If you look at movies or read biographies based on the lives of famous entertainers, one thing that stands out is that they all are compelled to perform and are true to who they are. Ray Charles was a good performer when he copied other people’s style. People definitely appreciated his talent, but he didn’t become a worldwide sensation until he found his own voice. Johnny Cash didn’t have a shot until he could sing a song in his own way that made him feel something. I could give endless examples of this: Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Gypsy Rose Lee, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Mozart, Beethoven, Salvatore Dali, Cezanne, Michelangelo, Hemingway, Shakespeare, Martha Graham, Gene Kelly, Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, W.C Fields, Rodney Dangerfield, Jimmy Cagney, Cate Blanchett…. When you look at that list, do you see ANYONE who reminds you of someone else? Or do they stand alone as someone unique? When you hear or see their work, you KNOW it’s theirs and no one else’s.
The only thing I really recommend, if you’re starting out in stand-up is to not try to copy anybody else. You can be influenced by people… but I never tried to be someone else. I always tried to be myself. And the reason people are successful is they’re unique.
There are many good performers out there who have a following and work regularly. There is nothing wrong with being good. In fact, that’s where most of us will end up if we work hard enough. However, if you are striving for greatness, you have to learn how to go with your flow. Why do you dance? How do you most like to do it? What moves you? What gets you in the zone where everything is working like magic? What excites you? What are you trying to express? If you can put your finger on that, you have an idea of how to go with your flow.
Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else. ~Judy Garland
When you are in the zone, things feel easy. They feel emotionally satisfying. They feel authentic. Some people tend to understand this intuitively and dance improvisationally and in the moment, but this is not enough. You have to have the skills to make it into something that the audience will appreciate too if your goal is to share it with an audience. While some people are famous for being personalities (like Edie Beale of Grey Gardens), most dancers want to be appreciated for more than their personality.
The moral of the story is, practice your skills. Learn how to dance effectively. When you are able to do that, invest in discovering what makes you tick. When you can share THAT with an audience, you are on your way to greatness.
Not all dancers have business acumen. On the real, most of us don’t. As Onca O’Leary says, “Many of us are artists who stumbled into the business world.” Fortunately, my mentor was also a great businesswoman and presented the ideas of etiquette and ethics as a unique opportunity to establish positive business relationships.
Dancer to Dancer Relations: Act Like You Have Some Sense
Watching other dancers – liaising with the locals
- Attend the events of other dancers. This creates a more successful community as a whole and establishes that dancers “bring in business”
- If it is convenient, tell the manager that you came specifically to see the dancer. Watch the show respectfully and clap when appropriate.
- If you know the dancer performing, say hello if you can.
- Do not pass out your business cards at another dancer’s venue. Do not solicit the staff for any reason besides refills on cocktails.
Performing with other dancers – the backstage shuffle
- Backstage areas vary widely from venue to venue, so be respectful of space and placement in the line-up.
- Be as unobtrusive as possible.
- Do not take up tons of space.
- Do not remain backstage after you are done dancing. Have a seat and enjoy the show.
- Wear a cover up.
- Underwear never hurt anybody. Wear some.
- Bring some extra safety pins, bobby pins, etc., to help out any dancers in need. If you are all set and ready, give another performer a hand getting herself together.
- Be a part of the team. It will go along way in establishing you as great to work with!
- Don’t take anything personally.
- Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
Playing nice with everyone makes for a fun experience for all!
And always remember Wheaton’s Law! It applies to everything in life.
For more from Nadira, click here. Reposted with permission from Nadira.
There seems to be a lot of merging of adult entertainment styles with belly dance these days. Burlesque and pole dancing are popular variations. I don’t have any problem with that, but don’t call it belly dance.
This isn’t an argument about whether or not each dance is a legitimate art form. This isn’t a debate about whether or not it takes talent to do them. It’s an observation that a folk dance rooted in the middle east that is traditionally performed by women for women, at weddings, as family entertainment does not belong in the same category. To mix adult entertainment with belly dance and call it “belly dance” strengthens the hootchie cootchie stereotypes.
