About, FAQs, Certified Dancers, and CECs

In 1999, Suhaila Salimpour was the first to not only establish the first certification program in belly dance, but the most comprehensive program that guides students through five levels, 100 through 500.  Each level has two sections, and students progress through the program by certifying sequentially through each level and section.  Certification testing is the means used by the School to evaluate student understanding and application of important technique and concepts built cumulatively with progressions through the levels and sections.

In summer 2020, due to the Covid pandemic, Suhaila launched the Suhaila Salimpour Institute of Online Education to house the certification program and testing.  Now, instead of having to travel for in-person weeklong workshops, students can study and test from their own homes.  Visit the Institute section of this website to learn more, including upcoming semester schedules.

100 Level:  Fundamentals 1 and 2

Basics:  The Fundamentals of the Suhaila Format and Jamila Step Vocabulary Part 1

Fundamentals 1 (S1) starts with Suhaila format basics. Learn the necessary skills to develop physical strength and mind-body connection to continue through the program. This level represents Suhaila’s extensive formal training in the structured disciplines of Contemporary and Middle Eastern dance. Due to the unique nature of Suhaila’s format, all students, whether beginning or advanced, begin with Fundamentals 1.  In Fundamentals 2, students learn Jamila Salimpour Step Vocabulary basics including stylization and sentiment.

200 Level:  Foundations 1 and 2

Core Competence:  Building Skills and Jamila Step Vocabulary Part 2

Students continue developing muscle and body awareness while increasing the prevision, efficiency and movement fluidity. Layering concepts are introduced in the warm-up. Dancers begin integrating belly dance movements with dance movement and cymbals. Additional music theory, history and cultural elements are included. Choreography is introduced both as a training and testing tool. In Foundations 2, students continue their study of Jamila step families, movements, dance history, stylization, and cymbal patterns. Learning is promoted through technique, stylization, choreography, reading, and lecture.

300 Level:  Intermediate 1 and 2

Expanding Knowledge Technique

Students begin to combine several elements together.  In Intermediate 1, students focus on layering, emotional intent, choreography, and performance skills.  In Intermediate 2, students  learn to expand and layer the format in unlimited ways. Learning is promoted through technique, stylization, and choreography.

400 Level:  Performance 1 and 2

Performance and Advanced Technique

Performance 1 and 2 represent the most advanced training level in belly dance. Students increase technical abilities while working on advanced performance skills as applied to choreography and improvisation.  Performance 1 focuses on personalization in performance, and Performance 2 focuses on characterization using Jamila step vocabulary stylization and sentiment.

500 Level:  Teaching 1 and 2

Teaching Certification Preparation and Advanced Studies

Participants are guided through teaching skills, curriculum development, choreography, and more.  After achieving Teaching 1 and 2 certification, students are eligible for advanced studies which include licensing, Folkloric Fusion, choreography, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I study in the program long distance?

Definitely! The Suhaila Salimpour Institute of Online Education allows you to take courses and certify in your own home town.  Most of the dancers in the certification program are located outside of California, and many are located outside of the U.S.  Several tools have been developed (Online Classes, Training Plans, Study Guides, Instructional DVDs, Audio Download Training Tools and CDs, etc.) to help long-distance certification participants. In-person training is still available through attendance at workshops and classes.

The beginning courses, the 100 Level, include Fundamentals 1 and 2 training (formerly Suhaila Level 1 and Jamila Level 1).  The certifications for the 100 Level are available through in-person workshops and series as well as online; but the certification testing process for higher levels is handled through the Institute online courses.  While students can still attend live workshops to learn material for the higher levels of the program, testing preparation and certification testing is available exclusively through the online courses.

Why start with Fundamentals 1 (S1) and what will I learn?

I greatly enjoy teaching Fundamentals workshops and working with students from all over the world; each workshop brings together a different mix of dancers, and it’s exciting to work with the unique energy created by that mix.  Below are some of the commonly asked questions from dancers who are thinking about attending a Fundamentals workshop or online course.

What will I gain from coming to your workshops or taking your courses?

With dancers new to my format, I focus on strong technique and body posture as a fundamental base.  All students, regardless of their level, can benefit from a strong base to serve as their foundation no matter from what instructor they take and no matter what stylization they choose.  My format is based on a standard nomenclature of dance movements and concepts.  These days that doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary, but when I began teaching my format in the early 1980s, this was a revolutionary idea.   Things start to fall into place quite easily once you understand the basic elements of my format (posture, dance movement, specific muscular movement, timing, etc.)

How will learning your technique make me a better dancer?

Strong technique creates strong dancers.  My students learn to maintain a strong and healthy body posture while executing dance movements muscularly, effectively, and efficiently.  If your basic technique is strong, you have a base upon which to expand and have a greater ability to dance a variety of styles.  You can also extend your dance years as you are training safely to prevent injury, for endurance and longevity.

What is the best way to prepare?

I recommend that you research my format through my website and online classes (free trial available).   For those who want to prepare more fully, you can find a list of helpful hints on my website in the Certification Section.

If there was one thing you would like any workshop or course attendee to use from all the information given, what would it be?

Follow an artistic path. Let’s face it: the truth is that belly dance standards in some areas are not very high, and many people seek out belly dance as a means to become an entertainer because of those low standards.  It’s fine to want to entertain and perform in public.   But follow an artistic path with this dance to stay integral in your intent with this art form.

How do I get certification?

Testing for Fundamentals 1 and 2 is provided at the Salimpour School and at certification series and workshops around the world.  Online testing preparation and certification testing for all levels is also available.  The Salimpour School’s online classes, publications, audio download training tools, and instructional CDs/DVDs were developed to assist students with home practice towards testing and maintaining proficiency in both formats.

