After you’ve been bellydancing for a few years it’s not unusual to reach a point where you’ve outgrown (or think you’ve outgrown 😉 ) the classes available to you locally. Teachers are not always able to offer advanced classes, either because the demand is not sufficient to make a viable class, or because they themselves haven’t reached an advanced level of dancing. So what do you do next if you want to continue growing as a dancer?
My solution to this problem was to take the money I had been spending on regular classes and spend it on workshops instead. That way I could learn whatever I liked from whoever I liked at a high level. I recommend everyone take as many workshops as they can manage at every stage of their dance career. The only problem with using workshops as your only tuition is that you often don’t get much (or any) feedback on your dancing. 30 dancers in a 2 hour workshop – you do the maths. It can be easy to fall into bad habits, to become lazy and to find that your progress has stalled.
Private lessons can be a good way to give yourself a reality check. They require a certain amount of commitment from a student in terms of time and money so make sure you choose a teacher who will give you what you want and, more importantly, what you need. If all you want is a pat on the head, don’t bother. If you want constructive feedback to help you progress and you are prepared to put the work in between classes then private lessons are a good way to go.
For dancers who find themselves in the situation where you don’t quite know what do to next there is a new programme that might help you: the JWAAD Personal Development Programme. I am one of the National Assessors* and you can read about what I can offer you here. The programme is centred around technique assessments which will be familiar to anyone who has done a JWAAD Foundation or Diploma course. As part of my Diploma course I did three, then did a fourth one afterwards just for fun! I think they are universally acknowledged to be the most scary part of the courses. You dance, the assessor assesses you. I was pretty terrified when I did my first assessment with Jo, but she corrected a problem with my posture that I didn’t even know about and that made a huge improvement to my dancing. At every assessment I was given something new to work on and by the end I was a much, much better dancer. The assessment process has changed a little since then. Most noticeably you are given a description of the levels in advance so you know what kind of thing the assessor will be looking for, which will remove a lot of the fear. It is all centred around principles of movement and it is desirable to have your own style – we’re not trying to create an army of clones!
You don’t have to be enrolled on a JWAAD course to take part in the programme, it is for anyone who wants an appraisal of their dancing and guidance for how to take it to the next level. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.
*(If you’re one of my regular students don’t panic! I’m not going to watch you all and mentally go through my tick sheet, or start making you take assessments before you can move up a level.)