Belly Dance Teaching Craft - Teacher Spirit

How to Cultivate the Spirit, Heart and Emotional Life of a Teacher by Shemiran Ibrahim

The Craft of Teaching - What makes a good Belly Dance Teacher?

Aside from the obvious prerequisite of a burning passion for one’s subject, great teachers have a certain spirit, and a certain way of thinking. They also tend to have a commitment to excellence and an ability to devour the subject of their affection. You need to be hungry to learn. You need to want to grow. Teaching is not an end destination; it is a starting point. There is a Japanese saying that goes something like this; “As the realm of knowledge increases, the circumference of ignorance expands”. So the more we think we know, the more we need to learn!

The craft of any subject can be split into the art and the science of it. In this section we address the craft of teaching Belly Dance from the Feminine aspects of it; the spirit, heart, emotion and essence of teaching. And the Masculine aspects of it; the mind of the teacher, the mental aspect, the thinking of a teacher, the importance of structure will follow in the article Belly Dance Teaching Craft - Teacher Mind.

The third part of this study section looks at the power that comes from striking a balance between the two - Belly Dance Teaching Craft - True Teaching Power.

The Spirit of a Teacher

Being a teacher of anything is an honour. You are responsible for people’s initiation into a subject, into a part of life, into a slice of the world. Being a teacher of Belly Dance in my opinion is a special honour. Women come to class seeking far more than how to do a hip drop. They may not even know the depths of what is calling them to this ancient practice, but be sure something beyond what the naked eye can see is acting like a magnetic force pulling them to Belly Dance class. I joke to my students that they have heard the “call of the wild”.

You are the guardian of their journey into themselves, and especially their Feminine spirit. Belly Dance is an ancient mind/body/spirit practice that takes a woman into her soul, taps into her inherent Feminine beauty whatever her age or size may be, and unleashes the power that lives inside every woman’s belly, pelvis, heart and spirit. As a teacher of this practice you stand at the door of this journey holding the key. What may seem like a simple week-night Belly Dance class at the local community college or dance school is in reality an opening for the every-day modern woman to dive into her deep ocean of beauty, treasure hunting for her very own lost and forgotten jewels.

Here are some tips to help cultivate your teacher’s spirit;

Love your students:

I mean it. Make them feel loved. Be proud of their little achievements and tell them so. You are like a parent; you need to give them constant positive reinforcement to build their dance self-esteem. But mean what you say; never say it without feeling it in your heart as it will sound hollow. If you can’t feel it in your heart, maybe you should reassess why you chose teaching in the first place. Teaching is not for everyone.

When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.

John Ruskinzs

Be fearless:

Claim leadership and become an authority figure. Notice if you have any fear around projecting your voice out into the world, and being at the front of a class telling people what to do. Claiming your inner teacher is an important step to finding your leader voice in the face of possible emotional blockages.

Never think you know it all:

Humility and an open mind to constant learning however developed and experienced you become in your teaching, will be a winning attribute that will only make you better and better as the years go by. Thinking you know it all makes you stagnate, like a pond that has no fresh water flowing through it. With time it gets bogged down and stale. Arrogance as a teacher is really quite off-putting to students as well. Students pick this sort of thing up.

Leave your ego at the door:

Your judgement and ambition do not belong in the classroom. The classroom is a sacred space where learning takes place. Learning is a delicate process where the students need to feel safe in order for them to take the subject matter in, expand and grow, and keep coming back for more. I have seen teachers belittle their students and big-up themselves all in the one sentence. One wonders why anyone would do that in class, but these things happen in classes of any subject all around the world. Remember the teacher at school who felt a need to belittle children? How did that make you feel? Great teachers leave their egos at the door, and do so through a high level of self-awareness and constant self-monitoring of what goes on in their heads before it comes out of their mouths. In essence, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER judge your students’ efforts in a negative way. They are doing the best they can in that moment.

We must be humble and root out the prejudices lurking in our heart. We must not suppress those traits which can help us in our teaching, but we must check those inner attitudes characteristic of (us) that can hinder our understanding of a (student).
Maria Montessori

Always, think before you speak:

Will what you say make someone feel bad about themselves, in any way, shape or form? You may not mean to be rude or upset someone, but sometimes what you say may be taken personally. Always think twice before delivering something. What you say is taken to heart; after all, you are the teacher!


Many different personalities will come and go through your classes. Know your boundaries and know when a student is crossing them. Decide wether it is worth communicating about it or not. Know wether you are giving yourself away, or you are centred in your power. As much as you need to look after their feelings, you need to look after your own. Some personality types are confrontational by nature. Watch out for how certain students make you feel, and keep your boundaries clear. Great teachers don’t try to be nice at the expense of their personal integrity; there is nothing empowered about acting in a way that says “please like me” to someone who is behaving out of line.

Add spirit to your classroom experience:

Don’t just teach the moves; you are in a great position to build a sense of community and infuse the women in your class with a sense of joy about their womanhood and beauty. Simply teaching women how to do technique and sending them home is a wasted opportunity. Make an intention to increase the levels of fun, joy, emotional expression and community in your classrooms.

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This article is an extract from award winning teacher Shemiran Ibrahim's "Teacher  Handbook; The A-B-C of Teaching Belly Dance" which covers:

  • A-Awaken the Teacher in You
  • B-Business End of Running a Successful Belly Dance School and
  • C-Curriculum & Teaching Method for foundation level classes

The Teacher Handbook is part of "How to Teach Belly Dance", an affordable learn-from-home 4 disk Belly Dance Teacher Training Course. Go to How to Teach Belly Dance for more info.

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