Today we have some musings from 4dancers contributor Karen Hersh on professionalism…
By definition, the word professional means to follow an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain; professionalism or professional standards means the skill, competence, or character expected of a member of a highly trained profession. So while I can understand why everyone ties being a professional belly dancer (or any dancer really) as to being paid, I think we need to take a bit of a step back and extend the definition to attitude as well.
Recently, I was dancing as part of a ‘non-professional’ troupe at a local hafla, (an event held by belly dancers to showcase themselves or their students), when one of the women said something that just stopped me in my tracks. It was to the effect of ‘well, I know I don’t have too much to worry about because I’m not a professional’.
Why did it stop me? Because whether or not one is a ‘professional’, the attitude of always doing your best should be there, whether you are a student or a professional. Professionalism doesn’t start with your first paycheck, it starts the moment you walk into your first class as a student: you show up on time, ready to learn.
In belly dance, I think one of the goals for our students should be to have the opportunity to perform at haflas. While these are generally non-paying events (for the dancers), they should still be treated as if they were. Anytime one performs, that professional attitude must be there.
I strongly believe that all students should be taught early on that being a professional also means putting in the time and energy in to learn your dance piece, to be at rehearsals, be on time, and to be supportive and respectful of the rest of the class and/or troupe. And this is part of the instructor’s responsibility–to instill these qualities in their students.
All of us are putting ourselves out there in a performance setting for our peers and our friends and family. It seems only right to be showing our best professional attitude all the way around, doesn’t it?