Monday, 25 August 2014

The ecology of the bellydance community.

Why do you dance?

I have been writing a lot about pushing for improvement in your dance lately. I understand that although those posts are aimed at any dancer who wants to improve, whether they aspire to perform, or dance for their own satisfaction, I feel that a really important bunch of dancers are being overlooked, so this post is about/for them.

Our world is closed and mysterious to those on the outside, I try to do what I can to open our doors and let the general public see the awesomeness within, but most who are not part of it, are not aware of the richness and diversity of our members and their niches within the community.

I often get calls asking if my lessons are just for performers and the answer is absolutely not! If that were the case I would only ever teach private lessons, because there are just not that many aspiring bellydance stars about! More importantly I don't want that to be the case. I know from my experience, that of other dancers and from my own students, that learning to dance can be an awesome, transformative, healing and empowering process (the concept from where my Red Goddess course evolved). I want that to be available to everybody. I also know that the world of bellydance would not flourish as it does without a whole host of different kinds of contributors.

The lifeblood of the bellydance community.

The bellydance community is filled with all kinds of people, who dance or participate for all kinds of reasons, some are very immersed in the dance and community, some dip in and out as they will. We have:

  • Students who go to a regular class, for social reasons and/or exercise
  • Students who like (or aspire) to perform at haflas or in a student troupe
  • Students who have a healthy obsession with the dance and want to learn as much as possible and train hard to get as good as they can be.
  • Professional dancers, who may, or may not also teach.
  • Teachers and troupe directors.
  • Choreographers
  • Partners of dancers who support events 
  • Musicians
  • Vendors and costume makers
  • Events organisers
  • Techy people like DJs, lighting techs, photographers and videographers
  • Webmasters and forum moderators

And many more, I apologise if I have left you out!

All of these people working together is what makes our community so special. You don't have to get any more involved than simply doing the dancing you want to, but if you do want to immerse yourself in the world of bellydance, you don't need to be performing, or even dancing, to be a valued and loved member of our community.

Casual doesn't mean mediocre

One of the challenges I encounter when writing about dancers who dance as a hobby, or "just for fun" is avoiding the false implication that this is a "lesser" pursuit than taking on an ambitious training schedule or being a "serious" dancer.

The rewards of bellydance are not dependent upon your skill level, and although a greater commitment usually means greater rewards, the dancers who cannot put in an enormous amount of time are still having a valuable experience and make a valuable contribution.

There are many dancers who go to the same class every week for years and gradually become lovely dancers, but rarely, if ever, perform. There are dancers who begin with the intention of having a laugh with their mates for a term or so, then get hooked and throw themselves headlong into everything about the dance - they become mines of information about dance culture, Arabic music etc. There are dancers who become accomplished and will perform at the drop of a hat, but aren't interested in teaching, or performing professionally. Many of these become familiar faces and well-loved personalities in our circles. There is no "just" about it.

A heartfelt thanks

So I would like to honour the "casual" dancers and dance fans. The dancers who turn up regularly to lessons and book workshops - you are the ones that make these events possible. The students who sit on the door at haflas and take the money, or stage manage - your teacher/event organiser couldn't do it without you. The partners who drive us to events. The shy students who take the plunge and share a little of themselves on the hafla dance floor - you are an inspiration. The vendors who tirelessly seek out the best and shiniest baubles for us. All the people in this vast and beautiful community, I salute you.

If you are thinking about dipping your toe into bellydance, or are taking lessons and want to do more, but aren't sure whether there is a place for you - there is so much we have to offer you and you are very welcome to join us.

Penny from Everything Egyptian 
providing dancers at the Scarlet Lotus 2013 Glastonbury Hafla with lovely shiny things.

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