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Last weekend, my belly dance partner Sonia and I were booked for an event at an Adelaide restaurant, which presented a quite a few logistical challenges. After dancing at many restaurants (including this event) I’ve learnt some important tips on trying to ensure that your set runs as smooth as possible. Most of these events were booked for private functions at the restaurant.

1) Check out the venue: preferably inspect the venue yourself, otherwise google the restaurant and search for images. Sometimes they have 360 degree digital images, which are really helpful!

2) Call the restaurant to discuss the following:

A) Music: what is their sound system like? what do you need to put your music on? cd, iPod, USB stick. If your performance will be in a space in a separate room in the restaurant, ask if the music is loud and clear in this space.

Sometimes it is easier to bring your own sound system (and often, you are required to bring your own). Is your sound system adequate for the space you will be performing in?

B ) Space: is there a main space where you will be dancing? Or do tables fill the entire restaurant? If tables fill the entire space, ask to make arrangements for them to make adequate room in between the tables for you to move through, and if possible to clear a space for you to use veil or any large props
Space was an issue at this Cafe, so we asked the staff to move some tables and we remained in the one spot the entire time
Space was an issue at this Cafe, so we asked the staff to move some tables and we remained in the one spot the entire time

C) Is there a private entrance from the back of the restaurant? Often your performance may be a surprise, so ask if there is a private entrance, otherwise wear a long cover up and try to be as discreet as possible when entering.

3) Once you have all of this information from the restaurant, then you can plan your show!

Not much space?

Keep your veil routine short and simple and perhaps leave the sword at home. If there isn’t much space for audience participation, you may need to gesture to certain audience members and engage with them in a fun way rather than dragging them up to dance with you

Drum solos are great for small spaces!
I won’t forget this gig in a hurry! We performed a tribal style set where we felt like we were dancing to nothing, as the music was so quiet. There was no staff around to help us out!
I won’t forget this gig in a hurry! We performed a tribal style set where we felt like we were dancing to nothing, as the music was so quiet. There was no staff around to help us out!

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind when you are booked for a restaurant/cafe gig

– Use Choreographies that incorporate a lot of travelling and flexibility

– Improve your improvisation skills: the audience is often spread out at different tables, so you will be required to travel around a bit and adjust any choreographies you may have planned to do

– When you arrive make sure the staff know to put the music on loud and that you will give them a nod if the volume needs to be increased (or decreased)

– Ensure your performance is booked for either before or after main meals, so you are not dodging staff. At a recent gig a waitress was crawling on her knees with plates so she wouldn’t get in the way of photos!

– Dimming the lights can add to the atmosphere, however it can be an issue for photographers

As with most things, preparation is the key! And every gig is a learning experience with a new set of challenges to overcome. When a client calls you to make a booking, they are often unaware of the logistics and it us up to you to ask the questions and make suggestions that you feel will enhance your show.

Professional belly dancers really do need to be flexible, calm and confident in the face of unexpected challenges!

If you are a belly dancer with extra tips to add, I’d love to hear them! Comment below or on the link where you found this posted

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