In the pursuit of acting in the best interest of all, one must begin with self-improvement, understanding that change on a collective level starts from within. Today, our culture often prioritizes personal interests over the well-being of the entire community, resulting in a shift in our relationships, ethics and morals. The accepted 'normal' is more and more away from the basis of human dignity.
The prevalence of self-promotion and self-evaluation, largely driven by social media, has created an illusion of "a perfect world to be" that we know is far from reality.
Reflecting on the past
My recent visit to a dance event in Blackpool evoked memories of my early days as a dance teacher, feeling small and lost in a world of greatness. Individuals like Arlene and John Leach extended a helping hand, guiding me into the international field. Their support was born out of noticing my passion for training young dancers and an eagerness to learn.
Over the years, I had the privilege of learning from the dance world's finest experts, some of whom continue to mentor me today. It wasn't solely about the results; it was a journey of learning and discovery.
With Peter Townsend, Ruud Verneij and Peter Maxwell
Yet, the situation in the dance world today worries me deeply. I was brought up and trained to judge without fear and favor. The understanding of being objective or subjective depends on your consciousness and the environment that surrounds you.
Facing reality today
Over the past decade, the dance world has undergone changes, some for the better and some for the worse. More than 15 years ago, the separation between the World Dance Council (WDC) and the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) marked a significant turning point that led to further fragmentations.
These divisions left many longing for the productive cooperation and shared future that had once seemed within reach. New organizations have emerged, each hoping for a brighter future. In this evolving landscape, you may find yourself at a crossroads, faced with choices that will shape your dance journey. To navigate wisely, it's essential to choose environments where you'll be surrounded by trustworthy and honest individuals.
In case you don’t want to choose and stay free and open to everyone, it's worth noting that some organizations may seek to exert control, even if you cherish your independence. Their promise of democracy and freedom can be elusive; you might be canceled regardless of your history and contributions.
If we want to keep a democratic dance society, we must become more aware of unwritten rules that reflect integrity, respect, compassion and inclusion.
Challenges in closed systems
Dance federations that operate as closed systems may promote oppression and indoctrination over education, further dividing the dance community. These separations make our world smaller and more fragile.
It's a harsh reality, as philosopher Slavoj Žižek reminds us: "You are hoping to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but this is the light of another train going in your direction." When envy, rivalry, cancel culture, and a lack of integrity and compassion prevail, you may feel increasingly disconnected from yourself and others.
Guidance for larger communities
Leaders and officials of larger communities, organizations, and federations bear significant responsibility. Through their actions, they can set an example for those who have lost trust in the system. Creative and compassionate leaders who can facilitate dialogue are crucial to reconnecting their members and the global dance community.
Your voice may seem singular, but it can make a meaningful contribution, not only in celebrating the beauty of dance but also in addressing the concerns that come with the journey. You need to speak up, share your ideas and vision with your colleagues and crown organization. Issues like power games, discrimination, corruption, abuse, and many more need to be addressed individually and collectively.
I feel many are afraid to speak up publicly. You may be ignored, canceled, lose work, not be invited to judge... But you have to keep your dignity as this is all that matters.
Is there a solution?
My granny used to say that for every disease a healing flower grows. While there might not be a single solution, there are steps you can take to restore ethics and morals in the dance community. To begin, we must open up to one another, recognizing the different roles we play in our relationships.
Self-reflection, self-examination and understanding the pain and trauma that each of us carries are vital. In conversations with others, seeking common ground and listening effectively can help bridge gaps and lead to a new point of view that benefits all.
The way forward
Our community may thrive economically, but it requires psychological safety. Each of us bears the responsibility to heal and be a constructive member of a larger community. By starting with self-examination and ensuring you uplift rather than break young dancers' dreams, you can become a force for positive change.
Start with your own mapping and you will not feel a drop in the ocean but the ocean in a drop.
With Pierre Dulaine in Amman, 2017
Source of inspiration
Movie "Dancing in Jaffa"