I think it’s time we had a frank conversation about the Dark Side of belly dance. All of us pay tribute to idea of belly dance as a place of safety, understanding, and belonging. It’s true that it brings women together, overcomes prejudices, and levels the playing field for young, old, thin, fat, and everything in between. The truth of the matter is, there is a dark side too that is only talked about in whispers. Maybe we’re too afraid of looking like we’re not down with the sisterhood code if we acknowledge it, but it’s there.
A real sister is one who will tell it like it is, not stand by pretending that life is roses and shimmies. We all need someone who will honestly tell us, “Girl, you’re crazy is showing” when we need to hear it. We also need real sisters to lean on so that when it’s the other person being crazy, we have the perspective to see things as they are.
So let’s talk about what crazy looks like first so that you know when “It’s not me, it’s you.” If you are doing any of this, it’s you, girlfriend.
- Spreading stories about another dancer which are designed to hurt her reputation.
- Making people feel uncomfortable if they want to be friendly with someone you don’t like.
- Seeing other people’s progress or success as hurting you when in reality, a rising tide lifts all boats.
- Sitting out an event because you don’t want to see it succeed, you weren’t given a big enough part, or the greater glory will go to someone else.
- Making your students feel that going to someone else’s class or events is “disloyal.”
- Losing sleep over what someone else is doing.
- Constantly checking facebook and webpage updates to see what someone else is up to.
- Planning your wardrobe, appearances, events, or class schedule for the maximum disruption to another dancer’s life.
- Talking nonstop about how another dancer wronged you or held you back.
- Undercutting to get someone else’s, or perhaps everyone else’s, job.
- Choosing no benefit over something that would create mutual benefit.
If you are doing any of these things, it’s time to get a grip. Your crazy really is showing, and trust me when I tell you, anyone who is not drinking Kool-Aid can see it.
The problem is never someone else, and you aren’t going to get rid of the problem by putting someone else down. If you get rid of her, there will always be another cute, fit, young, talented dancer to take her place. Get yourself right and they will never feel like a threat to you.
So, what’s a girl to do when the other person is the bully and you’re the target? My advice is actually the same for you. Get yourself right and it won’t matter what they do. Your self-worth can’t be torn down by the uninformed opinion of someone else if you don’t give them that power. Your SELF-worth comes from you, after all. So claim it. Keep it, and it can never be taken from you.
Lies are a bit harder to overcome. They can have traction if spread with enough momentum and by enough people. However, everything has a way of coming out in the wash. Our work speaks for us. Do good work. Create a track record of good work. Be professional and polite at all times and people who are in touch with themselves will see the disparity and question the truth.
If your friends want to desert you for someone else, wish them well. That’s what a good friend does. She allows her friends to make choices for themselves that will make them happy. It’s okay. Sometimes people need a break. Sometimes we outgrow each other. People who no longer resonate with the same energy will clash anyway. So it’s for the best. The friends may come back or not, but friendship offered with an open hand is the only true kind. If you have to hold on by a leash, it’s not much of a friendship anyway, is it?
Don’t sit around complaining about it. Misery loves company. You can always find a girlfriend or two to cry, bash someone else, and tell you you’re right and the other person is wrong. A real girlfriend will hear you out and then tell you to get off your pity party and look to the future. The past is over. Nothing will change it. When you move forward with joy and anticipation, there is no room in your head or heart for hurt feelings. Have a good cry, then move on.
Whatever you do, don’t join the bully on the Dark Side of belly dance. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” Be that light. The community needs more of it.
A real sister acknowledges the human side of everyone and not just the fun, pretty, shiny stuff. What really makes the community a safe place is honesty, integrity, and self-discipline. It is up to each of us to demonstrate and claim that for ourselves. When each of us can be a good sister (by honestly calling our peers on their stuff, giving support, and policing ourselves), we will truly have the sisterhood we all are attracted to. There can be no real sisterhood until we have emotional safety for all, not just a superficial show of solidarity.