A teacher cannot be all things to all students. Nor can a single class. It is important to understand your own reasons for taking classes, in any dance form.
Here are some suggestions to help you pick.
Recreation Program/Continuing Education/Community Centre type classes:
In our city, classes through these kinds of programmes run under mandates of providing affordable, safe, enjoyable activity to participants.
They are generally lower -priced because the classes are subsidized to keep the fees down. These classes often run on large numbers (15+ people), as they are intended to generate income that helps pay for other no-charge or low-charge programmes, such as youth drop-in centres, summer wading pools, “mom & me” time, and so on.
Classes in these type of facilities are structured to be slower-paced and geared towards people with little to no dance experience. The focus is often on “sampling” the subject matter.
These classes, while educational and sometimes challenging, are not intended to be a serious training ground of dance. They are not mandated to be teaching for understanding or competency in a dance form. Programme organizers may not check or even ask for credentials from their instructors, who may have little to no training or experience. Some do not even have their First Aid/CPR certification.
Classes may be located in “studio” rooms with mirrors, in gyms, in classrooms, or recreation halls–locations are highly variable.
These classes are best for anyone:
- wanting to sample Middle Eastern dance;
- who is “just curious”;
- with limited income;
- who may not be ready to commit to a more costly, serious-minded studio class;
- who is looking for a relaxed pace and attitude;
- who wants to take multiple classes with multiple teachers;
- who wants the convenience of a class close to home;
- who is not ready for the level of attention and interaction in a studio class
Be aware that you will probably end up with bad habits, poor technique, and a headful of misconceptions if you have been taking classes with someone who is undertrained and underexperienced. Sadly, MOST of the teachers in Winnipeg fall into this category. One of the majoyr drawbacks to a dance or fitness craze is that everyone gets into it, and the market becomes flooded with shoddy practitioners.
Even really experienced “teachers” are not often trained to, or even interested in, actually teaching you how to dance–they are merely demonstrating, in the “follow the bouncing bum” kind of format. A sure-fire way of finding out how much of a true teacher someone is to ask questions–teachers will have a variety of ways of explaining something and be very comforatable answering questions. A true teacher will also be comfortable saying “I don’t know” and then help find the answer.
Studio classes typically offer more focus, more attention, more thorough instruction, faster-paced classes, choreography in preparation for a year-end recital, and better facilities, e.g. mirrored walls, sprung floors, better stereos, and dressing rooms. There are often extra “perks” for studio attendees such as handouts, use of props, class music, audio-visual materials, and so on.
The goal of a studio class should be to educate and train students to become proficient in a given dance form, with a focus on long-term learning and acquisition of proper technique and competency. Students are expected to work harder and devote more time to practice. Studio classes typically run from September to June, with more long-term students. I typically structure my level curricula to cover the year, not just teaching in 8-10 week chunks, so we enjoy more continuity and students have a better understanding of long-term goals in each level.
Studio classes run on minimum and maximum numbers of students. Classes may be as small as 3 women, and up to 10. Fees are higher, as these classes are not subsidized in any manner. They are priced to be consistent with other studios, and to cover the costs of the teacher’s fee, advertising and promotions, studio upkeep, music and supplies. If a teacher is running freelance classes–meaning she is renting the space and holding her classes there–she also has to cover this rental fee, all class supplies, her transportation, insurance, her hourly wage, and more.
A teacher who bothers to rent a high-quality facility is already putting herself above and beyond the typical. She is making a significant financial commitment that comes with high risk and low pay-out. She is putting the well-being of the class ahead of her own by choosing a space with better acoustics, better flooring, and better over-all “energy”–a space dedicated to art rather than, say, commerce.
These classes are right for you if you:
- are done with dabbling
- want a balance of fun and learning
- want to understand and learn more
- want more personal attention
- want a different or bigger challenge
- want to become “good” at bellydance
- think you may want to perform
- want to be in a better facility
- like a smaller class size
- want consistency in lessons and the people in the room
- are willing to commit to higher fees
- want to develop and grow as a dancer
- want to do it right from the beginning
- want a genuine feeling of community and comradery