Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to be Awesome

I have a feeling my blog schedule is probably going to be off for the next few months, as I have the Mutter Ball this weekend, Waking Persephone in less than 3 weeks, then Abraxas' Alchemy, IBCC, Tribal Fest, Tribal Revolution, and The Master Plan, so bear with me - stress and schedule cuts down on my writing inspiration.  But when a certain topic pops up several times in a week, I take it is a poke from the Universe to get writing.

And this week's topic is about being awesome - and by being awesome, I mean professional.  And by professional, I am not talking about having a certain number of gigs, years of experience, amount of money you're paid.  Nope, those things aren't really important in my book for defining "professional" nor do they determine the "awesome factor".

It all comes down to how you treat people on a daily basis.  You want to be awesome? You want to be professional? Here are the secrets to achieving it:

1. Everyone's time is valuable.  EVERYONE.  Students, teachers, costumers, photographers, musicians, everyone. I don't believe in arriving "fashionably late" and I try not to adhere to "bellydancer standard time." This is not an easy thing to accomplish, especially when traveling and dealing with new situations, and I will definitely vouch for the "shit happens" circumstances.  But that is not an excuse, and in this age, if a problem arises, it's very easy to text, email, or good old fashioned make a phone call.  It's not only good manners and common courtesy, it just makes sense. You make a better impression giving someone a head's up if you're going to late or not make it, then just showing up late or not at all.  Budget your time accordingly, plan ahead for the unexpected by cushioning in at least 15 minutes to your arrival time, and always have the contact info of whomever you are meeting with you.

2. Everyone is valuable. No one is above or below you. Becoming "popular" does not mean you treat "less-popular" people like they don't matter, or that you should spend all of your time up someone's ass who you deem more popular than yourself.  Here's the thing folks: popular is all eye of the beholder, and it's a brief and fleeting thing in the arts. And popularity does not automatically mean success, reliability, stability, nor a get-out-jail-free-for-being-a-diva pass.  Your dance mentor, your classmates, the instructor from the next town over, the newbie just taking their first class, the life-long hobbyist, the event producer, the vendor, the musician - all of these people should be treated with courtesy and attention.  Now, I know it's not easy to make everyone happy, especially all at once.  My typical experience walking into ANY size event is being greeted by a slew of people left and right - old friends, new folks, people I haven't seen in 5 years, someone who took a workshop 7 years ago, people you only know via twitter or facebook - and it's extremely difficult to divide your focus and give everyone equal attention all at once - and to top it off, I am actually an introvert - I shift gears into extrovert when I teach and dance, so dealing with large crowds of people in an informal setting is not easy for me.  But I still make an effort, and try to talk to everyone, even if it's just to say hello for a moment.  Even if it's someone I don't like/don't agree with/don't get along with, I believe in acknowledging them in a professional setting - whether it's just saying hello or holding the door if they need help or a safety pin.  It's not being fake, it's being an adult, and it's what I would do for anyone, whether I know them or not, whether I like them or not.  And remember two things: life is ever-changing and everyone looks different without make-up.

3. Treat yourself as valuable. By being courteous, I don't mean be a doormat.  Rule #1 and Rule #2 don't just apply to how you treat everyone else, they apply to YOU as well.  If you want other people to respect you, you need to respect yourself.  This does not mean act like a diva-bitch nor suck up to everyone around you.  It means know your boundaries, know when to say no (and say it with grace), and don't fall for the "good exposure" when it means respecting your time and value. This also means be good to your body (eat right, sleep right, take care of yourself), be as organized as you can be to help keep you on time and prepared, and focus on having positive self-image.  Be yourself, be good to yourself, and for the most part, you will get this in return.  Yes, there are assholes out there, but there will be less of them if you don't act like one yourself. :)

I promise if you follow these 3 Rules of Valuable Awesomeness, you too will achieve it!  So go forth, BE AWESOME!

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Concrete" vs "Abstract", Dance & Model Airplanes

So I have had some thoughts. (You're not surprised are you?) 

When it comes to dance workshops, it's really the difference of offering a click-together model airplane versus making one of those from bits of balsa wood, glue, and paint.  Some people just want to feel like they're assembling the parts, but not take the risk of messing it up. To have a very specific result, already packaged practically.  Others want to know how all of the parts come together, take the chance making a mess of it all, but at least no matter what, coming out in the end with a better understanding of the process.

Why this thought? I am in the midst of planning and implementing "The Master Plan" (and have been for the last several months). While I can't talk about "The Master Plan" just yet, I can talk a bit about the process and journey.  What it has required is a lot of research into business models, promotion, communication, productivity - as well as ways to maintain passion, creativity, etc.  And recently I have been thinking about the "concrete" vs. the "abstract" in terms of marketing and targeting - who is my audience? Who do I wish to attract?

But first back to those model airplanes.  One of my older brothers built a lot of model planes in his younger days.  Definitely not the most artistically gifted of the offspring, he still tried his best at building the planes from the most difficult kits.  They might not have been the most highly-crafted examples of model planes ever, but he kept at it, and it taught him about attention to detail, patience, craftsmanship, not to mention aerodynamics on a miniature scale.  And he didn't default back to the simpler kits just to get a quick end result that looked good.  He wanted the nitty gritty DIY, he wanted to learn, and that involved the struggle for getting it done the hard way.

Now back to dance. The marketing/business parts of my brain is fascinated by what people chose to take - what sponsors pick out of my two dozen+ offerings to have at events, what sells out lightning fast in one area, and slow in another. Some of them cover very specific, concrete subjects: aka, Gothic or Steampunk bellydance, floorwork, twists and turns, stage presence - others sound more abstract in title ("Essence of the Dance", "Museum Quality" etc), but have concrete results.  And while there is definitely overlap between who signs up for which workshops (especially since there are plenty of folks who sign up for whatever I'm offering regardless), I was pondering if there's a difference between those who are attracted to the neat concretely named workshops and those attracted to take the abstract-sounding ones.

And I think there is, to some extent.  I think some dancers want to learn their dance like those snap-together model airplanes. To learn some ready-made combos and choreography, go out there and perform them, and add it to their resume'.  Other dancers want to take the nitty-gritty approach.  They want to make the dance their own, figure out what makes it (and them) tick, how do the parts become the whole? How to customize it with their own style? Balsa-wood bits and all.

Now, there's a fair bit of generalization involved there, yes I know.  Concrete-sounding topics are often key opportunities to learn more about a specific subject, and the forever learning dancer will always take those if it piques their interest - they're up to expand their knowledge, try something new.  But I do wonder about a certain amount of fear factor involved with abstract topics.

So I'll ask you - what do you like to take? What piques your interest? What draws you to take a workshop or not? Why?