What You Don't Know Can Hurt You!

by Leyla Najma - Date: 2008-10-03 - Word Count: 903 Share This!

Within this last year I learned many things and I realized that teaching our students is a never ending job. In saying this I also realized that with all of the opportunities out there for dancers to perform that there a fundamental values that are being forgotten. Dance etiquette can't be put on the way side because than we have a bunch of dancers who think only of themselves. This I experienced in co-producing our show this year and when the light bulb went off, I was surprised to see that what you don't know can hurt you!

Solo performing is not easy and as I say to most of my students getting out on stage after a troupe has done a wonderful job takes invisible huevos. Most of my solo performers are very independent and they all have the self confidence to pull through any show with ease. But one thing was continually coming to my attention and to tell you the truth it was like being hit over the head time and time again. My solo performers were not the best team members when it came to participating in group events. I mean getting oneself together to go out an perform isn't too hard but when you work in a production and have to wait for your turn and you have to return phone calls and you have to go to rehearsals.......well these solo performers balked, whined and made up "poor" excuses as to why they couldn't do something when the rest of the crew could. I was in total shock with their egos and self important attitudes.

So this made me think of what happened to these dancers and why they felt they were separate  in responsibility from the rest of the performers. As a matter of fact the more I tried to figure this out.....well the more I got to scratching my head. First of all there is a self absorption going on that only allowed my solo performers to see what they were doing and to not even see what anyone else was doing. They were blinded by their own ritualistic habits of preparing themselves and expecting everyone else to do the same. But what didn't occur to these students is that in a production there are schedules with other people who have to work in different areas to make it all come together. Solo performers are use to the work being done for them except if they are producers themselves. Than I have to tell you that you will see some of the most well rounded dancers on the planet. Because anyone who produces shows and directs understands the process and they respect the efforts of everyone involved. A good group of people working together can move mountains. One solo performer who doesn't understand this only gets in the way.

I found I had to call my solo performers more, ask over and over again why something wasn't being done on time and why they didn't call to find out the schedule. The answer back was always the same," they weren't the only ones with phones!!" This got to me because towards the end of working on our production I found that it was easier working with actors or troupe performers. And I got taught a very good lesson on what I had failed to teach my students. To assume that our students understand appropriate etiquette after they leave us is a bit naive on our part. I had to unfortunately fire one of my students from the show and this was definitely a low point for me. I was totally in constant amazement with her condescending attitude and finger pointing. So from now on in my beginner classes we will have theater 101 along with etiquette and the art of working as a team. 

Now I'm not saying all solo performers are this way. My co-producer Rozana Al Jinan and myself came from old school learning. The best way we learned was to participate and watch the professional and seasoned dancers work their magic. And let me tell you......when you have talented dancers working together there is nothing more beautiful to watch.

On the other side of this coin is the experienced dancer who has performed for years who doesn't feel they have to do much of anything except to show up. These are the dancers who know better but feel their reputations precede them. As experienced dancers we have to remember our humility or we can get heads so big they don't fit through the door and they can wear thin on everyone else holding up their end. Who wants to hold up a big head, especially if it isn't yours? 

The false flatterer in a production can also get on your nerves. Usually my radar goes up with these people and I found that in co-producing this show that there was one person who was so ready to compliment us only to be the first to talk behind our backs. This particular actor was about as sincere as a heart attack. He complimented us on a Tuesday on what a fantastic show we were putting on and two days later on a Thursday he pulled out saying he couldn't be apart of our show. Moral of the story.......always have a plan B and we did!  

                                                                                                                          Remember there are always lessons to be learned no matter how long you have been dancing and the best part of all........is that there is always something to learn! 





Related Tags: theater, students, teacher, dance, stage, actors, team work, backstage, dance etiquette

Leyla Najma is a professional belly dancer with 26 years experience teaching and performing as well as writing articles recently published in "The Chronicles" Belly Dance Magazine

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