Activism

How Things Don’t Work: Dancing for a Cause Edition

Cross Posted from Coffeefied, Operafied, Fluffified, Beglittered.  

There are some things that just set my teeth on edge, and one of them is charity work done both poorly and in a self-aggrandizing way.  This is why I am personally embarrassed and upset that I participated in a charitable event which was exactly both of those things. Granted I didn’t know much about it, but I really should do research.

I participated in an international belly dance flash mob to benefit various women’s shelters.  The way it works is supposed to be that someone volunteers to be a group leader for each city and then coordinates donations to one particular shelter via people agreeing to dance.  It’s much like those walk/run for the cure things but done by dancers. Everyone learns the same choreography for every participating city, so also there’s a “yay community” aspect.  So far, so good.

I didn’t know a lot before the actual event, other than the choreography, which I rehearsed just with a friend rather than with the main group.  Not out of any dislike for the main group, but since the Atlanta team leader was actually in the suburbs, and held official rehearsals on Friday evenings at 6pm, and the traffic of Atlanta is such that one does not simply go into or out of the city at 6pm on a Friday, I was not a very active participant.  Nonetheless, I was full of bright eyed optimism when I showed up to dance for a Cause, only to find out that dancing for a Cause meant dancing on concrete in the sun in largely empty parking lots while group members took turns taking photos and videos, which were uploaded promptly to facebook and youtube.  There was one location in which we danced in a car wash parking lot facing a busy road, so I suppose passing motorists might have seen something of the Cause, or would have, had we had any signs to explain what we were doing, which we didn’t.

Aargh!  If this were just a “let’s celebrate World Belly Dance Day by getting together with friends for a flash dance mob” not having any advertising would be ok.  I’d definitely have been fine with just a bellydance community thing, well, except for the dancing for no one on hot concrete part, that would still have been bad, but that’s a separate issue.  However, if we’re doing something public for a cause, it should be about the cause.  Not about us.  Without any sort of signage, it’s just people dancing.  Also, frankly, I am uncomfortable with dancing at a car wash facing traffic.  I struggle enough with both being a belly dancer and not encouraging a cultural attitude in which dancing is synonymous with sexual objectification of women for profit.

When we were finished dancing and having lunch, I asked the group leader about next year maybe having signs or something, and she said she’d asked the shelter we were doing this for and they were busy relocating and couldn’t provide us with any advertising material.  She went on to add that because they were so busy relocating they couldn’t even accept donations right now and she’d be holding onto the money raised until August, when they said they could maybe take something.  Disregarding how excessively fishy that sounds,  the moral is that we did something for a cause without anything to indicate what we were doing and the cause wasn’t even interested in us.  But by god there are pictures of us doing things for a cause on facebook, so obviously we’re great people.

Maybe I should just give up and start going on about how the misfortunes of others causes me great spiritual growth or something.

Featured image is from Theguibordcenter.org

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Elizabeth

Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a professional belly dancer, a flaky computer scientist, and a returned Peace Corps volunteer. She lives in Georgia (the state of the U.S., not the country) but is nonetheless somehow not a combination of stereotypes from Gone with the Wind and Deliverance. Her personal blog is Coffeefied. Operafied. Fluffified. Beglittered.

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