Have you ever run across the statement that we, as bellydancers who take and offer workshops, are just passing around the same couple-hundred bucks, endlessly? I didn't make that up, but can't recall who said it first. It nonetheless has stayed with me. The point was that no one is really making money with this gambit; we just keep it in circulation, and our names in circulation as well.
Seems like just about everybody tries it, though, and the offerings are not all of the same caliber, by any means. I have taken workshops that were almost instantly forgettable, while others have planted seeds that are still flourishing.
How do you know what you are signing up for?
Word of mouth is the only honest guide here, because no one wants to discourage a workshop-giver who is doing her best. Even word of mouth isn't fully reliable, because you can't know why someone is boosting someone, unless you know the booster well. There are no standards. There is no accreditation.
This led to talk about certifications. Everybody who is anybody has made a structured format, and is offering training and certification in that format; there is now a bellydance paper chase. It has gone in tandem with the general requirement for formal training and certification in many types of jobs that did not have such a stipulation, just a few years ago.
Just a few years ago, bellydancers were known and respected for two things: what they could do as performers, and with whom they'd studied, a sort of apprenticeship in which prestige might be conferred by lineage, through a master. You did not teach unless your own teacher saw you as ready, perhaps beginning by asking you to sub in her own classes, or work under her eye. My own training was Fat Chance Belly Dance lineage, two degrees removed, before the format was locked in and certifications began to be offered.
In the early 2000's, when it all got off the ground, I was teaching and leading a troupe in the Chicago area. I used to compose and distribute an online newsletter with events, updates, links to other troupes, and musings. One topic was certifications, in which I saw both good and bad possible outcomes. I wavered about it for some time, not least because of the cost. Later, I committed; I hold several. I'm still not sure why I bought in. It did not make me a better dancer or teacher, never attracted students (most of whom have no idea how many styles and flavors of bellydance are out there), opened precisely no doors for me. The college for which I taught thriving dance classes refused to pick up the costs, not seeing a bellydancer's continuing professional education as necessary.
That's my history. There's plenty more, but I won't bore you with it.
I think we're reaching a certification plateau of sorts, in which those expensive papers will actually point to the same legitimacy-by-lineage that we used to get from years of sustained study with a master whose work we admired.
The question here is, does a certification amount to the same thing as coming up and being brought out under the tutelage of a master, as in a guild system? Are there standard for a knowledge/demonstrable ability base, and testing? Who sets those? It's early days for us in this regard; we're still emerging as a legitimate art form, with a lot of one-step-forward, two-steps-back. I might also point out that there is a lot of useless wheel spinning within the bellydance category as to who is more legit or authentic than whom.
I welcome your respectful, considered thoughts on this subject. Please remember, my dance does not invalidate your dance. There is room for us all.