This happens all too often at our local belly dance events. We peek around the stage curtain and find many empty seats or the seats are taken by the show’s own performers. Some say, “We don’t advertise enough” and that’s why few are coming. Others say, “people are tired of seeing the same dancers or so many amateur dancers.” While others will complain about shows being too expensive. These are only a few among the many reasons why dancers choose not to attend local shows. The biggest reason, however, most dancers aren’t attending shows is that many feel they can get a better, more convenient viewing experience anytime, day or night, on their phones or desktops. Anyone can watch a top performer from the comfort of their couch, why would anyone spend three to four hours of their time and their money to go watch a live belly dance show, when they can watch the best, instantly, online? Here are a few reasons to get out and enjoy a show!
Good Reasons to Not Stay Home
Imagine Your Own Dance Community Without Any (or Few) Dance Opportunities
How might having few or no dance opportunities affect the dancers within your community? How would it affect you and your dance goals? Our dance communities will essentially die. Why? Because we are ALL performers and we ALL need places to perform. If it weren’t for small community dance shows, many of us early in our dance experience would not have opportunities to grow our skills. Performing is an integral part of our growth and development as belly dance artists and entertainers. We need them! What is a performance art without chances to work on our craft?
The Benefit of Community Can’t Be Overstated
Not only does our own dance suffer from lack of opportunities, the overall community also suffers by not having a place to physically come together to support one another on a regular basis. When the dance community is close-knit, there is a feeling of support and camaraderie that encourages us all to join together and move forward in the dance. We feel like we are a part of something greater than ourselves. When dancers feel isolated, not part of a community, that’s when they are likely to leave the dance entirely and choose a different activity where they feel they will meet more likeminded people. As you can imagine, this is not a healthy situation for the long-term health of our dance form. We need each other to foster an environment of growth for everyone.
It’s Always About Who You Know
If you are an aspiring performer, a professional dancer or teacher, dance events offer a great opportunity to network with your fellow artists. Why do you want to do this as often as you can? Because like it or not, we depend on others to get along in the dance world. Building strong, positive relationships and establishing yourself as a consistent community member is going to speak volumes to the rest of the community. It is going to demonstrate that you care and that you are willing to participate in the community. So, the next time someone needs a performer or a substitute teacher, the chances of them remembering you are much greater if they have seen you around recently. If you are always out of sight, you will likely be out of mind too. If you aren’t going to events for altruistic reasons at least go to network.
Before YouTube, There Was No Other Option
Dance shows, restaurants and events were the only places to see dance. You couldn’t just go online and watch, you had to show up to something. Since that time, there has been a huge decline in dance event attendance. Dancers aren’t coming to watch like they use to. This has caused many producers to stop putting on events altogether. Many producers were to the point of not just breaking even, but losing money to put these events on. Even small dance shows, where the producers weren’t expecting to make a profit, quit because not many dancers (who largely comprise our audience) come to watch other dancers.
The Pinnacle of Belly Dancing is in the Live Experience
While there are many benefits of being able to watch great performances and tutorials online, nothing viewed on a screen offers the same experience as being there, in person, in full view, during a live event. If you’ve ever recorded a performance for a friend and felt like you weren’t getting the whole experience by watching the performance through the phone or the tiny video camera viewfinder, it’s because you truly aren’t. Anyone who has seen their favourite band in concert would understand that listening to a band on a recording is nice, but not the same experience as a live concert. The live experience takes your enjoyment level way up.
That’s because online performances can’t provide us with a full sensory experience. We don’t feel the palpable excitement before the show. We don’t sense the real energy coming from the performer(s). We don’t experience the music in the same way as when it’s coming from a loudspeaker. We aren’t able to take in all of the visuals all around us. We are limited to a little box.
Are you Being Deceived?
Let’s face it, good and bad videos can be deceptive by making a poor dancer seem great or a great dancer seem boring. Video can hide a lot, good or bad. Some videos are well produced and can make a dancer look better than they actually are. The lighting can be bad or the wrong camera angle can make a dancer look awful. Seeing a dancer live will more accurately represent their performance and their ability. If you’ve ever watched a video of a dancer, then watched them live and felt that they were a completely different dancer, this is why.
We Have a Long Tradition of Watching and Learning from Live Performances
Besides being able to more fully enjoy a live performance, belly dance traditionally has been a watch and learn dance art. In the Near East, elements of the dance were passed down from grandparents to parents to children. In the early years, in the West, dancers would have to watch professionals dancers on stage to learn movements in hopes of assimilating the “feeling” of this foreign dance. Formal classes and curriculum are a rather new concept in our dance’s history. Dancers historically had to learn by watching. You can still do the same!
