No man is an island – and no belly dancer should ever be without a great network of fellow dancers. Why? Because there’s so much strength, inspiration and fun to be had when exploring the art of belly dancing. It will not only make you a better dancer, but also a better teacher and marketer.
It’s no secret that I’ve just returned from the 27th JWAAD Summer School. I’ve been going for the past many year’s and each time it’s like coming home, because I now know so many of the lovely ladies that return on a regular basis. But there’s also always new faces, and not least amazing learning and inspiration to be had. I am a JWAAD teacher, but there are also many dancers there from other schools of belly dance, and the pure diversity is what really makes this residential festival of all things belly dance so special.
Despite the days being full on, I never sleep great when returning from Summer School, mainly because I have so many creative ideas and fire in my belly following the many workshops, performances and not least conversations with fellow dancers. It normally takes me several days to digest my learning and implement new dance, business and marketing ideas.
The networking is what really makes this event special, and following on from several conversations I’ve had at this year’s Summer School, it seems a lot of belly dancers don’t do just that; catch up with fellow dancers to discuss technique, business and everything in between. So why is that?
Time at weekend and intensive workshops is normally tight, so taking time out to also talk ‘shop’ can be difficult. The setting may also not be right. There may not be many ‘private’ corners, where you can catch up, as it can be very busy and rooms tightly packed.
But more than anything I get a sense that dancers don’t have these conversations out of fear for their competition. What if another dancer ‘steals’ your idea, your students and yes in effect your business? The truth is you can never safeguard yourself against that, and keeping your cards held close to your body may give you a sense of control, but you are likely to gain so much more if you share your experiences and plans with likeminded teachers and dancers. They may have some crucial experience that you can drawn upon, and help you cut corners and save time.
But it’s also good to know that others are in the same boat as you. Whether you’re a teacher or a performer, it can be a rather isolating job, so finding others to network with on everything from music sourcing and equipment, to marketing strategy can be hugely valuable.
The great thing about Summer School is that it’s residential and has performers and teachers from all over the UK and in fact the world attending, so you will have plenty of brains to pick that aren’t necessary to nearest local competition! But the fact that there’s time between workshops is also a big help. You may have discussions over dinner that will help you advertise your classes, and get new ideas for choreographies whilst shopping in the souk or seeing some of the many performances at the evening shows and socials.
When you then leave this world, where dancing and sequins have been the norm for 24 hours, it can be very sad. But the good thing is that you can return and submerge yourself in 24-hour belly dance (and lots of fun and madness too!) the following year. Most people return, and there’s a good reason for that.
If you can’t make it to the JWAAD Summer School, there may be other forums where you can start networking and pull on the knowledge, as well as support and fun, from other belly dancers. The JTA regularly hosts networking days for its teachers, but you could also put on your own event.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that great things can happen when likeminded people get their heads together. My highlights from this year’s summer school are many but include:
Have you been to Summer School and did you enjoy it? Do you do your belly dance networking at other festivals? Do you set up local events to network? Or do you prefer to run your dance business, whether as a teacher, performer or both, on your own and with no input from others in the industry? Please let me know by adding a comment below and keep the conversation and knowledge sharing going.
Happy shimmers always – the more done together, the louder we’ll be 🙂
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: Weight loss and belly dancing