Sunday, November 26, 2006

Belly Dance Ethics & Guidelines

As previously promised, here is the body of the email that was forwarded to me by my teacher.

Fair Pay, Typical Rates, Ethical Practices and Professional Standards

There has been a recent resurgence of talk about standard rates for dancers, undercutting, performance venues and other important issues for professional belly dancers.

This increased awareness is vital for the continued success of performing belly dancers of all styles. It is also imperative to developing understanding and respect in the general public for our art-form and the myriad cultures from which it springs. If we hope to develop and keep respect for this dance we love- we must treat it with the utmost respect. Find a teacher with high standards, one who will keep you to those standards and one who will be honest with you about both your strengths and challenges. Study with someone who has years of genuine professional experience who can guide you in ethical professional practices.

Morocco, Artemis Mourat, Anthea and others have written wonderful articles on the subject. Sarah Skinner has also addressed the issue on her comprehensive site. Discussions have taken place on, Bhuz as well as several yahoo groups devoted to regional belly dance.

It seems often performers who are new, or new to an area are not filled in on regional standard rates. They may inadvertently charge under the typical area rates, without meaning to undercut- but the result is the same- lower wages for everyone. Wages that won't pay for all our prep, travel and rehearsal time, let alone costumes, workshops etc (not to mention rent or mortgage). Ideally dancers who are going professional are being guided by a responsible, knowledgeable teacher. As this is not always the case, I have included a list of links with tips on professionalism and ethics for the professional dancer.

If you are not a dancer and have somehow stumbled upon this page: Please remember that included in our fee is SO much more than the 20-30 minutes you see us perform. An hour prep time, travel time (average 30 minutes to an hour each direction), waiting around at the whim of the host/musician, all occur on the day of the gig. Factor in rehearsal time, class time and the cost of costuming, props and music and you'll have a better idea of the challenges faced by a professional dancer.

We as dancers need to keep in mind that the venues where we work are also trying to make a living. The
restaurants and clubs that support us and are kind to us; the ones that treat us like family instead of the hired help truly deserve our support. There are several different ways we can do that. These venues make wonderful places to hold recitals and other events that may bring them more clients at a usually not so busy time. When these restaurants have special events with musicians it's often a wonderful opportunity to dance with live musicians. If you can, patronize these places on your night off and encourage your students to support them as well. The dance community is much more than just the dancers- the venues, musicians, party planners, DJs, vendors etc are all our partners in promoting this wonderful art form. Treat them as such.

Some new dancers don't have access to dance mentors who are generous with their years of knowledge. Other dancers have teachers who are not themselves practicing or teaching within these professional standards. For these groups of dancers, I hope this list helps.

I just added another page with links on all sorts of aspects of performing and professionalism. I also highly recommend working with a mentor or taking a workshop from a respected professional who has been in the business a long time. Coming soon is Artemis Mourat's So You Wanna Be a Star workshop. It's FANTASTIC! November 19th and 20th. Silver Spring, MD.

This information is kindly provided to me by dancers from ALL OVER. Thank you to all those who have contributed. Please email me with examples of your region's rates or more up-to date information. Please feel
free to share this page with other dancers. This page last updated October 11th, 2005

Other ideas for positive action:
**Support establishments that pay fairly and treat dancers with respect. Bring your friends, go watch a show, etc.
**Help guide and support each other in typical rate practices. Remember that these rates are merely a guideline - advanced dancers can earn more than newbies as a result of their experience etc.
**A few restaurant owners do not always tell the truth about what they are paying other dancers. They will often try to get the lowest price possible - as does any business. Be fair, but also do not undervalue yourself.
**If a venue doesn't pay you, or gives you the run around- Remember you are a professional and deserve to be treated as such. Also let other dancers know this is happening. Communication with others is key in developing a support network.
**Clearly communicate and negotiate with a venue and/or band about both pay and tips. Is there body tipping allowed? How are floor tips distributed? How are you paid if there are few clients in the establishment? Remember to do this BEFORE you work- so tip and pay methods are understood clearly by all parties.
**If you are a teacher and want to create an opportunity for your students to perform, it's unethical
to take away a gig opportunity from another professional dancer. Create something OTHER than a "Student Night" at a restaurant or club on a busy night. If you organize a student night at a restaurant or club on non-busy night or in the afternoon- you are allowing your students the excitement of performing at a real venue, insuring there is plenty of room for their friends, family and supporters AND supporting the restaurants that hire professional dancers for their busier nights. Haflas/student performances can also be held at community centers, retirement homes, daytime/non-busy nights at shisha lounges, coffee houses, after workshops etc. They can be fund raisers for a cause, or for scholarships for your school. There are SO many positive opportunities you can create for your students, that also demonstrate support of the professionals in the area.
**If you or your students can't get and/or keep a gig at the local rate, chances are you are not yet ready to perform for the general public as a professional. Do yourself and the art form a favor and PLEASE find a teacher or mentor to help guide you. There are lots of venues appropriate for a developing professional or hobbyist.
**Having students perform in environments where the general public may think they are professional is
doing a disservice to the dance. Our art form will never be seen as professional if we do not uphold professional standards
**Support other teachers and event promoters. Also do your best to not schedule your events over someone else's.
**Remember the difference between a Diva and a Professional. Be a professional.
**Follow a strong Code of Conduct, such as the one by Anthea
**Speak positively about other dancers, speak positively about the dance. Educate yourself to the best of your abilities, so you can present the dance in its best possible light and help to dispel myths.

