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 1) Don’t take yourself too seriously

I have been performing in public for close to ten years now, and am continually surprised by how the audience responds to a male belly dancer.  That’s part of the fun, though, always being surprised.  The audience isn’t alone in their surprise, I am surprised myself to be a male belly dancer in Boise, ID

My dancing has been laughed at before, and although I had expected to be laughed at, by the time it actually happened, I had convinced myself that it was an unreasonable fear to have an audience member actually point and laugh at me.  Instead I was getting overwhelmingly positive feedback about my dancing.  It is Boise, ID, so quite often men feel the need to tell me that they aren’t gay before they tell me how much they appreciate my dance.  Whether they clarify that or not and regardless of their sexual orientation, it became clear my dancing wasn’t what they expected.  Before long we had a few men signing up for belly dance and I couldn’t believe I ever thought I was going to be laughed at. 

And then it happened.  Performing at an outdoor festival, just feet from my audience, I was being laughed at.  The audience member was literally pointing and laughing and yelling comments like “he’s trying to keep up with the ladies!”  She was laughing so hard it got other people laughing.  Even the other dancers were laughing.  Maybe they were laughing at the absurdity of the situation, but it felt like they were laughing at me.  At first I gave her a dirty look, a look that I thought said “I can hear you!”, but it did no good she kept right on laughing and pointing.  I had only been dancing a few years and even with all the positive feedback I mentioned I was still insecure about my dancing ability. 

I had been dancing long enough that I wasn’t going to stop just because somebody laughed, so I did what I should have done from the start, I laughed along with her.  It felt good.  As I laughed at myself I realized that I want to share joy with the audiences I dance for, and I was obviously bringing her great joy.  There was no reason for me to take myself so seriously, and once I began laughing at myself it felt like we were all laughing together, and what more could I hope from a performance? 

So much time and energy goes into preparing for and organizing a performance that sometimes it’s easy to forget WHY we are doing what we are doing.  If you are a dancer it’s a good idea to ask yourself periodically WHY you dance and WHAT you hope to share with your community.  Once I remembered that sharing joy is one of the main goals I hope to achieve with my dance, I couldn’t help but feel joyous myself.  My fear of being laughed at WAS unreasonable, not because nobody is going to laugh at you, but because not only can you live through it, but maybe it’s EXACTLY what you need to live through.

Male or female, remember to allow yourself to feel joy – even when your ego wants to hide.

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