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On Being Part of the Dance Community

by Nizana El Rassan The “belly dance” or MENAHT dance community means different things to different dancers, or sometimes there are different levels or types of community. For example, some consider a community “family,” while others consider it an opportunity to conduct business and yet others might see community as a way to enjoy friendships of like-minded individuals. Some communities are tight-knit, while others prefer a more casual and distant kind of relationship. There is the overarching community, and several smaller communities within that. Understanding that there are different connotations for what community means and realizing its variances depending on multiple factors, is a key piece of being part of dance communities.

Variances can include things like geographical location and distance, styles of dance, generational dancers, friendships, teachers’ influences, and access to all things dance. For example, a suburban location where dancers are able to spend more time together may provide opportunities to be close knit than dancers who are remote and rural and only see each other a few times a year. Or perhaps friendships or relationships may allow for a more close-knit community where some groups might be more exclusive and selective about who is invited into their community. Some communities have a narrow focus while others are more welcoming and inclusive to everyone.

Another key part of community is communication. Are you an active listener and really hearing what is being said? Are you thinking ahead about what you want to say next or are you listening to understand? Are you being clear in your communication in that your body language, tone and message are congruent? Is your communication timely and responsive, whether it is written or verbal? Do you engage in gossip? Do you ensure your words and delivery are culturally appropriate, thoughtful and truthful? Being mindful of what you say, how you come across and making others feel heard are good community builders.

Just like in other types of communities, dance communities can be as strong and diverse and as great to be a part of depending on what people choose to put into it. Being welcoming and inclusive builds community. Inviting others in, acknowledging them and cheering them on while they are performing like you do for your friends does, too. Observe beforehand and be sure a particular community is one you really want to be a part of. However, don’t just make assumptions, do some research, check it out and see if it’s a fit if you can. It needs to be reciprocal or at least appreciated when others reach out to include you in their community. Introduce yourself, join in and support events and workshops when you are able or invite others into your community; don’t just wait for invitations.

By being a good communicator, being mindful of your actions, and understanding the various types of communities and what it is you are looking for in a community, you can be a more successful community member, thereby leading to an overall better community. Think about what it is you want and what you have to offer. Whether it’s a smile, sharing a safety pin or presenting an inspirational performance, part of being in a good community is doing your part. When everyone does their part, it’s like a well-oiled machine. A good community is fun to be a part of; it’s uplifting and it’s reenergizing. I am glad to be part of the bigger dance community as well as some smaller communities, believe I have provided a welcoming community through Night in the Global Village online haflas, and I thank those who have made me feel welcome in their communities!

Nizana has long been involved in Middle Eastern Dance as a performer, instructor, student, troupe director, choreographer, event producer, and competition judge. Nizana's articles and reviews have been published in seven Belly Dance magazines and newsletters including Fanoos! Having studied with a wide variety of instructors, in addition to performing Egyptian flavored American Style Belly Dance, Nizana dabbles in folkloric and fusion styles. She is known for her expressiveness and connection to the audience. Nizana is available for instruction and has workshops scheduled in Florida and Washington State.

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