Below is a list of typical rates in different regions in the US and Canada. See below right for international rates. This list has been created for the express purpose of being a pro-active tool for dancers to gain
awareness of the fair rates in their region. Remember its about being fair, not forcing higher rates than a region can support, or creating a hostile environment with anyone. Most of these rates are examples of minimum or starting rates for newer dancers. Variation is expected.
Holiday rates (New Years, Valentines Day etc) are generally either 1 and 1/2 or double, depending
upon region.

New York City
** Parties $175+
** Restaurants $75-200.
Washington DC
** Parties $150+
** Restaurants $60-$65+ per set. (some are starting to regularly pay $75)
Northern Virginia
** Parties $150 (+ when over 1/2 hr travel time)
San Francisco, CA
** Parties $200+
** Restaurants $50-75. (these rates recently went up due to online discussions and community support)
Los Angeles, CA
**Private Parties $150 - $250 depending on length, number of sets
**Group Classes $10 - $20
**Private Lessons $30 - $75
**Restaurant work: $30 - $75* Some restaurants pay hourly wages and generally, the dancer gets to keep all her tips
In the boonies, 2 hours outside of LA, CA
**Private Parties: $75 - $250
**Group classes: $20-40 for 4
**Restaurant work: $30 for all night to $25 per set for multi sets
San Jose, California
**Restaurants: $50 for 1 set, $75 for 2
**Private parties: $150-$300
**Parties: $150-200
** Restaurants with CD: $70-85 plus all tips for one set $140-150 plus all tips for two
** Restaurants with band: $100 and up for one set (no tips), two sets: $150-175
** Parties$75-150
** Restaurants: 50-75 for 2 or 3 shows, except Marrekesh: 100-150/show
New Jersey rates:
**restaurant: $50+ 1 set $75+ 2 sets
** Private party rate: $150-200 for 15 minute set
**Weddings etc start at $300
**Restaurant rates in southern Jersey might be different-most bistros have no liquor license
North Florida:
**Restaurants 2-3 15 minute sets, $25 per set
Miami, Florida:
** $175 to $250 for private parties for 15-30 minute show
** $100-$125 plus tips for restaurant gigs, 2 or 3 sets (plus a meal at some restaurants!)
** $40-$60 Private lesson
** $10-$15 regular group classes
Tampa, FL:
**Restaurants: minimum $75 per set, usually 2 set minimum
**Private Parties: $125
**Classes: $12 per 90 minutes
**Private classes: $45-50 per hour plus any studio fees
Melbourne, FL:
** $125 - private party, 15-20 min. show
** $75-$100 restaurant 2-3 15 minutes sets
** $10-$15 One hour group, classes
** $25-50 Private classes, 1 hour
Atlanta GA rates:
**Large, popular restaurants: $75-$100
**small, rural restaurants: $35
**Private Parties: $150/15min - $300/30min
**classes: $12
**private classes: $40/hour
There is a guild in Minneapolis. Their wage guidelines are:
**Min. club rates
$60 for 1 show
$75 for 2 shows
$90 for 3 shows
$25 charge if performance is cancelled after the dancer has arrived
**Min. Private party $100 for 1 show
**Restaurants: $20-60 per show
**Parties: $150+
**Classes: $12 drop in, $10 ea with multi class card
**Private class: $40
Seattle, WA:
**clubs/restaurants: $40 one show, $60 for two
**parties: $125+
**classes: $10-12
**privates: $35+
Louisville, KY:
**Parties (belly grams): $100+
**Other events: $25/set to $50/set
**Classes: $7 - $12
**Private Lessons: $20 - $30/hr.
**Restaurants: $25/ set.
Iowa City, Iowa:
** $50 for one 15-20 minute restaurant show, $75 for two sets of that length in the same night
** $50 for a one-hour private lesson
** Group classes: if someone pays for a series of multiple classes (say, 6-8 week session) classes are $8-$10 per one-hour class, but drop-in onesy-twosy rate lies in the $12.50-$15.00 range.
Columbus, OH:
**Private parties: $125 and up
**Restaurant rates: ranging from $50-75 per set
**Group lessons: $10-15/hr/student
**Private lessons: $35-45

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