Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On the Sisterhood of Dance

I wrote the following post in February 2007.

I re-read it this morning and it still seems relevant. Mind you, this particular post was not inspired by anyone in particular, but was the build up of a "slow burn" so to speak, of things I had observed and thoughts I had in general. I've edited and dusted and brushed it off for public consumption. You're welcome.

This may annoy some of you, this may make you nod in agreement. What I *hope* it does, if anything, is make you (the generic you, obviously) think about your community and how you contribute to it.

I'm blessed that my community is filled with supportive and loving people.

Oh, I've always been opinionated. Shocking. I know.


On the "Sisterhood"

I've been ruminating on this. Being a professional dancer is a business. As a business, you have competition. How does this fit in with the "sisterhood"? It doesn't. Emotions have no place in making solid business decisions. You cannot judge people by their intentions, intentions are useless. You must judge people by their behavior. If their behavior is shady, so might their business practices. If I have a gig, that I have researched, worked on, juggled, scheduled, come to terms with, in other words, developed, and someone comes in and offers to dance for less? That's shady, unethical and even worse,   poor business practice that will ultimately sabotage the market for EVERYONE.

Consider this, in the Boston area, the going rate for a restaurant gig has been the same since what, 2005? In every other industry, prices have increased.
If nothing else, consider that even your mascara is more expensive, are you working for the same wage? or are you in effect working for, what, 25% less than you did 5 years ago?

If you have approached someone else's gig, and offered to dance for less than the dancer who regularly perfoms there, you are unprofessional. And you know what? That sort of stuff comes back to you.

If you teach without having learned anything about HOW to teach, about anatomy and how to protect your students until they are able to move themselves safely and are in to make yourself feel good, you are unprofessional and unethical, because you can HURT people.

If you don't wear a proper costume*,  you are unprofessional.

If you can't be bothered to take classes, workshops (or practice) to improve your technique, you will not get better and are at risk of isolating yourself from the rest of the dance community.

Note how I did not mention the "sisterhood".

Let us explore the "sisterhood".

My complaint is not with the "sisterhood", my complaint is with disingenuous behavior that some dancers engage in, then cry foul when they are called to task for it. My complaint is with the "student" who debuts professionally under her teacher's wing, then goes in and offers to dance for less, especially when she is aware that the teacher had been struggling with the manager who wanted to cut rates.

Going to a dance class where the teacher does not correct you is akin to say, mmmmmm, going to a class on how to jump from an airplane and having your instructor tell you after you have landed that you had to pull the parachute out at 2500 feet -v- at 250, because that might make you "feel bad"**.

If you are unable to provide constructive criticism, (this may lay more in the realm of teaching, because learning how to give constructive criticism, as well as WHEN to give it is just as important) tell someone that their dancing is technically good (note, I'm keeping it out of the subjective) when it is dangerous or bad technique, you are perpetuating bad dancing and are not a 'sister'.  There is NOTHING wrong with saying IF ASKED "I enjoy your musicality, I'm concerned the your not keeping your pelvis in neutral and that you may hurt your lower back, which would shorten how long you can dance."

If you tell someone that a costume is becoming, when it is not*** you are not a sister.

If you allow someone to perform with obvious pinning issues, underwear over belt, poorly adjusted so vitals are exposed, you are not a sister, or a friend.

If you spend your time knocking other dancers, styles or performances, you ARE NOT A SISTER!!!!

*that doesn't mean expensive, it means not showing off your genitalia and or secondary sexual characteristics. You want blunt? No pubic hair, boobs or crack.

**Of course, to most people dance isn't a matter of life or death, but c'mon, I'm exagerating to make the point.

***Straps are too long and make it look as if her boobs are around her waist, belt is too low and shows crack, she looks like a stump, or it in other ways does NOTHING to flatter her, you are not helping her.

Proffessional venues:
Show up on time.
Wear a decent costume (as defined above)
Bring music, not 5 cd's asking for a cut off each, take the time and burn your own sets. you will garner the gratitude of the dj and will not piss anyone off. Bring back ups.
Pin your costumes
If you have an equipment malfunction, do NOT storm off, gracefully accept a change in music if necessary, switch out the cd's, do what you need to do to keep the audience entertained. That's your job.

Dancer venues:
If you cannot follow that, don't go.
Clap and cheer for EVERYONE. This is where you can be a "sister" and help people to work on self esteem issues.
Don't poach other teachers students.
Appreciate the curvy dancer, the thin dancer, the alternative dancer, everyone who shows a love of the artform. You may not like who they are, but in this, they are indeed, your "sister".
Don't knock other styles. All styles have flavor and substance. While you might not appreciate the aesthetic, appreciate that someone took time and effort to put something out there in the universe that isn't negative. If you don't "get it" consider that this is YOUR lack and not that of the dancers.