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Class Etiquette
by Mira Mar

Did you say dance class etiquette? Belly dancing should be fun. You mean I have to behave in class? Yes, oh, please, please, please. I have always had a set of rules I follow when I attend a workshop or dance class. I have noticed that other students' rules are not like mine, or maybe, they just don't have any. My rules are innate, perhaps drilled into me in my formative years of classical ballet training, where teachers demand and get respect. I try to instill the following 'ten golden rules' in my dance students. I am really interested in how other teachers and students feel about dance class etiquette.

1. Show respect for your teacher. In Eastern disciplines such as martial arts anti yoga, the teacher is revered,
worshipped and given great loyalty and respect. Teachers have worked long and hard and made many sacrifices to master their arts. Many have dedicated their lives to this dance.

2. Be on time. There is no excuse for being late. It disrupts other students and the teacher when someone arrives ten minutes late. You forego essential warm up stretches. How would you feel if your teacher arrived ten or fifteen minutes late? Find out what time the studio doors open and try to be in class at least 15 minutes early. This is will give you time to change into your tights, use the bathroom and get a drink of water!

3. Position yourself at a dance workshop relative to your dance experience. In an article in Middle Eastern Dancer,
international dance star, Horacio Cifuentes, commented on differences between American and European dance classes. He said European dance students begin their training in the back of the room and earn their positions in the front. This is a good idea. if a classroom is large, students may not always be able to see the teacher and will watch students in front of them. if you feel confident that you will be able to catch on quickly and perform movements accurately, try to grab a spot up front. However, if you are a beginning student or do not grasp movements quickly, you will probably be more comfortable dancing toward the back of the room.

Note: However, this is a rule for workshops, not a rule for your regular dance class with your usual teacher. In your
weekly dance class you will want to be as close to the front of the room as possible no matter what your level of dance
experience is.

4. Wear suitable attire. Avoid wearing jewelry, coins or too many costume accessories to dance class. Beginning
students tend to do this a lot, because it is an opportunity to dress in costume and it is fun. Save your sequins and bells for recitals and performances. When trying to learn new movements, too many bangles will distract you and nearby students.
You will not be able to stretch properly. Also, floor stretches can be really hard on expensive costume material. Dance tights and a hip scarf are adequate and more suitable for class. Leggings, midriff tops and long, full skirts are also appropriate. It is important to be comfortable and to be able to achieve a broad range of motion, unhampered by excess material or jewelry.

5. Keep talking and giggling to a minimum. This is probably my most flexible rule. Part of the fun of dance class is the giggling and laughing which often occurs. I tend to encourage laughter during my weekly classes. After all, feeling good is one of the benefits of the dance. However, when I attend a workshop, I try to keep talking and giggling in check. Avoid talking to other students during class. Keep your attention focused on the teacher. If you have a question, ask the teacher.

6. Avoid being a know-it-all. Yes, you have had another teacher somewhere who called that movement "The Washing Machine." Your teacher was the authority on the subject and now you are. Keep in mind, this dance has been passed on from one dancer to the next since the beginning of time. The movements do not have standardized names.
Teachers generally call a movement what their teacher calls it. There is no right or wrong name! Do not openly challenge her expertise!

7. Take notes when sitting out. If for some reason, you absolutely can not continue the class -- you are too tired, too hungry, cramps, etc. -- by no means, leave. When students walk out the door, it shows a lack of respect for the teacher.
Other students wonder where the dancer has gone? Sit in the corner and take notes. Do not converse with other students or start shopping. Do your shopping at the appropriate time. If you are able to return to class, do so quietly and take a spot in the back of the room.

8. Let the teacher teach. If you are a teacher, under no circumstances should you voice an opinion in another teacher's class. I know it is hard to resist helping the floundering girl next to you, but it is not your place. Let the teacher do the teaching. Button your lip. If the teacher asks for your opinion or expertise, concisely give it and then give your complete attention back to her.

9. Keep an open mind and please do not complain. Be open to new ideas and possibilities. Try to focus on how your new teacher can expand your dance repertoire. Do not compare her to other teachers. Do not complain about a movement being too difficult Do not question where the teacher positions you in a choreographed number. She has reasons, developed from years of experience, to justify the decisions she makes.

10. Watch the teacher's performance or demonstration. If the teacher is kind enough to perform or demonstrate for
the class, watch in silence. Once, I observed a teacher performing a veil dance so beautifully I could have cried, except I wanted to scream at the miserable girls behind me. While she graciously performed, they chattered incessantly. This behavior followed arriving late to class, complaining about difficult movements, and quitting early because of fatigue.They should have stayed home.

By giving teachers the respect they deserve, you will be getting something back -- your money's worth.

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