Madam Mozuna's Bargain Basement Guidelines:

Preparing For A Professional Performance
(as performed in the USA)

 

The difference between an amateur and a professional isnít just financial. Professional dancers, generally speaking, have better costumes (although they may not have better taste) as well as a larger assortment. But more importantly a professional dancer, especially a well-seasoned professional, has a broader range of dance skills and knowledge that are only acquired through experience.

When preparing for a professional show there are many things I recommend you organize ahead of time. Obviously you will require at least one complete costume - from make-up to cover-up. Hopefully you will have mastered additional skills like zils, cane or veils, which enhance and diversify your performance. Perhaps you perform different folkloric styles as well as cabaret. Adding variety helps you avoid repetitious and monotonous dancing.

 

PERFORMANCE OPPORTUNITIES

There is actually a wide range of performance opportunities, especially if you use your imagination and initiative. The length of a set depends on the type of performance. Here are some suggestions:

 

Nightclubs

Competition can be fierce and an amateur can be destroyed here. You may have to negotiate a contract with a club or restaurant. You need to have pre-arranged the time (right after your performance, at the end of the night, by mail etc.) and form of payment (cash, check, charge card, number of goats, etc.). You need to know whether there will be tipping or not and how you feel about it. Remember that there are ďBlue lawsĒ which vary from State to State. In some states itís illegal to touch a customer who is tipping you (to the observer it looks like prostitution), so be careful and find out what your local blue laws are. Youíll always need to know exactly whatís expected of you in terms of interaction with the customers and if youíre not comfortable with what they ask you to do, donít do it!

Youíll need transportation (including directions) and fliers or business cards to hand out. Youíll need somewhere to change a safe place for your belongings and possibly an escort to your car if you are leaving the performance late at night. If youíre using audiotapes for your performance you should always have two copies of your chosen music, in case thereís a problem. Homemade CDs can give you trouble on some systems, so bring along an audiotape as well, for a back up. Remember Murphyís Law ďAnything that can go wrong, will!Ē Have a short introduction prepared but the most important requirements you will need are a good attitude, a sense of humor and patience. And last, but not least, you need to enjoy yourself and smile often.

Dealing with agents and bosses:

Donít give out business cards at a gigue if an agent books you.

Donít be late.

Donít sleep with the boss, the staff or the customers.

When going for an interview always dress nicely, wear make-up and be polite.

Customers/drinks:

Donít drink until after all of your performances.

Donít agree to sit with customers & encourage them to buy drinks.

 

Restaurants

There are as many different Middle Eastern restaurants as there are Middle Eastern countries; however, there seem to me, to be a predominance of Moroccan, Persian or Greek. Depending on where you live there may be a plethora of restaurants (the D.C. area, San Francisco, New York etc.) or a dearth (i.e. none, as in Monroe, NC & a million other small towns). Keep in mind however, that Middle Eastern dance doesnít have to be performed in a Middle Eastern restaurant. I have friends who have a regular seasonal engagement at a cute little French Bistro. There they perform in an intimate, outdoor brick courtyard accompanied by a wide variety of dancers.

Be forewarned that working in a restaurant has its ups and downs. Often there is very little room and seldom a designated dancing area. Even in restaurants with a dance floor you must constantly be aware of the wait staff. To keep the food hot they always take the shortest route to the customer's table, even if itís right through the middle of your dervish dance! Food under bare feet and the smell of it in your hair and costume can quickly become unpleasant. So does the lack of attention from people who prefer to concentrate on their dinner, rather then a dancer. Veilwork, skirtwork, floorwork and turns, can all be difficult to execute in tight surroundings, and are some of the possible minuses when performing in a restaurant. Some of the pluses are free food, heating and air conditioning, a trapped audience, a convenient restroom, no wind to dislodge swords or tangle veils and electricity for taped music (often thereís a sound system).

Performance-13-20 min. sets. You may want to have more than one set, as well as a costume change for the second performance. Remember Artemisís favorite adage ďShort, Hot & Sweet - leave íem wanting more!Ē

 

Belly Grams

These are like singing telegrams only instead of singing you dance. Advertise in the phone book or hire on with a talent agency. A great way to augment your income.

