7 Things You Need To Know When Choosing Belly Dancing Classes Near You
If you have decided like the rest of us that you NEED belly dance in your life. There are things you will need to know when choosing belly dancing classes. I have made a list of 7 essential things you need to know. Living in London I had several belly dancing classes near me and choosing the right one could have been make or break. It will be the difference between taking a few classes and giving up or finding the right fit and becoming an awesome belly dancing diva!
(1) What Is The School Or Teachers Style?
When I was looking for belly dancing classes near me this was not even in my non existent list. I had no idea there were different belly dance styles. I will simplify this style list as there are countries, regions, interpretations and disagreements all about names. When you are dealing with a melting pot of cultures, languages and interpretations things get complicated fast. Not to mention everybody and their aunt has an opinion so these are my opinions others are entitled to disagree. Raqs Sharki is a great place to start this list.
Cabaret Raqs Sharki
EGYPTIAN ORIENTAL or “RAQS SHARKI”
Egyptian Oriental also labeled as Raqs Sharki. Cabaret is the belly dance style that is most true to the past and present dancers of Egypt, mainly Cairo. Fluid movements with not as much emphasis on isolations. Raqs Sharki prides itself to the interpretation of the music and emotion. There is 3 sub categories Classical (1930 – 1940), Modern (late 1940 – 1990) and Post Modern (1990 – present). A lot of the belly dance teachers in London have heavily integrated western stylisations. Because of this, the present day trends of Cairo are more difficult to pinpoint.
CABARET / RESTURANT CABARET
This belly dance style is very common. Cabaret began as fusion. It continues this fusion with dancers integrating influences from many countries and regions around the world. In non-Arabic countries, dancers confidently add Ballet, Jazz, and Popular elements from other styles of dance. Additionally, drum solos seem to have more importance in the Cabaret style than in the Egyptian style. An introduction of pops, locks, and layering, Cabaret continues to evolve. Dancers in Western Countries, tend label it as Egyptian Cabaret or Egyptian Style, but there is a difference. The difference however, is very subjective. With the additional variation of Turkish, Russian, American and Lebanese Cabaret and Raqs Sharki is becoming more and more a general term similar to how we use “Belly Dance”
BELLY DANCE FUSIONS
Continuing in the tradition of Cabaret, belly dancers are always introducing new and exciting elements to the art form. Nowadays, we have modern belly dance mixed with many other dance styles and cultures. Melissa Belly Dance is someone creating many original styles in the U.K.
TRIBAL FUSION BELLY DANCE
There are a growing number of variations to this style. ITS and Tribal Fusion are said to be decedents of American Tribal Style ATS. Dark Fusion, Gothic, Urban and now Tribal From The Trap are the more modern offerings. The mix of Cabaret, Hip Hop, Kathak, Odissi, Folkloric and Flamenco make a very interesting style. Tracing the history of Tribal is a lot easier than other belly dance styles. Tribal Fusion branched from ATS. This began in the 90’s lead by Fat Chance Belly Dance’s Carolena Nericcio.
Jill Parker is often called the “Mama of Tribal Fusion. Ultra Gypsy expanded on American Tribal Style with costume, movements and modern music. Rachel Brice was labelled the poster girl of Tribal Fusion although she gives credit to those who came before her starting with Jamila Salimpour.
(2) Do I want To Belly Dance For Exercise, For Skill Or For BOTH
This is a very important question as it will help you shortlist potential classes you want to attend. Read the class descriptions, or if the class was recommended ask whoever recommended it. Belly dance is a fantastic low impact way of exercising, shaping up and losing weight. I personally prefer a class that makes me sweat, it saves me getting a gym membership!
(3) Trial Classes
This is a great way to test your compatibility with a belly dance teacher. Some teachers offer a free class while some will not. I have found sometimes it is a good idea to pay for a single class if the teacher looks good but there are no free offers at the time. Trial classes can go a few ways, either you like the teacher but not the style or you like the style but not the teacher. Sometimes you get both and that gets you one step closer to victory!
(4) Things To Look For In A Good Teacher
Although this should be obvious it is not and if you end up with a bad teacher you could be in for trouble. Does she have a lot of students in her classes? This is NOT a good indicator. Some of the best teachers have smaller classes because they know it is harder to give quality classes if you cannot give enough time to each student. A better thing to look for is the confidence in the room. Unless it is full of complete beginners, you should be able to sense the confident students in the room. A good teacher who gives good instruction tends to have students who know what they are doing in class.
Another good indicator is the class atmosphere. A happy and stress free class might suggest a well prepared teacher who has some respected codes of conduct in her school. A good teacher should be supportive and encouraging along with being genuinely interested in their students well being. Finding classes difficult or challenging does not mean you have a bad teacher, but if you find yourself no longer progressing maybe the teacher is a good dancer but not a good instructor. A good teacher should be able to wow you with their dancing and teach you how to wow people with your dancing. Teachers that are not the best dancers can turn out to be remarkable teachers but I think having both qualities is what to look for.
(5) A Variety Of Classes and Levels
This is important. If you want to develop in belly dance, having progressively challenging classes are essential. Your belly dance school or teacher should have a syllabus of movements that are progressively introduced at different stages in your development. If your teacher doesn’t have a clear plan involving a syllabus then your eduction will suffer. A teacher might only offer beginners classes to begin with and their classes might be the most convenient for you but, If you stop progressing and they by that time do not have the next level available for you to progress to, it’s time to move on.
I suggest finding a school or teacher that has at least a few classes that can give you the education you need with a well structured vocabulary of movements and choreography. Having teachers and schools with a variety of levels and styles allows you to goal set, try new things and continue to challenge yourself.
(6) What To Wear
Wearing the correct clothing and footwear will allow you to get the best out of your lessons. Make sure you dress in something comfortable. Leggings are a good idea. A loose top or T-Shirt is a good idea too. It can help to see your belly if the studio you are in has mirrors (recommended) so belly tops that give you freedom of arm movement are also good ideas. Flat dance shoes/ballerina pumps are good, some teachers prefer you to dance in bare feet or socks. There are some classes that are done in heels! A hip scarf can be a good idea. This can be a large scarf tied around the hips, or a coin belt. (Purchase from either your teacher or an online store). Remember to bring water!
(7) Private Lessons/ DVD’s/ Online Classes
A luxury for some but very useful if you want to progress quickly and benefit for the teachers undivided attention. Private lessons we traditionally offered by restaurant dancers but now professional dancers and dance teachers also offer this. Online lessons using Skype and Facebook are digital ways to progress in your training. These examples a very successful way to develop quickly and thoroughly. DVD’s are a brilliant resource. Online video subscriptions are offered by a few belly dance teachers. These useful ways to learn are great tools that allow you to belly dance from home or if you don’t have any belly dance classes in your area. Private lessons and Online subscription videos are a great supplement to take with belly dancing classes in your area.
- List Of Belly Dancers:
- Fifi Abdo
- Yasmina of Cairo
- Samia Gamal
- Randa Kamel
- Jamila Samilpour
- Bellydance Superstars
- Fat Chance
- Rachel Brice
- Blanca and Ondine Dance
Author of this article – Bella Dance Anne