What Are the Qualifications of a Dance
(reprinted from ZAGHAREET! Sept/Oct. 2003)
by Anthea Kawakib Poole
This month I'm featuring material written by my
former teacher, Bedia (Sandra Doubleday, M.A. Dance
Education). (A longer version of this article previously
appeared in Middle Eastern Dancer magazine which is no longer
Sandy, who's semi-retired from dance and has
numerous other pursuits filling her life in sunny Florida,
graciously allowed me to quote so extensively that I should
just call her a guest writer for this issue's column.
A personal introduction: I not infrequently thank
the powers that be for leading me to study with Bedia. I'm
also indebted to Zarifa Said (Libby Parker) for handing me the
workshop flyer that brought me to Bedia's door. I switched
from Zarifa to Bedia because the location was a little closer
(still over an hour from home at that time), I would have been
in good hands either way, but I thank her nonetheless.
Disclaimer! Please don't read this and start
resenting, belittling, or openly questioning your teacher if
you think she doesn't measure up - it would be difficult to
fulfill all these qualifications all the time, and you may not
even understand how your teacher is accomplishing some of
these goals. Rather, use this article as a springboard to a
deeper understanding of what dance is all about, and a deeper
appreciation of all a teacher takes on in every class. But, if
this doesn't sound like your teacher AT ALL, you may want to
look around at other possibilities.
What To Look For In a Dance Teacher
by Bedia (Sandy McQueen)
SUMMARY: Look for evidence of a
structured approach to teaching leading to successful
mastery of technique and performance skills.
- Teacher's Objectives: What
evidence is there of teaching for specific, measurable,
observable goals for students, both for class and over the
- Motivation & Readiness for
Dance: Evidence of carefully planned warm-ups
designed effectively and appropriately for dance
activities that will follow? Teacher's ability to focus
student's attention and bring them mentally, physically,
and emotionally to a state of readiness to learn?
- Development of Movement Sequence:
Logically developed dance activities that provide for
axial work (center work, isolations), traveling steps
(movement across the floor, through space), a variety of
movement dynamics, choreography, interpretation of music,
development of rhythm and timing, speed, agility, and
creative development of the individual dancer?
- Communication of Information:
Teacher's ability to present "steps" or movements using a
variety of approaches - clear, precise movement
descriptions, clear verbal instructions, auditory and
kinesthetic cues, evidence of anatomical understanding of
movement, use of imagery.
- Student Assessment and
Evaluations: Teacher's ability to measure students'
skills prior to class experience, during student
performance in class, and particularly in terms of
accomplishing objectives at the end of class. Teacher's
provision for constant individual feedback, EFFECTIVE
corrections. Teacher's ability to handle different levels
within the class, to adapt work for individuals with
That's a lot to think about isn't it?
And we haven't even mentioned the additional specialized
knowledge and skills pertinent to teaching an ethnic dance
art like belly dance (history, culture of the specific
country/people; various styles, genres).
One could liken someone who "teaches too
soon" (before becoming an accomplished performer) to a
teenager who has a child. (I feel I can make this comparison
since I and two of my daughters were teenage mothers!). It's
not a tragedy, but would probably work better if a mature,
fully-grown person took on the job.
After some years of teaching I can also add that a teacher
should evidence effective personal management skills (tact,
diplomacy) to handle difficult/disruptive students, club
owners/managers, and musicians; and communicate a clear
policy on ethics and standard practices in the dance