Whether you dance for leisure or in a professional capacity, surrounding yourself with likeminded people who can help support you in your dancing is (in my world) essential. How boring would it be if you were all on your own with no-one to share your fun and excitement with, and equally your stress and worries. How you use your dance network will very much depend on where you are on your dance journey, but apart from giving you support, advice and saving you time and money, it’s also about having a laugh together.
I wrote an article about the importance of finding and benefitting from your dance network a couple of months ago, and the feedback from that was tremendous. I was even interviewed for a podcast afterwards, which you can listen to here.
Many told me I was ‘lucky’ to be both in my geographical location as well as professional position, but no matter where you are, you can find and build networks that suits you. And this doesn’t have to be restricted to world of dancing either.
Read my blog on How to find and benefit from your dance network.
I understand that it can be hard to find the right setting and group of supportive people, especially if you live somewhere remote, or your local dance community is very small. But I don’t think that should be an excuse for not having or building a dance network from which you as a dancer can gain both technique and inspiration, as well as build social bonds.
When I started dancing many moons ago, I had to travel abroad to find my networks, until I eventually started my own professional association in my home country of Denmark. Relocating to the UK meant I had to start again. In and around London there were lots of other dancers and events taking place – maybe even too many, as I found myself overwhelmed by the choice and drifting from one event and teacher to the next… Fast forward 15 years, and I’m now part of an international network of teachers, but also starting up a brand new performance, learning and networking event in London. I will soon share more information about that, so if you’re not already signed up to receive my email newsletter make sure to do so here.
If you’re new to dancing and only just finding your way, then I recommend doing some research to find events that may be happening near you. If you can’t find any, try contacting other dance teachers near you, who may be organising events, but maybe aren’t advertising them very widely. That happened to me after teaching for several years in my current area. One day I had an email from a teacher from a neighbouring town, who invited me to her Hafla, which she’d been hosting for years. An event and a small dance community that I wasn’t aware of, but that I then in return invited to come join all my gatherings too!
If there aren’t any dance events or groups near you, then you’ll have to look a bit further afield. Look for dance holidays and residential courses that would suit you. Sometimes, smaller is better, as it will allow you to make connections more easily. By booking somewhere abroad, you are more likely to learn lots of technique and get great dance inspiration, but not necessarily meet people you can make connections with for the long term. However, if you’ve been dancing for a while, this could be a good way to make international connections that could benefit your career too. How much you’ll benefit will really depend on where you are in your dance journey and how outgoing you are.
Online forums are also a great alternative, but more on that below.
Whether you’re a performer, teacher or both, your need for a supportive network doesn’t go away just because you start making a living out of dancing. On the contrary; having to run your own dance business often requires you to be the marketing manager, accountant, health and safety expert, bookings officer, administrator etc., so having people you can ask for advice will not only save you lots of time, but probably also money and frustrations.
However you need to find the right people that both know the industry and that you feel comfortable to ask and get advice from. I’ve previously made the mistake asking professionals in other fields for guidance, but because they didn’t understand the belly dance and arts scene, their reply wasn’t that beneficial. As my on understanding of the business side grew, I became better at finding the right people to ask, but also to accept that not all advice or people are equally helpful. So be prepared for growing a thick skin if you haven’t already got one.
That doesn’t mean you have to copy what everyone else does. Do innovate and try new things, but make sure that you still have people you can trust to bounce of ideas, without the fear of them stealing or sabotaging them for you. This is where an international network is great, as you may have more in common with a teacher in LA, than in the neighbouring borough. You may also get some great inspiration and advice by looking across other creative industries.
If you’re already associated with a school of dance, find someone senior within it that you can confide in and ask for advice. If not, have a look to see what networks and schools operate at a national and international level. I know an American dancer who is currently studying with the UK based JWAAD, which I’m also a part of, because she struggled to find any school near her that provided the same kind of in-depth teaching and training.
Although the internet can be really useful for this, nothing beats meeting people face to face. It’s very easy to hide behind glossy photos online, but by meeting in real life you can see their un-edited responses and decide who you feel comfortable taking advice from. Once that initial contact has been made, the internet can then be a great networking and learning tool.
Workshops are rarely ideal to meet new people and have constructive conversations. But you can always make the most of these too by grabbing a coffee or bite to eat with some of your fellow dancers, and that way create a little forum to discuss and learn from one another.
Festivals, where you have several days, and not least evenings and other free time to socialise, are much better. Both the JWAAD Summer School in Berkshire and Fantasia Festival in London, have non-dance events as part of their timetable that will allow you to network and discuss with other dancers.
Seminars are also becoming increasingly popular, and last years the Fantasia Festival, featured several with leading belly dance experts, discussing everything from ‘How to make a full time living out of bellydance’ to ‘How to know and play the rhythms used in bellydance’.
When I teach private dance lessons, many students also want to know more about the way I run my dance business, so 121s with your favourite professional dancer is also a good way of gaining and growing knowledge. However, you may want to consider finding a mentor instead of doing occasional 121s, in order to give yourself a handful of goals, dance as well as business related, that you can then work towards, and get inspired to achieve. Working with a mentor is a great way to make sure you are held accountable, and don’t just either move the goal post or drop your goal all together.
You can read more about working with me on a 121 level and my coaching and mentoring programmes here. I also offer this online, which brings us on to the next category of networks.
Sometimes you just can’t physically get to the events, or master teachers that you want, and then it’s all about finding the right places on the Internet to grow and develop your networks.
There are now quite a lot of these, and they can be a great for staying up to date with specific events, workshops, costuming etc. Unfortunately they can also quickly turn into a messy marketplace for all things commercial.
If you’re looking for a more exclusive and targeted virtual bellydance network, where you can feel comfortable to ask all those questions that are burning in the back of your head, whilst also being inspired to grow and learn from fellow dancers that are on a similar journey to you, then I’d like to invite you to join my Bellydance Mastermind Network. Think of it as a success dream team, that’s there to help you get to where you want to go – but a lot faster than if you had to do it on your own! You will need to answer a few questions when joining, so that the network can stay professional and focussed on helping you achieve your goals. Your answers will remain confidential and out of view for other members. You can sign up for free here.
I hope you found this article useful and that it will help you to either finding, developing or expand your own network, to help you grow your dance, business or other skills that you hope to develop.
There are obviously many other networks, both off and online, that are great places to knowledge share, so please leave me a comment below if you have anything to add, any other networks that you find useful, or any experiences you’ve had in regards to networking.
Happy dancing always – hopefully alongside a lot of other likeminded dancers 😉
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: Three tips to improve your dancing feet