There is a lot of debate on the subject and the definition.. Pro as in ‘Professional Oriental Dancer’ could be described as: being able to live of your income, generated through your dance activities. There is a very small group of dancers who ‘s main source of income are performances, most of them also teach at a dance school (their own, most of the time), teach at workshops, sell DVD’s and have lots of other activities. But even then, the ones that are able to make a steady and good income from this, are rare (and fortunate!). So let’s view ‘Pro’ as in ‘a professional attitude towards the art form you have chosen’.. On social media you can find a lot of discussion about how to ‘make’ Oriental dance into a professional, recognized and accepted art form. Not everyone can be bothered by this, but most professional dancers are, since they strive for respect and acknowledgement for their hard work, time, effort, skills, knowledge and dedication. One of the ways to change the perception of the ‘general public’ towards Oriental dance is for (more) dancers to develop a professional attitude. This includes never being late for a performance, having your things in order (for instance: a well fitting costume that complements you and is appropriate for the venue, the audience and the style of music you will be dancing to), making sure you are well prepared (by asking the right questions before you accept a gig) and communicate with your contractors in a businesslike and attentive manor. There is a big difference between ‘dancing for the love of dance’, the way you usually start out, and ‘dancing for an audience/ performing’ and being paid for it. And most of this is not so much about technique or choreographing, but about all those things that surrounding it. Like being well prepared. There is lots of information on the Internet to be found on this subject, from how to deal with tough contractors, to how to determine your rates, what music to chose, what to put in your contracts and much more. Your teacher(s) should also provide most of this knowledge; it’s part of your training.
So here are some tips, for the amateur dancer who wants to go ‘Pro’: • When you are approached by potential clients, first ask a lot of questions before you give them a rate (if you are unsure, tell them you will get back to them with a proposal) and also inform clients you will send them your contract to sign, if you all agree on the terms. • One 30-minute gig is different from two 15-minutes performances, even when they are in the same venue. Two performances include a costume change and waiting time in between, at least. • If a venue owner wants you to audition for a contract with regular performances, do so when the venue is closed for the public, otherwise you will be giving away a free performance and therefore selling yourself short.. and the venue owner is likely to be looking for a cheap way to get entertainment. • Make sure you treat yourself with the same amount of respect you would demand from someone else. Uphold standards and model appropriate behavior. Don’t do anything that feels wrong or awkward, you have to feel comfortable at all times. • In case of private gigs, make sure that your client understands you and vice versa.. Show them your performance videos and make sure they know what to expect and what not (like: dancing for one hour straight in the background) and find out whom you will be dancing for. Chances are your client is not as educated on the subject as you are and has no idea what so ever, what ‘folklore’ means. Also you have someting to fall back on, if a client complains that you were not a ‘harem girl’. • A gig that is located far away from where you live costs a lot of petrol. It makes sense to add those costs to your fee. If you have to stay overnight (in a hotel), this applies as well.
ISPAHAN Magazine, an Oriental Dance Glossy. Autumn issue.