The Belly Dancer Reader makes a perfect gift!  

Workshops- Pandora Opens the Box!
Two Differing Views of a Las Vegas Dance Workshop
introduced by an author of a book on the subject

Janie-intro
Ann- view of promotor
Heather & Andrea-view of instructor

Planning is the First Rule of a Successful Workshop
by Janie "Jenee" Midgley,

Author of
"How to Put on a Belly Dance Workshop... Without Going Crazy
"

In Real Estate they say, "Location, location, location!" But in sponsoring a workshop, it is planning, planning, planning! By planning ahead of time, you control the situation. A year in advance is best, because you must control the situation. If you can only deal with one workshop a year, then don't be talked into producing two per year by anybody. If your community can only support a small workshop, don't be talked into creating a large one. The main reason some workshops turn into your nightmare is lack of planning and, therefore, loss of control.

Reno was the site of another, very successful, two days of recent workshops. The annual event is called "High Desert Hip Fest", and we started planning over a year before our event. We asked two good friends to do "Hip Fest" and they agreed. We announced it at last year's two-days of workshops, so our community had time to plan something to which we could look forward. We nailed down what was going to be taught and by whom.

Then, we all signed contracts

Yes, we signed contracts. You might be saying, "But we are friends; we don't need a contract!" I beg to differ; a contract is not a nasty thing, but rather, it is a safety net. A contract tells each party what the other is going to do.

We agree to provide:

  • the place to hold the event (we like to use the same place for the workshop and our show)
  • transportation,
  • food,
  • a vending table,
  • an ad in the program, and
  • a set fee for their services.

The Instructors agree to:

  • prepare a great workshop,
  • bring handouts if appropriate, and
  • perform in the evening show.

With contracts in hand, we know what they are going to do. Likewise the instructors know what we are going to do. There is no wondering and there are no excuses like, "I didn't mean that." And, there are no changes made by anybody!

Advance planning allows a small dance community like Reno to draw participants from outside our area. "High Desert Hip Fest" had attendees from four states, because we gave ourselves time to advertise, and we gave the participants time to plan a trip to Nevada. Because we draw from more than our own community, we can afford to sponsor two instructors instead of one and hold the event over a two-day period. We didn't start that big; we grew into it.

Yes, there is a lot to do, but you have planned all of that out, and you have had time to fix what needed to be fixedlong before the event. There is so much more to planning a successful workshop that I have written a whole book about it! The main advantage that planning gives you is a chance to have FUN at your own event. Now you can have fun and bask in your success as well.

Following is a story told from two points of view of how things can go wrong when two well-meaning parties attempted creating a recent event without a proper contract.

 

View 1 of 2
Las Vegas Hafla
By Ann Lucus/ Neferteri

So, you are thinking about hosting a workshop? I did, and let me tell you: having children would have been easier. I enjoyed the workshop but I had my problems, too. My problems seemed to all come from one source (which I will discuss later, in detail).

I teach belly dancing in Las Vegas and I encourage my students to take workshops and seminars when they can. Believe it or not, Las Vegas doesn’t attract a lot of belly dance workshops, so I asked my teacher and dear friend, Tasha Banat, to come and teach my students.

Tasha and I were online and a friend of hers, Alexandria Parafina from California, joined us and offered to come to Las Vegas at no expense to teach.

I explained that this would probably be a small class and that there would not be a lot of students, therefore I could not pay a big salary. I wasn’t looking to make a lot of money, just to have a good time.

Alexandria volunteered and said she just wanted to come to Las Vegas to get away, and that she agreed to the terms. She said she wasn’t really concerned with making money. I thought, ‘great—I have two wonderful instructors and my students will really get some great training.’ I would later learn this would not be the case with one of my "great instructors."

The next step in my plan was to rent a dance studio. This is the easiest thing to do when you live in Las Vegas; there are hundreds of studios. I recommend one that has a good floor, good location, and one that is flexible with rental fees. (I found the last requirement very helpful—I will explain later.)

The last thing I needed was a club or restaurant that would let us have a hafla. I also found this to be an easy task. My husband is Mostafa Baddiou, a Moroccan singer and drummer of renown. He works at a club in Las Vegas, so I did not have to pay to use the club. I thought things were going great.

I mailed flyers to all the dance clubs, studios, and all the belly dancers I knew. I also attended the one workshop that was going on in town before my workshop and gave out flyers there. I called and e-mailed everyone that I knew. I think it is a good idea to advertise, but it can be expensive.

