The Starting Point
Suhaila’s online belly dance classes were the response to a need that developed in the early 2000s.
Suhaila began her certification program in 1998. At that time, students traveled to a workshop to learn the needed content to then study on their own with the goal of certification testing at another workshop. As each certification level has many moves and concepts to cover, a weeklong workshop presented only the most essential content.
As the majority of students are located out of California and the United States, they were not able to attend Suhaila’s local weekly classes. Slowly and steadily, remote students came to workshops to learn the concepts and how to train, and they struggled on their own between workshops.
The First Attempt
To address the needs of the long-distance student, Suhaila’s first thought was to film the essential technique drills for VHS/DVD. At that time, these were the conventional recorded learning tools. Furthermore, Suhaila already had applicable experience for this type of project.
As she analyzed a video series, she realized that filming only the most critical material would take hours and hours of footage. Moreover, it was expensive to film, process, and duplicate so many DVDs. The cost to the students would be extremely high. Essentially, it was cost prohibitive to publish that much content in the available formats.
The Next Idea
Suhaila determined a much better approach would be filming her weekly classes. Her weekly classes had overriding themes to guide students not only in movement technique but in application of that knowledge to other movements and performance. While technology existed to film and broadcast the classes, that technology was too expensive to consider. But Suhaila continued to watch, staying in constant contact with her web team.
The Time Was Right
In 2007, Suhaila’s web team had gathered the knowledge to create a class website offered via subscription. While the web team worked on the website coding, Suhaila experimented with filming weekly classes.
After trying several approaches and receiving ideas from various professionals, she selected a documentary style where the instructor teaches to the students in the room and not directly to those watching the video. Suhaila worked with a former newsroom specialist and documentarian who stationed multiple cameras around the classroom. A mixer, like those used for news broadcasts, was used to edit classes live during filming. With minimal, if any, editing, tapes could then be processed and uploaded to the online class website.
Online classes launched in early 2008 and were the first online belly dance classes available. They were also unique in their documentary perspective. In the past, dance teachers would teach to the video student by either facing the camera or teaching to a mirror; occasionally, other students would be in the video, following along as examples of how to do what the instructor explained.
Generally, documentary-style filming involves a live studio class in which the instructor teaches to actual students in the room and not to the students watching the video. Accordingly, students watching the video can see other students struggle and ask questions. Furthermore, they can see the instructor responding to what is happening organically with that group of students in the room.
With the initial debut of online classes, students had access to approximately 60 classes monthly with regular rotation. By 2013, as technology had further evolved and online classes were more popular in many fields, Suhaila moved her online class site to a new platform, the Salimpour School Online. Because the ability existed to offer more classes with faster loading speeds, all existing classes would be available in the catalog.
New Platform in 2023
In 2023, on the 15th anniversary of launching online classes, Suhaila debuted an updated version of her online classes, dividing the expanding content between two different sites. Furthermore, new material is added regularly to both sites, and the Salimpour Team continues to develop new content to meet the needs of the hobbyist and professional dancer.
Belly Dance Classes by Subscription
- Content is available by subscription: monthly or twelve months.
- A full catalog of technique and stylizations in various levels has been curated based on student feedback.
- Featured choreography is presented every month to apply your technique and training.
- Training plans are rotated and offered in three levels: Core 1, Core 2, and Core 3.
- Rotating featured content is provided to supplement the Training Plans.
Choreography and Short Courses
- This site includes an extensive choreography catalog for dancers of all levels, featuring various stylizations and applications.
- Choreography and short courses are available in increments of 4-20 weeks, depending on content.
- Material is provided in a training plan style, with guided learning on a schedule and supplementary information.
- Salimpour Onlne serves as the Home for the Salimpour Certification Program, Licensed Instructors, Collectives.
- The SSIOE (Suhaila Salimpour Institute of Online Education) is also housed in this platform.