Tips For Bellydance Performers
Getting the show
on the road:
accept shows that you’re not comfortable doing. If you get a funny vibe from
the person on the phone and your instinct tells you that something's not
quite right, politely tell them that you're booked out.
prices according to the industry standards of the time. If you
undercut other performer's prices, you might get more jobs, but
you'll lose credibility among your colleagues.
payment procedure and cancellation policy on your website.
When you get
potential clients trying to beat your price down, firmly but
politely explain to them that yours is a business like any other, and
for fairness to everyone your prices are the same for all.
Be sure to
sign a copyright agreement for any professional photographs you
get done for your business cards and website.
checklist for performance nights to make sure you always take everything
As a performer, your feet are one of your most valuable assets, so protect
them with ballroom dancing shoes. Almost all costumes will go
platinum (pale gold) coloured ones.
Buy coarse sandpaper from a hardware
shop to scrape off the dirt that accumulates on the soles of your
performance shoes. I advise that you scrape before each show because
when they're dirty they're slippery.
malfunctions have been known to happen, so put extra clips and
fasteners at every opening point of all of your costumes.
should be well-fitting, professional, and not too revealing
(honestly, bum and boobs pouring out of your
costume is NOT a good look. Ever).
Leg hair and
armpit hair are NOT part of any Bellydance costume. Get rid of it.
Zills are an important part
of being a Bellydance performer so you must learn to play them.
Playing zills as you dance means you're truly part of the music you're dancing to, because
you're not only making the music visible with your body but also
taking part in creating it. Learn to play zills and use them in your
Also learn to play
zills while you're holding your veil. Here's how you do it: rather than
holding the veil between index and middle fingers, hold it with the ring
and pinky fingers instead. That way your middle fingers and thumbs can
play zills. You won't be able to do any complicated veil work when you
use veil with zills but it's a good skill to have and use
Another reason to learn zills is that
they're handy for creating music to dance to if the sound system either
isn't loud enough or breaks down mid-show.
purchases for a performer:
Zills, stick, veil, wings, fan veils,
Professional business cards.
Portable mini makeup kit with mirror.
A hairpiece (unless
your natural hair is right for the stage).
galabeyas (one for winter
and one for summer).
(while we use iPods these days, it's wise to take CDs for backup).
Suggested show structure:
NOTE: Before going on stage, get staff to put
your props somewhere easy
for you to access.
attention-grabbing entrance piece.
for audience participation.
Dancing with whatever
props your client has requested.
High energy drum
to dance your way off stage.
NOTE: leave your props on
stage and ask the staff to bring them to you.
Smelling the part:
Shower before the night's performing so that
you're smelling and feeling fresh, but don't wash your hair
as it sits better when it’s not squeaky clean.
onions and garlic are OUT on the day of your show. You might not be kissing your audience, but you will need to
speak to at least one person that night, and if your breath smells like
it comes from the bowels of hell, then you can rest assured that you
won’t be asked back to that venue to perform.
Take deodorant and breath-freshening spray to
use before going on stage.
Take a small towel for wiping off sweat between shows.
Dressing the part:
dressed for your show except for your skirt - which goes into your
performance bag - and instead wear dance pants (ones that won't mark
galabeya on top of it all.
In cold weather,
also wear a button-up shirt and cardigan underneath your galabeya (or
any warm clothing that comes on and off without messing up your hair or
smudging your makeup).
In the venue's change area,
keep your galabeya on for modesty while you change into your skirt.
Getting to your show:
Just before you go on stage:
Ask the staff
to put your props somewhere that will be easily accessible
during your performance.
costume to ensure all clips are clipped and all zips are zipped.
Confidence is good, egomania is not. You're only as
good as your last show, so make every show the best one you've
done so far.
Body carriage is all-important
for grace and
fluidity. Remember to keep:
Ankles strong with
feet massaging the floor as they move.
Chest gently lifting
and shoulders drawing down.
Arms in elegant
curves with fingertips
relaxed but alert.
raised and the crown of the head drawing up.
