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Gracious Communications in Belly Dance and Beyond

Nizana El Rassan

How many of you are familiar with or remember Goofus and Gallant and Miss Manners? They address the ongoing need for gracious communications which seems even more important in the last few years with the increase in hiding behind the internet, Covid, politics, and several other causes. Communication involves more than just the words used; it also includes inflection, tone, facial expressions, body language, filters and even timing. How you say what you say comes across as much as the words or movements themselves, and is it really the message you are trying to send?

When you dance, you are communicating the interpretation of the music through your movement to the audience. It should be congruent with the meaning of the song, and the intention of the instruments. Otherwise, a mixed message comes across, can be confusing to the audience and not be the intent you had in mind. For example, some dancers are trying to look serious or sensual and come across looking angry or distant when the song is actually about longing and desire. That is unclear communication.

It is also important to be mindful about how you come across when communicated with regarding dancer information, calls for performances and other general discussions about the dance. You might have a question or may be trying to be helpful and educate someone and instead come across as condescending, rude or better than thou. Not too many people want to hear from those types. There is no need to be negative or critical towards others or stir the pot. That is poor communication. Everyone has their own personal opinions, styles, reasonings and perspectives. Disagreements should be handled without attacking or bullying, as life is dialectical and there can be more than one truth.

If your opinion is asked for, understand how to use constructive criticism when warranted. And of course, share recognition for a job well done! Kindness, helpful perspectives and understanding reflects better on you and makes for better communication than does snootiness and being “judgy.” Most dancers enjoy hearing positive responses to aspects of their performances, and from respected others, also are eager to hear constructive criticism on what they might do different next time to enhance their communication of the dance.

Event organizers are working towards ensuring they have all the information they need to put together a good show in a timely manner, so communication with them is important. If a short bio is asked for, a long paragraph or a page is not quite what they're looking for. They may be making posters or other event media with a posting timeline to meet, have space limitations or don’t want to have the emcee reading for half the show. More often than not, they also hold full-time jobs and have other things that are going on that they have to pay attention to. If they ask for information by a certain date, by all means, please get it to them by that date at the latest or let them know if you have an emergent delay. Meeting timelines early is appreciated instead of having to track people down as it is time-consuming if nothing else.

Then there's just your basic common courtesy of responding to information or an invitation, not the broad general invitations, necessarily, but especially the ones where you are reached out to individually. If you aren't able to make an event, then just politely decline, instead of ignoring it. Sometimes messages don't get through to people and then they wonder why they weren't invited. It's very helpful when you respond so organizers at least know that you got the invitation. You can be brief and honest in your response without going into detail or making things up. Posting the event that you’re going to instead isn’t necessary. A simple “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to make it, but thank you” is a sufficient and kind response.

Gracious communication involves active listening, matching the intent of what you or the music is saying, connection and empathy with others and the fostering of positivity whenever possible instead of causing confusion, communication breakdowns, arguments or mis-intentions. Speaking and dancing means having compassion and holding space when communicating- whether sharing information, helping others learn, expressing the meaning of the dance or engaging in conversations, and makes for a better place overall.

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