Good Manners for Belly dancers

For Beginners"
(reprinted from ZAGHAREET! Nov/Dec. 2002)
by Anthea (Kawakib)


  I 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 better.


  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 by 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 students.

  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 distractions!


  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 you.

  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, ASK!"


  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.
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