In the professional endeavours I’ve been involved in, feedback is an essential element of development.  As a high-school teacher in training I was observed by experienced teachers throughout my training period and again a few times in my probationary period.  After these (feared and dreaded) observations I was given feedback – their perception of my areas of strength were shared as were those areas that they felt I could do with developing.  These comments, as well as my own self-monitoring, provided the basis of my attempts at self-improvement. The same is true of my counselling training.  We work in triads – one student is the ‘counsellor’, one the ‘client’ and the third is an observer.  All 3 give their impressions of how the session went after it’s finished.  In addition to this we record (video or audio) sessions and use these for self-monitoring and to facilitate monitoring and feedback from others.

It’s a key element in the training stages of both teaching and counselling and recognised by the establishments therein as necessary.  I imagine it’s the same in many other fields, from medicine to, perhaps, fields like writing.  And yet… it’s not something that I’ve really had much experience with in bellydancing.

The art of giving and receiving feedback can be a subtle one, especially so in a field like bellydancing where our appearance is an integral part of the ‘art’ – but to critique someone on this or, worse still, to receive feedback on that could be incredibly damaging to self esteem, something that is often in short supply in women at the best of times.

Furthermore bellydancing is now such a diverse art.  Who is ‘qualified’ to provide the feedback that you (or I) need?

The question has also been raised with me by Fereshteh as to who should give feedback to bellydancers – other dancers (peers or more experienced dancers) or the audience (regardless of their bellydancing knowledge and/or experience)?  My experience of feedback in school teaching and counselling has always been from more experienced professionals, and sometimes peers.  My students were never consulted on my teaching abilities.  Perhaps they should have been?  I do now ask students at my dance workshops for feedback, but the thought of giving (for example) feedback sheets to a paying audience seems completely inappropriate, like it would spoil the mood for them.  I mean they have come to be entertained, not aid my professional development.  I know I wouldn’t like to switch from the mode of ‘being entertained’ to ‘paying enough attention to give good feedback’ at a show I had paid to watch.  But I do – and I’m positive I’m not alone in this – pass judgements in my head on people’s work/performance/etc.  Perhaps if these were shared they could help that person develop further? If they were interesting in that, of course.  I think offering feedback without being invited is not an especially cool thing to do.

And there’s something else in this whole thing about the person who gives the feedback.  I find it hard to really ‘hear’ somebody that – for example – really irritates me.  They could have something amazing to share with me, the key to making me the most perfect dancer that ever was, but if they bug me chances are I won’t hear it.  Or rather I won’t take it in.  I’ll probably dismiss it because it came from them.  I am working on changing this aspect of myself, but I’m sure it’s not just me who has these blockages to hearing what others have to say.

As you may have gathered I’m chewing this over at the moment.  I welcome your thoughts & experiences in this field.