For decades women have fought to get middle eastern dance accepted in cultural festivals, schools, churches, Girl Scout events, and other family friendly affairs. When the public sees a “belly dancing” show that includes semi-nudity, teasing, and suggestive movements, they don’t know that that is a different variety. They just know that it’s sexual, seductive, and may involve lots of men and tipping on the body.
If you engage in adult entertainment, please respect the work of those that have gone before you to educate the public. Please advertise your entertainment as being geared to ages 18+. Borrow heavily from belly dance if you like, but please don’t call it belly dance.
There has been a lot of attention this week on phoney online reviews. An associate of mine in a different field was just burned by one. I have been duped lots of times into buying books online that had all these glowing reviews only to find out that none of what was said was true at all. It’s even in the news that famous authors got caught writing positive reviews for their own products and slamming the competition. Obviously that is unethical, but how can you tell a fake online review from a real one?
I will give you some clues in a moment, but first let’s talk about what I mean by “fake.”
Fake is when you misrepresent who you are. If you are pretending to be a customer of a restaurant or a purchaser of a product and you’re not, your opinion is phoney.
Fake is when your opinion isn’t the truth. It’s something that is make up to make others feel a certain way. Whether you say you love something or hate something, if it’s not the truth, the review is a lie.
Fake also means repeating yourself over and over again with a different identity. If your opinion is the truth, but you make it look like it the opinion of ten people vs. one, you’re lying and your review is a fake.
Fake also means not telling the whole story. If you had a bad experience with a class, a product, or a service but you tell a one sided version, you’re being dishonest.
So, how do you spot the fake reviews?
Check Out The Profile
Most places require posters to create a profile. This often links all his or her reviews together. If the author has only posted one review, it could be a fake. If the author posts tons of reviews, it could be a tip that this is a paid reviewer and not an actual customer. Getting information about the poster can help you determine whether or not to give the opinion any weight.
Beware of Hyper Enthusiasm
Most products and services have pros and cons. Real reviewers will tell you both sides of the story. When I am looking at a product, I tend to throw out the most enthusiastic reports and the least enthusiastic reports feeling that the truth is somewhere in the middle because you can’t please everyone. Paid reviews also tend to be 5 stars. If there are only 5 star reviews, they may be paid reviews. The bottom line is, if a review sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Beware of the Rant
Rants are just as suspect for the same reason. You really can’t please everybody, but rarely is there a product or service that is just bad from start to finish. If you read a laundry list of horror, I would weigh it against the other reviews. If it doesn’t look consistent with what others are saying, I’d discount it as being from a disgruntled client, “friend” or competitor.
If it Sounds Like an Ad, It Probably Is
If a review sounds like professionally produced copy designed to make you love and buy the product or service, it probably is. People get paid good money to do this. They know what to say to push your buttons. There is nothing wrong with ads, but they shouldn’t masquerade as reviews.
Look at the Writing Style
People who spam a site with duplicate reviews (whether positive or negative) tend to use the same writing style. Look at the words, punctuation, and sentence length. If it feels like it has the same flow and tone, it’s probably a duplicate.
Pay Attention to Generalities
If a product is great or horrible, the reviewer should be able to tell you specifically why. If she can’t, maybe it’s because she isn’t a real customer. If it’s big on adjectives and small on content, the reviewer’s rating should be suspect.
Reviews Posted Around the Same Time
Let’s say a product or service gets a bunch of reviews during the same week in May that are all either positive or negative. What happened that week to make everyone sit up and pay attention? Is that because they had a sale? Or could it be that they decided to spam the site that week? Or they did a paid review campaign that guaranteed them X number of positive reviews? Or could it be that someone got angry that week? Reviews tend to trickle in. If they come around the same time, look at them with a wary eye.
There are Only A Few Reviews and They are All Fabulous
This goes back to the idea that you can’t please everyone. If you can find me a group of even 5 people who all agree that something is absolutely fantastic, I will die of shock. This doesn’t pass the sniff test. I have been burned by this one over and over on Amazon so I will look on other sites for someone who has something less enthusiastic to say because I feel like the truth is more likely to be found there. I may agree or disagree with it, but at least I will have a fair representation of the product or service.
