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Leaving Space for Others Opinions

Thoughts while Attending IBCC 2012

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by Amara (Dr. Laura Osweiler)
posted July 2, 2012

While attending IBCC (the International Bellydance Conference of Canada), I attended several panels as an audience member. This essay is not a recap of their particular topics, rather a response to them. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the panelists’ experiences, stories, and positions, since they satisfied one of my biggest missions: to listen, acknowledge, and honor dancers’ agency. Although, for the majority of the time, the participants certainly showed respect for various positions put forth by other presenters and audience members, they did have a few moments of slippage.

Some were critical of others’ actions (not specific dancers but certain general acts) characterizing them as "wrong."

I have experienced these negative reactions repeatedly in the American/Canadian Middle Eastern dance community, both as instigator and target. I have found myself frustrated with the way in which a person is acting in a particular situation.

 In these moments, I find it challenging to remember that my responses are a reflection of my own belief systems, which may overlap, counter, or side-step someone else’s.

DiscussionAs a result of these interactions and reflections, I open space within myself for other perspectives. I also have been on the receiving end: positioned as that "disrespected other”.  In these situations, I am confronted head-on with the fact that not everyone shares my beliefs and missions. Instead of  defending my personal positions only, I work to use these opportunities to learn from and about the speaker and community.

During IBCC, but outside of the panels, I also participated in several casual discussions. Similar to the panelists, I not only learned about the speakers, but also from them. We did not discuss what or who is right or wrong. Instead, we each articulated, and in some cases, re-examined our own positions. We asked questions of each other in order to learn and understand the subject from a different perspective.

 It was during these times that I found each dancer negotiated and accommodated space within her own personal position for differences.

We did not feel the need to agree with everything someone was saying, but certainly to respect and admire her. What I missed in the panel discussions was contextualization, investigation, and framing of the numerous personal positions and statements.

I believe that one goal of an artist should be to understand: what are my stances and objectives? Additionally, where do these come from? Of course, one can learn this by taking time for self-reflection. However, by engaging with others (ask them how they view your work and their own) we are able to recognize how we participate in this amazing and complex world. By speaking about specifics and listening to other dancers’ perspectives, I hope we can learn that there is power in each position. You can certainly champion your own causes.

However, we need to acknowledge that people come from various circumstances, and therefore, may have different values from our own.

I believe that an amazing feature of the American Middle Eastern dance community is that it is filled with differences. What I ask of myself (and hopefully, of you) is to look at bigger pictures, placing ideas and acts into larger scopes, contexts, and social structures. We should open and cultivate spaces within our personal frameworks where we can hear, understand, and appreciate other people’s perspectives and needs.

We do not need to agree with someone else in order to recognize and respect them.

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   |       |    1 Comment

  1. No Gravatar
    Fayruz

    Jul 3, 2012 - 05:07:36

    Great article! This is a great reminder for us to keep an open mind about dance (approaches, styles, etc.), respecting other dancers and above all – that there’s room for everyone in the community. Sometimes I think this gets lost. 

    Thanks! 

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