Dance show etiquette…an opinion of course…

Over the years that I have been teaching belly dance, there have been so many variations on the idea of how to present belly dance to the community in fun and interesting ways.

I first saw it when my first teacher held a party at a then locally renowned shawarma restaurant and and had a few other teachers come out and show us newbies how it was done.   It was relaxed and we bought our food and enjoyed the show.

Other events that would happen to showcase belly dance, middle eastern dance and the fusion styles that have emerged have included back yard BBQs, restaurant shows at various places, and staged shows at legions, community centres and gyms, as well as professional theatres like the Bronson Centre and Carleton and Ottawa U theatres, etc.

At every event, there is a certain amount of nerves, and a certain flavour to each event as to how “serious” it is.  I think there are certain things that folks seem to be forgetting in the air of “community” based events.  Most of the folks attending these shows are already part of the larger community, so they are socializing and seeing people they don’t get to see all the time, and that’s great!

There is also an air of encouragement that is a HUGE part of belly dance shows – clapping, zagareets etc to add that special flavour to the evening. These shows and parties are fabulous and meant to support amazing artists and do just that!

And then there’s the other stuff. Many discussions take place on forums and opinions abound! And really, why should attending a belly dance show be that much different from attending the ballet or any professional performance event when it comes to audience behaviour…

Getting up in the middle of someone’s performance to go backstage cause you’ll be dancing soon….

Standing to take pictures of your friend and blocking the view of the people behind you.

Talking during a stage show. A restaurant show has a different feel to it and if you cannot see the dancer anyway, you will probably chat, but…

A new one: having your ipod/iphone on to text/tweet etc and the glow is so bright it shows up on the performance video later  {this is kinda funny to me, but I know it can be distracting to those sitting nearby}.

Shooting pics and video and putting them publicly online sans permission or worse, using Facebook, where once you post your stuff there, it’s theirs.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook and use it, but I no longer post photos there, especially my performance ones, as they would then own all of the rights and could license their use to anyone they choose and that is not cool, so I don’t feed the monster { I know, I am not a celebrity- it’s the point of the matter, not that it’s me} there is more to this and I hope someone can add something in the comments to make this issue even more clear to people.

I make an effort to respect people’s privacy by choosing an online system that allows me to control who sees the photos { usually only friends and family until I get permission to open them up for public consumption}, and I retain the rights for use of my photos.

I am not perfect in all of my choices [ youtube is always telling me I  am using copyrighted material in my clips [ this would be the music used for  dance performances, but at least they now are set up to encourage folks to buy the music right away via Itunes], so please understand that as I say in the title, this is opinion – and I wanna hear yours too!

moving on.

There are a lot of things that can be ignored, let slide, etc. at these shows, but one of the things to consider is that you are not alone in your living room and your behaviour can affect other people’s enjoyment of an event.  Another is to consider that many of the dancers at  the more “student ” based shows can get flustered by someone walking on the stage area while they are dancing, chatting up a storm in the audience, or if flashes are going off etc.

I know that we’ve moved to a place beyond the facade of the 50s family that has everyone pretending everything’s perfect, everyone’s polite, everyone’s nice when out in public.  And aren’t there times when being nice and kind and respectful should be the natural choice?

TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS!  Treat this as a way to enlighten in general, not berate in specific, please, I will be reading your posts…

4 thoughts on “Dance show etiquette…an opinion of course…

  1. Good advice…whether we wanna hear it or not, we’re all sometimes guilty of forgetting our manners in one way or another, and I’m no exception. After changing seats at intermission to escape some non-stop talkers last evening, I then surreptitiously snapped a couple of flash photos. It wasn’t done while blocking anyone’s view, but still a silly thing to do, since my camera is not suited for that type of distance, and was an unnecessary distraction during performance. As for posting photos, I’m soo guilty of having gotten a little too comfortable using facebook, and actually appreciate the reminder about privacy and possible misuse of images. Last nights’ show was wonderful; and as audience members, we all need to be more respectful and appreciative….lesson learned..

    1. Thanks for sharing Laura! I know that a lot of times folks just are having a good time and I want that to continue – so hopefully this will just be a small seed of awareness that can cross over into so many parts of our lives! I still have to work at keeping myself in check in so many situations 🙂

  2. Thanks Tracey for both the good advice and concern. I have worked backstage for many events and can attest to the distracting nature of some behaviour to the audience and the performers. Laura is right on re: flash cameras….and I too have found it hard to resist the temptation to snap photos!
    As a backstage assistant, I would like to add that performers can sometimes undermine each other. When waiting your turn in the spot light, it is very important to remember to be a little quieter. It’s difficult i know, but the performing dancers can often hear you, and so can the audience…so hang on to your nerves, smile beautifully and launch yourselves onto the stage for the scariest and more enjoyable moments of your life!
    The second topic I would like to address comes out of my experience organizing belly dance fundraising events over the last 10 years and is really more related to the act of ‘organizing’ events as opposed to distracting from those events :-). Back in the day, there were very few events but they have increased exponentially in the last 2 years. Organizing events is always a challenge, be they FUNdraisers or just-for-FUN and timing them is the first big challenge. Planning usually starts many months in advance of the performance date…sometimes as much as a year ahead. I understand that timing can be difficult, but I would appreciate it enormously if we could all work together on this issue…and then be able to turn our attention to the many other elements required to organize these events. There are several mechanisms to assure that we don’t time our events too close to each other. 1. Tracey is the best source. You all are reading her blog now! She is always willing to tell each of us if she has heard of a particular event, and the potential dates. 2. Checking the doCod website is another good source. 3. If all else fails, ask your dance teachers and dance buddies. Some events occur at the same time each year and are easy to avoid booking at the same time or weekend. e.g. For the Love of Dance, and the 2 annual Enan shows.
    I am not making this request lightly. The Ottawa region is a small community, and is not particularly wealthy. If we can keep our events spread out a bit, (I believe) everyone can come to as many events as they want, and the dance community as a whole has a better chance to flourish and expand. If we overlap each other, people will have to start to pick one event over another much more often, and may miss entertainment and educational opportunities they might otherwise have enjoyed.
    I recently re-read a press release I submitted back in 2006 about the nature of our dance community in Ottawa. I wrote about how impressed I was by our cooperativeness when compared to some other cities. I wrote about how well we all worked together and how much we had promoted our dance. We are so small compared to Toronto and Montreal, but we ROCK and we get along well, and we have more dancers and teachers than any small city could expect. I would really like to see this expansion, and cooperativeness, (and the learning opportunities!! ) continue and I think it will if we can ‘keep track’ of each others’ projects!
    By the way….MANY THANKS from all organizers to our enthusiastic supporters!!! We would be lost without you…and so would many of the wonderful teachers and charities who benefit. Catharine

  3. Good points Tracy. I know I’ve been guilty many a times of getting up. Often I am watching the show and I need to go back stage to check on my students. Othertimes it has been because it is late and a weeknight and have to leave early. In anycase I’ll try and be more discreet.
    Yeah and filming and posting on youtube and facebook is just plain disrespectful.
    Catharine, good points too. This year has been CRAZY with so many events all at the same time. This will undermind us all if we are not careful. Ottawa is not a big city and BDs are not so many…

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