There’s just something about ATS® dancers.  We’re a big, close-knit community, a worldwide extended family. Cues and Tattoos felt like a family reunion.  And I think Homecoming will feel even more wonderful.

We all have personalities and opinions, and it’s ok to let those unique stars shine. When ATS® works well, it’s a beautiful coming-together of diverse people who share a common passion. We all trust each other, and we all have to trust ourselves.  (Go read Wendy Allen’s essay on Trust, ATS® style for why it’s important to trust yourself.)


The community does break down sometimes.  I’ve seen it happen in dance communities all over the world.  Here are two of the reasons why it happens.

1. Jealousy. We have feelings about other dancers’ successes and opportunities.  It happens.

However, if you think other students are advancing because they are sucking up or kissing ass, you are wrong. They’re advancing because they’re working harder, showing up, being easy and fun to work with, and generally devoting more of their time, energy, and focus to the dance than you are.

Consider this: there is a difference between jealousy (I’m afraid you will take an opportunity from me) and envy (I want something you have, but I’m glad you have it).

Envy has the potential to be a much more positive, supportive emotion than jealousy. But did you catch the definition of jealousy? At its heart, it’s about fear. And if you’re so afraid that someone will take something from you, consider what that says about you.

2. Entitlement. We think we are owed an opportunity for some reason.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care how long you’ve been dancing, or what other dance styles you know — or even how good you are. If you think you are entitled to anything, you are wrong.

And the more you act entitled, the fewer opportunities you will get.  No one wants to work with someone who thinks the world owes them something.

We all have these feelings. We all have feelings of jealousy, entitlement, and so on.  That’s ok; we’re human, and emotions are part of the human experience.  What’s critical, though, to live and dance in community is to acknowledge them for what they are and let them go.

We need to release these things to be in community with other dancers. And the more we release our egos and enter into the dance with an open, inquisitive mind, the better dancers we become, and the more opportunities avail themselves to us.

My point is this: get over your own ego. Get out of your own way.  Stop worrying about other people, and worry about yourself.  Work on your own technique. Be easy to work with.

These things build community, and they build joy. And who doesn’t want that?

This is hard sometimes.  I struggle with this too, and it’s  not always easy to come to the studio with an open, inquisitive heart. Sometimes, I honestly need a break from the studio so I can take care of my own needs first.  And sometimes, if I’m feeling ungrounded, it’s a little too easy to get caught up in the swirling whirlwind of others’ egos.  It’s necessary sometimes to take a step back.

What tools or techniques do you use to release your ego?  In what ways do you build up, rather than break down our community?  I invite you to share in the comments below.


8 thoughts on “On being in community

  1. You’ve addressed excellent points of contentions that naturally exist in the relations of human nature. I am new to the Tribal world, but what I love about it, besides the dance is its spirit of camaraderie. I believe this exists because there is a sense of dependence. A dependence that must exist because we operate on a “cue-ing system” in order to transform from one move to the next, if we are to achieve our goal of interpreting music notes into a beautiful visual canvas.

    What tools or techniques do I use to release my ego? I start by not allowing ego to reign, because if I do I am saying I don’t need to grow! I feel that I can learn from the beginner or from the most advanced – no one is perfect, one may do a belly roll better than another and the other may do a chest circle better. In essence we are like flowers in a garden – the rose is no more beautiful than the tulip, or the tulip is not prettier than a hibiscus….but put together in a garden they are a breath taking sea of colors and fragrances. So I begin by admiring and respecting all belly dancers, from the beginner in their most roughest form to the most advanced dancer with their most definitive lines of interpretation, because they all contribute to my learning process. It is this creativity and courage that embodies belly dancing…an esoteric form of Woman-ship. It is an art that binds us together in a dynamic form of ying and yang.

    In what ways do I build up, rather than break down our community?
    The first thing is by responsibility to self, our leader and the Tribe through preparation – practicing what I have been taught, by asking questions in class to ensure I understand the instruction and creating a systematic method that helps me to learn on my own time. But this is just the “personal” physical aspect of preparation. I also have a duty to uplift those around me, to compliment their achievement, because in that I learn and share in their success, and thereby become better in my own dance form.

  2. As sister studios, we have to take a look at our goals as leaders. The troupe directors with the most joy in their hearts love to dance, love to teach, love to build community. Watching students gain skills and confidence, assembling a costume palette with riotous colors, textures and variety, carefully mixing a music set that has smooth transitions and authentic world flavor, dedicating time through rehearsals and fine tuning are all part of the work (and pleasure!) of a strong troupe leader. Giving up a little bit of control by letting your dancers make some of the decisions or taking roles to assist you are ways to acknowledge others and open up to change. Tame the ego by saying to yourself, “It’s not about me, it’s about us.” You can’t, nor should you try, to do it alone.

    The fact that women can dance ATS together across the planet makes us responsible for continuing to spread the sisterhood. Attending festivals and volunteering to help organizers; hosting workshops, haflas, costume swap and shops, etc. are ways to build and support your dance community near and far. Remember all the people who contribute–show appreciation for the percussionists, vendors, photographers, craftsmen/women, and especially other dancers of all genres. One world!

  3. I have noticed in my years on this earth that if I want more than what is given to me then the one who refuses me may likely think that I have an attitude of entitlement. In those circumstances, I have laid out what I think is fair and reasonable. Sometimes, I got what I wanted and other times I did not. When I didn’t get what I wanted, I went looking for it elsewhere. For the most part in this life, I have found everything that I wanted, though not without a whole lot of work, persistence and resistance. When someone tells me that I’m asking too much, I don’t tend to listen too well. If you have to sacrifice what you need so that someone else can have what they need, then you should ask yourself if being part of the group is worth the cost. If what you are getting is worth what you are sacrificing (time, money, ego, personal growth, etc. ) then go ahead and put your ego aside, be humble, be easy to get along with and be part of the group. One thing is for sure; tribal dance requires a lot of time together dancing with others who practice the same style. If you want to get good at it, then you will need to ingratiate yourself into a group of people who are willing to dance with you frequently and regularly.

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