What would your response be?

Pleasant dancer

New member
Lovely Forum folks, I need some advice (or at the very least confirmation that I'm not being unreasonable!) I just received an email and I'm pondering my answer (my initial reaction was that it was a bit of a cheek so I want to keep it professional!). The background to this is that recently I took an hour long taster class for a parents' group at the school I rent a dance studio from to teach my classes. Some of the ladies (including the one who emailed me) wanted to do a beginners course, but this is on hold as I don't have the numbers for new class right now. I want to keep it friendly as I don't want to sour relationships with this group for the future. I received payment from the school for this event and received the studio free of charge. The ladies got the class free of charge, subsidised by the school.

Quoted email (slightly adjusted to retain anonymity):

"My yoga teacher is running a '..... Day of Yoga' on ......(3 weeks time!) and has asked me to do a 30 minute slot of belly dancing as a surprise slot. Naively I said yes!
What I thought we could do is some basic movements and put them together to do a circular dance. Can you give me some help with what is practical/possible to do in such a short time? Would you mind if I came and saw you at one of your classes?
If you have some business cards I could then pass them on at the Yoga day."

So - you want to teach a 30 minute class, having no experience other that an hour taster. You want me to advise you for free what to do (giving you the benefit of 6 years teaching experience and adult ed qualifications etc). You want to come to a class and see what I do to give you some idea of how to do it (for free?). But it's ok, you'll hand out out some of my business cards in case they want to continue with belly dancing.....

Any thought on how to compose my reply? I could offer to do the slot for her (although it's the day after a festival and I'll be tired) but I don't think there is any money involved and I'm feeling a bit unhelpful/disenchanted at the moment. I could ask for travelling expenses I suppose, but don't know where it's held (probably local). :think:

Hope this is the right thread for this, Mods please move it if I'm wrong! :)
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Super Moderator
Dear Clueless One,

Alas, my schedule prevents me from assisting with your upcoming project for Yoga Day. For the comfort of my shyer students I don't invite observers to my classes, but I appreciate your interest and wish you the best of luck with your program.


Pleasant Dancer


I have doubts about her yoga teacher. I can't imagine my yoga teacher thinking a half hour bellydance lesson in the middle of a yoga day, from me or anyone, would be appropriate. She's hired me to dance on other occasions, but in this context, the focus is all wrong.

Write out what you really want to say to her - full honesty, no hold bars, emotional vent! Read it again, and see if that is how you really feel - then rewrite it. But don't send these versions! Rewrite it for a third time, in a way that cuts out negative emotion and doesn't sound critical of her intentions.

Something like this? -
Tell her that whilst you are pleased that her session with you has stimulated a desire to share what she has learnt, you have reservations that, within this context, she is not qualified or experienced enough to deal with the potential situation. You are aware that she shares these reservations, and commend her thoughtfulness in contacting you about what is practical and possible. Ask her what type of yoga it is. Say that bellydance moves [after prolonged yoga?], without appropriate warm-ups, technique, or awareness of how it will affect the body, might not be advisable. You would hate for any injuries or uncomfortable experiences to occur. As a bellydance teacher tell her that you have concerns that what will start out as a bit of fun, could end up affecting the students' health or enjoyment. Say that you are sure her yoga instructor, as a fellow teacher, would understand this. Ask her to get the yoga teacher to contact you, as, whilst you are busy this time, you might be able to provide a more yoga-tailored bellydance class on another occasion yourself. Tell her that you are pleased she wants to learn more about bellydance, and say that she is welcome to come to your classes as a student, or have private lessons (give her a price list), and that you hope that she and her yoga teacher will understand your professional viewpoint.

This tells the woman that you thinks she's enthusiastic, but misguided and under qualified; it puts the onus on her to purposefully ignore your viewpoint if she carries on with her plan; it plays on her own doubts about her prudence, and gives her a get out clause by getting the yoga teacher to contact you (and you can just repeat the same stuff to her, and discuss how you could come to some future arrangement about providing a class, if you wanted to); it keeps her access to you open, without you offering anything for free; you've shown interest and enthusiasm with what she wants to do, without promising to do anything yourself, or praising her ability to do it; you've stayed positive and honest, whilst maintaining a strong 'no', and ignored her insults to you as it was probably unintentional.

