Belly dance, jealousy and gossip

written by Sophia Ravennna on March 18, 2016 in General with 12 comments

Photo by Kiki Nelson

Sadly, it seems like many dance communities are currently operating on a scarcity mentality–too many performers and teachers, not enough gigs and students. This can not only lead to undercutting and other bad professional behavior, but to jealousy, which in turn inspires gossip. How can we combat this problem in our communities, both in person and online?

As always, the solution has to start from within. Before we can help others avoid jealousy and gossip, we have to avoid it ourselves! I know all too well how easy it is to fall into the trap of feeling that someone else has something that I want, and that I somehow deserve it more than they do. It took me a while to train myself out of that attitude, and it still crops up on bad days.

When you start feeling jealous, ask yourself where the jealousy is coming from. Did you and that other dancer both try for the same thing (promotion within the troupe, new restaurant gig, teaching at an event)? If so, keep in mind that just because you didn’t get it now doesn’t mean you won’t get it in the future, and being happy for the dancer who succeeded will go a long way to helping you succeed the next time around! If you’re jealous of another dancer’s skills, use it as motivation to hone your own skills. If you’re jealous of a new costume, or an event that a dancer can afford to go to and you can’t, use it as inspiration to save up for an indulgence of your own.

When the jealousy gets so bad that you want to tear the dancer down behind her back, stop and ask yourself what you really hope to accomplish. Yes, it feels good to vent, but are you venting in a constructive manner? It’s one thing to say to your partner or your best friend that you can’t believe that Princess Sparklepants is teaching at ANOTHER event while you keep getting turned down. It’s quite another thing to suggest to half the dancers in town that it only happened because she must have dirt on all the organizers.

Once you start to feel confident with your own more positive mindset, you can turn your attention to creating peace in your greater dance community. Start by combating jealousy. When a fellow dancer confides in you that she’s jealous of another dancer’s progress, possessions or opportunities, you can agree in a good-natured way that Princess Sparklepants sure does have it good, but then follow it up by leading the conversation in a positive direction. How can Princess Sparklepants’ success inspire their own success? You can use an example from your own past to show them how jealousy can be channeled into a force for good!

Gossip is a little harder to combat. I remember being one of the newest dancers in a room full of more established pros who were saying some really snarky things about a dancer from the next city over. I didn’t know how to handle it so I just sat there quietly, but now I really wish I had been brave enough to speak up and defend her, or at least ask them to change the subject!

So what do you do when gossip comes your way? It really depends on the situation. Here’s the three most common ones I’ve encountered, and a way to deflect them.

  1. A dancer comes to you, and only you, to complain about something another dancer did. Ask if the complaining dancer would like you to serve as a mediator to solve the problem. If they say no, they’re just looking to complain, say that you really don’t want to get involved.
  2. You’re in a group of dancers and they’re saying something bad about another dancer you know, who is not there to defend herself. Please, speak up in defense of your friend! Either point out that you know for a fact that she didn’t do what they said, or say that it sounds really out of character for her, and are they sure they weren’t misinterpreting the situation?
  3. You’re in a group of dancers and they’re saying something bad about a dancer you don’t know. You can’t defend her, because you don’t know her, so instead try to change the subject. Say, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about her while she’s not here,
    ” or if that feels too confrontational, just straight-up “randomly” change the subject. “Hey! What you’re saying about Princess Sparklepants reminds me, remember last time she was in town, we had that hafla and that tribal troupe had those amazing skirts? Does anyone remember where they said they got those?”

These tips only apply to malicious gossip. Sometimes there are valid reasons for conversations behind someone’s back, if the other dancers are giving each other warnings about dangerous, malicious, unethical or illegal behavior that they witnessed from a dancer or a member of the community. Sometimes you have to speak up about genuinely bad behavior to protect other dancers from a bad apple. The key is to be able to tell the difference between a warning and trash-talking.

Do you have your own methods of combating jealousy and gossip?

About Sophia Ravenna

Sophia Ravenna lives and dances in the Seattle, WA area. She has a special love for fan veils of all sizes, live music, and training intensives. When not dancing or blogging, she works in marketing, reads voraciously, and drinks copious amounts of tea.