself doing that.

    I have (had?) two students who struggled in class - even at beginner level - and told me how much more they could do in Zumba. In both cases their friends later told me how little they actually did in the Zumba class ("She actually just mucks around at the back and moves when the instructor does but usually doing something completely different")


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    Ultimate BHUZzer tahiradancer's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions for how to Teach Beginning Bellydance at a Sensual Fitness Studio?

    I guess this is my favorite example of how I would address belly dance as a sensual art is explained in the beginning clip of this Colombo episode:

    Marie silva-alexander bellydancing on Columbo episode - YouTube

    Have fun!

    {{{HUGS}}}
    shimarella likes this.


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