Building inclusive belly dance communities

written by Miriam on July 17, 2015 in General with one Comment

Building inclusive belly dance communitiesSounds like a great idea, right? “Inclusive Belly Dance Community.” Everyone doing “their thing” and supporting everyone else doing “their thing.” Everyone getting the exact same opportunities and support…easy peasy!

But wait…there are factors we can’t control in our environments, and not everyone has the same abilities and strengths, and not everyone wants the same thing from their experiences in belly dance. There are different styles and different philosophies that all fall under the broad term of belly dance. This is starting to sound like a lot of work….maybe we can just skip the community part, and be individuals off doing our own things.

Sure, sometimes, but as human beings we yearn for a connectiveness; we have a desire to feel as though we belong, as though we are part of something bigger than just ourselves. Beyond that, a sense of belonging (in a community) provides a certain level of comfort and security and this feeling of safety is a building block to self-esteem and self-acceptance, both of which are elements necessary for us to explore creatively and try concepts and ideas we may have.

OK, you’ve convinced me, building a community is a good idea. But let’s just do it with only people who are just like me, because that will be easier. 

Wait–remember that part about people having different strengths and abilities? Maybe it would be a good idea to have some folks involved in our community who have some different skill sets. After all, people with different backgrounds, skills, attitudes and experiences bring fresh ideas and perceptions, excel at filling different rolls with in a community, and harnessing these differences might actually strengthen our community. We’ll have folks who’s organizational skills mean they run great events, and we’ll have folks who have crazy awesome sewing skills who can make or teach how to make beautiful costumes, and we’ll have folks who have great historic knowledge about belly dance sharing that information, and folks who’s understanding of physiology makes them really great basics skills teachers, and that will leave everyone with time to dance!

OK, that sounds good…but I don’t like that style of belly dance, so when those dancers over there who dance in that style are in a show, I’m going to come after they are finished performing, or leave before they go on.

Hang on a second…if you were on the stage and they all got up and walked out, wouldn’t that feel lousy? Like you weren’t really part of that “bigger than just you” thing? Why would you do that to someone else? Just because it’s not your cup of tea doesn’t mean you can’t support those dancers and be polite. Those are elements of a strong community, and acceptance of one another and a strong foundation of common courtesy–you never have to take a class in that style, nor do you need to ever perform it – but at a community event where multiple styles are participating, you should be polite!

Fine, I’ll come on time and stay for the whole show. But if someone else has already advertised an event on a day I wanted to have an event, I’m having my event anyway–and some of those dancers who’s shows I stayed through better come to my event.

Hey, in an ideal world, we’d never have multiple events on the same day, but there are a limited number of dates that are good choices; weekends and evenings that don’t coincide with morning folks who have to get up for day jobs are at a premium. But we also have a limited number of people participating in local community events, and if you spread that pool of participants too thin, no one’s event succeeds. Very few people have the ability to pack their weekend full of running from a Saturday morning class, to an afternoon hafla, to an evening show, sleep for a few hours and then do it again on Sunday. If your local community calendar looks like that already, maybe it would be wise for you to plan your event on another weekend, or throw in with someone who’s event is already advertised. They might really appreciate the help! If you do have to push our event out more than a few weeks, you might even have to choose another theme–so the Christmas-themed event that you’d been thinking about doing becomes a “no more snow show” in early February. It will be JUST as fabulous, actually maybe even more so, since folks won’t have to choose between so many places to be that day.

So now I’m watching and supporting other dancers, and I’m being considerate about when I come and go and when I schedule my events. And I’ve purchased my most recent custom costume from a dancer I didn’t even know before–who sews like a goddess–and I even helped that newer dance teacher over there plan her first student halfa, and she helped me get much better fliers for my next show than I usually have…maybe there’s something to this “inclusive community” thing after all!

About Miriam

Miriam is Director and founding member of Anka Kusu. A troupe of musicians and dancers who perform Middle Eastern music and dance in a way that transports their audience to a place of long ago and far away. Miriam’s been studying Middle Eastern dance (aka: belly dance) since 2004 and teaching since 2010. She specializes in bringing the foundation movements of this beautiful dance form to everyone regardless of shape, size, or movement limitations.