Sharing your passions: Belly dancing and rejections
After attendees in the upstairs room at Lust watch three belly dancing videos, they get up to give it a try. Gathering in a circle, they try to recreate the smooth hip movements. Everyone is hesitant at first, but under the enthusiastic guidance of belly dancer and international relations student Pelin Diraki, self-consciousness melts into laughter. Soon everyone is dancing their hearts out to loud Egyptian music.
Value Exchange (VE) founders Tim Hamann and Zé Rui introduced the concept to their group of friends three years ago because they wanted to know more about each other’s interests. Hamann: ‘Normally you chat to your friends about everyday subjects. There aren’t many opportunities to tell people about your hobbies, because who’s gonna talk about themselves for an hour? So the things that are important to you tend to fall by the wayside.’
The person behind the topic
VE attendees don’t just get to discover new, unusual topics, they also get to know the person behind the topic. ‘The personal aspect is important; the presentation has to be something only you can share. You learn a lot more about people when you find out why they’re so interested in a certain subject.’
What started as a private practice between friends soon became public. Companies and organisations became interested in the concept as a form of team bonding, and now students discovered it. ‘VEs as a public event are still a bit challenging’, says Hamann, ‘because people don’t know each other yet and the groups are a bit larger. I’m sure we’ll improve soon. With every new VE we learn what works and what doesn’t.’
Before the belly dancing presentation, RUG student Bleen Abraham opened with a VE on rejection. ‘I wouldn’t call myself an expert in rejection’, she says, laughing, ‘but I think it’s a really interesting topic and I think about it and talk to other people about it a lot.’
She thinks it’s important and fun to share her findings with others. ‘The things we do are often influenced by the fear of rejection, which means it greatly influences our lives. I wanted to showcase a constructive way you can look at rejection.’
The fact that she studies psychology provided some scientific background for her topic, but most of the information came from exchanging experiences with the audience. They discussed their own experiences for a long time, and tried to understand why rejection is so universally negative.
Hamann was happy with the input from the audience. ‘Interaction is very important at a VE. The presentation is a collaboration: it’s not a top-down approach, but rather something we develop together while we’re doing it.’
Hamann emphasises that the people giving VE presentations don’t have to be experts on their subject – or even students of it. ‘Anyone can answer the question of what their VE would be about. Not everyone is a natural presenter, but Zé and I will help you prepare and give you tips on how to interact with the group and hold their attention.’
Abraham and Diraki weren’t used to giving long presentations either, they say. Diraki: ‘I wasn’t sure I even wanted to do this. I think presenting’s pretty scary. But Tim and Bleen convinced me.’
She’s very happy with how her VE went: ‘Belly dancing is my passion. I enjoy it a lot and it was great to share it with others. A VE invites people to share your interests; you take them by the hand and show them an unfamiliar subject doesn’t have to be hard or uncomfortable. That’s what’s so great about VEs.’
VEs take place every two weeks at café Lust. Access is free for everyone. The next VE will be on Thursday, 21 February. You can find more information at: facebook.com/valueexchange