Dance class is fertile ground for new friendships - sharing the fun and excitement of new experiences helps students grow together. I enjoy watching friendships form and encourage students to get together outside of class for practice or video nights or to carpool to events or shopping.
I've also witnessed friendships damaged and
lost as a result of misunderstandings or personality conflicts.
Leading a troupe has also given me a front-row seat to a lot of
psychological drama, though sometimes it took place "off-stage"
and didn't come to my attention until later.
As I watched or was embroiled in these tensions I tried to discover ways to undo or avoid the relationship damage that usually followed. At the same time I was watching these conflicts happen around me, I also saw them happening in the larger dance world. What a potential loss of community - factions and feuds equal friendships lost. But it doesn't have to be that way!
Sooner or later you may experience these situations yourself - you may think someone's "acting funny" around you; there may be harsh words spoken, written, or reported to you; you may find yourself ridiculed or even "blacklisted" somehow.
Give some thought to how you will handle these situations so you'll be prepared if it happens to you or your friends. What will you do - will you repay in kind? That's often the first reaction when hurt - to lash out. But there's a better way. It's not necessarily easier but the results are worth it.
Conflicts or feuds often start with a simple misunderstanding between two people.
If you wonder whether someone said something, did something, wrote something unfair or derogatory about you, why not ask them and find out? Approach them with an open heart, not a chip on your shoulder; a "dynamic relationship" nurtures trust and sustains all involved.
If you know someone did or said something unfair or false about you, talk to them - politely - in private. That gives them a chance to save face and work things out with you. Wouldn't that make more sense than talking to everyone else instead?
What if they don't respond to your needs and won't stop their negative behavior? I suggest asking another - impartial - person to be with the two of you while you talk. This can be uncomfortable but provides another set of ears to witness what happens between you and your antagonist.
That's all there is to it! It may work, or may not; whatever the outcome though, for your own health choose to forgive them or it will fester inside you. Avoid talking about it to others within the dance community if you can; in other words, no gossip.
What if YOU hear gossip about someone else?
(I think it's safe to say you certainly will!) You can either
ignore it - or you can go to that person and get their side of
the story. I've done that several times over the years - I feel
it's really helped me develop a balanced viewpoint on
differences in teaching methods, dance techniques, business
practices and more. In other words, it's really driven home the
adage, "different strokes for different folks". And on a sadder
note, it's also enabled me to avoid misplacing my trust.
After I developed a conflict resolution method for my troupe I realized there are many areas where belly dancers often stumble as they make their way in the dance scene. As one dancer recently put it, "only the names of those involved change" as the same issues arise time after time.
Why not be PRO-active rather than
RE-active? Decide now to take the high road when faced with
these difficult situations. Research ethics, standard
practices, and etiquette as they apply to our dance world, and
develop guidelines so you can meet conflicts honestly and with
respect for all concerned.