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A small minority of dancers may feel the pull to start dancing professionally. Many people feel that dancing for restaurants, clubs, parties etc is the ultimate goal which will bring fulfilment and joy, but it is not for everyone! It is important to think about whether it is the right path for you. Firstly, performing professionally is a business- not a hobby, so with that comes other circumstances to consider.
Dancing professionally can feel glamorous when you first start, but after some time you will realise (from my experience) it is a job and needs to be treated as such. It is important to remember the reason why you started dancing in the first place and to keep the joy alive. Sometimes aspects of performing professionally can be disheartening (an unappreciative audience, difficult clients, late nights) so it is important to be clear about why you want to go pro, and what you really love about performing. Going pro is very different to creating a choreo and dancing at a hafla.
Aspects to consider:
Possible long hours away from the family especially on weekends and evenings
Consistent training and coming up with new material to keep it fresh for yourself and the audience
Ongoing rehearsals
An ability to feel comfortable going into a large variety of environments and dealing with people who can sometimes be difficult
Handling a range of stage/performance situations on the spot. some example may include (from personal experience!) a terrible floor surface, helium balloons on strings surrounding you (ditch the veil!) outdoor stage in the wind/heat, an audience that circles around you (choreography adjustment on the spot!), music malfunction…the list goes on!
Dealing with clients who try to barter with you for a cheaper price

Before making the choice to start going pro it’s important to think about your own circumstances carefully.
So you have made the decision and you have discussed it with your teacher who feels you are ready….
Here is a list of things to check:
Your dance skills are at a level where you can dance professionally
You have playlist of fantastic music that will appeal to your audience, and a back up sound system. iPod is the safest in my opinion.
You have several quality professional costumes ready to go, and you are confident in applying professional makeup
You have gone to a huge variety of professional shows where you have observed how the dancer has related to the audience
You have performed at a large number of student Haflas doing troupe and solo work
You are very clear on what your strengths are and what areas need development and consistently work on these
You have a set of questions ready to go when you get your first enquiry
You have communicated with other professional dancers in your area to find out what the going rate is and will not undercut
A professional dancer does not dance for free unless it is for a charity event or at another belly dancers show where you have come to an agreement (Swapping performances works well)
You are confident and clear on how much you charge and never go down in price. The clients rarely realise how much time you put in for rehearsals, costuming, getting ready, driving, etc
You are clear with the client on what style of dance you do and offer a youtube clip for them to view

The first conversation you have with someone wanting to potentially book you, is really important. Your overall manner as well as the questions you ask can impact whether the job is right for you.
Here are a list of Questions you may like to ask regarding the event (besides all the obvious stuff like date, time etc)
– what is the event for? you may want to get a picture about the type of audience to expect, and if it is a male only audience, in which case you may decide to decline the gig
– what surface will the floor be, as well as the basic set up for the area you will be performing in. I personally find it helpful to know, as it definitely has an impact on deciding if you wear shoes as well as possibly asking them to change the performing area if the surface isn’t suitable. I learnt this the hard way when I danced a full set on brick pavers bare feet. Ouch! Also in the hot weather, stages can really heat up.
-how and when will you be paid? I often offer to email my bank details so I don’t have to worry about it on the night or else I ask for payment prior to the performance so on the night you don’t have to chase anyone up after you have performed
– if the event is a long distance to travel you may consider asking for extra payment (especially with petrol prices these days, as well as your time)
– ask if they have seen your web site so they have an idea of what to expect. Some people have stereo types or certain expectations when hiring a belly dancer
– audience participation?
It’s always handy to ask for their email address so you can ask any further questions in case you forget at the time

“Further technicalities”

In my opinion the best performances are when you are really prepared and organised so you can be as stress free as possible and therefore able to focus your full attention on interpreting the music and enjoying audience interaction. To reduce any little mishaps from happening it s important to plan well and deliver the best performance you can
– ensure you have checked your costuming several days before and have rehearsed in it. Make sure everything is secured properly
-if you are dancing in an intimate surrounding, pay careful attention to makeup and costume detail as it will be more noticeable
– make sure you have checked exactly how to reach your destination prior to leaving for your gig. There is nothing worse than getting lost on the way!
-try to insist on using iPod (I have found cd’s to be too unreliable as well as people’s Sound systems ) it is handy to bring a portable iPod player just in case
-it’s important to make sure the volume is at the right setting before performing ( I have had to dance an entire set to music I could barely hear and it was not fun!)
-check elastic on finger cymbals, pack spare safety pins, ( I now bring blue tack just in case lol)

Some added professional touches I feel are important include:
– arriving to a show a little earlier than necessary to allow for unexpected hold ups
– having a survival kits- needle and thread, safety pins, makeup, visine, hair, pins etc
– When possible bring an escort for safety especially in. Private home
– Maintain high ethical standards, no undercutting and charging less for jobs
– Build relationships with other dancers in the community – it’s a lovely supportive feeling and also great when you need someone to fill in for you if you are sick
– I personally like to wear a cover up when not dancing

Belly dancing professionally requires more than just dancing well. Handling yourself with confidence and dignity as well as having a friendly manner are in my opinion just as worthy of attention. It is important to treat dance as a business that you respect and therefore respect yourself and what you do.

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