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.


  1. LOVE THIS! As dancer new to this area in the past 4 months, I was super intimidated coming here, but I have dived in and helped out where I can and people have been nice to introduce me to other dancers, and even to help me get past my crazy insane stage fright without my troupe from MO. Still not the greatest dancer, but I love it. I've loved the WA area thus far!

    1. I'm loving WA too, there's a lot of great things about the scene here, even if it takes a while to figure out!

  2. Tempest, I want to gently add something to your great statements on this. While volunteering should be genuine, be done out of true enjoyment (ideally), and anything in the dance community be conducted with professionalism and a good attitude, I wanted to add that it *is* possible to get oneself typecast as a behind-the-scenes person. I don't know if this is a virtue of my geographical location, but I would often find myself anxious about "not being at professional enough a level" for participation in a certain show (after having asked for a dance slot and been turned down, and/or having volunteered to assist with production as well)but then been consistently approached to help with production work. While that type of reaching out (hey, something I did behind the scenes must have stuck positively, kind of the exception to the rule based on what you described with performance!) was greatly flattering from other organizers, it let me to feel that I was still "not ready" and wasn't being given specifics on how to appear more professionally ready for future performance participation! You might see how this left me feeling frustrated. So while I totally agree with you, there's this other side of it that can leave you feeling a little stuck behind the scenes. I hope I don't get too much crap for this. =(

    1. Orange, I think AJ nailed it down belore - you need to speak up and say, "hey, I'm glad to help, but I would also like an opportunity to be in front as well - what does it take to make that happen." And if they are good people, they will be honest with you and provide that opportunity....otherwise, they may have other reasons for "keeping you in your place." - which given the area, wouldn't surprise me either.

  3. So true! There was an event in the next town over I wanted to dance in. I asked "Can I dance in this event?" and the organizer said "Sorry, not this time but I will remember you for next time." I didn't die from the rejection, and now she knows that I want to be involved in this sort of show in the future. And I will still be there in the audience, because I was planning to go anyway, but I decided to see if I could perform, too.

    Orange, if you keep getting passed up it seems like maybe you should ask either the event organizer or a trusted teacher/mentor if there's some area of your performance skills that you need to work on to be ready. It's another area where you need to ask rather than waiting to be told :) Good luck!

  4. In my family, it was do you want a monument, a medal or a chest to pin it on ;-)

  5. I've been doing the assured...sometimes you just get a nonresponse, too. So it goes.

  6. I have actually been the very first person ever to petition a "closed door" local organization for membership, as of last fall.