Belly dance competitions come and go these days, and there seem to be fewer in the United States. They can be useful for a dancer in several ways; boosting popularity, networking with sponsors, improving technique, and even providing a sense of empowerment. I managed to be persuaded to compete last year. While competitions aren’t for everyone, if you are even considering competing at the Essence of Belly Dance, I couldn’t encourage you more! Today, I am going to tell you why.
Networking and Training with the Big Dogs
One thing that Faaridah, owner of Atlanta Fusion Belly Dance, does not shy away from is bringing some of the biggest and baddest of the industry to the South East! Last year alone, I was able to study with Raqia Hassan and Soraira Zaed—and that’s just on the traditional side! Amy Sigil and part of her Unmata crew came to teach and perform as well! This year, Faaridah has booked Randa Kamel, Mohamid Shahin, Mira Betz, Suhaila Salimpour, Coleena Shakti, Natalie Nazario, AND Andrus Ramir! While most events stateside will host two to three headliners, EoBD offers a whole buffet of first rate knowledge and training.
The Feedback that comes with It
You don’t have to sign up for the competition in order to study with all those great dancers. The workshops can be purchased a la carte or you can sign up for the whole weekend here. However, if you want customized feedback, hand delivered to you the very next day, you will sign up for that competition right now. Let me tell you, this is one of the greatest gifts you will receive in exchange for you pouring your heart out on that stage. Feedback from competitions are more useful than feedback from coaching sessions and video reviews. During the competition, you are in the moment, you don’t get do-overs, and you are at your most raw and vulnerable. It’s a shame that more competitions don’t implement such rapidly (and privately) received feedback. If you don’t compete to better yourself, then why are you even there? EoBD nails this aspect better than any festival competition I have been a part of.
The Facilitation of Friendship
This characteristic is a hard one to analyze. I know, personally, one of the reasons I avoid competitions is that I fear the feeling of….well, competition. In the past, I have been part of competitions where certain performers were not very nice and uplifting. EoBD does an impressive job of facilitating good sportsmanship and even relationships. It could be the Southern Hospitality of the Atlanta belly dance community, or perhaps the constant encouraging tone implemented by the staff. Maybe a mix of both! Either way, EoBD has that formula figured out. Despite everyone’s hard work, most of us have remained friends and it is really rewarding seeing each other continue to succeed even a year later!
So, if you are considering competing at this year’s Essence of Belly Dance in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia—I highly encourage you to GO FOR IT. I guarantee you will grow from the experience in more ways than one.