12 Tips for Teaching Bellydance Choreography to Your Students

12 Bellydance Tips for Your Students Choreography

1.  Finalize your choreography before you start teaching it to your students, but remain open minded and adaptable. If they can’t do a combination or they don’t travel far enough to make the shape you wanted, then you are going to have to make changes.

2. Even the best dancers rarely understand a choreography on their first attempt, so be patient. However, if none of your dancers understand your creation it may be too complex and might need to be adapted.

3. If you have tried to get everyone to start their hip drops on the right and three weeks later they are all still starting on the left, then its time to change your choreography and examine the weight shifts.

4. Make use of the bellydance music to speak to your dancers. If the music repeats the same phrases over again, then try to do the same moves, so they become logical to your dancers. If you are fearful of being boring, then spice things up with angles, arms, group formations and travelling.

5. Make sure your music choice is easily available to purchase, affordable and not easily confused with a different edit. If you chose something like Zeina, be aware that they may accidentally purchase one of the hundreds of different versions or edits and then be unable to practice.

6. It can be hard for students learning a group choreography to practice outside class time, so set them achievable homework as pointers. Ask them to drill the combinations, practice arm routes or to listen to their music.

7. Visually show the next section of the choreography once or twice, then dance it with your students, before stepping out to watch. Dance needs to settle into the dancers muscle memory and that will not happen if all they are learning is to watch you from behind.

8. Allow plenty of time to teach the choreography and plan other activities so that they don’t become bored. For each 30 seconds of choreography allow 20 minutes of preparation, 20 minutes of learning and 20 minutes of polish. This time is greatly cut if the choreography is simple, and expands where the dance is hard.

9. If students become confused about where they need to be placed in each section of the choreography, for example, when they move from a circle into two lines and then pairs, encourage them to put down sticky notes to mark their route around the room.

10. For smooth sailing and a good balance of challenge and satisfaction, plan a choreography that takes moves or combinations or shapes that your students are confident in and uses them in new and exciting ways.

11. Don’t try and mix tough moves with hard formations. Travelling with challenging combinations will be too confusing. One or the other will provide interest enough.

12. Drill moves and combinations ahead of time. Start teaching or refresh the key moves about six weeks ahead of when you are going to use them in the choreography. Continue by teaching the moves in combination. For the next few weeks use it as part of the warm up, and finally drill the combination at a faster speed than it will be danced in performance. This means that the combination will be clear, crisp and feel slow and graceful to the dancers once it slots into the choreography, not matter how fast it is danced.
If you would like more information on setting up, planning, teaching, and enjoying your belly dance classes, Sara Shrapnell's book Teaching Belly Dance offers a variety of information ranging from exciting games to make learning fun for your students to advice on understanding the individual needs, desires, and hopes each dancer brings to class.

Sara Shrapnell spent 12 years teaching in the UK before moving to the Bay Area in 2011.  She has taught over four thousand belly dance lessons lessons.  Her classes are known for their humor, detailed breakdowns and cultural context.  She adapts her lessons to suit the dancers, their needs and aims.  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.