Five ways to join a new belly dance community
If you’ve recently moved, then you know how hard it can be to join a new belly dance community. Relationships take time to build and the same is true when in comes to making friends with belly dancers. Don’t worry though, with a little bit of effort, you can feel at home again in the dance community.
As many of you know, I moved to France about six months ago. Things have been difficult and not only do I have to deal with a major overseas move, I also have to get used to cultural differences. As an American, a southern American no less, I am used to friendly faces and small talk almost everywhere I go. The French aren’t really into that (with some exceptions obviously), so making friends and joining communities is not really the easiest thing (plus I am a shy introvert). But I know that I have to stick with it, especially if I want to be a part of the belly dance community (I probably also need to stick with my French lessons). Coming from a super warm and welcoming belly dance community, I’ve had a little bit of culture shock. But with a little effort on my part, I think I am finally making some inroads.
Here are some tips that I think might be helpful to you if you’re joining a new belly dance community:
- Connect with dancers from your new community on social media. This can be done even before you move. In fact, before I moved to Montpellier, I found a dancer online who was willing to meet up with me while my husband and I were on a scouting trip to the area. She even helped us out by renting us our first apartment when we got here! We haven’t danced together yet, but I get the inside scoop from her on the local belly dance community.I’ve also searched for people who live in my new city on Facebook and sent out friend requests. While I haven’t talked to any of them in real life, hopefully just being their friend online will help them remember who I am and get to know me a little bit in case we do have the chance to meet in person. And until then, I make sure to like their status updates and comment where I can.
- Just go to events. One thing that really helps is just showing up. So what if you’re not invited to dance? They don’t know you, so why would they ask? But if you show up regularly, just as a guest, then people will start to remember your face. Since I’ve moved to Montpellier, I’ve been to a few shows and one big festival. Showing up shows that you’re interested in what people are offering and that you’re being supportive of the community.
- Don’t be afraid to be a student again. Or should I say, get over your ego and go to class. This one was a little difficult for me because I have been dancing for 11 years and have been performing semi-professionally for quite some time. But the truth is, I’m not some hot shot who doesn’t need classes anymore. For me, I don’t dance on my own unless I have classes or a deadline, so it’s great to have something on my schedule each week that sets aside time for dance. I feel humble to be a student again and I hope that my fellow students will start to see me as a friendly presence in the community. Plus just getting out and doing something, even if I don’t socialize much, helps me feel connected.
- Don’t rule anyone out yet. Now is not the time to play favorites and be picky and choosy about who you are going to take classes with, meet up with or potentially be friends with. Obviously, you want to steer clear of anyone who seems creepy or unethical, but when you first move somewhere there is no need to be snobby about who you’re going to associate with. The truth is that you don’t know who you’ll end up clicking with, so it doesn’t make any sense for you to rule anyone out before you actually get to know them.
- Accept all invitations. Obviously you won’t be able to go to everything, but if a dancer reaches out to you personally about an event she is planning, you should go. I was invited to come and try a class by another local dancer. I went and tried it, even though it wasn’t super convenient for me, mostly because she reached out to me personally. I wanted to show that I am open to being included in things and am willing to give things a try. While the class didn’t work out for me, I was able to show that I really cared and that I want to be a part of the community.
These tips so far are paying off for me, as I recently was invited to dance at an event coming up in December. I really didn’t think I would get to dance publicly at all until May when the big festival happens (which offers performance spots for workshop attendees). There is also a workshop in March that I am looking forward to trying. So my dance calendar is filling up again. I may not be gigging or teaching anymore, but I know that these things will take even more time. For now, I am ok just being a student and community member.
Have you recently moved? What helped you join your new belly dance community and how long did it take until you felt welcome?