We have some other issues in the belly dance "industry" that we struggle to deal with that increase the problem:
- We have the "nice factor", where most of us believe that everyone should be allowed to belly dance and that all art is valuable. No one wants the be the one who spoils the enjoyment of the majority of belly dancers who are hobbyists looking for something fun to do at the weekend.
- We have a respect for our elders, even when they are not our betters. In fact we tend to have a seesaw of skills in our industry - young dancers have the energy, then they develop skills..... as they hit their 30's and 40's their stagecraft improves but their energy drops.... and then the 50's and 60's is a time when the passion, storytelling and emotion is growing, but the technique and skills are fading.... Of course not everyone follows this seesaw, but many of us wish we could have the energy of a 19 year old and the wisdom of someone in their 70's. Every "age" of belly dancer values a slightly different set of skills, and can become jealous of the skills they see in others. Older dancers, and those who have been in the industry for many years, set the tone and expected norms for younger dancers coming in. If they have always eaten fried chicken in the changing rooms, new dancers are expected to accept grease stains on their costumes as a badge of honor.
- We are a young industry. While there have been belly dancers in the USA since the days of Vaudeville, it is still a "Clan" society. Many dancers only mix with dancers within their own city or dance style and will exclude and undervalue "outsiders" from discussions. If we want to raise the standards within the belly dance world, we have to pull everyone together and learn to work towards common aims.
- We have a money loop. There is very little money coming into our industry, but plenty moving around in the loop. What is the money loop ? - Dancer A buys a lesson from Dancer B, who buys a costume from Dancer C, who pays to see a show by Dancer D, who goes to a workshop by Dancer E, who buys a CD from Dancer A - and so the same $20 travels around the business of belly dance and everyone gets what they want, as long as they don't want to get rich.
The first class I produced for them is already live ' Event Hosts: Setting up expectations of changing room ethics" - its a free class and includes the flyer that I put up at events to explain the "rules" that I expect. Something as simple as putting up changing room rules can help prevent event drama and elevate the standards of expected behavior in a community.
I see The Belly Dance Business Academy as the perfect way for me to reach a wider world of belly dancers and continue with my passion - helping others to enjoy belly dance !
- Be upbeat, friendly and positive in all that you do. Smile at everyone, thank everyone, support everyone. Remember that there is a difference between being a nice person and being part of the "nice factor" problem. If you build a reputation as a person who is invested in the business of belly dance, others will take your suggestions about improvements as helpful hints.
- When you wear a "leader" badge, do so with pride. If you are a teacher, event host, blogger or touring artist, step up to that leadership role and don't be afraid to set up expectations and boundaries.
- Mix with dancers who are outside your "clan". Even if you can't attend the big events, follow the blogs, webinars, podcasts, buy books and magazines. Make friends with strangers and be open to new ideas.
- Promote others to help them make money. Even if you can't go to an event or afford the class/DVD/book... promote it to your class mates and social media contacts. If there is a fun show happening, ask around to see if any of your friends and family would like to join you. You don't have to be a full time sales person for belly dance Inc - but be aware of the money loop and help support your local and not so local community.
- Finally, every time you feel that moan coming on, be that in person or on social media, think about how you can turn it around into a positive call to action. Not enough students in your class? - Can you do a promotion, post a cool photo, ask your students to hand out flyers ? Whatever your problem, there is always a solution, we just have to look for them.
Thank you for listening to my "moan". With a little positivity and a whole lot of working together we can enjoy watching our industry continue to go from strength to strength.
Teacher Knows Best
Dealing with Difficult Students
I'm Perfect for Belly Dance (and so are you)
Or check out these Hub Blogs including:
"Your First Belly Dance Workshop"
The Top Ten Belly Dance Tunes for Performance"
"Finding a Great Belly Dance Teacher"
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
She has taught more than 5,000 belly dance classes, both in the UK and US. She now teaches in Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore in the SF bay area, as well as workshops world wide and on-line via the Belly Dance Business Academy. Her classes are known for their humor, detailed breakdowns and cultural context. Students who have studied with Sara have gone on to teach and perform in all styles of belly dance and many have made their living through performance or teaching.
Sara has written two books: “Teaching Belly Dance” "Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage", co- written with Dawn Devine, Alisha Westerfeld and Poppy Maya. Both are available through Amazon.