Belly Dance Teacher Training: Review of the JWAAD ‘Understanding Safety’ Course

Have you ever thought about belly dance teacher training? Back in 2016, I completed the JWAAD Belly Dance Training ‘Understanding Safety’ course which helped me take my first steps towards teaching belly dance. I chose a JWAAD course because it’s the only organization in the UK that offers belly dance courses which are externally accredited to the equivalent of a UK A-Level in complexity. Because of this, I was sure that the course would cover a lot of useful information in-depth and be academically rigorous. Why am I talking about it now if I completed it back in 2016? I’ve just signed up for the JWAAD ‘Understanding Music’ course for early next year, so I have JWAAD on my mind 😊.

What to expect during the course? You’ll find a general overview on the JWAAD website. During the first weekend of the course, we learned most of the information presented on the course through a mixture of formal teaching sessions and experiential learning. We also got set our assignments. Then, we went away and did our assignments, which I found to be difficult but very worthwhile to help me learn the material. On the second weekend, we learned more information, completed our practical assessments, and submitted our portfolio of evidence.

Safety course students and tutors

I found all of the course information to be extremely useful and applicable to me as I was starting my belly dance teaching journey. Some of it, like health and safety, was fairly common sense, but other information, like anatomy, would have been hard to pick up on my own. For me, the anatomy section was the hardest, but one of the most useful. It’s very helpful as a dancer and a teacher to know how muscles and joints operate. For example, joints only work in certain planes of movement so you or your students shouldn’t be trying to ‘twist your knee’ as this is anatomically impossible. I enjoyed learning about and practicing breaking down belly dance moves – an essential skill to have as a belly dance teacher.  This information, and more, gave me the confidence that I could teach belly dance safely without injuring my students.

We had two main practical assessments on the second weekend. The first was a practical warm-up assessment. We designed a warm-up using safe dance principles we learned on the first weekend, and taught it to our fellow students on the second weekend. It was slightly nerve-wracking teaching while being observed for assessment. I did manage to pass, and got some very useful feedback on areas to improve in future warm-ups. I still use a variation of that warm-up for my classes today.

The second assessment was a technique review where we performed various belly dance moves one-to-one with a tutor and were subsequently given a level. You don’t need to have a particular level of technique to pass the safety course, but you do if you wish to progress to the full teaching diploma. I was already familiar with JWAAD technique from the Personal Development Programme, so I felt prepared for the assessment. For someone unfamiliar with the JWAAD style, I think it would be very difficult to score highly on the assessment. The standards are a higher level than many local classes, so even though I had been dancing for several years, I only scored as ‘improver’. That wasn’t a surprise to me, but some course-mates were disappointed that they did not score as highly as they thought they should have.  

Overall, the course was hugely beneficial to me. Though not all of the information was brand-new to me, much of it was. Attending the course gave me the tools I needed to start teaching belly dance, and reaffirmed that I was on the right track with regards to dance teaching. I would recommend it to any belly dancers starting on their dance teaching journey!

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