Featured on Gigmasters Blog!: Tips for Hiring a belly dancer

It can be overwhelming to try to hire a belly dancer, or any live entertainment for an event. This is perhaps even more true in south Florida. This past week, I was honored, as well as several other talented belly dancers, to be featured in a gigmasters blog on some tips for hiring a belly dancer. Follow the link below to see the gigmasters blog, and scroll down to see my full article.

1.   What should a client consider when looking to hire a belly dancer?

Always look their profile and personal websites over carefully and ask all the questions you want, even the uncomfortable ones. When hiring exclusively online you can never be too careful. Photos can be old, or photoshopped or out right stolen from other sites! Don't hesitate to ask to meet in person beforehand. Double check with liability insurance especially if the dancer is using fire. Not only does this protect you if something were to happen during the show (God forbid!) but it also shows that the dancer has made a professional commitment to their dance by taking the time and money to purchase their insurance and learn how to perform safely. Also, don't just go for cheapest. On lead generating sites such as Gigmasters, it is easy to see a line of bids and just click the cheapest but even with a great company like Gigmasters you can be burned by this. You get what you pay for and if a dancer is pricing themselves under the competition there is a reason. She may be new, or an "undercutter" and she also isn't going to take you party seriously. If something better comes up she will not hesitate in leaving you high and dry the night of your event! Or if she shows up she might be less than what you were hoping in skill, punctuality and ethics. I have heard horror stories from clients, everything from the girl not being the same as pictured to dancing in non family friendly ways, the list goes on. It is not worth the gamble!

2.   What questions should a client ask a belly dancer that they are considering booking?

Again, check for liability insurance, photos, reviews, videos, website. If the dancer doesn't have any of these it can be a red flag. It isn't just having these things but these are evidence that they take their dance career seriously and have invested time, money and energy into it. Of course this could mean the dancer is just starting out or hasn't had the luck of getting good video so ask to see a live show. Almost all professional bellydancers perform at weekly shows at local restaurants and this is a great way to see them in action! You will not only get to see their dancing but how they deal with the crowd and their demeanor. This is a quick and fun way to ensure you are getting the right fit for your party!

3.   Once a client books you for a performance, what details should be discussed prior to the event?

In order to ensure a smooth show be sure to discuss spacing required for show, music format and time of performance. Depending on the props being used and the personal preferences of the dancer will depend how much space she will need. Try to be as accurate and realistic as possible. We can accommodate nearly any requirement but we have to know what we are working with! After space, music is probably the next most important factor. The dancer will bring music on multiple formats usually but it is good to check over beforehand with your DJ. Some DJs are not equipped to play CDs or even iPods and if this is the case it could prove to be a disaster if the dancer is not prepared! If you have no DJ but are planning to use a home stereo system you should do a check to make sure it is playing properly. Some home stereos will not play burned CDs so it is a good idea to try to play a burned CD just in case. A professional dancer usually will also have her own sound equipment so if you're stereo is being strange, ask her to bring her sound equipment. Finally, respect the time frame you and the dancer discussed, she likely has several engagements throughout the night and you delaying the show for 30 minutes could cause her all sorts of trouble. If you suspect this might happen let her know as soon as possible so you can work out arrangements.

4.   Please tell us - when did your act get started, and why do you do perform?

I actually started in ballet at 22 months. I come from a dancer family on my mother's side. Everyone on her side is involved in dance or performance in some way so it was barely a choice, I was enrolled into ballet class just 4 months after I started walking. Lucky for me I loved it. I quickly added on several other classical dances and went on to perform with Ballet Florida and Palm Beach Opera. During this period, my much older brother took up belly dancing (men dance it too!) and it made quite an impression on me. Though I was absorbed in the classical world for most of my life I found myself being more attracted to belly dance. When I started college, the ballet schedule was simply too demanding with school and I left the dance. During this period I used to have horrible nightmares about being late to dance class and running up the stairs to the studio but the stairs sucking me in. I had to have dance in my life! I started attending belly dance classes and instantly fell in love. With my classical training I progressed very quickly and before long I found myself a full time belly dancer. In belly dance I found myself even more than ballet, I had the freedom to express myself outside of a ballet narrative or choreographers instructions.

My act though I wouldn't say was complete till I added the fire sword. The sword dance was always what attracted me to belly dance before I started and having the strength, balance and flexibility from classical dance it was a natural dance for me. But I found the audience to be so untrusting and they automatically assumed the sword was not real or it was some sort of parlor trick so I thought I needed to add an extra element of danger to the act. So I sewed some wick to my sword and set it on fire. My goal was to do all my same tricks, including body and head balances with the sword on fire, other dancers thought I was nuts! But I did it anyways and now it is one of my most requested acts. Of course, I'm not the first or the last and other dancers have followed suit, but I have yet to see anyone do it quite like me.

5.   What kind of gigs do you usually book?

Everything from birthdays and weddings to half time entertainment and baby showers. Pretty much every event benefits from having a belly dancer. You don't have to be Middle Eastern or Mediterranean descent to appreciate it! Besides offering different and memorable entertainment we are also party starters! We get everyone up on the dance floor having a good time so that your party is a success not just the show at your party.

6.   What is the most interesting/unique event you have ever worked?

There have been so many! What sticks out most in my mind is a yacht show I did. The guest of honor was retiring and his friends wanted to send him off in style, so naturally they went to Gigmasters and started searching different entertainment options. They decided on me as a belly dancer and as a complete surprise. Only problem is, how do you sneak a belly dancer onto a yacht? It's hard enough sometimes into a house but a yacht you're even more limited. I offered I should disguise as a server or caterer of some sort so I dressed in all black, like a server and boarded the boat inconspicuously with a suitcase filled with all my goodies. From there I was ushered into a private room in the bottom of the yacht where I changed. Once we were on the open sea the guest of honor thought he knew who everyone was on the boat so he was beyond surprised when I came up the stairs!

7.   What other advice do you have for clients booking a belly dancer?

Have fun with it! Ultimately we are here to make your party unique and unforgettable. Work with your dancer to make the performance an extension of your personality. It doesn't have to be huge, just little details from a costume color or a certain song you like. But these details can make an impact and make your party and show stand out amongst others.

8.   Anything else you’d like to share?

Dancers love photos and videos of shows! If you ever get some from your event please send it to us. Even cell phone clips, we love it and it helps us remember your party as well, cause usually we are having just as much fun as you are!