All businesses rely on online reviews. The good and bad part about that is that anyone can post one. If the reviews are fake, the consumer may waste time and money on a product or service that doesn’t serve their needs. The short term boost in sales or reputation isn’t worth a dissatisfied customer in my opinion.
I strongly encourage dancers to share their honest opinions of products and services (mine included). The feedback is an awesome way to let the creator and potential customer know what you liked and didn’t like. The negative feedback can help us improve the product or understand our client better. The positive feedback helps us to feel appreciated and can help others decide to give us a chance. But when you lie or engage in unethical practices to either “help” or “punish” someone, it hurts the community as a whole because it undermines consumer confidence. Products and services should succeed or fail on their own merits. So, if you are posting reviews, tell the truth. If you are reading reviews to help you decide where to spend your money, read between the lines.
If you’ve checked out my book Beyond Moves, Combos and Choreography, you know that I am a fan of dance assessments. If you don’t know why you should do dance assessments, read on!
Studies show that people and organization that utilize assessments have many advantages:
* Improved performance (results)
* Improved learning (insight)
* Higher profitability
* Higher satisfaction (increased confidence, motivation and self-esteem)
* Increased sense of empowerment
Improved performance applies to both the teacher and the students. If the teacher assesses an entire class and sees that the majority of students did poorly on one area of the curriculum, that probably indicates that the responsibility lies with the teaching method NOT the students’ ability. This feedback can help the teacher to find new ways of imparting information that may be more effective. If an assessment shows that one student did poorly in a certain area, the feedback shows that that student needs more help in that specific area. As long as the teacher or student makes use of this feedback and makes changes to overcome the problem, both stand a better chance of improving their performance and getting the results that they want.
When a teacher uses a lesson plan over and over, she gets feedback from different sets of students. This feedback can be used to tweak the lesson plan to make it better and better. This means that each class gets an improved version of the class and should learn faster than the class before.
If the student is doing self-assessment, this helps to develop her analytical thinking that also helps learning take place faster. Assessment is a mental activity. Increased intellectual understanding of the dance can avoid a lot of trial and error. It can also increase creativity. Ideas aren’t random. They make sense. They can be paired with other things. They can be borrowed from different sources. Thinking is a valuable skill in dance, but is one that isn’t often utilized. By participating in assessment- even if it’s self-assessment- learning increases.
Higher profitability comes from a few different areas. The main one is that the teacher spends more time teaching and less time re-inventing the wheel, dealing with personality conflicts, resolving student complaints, and sorting out administrative difficulties. Because students are more motivated and progress quickly, there also tends to be an increase in new students who want the same things. So, while creating, implementing, evaluating, and improving assessments takes some time, the rewards are worth it for the teacher and the student.
Higher satisfaction just seems like a no brainer. When you’re reaching your goals and growing, you’re happy. You are able to use your skills in productive, artistic ways that are shared with other people. That joy spreads. Your self-esteem increases. You want to do more of what makes you happy. This just continues to cycle around and around. Even if you get an unfavorable assessment, the criteria is objective so it doesn’t feel like a personal slap in the face. It just appears like a well identified mountain to climb. Once that is done, there is a sense of achievement that isn’t the same as a vague compliment. Assessment is the difference between, “well done” and “You did X, Y, and Z!”
Increased Sense of Empowerment
If you are struggling with something that seems intangible, it can feel like you will never get it. When you are assessed against concrete criteria that other people are able to achieve, it helps you believe you can do it too. It decreases the sense that there is some mysterious quality to success that other people have and you don’t. When you reach your goals, you feel confident that you can reach the next one and the next one. You feel capable, confident. This can keep you going when you have a show that doesn’t go so well. You learn that mistakes can be overcome by changing something and that something is within your power. You are empowered to do whatever it is you want to do.
If you are not using assessments either as an instructor or student, I strongly encourage you to start. It will make a tremendous difference in so many ways. If you aren’t sure of what assessments are, check out my book. Every lesson plan, game, and exercise comes with an assessment that you can use to gauge progress or use as a template to create your own. Assessments are also covered in chapter one of the Belly Dance Trainer Certification Program.