Performance-You need a portable jambox, a 10-15 min. set, transportation and a good sense of humor. Make sure itís an ďall agesĒ show.

 

Private Parties

You can either advertise yourself independently or hire on with a talent agency. Private parties can range from a free hafla with your friends to being flown to another country and feted in high style. Donít forget to be polite!

Performance- two 13-20 min. sets. Youíll need transportation, possibly a jambox and a change of costume.

 

Workshop Shows

Many workshops offer the attendees the opportunity to perform for each other, and often the general public as well. Not all dancers perform professionally and a workshop show provides a wonderful venue for these dancers. It can be a very validating experience to dance for oneís peers.

Performance- 5-13 min. (the length may be predetermined by the workshop sponsor). If you are the star of the workshop show you may have three performances in the show with costume changes. If you are the workshop sponsor, you may have two performances in the show with costume changes. If you are an attendee you will probably only have one dance, so the length will depend on the music chosen. Avoid the longer more intensive pieces unless you can really pull them off. In other words donít try to be too overly ambitious, as your performance will suffer. This is a good time however to show off the aspects of your dance which only other dancers can appreciate, intricate shimmies, culture specific gesturing, etc.

 

Renaissance Festivals

Renaissance Festivals or Ren Fairs are springing up all over the place. Many large cities in the USA have Ren Fairs which come to town yearly. Some Ren Fairs are permanent, year round events. Costuming can be very interesting. Generally folkloric in nature however since Rennies arenít quite the sticklers for authenticity say people in the SCA are, costuming can be a bit more creative. There is usually one lead dancer who is in charge of all the dancers. If you wish to dance professionally at a Renaissance Festival you might want to make friends with the lead dancer, but you will have to be hired for the job. You canít just show up and dance and ask for money. You can often dance for free at Ren Fairs during the open dance section of the show, or in the context of an SCA demo that must be pre-arranged. The point is donít just show up in costume and expect to be able to perform, there is an already established hierarchy which must be respected.

Performance- Performances at a Ren Faire lasts all day and is both scheduled and impromptu and are most often accompanied by a drummer, if not a band. Live music at a Ren Faire is a must!

 

Street Performance

Be careful with street performance. There are many ways in which you are vulnerable out on the street. Pavement is cruel to belts, skirts, veils, knees and feet. Not only is it hard, rough and uneven, it can be blisteringly hot and itís always filthy! Be careful accepting money as well because it might be illegal without a license. Always give vehicles the right of way and donít block the doors to any business. In fact itís good form to always get permission to perform outside someoneís business.

Performance- Here is the one time you can do anything you want, but I recommend you donít show too much skin when out in the general public. Save the tiny beaded bits of nothing for the clubs and private parties.

 

Art Galleries/Coffee Shops/Book Stores

Iíve often performed for free or for tips at art galleries and coffee shops. About mid-way through my performance I will pass through the audience with a tips basket or more often a friend volunteers to do it. These small intimate shows are perfect for experimentation. Live music, even if itís just a drum and your zils, is hugely popular in these scenarios as well!

Performance- I recommend your basic 13 to 20 min. sets. Treat this like a restaurant performance.

Other possible performance venues are: International Festivals at Colleges and Religious Institutions. Local Civic Festivals like the Novello festival of reading, the Spoleto arts festival, Festival in the Park, May Day celebrations. Grand Openings/Charities, (Iíve performed for the openings of a Cigar store, a new-age import store as well as a Breast Cancer benefit and a benefit for a cat that had been hit by a car.)

There are performance possibilities for Hobbyists, like the SCA or Contra Dancers, Sci-Fi Conventions.

 

GENERAL PERFORMANCE PREPARATIONS

Self-promotion/Advertising

Brief Dance Bio/Resume

In this modern age where computers are available for use free at the public library, thereís no excuse for not having a professional looking resume. Try to keep it one page long, make sure you use spell check and try to avoid fancy fonts, as you really want it simple and legible!

Donít embellish. If you only attended a certain instructorís workshop say so, donít imply that you studied extensively with that teacher. Do however accentuate your positives. If you have taught and been paid for it, youíre a teacher. If you have performed in public and been paid, youíre a professional dancer. If you have had a review or two published, youíre a critic. See what I mean?

