The Art of Teaching*

10252022_630055403751297_843115328178198322_n I´ve never been a fan of diplomas, certificates, degrees and other sorts of institutional pats on the back. Never kept written proof of all the courses I took (I care about what I´ve learnt and it´s clear a piece of paper with my name on tells a big fat zero about it) or cared about external approval. For an Artist, a Teacher and an aspiring author who lives for and from her crafts, this independence declaration may sound arrogant at its best and absurd at its worst.

What the heck! Life´s too short for stupid labels, that is one of the few things I´m sure about. Who cares if you got a Dt. label stuck to your ass?! Well…loads of people care. I don´t. 

The Dumb Jungle is rocking: we confuse empty celebrities with artists (they´re NOT the same); we think fame means respect (it doesn´t) and we value APPEARANCES over CONTENTS. No wonder the craft of Teaching is equally me17520_516871381701184_1098392730_nssed up.

Most colleges drop data on students heads while limiting their own self-confidence, creativity and freedom of thought and speech. The same way with most dance “teachers” I know: they drop choreographies on students´heads and pretend THAT means they´re teaching.

FLASH (potentially unpleasant) NEWS: dropping choreographies on other people´s heads and showing off what you may think is your incredible talent as a choreographer is NOT TEACHING. We can call it a cool – and dishonest, in my opinion – way of promoting yourself as a dancer and/or choreographer; we can even call it a “movement exhibition” but we cannot call it teaching.

Teaching is about the students, not the teacher. It´s about what they can do, not what the teacher can do (that´s what performances are for: to show what you, the Teacher & Performer, can do).

Teaching is about passing information but not only about that; teaching is about SEEING your students and giving them all you got; it´s about forgetting yourself and offering them the tools that will allow them to grow and rediscover the craft according to their own lives, talents, dreams and unique skills.

Teaching is about Inspiring and Empowering your students – to allow them to think, feel, QUESTION and turn the knowledge you share into LIFE, their own Life.

Teaching is not about creating your own Marketing Clone Machine (an army of little Joana Saahirahs moving exactly like I do: ooohhhh…it gives me the creeps…) but about stimulating INDIVIDUALS who can bring something of their own to the art. It´s about thinking BIG – the generations to come – and not small – you and your own little world.

Above all, teaching is not about showing how much YOU, the teacher, can do but how much THEM, the students, can do. If you´re not ready to leave your ego- diva trip -thirst for applause outside the door, don´t teach. The beggar is not the Master. Don´t even perform in that case (that also requires a grand humbleness: the humbleness of your soul´s exposure/ego dropping).

If all you got to “teach” is your fancy choreography, I suggest you gather (the most patient and kind) circle of family and friends for brunch at your place and offer them your little gift. You may even suggest a potluck: your sister brings the cake and your friend Martha brings the chicken. That´ll be perfect and things will be called by their names. 🙂


Now…that´s what I´m talking about!

2 thoughts on “The Art of Teaching*

  1. Hi Joana just read your article and totally agree I am a largely self taught belly dance teacher but there is still much I do not know ! Having attended many workshops by so called master teachers you are totally right in saying that it is largely about them showing off their expertise but not really teaching either you follow or you can’t! It takes all the joy out of the dance I don’t care about a perfect figure 8 or an undulation as long as I can get my students to express themselves the way they want so that they feel good. It is not about me imposing my style or movement on them but giving them the freedom to express themselves . all too often I attend these belly dance festivals and in many cases am disapp[ointed by the teachers not all obviously but so called masters believe that the more complex the choreo then the better it is in fact in my view it is quite the opposite!

    Look forward to hearing from you. I work in Bangkok and use the simplified movements of belly dance for therapy to help patients in the hospital where I work.



    • Dear Liz,
      Thanks for your feed-back.
      The subject is wide and has many faces, as most subjects related to Oriental Dance and Egyptian Culture.

      Although technique and choreography play a very important role in Advanced/Professional Dancers´s education. I know for a fact they are not enough to teach you how to dance. They´re tools – valuable, essential at the levels I mentioned and also opportunities of growth for students (when the teacher knows* how to use those tools for other´s benefits instead of his/her own). What we have to understand is that tools are not the final goal, they´re just a part of the journey.

      I love interesting choreographies and I teach them most of the time but I don´t resume my teaching to them – they´re just bridges I use for advanced students.
      The GOAL of the workshops you see in most festivals around the world is unclear: what are those teachers doing? Showing off their ideas? Showing off what they can do? JUST showing off? Or are they there to ADD something valuable to students dance and life? This is The Question we all must ask.

      Your work sounds so interesting 🙂 Keep doing it from your heart.



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