You've fallen in love with Belly Dance. It speaks to you. You've been inspired by a teacher & a community of dancers. You want to take it as far as possible, maybe be a professional, or a serious hobbyist who performs often. I am thankful for you. There's nothing I love more than to share this passion of mine with others who are motivated to learn. But so often I find myself licking the wounds of students who find their hopes dashed by the harsh realities of dance. I've personally licked my own share of wounds & would like to share the wisdom of my experience. This is geared towards the American dancer, but no doubt stands true for many other countries.
Let me say right here & now. Dance is NOT fair! ...And belly Dance is no different.
1. The rules of normal life, the cliches we see on memes, do not necessarily transfer to the laws of dance. "If you work hard you will achieve success" might be true in other life pursuits, but it doesn't mean a lot in dance. Hard work will be rewarded for some who also have other desirable dance assets, but for others, hard work needs to be for the love of dance only, not for the possibility of working or being chosen for a dance company or performance.
2. You will see dancers who have put in minimal effort rise to enviable heights. This is so frustrating for long time students who have put in blood, sweat & tears learning the intricacies of Belly Dance, only to see some young beautiful upstart come in for a few months & start being wooed into companies or hired for jobs. Stop trying to figure it all out. It is what it is, plain & simple, no complexities.
3. If your teacher said you can be any size, shape, & age to Belly Dance, she is telling the truth - if your desires are to enjoy the process of learning, form friendships, perform at haflas & amateur showcases. If you take the teacher's word to mean anyone can be successful as a professional or in demand Belly Dancer, you might be very disappointed & confused.
4. Yes, looks & youth can trump talent & experience. Belly Dance training may not even be necessary for some troupes to hire a dancer. There are professional Belly Dance companies who actively recruit jazz & contemporary dancers rather than look to the belly dance classes. They are looking for uniformity, beauty, youth & the ability to learn quickly.
5. You may be a whizz at learning choreography, & congratulations for a having a great skill! But often a student who feels they know a choreography really well, may not be executing the movements well at all. They often feel confused about why they may not be chosen for a company when they know the dance well. Knowing what step comes after what is only a small part. It's how you do the steps that counts more.
6. You may be the most reliable person in the world. You may always be at the beck & call of the director or teacher, to the point of even obsequiousness. Then why do you see the flakey dancers who are never on time, or generally give the director headaches, be chosen over you? Who cares if they are talented as hell, it's not fair! Well there you go, truer word was never spoken.
7. Or the flip side - you see the student who is a brown noser & you find it extremely annoying. She may even resent you or sabotage you because you are looking like a threat. You see her getting jobs she doesn't deserve, because she knows who to butter up. But - this one won't last, no need to fear. If you are good enough, she'll eventually be on the losing end of this scenario.
8. Competitions are subjective. They will never be fair, unless you're the winner.
9. The sleazy girl, who no dancer likes or respects, is getting good jobs. You know she's undercutting, she's being less than decorous & the rumors are flying. Yet she's on the hot list for the clubs & parties. Maddening, irritating, but chances are there's nothing you can do to change it.
10. You may be a victim of racism. Yes it is rampant, no matter how much we'd like to think otherwise. Your race or ethnicity alone might keep you from those coveted jobs.
11. If you are already a professional dancer, there will come a day when you dance better than you ever have. You will finally feel your dancing is the way you've always wanted it to be. On that day you will probably be too old. Suddenly the jobs start drying up & troupes stop asking for you to perform. Belly Dancers are a little more fortunate than others. A beautiful dancer who keeps herself in shape can easily last through her mid 40s. Even then, she will often be overlooked & replaced.
12. You are a respected teacher. You've paid your dues, you've got a lifetime of experience to share, but you can't get on that good workshop circuit. You see a dancer video go viral, sometimes warranted, sometimes not, & suddenly she's out there as a "master". You see teachers short on talent, but long on self promotion become a hot item for the name recognition. You may be deluding yourself about your abilities. You may not come across well in videos, or just never have anyone discover them. You may hate to promote yourself, suffering from a bit of "Tall Poppy" syndrome. You just can't get a break.
And this is where I leave it, because, yes even after close to 40 years making a living as a dancer, I have had my share of rejection. At different times I've been too skinny, too tall, too old, no name recognition, not attractive enough & the list goes on & on. Yes I still have dreams & goals for dance, but they may never materialize. And after all I've done it just doesn't seem fair. Point well taken.