photo is author posing with Michel of Syria
Dance:Time for Personal Assessment or
How old are your Shoes?
I approach 60 years of age, I was asked to provide a personal
assessment of my life’s achievements for a class I am taking.
Aside from the obvious – 2 beautiful children and 2 fabulous grandchildren,
1 condo and 1 co-op; a car that is paid for and 2 cats who adopted
me, my single most personal achievement has centered around belly
dance, the anchor and personal reward for my cultural, political,
educational, religious, and emotional ride through life so far.
after all the 40 + years I am ready to say that everything I
ever wanted out of the dance, I have received tenfold.
Every dream I had so far came true and every time I was told
that I would never succeed, I did.
that, my personal assessment of myself is that I was never
the best dancer anywhere or at anytime. I
was not the most attractive by any stretch of the imagination.
I never had the best figure, nor was I the most popular or the
most in demand. I was certainly not the thinnest and I never dressed
in the most expensive costumes. As a matter of fact, I never
had much going for me; not the support of my family and not even
thick hair or a tiny waist.
were often considered too modest much of the time and just barely
accepted in many nightclub venues. My dancing was probably
too regional and not considered sensuous at all by the great belly
dance masters who observed me when I performed. I was never
one for glamour and my cabaret clothing probably would have been
called “sporty” by the great designers of the world. Back
in my time, no one who worked regularly in an Arabic nightclub
wore dresses instead of a cabaret belly dance costume except me.
being an American Arab was a deterrent and not a plus.
Arab girls did not belly dance in night clubs anywhere in the
United States in the 1960s and 1970s except in very rare occasions,
and if they
did, it ceased on a professional level when they married and had
children. It was never considered a proper or classy way
to make a living and because of that stigma, I often took day
jobs just to justify to my political and cultural connections
when asked how I made my living.
I was raised to contribute to the country who gave me everything
and as a matter of civic pride. I was also groomed to contribute
to my culture, my religion and my heritage. I was encouraged
to speak my mind (within reason) and to be a good mother to my
children. My ex husband, while not being a terrific spouse,
was a great dad and together we raised 2 wonderful children who
are successful today in their field of expertise.
I am sharing this personal assessment with the dance public is
to let you know that you can achieve every goal you set out for
yourself if you ask yourself a few simple questions and allow
yourself to be honest with your answers.
do you personally want from the dance? In order to answer
this honestly, you must make a personal assessment of your goals
and include your achievements.
my goals and they come from my personal assessment that was realistic
Goals and Achievements were as follows:
- I wanted
a job that allowed me to work at night and to be home for my
children in the daytime. Achieved and successful:
They grew up with good values and are as normal as any hard
working American grownup.
wanted enough money to be able to put food on the table and
a roof over my head. Achieved successfully enough not
to go hungry. I even could afford some college for them and
myself with the help of good investments that my father, an
accountant and stock broker convinced me to make.
- I wanted
to travel, not just as a tourist, but as a person who actually
knew the fabric of the community that I chose to live in before
retirement. Achieved; again thanks to parents who encourages
- I wanted
to take vacations in exotic places. Achieved thanks to
my ex husband who took care of our children every time I left
- I wanted
to have fun at work. Achieved and successful beyond my wildest
dreams. Even now at my regular day job as an International Travel
Agent Consultant, I am thankful to Belly Dance for the money
to study Travel and Tourism and Political Science.
- I wanted
to be around people of my heritage so I would not forget where
I came from. Achieved on a personal level and for the most part
successful. One consequence of that achievement is that
now that I live in an “Arab nightclub” starved city. I
may have just assessed that because I miss the live music and
interaction with my own people on a social level so much, that
I may actually have a new goal for myself.
- I wanted
to be a good employee and to do so in the nightclub I had to
consider Belly dancing the way that I considered any job I accepted,
and not necessarily a profession.
the personal financial assessment, the one we might now all like
to hear from others, but is the bottom line. I just want
all of you to trust the fact that I am a “paid my dues” professional
Belly Dancer and Instructor and the formula that I have used throughout
my career was and is as follows.
When I break
down the time per hour that I actually spent dancing or waiting
to dance in a night club, as opposed to the hours I spent at my
regular jobs, neither of which included paid time for getting
ready and physically going to work, this became the constant result
of my final personal assessment.
for Dollar, considering that I received cash most of the time
as a dancer, belly dancing Always paid me more, even in the
leanest times, without exception.
it did not matter whether it was for a weekly guarantee, a salary,
or for tips. Dollar for Dollar, I made a lot more money
Belly Dancing than I ever did, even during my highest paying day
jobs. Of course Belly Dancing in nightclubs did not offer
health benefit in America which is the only reason I
work at a day job.
One of the
ingredients that I believe made my life as a Belly Dancer so successful
was as follow: I always respected the cold hard fact that my co
workers, musicians, and my employers (those nightclub owners who
most dancers never say nice things about) worked just as hard
as I did had the same needs and goals.
been rough times in the business of belly dance and the level
of acceptance was never as good as I would have liked, but I am
thrilled to say that nightclub owners, musicians, other dancers,
and, co-workers were rarely the source of my discontent.
we do not have performance reviews the way we might on a regular
job, we only have a few ways to assess our need to improve.
One: The audience
audience was and still is the most important measure of success
and the only advice I can give to you to help you with your personal
assessment is “if you want Belly Dance as a sustainable profession,
you must please your audience with your performance each and every
time you are out there.” Years in the business says
that I achieved this successfully. Yet, I still always take
every performance seriously and with pleasing my audience
as my number one goal.
Two: Other Performers
accept that my co-workers provide as good a show as I do or they
will not last long in this or any other profession. So,
if you want to succeed, you must assess your own ability to please
your audience before commenting on anyone else in the business
or you just might find yourself out of a job.
Three: The Club Owner
always trusted my bosses to support me when there were difficult
moments and in turn, I never deliberately let them down.
I rarely called in sick and I always worked with their interests
in mind as well as my own. Therefore, you must recognize
that if there is no one in the house during your performance,
especially weeknights, and your boss is having hard times due
to no fault of his own, you may have to cut back on some of your
personal demands. Be fair and honest with what you think
you deserve and what is practical. Do not allow your artistry
to get in the way of logic or you will be out of a job.
Four: The Musicians
ingredient to me were the musicians on the stage who performed
great songs for me. With very little exception, they made
my shows successful.
the years, I learned to trust them implicitly. It did
not matter if they were great, good, or even just passable,
they were in the same place I was and had the same capacity
to be hired and fired as me and they always worked harder and
longer each and every night.
this became the easiest part of my job because I learned to accept
and appreciate that they too are artists in their own right so
I never tried to tell them how to do their job. In return
for that, I always got the respect I wanted, the wages (dollar
for dollar) that I needed to put food on the table and the opportunity
to live and work in so many great places with the finest dancers,
club owners and musicians that anyone could ever want to be associated
One of the
best rewards is that I still am asked by the children of some
of the club owners to perform in many venues. I still am
working with the relatives of many of the musicians I worked with
when these offspring who themselves are now artists were not even
born yet. And I still get asked quite often “Are you the
same dancer I saw in “such and such a city” a trillion years ago?”
It means I am still here and still remembered and best of all,
is another little piece of advice for those of you who have
taken the time to make a personal assessment of what you want
for your life in comparison to what you have already achieved.
Do not hang up your hip band yet.
We have an
Arab saying (somewhat modified) “that when one becomes like an
old shoe, it may be time to throw it out.” My reply (not
modified). “There is no shoe is so old it cannot find another
foot.” So even though I have accomplished everything I that
I have set out to do in Belly Dance I am not an old shoe.
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