I love teaching private lessons. In these days of instant technology I can connect with dancers all around the world, for a quick assessment, to polish up a choreography or to help with teaching issues. However, I still enjoy an afternoon in my tiny dance studio/office/dinning room where I can share the joy of movement with a local dancer. Sometimes the best private lessons are just two people and a lap top in a coffee shop.
No matter how we meet up, or what you want to cover, a little bit of preparation work on your part can make my job so much easier.
Lets start with why you want a private lesson?
Here are some of the most common reasons dancers book a private lesson:
Technique - You find a move really hard and your regular lessons are not focused enough on your problem area. Maybe its some layering or transitions that you are struggling with, or it might be a group of moves that are not as strong as your others. Sometimes we need to break down and drill a single movement, while other times we have to work through the building blocks. For most competent dancers, an hour on this kind of problem can be hugely beneficial.
Choreography - Often my regular students will book a private lesson when they have missed a few weeks of class and know they are behind with their group choreography. Other times they want to work on a short combo or section that they know they are struggling to learn. Private lessons are also the perfect time to learn a new choreography for an upcoming event, or to ask for help with a choreography you are writing.
Stagecraft - We all know that great performers are not always the best teachers, and similarly, not all teachers can help improve your performance. When you book a private lesson focused on stagecraft you can work through the
"tricks of the trade", or you can focus on an upcoming performance and how you can improve your dance to better suit your audience.
Goal setting - Most professional dancers set themselves a short list of goals and a time frame to complete them. If you struggle with goal setting, a private lesson is the perfect time to talk through your issues. Bring a long list of goals, previous goals and be prepared to talk honestly about what you are able to do in the short and long term to improve your dancing. Some dancers find that a regular check in with their mentor also helps them keep on schedule with achieving their goals.
Intensive training - Do you want to learn how to write your own choreography? Are you preparing to start teaching lessons? Do you have a competition coming up ? A private lesson with your teacher, or an expert is the time to stretch your skills or focus on new ones.
Performance critique - Every performance should be an improvement on your last. One of the most constructive ways to keep improving is to do a though critique of your performances. While its ideal if your private teacher can be in the audience to watch you live, a good quality video can also be used. If you want a performance critique, make sure you book your teacher before your performance, so they have the chance to see you live, or allocate time to watch your video.
If you are thinking about booking a private lesson - be that with me, or someone else, start by clarifying the reason for the lesson. Make a few notes and send a detailed request to your teacher. Make sure to give them all the info and tools they need to prepare for your lesson.
I teach privates or small group sessions in the studio for $100 an hour and I need a deposit a month in advance to book the space. On-line lessons, coffee shop chats and home studio visits are $50. Home studio visits are only open to regular students.
There are thousands more great tips about learning, setting goals and self critique in Chapter One of "Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage". We took all our combined knowledge and shattered the illusions so that the belly dancers of the future can skip the potholes and move on their careers!
"Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage" is a stagecraft handbook for belly dancers and its available now from Amazon:
Sara’s first book “Teaching Belly Dance” was published in 2014. Her second "Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage", co- written with Dawn Devine, Alisha Westerfeld and Poppy Maya, is a stagecraft handbook for belly dancers of all styles and levels. Both are available on Amazon.
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Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
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