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How to Prepare for a Professional Belly Dance Performance

Updated on July 30, 2018
Tricia Deed profile image

Tricia Deed writes articles about her belly dancing career as a studio owner, instructor, and performer. A hobby which became a career.

The Costume Represents the Dancer

The dancer's performance must live up to the costume design.
The dancer's performance must live up to the costume design. | Source

Professional Readiness

You have been a loyal student of belly dancing for a period of months or years and you feel very confident that you will be able to market yourself as a professional belly dancer.

Are you truly ready?

  1. Have you gained performing experiences with your teacher and fellow students?
  2. Do you have an assortment of professional costumes for public viewing?
  3. Have you prepared dance steps which are committed to body memory?
  4. Do you have acting skills to keep the audience attentive?
  5. Do you have business knowledge and familiarity with advertising, marketing, publicity, and selling?

If you can answer "yes" to the above questions, then you will start with an excellent box of tools for success.

Personality traits which are beneficial include charisma, persistence, energy, people skills, dedication and commitment, and love for this dance.

Cleopatra

The name Cleopatra brings to peoples' minds many different ideas of how she may have looked. This photo shows Thea Bera of the silent film era.  There are misconceptions and myths which surround this dance.
The name Cleopatra brings to peoples' minds many different ideas of how she may have looked. This photo shows Thea Bera of the silent film era. There are misconceptions and myths which surround this dance. | Source

Student Performances

I am going to assume that you have chosen a teacher who has taught steps, history, and myths and realities associated with this dance art. Teachers who are actively involved in performing and have students perform dance solos or as a troupe is an instrumental key for advancing students’ talents.

This dance is unlike others because it is constantly changing and evolving. Teachers have to remain active in order to be current with information being presented to students. Another advantage are the tips, tricks, and anecdotal comments experienced by the instructor.

Students will gain a new experience with each performance. These learning experiences are reviewed in the classroom in order to correct or improve your dancing skills.

A good teacher also critiques with inspiration and solutions. It has been my experience that these review sessions with their constructive critiques are missed after turning professional. You will need to learn how to be observant of your shortcomings by reviewing a video performance or hiring a professional who has your interest at heart to critique your performances.

Correct and justifiable critiquing is a necessity in order to provide better performances and to keep your self employed. An excellent dancer will attract more gigs from word-of-mouth referrals and this will help save advertising and marketing expenses.

Becoming a part of the show biz scene is making money; that’s why it’s called "show business".

Glamour Fabrics

A belly dancer can never have enough shiny adornments and fabrics in her costume wardrobe. Night club or ethnic costuming may be glamoured to add more glitz to the show.
A belly dancer can never have enough shiny adornments and fabrics in her costume wardrobe. Night club or ethnic costuming may be glamoured to add more glitz to the show. | Source

Dance style and costumes

Costumes are critical to your performances. It is important to know your chosen style of dance. A valuable tip which I would offer is to know what type of audiences will pay for your services. Are you a generalist or specializing in a particular niche? Costumes are expensive. How many can you afford and still make a profit within a reasonable amount of time?

Night club performances are variable as each company has its own payment policy. The asking price for private parties, conventions, party grams, and other commercial enterprises is determined by you. If you are not certain as to what to charge the client talk to other entertainment companies in your locality to discover the average charge.

Smaller communities do not charge as much as large city locations. A small community may charge $150 for a ten minute performance. A large city may charge $350 for the same performance.

As a professional make a chart of performance charges and the amount of dance time for that price quote. There are exceptional occasions when a price will need to be negotiated, but these situations are few.

The most expensive item is your costume. A basic costume with its accessories may range from $500 to $3000. I strongly suggest that you select a costume which can be worn many times. It will take many shows to pay for your costume, traveling expenses, dance props, music, advertising, and marketing before making a profit.

Musicians

It is great to work in combination with a live band. Whenever possible be familiar with their style of arrangements and their playing style. Do they play Egyptian, Moroccan, Turkish, Armenian, Arabic, or a combination of selections?
It is great to work in combination with a live band. Whenever possible be familiar with their style of arrangements and their playing style. Do they play Egyptian, Moroccan, Turkish, Armenian, Arabic, or a combination of selections? | Source

Dance Steps Committed to Memory

A teacher rehearses her students for several hours in preparation for a show performance. This is necessary in order to be as close to perfection as is possible. Routines are memorized and the body is rehearsed to imprint movements for smoothness and accuracy.

As a professional you will need to continue rehearsing so that your performance is rewarded by the audience with instant appreciation, word of mouth advertising, referrals, and financial compensation.

The other steps which are crucial are those combinations which are used during an occasional memory loss or an unexpected interruption. These combinations need to be rehearsed for both memorized and impromptu performances.

Dancers look forward to dancing with a live band. Generally speaking, there are no rehearsals with these bands unless you are a member. They play the music and you dance.

  • Bands request dance music by its rhythm or the name of the song. For example, you may wish to request a 2/4 baladi, a chiftitelli, and a 5 minute drum solo starting with slow beats and building speed as the minutes pass.
  • Some bands will ask for song titles. Be prepared for music arrangements which may be different from the music source from the rehearsed music. This is the reason for having numerous memorized combination steps.
  • Some dancers let the band select the music which they like to play, but designate the length of time for the show.

There are different financial arrangements when dancing with live musicians. This is a variable dependent on the dancing environment and their traditions. Whenever possible use a contract. If this is not their system be sure to have a clear understanding of the pay amount and how you will be paid.

Eye Expressions Speak Loudly

Facial and hand gestures add dramatic descriptions to the dance performance. The eyes top the list of being the most expressive.
Facial and hand gestures add dramatic descriptions to the dance performance. The eyes top the list of being the most expressive. | Source

Acting Skills

Technically performing to music with perfection will not please an audience completely unless you add your personality and acting skills.

Whenever possible include facial gestures or arm movements to create drama, comedy, happiness, and other emotions which add to the story line of the music.

When dancing to rhythms make it fun. A wink, a smile, a sigh, or assorted hand languages make the choreography interesting.

Whenever possible include audience participation. This dance is entertaining because it includes onlookers to participate with the dancer.

Contract or Agreement

A contract is an agreement of terms between two or more parties.
A contract is an agreement of terms between two or more parties. | Source

Contracts

A fear which some professional dancers have about presenting a contract to a client is because they think they will lose their business. This is not true.

  • Contracts are important for many reasons.
  • Everyone feels secure and comfortable with the agreement.
  • All questions and concerns are discussed openly.
  • There is a clear understanding of the performance style and program length.
  • It guarantees the client a performance on the specified day.
  • The type of performance and its requirements for the event.
  • Explains camera and video shots restrictions, if any.
  • It confirms payment arrangements.
  • It helps solve any safety issues concerning the performer.

The contract is an agreement between the performer and the client relieving any concerns for both parties. The above list illustrates the importance of reviewing all questions, concerns, and information so that everyone knows exactly what will happen.

The contract should have a standard outline, but also write down all agreements which are not listed on the contract and each person needs to have a copy.

In my experience there has never been a client to object the use of a contract. They appreciated the personal exchange of being included in the programming of their entertainment and knowing how the entertainer would contribute to make their special occasion successful.

The Business of Belly Dance: becoming a dancer performer

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