Where’s the Belly Dance Directory?
I used to run an Australian belly dance directory, BellydanceOz. There was another one too, Aussiebellydance. Both no longer exist. I've been in touch with directory owners in other countries - and they've closed down, too.
I'm sorry to see them go because I still think directories are useful for students. However there's a very simple reason why these directories have gone - teachers don't see the value in them any more, and without their support, a directory can't survive.
Teachers who are web-savvy say they don't need it: they already have a good website which people can find by Googling "belly dance classes" in their city.
Fair enough, but what about the many belly dance teachers who don't have a website? They say they don't need a directory either. That statement really surprised me - but I've finally understood that some teachers don't want a big, successful school, and are happy with a small group. Some of the reasons given are:
- "I don't want members of the general public, or women who are joining to exercise - I only want women who are interested in the serious study of belly dance, and they'll find me if they really want to."
- "I'm happy with a small group, I only want to teach one class a week and I get enough new students by word of mouth."
- "If I publicise my school, I get too many calls from weirdos."
- "I'm on Facebook, that's enough."
I can't tell you how frustrated those statements make me feel! The reason is that last year, I moved to the UK. I was looking forward to joining the belly dance community there as I'd heard it was even more active than in Australia. It may well be - but try finding a teacher when you're a complete stranger! I did find a school in the next city, and another in a distant suburb. It was only six months later that I met someone who went to a school in the next suburb, 20 minutes' walk away! The teacher had no website and although she had a page on Facebook, it didn't come up in Google search (many of them don't), so I had no way of finding her even though she taught practically round the corner.
That demonstrates why a directory can be so useful - and there used to be a UK belly dance directory, but it has also closed down. I spoke to the former owner, who said that although it had been appreciated by students, it was a thankless task trying to keep it up to date. Teachers were happy to provide the details when the directory started, but most forgot to notify them when their details changed. The owners had to constantly check and update information themselves, and as they were volunteers, it all became too much work. Which is exactly the experience I had, and the experience of the Aussiebellydance site owner.
You will still see directories here and there, but usually tacked on to another belly dance site, and they are pretty useless because they are not actively managed. I've spot-checked the teachers' lists on sites like Shira.net, and more than three-quarters of the entries are old or inaccurate. So the bottom line is, if you're looking for a belly dance school nowadays your best bet is to Google, or look for a Facebook group for your country or region and ask there. Good luck!
P.S. My thanks to all the belly dance teachers and performers who did support the directories while they lasted - I did appreciate it very much!