This woman might be determined to do it anyway, and if she is, you can't really stop someone like that; advise or no advise.
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New member
What Shanazel said. I wouldn't put myself out to dig her out of her hole either. I think I would try to point out to her, with my helpful caring hat on, that she has bitten off more than she can chew. Maybe she will realise there is no shame in that and pull out.

A few angles that spring to mind:

- How long does it take you (experienced teacher) to put together a simple 4 minute routine? How long do your typical beginner dancers take to learn it? Pick/learn your music, devise a routine, learn it: and you only filled 4 minutes of that 30 minute slot...

- How would she feel if her yoga teacher had only done a taster session before starting to teach her? What if she had got hurt because of it, or decided yoga wasn't that great? :(

- The dreaded Health and Safety - is she insured? Safe warm up? Can she spot if someone is doing something that might injure them? :shok:

- Teaching absolute noobs craptacular hip drops for 10 mins may not do them too much technical damage, but while she is preparing for this she could be doing herself a lot more damage.

- If there's a nice way to put it - does she realise what new beginner belly dance actually looks like? because unless she's a natural that's what she will look like too, after a single taster session*. And she wants to stand up there in front of a class and be an example of what belly dance looks like?
*Serve with lashings of "and that's OK and normal and I remember how I couldn't do a hip circle for weeks and my posture was awful and... etc etc".

- What do you say if anyone asks questions about belly dancing?

Strange isn't it? IMO the normal reaction to a taster session is "oh cr@p this is a lot more difficult than it looks", not "yeah, got this, now to teach it to someone else". The only kind of teaching you should be doing under those circs is showing your friends how difficult it is and/or what an idiot you look trying.

Pleasant dancer

New member
Thanks folks, you've put my mind at rest. I'm not being unreasonable or a kill-joy. And I'm not actually offended, I know she is clueless, a lot of people are when it comes to belly dance and what it actually involved (skill sets etc).

One of the problems here is that, having had a free class she expects things to be free. Having found the taster fun and reasonably easy, she thinks belly dancing is. She doesn't realise it's my job to make it so, having spent many hours devising exactly the sort of routine that I can teach newbies successfully in 1 hour (1/2 hour is impossible) and get them to have a sense of achievement.

I won't let her come and watch my class, I don't allow spectators, and even if I did she would get little from it as we are presently rehearsing for some summer demonstrations, and the material is unsuitable and irrelevant to her needs.

Duvet, thanks you've given me a lot to think about when I make my reply. The health and safety issues had been prominent in my mind. I like your idea of putting down exactly what I think first - I've done this in the past and then ripped it up and written my real (polite!) one. It works. And it helps just putting it down on a forum like this!

Thanks to all.

Pleasant dancer

New member
Just to update the folks that were kind enough to reply and give me advice: I did reply something along the lines that Duvet suggested. Didn't hear for a few days and then the student emailed me that they had decided to do a short belly dance session at the end of the day, nothing too serious, just a fun join-in session. I'm happy with this, it's up to them what they do, I haven't condoned it.

She still hopes to take my beginner course, so I didn't completely alienate her, and has passed my details on to a couple of people who were interested in classes. Not a bad result I think. :)


New member
One thing I've gotten out of this thread, as a student, is that 'IMO the normal reaction to a taster session is "oh cr@p this is a lot more difficult than it looks"' is a reasonable reaction.

I took a turkish workshop last week, and oh my goodness, I sucked! I felt, and I believe looked, awkward. As did most of the other students in the class. There were a couple people (both of whom I think have a lot more bellydance experience in general) that were able to add flair to the dance and make it look nice and smooth, but I was too concerned about remembering anything to make my body move right to even have enough confidence to fake it.

I really can't imagine trying to turn around and teach someone else anything from a 1 1/2 hour workshop, after having only a couple months of bellydance experience. To have only done that single hour of bellydance, ever, and then even dance in front of someone else is pretty darn bold.