There are so many positive aspects of bellydance- expressing yourself, connecting with others, improving self-confidence, and staying in shape are just a few. However, there are also a few glaring negatives. One of these seems to be on the rise, especially here in the USA! I am talking about fake, uneducated instructors. I don’t mean the obviously uneducated instructors teaching improper technique and culture to beginners. I mean workshop instructors for intermediate and advanced level dancers. I myself have fallen into a few traps and left feeling underwhelmed and slightly irritated. More recently, I heard a horror story from a friend who went to a shaabi workshop only to find out the instructor was teaching “authentic” gestures that she did not know the meaning or origin from which they came. She taught some Roma dance movements as well and misinformed them about the culture surrounding the dance style. If it were me attending the workshop, I would have been furious that I gave a person like that my money and time. It’s not easy to spot who is a fake and who is legit, that’s why I have listed some tips below on how to make sure your workshop instructor is worth your time.
- Do your research. Go to the instructor’s website and read their biography. Have they taught workshops before? If so, what styles? You can also reach out to past workshop sponsors and see if they were happy.
- Are they on YouTube? Nowadays, almost every instructor will have a YouTube page or have videos uploaded that feature some of their performances. Make sure to try to find a video of them performing in the same style as your workshop (for example, if they will be teaching khaleegi, find a video of them performing a khaleegi piece). If you can’t find a video of them performing that style, it is ok to ask the instructor for one. It is very easy to spot fakes quickly this way!
- Be very careful when picking workshops that are very specialized. Folkloric workshops are so informative and a great way to connect to the roots of the dance, however, most fakes will teach these styles without actually doing their research. For example, mahraganat shaabi is very trendy right now. There are so many instructors teaching this style that do not have much education on the subject.
- If you are leery of who your money goes to, find a larger, annual festival. They do the research for you and find the best of the best to teach their workshops.
- International instructors are not always best! One of the least impressive workshops I have attended was with a very well-known Egyptian teacher. Just because they live in a Middle Eastern location does not mean that they know how to teach.
- If you are taking a choreography workshop, make sure you ask the instructor if cultural notes of the style will be provided. You don’t want to take a baladi progression workshop and not know the cultural significance.
Keep these tips in mind any time you are considering attending a workshop and hopefully you will have amazing experience that inspires you. It also helps to provide the instructor with feedback on their workshop. They love hearing when you’ve learned something new and really appreciate constructive criticism. Most workshop instructors are there to make sure their specialty is taught correctly and kept alive in the bellydance community. Make sure that your time and money are spent well supporting those who have devoted many years of research on the topic.