Above, a picture of my troupemates and I watching Skirt Full of Fire at a recent fundraiser. Not sure who the photographer is.
Being a supportive community member, and being supported by the community, is much on my mind lately. It stems partially from the shows I've attended lately (both as a performer and as an audience member), and partially from some discussions on FB started by Faizeh (who always has the best thought-provoking FB posts).
It's no secret that I love bellydance. I don't just enjoy performing, I also enjoy being in the audience. Watching a dancer leaves me with a silly grin plastered on my face, or wiping tears from my eyes. There are few things that have such an emotional impact on me. As such, I try to make sure that I attend shows that I am not dancing in, so that I can focus on just soaking in the performances without worrying about my own performance in the back of my mind.
With that in mind, it really surprises me sometimes to go to an event and see very few dancers in the audience. Now, I get it. It's hard to make every event, especially if you have to pay to get in, or it's on a work/school night, or it's in the next city over. But when I consistently see the same people in the audience, and never see others at any shows, even the free ones on weekends and holidays, I have to wonder.
Oh, people always have a whole host of excuses as to why they couldn't come to the show, and I'm sure many of them are valid reasons. But it's suspicious when someone can always clear their calendar to come out and perform, but never clear it to support others! If dance is really a passion for you, then doesn't watching others feed that passion at least as much as performing does?
I think all of us who perform, and those of us who are "just" students as well need to make more of an effort to go out and support our fellow dancers. There are so many ways to support the community:
-Treat yourself to tickets to the next Bellydance Superstars event.
-Make sure to see the bellydance troupe(s) that perform at your local Renaissance Faire, and tip them well!
-Attend a student showcase or recital. Don't you remember how hard it was to get on stage those first few times, how nervous you were, and how wonderful it was to see your "big sisters" in dance sitting in the front row and hear their cheers? It's time to pay it forward.
-Take a month off from performing at Open Stage and attend just as an audience member.
-Go out to dinner at a restaurant with dancers. Ask around in the community to see who performs where. Teach the people at the table next to you how to zaghareet.
-Go to a non-bellydance-specific event that a local dancer or troupe is participating in. Whether it's a street fair or fundraiser or art showcase, we do sometimes find ourselves at something other than a hafla, and it's nice for organizers to see that bellydancers can draw a crowd!
-Invite your friends, family, and co-workers to come to a show with you. Help them see why you love bellydance. I think for a new audience member, it's nice to have a dancer who they can pepper with questions (what does that noise mean? what are those things on her fingers? where did she get that costume?). As a bonus, once they see how awesome dance is, they're more likely to come to YOUR events and support YOU.
-If you genuinely don't have the time to attend an event, but you do have the money, why not sponsor someone else? Offer to buy a ticket for a fellow dancer who is struggling financially but would love to see the show.
-Also, just because you can't attend an event doesn't mean that you can't at least promote it on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog. Let your friends know why they should go out and see your fellow dancers.
With so many ways to be supportive, there's no excuse not to be. Get out there in the audience, and remember why you first fell in love with this dance.