 

Professional Pics - Pictures are worth a thousand words so you want to consider your most professional looking pictures to use for advertising. Miramar, a wonderful dancer in the DC area, recommends buying K-mart, Sears or Wal-Mart photo pkgs. They usually have great package deals and if youíre brave enough to wait in line while in full costume, you might leave with some wonderful pictures at a fraction of the cost of other professional photographers.

If you happen to be fortunate enough to be friends with a professional photographer, you may wish to approach them. If so, make sure you compensate them adequately by paying for the film, developing, extra prints and their time as well. Be forewarned most photographers retain the negatives and you must purchase copies, as you need them. This is one way professional photographers make a living.

Before you have your pictures taken decide what poses you want captured and practice them at home, including facial expression. You may want to have some shots of you in motion, spins with veils work well. Keep in mind that youíll probably only like about 10% of the shots, so shoot a lot of film (this is true of professional models as well).

Once you start dancing in public try to collect pictures of your performances. This will require begging everyone you know to take pictures of you but itís worth it. You also need to obtain permission from the photographer to use the shots, unless they give you the negative. Always give them credit for taking the shot and if youíre making money off it, like selling the image on postcards, then youíll need a signed release form from the photographer and they may require financial restitution.

 

Business card

Keep the information on your cards simple name, contact information and services available. Use your professional name, if you have one and describe yourself in precise and succinct terms. Hereís a silly example:

Princess Sha-poopie, Performer / Instructor of Turkish Orientale style Middle Eastern Dance, ph. 777-7777   

Create a logo for your card. Pictures are worth a thousand words

Never use someone elseís artwork without consent and/or payment! Never use someone elseís name. If you canít come up with a name ask others for suggestions. You can always use your real name, but a new name is fun as well as a good way to separate dance life from your mundane life.

 

Video/audio tape (if with band)

Ask someone to videotape one of your live performances, then make copies to give to potential customers. You can also videotape yourself or hire a studio to tape you. Get as clear a picture as possible and get as close as possible as well.

If you play an instrument with a band as well as dance, make a good recording of your music to give away as a demo tape.

 

Try to become somewhat versed in public speaking.

Learn to shake hands firmly and to look people in the eye when speaking to them. Try to learn peopleís names as quickly as possible. Repeating their name 3 times after meeting them often helps especially if you use their name in conversation with them, while looking them in the face. Or simply write yourself a note. Itís important as a professional to try to use peopleís names. Donít be overly familiar however. If you feel you should refer to your employer as Mr. or Ms./Mrs. do so. Courtesy counts!

 

Advertise-

Create fliers to pass out or drop off at businesses like dance studios. Have one that explains what Belly dance is and what your qualifications are. Or create them to advertise workshops or shows. You can place advertising in other dancerís dance programs, on Public Radio, as well as small local papers that feature the arts and entertainment of the area.

 

PERSONAL PERFORMANCE PREPARATIONS

Mental Preparation

Start to psyche yourself up from the minute you put on your costume! Steady your nerves with controlled breathing and creative visualization. Imagine yourself in the middle of the coming performance and see yourself as relaxed and focused. Hold this image in your mind through out your preparations as well as performance. However, no amount of mental effort can disguise a lack of preparedness. If you have not been dancing in preparation for the show you should be nervous!

 

Music & dance sequence/choreography

You need to have a ďsetĒ. In other words a pre-determined and practiced idea of how you are going to perform, whether itís choreography or free form. Never use someone elseís choreography without permission and always give credit where credit is due!

To accompany the set you should pre-arrange to have either recorded music or a drummer and/or other musicians, as well as some sort of sound system. If your employer provides the sound system, find out where it is as soon as you arrive. Try to get introduced to whomever will be operating the sound system (theyíre now youíre new ďbest friendĒ) or get instructed in its operation yourself or bring a techie friend to be your soundman. When preparing your music always use as good equipment as possible and that includes using quality tapes or CDs.

If thereís a band, make friends as quickly as possible and show them as much respect as you wish to be shown (same goes for the soundman). These people can make or break your performance. They can be your ďbest friendĒ or your ďworst enemyĒ and you may be splitting tips or a paycheck!