I knew things were going too smoothly. I have been in entertainment too long to expect everything to go right—this is why I always have a back up plan. No matter what—whether you’re the performer or the producer—please have a back-up plan. I don’t care if is the first or the one hundredth show, do it.

Now, here is where my nightmare begins. Alexandria called me and suggested that her husband, Noel, come to Las Vegas and teach. She said he is a master zill player and he had agreed to teach under the same conditions she had. I will say, he is a phenomena teacher (if you can get him to teach without his wife, it is worth it!). I thought, ‘o.k.’, but I explained again to Alexandria that Las Vegas does not draw big classes and I was not looking to sponsor a big of workshop. She said it was o.k.

Two weeks later I received another call from Alexandria. She wanted to bring a few of her students with her to perform at the hafla. I told her that would be great—but again, I told her this was not going to be a big thing. She said ‘no problem’. This pattern went on for two more months until she had talked all of her students into coming to Las Vegas. I appreciated her input but I was not looking to do Rakkasah.

The day of the first workshop, the dance studio called and said they booked another event on the same night as my workshop! I was a little upset, but remember: back-up plan. I have a good friend who has a small dance studio in his home. I called, and he said yes, so we moved it to his place—great. (I also save money on studio space.)

Ann will continue her view at another time...

 
View 2 of 2
Alexandria
and the
Near Eastern Dance Company Do Vegas
by Heather and Andrea Las Vegas or Bust! By plane, train and automobile we were going to Vegas for workshops and a show by Alexandria and Noel Parafina, the Near Eastern Dance Company, and Tasha Banat, ponsored by Ann Lucas (also known as Neferteri).


Thursday, January 24, the majority of the company arrived by plane in
Las Vegas and checked in at the Sahara Hotel, the
company’s Egyptian style headquarters for the next 4 days. Looking out the hotel room window, Latifah commented “This view reminds me of Cairo !”

That evening, Alexandria, Birute, Dawn, and Jim went to check out the costumes, choreography, and glamour of French burlesque show “La Femme”. Martha, Alexandria’s sister from Florida, and her husband Mike joined them while a couple of our group members chose to skip the show and head for the casinos! The show received mixed reviews from the Near Eastern Dance Company and friends. “We are French, and you are nothing!” was a humorous comment made to characterize the attitude of the dancers. Later that night, Heather arrived in time to hit the Sahara's casino, get the proverbial free drink, and then crash for the night. 

After many unreturned phone calls to Ann/Neferteri, Alexandria finally reached Tasha and Ann by phone Friday morning to find out the final schedule for the workshops and show.

Tasha and Ann arrived at the hotel to greet Alexandria , and Ann let her know that there was a change from the schedule previously e-mailed. Instead of teaching the 12 o’clock workshop on Saturday, Alexandria would be teaching at 10 a.m. and there were only 2 enrolled students.

Knowing that last minute changes sometimes happen, and that most of the dancers in the area work on Saturdays, Alexandria didn’t let the change bother her.

While having lunch at Quark’s Bar with Tasha, everybody discussed things they had discovered and plans for the evening. Birute and Jim had found a fabulous store called Du Barry's that had gorgeous clothing and jewelry on sale at reasonable prices. After lunch and throughout the rest of the weekend our troupe lost more money there than in the casinos; we just can’t resist shiny and sparkly things!

After meeting up with the other members of our troupe who arrived on Friday (Melinda, her husband Jose, Susan, Cynthia, Latifah, Sylvia, Monifa and her mother), the planned entertainment for that night was the 9:30 show of “Crazy Girls” at the Riviera. What a show it was! There were beautiful girls, some great costumes, impressive moves, and a fabulous male comic who was also an incredible dancer. Some of us thought he was the best part of the show! Upon returning to the Sahara to regroup, the troupe split up to paint Vegas their own shades of red. Heather, Latifah, Melinda, and Jose went off to see the Street of Lights, where a silly tourist tried to pick the girls up by asking if they were from France ! The Street was a funky retro experience, but when they decided to pick up the pace they headed for Rio and the Voodoo Lounge. After making friends with a bouncer and getting a table, they spent the rest of the evening dancing to the band!

After arriving late Friday night by car, Andrea awoke early Saturday morning to accompany Alexandria to the workshop. First, a necessary stop at Starbucks for coffee! Despite having only 3 students, Alexandria taught a fun and challenging workshop covering basic and advanced Egyptian cabaret. Alexandria had high hopes that after seeing the troupe perform Saturday night the Sunday class would be full of students. Later that afternoon, Noel Parafina taught a phenomenal finger cymbal class (as always!) that was well received by Ann and the five students who attended.

