Things to Consider when Hiring a Belly Dancer

What to expect from the Belly Dancer’s Show
A belly dancer’s show will usually last between 15 to 30 minutes, depending on what the event requires. She will enter to a dramatic piece of music either wrapped in a veil or she will have a veil, shimmering wings, or cape floating behind her. Her first number is to show off her skill as a performer and to entertain you, so sit back and enjoy.

ShemsAfter that the dancer will usually move into a more traditional number, like a popular Middle Eastern Classic or Baladi number, or she may choose to show off her skill with a prop, like a sword, veil, cane or candle tray. If the dancer pulls out a sword or is balancing flames, you might want to resist the urge to jump up and get too close, you could get hurt. If you really like a particular number or prop that you’ve seen in the past, feel free to make a special request.

Listen for an fun upbeat song next, this is where a dancer will more heartily encourage audience participation. She may throw on zills, she may or may not actively be getting folks up to dance, but at this point, you don’t need an invitation if you want to shake your own tail feathers or shower your dancer with money. Usually the dancer will make an effort to get any guests of honor up to dance, sometimes she’ll include an impromptu dance lesson if some of the guests seem unfamiliar with dancing to Middle Eastern music.

At some point during the show the dancer will most likely do a dance to a piece of drum music. The guests may want to keep dancing along, or they might want to sit back and admire their belly dancer showing off.

The music itself will be Middle Eastern, most likely from Egypt, Turkey or Lebanon, possibly Greece, Iran or North Africa, unless you’ve specifically hired a “fusion” belly dancer, then her music could be just about anything. You may request your dancer perform to a specific piece of music of your choosing, perhaps something from another region like India, or just something that you particularly enjoy. Make sure you work out the music requests with your dancer well in advance, so she can have adequate time to prepare.

At the end of her show the dancer will often put a short finale piece to wave goodbye to the crowd, although sometimes, the DJ will just mix the dancer’s set into his own dance mix to keep everyone up on the dance floor. Each event is unique, but this should give you an idea of what you might see.

If you want your dancer to entertain for longer than her one set would usually take, you can request an additional show. She will need a break to refresh her make-up and do a costume change. Keep in mind that additional shows will adjust your dancer’s final fee.

Contact Person
Assigning a specific contact person to assist the dancer is a good idea. Give the dancer the contact person’s number in case she gets lost and needs directions to an event. When she arrives the contact person can show her to where she can change and set her things and can assure she gets paid. The contact person is also handy for taking the dancer’s music and making sure it gets played at the right time. The contact person can be helpful in assisting the dancer with her props and retrieving any dropped tips for her at the end of the night. It is usually better if the contact person is not the guest or guests of honor at an event.

Do you have a conservative guest list and would prefer a covered costume? Is there a particular color or style that would better seem to match the theme of an event? Let your dancer know in advance and she will likely be able to dress just for your event.

ShemsDance Area & Changing Area
Is there a clean dry space for the dancer to perform in, free of unnecessary obstacles? Is there a safe, private and secure place for the dancer to change, freshen up and place her things? Is there drinking water available for the dancer? If it isn’t your property, like a restaurant or place of business, have you gotten clearance to have a dancer there? Please take time to be considerate of your dancers needs.

If the dancer is using props, it is very nice if you designate somebody to assist her with her props. Usually this is as simple as placing them for her in a space accessible to the dance area and then returning them to her when she finishes her set.

Sound System & Music
Is there an adequate sound system for the dancer to use? Does it require CDs or tapes? Is it an older player and/or can it handle burned CDs? Is the system Ipod compatible? Does the dancer need to arrange her own sound system? Is there a live band? Would you like the dancer to arrange for musicians to accompany her? Make sure to let the dancer know so she can be prepared.

Driving Directions & Parking
You will need to provide the dancer with an exact address. If you know of an easier way to get there than mapquest directions, please let the dancer know. It is also nice to give the dancer a contact person she can call if she gets lost or hits unexpected roadblocks or delays. If it is difficult to find parking around your event, be sure to let the dancer know what her options are, street parking, parking garages, etc., so the dancer can allow time and take into account any parking fees she may be responsible for during the night. If you can arrange for some kind of parking for her in difficult areas this is very helpful.

It is perfectly appropriate to tip a dancer before, during or after her performance. However some people don’t understand the etiquette of tipping and some clients prefer that it doesn’t take away from the show. Culturally appropriate ways of tipping a dancer include, handing her the money, respectfully tucking it into her costume in a place she designates (usually in belt near the hip or in her glove or shoulder strap), showering the money over her head, gently sticking the money to her glistening forehead, or folding the money into a garland to be placed around her neck. Usually there is a portion of the program in the middle or near the end when it’s the best time, when the song has a steady beat or she’s encouraging audience participation. If money falls on the floor, it’s very nice to have somebody collect it on the dancer’s behalf and bring it back to her.

Belly dancers often book several shows back to back on a weekend night and may have to leave your party quickly to make it to her next engagement. Please keep as close to your planned time for the dancer as you can or if you need her to be flexible, let her know in advance and be prepared to pay a little extra for her time. Helping your dancer by having a contact person assist with collecting props or tips in a timely manner and making sure she is paid and able to get out the door is very appreciated.

Although often a verbal contract is adequate for small engagements, sometimes it’s nice for both parties to have in writing what the expectations for a gig are. Here is a belly dance contract that defines the expectations from both parties which can be adjusted for the specifics of your event.

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