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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

The Belly Dance Community: Where Does It Fit in Your Life?

 

 

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Introduction

Many people new to belly dancing become excited about the sense of community that it offers. It may seem like an environment to find a sense of belonging. However, when drama and betrayal arise, people can feel disillusioned, as if the community had let them down.

Where does the belly dance community fit into our lives? Where should it fit? How do we balance the positive things it offers against some of the disappointments that can arise? I'd like to share my thoughts, based on my experience over three decades of being involved in belly dance myself.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixivision, Glendale, California.

Shira

 

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How I Think About "Community"

First, here's how I think about "community": As a child, I lived in a rural area. There were 100 people in my high school graduating class, and I knew every one of them well enough to greet them by name. I also knew them well enough to know whether I liked them or not, and why. I knew I belonged, and I knew how others around me fit into my world: some as close friends, some as adversaries, and most as acquaintances who were pleasant to be around even though I didn't know them well. This was my community.

What makes "community"? I think of it as being shared experience and knowing I belong. When growing up, my community was the shared experience of being rural, being surrounded by people I knew well enough to call by name, being able to walk into a room and see many others whose faces I recognized, etc. However, it is not a matter of liking every one of those people. In fact, I strongly disliked some. Even people I didn't like were part of my community and my shared experience. They belonged, too.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixivision, Glendale, California.

Shira

 

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How Does This Relate to Belly Dance?

Before I moved to California, I had already been taking belly dance classes for three years in two different states. At that point, belly dance was simply a thing I liked doing. It wasn't an important part of my life. I didn't need for it to be a source of community, because I had other ways of meeting people, making friends, and feeling I fit in somewhere.

Something changed, though, when I moved to California. I felt very, very alone at first. My efforts to meet people in my first few months there through my neighborhood, workplace, churches, and a local folk dance club didn't work for me. None of those attempts led me to an environment where I felt I belonged. So I decided to return to belly dancing classes.

Through belly dancing, I was able to build my personal California community. Belly dance students, enthusiasts, teachers, and vendors became "my people". The local vendor's shop became my hangout. The troupe I belonged to became my immediate circle of closest friends. What did we all have in common? We shared the experience of consuming a particular dance form together as a group.

That said, I observed that some members of this community were people I didn't like and didn't want to be around. I was cool with that. I already understood "community" as including both people I liked and people I didn't.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixivision, Glendale, California.

Shira

 

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Should We Have "Faith" in the Belly Dance Community?

I've never really had "faith" in the belly dance community because I've always believed that a particular shared experience was not sufficient to justify giving my love and trust to everybody involved in it. I didn't automatically assume that everyone who liked moving her/his skeleton the same way I did should be worthy of my friendship. My experiences with belly dance have been overwhelmingly positive, which is why I've stayed, but at the same time, I've always known that not all would be.

  • I have faith that each of us is involved in belly dance for our own reasons, and your reasons are likely to be different from mine.
  • I have faith that I'll enjoy spending time with people whose personalities and reasons for being there are compatible with mine. Not necessarily the same, but compatible.
  • I have faith that I'll enjoy surrounding myself with familiar faces at events and meeting awesome new people.
  • I have faith that I'll enjoy celebrating the shared experiences that bring us together.
  • I have faith sometimes I'll encounter people that I want to keep at a distance.
  • I have faith that once in a while, someone I liked and trusted will disappoint me.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixivision, Glendale, California.

Shira

 

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Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, we're a collection of people with a particular shared experience, but many different personal reasons for being there. I stay because of the overwhelming number of people I’ve met who bring joy to my life, and I accept the fact there will be some who don’t. I accept the fact that some will even be people I strongly dislike. It seems to work for me.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixivision, Glendale, California.

Shira

 

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