Suhaila began her certification program in 1998. Students traveled to a workshop to learn 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.
To address the needs of the long-distance student, Suhaila’s first thought was to film the essential technique drills for VHS/DVD, which was the conventional recorded learning tool at that time. But even filming only the most critical material would take hours and hours of footage, and it was cost prohibitive to publish that much content.
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.
In 2007, Suhaila’s web team had 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 class room. 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. Documentary style films a live studio class in which the instructor is teaching to actual students in the room and not to the student watching the video. Students watching the video can see other students struggle and ask questions, and they can see the instructor responding to what is happening organically with that group of students in the room.
In the beginning of online classes, students had access to approximately 60 classes monthly with regular rotation. In 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. With the ability to offer more classes with faster loading speeds, all existing classes would be available in the catalog. Now students have access to well over 1000 hours of instruction in several levels with content added regularly.
Learn more about online classes in the links under Learn More on this page. There, you can also find links to learn more about the origins of Suhaila’s certification program and online institute.