Safety on stage:
Sometimes people get up to dance with you without
your invitation. For safety's sake it's important that you
put a stop to this and hold the space as your own. The person in question
could be completely harmless, but you don't want to give the message to someone
in the audience who's not harmless that anyone else is in charge besides you.
However, you must get the person off the stage in a
polite way. Do it like this:
Dance with them ever so briefly (a few seconds will
Stop dancing, thank them with a big smile, and clap
Use your best game show host arms to show them that
it's time for their grand exit, and clap them as they go back to their
Start dancing again.
This makes it clear that you, not the audience, are
in control of the situation and that boosts your level of safety during
the show. As soon as the control is out of your hands, things can get
out of hand, so keep safe by holding your space and controlling what goes
on during your entire performance.
There are exceptions to the above: sometimes your
audience is just plain festive - they're not being sleazy, and they're
not out-of-control drunk, they just love to dance and everyone wants to
get up and boogie. Really, you need to use your instincts to judge
what's best to do or not do, but at least you now know (via the above
step-by-step) how to regain
control if an audience member tries to take over the show.
Adding texture to your show:
Quick tips for the stage:
A good rule of thumb for new performers to remember is: if in doubt, do a figure eight
or a shimmy. One of those two will definitely suit the music and will tide you over until
you get back on
When not playing
your zills, stop unnecessary dinging by
placing your index finger underneath the middle finger zill (so that
you're sort of crossing your fingers). That will keep one zill
away from the other and stop random dinging until you're ready to play
Going from show to show:
Be super-careful going from car to venue and
venue to car.
Sometimes you'll be late for shows for reasons
beyond your control (eg. traffic, being stopped for
random breath testing). Venue owners might freak out about it, but
don't speed or break the road rules or endanger yourself in any
way to try get there quicker. No performance is worth dying for.
If you're doing
three or more shows in a night, take snacks and drink with you. For
minimal mess and maximum nutrition and hydration, take: water, pure fruit juice, nuts, seeds,
grapes, berries, bananas, and crackers.
Keeping your self esteem in tact:
compliments like “you’re the best dancer I've ever seen” from audience members
and venue owners with a grain of salt. Smile, enjoy the compliment, thank them
graciously, and move on. Being
hostage to sweeping praise (or sweeping criticism for that matter)
is harmful. It’s merely an opinion - an individual’s
version of the truth which can (and does) change. For your own sake, don’t rely on the
shifting sands of opinion to define you as a dancer.
While it's easy to enjoy shows when the audience reacts with enthusiasm, don't depend on that for the vitality of your show. Audiences can be as unpredictable as
the weather, so relying on them for how well you perform is a mistake.
Being a professional means putting on your very best show no matter how the audience
does or doesn't respond.
Leaving the venue:
At home, just after the show:
It's important to dry your hair
after shampooing it - in my experience, going to sleep with wet hair
can result in a stiff neck and/or headache the next day.
fold your costume up and put it away - hang it up and air it out at
least until the following morning.
hungry work, but try not to eat too much after you get home.
During the week after the show:
Be careful who
you choose to befriend among other performers.
If you're lucky enough to find an experienced
performer who's willing to mentor you, listen to what she has to say
by way of advice so that you can learn from her mistakes and successes.
If you become a mentor to a new performer,
don't be surprised if you have the unhappy experience of having your
mentee turn her back on you when feels she no longer needs you. It
happens all the time.
encounter nastiness from another performer, don't retaliate. She is
clearly insecure, so
walk away and let her wallow in the filth of her own meanness - you don't
want to be down in that swamp of malevolence with her.
it's like to be new in the industry and give new dancers a
chance when it's you who's experienced and them trying to get a start.
Don't join in on conversations where divas are
showing off about how many zillions of shows they do. Stay
away from such insecure interactions.
dancers of any perverts that you might encounter.
When a dancer doesn't return your call after you leave a message about a
gig, give her another chance. But if she does that twice, cross her
off your list of dancers to call. If someone can't pick up a phone
to let you know whether they can do a gig or not, they not only
don't deserve you to pass on gigs to them but you can't possibly trust them
to reliably turn up to the gig.
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