Frequently asked questions:

Who are your students?

SMBA students are women and men  of all ages and every walk of life. Most of them have no previous dance experience when they first join. Generally though, our students are people who:

  • are enthusiastic and passionate about cultivating their self development
  • are often busy yet make time to switch off from day-to-day life to pursue their own interests
  • like to try new and exciting things and are usually pleased with the side effect of regular classes: a svelte figure!
  • enjoy fun and engaging activities
  • are not afraid of learning a new skill from scratch and enjoy seeing themselves develop and thrive

How are you different to other dance, Zumba and exercise classes?

We are slightly different from exercise or Zumba Fitness classes because at SMBA there is no pressure or expectation to burn calories or shed weight. Because of this, our students feel empowered to bring out their expressive side and enjoy bellydancing from the very first class!

How exactly will you teach me to bellydance?

We will guide you, step-by-step, through exactly how to do the 30 essential moves of bellydance. We de-mystify each of the moves and techniques by breaking them down into manageable pieces. It’s true that learning any kind of dance takes time and patience. That’s why each course is specifically designed at the right pace with just the right amount of content to make sure you learn a great deal of content thoroughly.

I have previous bellydance experience, which level should I join?

Depending on how much previous experience you have, you may be ready to join our Intermediate or Advanced level classes. You may even be ready to join the Desert Diamonds Troupe. Contact us and let us know about your previous bellydance training so we can point you towards the right course.

Does it really work? What if I can’t do it?

We gently and discreetly correct students in class if they are doing a move a little “off beam”. We will never pick on you, single you out, or do anything that would make you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed in class. But we know you’d rather we kept you on track.

Who will be my instructor?

You will be taught by one of the SMBA instructors, it might be Helen or it might be one of the other trained and experienced coaches. All SMBA coaches work to the same syllabus and teach in the same step-by-step style. We are all here to give you as much hand-holding and instruction as you need. The coaches also offer SMBA-style private coaching sessions if you wish to have some on-on-one tuition. Go to the coaches page to find out more.

Can men join your classes?

Yes! Men bellydance too and anybody who is curious to learn about bellydance is welcome to our classes. This includes men, women, non-binary, gender-fluid and trans people.

When will I be able to bellydance? How quickly will I learn?

Students who join the Santa Maria Bellydance Academy can expect to learn (though not necessarily perfect!) the essential moves of bellydance in 6 weeks. Of course, it takes time and patience to really master the moves and how quickly you learn will be determined by whether or not you practice the moves you’ve been taught between classes. However, with our Bellydance Essentials Course we find that within 6 weeks students have a healthy repertoire of bellydance moves and techniques. Students then go on to the following 6 week Bellydance Essentials 2 Course (which comprises the second half of the 12 week course). This is where we teach you how to start putting your moves together into a simple routine and add some extra sparkle. In Bellydance Essentials 2 we show you, step-by-step, how to connect the moves together so that you really see yourself “bellydancing” rather than learning individual techniques.

Is there anybody that can’t learn to bellydance?

In general, our bellydance classes aren’t suitable if:

  • you have an ongoing injury or medical issue that means you are required to take lengthy absences from exercise
  • you think bellydancing is silly or sleazy
  • you are pregnant and have never bellydanced before or have not bellydanced for a long time
  • you lack patience and expect instant results
  • your motivation for learning bellydance is purely weight-loss and you have no interest or curiosity for the art of bellydance

Can I attend a taster session first?

Our courses are generally fully booked so we aren’t able to offer taster sessions in our live classes. However, you can try my FREE online Quickstart Bellydance Bootcamp to get a feel for how we teach. Go to the homepage of the website here and put your name and email in the subscription box on the right, we’ll send you a link with your free taster class 🙂 You can also get tons of free tuition from Helen via her youtube channel here.

I’m ready! I want to learn how to bellydance and I know that you are the one I want to learn from. What do I do now?

Congratulations on deciding to learn how to bellydance! I’m honoured that you have chosen to do this with me.

To get you started, I have developed several different Courses and Programs to make sure that you get exactly what you need to start enjoying bellydancing quickly.

I highly recommend that you start with the Bellydance Essentials Course; it contains everything you need to master the basics of bellydance. If you already have bellydance experience, take a look at the three profiles below to see which one you fit.

  • You want to start learning bellydance with step-by-step, easy-to-follow, fun tuition. Our Bellydance Essentials course is for you
  • You have some years bellydance experience, either previously at SMBA or elsewhere. You need to be pulled and guided to the next level with high quality tuition. You need to be with others who share your commitment and passion for bellydance. You enjoy performing routines with the class and may even have undertaken a solo performance. One of our 3 month Shining Goddess programs is right for you: Improver  Intermediate  Advanced

I know which course I want to do. How and when can I get started?

Great! The first step to learning how to bellydance is to be decisive about joining a step-by-step course where you are guided through the moves at the right pace. If you have questions then we’re happy to answer them, just drop us an email at

Here’s what you need to do now: Go to the classes page and follow the links to the course or program that you would like to join, read through the description to check that you are suitable for the level (this is very important as we design each course according to your previous experience). Check the start date for the course and then follow the Pay Now button to secure your place on the course. Congratulations! You are now on your way to mastering bellydancing 🙂

How are you qualified to teach bellydance?

I have a bellydance teaching diploma from the International Dance Teachers Association, I’m also a graduate from the Hossam and Serena Ramzy Advanced Dancers Course for professional dancers. I’m also a qualified Fitness Pilates instructor.

I’d like to get going but I still have a couple of questions. Can I contact you?

Great, it sounds like you’re ready to bring out your feminine side by learning how to bellydance! The best way to contact me with any questions is by email, send your queries to I’d love to hear from you and walk you through anything that you’re not sure about.  I can’t wait to see you sparkling with confidence with your bellydancing. Let’s get going!

What do I wear?

This is a good question and an important one! We want you to feel amazing when you dance, so wear something that you feel good in and makes you feel fabulous. That said, wear something comfortable that you can move in easily (not jeans!); the kind of clothes that you would wear to a yoga or pilates class is fine. It’s useful to bring a scarf that you can tie round your hips. Many students are shy about wearing a jinggly coin belt to class, there’s no need! Lots of our students wear them in class and enjoy the feel and noise that you get from the moves. Here’s my video on what to bring to class

Am I too old to learn Bellydance?

No! Students of all ages attend bellydance classes and all classes have a mix of (adult) ages, shapes, sizes, heights, fitness levels etc. Though if you are in any doubt about your physical ability to attend the class then check with your doctor first.

I’m quite “cuddly” can I still learn bellydance with you?

(Yes, I really do get asked this question!) Everyone is welcome to our classes, there’s no such thing as being too old, too “curvy” or too  shy to come and give it a go. Anyone that say’s otherwise is talking utter … nonsense.

Will I get a chance to perform?

Yes! (though it’s not compulsory) All students once they get to Bellydance Essentials are offered a chance to perform in at least one sizable show a year. The ‘Summer Spectacular’ is held every July and Helen joins forces with Al Warner and Rachel Bennett to produce a student showcase with an audience of around 250 (friends, family and dancers). There are other opportunities for performing that arise throughout the year too, for example the SMBA ‘Summer Tour’ where all students learn the Summer Anthem routine and perform it at local events. Helen’s troupes, The Desert Diamonds and Desert Pearls, frequently perform at local and national events.