 

Costume

Always make sure your costume is clean, in good repair, and all of its various accoutrements gathered together, before the day of the performance. Inspect all seams for broken stitches and press any material that requires it, (careful not to melt metallic material). Replace loose or limp elastic in waistbands, cuffs or bras. Check all beadwork and trim for loose stitches or broken fringe so it can be repaired before there is further deterioration. Check all hooks and eyes or snaps for sturdiness. Thereís nothing more embarrassing then a belt or bra springing open in front of an audience.

 

Shoes

Donít forget to give serious consideration to shoes! Some dancers always dance in shoes while others may prefer the freedom of bare feet, however not all performances lend themselves to bare feet. Some places like restaurants have health regulations or insurance restrictions prohibiting bare feet and hot surfaces like stages under the sun can badly burn bare feet.

Heels present their own problems. Some outside terrain like rough brickwork and gravel make high heels dangerous. Heels can also easily sink and become mired in soft, damp earth. Collect an assortment of various footwear so you are prepared for a variety of dance locales, but make sure your choices match your costumes! For dancing out side in colder weather my favorite footwear is short, suede boots which have no heel to speak of and are rubber soled. Right now they are out of fashion and I canít find them anywhere, but you might want a sturdier boot that will hold up to dancing on pavement.

 

Costume appropriateness

Itís important to consider for whom youíll be dancing. To understand what kinds of people constitute your audience. In a Middle Eastern nightclub your audience will probably consist of Middle Eastern men. At a Middle Eastern Restaurant or International Festival you will probably encounter a mixed audience which can include Middle Eastern women and children and people of varying ethnic backgrounds. At Ren Fairs you will probably dance for American families. So you can see how your audience can vary and a good performer always keeps the type of audience in mind.

Suit costuming, as well as performance, to the venue. For performances open to families I recommend something folkloric or tribal but not too revealing. For nightclubs wear your glitziest, but not necessarily your skimpiest, it depends on the owners. Cover up somewhat at nursing homes but let it all hang out, so to speak, at private adult parties. Use your discretion when choosing which costume to wear.

  

Jewelry

Jump rings on metal jewelry or holding coins on a bra or belt may pull open over time and need to be tightened with pliers. Youíll need two small pliers, one to hold the jump ring and one to pull the ring tighter. I prefer the ones with grooved ďteethĒ and rubber coated handles. When opening jump rings always twist them open donít pull them apart. Too many manipulations and jump rings break, so occasionally heavy pieces like belts may need many of the jump rings replaced over time.

 

Cover-ups

Cover-ups are a necessary component of a complete costume. Maintain your personal mystique and the allure of your costume by remaining covered until performance. Then afterwards as well, especially if you are going to mingle with the audience. A Cabaret costume up close and personal can be a bit intimidating. Covering-up can put your audience as well as yourself at ease. Covering-up also helps deter men from addressing themselves to and staring at a well-displayed "decolletage".

I strongly recommend not wearing the belt to your costume while driving. Sitting on the fringe can tear out strands of beadwork, as well as damage beaded appliques. If the belt has coins they can be bent and chains can be broken if sat upon. Chains and fringe can damage expensive leather seats as well, so beware. Also be aware of what youíre wearing in case you have a wreck, break down, or have to talk to a law enforcement official.

 

Sewing Kit

I always carry a small sewing kit to every gigue containing:

Assorted needles of various sizes

Assorted safety pins of various sizes

Small pair of sharp scissors

Tape measure

Small collection of extra hooks & eyes and snaps

Small amount of elastic for zil repair

Small assortment of variously colored, sturdy thread, which should match most of your costumes.

Possibly a couple of small pliers for jewelry repair

I use a tri-fold jewelry bag with multiple compartments for my sewing kit. It wraps up into a small bundle and I keep it ready to use, and I use it often.

 

Make-up

If you can get a professional make-up consultation make it clear that you are interested in stage make-up.

When applying make-up for performances wear more make-up than would normally be worn and probably a good bit more than one would wear out in the evening. Your face needs to be distinguishable from a distance and lighting can vary, so you need a lot of make-up. Invest in good quality kohl from a reputable cosmetics company and heavily line the inner eyelids, upper and lower. This is a traditional eye adornment in the Middle East. Always try to buy good make-up, itís worth it in the long run. Always keep the make-up fresh; old make-up has already changed its chemical composition.

