Welcome to a brand new series on my blog! I’m still trying to think of a catchy title for it, but it’s going to be all about good citizenship of the belly dance community.
When a friend of mine suggested this topic, I jumped right on it. After all, I talk a lot about etiquette and ethics in the dance community. But oftentimes my advice is geared towards professionals, or towards online behavior. This series is going to be more geared towards the dedicated student, the perpetual amateur, who still wants to be an upstanding member of the community.
Today, I’d like to talk about something that can relate to your non-dance life as well… And that is to be a present and active participant in your community.
Good Citizenship Through Active Participation
The big part of this is… show up. Go to events you’re not performing at. Go to a class with a new teacher. Go to non-dance events hosted by your classmates.
But it’s not just about showing up. Once you’re there, you have to really be present. Put away the phone — after you’ve taken a few selfies, of course! But no checking Facebook, or SubTweeting about the rude person who keeps talking through the show.
Try talking to someone you don’t know. I know, I know, as an introvert, this is a real struggle for me! I always want to be like, the classroom ambassador and make the new students feel welcome, but I’m not actually good at starting conversations. Still! Sometimes I manage to break out of my awkward. Here are a few conversation starters:
“I love your necklace/dress/boots.”
“Is this your first belly dance class?”
“You look familiar! Did I see you at <other local event>?”
“Do you know any of the dancers who are performing tonight?”
“Hey did I hear you say you have a cat/dog/snake?”
You get bonus Good Belly Dance Citizenship points if you then introduce the new person to other people. I always love extraverted dancers who do this for me when I’m in a new group.
How to be Present in Class
There are specific ways you can be more actively present in class (and model good behavior for new students, too).
-Look at the teacher while they are talking, and nod when appropriate.
-Ask questions. You can even ask questions you already know the answer to, just to show other students that it’s OK to ask questions, or to get the teacher to share one of your favorite anecdotes.
-Smile and make eye contact with other students during breaks or when changing positions on the dance floor.
-Check in with new students before or after class, even just a simple “It’s good to see you again!” I know from experience with moving to new communities or taking classes at a new studio that it is easy to feel like an outsider when everyone else in class seems to know each other, so take a moment to make the newer people feel welcome. The same goes for people who have come back after an absence.
-If your teacher has a Facebook group for your class, make sure to occasionally like and comment in it, in order to be present even when you’re not physically present.
How to be Present at Shows
Live performances are a good opportunity to be an active community member, too.
-Be generous with your applause.
-Don’t talk during performances.
-Even if filming and photography are allowed… just don’t. Unless, of course, a friend has asked you to film their performance. But then put your phone away for the rest of the show.
-Engage the people around you in conversation during intermission or before and after the show. Which performances really spoke to them? What do they think of the venue? Have they seen <headline performer> dance before?
Good Citizenship Doesn’t Have to be Hard!
Those are just a few of my favorite easy (or only a little hard for introverts) ways to be a good citizen in the belly dance community. Please let me know some facets of this topic that you’d like to see covered in future posts!