How good are your basic skills ? Its time to take a critical look at your own skill set and abilities. Often in our rush to learn “new” moves we forget to focus on our basics. Assess your hip rotations, hip lifts and drops and your shimmies. Are they perfect every single time? or have you developed bad habits? Take a private lesson with a teacher you respect and work on the moves you plan to teach, to make sure that you don’t pass on any bad technique to your new students.
Can you teach to all the learning styles? Teachers often teach towards the learning style that suits them best, after all that is how they learn. Your students will have a mix of learning styles, and each individual deserves the same opportunity to learn. Make sure you can teach the basic moves to the visual learner, the audio learner, the verbal learner, the logical learner, the physical learner and the emotional learner. Remember that most of us learn with a mix of styles and those styles can change week to week and depending on the move we are being taught. Teach to all learning styles, even if you are sure that your students favor one or two.
Do you understand the importance of a good warm up and cool down? Don’t just repeat the warm up that your teacher does, but take time to understand its role in a class and how to for-fill the needs of your students. Put your students safety first and learn good practice, so that you can adapt your warm up and cool down to suit your dancers, the room temperature and the content of the class.
Do you have enough material to teach a semester (term)? Think about how you can make the 12th class just as much fun as the first by allocating your material throughout the semester. Start by making a list of all the moves, concepts and ideas you want to teach and splitting them between the number of lessons you plan to teach. This will form the basis of your semester plan. Your lesson plans will develop out of your semester plan.
Do you have a good selection of music to keep the students interested? Its time to catalog your music collection and purchase new music to fill any gaps.
How is your fitness? Talking and dancing may be a new skill for you. Make sure you can complete your own warm up and still talk immediately afterwards.
Do you have insurance? This is essential. You will need public liability and to check that your venue has building insurance. If you intend to host workshops or put on shows then you will need further insurance to cover those activities. In some areas you also need a business license and to register for tax before you can take any money. Check with your local small business organization for clarity.
Have you picked the right venue? is it warm and inviting? Does it have a good floor? is it handy for a car park or public transport? Can you afford the rent? is it available at the right time of day to suit your students?
Will you have enough students? In the early days most businesses struggle and you will probably need another form of income for at least two or three years. For every person who emails you or signs up on Facebook to your classes, assume that half will attend the first lesson and only 1/4 will still be there at the end of the course. You can find new students though flyers, postcards in coffee shops and with on line advertising, but your students will be your best promoters, so make them part of your sales team; offer them a free class if they bring a friend and give them flyers to pass out or pin on their fridge.
Finally – Do you love belly dance enough to go out every night in the cold and the rain? Can you teach a figure 8 100 times this year and still make it sound fresh and fun? Can you stand back and let the dancers repeat a basic move for five more minutes when you really want to move on to something more exciting? Can you spend all your earnings on ten veils you will never use, so that your students can learn a floaty choreography ? Are you a people person? Are you the right person to be training the next generation of belly dancers?
If so you have taken the first steps towards a wonderful new career. I wish you lots of happy years, filled with exciting (and profitable) belly dance classes!
"Your First Belly Dance Workshop"
The Top Ten Belly Dance Tunes for Performance"
"Finding a Great Belly Dance Teacher"
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
She has taught more than 4,000 belly dance classes, both in the UK and US. She now teaches in Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore in the SF bay area, as well as workshops world wide. Her classes are known for their humor, detailed breakdowns and cultural context. Students who have studied with Sara have gone on to teach and perform in all styles of belly dance and many have made their living through performance or teaching.
Sara’s first book “Teaching Belly Dance” was published in 2014. "Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage", the stagecraft handbook co- written with Dawn Devine, Alisha Westerfeld and Poppy Maya, is also available on Amazon.