“You are never a prophet in your homeland”…I first heard this wonderful quote back in 2009 when I met my soon to be mentor and close friend Hind. These words have always gotten me through when I have felt overly frustrated by certain aspects of the industry. Why, because these words are so incredibly true, and I will illustrate with a short rant below.
As belly dancers many of us know the importance of workshops and instruction and how it directly benefits our careers. Workshops are an exciting, educational, and fun experience where we can train with some of the best in the world and learn dazzling new techniques and exercises. We pay good money and support the community by going to these events.
I, like many of you who are reading this, have often dreamt of one day being a famous workshop instructor, traveling the world, and sharing my craft. It seems so glamorous; although I know now it is not for everyone and is not as glam as it might seem at first glance. All in all though, the notion of teaching a workshop as a star is a pretty cool dream if you’re not “famous”.
The reality is that because of the recession, the over saturation, the “overnight-event organizers” and other issues that plague the industry, being able to teach workshops is precisely that, a dream. Now before I get deep into my rant, let me just say there are amazing organizers/sponsors out there who need to be thanked for doing what they do, providing a positive experience for dancers, and taking the risk to put on these high cost festivals. So please do not take offense to my post, I merely want to bring an issue to light that is not often spoken about.
Due to the issues listed in the previous paragraph, the problem it has caused it that it makes it extremely difficult for an aspiring workshop pro to do several things:
1. It is Difficult to Be sponsored if you are not “famous”– there are so many events, everyone wants to make a profit and the overwhelming majority of events will hire the same rotation of huge names over and over. Where are the spaces for up and comers?
Now I can see why from a business standpoint hiring a non “famous” dancer is a larger risk, but how else will a dancer ever become famous or be able to prove their prowess if they are not sponsored? With risk comes reward. Some of the best dancers out there are unknown to the masses.
2. If you aspire to teach a workshop in your area, generally it is not a huge success- Why is that? I will tell you why, due to the same issues every community has encountered: local talent is taken for granted. Other dancers are used to seeing you all the time in your area, some may even be very jealous, others don’t want to spend the money to attend your workshop because it is close in date to yet another of the zillion events going on at the same time and they feel they can learn from you any other day since you live nearby.
Now I know I am going to hear a ton of comments saying this can’t be true, but it is. I see it all the time. Amazing dancers, spectacular actually, who do not do well in their area although they are known to be highly talented, but only get sponsored in other areas of the world and barely ever near their home.
I just heard it last week through the grapevine with a lovely dancer who was frustrated like me with this issue and is realizing what I mean by this blog. When can the “non-famous” catch a break? When can we be offered the opportunity to show our stuff without having to win a competition to do so? What do sponsors need to convince them to give up and comers more of a chance?
Let me know your thought below. I think many, many aspiring workshop pro’s out there would love some encouragement. I know I do lol!