Dina Accepts thanks, photo by Catherine Barros
Dina accepts appreciation
photo by Catherine Barros
Gilded Serpent presents...

Say Thank You!

Gracefully Accepting Compliments

by Chandani


According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of thank you is “a polite expression of one's gratitude.”

Unfortunately, gratitude is sometimes scarce when others give us compliments. If your boss gave you praise for a job well done, you wouldn’t turn around and say, “Well, I could have done it better (or faster)! Most likely, you would thank him and accept the compliment in good faith.

So, as Belly dancers, why do we feel the need to justify or even negate compliments about our performances and movements? Why do we dash away from giving the other person a gift of accepting their kind words?

Responding with a simple “Thank you!” should be rewarding to both parties. By receiving praise from another, you acknowledge that you did your job well. It should be a merry moment that enhances your spirit. You have an accomplishment that you should be proud to share, and the audience member offering you the compliment is acknowledging that your dance has touched something in the life of another.

The disappointing part about the conversations I have listed below is that the dancers were all professional dancers and teachers! They are not students new to performing and, as such, may not realize their potential. These dancers have students and fellow Belly dancers who look up to them and who were offering them genuine praise.

Too Modest for Her Own Good:

Compliment giver: “You really stole the show last night! Everyone loved your performance!”
Dancer: “Oh, please! It was nothing! Suzy’s dance was so much better than mine.”
“No really, you were great. It was such a joy to watch you perform.”
“Well people are just used to seeing me dance all the time.”
“But you reinvent yourself and are always striving to be a better dancer.”
“Americans really like poppy upbeat music and tend to get into it more. That’s why they like the performance.”

In the foregoing conversation, initially, the dancer comes across as being modest, but in the end, she finds excuses as to why people might have enjoyed watching her perform. Even then, she still did not believe that it was her hard work of practicing, stage presence, and mastery of technique that made people delighted to watch her dance. The unfortunate part about a conversation like this is that both parties may end up feeling unsettled. The person giving the compliment may feel like the dancer is uncomfortable receiving compliments; whereas, the dancer concluded by denying the affirmation, and consequently, ruined a genuine gift.

Shunning Positive Reinforcement

Compliment giver: “Loved your performance! You were stunning!”
Dancer: “Oh, well, …except for my veil getting caught on my costume, …and I almost tripped!”
“Really, I didn’t even notice that. You covered it really well. Looked flawless to me.”
“Yeah, but I just totally lost my rhythm after that. Definitely …not my best performance!”

In this conversation, the dancer completely dismisses the compliment. Essentially, the dancer told the compliment giver that the compliment is null and void since there was a mistake made during the performance. The dancer puts all the focus on the mistake instead of the over-all show. The disappointing aspect is that the dancer should feel proud of her self for covering a mistake so well that the audience didn’t even notice it. Reviewing a performance is best with a teacher or fellow Belly dancer after the show (in private) instead of bringing performance concerns to the attention of an audience member.

Outright rudeness

Compliment giver: “It’s lovely watching you practice and dance.”
Dancer: “Oh, jeez! Might be good a for a laugh!”

The third conversation is the most appalling. How do you respond to that comeback? The compliment giver had the same problem as in my two other examples. Just like the previous two scenarios, she was forced to find ways to justify her compliment to the dancer. Not only did the dancer put down the compliment but additionally, she turned the statement around as if the compliment giver had made a really bad joke! The reality is that the dancer really made a bad joke and put her performance down at the same time.

Giving compliments becomes frustrating when you constantly encounter negative feedback from dancers or anyone else. If someone has been nice enough to pay a compliment, a sincere “thank you” in return would be a thoughtful and dignified way to accept the praise without casting embarrassing negativity. Accepting praise by responding with gratitude gives mutual respect and shows the dance in a positive light. The art of expressing one’s gratitude may be difficult if there has been a personal history of insult and injury in the dancer’s life, but a professional has to move out of the past and get over it! Learning to accept kudos is an important aspect of being a performing dancer. Once the practice of saying “Thank you!” is achieved, it becomes rewarding to all parties involved—and to those standing nearby who may overhear!

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