Coordinating the transport of eighteen troupe members and their friends to get to the Sidewalk Cafe was a slightly chaotic affair that evening! It would have been easier to herd a group of cats! But after weeks rehearsing, getting our costumes together, and the time and money spent on getting to Las Vegas (not to mention getting those costumes there at the same time!) there was no way we were going to miss this night.

By car and taxi, the whole troupe arrived with plenty of time to get ready. Ann/Nefertari’s anxious comments about the importance of starting the show on time and dire warnings of what would happen if the whole troupe wasn’t there, made us concerned about the stress she was under and what the rest of the night was going to be like.

In one of the few e-mails Alexandria and Ann had exchanged in the weeks prior to the event, Alexandria had provided Ann with the names of the members of the troupe and which dances they would be doing, as well as the exact times of each piece to be performed, so that Ann would be able to schedule the night properly.  For some strange reason known only to Ann, she changed the previously stated schedule, adding two numbers by a dancer who had not even been planning to dance that night, skipping one of our troupe numbers, omitting the intermission that was scheduled for a necessary costume change, and rushing our troupe throughout the whole night.

As if that weren’t enough unpleasantness, Ann did not introduce some of our soloists Alexandria ’s drum solo was nearly cut short, but the man in charge of the music refused to turn it off in the middle of a number.

Ann announced our dance by stating, “Here is something that they call ‘the Saidi‘” and “Don’t they teach interesting things out in Berkeley ?”    

We were proud that in spite of adversity, we managed to perform one of our best shows to enthusiastic audience applause. Both Alexandria and Andrea’s solo pieces were accompanied by Noel and his outstanding cymbal playing and brought

whole-hearted responses. Our Saidi, Ghawazee, Algerian, and our newest troupe piece that combines all 3 pieces with an impressive raqs Al-Jihayni solo, wowed the audience so much that one audience member said he thought all the Middle Eastern culture in Vegas must have been in that room that night!

In spite of unfortunate circumstances, there were some bright spots in the evening. Freddy and Mona Sayegha, owners of the Sidewalk Cafe, were gracious hosts who invited us to dance there whenever we were in town. The band that played after our show was also friendly and responded to our performance with warm comments. They also asked Noel to join them on the cymbals while everyone enjoyed an open dance floor. After performing, we replenished our energy with the delicious cuisine of Chef Nicolas.

Having exhausted ourselves while dancing to the band, we all headed back to the Sahara Hotel and the after-party held in one of our rooms.  We all decided that our troupe had performed one of our best shows and that all the hassle was worth the fun we were having in Las Vegas together. With that as a farewell, the wee hours of the night found us heading for our beds.

Bright and early the next morning, Alexandria awoke to a phone call from Ann canceling her Sunday folkdance workshop, with no explanation as to why. Despite her curiosity, Alexandria joined the rest of the troupe that afternoon for a visit to the Aladdin. We arrived in time to see the 5 o’clock performance of belly dancers, fakirs, and acrobats to live music. Alexandria and Noel were delighted to bump into the drummer who had played at the Sidewalk Cafe the night before. We also chatted with the belly dancers and we waved at Ann, but she apparently did not see us. We enjoyed it so much that we decided to stay for the 7 o’clock show. We spent time in the casino, listening to the lounge band called “The Klique,” and shopping at the Desert Passages mall.

We left Monday morning feeling a little sad about the end of a fun weekend and the return to “the real world.” In the end, Neferteri stopped payment on the check with which she paid Alexandria for the workshop that she taught. Let this be a warning to other workshop teachers. Things may not turn out the way they were planned, but you can still have a blast! In fact, we are looking forward to future workshops planned in New Orleans , Hawai’i , and Fresno . We will also be traveling to San Diego to perform at the International ComiCon Convention in August, as well as all of the Bay Area’s Middle Eastern dance festivals.

Look for more articles on our adventures in the future!

 
 

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more by Ann Lucus/Neferteri-
5-25-00 Farouk by Neferteri
"I am always looking for ways to enhance my performance and leave a memorable impression"

12-12-00 I am Neferteri by Ann Lucas
There appears to be some curiosity about the racial background of a dancer. I don't fully understand why anyone in today's world would care, but they do.

6-27-02 Middle Eastern Dance Meets Hip Hop Culture by Latifa
Issues Confronting a “Vintage Dancer” when her Audience is Half Her Age

6-1-02 "Come with me to the Casbah" by Nisima
...flung me right into her husband's lap, yelling, "Kiss her Henry...