Good Manners for Belly dancers
(reprinted from ZAGHAREET! Nov/Dec. 2002)
by Anthea (Kawakib)
belong to several online discussion groups including one for
Teachers and Troupe Directors. Lots of interesting issues are
brought up - and some issues come up over and over. "Etiquette" -
whether in the learning situation of class or workshop, or in the
performing arena, is one of these repeat issues.
New students always should have direction and guidance in
this area, but I've noticed that a yearly review for continuing
students is also a good idea! This can be tricky because of the
deeper level of trust that's developed during the extended
teacher/student relationship. Perhaps also at this time students
are starting to experience more intense and varied "sensitivities"
brought on by prolonged chakra-energizing movements (Janeeda's the
expert on that - I'm just guessing!).
On a physical note, although I love various scents I ask students
not to wear perfume as it causes respiratory problems for me and
perhaps others in class.
I also ask students to turn off cell phones except in
unusual circumstances - the less distractions in class, the
Another way you can show respect for your teacher's time and
effort is by contacting her if you can't make it to class. But
remember you'll make better progress if you attend regularly,
since classes are usually structured to develop your skills week
You'll also make things easier for your teacher if you're
ready to start on time by coming a few minutes early to change or
pay for class etc. Of course you already know it's best to
participate in the warm-ups so you don't injure yourself.
Have you ever been "left out" by not having your notebook, hip
scarf, finger cymbals, or veil in class? Get a "dance bag" and
bring them with you each week. You know how complex and varied
belly dance is - you need to be ready for anything! You might even
want to throw some knee pads in there! I also carry leg warmers, a
sweater, a sweat rag, and Sportcreme to class! Quel glamour!
Among teachers, one widely-reported problem is students who
answer for the teacher. We love your enthusiasm, but don't
disrupt class by butting in!
Resist the urge to answer other students' questions. It's
hard for a student of one or two years experience to see "the big
picture" - you may not realize the point your teacher is trying to
make. If you really think you can help someone understand a move
in another way, or if you feel you have something important to
add, ask your teacher first if you can say something, but don't
make it a habit or it will bother your teacher AND the other
If YOU have a question, certainly ask it, but direct it to
the teacher and not other students - you may think it's less
distracting that way, but believe me, it's not.
Sometimes students feel they should correct something
taught in class - maybe they've learned a move "differently"
somewhere else (that's almost certain to come up if you take
workshops or classes from other teachers), or an ethnic source has
told them a different story on "how it's really done" etc.. You
may want to bring this up with the teacher outside of class time
so you're not in the position of correcting the teacher.
You may be one of the lucky mom and daughter combos who take class
together - how great is that! However, both of you may find
it easier to focus, and learn better and more quickly, if you
pretend that you and your mom/daughter are just classmates and not
really related at all!
Moms especially: when you come to dance class with
your daughter, try to leave your usual relationship dynamics at
the door. It's easy to distract each other with questions or
comments, even if they're meant to be helpful. So if you "act as
if" you don't know each other, you'll get the most out of your
class money and time. I know she may want to stay near you in
class at first, but eventually you can even move to a different
part of the room to give her a greater sense of confidence and
free expression. You'll have time to chat on the way home.
If you're concerned that your young daughter is not
paying attention or "getting it", try to let the teacher handle it
on her own as she would for a regular student - teachers deal with
the issues of inattention and unco-ordination all the time - it's
nothing new! Your daughter will appreciate not being
"singled out" and treated differently than the rest. If her
behavior requires discipline you might try removal for a time or
ultimatums about returning to class, but please no shouting or
hitting as it may upset the other students. Talk about
Happily, the learning situation doesn't have to stop when you step
out of class. I hope you're reading your very own copy or a
complimentary copy of this magazine! Subscribing obviously
supports endeavors like this (worthwhile, I'm sure you'll agree).
Your teacher can help you decide which magazines may appeal to
It's best not to make copies of your class handouts or
dance notes for your friends, even though they may want you to
"show them how to dance!" And of course you would never teach the
routines taught in class unless you had your teacher's permission
as it's a violation of copyright law; ask her about it - she may
allow it on a limited basis. As I always say, "When in doubt,
When you start performing make sure you understand your teacher's
approach to business ethics, especially as it pertains to using
music, and performing her and other people's choreographies. Some
teachers like to list the music's composer, track and CD; or the
choreographer, inspiration, or teacher. Others may want a "Bio"
from you, a couple of sentences that introduce your individuality.
And when you're sharing a dressing room with other dancers,
ASK before touching their costumes!
I hope these pointers not only add to your class experience
but help you see "the other side of the coin" so you can enjoy a
close and trusting relationship with your teacher.