Mary Ellen Donald
published in Bellydancer Magazine in 1978 as part of an ongoing
column. This magazine was published by Yasmine Samra in Palo Alto,
or try to learn – you will annoy someone. If you do not – you
will annoy someone.” These words of wisdom from Sufi literature have been
a great comfort to me over the past year. I hope they will do
the same for you. Let me share with you what I’ve learned about
being a leader and you’ll see what I mean.
If you teach
(even a small class), direct a troupe, or sponsor guest artists
in workshops or shows, you are a leader.
you lead people, you take certain risks. One such risk is that
you teach or direct a troupe, your philosophy and personality
step forth for others to inspect. Often you are taking your dreams
and putting them on the line, asking others to help you realize
them. Sometimes you will find that some of your dreams should
remain just dreams, better not acted upon. Sometimes you will
seriously ask yourself if you are being too presumptuous in asking
others to realize your dreams. Don’t ponder this question for
too long because you will see that people will follow you only
as long as your dreams and theirs are compatible.
side of this risk of self-revelation is that when you give reality
to that which was simply an image in your brain, you can interact
with it, modify it, reject it, truly own it as yours, or grow
beyond it. Otherwise, if you hadn’t taken courage to give substance
to your image, it wouldn’t have had much impact on your life.
you’re the kind of person who wishes to please everyone, then
acting as a leader will bring definite challenges to you as you
struggle toward maturity. Of course, if you surround yourself
with a few always admiring followers, and lead on a small scale,
then you’ll probably get lots of gratification from hearing that
you’re pleasing everyone. When you venture further out into the
world, attempting to lead on a larger scale, you’ll be jolted
for sure. You’ll find some will spontaneously like you and others
dislike you. Some will rejoice at your every success, others
will envy every upward step you take. Still others will appreciate
what you do much of the time and disagree other times. Here’s
where Nasrudin’s wisdom comes in.
come to realize that to lead is to make judgments, to decide.
Every time you decide to put one dancer at the beginning of the
show, you’re deciding to put another farther along. When you
choose one musician’s rendition of a song, you’re excluding another
you call on one student to demonstrate a certain step in class,
at that moment you are eliminating every other student as demonstrators
of the step – and so on. Many who experience your decision as
a rejection will feel hurt, annoyed, or angered by you. Not easy
to take if you are wishing to please everyone. All you can do
is honor the principles and feelings that are important to you
and decide for or against people, activities, or ideas accordingly.
When you lead
people, you have to put a lot of energy into organizing. You
have to organize thoughts, images, goals, tasks, and help others
to organize such things for themselves. As one who finds great
pleasure in organizing things well, I’d like to share some of
my thoughts and observations with you about good organizing.
1. If you
take excessive pride in good organizing, you make yourself
extremely vulnerable to others. The slightest breakdown in your
plans can upset you terribly. You might feel (as I’ve often felt)
that one of the worst things someone could do was to mess up your
well-laid plans. I’ve softened my feelings in this area after
organizing several weeklong seminars involving hundreds of details
and many people.
learned with difficulty that I couldn’t program people to be like
robots – never getting sick, never having marital problems, never
having car trouble, never forgetting, never losing their cool.
I find that
now I just chuckle to myself after organizing something very tightly
and ask, “What will be the breakdowns in my plans today? What
might I have forgotten?”, knowing that whatever it is,
things will still work out okay. What I’ve learned is that the
best organizer is one who can be imaginative and adaptive when
things go wrong, rather than one who tensely pushes for the impossible,
expecting people to be more than human.
You won’t do very well if you organize in a rush.
have to organize the overall picture of what you will do. Then
you organize the next layer of details. Only after these details
are handled will you see the next layer that awaits you, and so
forth. You need time for these details to emerge while you can
still arrange to take care of them.
organizational plan can strangle the life out of what you are
doing if it is too rigid or too detailed.
have to find a workable balance between organizational skills
and confidence in your own spontaneity and that of others. For
example, what virtue is there in starting a workshop at the exact
minute that you claimed you would if two-thirds of your participants
are still having lunch? Or if a beautiful discussion is emerging
in a class, does it make sense to cut yourself off in mid-sentence
because you had promised to finish the class at four o’clock?
By no means am I saying that the opposite is true, that things
left to just flow on and on without any organization provide
the ultimate in human experience. I don’t believe that either.
I’d like to say that I think it takes lots of courage to lead
and organize people. It’s taken me a long time to learn some
of the lessons mentioned here. I hope you who are leaders are
learning these lessons without too much difficulty.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Ready for more?
5-27-05 The Rhythm and Reason SeriesArticle
2- Special Experiences by Mary Ellen Donald
The audience of mainly flamenco aficionados gave our Arabic Suite a clamorous response. This bringing together of bellydance and flamenco had begun as a flash of imagination in Cruz’ mind.
4-6-05 The Rhythm and Reason Series Article 1- Cymbals, Beyond Basics by Mary Ellen Donald
Each rhythm has a distinct arrangement of accents. If you are sure of where these accents come, you can bring a unique flavor to each section of your routine.
1-11-06 Return to India – This
Time it’s Personal! by Michelle and Sandra
thought that the misfortunes associated with our previous performance
tours of India were simply anomalies in the blissful and glamorous
world of dancing overseas.
The Dina Show!
Photos by Catherine Barros, Slideshow coding by Tammy Yee
sponsored by Little Egypt on May 28-30, 2005 at the Crowne Plaze
in Miami, Florida
Sirat Al-Ghawazi, Part
9 by Edwina Nearing
in the mid-1970's , the early sections of "Sirat Al-Ghawazi"
were first published under the title "The Mystery of the
Ghawazi." We are happy to be able to respond to the continued
demand for these articles by making them available to our readers
1-4-06 What You Can't Get From
Instructional Videos by Rebecca Firestone
able to withstand honest opinions is crucial. If one never communicates
directly with one's peers AS PEERS, that is, not as sycophantic
students, one can develop an insular and self-referential mindset
without ever realizing it.