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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Performing at Dancer-Oriented Events if You're a Hobbyist


By Saqra





Dancing at haflas, belly dance festivals and at open dance nights can be fun! And, it gives you an excuse for buying pretty costume pieces! (Always a plus!)

This type of venue also often allows to you spread your wings to try creating the difficult-to-execute, unusual, or downright strange acts from your imagination. (Also always a plus!)

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Michael Baxter, Santa Clara, California.




Make Your Act Appropriate to the Venue

If there may be children attending, do be considerate of their parents' sensibilities. Edit "the F word" out of your music. Try to limit the number of musically screamed "Beeeeeyotch Hos!" if possible. However, if your milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard, and you want to dance about it, a belly dance event is a better place to demonstrate that than at the state fair.

Our dance field is partially populated by many young women who do not have children and may not be aware of what makes some parents uncomfortable, so the following movie industry guidelines used in the United States may be useful:

PG – Parental Guidance Suggested

Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents are urged to give parental guidance as the motion picture contains some material that parents might not find suitable for children. Such films may contain some violence, language, drug references, brief nudity and/or implied or inferred sexual activity.

Contrast that with: 

R – Restricted - 17 and Above

Such films may contain rough and/or persistent violence and suggestive material, hard language, strong horror, strong crude sexual content, sexually-oriented nudity, and/or hard drug use. Admittance to these films is prohibited for anyone under the age of seventeen unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. Children 17 and above permitted to watch R rated movies.

If you are dancing in a venue with age restrictions of 21+ you are a bit safer to make envelope pushing choices, but remember your dance sisters with small children at home still tend to use a mental Disney filter even when their offspring are not present. And it may be appreciated more if you baffle them with your talent and creativity instead of work to shock. So consider keeping your acts PG.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Michael Baxter, Santa Clara, California.




Costume Appropriately

Choose a costume that is appropriate with the correct amount of coverage for the venue.

The performance rule of thumb is:

  • In the daytime, costumes should generally be more covered.
  • At night time costumes can be more bare.

You do have a little more freedom at a dancer-for-dancers event. But under any circumstances people find bare butts and crotch or (even hints of bare butts and crotch) distracting. Later, your audience will be talking to each other about your butt and not about your dancing, or how interesting your prop work was, or how pretty you are. Your butt. Your magical "audience flashing."

Another unanticipated "coverage" issue for many dancers is the effect of light on costuming. Costuming that seems fine indoors can go transparent outdoors. Have you had the experience of wearing a broomstick skirt outside, only to look down and discover the sunlight goes straight through and you can see the Tasmanian devils on your underwear? Well, maybe that is just me with the Tasmanian devils, but costuming can surprise you with bright light.

Sunlight can penetrate your costuming and reflect on what is or is not beneath. Very strong stage lighting can do the same. And a veil that was completely sheer in a normal room may become opaque when sun or spotlights reflect off the face of it, rendering your seafoam-green-veil-covered under-the-sea-mermaid act into what appears to be simply a green bag with feet.

Know what the lighting can do to your costume.




Be Someone Who Makes the Show Organizer Glad to See You

  • Show up.
  • Be on time.
  • Try very hard to never back out after booking yourself. Organizers do remember this. If it happens repeatedly, they start booking you first, very late in the show after their headliner when the crowd starts to leave, or they no longer have space for you because they expect you to not follow through. This is a small community. Word does get around.
  • Send your music promptly if the organizer requires it in advance.
  • Be prepared for both MP3 player (with a clearly identified playlist named for the event) and CD (with just your music on it) for a few more years. Soon MP3 players or memory sticks will take over, but until then be ready with both. CD is still pretty safe and sometimes required, but I have started running into shows that expect an Mp3 device or smartphone only.
  • Know how long you are supposed to dance and do not exceed the time. Once again: this is a small community, and word does get around.
  • Be flexible and ready to perform early in case of schedule changes.
  • Do be a team player. Understand you are not the most important person there, even if you are promoted as the "special guest". All other performers should be treated with respect equal to what you would like. Don't hog space, don't snub people, don't refuse to help another dancer.
  • Never discuss anyone in a negative way at the event. It goes beyond "what gives you the right". You do not know who is standing behind you. If you must be nasty, go to the car first, where you can talk about that woman's butt you saw because she wasn't properly covered.

Of course, as usual, your mileage may vary. But your journey will be much more pleasant if you make people around you glad you are there. 




Related Articles

  • Dancing to Distraction. By Shira. A light-hearted look at errors belly dancers make that distract audience attention away from our dancing.
  • Don't be THAT Person in the Dressing Room! By Shira. After that big belly dance event, you want people to talk about your great performance, not about your obnoxious dressing room behavior!



About the Author

Saqra (Seattle, Washington, USA) is a powerful dance artist and a master instructor. Her fluidity, grace, and technical skill is highlighted by her friendly demeanor and clear joy of the dance. She did not inherit the diva gene.

Saqra won titles in Belly Dance USA (Oregon), Belly Dancer of the Year (California), Belly Dancer of the Universe (California), Wiggles of the West (Nevada), and many other competitions. She was voted "Best Kept Secret of 2005" and "Instructor of the Year 2008" by readers of Zaghareet Magazine.

Saqra's journey in this dance form began in 1977 and has led her to study with many of the best dancers in the world, including in America, Canada, Turkey and Egypt. Saqra continues to travel and study both in the USA and abroad and prides herself on proper research for anything she teaches. Folklore, fakelore, and stage creativity: all three are valuable, and Saqra clearly presents for each what they actually are. Saqra is constantly expanding her expertise in the traditional ethnic forms of the dance, the modern stage variants, and the continuing evolving fusion techniques, all these areas combined keep her material fresh and current.

Saqra is widely known as an event promoter, musician, music and instructional video producer, and a registered hypnotherapist in the state of Washington. That is enough stuff to start explaining what she has been doing in belly dance since 1977. Visit her at

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Michael Baxter, Santa Clara, California. In the photo, Saqra is holding her Teacher of the Year 2008 Award from Zaghareet Magazine.

Saqra with Award



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