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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Why I had to defend Middle Eastern Dance

Someone out there is bound to have read my "Defense of Middle Eastern Dance" (posted back in August). Here's the story behind that post, my reason for writing. Sorry it's so long.

Before I post Tezra's letter, understand this: this isn't a "friend-of-a-friend" story; I have known this dancer for a few years. She studies with the same instructor I do, and we have danced together in the past.

If you were to ask around in the Atlanta ME dance community, you would find plenty of people who know Tezra and are familiar with her story. I bet you would find that many of them will not do business with Jenny Pruitt and Associates now. We're a supportive group, as many restaurant and venue owners have discovered. Mistreat a dancer and most other dancers won't have a thing to do with you!

So here's Tezra's story, in her words.

Hi everyone.

It has been a while and I hope you remember me. I am the dancer that faced losing her job over dance. First, I want to say thank you again to everyone who responded. I received literally hundreds of e-mails from dancers around the world. Technology is amazing, but even more amazing is the incredible community of Middle Eastern dancers and musicians we are a part of.

It has taken a long time for the final result, but here is the situation and how it played out:

For those who didn't know, I am a Realtor. My problem came up when I attempted to change offices, leaving my current office and moving to the new office opening near my home. I was very excited to find out my friend (ha ha) Rhonda would be the new broker. It wasn't until I sat down for my interview that she stated she could not interview me because I dance. You see, because I thought she was friend, and before I knew she would be the new broker, I sent her a donation letter for a Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser being planned by a local dancer in Atlanta. I always kept dance and work separate; this was not a company-wide mailing. It only went to a handful of people who I thought were appropriate.

Well, quite simply I was speechless. All I could say was "what?" and "huh?". I just simply couldn't comprehend what she had said! Although I pled my case, Rhonda would hear none of it. She said at that point she could not hire me and would take the matter to our CEO.

Some weeks later our CEO, Jenny, (a compassionate open minded person by all accounts) phoned me and basically took me apart. I have been deemed unacceptable. This is what she said...

"I don't care if you call it Israeli Folk dance, Ethnic dance, Middle Eastern dance or Belly Dance. It is all the same. And although it may be acceptable at other companies, it is completely unacceptable in my company! I will not make Rhonda hire you, but since you have been here almost two years I will not make John (my current broker) fire you. I will leave that up to him. However, in the future, if my company name is ever associated with you and this dance, I will fire at that time!"

Well, I was dumbstruck again! It took me another three weeks to get up the courage to face my broker, John. John knew from the day he hired me that I danced and he had no problem with it. He asked me repeatedly to stay with him. He said the whole thing was ridiculous and that he supported me completely. He also couldn't understand what the issue was.

Unfortunately, after the shock wore off, I came to the realization that, since the money rolls uphill, I could not stay with the company. I would not knowingly or willingly put another dime in Miss Jenny's pocket. Because I am of Sephardic Jewish heritage, some of the dance I participate in is part of my culture, and I am totally insulted that someone would call me unacceptable in this day and age in the U.S. Can you imagine? I was floored.

Meanwhile, I am now ready to give out my ex-company info so you know who not to do business with in the future. I can't tell anyone what to do with this information, but I can tell you there is very minimal diversity within the company.

Some of the e-mails I received in response to my original mailing suggested I may have violated policies at my company which may have prompted this. I was not "moonlighting", dance has been just exercise and love for the past several years. I did not violate any company policies, nor was this stated as reason for this action.

Anyway, thank you all again for your overwhelming support. I will let you know where I land when the dust settles.

Sincerely yours,


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Johns Creek Office (the broker that caused all this):
Rhonda Haran
Jenny Pruitt and Associates
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Suwanee, GA 30024
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