What’s the best way to learn belly dance? Does it make sense to choose local classes over online offerings?
Today’s belly dancer has so many options. Online platforms like Datura Online offer a dizzying amount of class options, and many top teachers offer Skype sessions, or create practice videos for their Patreon supporters. At the same time, the internet makes it easier than ever to find out who is teaching belly dance classes in your area.
Let’s compare the two options.
Easy access to high speed internet makes it easy to study with almost any belly dancer you want to. Just pay a monthly subscription fee, or rent a class for 30 days, or sign up for an eight-week self-guided course, and you can learn all kinds of skills.
Distance learning is great for a lot of situations. It can be a way to learn a specialty that isn’t being offered in your town. It can serve as a great guide for home practice. You can use it to continue to learn from a favorite teacher who has moved away. I especially like it to fill those empty weeks during breaks between classes.
I especially like online classes for things like yoga and Pilates. I don’t know enough about either of those to confidently put together my own practice that will hit everything I want to do and involve counter-poses and whatnot. Plus I don’t know about you, but if someone isn’t telling me what to do, I definitely don’t hold stretches for as long as I should or do as many reps of an exercise as I could.
I also like them for dance-related skills. Belly Dance Business Academy is a great resource for all the nitty-gritty of your dance career (disclaimer: I teach for BDBA). Nadira Jamal’s Sustainable Practice Habit course was a real eye-opener for me. This is the sort of stuff that a lot of teachers just don’t cover in the classroom.
Over all, I find that distance learning is a great way to supplement your regular weekly classes.
Notice that above, I said supplement, not replace. There’s just really no substitute for being in the room with a real, live belly dance teacher.
Being in a physical class room is especially important when you’re a beginner. A skilled teacher will offer gentle corrections to your posture and help you understand why you’re not “getting” some moves. They’ll prevent you from injuring yourself or developing improper technique. They’ll also be able to answer most if not all of your questions about dance.
Pre-recorded online classes can’t do that for you, and even live Skype video lessons have their limits, as the teacher may not be able to see you very well and can’t offer actual physical feedback, such as allowing you to feel which muscles are activating in their body.
But beyond that, one of the biggest benefits to local belly dance classes is being connected to the local belly dance community.
Want to actually perform this beautiful dance you’re learning? Your teacher will probably organize a student recital, or bring you and your classmates to a student-friendly community event. For more advanced dancers, teachers will be able to connect you with the people hosting open stages, haflas, and festivals in your city.
Attending local classes, performances, workshops, and festivals is the best way to meet your peers in the dance world. You’ll make new friends, maybe even join or form a troupe.
For me, community is one of the most valuable things about belly dance. I always feel better after dance class, not just because of the endorphins from exercising, but because I’m able to connect with my teacher and my classmates. Because I work from home, sometimes dance class is the only meaningful human interaction I have with anyone other than my spouse. It gets me out of the house and lets me spend time with people who are just as crazy about this dance form as I am.
Are you attending local classes?
We’re just over a week into the new year. A lot of classes have just started back up after the holidays, or will be starting soon. Now is a great time to reconnect with a favorite teacher, or try someone new. Get out of your living room and into the dance studio. Then use your favorite distance learning tools to help you practice what you learned in class.
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