Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Core Concern: Why I Don't Film My Classes

My home studio - photo by Geisha Moth
I have received many requests to offer my classes online, to just please film my weekly classes and make that footage available.  I truly feel for the folks who want to study with me on a regular basis, but live too far away or their schedule doesn't allow it.  I love teaching, so of course I want to respond to that need.  I am also aware that in this strange new world of the bellydance economy, a lot of workshop bookings happen because that teacher offered online classes.

But I just can't do it. Why is that?

It's not the technology.  I have an excellent camera, an excellent internet connection, and there are a multitude of resources to help me get that footage out there.

It's not the money. I work as an artist/dancer/designer full time, so the extra income isn't something to be blinked at.

It's not the content.  I have over two dozen workshop topics and offer 3 kinds of intensives, and I know the material is good and proven.  And for those of you who think I'm amusing and fun in weekly classes are even more so...and with cats.

It's not quite the time either.  I do have a very full schedule, so the obvious choice would to be film the classes as I'm doing it to make the best use of time and effort.

So what's the deal?

It's about respect.

I respect my students, and endeavor to offer them a safe, positive environment to learn in.  I recognize the fact that class is about the learning process: that you don't get it right on the first try, that you're going to mess up something you know quite well, and you want to be able to do that where you feel comfortable as possible and supported.  My home studio is mirrored on 3 walls, and not a huge space, but we use it completely in a variety of formats throughout the class, so everyone would be in the frame of the camera regardless. And that's not something they need to be worrying about when they're spending their time and money with me to learn dance. (It shouldn't be a surprise to most that my classes aren't made up of lined up drills and repetitive combinations - which are easy to film, but not what I believe in when it comes to teaching dance.  There are other ways to build strength, muscle memory, and understanding of dance.) 

I also cater my classes directly to my students' needs.  I'm not teaching the class for my sake, it's all about them.  I invite my students to bring me their questions, concerns, and desires about what they want to learn.  If something comes up in class, I want to address it and work with them, rather than worrying about sticking to a set syllabus, or worrying about the clock. They need to feel free to ask questions and get feedback, without an unknown audience watching.

And online students can't get that level of direct feedback and interaction (at least not yet, maybe when there is real holodeck technology, and you could actually "beam" into the class, and interact like you ARE there), so that's another concern of respect.  And if I can't give you personal feedback and response in class, you might as well be watching one of my DVDs.  Which happens to be what my students use to keep in practice when I'm on the road and unable to offer weekly classes.

So what are your options if you don't live by me then? Well, obviously it's not the same as a live class for the reasons stated above, but both the Bellydance Artistry and DecoDance DVDs are a good place to start to work with my material.  I do offer skype lessons, schedule-permitting, but the best things to consider are in-person opportunities.   If you're traveling near Seattle (or I'm traveling near you), see about scheduling a private lesson.  An hour-long private lesson with me typically gives you at least a month or more of material to work on. Check to see if I am offering any intensives near you or if I am offering workshops at an event near you. Or inquire with your local event producer/promoter about hiring me for their next event - because as a producer myself, it helps to know about interest and draw concerning who to hire. (Well, this turned into the shameless self-promotion paragraph...)

Lastly, I don't offer online classes because our cats can't sign release forms.


  1. Very good reasons. One day I would love to take a class with the cats though!

  2. I already had tons if respect for you now I gave even more

  3. As someone who's new to belly dance, I know I would feel very uncomfortable and self-conscious if I were being filmed for an online class. I appreciate you for having that level of respect for your students.