Do you remember when you first saw belly dance? And I mean actual belly dance, not some Hollywoodization of it? Or perhaps you remember when you first started taking classes? In both instances, you knew that it was something special, and if you were anything like me, you couldn't get enough of it!
And then maybe life got in the way, you got busy, your promotion at work meant less free time, you had kids, and somehow belly dance started to get squeezed out a little. Oh, you still take your weekly class, and never miss an opportunity to perform yourself, but you just don't have time to pay attention to other dancers.
I hope you'll reconsider making it a priority.
It Supports the Arts
For some reason, in spite of how history has shown us how important any culture's art is, we have devalued it. I suspect it's because there isn't a lot of money in it, unless you happen to "make it big." Yet, WHY isn't there a lot of money in it? Because we have devalued it. If we as artists do not even bother to support each other, how can we expect anyone who doesn't understand how important art is to come around and start supporting it?
Imagine if the General Public actually started going to belly dance productions, like they do concerts or comedy shows? Are they not equally entertaining? Imagine if the videos going viral are beautiful performances by belly dancers instead of teenagers getting hit in their junk? Wouldn't that give us all a little more hope for humanity? We have the power to make it happen, but we have to be willing to do it first.
It Inspires You
It is so easy to get into a rut with our style, our drills, and our costuming. Yet, if we watched other dancers, we might discover a new way of interpreting an old song, or simply be touched by the sinuous movements and decide then and there to do more floorwork. Not everyone can make regular trips to Egypt or Turkey, or live somewhere like the Bay Area, but that doesn't mean we don't have masters in our own area, and it definitely doesn't mean we can't find them on-line. Instead of watching that beginner with an eye exclusively for support, try watching him or her for something you haven't learned. Nobody- NOBODY- is beyond learning, and it doesn't always come from Big Names. Perhaps her hip drops are mushy, but look at how she feels the music and lets it flow through her! And if you already subscribe to Sadie's YouTube channel, try clicking on some of the videos that pop up as suggestions. You already know you love Sadie. Get inspired by someone new, and share it.
It Shows You What Not to Do
Ok, so while Ii do encourage you to find something to learn from every performance, sometimes that lesson is to never, ever, ever do ____. One thing that I noticed a long time ago is that when a dancer clutches her sword, you immediately know it isn't sharp. Since then, I have always treated my sword like a weapon. I find it makes the performance much more engaging if I am under the impression that it is a dangerous object she is using to create a lovely dance. I recommend watching Marguerite, who really does use sharp swords.
Whatever it is you notice, don't just be critical, remember to practice the opposite. It is still inspiration.
You Find New Music
One of the reasons I started trying to always post the music titles whenever I post videos is because almost invariably, someone posts in the comments asking what music it is. I get in horrible ruts with my music, and sometimes when you just listen to a song, it doesn't do anything for you. But watch someone bring that music to life through dance, and suddenly it's your favorite song!
Oh, and don't be cheap. We would be lost without the talent of the musicians. Pay the buck to download the song. They have bills to pay.
You Want People to Support You
Have you ever had a gig and you were dancing for the sound guy and your mom? It hurts when you put so much time into your costume, picking out your music, and practicing, only to have nobody show up. Even if you're somebody who doesn't have to worry about that anymore, there was a time when you did have to convince your audience to show up.
Next time you have a dead audience, or an absent one, ask yourself when the last time was that you went to a performance that you were there solely as an audience member. If it has been too long, you need to change that.
Ultimately, by watching other belly dancers live and on YouTube, we help create more demand for belly dance. When there is more demand for belly dance, we get to dance more, and get paid better. When we get to dance more and get paid better, we help make the world a better place. And isn't that something we all want?