It comes up often in conversation..."should co-workers know about my belly dancing thing...?" I've thought it over for the past few years as a started a new job, telling my closest colleagues as we've had to arrange happy hours around my teaching schedule. (Of course, I need BOTH happy hours AND dance classes.) Telling on a need-to-know basis was pretty easy since these people were my co-worker friends. Until last year, when I was scheduled to work at the Mid-America Trucking Show from Thursday-Saturday. This is the biggest trucking industry show of the year (seriously) and it's been part of my vocabulary for the past 10 years. I skated by with explaining that I taught class at a yoga studio on Saturday, so I needed to be back. I didn't say more than that.
However, it doesn't always end so quickly when this conversation is had with others:
"Oh, I didn't know you taught yoga."
"I don't - I teach a dance class."
"What kind of dance?"
And that's where my 'splaining has been worked down to a script. At least it is the same description I give to brand new students (minus the actual dancing to show examples)...presenting the folkloric roots, the modest costumes, and the "I am not Barbara Eden nor do I wear sequins" disclaimer. At that point, I'm not sure how they really feel about it - but I explained what I could.
Earlier last year, I had to return a form to HR. The HR representative had her Director in her office, and he asked me about my Art Walk involvement. Someone had looked up my LinkedIn profile and saw I was on the non-profit ArtWalk's board, and mentioned it in a meeting. He thinks that is great, and we talk more about what I do outside of work. The whole convo (as listed above) progressed. Luckily, they find this to be healthy - and now the HR lady is chastising me for not logging exercise points in our program for extra FSA dollars.
In the fall, I was helping Accounting with an Accounting Tips newsletter. The lady in charge of it told me about her craft hobbies and it came up that I taught dance. And she suggested that I teach a mini-lesson at a payroll professionals conference. I'm trying not to dance in her office to show her how low-impact it can be. I'm trying to look like I'm talking intense newsletter formatting talk.
Now my boss knows the whole story:
Right before Thanksgiving, my Director and I had quality time in Montreal for a meeting on Vehicle Weights and Dimensions (my marketing career is very exciting). The usual small talk about hobbies and exercising on the road came up. I said I taught a dance class, and he said he did know a little about it. We went on to discuss how I market the classes, and he said I should market it as a 12-week class so I could have student testimonials with dramatic results...because all that stuff takes time to make a difference. Little did he know I already had such testimonials for people who did stick to it, while I explained that expecting someone to commit to a 12-week course (without knowing they'll like it) is very unrealistic. He realized that was probably true.
In a typical day at work, I am juggling the usual chaos while I am watching video clips for inspiration (from troupemates, or from my own searches), downloading music for class, discussing studio schedules, and posting on the Facebook secret class and troupe pages to work around absences and performance planning ideas. Plotting and more plotting. And then my 5-minute artsy daydreamy groove comes to a jarring halt. "You want to talk about pricing this aftermarket part for this fiscal year? But I'm in the middle of posting an important comment on the Sister Studio page - and proofreading it to make sure I don't seem arrogant OR misinformed!" But, since the day job pays the bulk of my bills, I must humor the marketing and pricing tasks at hand. It's too bad, since the juicy dance ideas may fall out of my head and not come back for days.
Axles, Assuit - sales forecasts, performance themes...same thing. And it's kind of true. I'll be in a go-to-market strategy meeting and I will immediately apply that principle to what we want to do with our troupe website, or for the next hafla. Or, on other days, I'll just shrug off the corporate BS and feel grateful to have an outlet that appreciates me. I'm glad to contribute balance to my fellow dancers in male-dominated office settings. A friend and former colleague (who also takes my class) was looking up hafla costume ideas at work, and I showed up in her Google search. Neat! Or not?! It was particularly creepy-satisfying to see her stalker photo of Belly Dance Paula (the photo from my website bio) on her computer screen.
Sooooo...as of Friday, I think I'm done hiding it from the bulk of the office. The troupe had a performance right after work, and there was no time to go home first. My hair had to be done in advance, and some stage makeup had to be ready to go. Half the office probably assumed I had an exciting Friday night date, while others knew the real story. "What's going on with your BUN?"
We'll soon find out if my creative side is appreciated, or if it isolates me further from the standard employee profile. I've made it clear that I'm not going to switch to polo shirts (after I got in trouble for modifying a company shirt on a casual dress day). I'm not really a badass rebel type, but apparently I am in this very conservative setting. I've had the fear that it would be used against me - where my 'entertainer persona' impairs my mathematical abilities, and creates an uneducated barfly perception of me. I will keep representing myself as-is and need not mind the what-ifs. (Besides, hasn't everyone seen Flashdance and at least ONE Step It Up movie?!) A student just now posted this mantra for herself, asking the class to remind her as well, "Don't let your fear of what could happen make nothing happen." YES!