Panel Discussion – Surviving and Thriving in the New Belly Dance Economy

Last night, the Belly Dance Business Academy hosted a live panel discussion, “Surviving and Thriving in the New Belly Dance Economy”. The discussion featured prominent members of the belly dance scene including Jill Parker, Abigail Keyes, Tori Haflon, Sophia Revenna, Terri Allred, Amy Sigil, Sara Shrapnell, and Lisa Allred. The discussion revolved around the changing belly dance scene, which has seen large festival events ending and dance class sizes dwindling, and more importantly, what we can do to evolve in this changing scene.

The discussion was really valuable and left me feeling newly inspired to do my part in my local belly dance community and the belly dance scene as a whole. Here are my main take-aways:

  • We need to ask ourselves: What am I doing to support the belly dance community/scene? Are you attending classes, workshops, festivals? Are you performing as well as attending other dancers’ performances? Are you supporting vendors? Are you giving shout-outs and signal boosts for other dancers and members of you local community and dance scene at-large?
  • We need to present our art form in a professional manner. This will take a lot of reflection and introspection on our part. We need to clarify and clearly communicate the differences between hobby dancers and professional performers, and need to communicate whether a performance is showcasing students or professional dancers.
  • Don’t fish from the same pond! We need to branch out and find people who aren’t already in the belly dance scene. Look to other cultural and arts events and spaces.
  • We need to continue to assess the cultural appropriation issues that are inherent in our dance form. Belly dance has a complicated history intertwined with colonialism, Orientalism, exoticism, etc. We need to face these issues head-on so that our dance can grow and evolve in the best way possible.

Obviously one panel discussion won’t solve all of these issues! But it’s a great start, and I hope that we continue to come together in our local communities and in these types of larger discussions to boost the popularity, and the integrity, of belly dance!

You can find the video, as well as an audio-only recording, here on the Belly Dance Business Academy website.

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