First off, I want to offer my sincere thanks to the 89 respondents who participated! I hope the experience of completing the survey was and enjoyable and rewarding (if minor) part of your experience as a belly dancer. The next survey will be even better -- please participate again!
I hope the results are helpful to teachers, event producers, and others who care about this beautiful community. My goal with this blog is to help everyone succeed and help the community thrive by keeping everyone informed and bridging gaps.
Below are responses to the open-ended last question on the survey, where respondents were invited to share any thoughts or suggestions. Think of this as an online focus group, where students and community members engage in open discussion about what they want, what they need, and what they don't like. I've edited some of these a little, but this is the voice of the community!
Most community-related comments were critiques of what respondents perceived as a lack of inclusiveness in the belly dance world, and a desire to have a more closely united community. Hey, that's what this blog is all about! What are you doing to bring the community together -- whether it's your own group of students and supporters or the larger belly dance subculture in your area?
- “I just want to say that this is a great idea. I hope that all in the community will take these comments and suggestions under consideration. I would love to see the community as a whole performing together; like Shimmy Mob and the Little Five Points Halloween Parade. When we (the community) come together across style lines, and forms, it creates unity and strength within this art that we love sooo much!!"
- “I wish we would all just luv the art and respect each other"
- “Would love to know more about the Atlanta area belly dance sisterhood, not just the folks at my studio. Maybe some joint events between different studios?”
- “It would be nice for community members to not spread false rumors or outright lies about other members.
- "Too much Belly Dance Wars here not a sisterhood :(“
- “Sometimes I feel the belly dance community gets too clique-y and it makes it difficult to start dancing again in a new city.”
- “I study from a professional teacher weekly, and I have been studying belly dance for ten years. I also have been teaching fitness belly dance for several years, and I feel that in general, fitness belly dance gets a bad rap. I wish that weren't the case. I wish that there were more support from the community for the fitness instructors.”
Some of the responses in the quantitative part of the survey are reflected in respondents' comments about the kinds of classes they would like to be able to take.
- “It would be great for to have more instructors who teach Lebanese, Persian, and Bollywood in Metro Atlanta.”
- “I am CRAVING a teacher who knowledgeable on body mechanics and is strict on technique and precision (but fun too!) who also teachers after 7:30 p.m. Oi."
- "I've been away from the dance scene for a bit, and am looking to get back. I know that fusion is the big thing right now, but I want to find a teacher that is more into traditional stuff and less fusion."
- “I would love to see belly dance classes/workshops that concentrated on a historical style."
- "More ATS And theatrical fusion in Athens!"
- "I would love for teachers to offer advanced technique classes. Most technique classes cater to beginners or advanced beginners."
- “Need more musicality information... how to play drums, zils, performing on drums, etc. PLAYING Middle Eastern music. I zil A LOT but want to learn how to play dumbek, etc. or my oboe in a performance band that works with other dancers!”
- “If there's a reasonably priced Middle Eastern music class/ group in the ATL I would probably jizz in my harem pants.”
Some respondents offered strong critiques of teacher behavior and qualifications.
- “A teacher needs to remember that your potential client base is large...your troupe(s) and your students are ALL clients. How you treat these clients can determine how your business grows... put your ego aside.”
- "I want a class/troupe to progress with and perform with. I have tried a few teachers, but though they may be very active and very supportive in the community, I don' think the one had enough experience to actually be teaching and the other timing was bad for me.”
- “Teachers in the area need to stop teaching and take more classes. If you want to teach, mentor with a seasoned teacher first.”
- “My teacher doesn't actively discourage taking classes in other styles...but she doesn't exactly approve of it either. I really feel like I have to be loyal to her style or I'm not part of the ‘in crowd.’ If I ever want to be in the troupe …I have to join a personality cult. I'm not sure if this is normal or not.”
As indicated by the survey, students would like more casual performance opportunities. Watch the Calendar page for events like the "Open Stage" series produced by Kira in 2011, drum circles, and other events that are open to casual performances and/or social dancing.
- I'd like to see some more 'casual' performance opportunities for students that may not be affiliated with a large studio or troupe; i.e., student (some pro or semi-pro performers too) haflas in an inviting, non-competitive, safe space for sharing the dance w/each other.”
- “I would love to see more non-restaurant based performance opportunities/shows.”
- "I love this art form: it's become more than just a hobby for me. I would probably be much more involved if workshops and extras' were a little more affordable for my student budget."
- “Would like to see more dance teachers, classes and performance opportunities outside of 285 in the Northeast corridor.”
- “Greater perceived availability of resources would be wonderful - better advertising for classes in the area, more frequent vendor visits (or a one-to-two-day road trip a la shopping caravan), better access to and pairing with local drummers for classes and workshops.”
- "Start more classes outside the Atlanta area, so that the community will grow. Maybe to start new troupes and find new talent in outside the Atlanta area as well. I am willing to travel 1 to 2 hours a week for classes, but I have found that no one else can make the sacrifice due to time and gas prices."
- “Honestly, the big thing I'd love to do is put on competition here. As a host, organizer and performer. I'd love to see a yearly show (like a themed event) …it would be something I'd love to accomplish IF I could get the community to embrace it.”
- “If it's not Raqs Sharki please don't use it in the advertisement for studio or performance. Too much fusion…. and people don't understand if it is their first exposure to Raqs Sharki.”