How do I maintain my certification?

Certification in a Salimpour level is valid for two years and may be extended by either testing for a higher level or completing the requisite number of Continuing Education Credit’s (CECs) with a renewal fee. More information about maintaining certification status can be found below.

I am a professional dancer.  Do I have to start with the fundamentals level (100 level)?

Regardless of previous experience, all students (without exception) begin with Fundamentals 1.  Fundamentals 1 outlines all the necessary elements of Suhaila’s format including posture, muscle isolation, music theory, nomenclature, etc.  The School uses certification testing as the method of determining whether a student has the required knowledge and/or abilities to proceed to the next level.  Dancers with more experience have the potential to move through the certification program much more quickly.

When can I get a teaching certificate?

Teaching Certification is the only level providing a certificate that authorizes a dancer to teach the Suhaila Salimpour format. All other certificates  are certificates of achievement within the Suhaila Salimpour School of Belly Dance that denote a dancer’s progress. When a dancer achieves a Suhaila Salimpour School of Belly Dance Teaching Certificate, they have received the highest quality of belly dance training available.

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Why Get Certified?

Reasons for certification are often as individual and unique as each of our students. But here are some of the most common reasons.

  • Train to be the best dancer you can be.
  • Demonstrate your commitment to preserving the highest level of quality in your art.
  • Empower yourself by reaching goals in a structured and creative environment.
  • Learn in a supportive, encouraging environment.
  • Take a proactive step to move forward and invest in your dance, personal, and/or professional development.
  • Receive a sense of personal accomplishment and achievement.
  • Learn about the dance with proper cultural understanding and placement.
  • Join a worldwide community of supportive dancers.
  • Learn body awareness and proper technique offered in a safe and structured format.
  • Progress in creativity and emotional development within a supportive, positive learning environment.
  • Build on knowledge gained in previous levels, as each subsequent level is part of a carefully crafted and consistent continuum of knowledge.
  • Learn choreography, improvisational and teaching skills.
  • Establish professional credentials and enhance your teaching resume.
  • Receive intelligent material for class curriculum and learn how to develop curriculum.
  • Develop as an artist, gaining the tools to anticipate and respond to change.
  • Create a continual and lifetime path for learning new things and developing skills.
  • Provide greater earning potential; the tremendous demand for Suhaila Salimpour format instruction is worldwide.
  • Suhaila has trained many of the great popular belly dance teachers working today!  Why not you?

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Certification Members and Memberships

Salimpour School students have the opportunity to progress by successfully completing testing for each level: Fundamentals, Foundations, Intermediate, Performance, and Teaching.  Certifications are valid from the date of recognition without expiration dependent upon paying monthly certification membership fees.  The fee is the same for every member regardless of level or number of certifications.

Continuing Education

The Salimpour School believes strongly in continued education for the development of our dancers.  After over two decade of running a thriving certification program, we know that the vast majority of our dancers feel the same.  Rather than continuing to track Continuing Education Credits (CECs) in a formal way through the School, we want students to establish their own training goals based on their needs and situation.  The School can focus energy on helping dancers meet their personal goals and in creating new content.  Dancers no longer have the requirement of submitting qualifying Continuing Education Credits (CECs) to maintain certification.

Licensed Instructor Tiers

Many of our certified dancers are teaching classes and have asked if there is a way they can officially license with the School even though they don’t have 500 level certification.  In response to that request, we are now offering three tiers of Licensed Instructors.  Not only does that allow more instructors to serve as official representatives of our School, but we can also highlight the achievements of each tier from Fundamental to Professional.  Contact the Certification Coordinator to learn more about becoming a licensed instructor.

Suhaila International, which houses the Salimpour School and the Suhaila Salimpour Institute of Online Education, advocates for integrity and authenticity in the teaching and performance of belly dance.  Instructors of the School promote these ideals through the following guiding principles:

  • Provision of a safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environment for students.
  • Developed lesson plans and sustained enrichment for their students.
  • Active participation in and promotion of Suhaila International programs including certification.
  • Responsible presentation of the art form when performing.
  • Continued education for themselves, including learning about the rich culture and music from which this dance derives.
  • Respect for and knowledge of the great dancers who contribute(d) to this dance with integrity and authenticity.

Fundamental Licensed Instructor

  • Licensed to teach Salimpour 100 Level content.  
  • Successful completion of:
    • Current certification level in 200 level or higher.
    • Fundamental Teaching Assistant Training course and licensing exam (T308b). 

Authorized to provide basic instruction for 100 level content on teaching move and step breakdowns; warmups; cooldowns; and combinations.  


Foundational Licensed Instructor

  • Licensed to teach Salimpour 100-200 Level content.
  • Successful completion of:
    • Current certification level in 200 level or higher
    • Fundamental Teaching Assistant Training course  (T308b).
    • Foundational Teaching Assistant Training course and licensing exam (T408b).
    • Performance Preparation 1 (P305b)

Authorized to provide basic instruction for 100-200 level content on teaching move and step breakdowns; warmups; cooldowns; and combinations.  Basic lesson plan development for 100-200 level content.


Professional Licensed Instructor

  • Licensed to teach Salimpour 100-200 Level content.
  • Eligible to offer certification workshops and series with School approval.
  • Successful completion of:
    • Current 500 level certification
    • 400 level that includes advanced technique and performance.  
    • 500 level professional instructor level training that explores in-depth lesson plan development for student enrichment.   This includes choreography breakdown, stylizations, overlapping themes, and more.

Authorized to provide basic instruction for 100-200 level content on teaching move and step breakdowns; warmups; cooldowns; and combinations.  Evolving lesson plan development for 100-200 level content including basic choreography and performance guidance.