 

Accessories:

Veils

Make sure you have your veil(s) packed and ready for the gigue. To avoid wrinkles role the veils up for packing. I occasionally role them up around a cottonball or some folded tissue on to which I have added a drop or two of scented oil. The veil(s) will absorb the scent and it will waft noticeably off the veil during performance. Warning, oils and perfumes can and will stain, so use great care and desecration to avoid staining your veil. You might want to create a sachet. Make, or obtain, a pouch smaller then a zil pouch. Stuff it with cotton balls that have been lightly scented then wrap your veil around the sachet. Donít douse the cotton balls so heavily that the oils can soak through the pouch. Be aware when wearing perfumes of other peopleís allergies. Oils tend to be less offensive the perfumes.

 

Zils or Turkish Spoons

Make sure the elastic in your zils is tight and secure, if not replace it. You may want to polish them, feel free to do so. Place them in a pouch all their own, possibly padded since brass can become brittle and shatter on impact. Make sure all four are packed before the gigue. Thereís nothing more upsetting then reaching into a pouch and pulling out three zils. Count your zils before you leave the gigue as well.

Between sets always replace your zils in their pouch and keep that pouch in a secure place. I also recommend not lending zils to anyone. Even a close friend can accidentally loose a zil, ruining a possibly irreplaceable set. If you want to share have an extra pair you wonít mind losing. Letís just say here that I feel itís very important to keep up with your stuff. Itís a real shame when casual thoughtlessness causes the loss of a valued treasure.

Turkish Spoons should have their own pouches as well and again care should be taken, as they are wooden and might break. Make sure there are four to a pouch and pack them before the gigue and count them before leaving the gigue.

 

Swords

There is a lot of debate on the use of swords. Iím not going to join the legitimacy debate here. I wish instead to focus on safety issues. Always have a sheath for the sword and return the sword immediately to it after use. Keep your sword in a safe and guarded place where children or teenagers cannot find it. Never let anyone play with your sword in case they hurt themselves. If allowing audience members to try balancing a sword place it on their heads yourself and remove it yourself as well. Swords donít need a sharp edge on them to look scary, so you may want a dull sword for safetyís sake.

 

Canes/tateeb/assay

Always take great care to have enough room to swing your cane. You donít want to hit any one. I once saw a dancer hit a toddler smack in the face with her cane because the audience was too close behind her. You also need to take into consideration the height of the ceiling and look out for any light fixtures. Make sure you wrap a rubber band around the opposite end from the crook of a cane. This gives you something to grip and will help keep the cane from flying out of your hand.

 

Candelabra/oil lamps

Use dripless candles in a candelabrum. Hot dripping wax can ruin a costume, get in your hair or drip in your face!

Always be extremely careful when using fire. Make sure the ceiling is high enough and take all the fire precautions you can think of! Remember hair and costumes are easily set on fire.

 

Snakes

I could write a very long article on snakes, but here I simply want to mention a few things.

Remember that many, many people are terrified of snakes so donít get too close to someone who looks nervous.

Snakes need to be kept in a very tightly closing and warm place. Cold can kill a snake and they are master escape artists.

When dancing with snakes, be ready to be pooped or peed on. Never jerk the snake around and wear a costume that will not damage their delicate skin. Always handle snakes firmly yet carefully and keep them far away from your face. Never kiss a snake they often carry salmonella and always wash your hands after handling them.

 

PREPARING THE PERFORMANCE SPACE

Arrive early enough to familiarize yourself with the area in which you are to perform, as well as policing it of any hazards. Figure out your entrances and exits. If possible dance around a little to get the lay of the land. Try a few spins. Spins will always gravitate down hill and so will your fanny! It helps tremendously if you can anticipate the dips and rolls so you can avoid them or at the very least avoid spinning into them unexpectedly.

