Saturday, March 16, 2013

So what are you waiting for?

There were many sayings in the house I grew up in (that are still used today in fact, by my parents and brothers), and I'm sure they weren't specific to ours alone - perhaps you may even recognize a few. 
Such gems as:
-What? Do you have shares in the electric company? (in response to lights being left on in a room that wasn't being used)
-What do you want, a cookie or a medal? (after one of the kids sought out praise for something they were supposed to be doing anyway)

-What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation? (when one of the kids was late to a meal, dillydallying, etc)

Yes, I grew up in a family of smart asses: family gatherings are displays of wit, cunning, and fancy linguistics, and not for the faint of heart or overly sensitive. But for better or for worse, a lot of those sayings have come in handy (especially when paying the electric bill), and the last one I'd like to introduce in terms of bellydance community drama - or more specifically, the avoidance there of.

It comes down to being aware of some simple truths that EVERYONE should take to heart:
-Not everyone knows who you are, what you've done, and where you're going, nor does everyone know what your personal schedule is.
-Event promoters/producers rarely have the capacity to single out every person in their community and personally invite them to participate in the event, especially in large cities.  Nor does having a iron memory generally coming along with the ability to herd cats.

I'm a pretty well-known dancer.  I teach and perform on national and international levels, have been featured on more than half a dozen mass-produced DVDs, headlined major festivals all over the world, and have a pretty strong presence online.  Yet having moved numerous times in my life, particularly 3 major moves in the last 6 years, I don't expect the local community to automatically know who I am, what I do, and invite me to ALL THE THINGS.  Or have them know/realize that where I am now as a dancer/artist/teacher is completely different than where I was 6-7 years ago.  If I did expect all of these things, I'd have a pretty empty schedule, filled only by a ginormous ego. Yeah, no.

So I don't expect them to arrive on my doorstep with flowers and be all "OMG, famous dancer! come to my event!" Instead, when I see an event I'm interested in, I write the promoter, introduce myself, and see about getting involved.  If I had talked to them at a previous event where they suggested things for the next one, I don't wait to for them to remember our conversation 6 months later, find my card, and contact me.  Nope, instead, I'm pro-active, and I contact them in a timely manner.

I think too many dancers live so much in their own heads (and personal infamy) that they fail to realize that not everyone else is keeping track of their every movement, wish, and desire.  I've often heard "Oh, X slighted me by not inviting me to perform/teach at her/his event" where the truth is more like, X is up to their ears in producing said event that they failed to remember or was unable to follow through with contacting the dancer.  I have mad event producing skills, usually tackling what takes a team of people for other events, but there is no way in hell I'm going to remember everything and everyone.  And so I try and take that into consideration when working with other people. 

So what does this mean for you?  If you see a local event you're interested in, but didn't receive an engraved invitation to be a part of it, then get off your hipscarf and contact them.  There's no room left this year for performing or instructing?  See about volunteering or at least showing up to attend the event.  The best way to make a great and lasting impression is not performing at an event, it's being a helpful participant. Nearly every event can use one more pair of helping hands....and sometimes last-minute performance or vending or teaching slots open up. As a promoter myself, I'm more likely to make that extra step for someone if they show they really want to be part of a community and help out.  The folks who show up only to perform and then leave? Or didn't follow simple instructions? No thanks.  The gal who signs up for workshops and also offers to help clean up? Yeap, I want to talk to her.  There are 10 slots, but 20 amazing dancers? I will remember who showed up anyway, even though they didn't get a slot - or expect them to send me a note along the way.

It's not about putting up a front of being nice, it's about understanding the energy that it takes to make an event happen as well as putting the REAL YOU out there.  People who really want to be a part of things for the right reason will stand out.  The fakers and the divas? They fade away. 

Want real community?  Drop being so jaded and judgmental, deciding that everyone is out to get you/slight you (well, unless you ARE a total bitch, then yeah, maybe they are, or more specifically are avoiding your lame ass.) 

Don't miss out on great opportunities because your engraved invitation didn't arrive.  It takes courage to put yourself out there, but it's so worth it. 

Better than sitting at home with your ego any day.