So, Sit down, Shut Up, and Learn Something
Many dancers have forgotten the value of this forgotten learning technique of watching other performers, but I would encourage you to keep this dance tradition alive. While performances are not a classroom, nor a workshop, you definitely can learn many invaluable lessons by watching other’s dance. Just like our dance forbearers did and like the dance was passed down through time. Watching performances is a low-cost educational opportunity, unlike any other. I’d say, it’s one of the BEST KEPT SECRETS. The best dancers know it’s not the same to see a video and they choose to go physically watch and glean all those little details you can only get from a live show. They are then more able recreate the ideal experience for their own performances.
While we usually don’t attend performances with the agenda to learn from them, we most certainly can… and should. Here’s how! Take the objective role of observer, not a judgemental role. Simply watch for the most obvious to the finest details. You can learn a lot about how you wish to present yourself, what to do and what not to do, by watching others with an observant eye.
It’s also the perfect place to gather ideas on costumes, music, movements, and how different dancers present themselves from their intro through to their exit. You can see what fashion and dance trends are happening in your local dance community as well as see what types of performances are the most entertaining to your local audiences. The best part is, for the amount of information you can gather to improve and educate yourself, its one of the lowest cost things you can do!
Don’t Miss the LIVE performances of Master Dancers
If you have never allowed yourself to experience what a sublime performance is really like, you won’t be able to recreate that experience in your own performances. Great performances are “felt,” not only seen. Renown performers have a reputation for producing nearly spiritual experiences, that inspire and deeply affect the audience. You don’t want to miss seeing the best of the best, having an opportunity to watch them closely and gleaning detailed information on how you too can create that soulful experience in your own performances.
Leaders Gotta Lead
If you are a professional dancer or teacher, nothing speaks louder to your students and those that look up to you, than your actions. If you don’t see the value in supporting the dance community by attending community events, your students and followers, may not either. While discouraging others to attend may not be your intention, I would encourage you to use your influence deliberately to inspire the best in others. Your attendance at events will send a clear message that the experience is valuable and worth doing. We all can find a million things to do on a Saturday night, reasons to stay home, or do something else. Making an effort to demonstrate the importance of supporting your community is worth it.
Being a pro dancer, teacher, event producer and studio owner myself, I can tell you, if you aren’t supporting events you are literally shooting your future self in the foot. Beyond any altruistic reasons for doing it, there are so many, very practical business reasons to support events other than your own. We already covered networking earlier in this article, but there are many more ways we benefit from these events and ways you can use events to build your business and reputation. Perhaps I will expound on that in another article.
Ways You Can Help Support Your Community Events
- Attend workshops
- Attend shows
- Help generate buzz by talking to dance friends/students/family about events. If you can’t go, maybe you could encourage someone else to
- Repost and share event posts on social media. Again this will help events get the word out and encourage more attendance
Make an Even Bigger Impact on Your Community
Consider hosting a show or event yourself. It doesn’t have to be big. You can start small. The impact you can make on other dancers, our dance community, and helping to educate the general public, can be great.
If hosting an event sounds like something you would like to do, it is highly suggested that you gain the advice of someone who has successfully done it. Do some research, see what is all involved, and put on the best, most organized show/event you can. Our communities need more great events and people that are passionately dedicated to furthering educational opportunities, cultural awareness, and providing good LIVE dance entertainment for the future of our communities.
[ Drum roll ] – The Most Important Reason is…
If you aren’t supporting those that are tangibly supporting our dance community, they will not be able to keep producing events for long, then where would we all be? …as dancers …as proponents of the art …as a community. A great majority of small community dance show producers and event sponsors are not doing it for the money. They do it because they love the art, want to offer opportunities to their students, and be a positive outlet within their dance communities.
While show sponsors are not usually doing it for the money, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need money to offset the work or expenses that are needed to produce an event. They still need butts in seats. Even the most altruistic and generous person can’t continue to lose money or spend a lot of time to produce a show without the support of dance community attendance. Sponsors need us as much as we need them.
If you truly do care about Oriental dance, and you want our dance to flourish then you really must do what you can to support it. That doesn’t mean you have to go to every show or workshop out there, but you really should make a point to regularly support what is happening around you, especially if you feel that its very existence feeds the greater community. Because if you aren’t regularly supporting these events, they won’t be around for you or anyone else to enjoy.