Check for hazards such as spilled liquid. One slip can equal a broken hip. Look for nails or splinters protruding out of the woodwork which can hurt bare feet or catch on skirts and veils. No one wants tetanus shot, damaged material or horror of horrors a costume that is literally yanked off of you! Be very careful if you plan on doing floorwork. You can perform floorwork on brickwork, but only a masochist will enjoy it. I once pulled a toenail off during a performance of floorwork on brickwork. Knees can be easily damaged if they come down on something like a small twig or rock, or too firmly on brickwork as well, so be careful! Also donít make matters worse by trying to solve the problem with scattered rugs. These can be deadly if not sufficiently held in place. Rugs can slip under you, bunch up and trip you or pull up at the edges and trip you. Keep an eye out for utility cords as well if there is a band or sound system.

At all times check for burning cigarettes, broken glass, loose or warped boards, positioning of the tables and chairs and the flow of pedestrian traffic like waiters or festival attendees.

Pay special attention to fire hazards like candles, tikki torches, stage lights, burning incense, fire pits or fireplaces, fire jugglers and fire breathers. All of these things can set a skirt or veil on fire instantly and not only burn your costume, but possibly end in tragedy. When fire and wind are a factor it may not be a good time for veil work.

If dancing outside you need to check closely for rocks and sticks, which can badly damage bare feet and cause you to turn your ankle if youíre wearing shoes.

Thereís one hazard unique to really large stages and outside performance, which is difficult to describe, but which many people experience. It involves spatial orientation, which can be difficult to obtain in a vast space or an outdoor setting, particularly for those dancers who are accustomed to dancing in a small well-defined area. It can be an over whelming sensation, but it can be banished with familiarity, which is achieved through repeated exposure to dancing in that space or one similar in size. If you dance in a large space only once or twice a year you may experience this lack of orientation, (donít let me put something into your head, this never bothers some dancers). Just try to relax and focus on the music. Use broad sweeping motion to help fill up the space. This is a wonderful opportunity to spread your wings, without the limitations of a confined space, so enjoy those fast moving traveling steps with no holding back. Dance your veil with full extension and abandon. Open your dancing to fill the larger space. Vastness need not be a problem.

 

WORKING WITH MUSICIANS

Always rehearse with the band before a gigue if at all possible. If not try to procure a recording of their work so you can be familiar with their repertoire.

Know your music

Discuss splitting tips ahead of time

Always show respect; let the audience see you acknowledge the band.

Never assume you can dance for a band. Always ask first and donít be offended if they tell you no, if itís their gigue.

Musical basics you need to work with band:

Be familiar with their work

Know the names of songs, as many as possible, or be able to hum it

Know what a:

Phrase is

Measure is

Down beat/back beat

A rest

 Know the basic rhythms

 Recognize musical dynamics

 

Video taping at gigues

Never videotape without permission.

 

ATTITUDE AND PROFESSIONAL DEMEANOR

NO DRINKING ON THE JOB!

(ďDutch courageĒ, isnít really) If you worked in a sawmill you wouldnít drink on the job. If you were a surgeon, fireman or airplane pilot you wouldnít drink on the job. Dancing takes just as much focus and quick thinking as these other jobs so donít drink when you dance professionally. Drinking undercuts your stamina, destroys your spins and impairs your judgment.

 

W/Clients

Try to always be polite, well dressed and punctual. When bringing a spouse or helper to performances discretion should be used and sometimes permission must be sought before hand. Itís always safest to ask first.

 

Tips, Salary & Under-cutting

Deciding whether or not to accept tips is entirely up to the individual. So is the manner in which the tips are accepted, stuffed into a belt or bra, taken with the teeth, spit on by the customer and slapped on to the forehead. Up to you, your boss, the band and the police. Be careful about touching a customer while accepting a tip - blue laws get the owner fined and you fired!

 

W/Other Dancers

Never criticize another performer to an audience member and avoid sitting with your back to the stage and/or talking during another dancerís performance. Show respect at least, if you canít express support. If at all possible, show support and enthusiasm for other performers. Clapping, ululating and other forms of encouragement not only excite the dancer but the audience, the musicians and yourself as well. It also encourages others to express themselves in a like manner.

Never use flash photo or videotape without permission. That goes for ziling during their performance as well. Also avoid gossip with other dancers as well as the customers, if possible.

