This weeks’ blog post was a request from my students and dear friend Kitt to write about networking with bellydancers. Read below:
“I have a blog request! I would love to read up on advice on how to network with other bellydancers in your area, and how to deal with the ones who don’t play nice in the sandbox!”-Kitt (Savannah, Georgia)
Great request Kitt! I am not sure about everyone else, but when I first moved to Orlando I had no idea who was who in the community, what events there were, all the studios, and etc… I was just a beginner and had no idea there were even belly dance communities! Now looking back, here are some ideas that have worked out wonderfully throughout the years (Orlando bellydancers can contact me as well anytime):
- 1. Attend or perform at local shows! What better way to find out who the local talent are and become a fan than by attending the shows in your area? Many of my friends in the community now are girls I watched perform, really loved their performances, and went up to afterwards to express my praise for their piece. The same has happened the other way around, where I have become friends with dancers who expressed their content with my piece and we kept the conversation going! Do not be shy backstage, mingle ladies, you have more in common than you realize!
- 2. Join the belly dance network via meet-up groups online. Many big cities have meet-ups, and it is the perfect way to find out about studio promo’s, upcoming workshops, shows, and ask questions.
- 3. Social Media is a fabulous way to meet dancers in your area and even around the world. You can sell/swap costumes, join a group, find out where dancers will be performing and much more. LIKE their pages, comment on videos that inspire you, and create a connection with those that resonate well with you.
- 4. Take classes at a local studio and introduce yourself to your classmates, don’t be shy! These women are there every week with you to do something they enjoy, so go up to them, laugh with them, and speak up when you have a question on something. You will be surprised with how many students will thank you for being brave enough to ask!
- 5. Go to venues that have belly dancers and watch the performance. Introduce yourself after watching their performance and ask for their card or FB name if you two hit it off.
- 6. Attend workshops! I can’t even begin to count how many dancers I have met by simply attending workshops. During lunch breaks don’t be afraid to approach someone and ask about what they do, where they come from,what they thought about that tough combo, or ask how long they have been dancing. You never know who you will meet at these things! Sponsors, instructors, students, vendors… these are all people who support the community.
As the digital era has made it super convenient to communicate online, it has been interesting to see how personal communication has suffered to some extent in general. Don’t be that person who hang with the same clic over and over at belly dance gatherings; talk, chatter, and speak up during belly dance shenanigans.
Dealing with Bad Apple Bellydancers
Just like in any family, there are always going to be a few bad apples in any Bellydance community, and that is something you will have to experience personally in order to figure out who those individuals are. The bad apples are part of your community, so you need to be mindful of that and not do anything to worsen the situation. One word of advice before I get into handling bad apples though, if you overhear a dancer gossiping that “so and so” is a bad apple, do NOT take their word on it. Always give bellydancers the benefit of the doubt (especially if you haven’t even met them), and see how you feel after YOU meet them.
There have been times where a dancer told me to stay away from another dancer because she was thought to be (in her eyes) as a deceitful or mean person and then I cross paths with said dancer one day and she is an absolute gem! Moral of the story, don’t believe all the gossip, make your own decisions as to who fits into your life.
Anywho, if you have a bad apple in your community the best thing to do is simply not pay any attention to them. It is better to act indifferent than be fake. If there is a dancer for example that I cannot stand for whatever personal issue we went through, I won’t be fake and try to act like we are besties online or in person, but I won’t be rude either. I simply pretend they aren’t there past anything after “hi”. If someone doesn’t jive with me, I won’t be mean, I simply will put my energy into meeting new friends and acquaintances. Don’t be that girl who rolls their eyes and makes it obvious to the community you do not like another dancer in public, simply focus on things that are positive in your life, not them.
It is better to stay classy than to say something rude to that person. I know it can be tough for some out there when the dancer they dislike is very popular in the community I assume, as they probably will see that person everywhere (all events, restaurant’s, online, etc…), but this is simply something you have to overcome and keep trucking along in your journey.
What if the Bad Apple is an event Organizer?
Sometimes it can be an event organizer that we dislike, either way, you have to at least be polite and say “hi”, and “thank you”, and take the workshops that help YOU grow instead of not attending because you simply don’t feel comfortable with the person. It is petty.
You can’t force others to be nice, sometimes there are individuals out there who simply want to make others miserable because they are miserable. For that reason I recommend you always be true to you. Do NOT have people you can’t stand on your social media, or your email list or etc…surround yourself with those you care about instead.
Hope this helped answer your question Kitt, and if you have any networking with bellydancers tips you would like to share please post your comments below!