I've been musing on this for a while now. There have been some interesting trends that I've noticed.
Back when I first learned to belly dance (1995), the internet wasn't widely used at all and few actually had access at home. Given that I was in Quebec City, Canada, there wasn't a whole lot of information being spread around about belly dance. I was at the mercy of my instructor to know what was going on in the belly dance world (and she wasn't one for sharing information). Back in those days, you'd be lucky if you could find a catalog that carried belly dance VHS and even if you did find it, the price would be exorbitant... add the currency conversion (since I was in Canada)... and duty... and the cost was very prohibitive.
Once more people started getting internet at home, finding information was oh so much easier. During the glory years of tribe.net (remember that?), it was easy to find information on any topic that you were interested. We had so many different tribes (i.e., message boards) on specific topics. It made finding information easy. Events were also promoted there. I thought for sure that, given how information was so easy to find, it would enable us all to broaden our horizons and learn more about everything belly dance well beyond your neck of the woods.
And, for a while, that was true. Everyone seemed to know the big names in the belly dance world. And whether you were tribal or cabaret, you knew at least the big names for the other style and got to learn about a number of awesome smaller names in your style. Events were well attended by people from neighboring cities and states and sometimes well beyond (especially for festivals). People weren't afraid to drive 3-4 hours (if not more) to attend some workshops. It seemed that dancers had a thirst for knowledge that FINALLY was being quenched.
In the Summer of 2008, there were so so so many glitches with tribe.net that it made it practically unusable. It definitely was very frustrating to try to use the darn site... I remember full well. A bunch of people decided to recreate some tribe-like feel on Facebook. Well, Facebook, ain't tribe... but back then, actually, groups were more like message boards so, for a bit, it worked out okay. That being said, finding information in general and definitely finding information for event was a little tricky as we were all trying to figure out how to use Facebook.
Well, you know what else happened in 2008? That's right: the economy took a real bad turn. So besides having a hard time finding the information about events easily, people didn't have as much disposable income for traveling far and wide to all events and would pick and choose which ones they were attending. So events (and classes) weren't as well attended in general.
But, for a while, it seemed like people were at least keeping a minimum of interest, enough to still know what was going on in the belly dance world in general (i.e., beyond their local community). So while people couldn't travel as much, the fountain of knowledge was still there and people were still drinking from it.
What happened since then? Well, things have been hiccuping. For all that we're told that the economy is getting better, either people are being more frugal and keep their disposable income in their savings account or the economy isn't that much better... or it could be that the belly dance revival that happened in the late 90s-2000s is over with. Only time will tell.
One thing that has me concerned, though, is that I've noticed that people won't even travel a few hours for a weekend of workshops with a renown instructor. Instead, they'll just attend their local events and not expand their horizons. While I'm all for promoting and participating in your local belly dance community, I feel that, without seeking out new knowledge, growth will be harder to reach.
But I get it, the cost of events, even just a few hours from your home, may be prohibitive. Okay, fine. What has me even more concerned, though, is that I notice that so many new belly dancers have no idea who renown belly dancers are but they will only know their local dancers. Again, while I'm all for knowing and interacting with your local community, it's important to also get to know contemporary and historical names in the belly dance world. And, again, with the internet, you have no excuse for not finding that information! It's available at your fingertips! Look at videos on youtube, search on google, look up groups on Facebook, when in doubt, ask an instructor for pointers (and if they don't know, they should find out). The fountain of knowledge is still there... please drink from it!
I invite everyone to branch out and open your horizon to gain more knowledge about this art form that you love so dearly.