Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Some Thoughts About A Growing Community

I've been lucky enough to be blessed to be a part of Seattle's growing kizomba community from the beginning. I started out as student of the dance and as I continue to learn and grow, I have also become teacher, event promoter and friend to many of the people I have met and introduced this dance to.

I remember when my only opportunity to dance kizomba was once a week (if that) and with less than ten people at the most. Back then our little group was special because we were learning and growing together and figuring out this dance that we knew people would also enjoy, waiting for the chance to share it with everyone else.

A year later I started to explore learning from other teachers and had the pleasure to meet Eddy Vents and Petchu.  Within that year, I was given the chance to start teaching a weekly series at the Century Ballroom and through a combination of luck and a lot of love, Century Ballroom decided to also host a monthly dance every first Friday of the month. I was worried about a DJ and then some people stepped up to bat. This dance started out with barely ten loyal couples and now after after two years, there is an average attendance of 65 people with over 100 at its best. I've seen the community grow and have had the privilege to meet many dancers just as enthusiastic about dancing as I am. My dream of having more people to dance with has come true.

We've come a long way: we now have an event every week and even multiple events on the same day. How cool is that?

Why then are some people complaining or worried? There have been a few people concerned that too many events, especially on the same day, will dilute and split the community.

My short answer is that it might but I don't think so. Events where people have fun will continue to do well and events that are not fun will eventually stop. I've been a part of other communities that grow and change and evolve over time and none of them have gone away, all of them still thrive today tho I am no longer as involved in some of them.

Communities continue to grow as more people join and become involved in continuing what they love about the community. As we grow smaller groups form within and sometimes, there are shifts and changes but overall, in order for a community to thrive, it has to have growth and it has to have members that are willing to give back and support the community.

I don't think kizomba is a temporary phenomenon here in Seattle. I don't know if we will ever become as big a community as say London: London is one of the top ten largest cities in the world after all. I do know that this dance brings people together in a way that I haven't seen because of the intimacy and sense of caring that you feel when you're dancing in someone's embrace.

I started to share this dance for selfish reasons: I wanted more people to dance with and I wanted to bring the instructors and experts here to Seattle to learn from them. In the course of doing so, I discovered much joy in sharing dance and decided to develop and forge a path for myself that is intricately tied to dancing and sharing that joy in dance with as many people as I can.

I believe in the power of free will and choice. We are all free to choose what we do and where we go and how we want to spend our spare time to enjoy something we love to do.

When I host events, I do so with the thought of bringing together as many people as possible to have a great time. For me, that means having everyone at the same party and here in Seattle, that's very possible because we are not so big that we wouldn't all fit in one place to dance the night away. I do my best to accommodate the community we have. The larger our community grows, the more diverse the requirements are for having a party everyone can go to so its not that simple any more.

I can only hope that others who put together events and bring people together around kizomba, take a little care and attention to find out what else is going on in order to ensure that people know what opportunities they have AND that we can all be at the same party together.

If there are multiple events on the same day, then a choice has to made and that is a good problem to have every now and again.

Spontaneity is a great thing and its possible in a small community such as we have today. I think its awesome that someone can post on the wall and say "Let's go dance somewhere." and there are enough people to respond to make it happen. On the other hand, spontaneity can lead to creating factions within us: those that are "in the know" versus not. To be invited to a spontaneous event, one has to know or be connected to or be friends with the spontaneous people.

All together these situations: multiple events on the same day and spontaneous events that occur on off the cuff; are things that happen as a result of growing communities. What matters more is what the members of the community choose to value and how they operate within the community.

I'm told that whether I like it or not, I'm seen as a leader in the community. My actions can be interpreted in ways I don't intend. Its an interesting position to say the least. I'm not you're typical "life of the party". I love what I do, I love the people I meet and I care that the events that I produce, the classes that I teach and the people I work with, and interact with get the best possible experience they can.

So if I have any clout at all to pull, then here are some things I'd like to share for everyone to consider.

Ask yourself why you love this dance and let that guide you in your actions and words. If idealogy about economics or cultural pride drives you, then perhaps dancing is not the forum for you to express that. Dance is for everyone and we all come to it and need it for many reasons: to think that can be controlled is a bit unrealistic. Making a living through dance and dancing as a hobby are equally important. When the dance is presented, one hopes that people are open to learning about its origins and history but that is not a requirement. I love this dance because it brings me a sense of intimacy that I think is missing in many or our every day interactions. I love this dance because it has taught me so much about myself and other people. I love what I do because I get to enrich other people's lives and help them discover themselves through their love of the dance. I value what I have to offer and appreciate that there are others who support me and find value in what I do.

We are still growing and there is enough for everyone to reap benefits from. If we grow the larger pie together then our slices will grow accordingly. Slicing up a small pie results in small pieces. When we grow kizomba so big that having five events on the same day doesn't matter, then we all win.

Never take one person's word about something, even if it is someone you trust. There are always multiple sides to any story and I can tell you from experience, even coming from the parties directly involved, the stories can come out like they weren't even about the same incident. Everyone deserves a second chance and I for one would appreciate them since I too make mistakes. Your experience first hand is the most important experience so taking someone's word about something takes that away from you.

Consider giving back in some way to something that has given you joy. Part of the joy in experiencing something is in giving back what you receive: just like paying it forward. Thanks to those of you that do, it makes for a better and kinder place and its one of the reasons why our Seattle Kizomba community is warm and welcoming.

Operating from fear, bolstering your own ego and self preservation is not the most pleasant way to live your life. I practice everyday to spend more energy in appreciating what I have and not falling into the "why not me?" sink hole. I don't have the perfect relationships with everyone but I do treasure the ones that I have that sustain me. I do my best to celebrate the successes of others, including my own. I believe one should acknowledge what is already here in front of you even as you make your mark. The world goes on with or without us and even though some people take actions that I would not, they still have their free will and there is nothing I can do to control it. What I can do is be true to who I am, find a good friend or two who can let me vent when I need to and treat everyone else with respect. I try my best to operate from a place of generosity and joy which is not always easy when I feel like being snarky or when I feel like I've been disregarded or undervalued. I think, if we choose what we love over what we fear, then we get what we love.