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What All First-Time Adult Belly Dance Students Need to Know

It’s the beginning of the year, and many of us are trying new activities, resolving to integrate more movement into our lives. Some of you might be returning to dance after a break.

If you’re new to being a belly dance student (or a dance student in general) here are some helpful tips to make sure that your first classes are a success!

1. Show up early.

And, by early, I mean arrive 5-10 minutes before the class start time. If you’re new to a particular studio or instructor, you’ll very likely have to fill out a waiver or intake form. In addition, you’ll want time to get the lay of the studio, get settled and put your things in the designated storage areas, use the toilet, and possibly change into your dance clothes if you’re not changed already. Even if you’re not new, showing up early shows that you respect the instructor and the other students.

2. Wear workout appropriate clothes.

You don’t have to come to class in anything fancy, just wear clothing that allows you to move. Leggings and a tank top work great. Many instructors prefer that students not wear baggy clothing so that we can better see your alignment. This goes for your lower body as well; I need to see my students’ feet and legs.

Your clothes don’t need to be skin tight or revealing. And in this age of “athleisure” clothing, I can assure you that your dance teachers aren’t expecting you to show up in the latest Athleta or Lululemon threads.

But for my classes, and most dance classes, please don’t wear a skirt unless specifically requested. You want to be able to use your full range of movement and not worry about being inhibited in any way.

3. Be mindful of your scents.

This tip goes both ways. Most studios request that students don’t wear powerful scents or perfumes, because many of us these days are quite sensitive. But I believe this also applies to the less-pleasant bodily odors. Just check yourself before you come to class, and do your best to be as scent-free as possible.

4. Leave your devices in the lobby.

I’ve had students bring phones into the studio with them. Please don’t bring your phones into the studio.

The only time I’ve allowed a phone on the floor is for a student who was a doula/midwife, and expecting one of her clients to give birth that evening.

Turn off your ringer, and leave the device in the lobby or wherever you store your belongings. Even just the presence of your phone is a distraction not just for you, but for the entire class.

And while we’re talking about things to leave in the lobby, spit out your gum and only bring sealed water bottles into the studio space.

5. Corrections are a good thing!

Coming to dance class as an adult can sometimes make people feel really vulnerable. There’s a big mirror in the front of the room. You’re doing something new. You might be worried about looking awkward or silly. Great dance instructors understand this about being a new student. But they also want you to improve… so you feel more secure and confident.

So when your instructor gives you a correction, that means they want you to get better. They believe in your ability to do what they’re asking of you. See corrections as a gift, not a criticism. And when your teacher does give you feedback, nod in acknowledgement or thank them.

6. Be kind to yourself and others.

In general, I’ve never had to deal with students being mean to one another. We’re all adults. But being an adult is also a bit of a problem, because we adults can be very hard on ourselves.

Use kind language with yourself and others in the classroom. Self-deprecation can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, and negative self-talk can also affect other students in the room.

7. Improvement might not be instant.

Many of us adults want to see results right away. But dance is a little more complicated than that. Sometimes, you’ll need to return to class again and again before you feel that you’re really getting better.

Remember that you might not get something the first time, but with persistence, you most surely will.

8. Don’t leave early.

Unless you have an emergency or have talked to the instructor ahead of time, please stay for the entire class. You’ll miss vital information, as well as the cool-down, which can help you recover from the movement and prevent potential injuries. Plus, it disrupts the cohesion and community of the classroom environment.


With these helpful tips, I hope that your first class, or return to class, is fun and enriching!

See you in the studio!

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Hi! I'm Abby!

Welcome to my blog!

Here you’ll find my thoughts on everything from history and culture, to fusion and hybridity, to performance and training tips. I’m passionate about excellence, curiosity, and education in dance… in the studio and beyond.

In addition to holding Level 5 (Teaching Certification) in the Salimpour Formats, I also have an MA in Dance Studies at Mills College.

While belly dance and its related forms are my first love, I also teach American Modern Dance History at Mills College.

As director of the Salimpour School Berkeley, I hold weekly community belly dance classes in Berkeley, California.

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