Ask Yasmina #11:Inappropriate Audience Members, Competitive Teachers, Fickle Students
by Yasmina Ramzy
posted January 4, 2009
Question #1: How does one say "no" to inappropriate behaviour by audience members in a night club and not risk losing the regular gig in said night club?
Answer: Twenty minute special event Bellydance performance; $300. Regular weekly Night Club gig; $150. Self respect; PRICELESS. Disrespecting a Bellydancer; punishable by severe admonishment and dance artist quitting. Trying to please and appease those who already disrespect you leads to a miserable dead end. My advice is to say "NO" and give the inappropriately behaved person a good wack across the face. If your employer does not demand an apology from the rude audience member, then quit working in such an establishment that d oes not respect Bellydancers. That is what Samia Gamal would do. I used to perform for years in a beautiful Arab night club where the owner once threw a musician down the stairs for raising his voice at me. Needless to say, that musician later became a great friend who respected me. Demand nothing less. There are so many ways to make money without losing your dignity. If you can make money performing Bellydance while being a proponent of beautiful and appreciated art, perfect. If not, make money other ways and keep dancing where ever you are respected.
Question #2: I am a student of Bellydance for only one year. I am loving it and loving learning many styles from the different teachers in my city. However, some of them get bent out of shape when I mention another teacher’s name. Some even go so far as to tell me to stay away from other teachers for a variety of negative issues from bad dance technique to personal sex life. Isn’t Bellydance supposed to be about women supporting each other?
Answer: One would hope so. Unfortunately, as in all aspects of life, there are always a few with low self esteem or insecurity who find it necessary to belittle others in order to make themselves feel better. I think it is probably more polite not to talk about other teachers you are taking classes from when in the hospitality of one teacher. I also believe that any kind of teacher, especially a teacher of Bellydance has a responsibility to be an example of dignified human behaviour. If you have a choice of teachers in your area, then you may be better off choosing to stay away from such petty behaviour and not let your experience of Bellydance be soiled with negativity. Why do we learn any subject? Because we want to grow and improve our quality of life. There are so many ways to better oneself and certainly Bellydance is my favourite. Remember, becoming a more fulfilled and happier person is far more valuable than the perfect hip drop. As an aside, I never let my judgement of anyone be dictated by someone else’s opinion. I will wait to make my own judgement. If I had listened to every person and situation I was told to stay away from, I would have missed out on enjoying many wonderful people and great experiences.
Question #3: Please explain how to handle students who adore you the teacher in the beginning and then turn on you a year or two down the road.
Answer: I often wonder if this phenomena happens when teaching other performing arts as well. My theory as to why it happens in Bellydance is because of the powerful transformation that happens to students in so many layers of their life when they embark upon the Bellydance journey. A whole book could be written on this subject, but I will try to keep it short. Beyond the strengthening of appropriate muscles and the power to perform magic with them, the learning of Arab music and culture, and the dancing to inspiring choreography, a Bellydance student starts to awaken and discover latent issues about their sensuality and sexuality. When asked by their teacher to repeat a movement which was formerly known as taboo and then be congratulated when it is perfected rewires how a person views themselves and their relationship with the world around them. Ones relationship with their sexuality is integral to the very core of how one feels about themselves and their experience of life.
I also believe Bellydancers tap into an ancient archetype which is very empowering. Because of these factors, many students experience a sense of liberation which in return allows them a fearlessness about realizing dreams they would have formerly deemed impossible. Some students experience this liberation but their self esteem has not caught up with the process. When this happens, they tend not to own the experience and instead, project it onto you, the teacher, thus placing the teacher in an unrealistic saviour role. Then one day, usually after their second performance when the bliss of ignorance is destroyed, you the teacher become the horrible deliverer of reality. As a teacher, the more you can lead a student to the understanding that their world, the good and the bad, is created by themselves and they are the only one who controls it – not a Bellydance teacher – then they can hopefully take responsibility and enjoy owning their Bellydance experience, the good and the bad.
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