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Professional Belly Dancer Essentials for Success

Updated on February 7, 2018
Tricia Deed profile image

Tricia Deed enjoys writing about dance. She has had years instructing belly dancing in cabaret, ethnic and folkloric styles.

Cabaret or Night Club Dancer

A cabaret belly dancer wearing a dramatic black costume working a long red veil to enhance romantic movements.
A cabaret belly dancer wearing a dramatic black costume working a long red veil to enhance romantic movements. | Source

Professionals Make Money

How to become a professional in the art of belly dancing is an open question. The definition for being a professional is referring to a person who is knowledgeable and experienced or one who is an expert in their chosen field. Money is the currency which separates amateurs from professionals.

Anyone asking this question is referring to being paid for their skills and talents in belly dancing. Likewise, an athlete may also ask the same question... how do I make money with my athletic abilities or how do I turn Pro? Belly dancing professionals make both a part-time income or a full time income.

Source of income decisions:

  1. Part-time or full time income

  2. Sub-contractor or business owner

  3. Teacher

  4. Performing artist

  5. A combination of being a teacher and a performing artist

Which came first the chicken or the egg? This question is also of concern for becoming a professional in this dance art.

If I may, it is my opinion that the teacher has much to do with students becoming future instructors or entertainers. Throughout my years of teaching I know of eight or ten of my students who became instructors and three others who became professional performers; two work in the United States and one is an international performer.

Public Performance At A Community Festival

Sword performance in Turkish costume at a community event. The dancer is musically supported by a live band.
Sword performance in Turkish costume at a community event. The dancer is musically supported by a live band. | Source

Knowledge and Experience

It is critical that you take belly dancing lessons from knowledgeable and experienced instructors. Learn traditional ethnic, cabaret, and the newer developments in this art.

Why would you do this?

  1. Traditional ethnic teaches the foundation of history, culture, myths, folklore, and basic knowledge and inspiration for this dance. It is not uncommon for many cabaret dancers to backtrack and take ethnic lessons.
  2. Know that your instructors are knowledgeable and experienced. His or her resume, activities, and referrals will help you with making a career decision. These instructors and the experiences gained will also be on your personal resume.
  3. Attend many seminars and workshops. Much is to be gained from mingling with other students and teachers, listening to comments and opinions, being a part of conversations, observing the elements of dance and teaching styles, and watching teachers and other performers to gain unwritten or unspoken cues for producing an excellent performance.
  4. Participate in shows which your instructor sets up for students. A good teacher will allow for heavy participation on your part to contribute to the show. If a teacher is the center of attention and the students are in the background; find another instructor. Realizing the amount of personal practice, hours of rehearsal, choreography input, cost of costumes, strengths and weaknesses of performing before an audience will help your decision for becoming a performing artist.

The Classroom

A full classroom of students regularly scheduled is success for instructors.
A full classroom of students regularly scheduled is success for instructors. | Source

Teaching and Performing Responsibilities

Teaching Tools:

  1. Mobile or rental location of a dance studio

  2. Business knowledge or staff to maintain advertising, marketing, show bookings, and other office requirements and maintenance

  3. Communication abilities

  4. Setting up a teaching program and class schedules

  5. Research

  6. Organization skills

  7. Creating choreography

  8. Setting-up public workshops and shows

  9. Training or hiring other instructors

Performers Tools:

  1. Ongoing practicing and rehearsing to develop skills in order to offer exciting performances.
  2. Have thorough savvy public relations, advertising, and marketing skills
  3. Theater and acting skills
  4. Psychology of entertaining
  5. Ongoing list of performing environments
  6. Costuming, music, and props
  7. Experience dancing in restaurants, non-profit organizations, private parties, corporate events, stage performances, performing in front of a camera, dancing with live musicians, and performing at seminars and workshops, experience working with live musicians.

Professional Costuming

Many hundreds of dollars are invested in costuming. Be prepared to purchase or make your own. Work your accessories to create the illusion that you own many different costumes.
Many hundreds of dollars are invested in costuming. Be prepared to purchase or make your own. Work your accessories to create the illusion that you own many different costumes. | Source

Assets and Liabilities

Success is the the results which professionals seek. But before you start on this exciting adventure it pays to make a list of your assets and liabilities. In case you do not wish to make a list I have included some items you may wish to consider before starting or claiming that you are a professional.

  1. Lack of dance and business knowledge and skills
  2. Energy, discipline, flexibility, open-mindedness, and commitment
  3. The ability to create and write lesson plans and choreography
  4. Do not like being the center of attention
  5. Lack of entrepreneurial skills
  6. No backup for financial set backs
  7. Heavy family responsibilities and restrictions
  8. Need for insurance and other benefits which exist with normal employment
  9. No desire to maintain any type of paperwork
  10. Start-up monies for necessary business expenses e.g. office supplies, computer, etc.
  11. Concerns about age and health

Are you street-wise? This is a question I asked of my private party entertainers. But it is a question for both teachers and entertainers. This question is referring to your natural instincts to recognize when something is not right within the environment. This gut reaction may be needed when confronted with an unhealthy situation. How you react and act will determine your safety or not.

This is a major reason for having contracts for your clients. This legal step will help to prevent any negative casualty occurring by involved parties.

is a major reason for having contracts. This legal step will help to prevent a negative casualty from occurring.

International Shows

Belly dancers perform often in international show events.
Belly dancers perform often in international show events. | Source

Pricing Student Instructions and Performances

The instructors rates are one of the first requirements to know before opening school doors. The salary plus total overhead expenses to maintain a school needs to be determined. These necessary expenses will be the guide for knowing how many paying students need to be attending.

There are times of the year when student enrollment will be low and require teachers to be active with private and public performances or to work a regular job for a supplemental income.

As an instructor, calculate your expenses and the dollar value for your performance. Research your competition. Then charge a competitive price. Not good at math; ask your accountant or whoever is helping you with your finances.

To gain control keep a running inventory of your expenses. You may be quite surprised at the outcome. After you complete this list, charging $200 for a performance may have seemed reasonable. However, learning that it will cost you $100 for expenses will quickly change your thinking causing you to charge $250 or $300. Be prepared with a sales pitch as to why you are the best person to be hired. The customer has also done their homework and will accept or reject.

Stage Performance

Stage performances are few for belly dancers, but this type of entertaining is available at seminars, workshops, and community events.
Stage performances are few for belly dancers, but this type of entertaining is available at seminars, workshops, and community events. | Source

Professional Entertainers

Research what the market will bear in the communities which you are planning to work. Most performers work out of their homes which means your overhead will not be as high as a dance studio. Your office, practice area, advertising and marketing, music, sound equipment, and costumes are your major expenses. Calculate how many gigs will be needed to maintain a part-time or full time income.

Traveling out of your state or the country to teach seminars or workshops or entertain will require additional monies which you will need to calculate. Some negotiating may be necessary with your clients.

Instructors and performers face issues which affect all artists. Be prepared for price undercutting, jealousy, and other malicious acts. Explain contracts to potential customers and allow for any negotiating. The client does not leave until both parties are in absolute agreement. This will leave the client feeling safe and satisfied with your hire. It will make you feel safe and knowledgeable of the entertaining environment. Settle any money issues and prepayment before teaching or performing.

You are the professional. Honor your clients with your dependability and reliability supported with skills and talents to make their event successful. Do for the client exactly what was stated at the time of the contract. Your integrity and reputation will be reflected with customer referrals.

1st Place in Competition "Queen of the Pyramid" 2010. Bellydance

Teacher of Performer

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