 

W/The Audience 

Never leave a professional engagement with a customer; it could be mistaken for prostitution. Be very careful accepting tips! Find out what the local blue laws are before you accept money from anyone who isnít the person who hired you. Try not to discuss your private life with customers. Take great care in your interaction with customers, in general.

Accept both criticism and compliments graciously, but be forewarned they may be mixed together. Like the time an older couple approached me after a performance and gave me quite a mix of opinions. The gentleman beamed at me and told me how much he enjoyed my dancing and quoted his wife as having said that I was a much better dancer then the other dancer who had also performed. His wife scowled at both of us and snapped, ďNo I didnít, I said she was more aggressive!Ē I thought it was hilarious.

Also try not to jump to conclusions about the audienceís opinion. Once during a performance another older couple struck me by their wildly divergent body language and facial expressions. He was beaming at me, she was scowling at me. I assumed it was the standard sexist responses, the man thought I was sexy and the woman resented it. I even have them on videotape and would use them as examples to my students of classic Freudian responses. I was astounded when during a repeat performance a year later I was introduced to them and told by their daughter, who was their interpreter as they didnít speak much English, how moved her Mother had been by seeing dancing which she associated with ďhomeĒ, she had even cried! They requested a special dance just for them and gushed (through their daughter) over me for at least an hour! I had assumed she hated me and in reality I had pleased her very much indeed, so donít jump to conclusions and always try to be gracious. If I were to dance for the greatest dancers in the world and they all sang my praises, I donít think I could feel more validated then when I pleased that wonderful couple.

Whether you personally are capable of accepting praise or not you need to realize that the audience has a valid need to express itself to you. You initiated the exchange between yourself and your audience. You owe them the opportunity to tell you how they feel and what they think. Hereís a tip if you find yourself uncomfortable accepting a compliment, graciously allow them to express their enjoyment to you as part of your performance. Think of it as follow through on your exit. Smile, listen and say, ďthank you very muchĒ. Or turn the praise back on them with something like ďThank you thatís very kind of youĒ. If youíre really uncomfortable and they continue to laude you, take control of the conversation and start asking them questions and donít hesitate to say you need to move along and speak with others, (which is true). But do be aware that often members of the audience need to express themselves and that this interaction is as important as any other aspect of the performance. The first impression the audience has of you is as a performer. The last impression of those in the audience who speak with you will be of you is as a person.

You may want to have business cards handy or photos with your info on the back. I hand out a lot of cards after a performance. No oneís asked for my autograph yet, but I have received job offers. So be prepared to do some self-promotion after a show as well as making new friends and connections. For shy or slightly anti-social dancers this can be the most difficult aspect of their performance; however the more they practice accepting the audienceís feedback graciously, the easier it gets. Besides itís often the time you receive your greatest compliments, so enjoy and always be polite and politic.

One more point about interacting with the audience. Gigues vary to a huge degree and there may be many times you find yourself performing, then joining the audience till your next opportunity to dance, then joining the audience again. This scenario puts you in a unique position of availability to the audience. They may take advantage of the situation to ask you questions. I have seen many dancers become annoyed by these questions and even ignore the person entirely! I truly donít understand this attitude. I thoroughly enjoy my interaction with the audience and if they want to become more educated or are simply interested Iím thrilled. This is a golden opportunity to help some one else discover the joys of Middle Eastern art and culture, not to mention the chance for a little good PR with the public. Show them there are brains to go with the body and answer their questions to the best of your ability. I hand out my card if I donít have time or feel like tackling a big issue. My web site is listed on my cards and I encourage them to start with our links page or possibly Iíve written an article on the subject at hand. So instead of discussing it there they are encouraged to read at their leisure and I can move on to the next person. Now of course I donít expect everyone to have a web site, but you can be prepared to direct them to your own personal sources. Have your contact information available to hand out at all your gigues as this makes it easier on every one (no searching for pen and paper, no misunderstanding of what was said). You may want to create a flier or brochure. If done nicely this comes across as very professional.

 

Between Shows  

If sitting with the audience either sit with friends or sit at a table with women, especially in Arabic Restaurants and Nightclubs. Iím sure this will outrage many women, but itís the best advice I can give to try to avoid trouble.

 

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This page last modified: December 22, 2005