Monday, February 21, 2011

Assuming Makes...

When I think about the drama that occurs in the dance community (or probably any kind of niche community), at the root of most of it is failed communication: either miss-communication, lack of communication, or unfortunate gatherings of information that construe something other than the actual.  And if the people involved had just gotten the right information, actually asked some questions, clarified the details, or said something about a situation before it got out of hand, a lot of stress on a multitude of levels could have been avoided. 

You know that quirky little phrase, "When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me"? It's true.  How does one make an ass out of both parties?  Well, obviously the person doing the assuming is failing to get the correct information, and is often making poor choices that reflect that failing.  And in that process, they are creating a untrue persona about the person they are making the assumption about, and often spreading it, so other people will believe that assumption.  And when the truth is revealed (because it generally does work it's way out of the damage), there is much embarrassment to go around.

Now you could say, this is just going to happen when you get groups of women together, or creative/dramatic/theatrical people together - and there's nothing you can do about it -  that's just an excuse, it happens whenever you have humans interacting.  And if we can learn to cook food and use the toilet (and FLUSH it right?), then we can learn to interact more respectfully.  Yes? Yes.

Let's consider some things we can also do to help prevent assume-based drama:

Make Your Own Informed Decisions
It's easy to listen to gossip and the word on the street, it takes more effort to do some research, and even a touch of bravery to go against the grain and be objective until you can form your own opinion firsthand.  I've had people tell me that so-and-so is a mental nut-job, only to discover that the opposite is true - and vice versa.  And in some situations where I was warned, I did find some truth in it, but at least also exercised caution and usually uncovered more than what the grapevine said.  Everyone has their own personality quirks, preferences, and flow - what works for you, may not work for someone else. You could miss out on someone great and wonderful, just because that person didn't gel with your teacher or your friend.  Also, people do change over time.  It's best to leave the final judgment in your own hands, eyes, ears, brain, and be fair and objective until your own experience has happened.

Random Assorted Facts Do Not Make a Truth
"The two times I saw Barbetty dance, she only wore blue and did cabaret.  Therefore she hates the color red and tribal." Sound silly? Of course it is, but all the time I hear dancers stringing together random facts and coming to unfair conclusions that are equally as silly.  It happens ALL THE TIME. Think before you come to an assumed conclusion, and then spread it around as the Truth.  If you're unsure about something that is upsetting to you, take the time to first breathe, then PRIVATELY contact the person directly and get their side of the story.

Speak Up Before It Rots (or Everyone Knows But No One Does Anything About It)
In considering this blog topic, I have thought back on several situations where I didn't say something, and I should have.  One example is several years ago where another dancer had taken a bunch of my workshop descriptions, changed around the adjectives, and posted them as her own offerings on her website.  It was pretty obvious if you put them next to each other, not just a coincidence.  I flipped out, I raged, I vented to my friends, but I didn't address the person who did it.  Why? I would guess because I don't like confrontation via email and would have rather discussed it in person.  But by the time I finally saw her in person, I racked up such a long list of aggressions against her (undercutting a friend, inappropriate behavior, bad/unsafe instruction), that I just couldn't approach her without bristling with hostility.  She was a non-entity to me.  But looking back, maybe if I had said something (after I cooled down), I could have helped her out, directed her subsequent behavior within more professional constraints, and perhaps, the dance in general would have been better for it.  Or she could have told me to f'off.  Either way, I could have handled it better by addressing it, and could have prevented a lot of stress for myself.  So I now have a commitment to myself that I will speak up, as calmly as possible, and try to address problems before they get out of hand.

Consider this when dealing with students or inexperienced dancers who wander out of the standard protocol, or anyone actually.   You don't have to scold them like children, but you can address them like adults, and point out what may have gone wrong and how to fix it in the future.  Some people don't realize they're doing something wrong (and think they're doing it right), others think they can just get away with it and no one will call them on it.  Yes, some people are going to only pay lip service or be defensive, but I guarantee that most sane people really do hear it on a deeper level, and it will help in the long run.

And sooner is better than later.  Hearing "you ran over my toe in 1996 and didn't say sorry" doesn't do much good right now.

An Apology Is An Apology
"She said she was sorry, but I don't buy it."  Ever made a sincere apology to someone, and find out 5 years later they're still pissy about it, and spreading rumors?  I grew up in a Judeo-Christian household, went to Parochial school for 10 years, so I've heard all there is to hear about the concepts of sin and forgiveness.  For the last half of my life, I have followed a different spiritual path that focuses on intention and personal responsibility.  And I've come to the following conclusion: if someone says they're sorry, then it's your job to accept that, forgive them and move on.  It does NOT mean you have to be best buddies with them again, or even deal with them again in any sort of way, nor does it make it OK now what they did - but forgiveness is not just about them, it's about YOU too.  Yes, there's the part where someone does something bad to you, and you're mad at them for it, but there's also a part of you that is angry at yourself for letting them do it you.  By holding on to that anger for them, you're also holding on to that anger for yourself - therefore you're not healing, you're not growing, you're not getting the F over it. Be responsible, accept it, let go, and move on.  Learn and live.

Snark is Stress Relief, But You Gotta Do It Right
I'm not going to play saint here and pretend I'm godlike, pure, and wholesome always (just sometimes).  I believe snark is a healthy thing in the right setting, and I don't have an issue with sharing my opinion as tactfully as possible when asked.  I'm a Gemini - there is pretty much a running commentary going on in my head at all times.  The important thing is making smart choices about when and where to make that commentary vocal.  The privacy of your own home, car, private journal are generally good spots to relieve stress.  In class, at shows, in the dressing room, in a public bathroom, on youtube, in public forums are generally NOT good places. 

Remember, nobody's perfect, we all do and say stupid things at times, that we usually later regret.  But if we keep these things in mind, we really can make things better for ourselves and others - and spend more time dancing!


  1. good stuff! Thanks for posting...

  2. I read something in a Yoga Journal article on similar subjects that has always stuck with me. When you're fuming about some slight or injustice or piece of the past, ask yourself: "how would it hurt me to let go of this?" Chances are, it's hurting oneself more to hang on to whatever it is. A certain degree of pride is a good thing, but pride can all too easily turn on you and become a self-destructive force. It can be hard to let go, because it can feel like losing, but in the end, it's winning inner peace for oneself.

  3. Good points, especially those about snarking. The advent of Facebook etc makes it oh so much more likely that your comments will get back to the target, and the nature of gossip means that they will sound two million times worse by the time they get there!

  4. Well said! I like the section about about the random assorted facts do not make a truth. So often does that happen in large groups of women working so closely together!

    I have a similar article on my site called "Belly Dancers & Personality Conflicts: What To Do in Those Rare Times" that you may be interested in reading!

    Here's the link:

    Have a great day!
    Hugs and shimmies~Dilara