Gilded Serpent presents...
all professional dancers!
How much do you charge?
by Nanna Candelaria
I grew up
in the nightclub and restaurant scene having begun my dance career
at a very young age. From the start I understood that there was
an unspoken rule against discussing one’s rate of pay with other
dancers. It was as if doing so was a sort of betrayal to the establishment.
looking back, I’ve come to question where this habit came from,
and why we regarded it as empowering, rather than questioning
the club and restaurant owners were the ones, most likely, to
propagate silence. It is to their benefit, after all. I realize
that this same taboo persists amongst us today, not only in the
nightclub arena, but on a larger scale, when booking ourselves
out for private parties and events. The issue here is the disparity
in pricing. Many dancers agree to perform for significantly less
money than others.
those that may not know, this is what we refer to as undercutting.
Over the years,
we dancers have unwittingly kept the general rate ridiculously
low in restaurants and nightclubs. Unfortunately, this is an area
which seems unlikely to change, as restaurant and nightclub owners
are often set in their ways, and become savvy to the knowledge
that there are numerous dancers seeking opportunities to perform.
Sometimes the longer a restaurant has been in business the more
likely they are to be caught up in a fiscal time warp. I don’t
hold much faith that dancers will ever become organized enough
to change the situation in the entire restaurant and club scene,
but my hope is that we can unify in our approach to pricing for
private parties and events.
I was a new dancer I believed that I was honoring the dance community
by charging less due to my lack of experience. I was also anxious
to have as many opportunities to perform as possible. I thought
I was acting out of humility in charging a lesser amount; I could
not perceive how I was actually weakening the dance market in
As I furthered
along in my dance career and acquired more professional experience,
I also became increasingly aware of the tremendous amount of time
and energy that went into preparation for each performance. Assembling
music, rehearsing my numbers, shaving, applying makeup, and doing
hair takes hours. Then there was the panicked rush to find the
location and the contact person, and the pressure to emerge from
a makeshift dressing room appearing fresh and joyous, in what
was so often an awkward dance environment. I never knew if I would
end up dancing in a bowling ally, an office cubicle, or Uncle
Bob’s living room. After performing so often I began to realize
how demanding the whole job can be. I should also add that most
of us invest great amounts of money and time in dance lessons
and dance costumes.
I now recognize is that the general public is rarely informed,
and does not always differentiate between experienced and non-experienced
dancers, particularly while in search of an entertainer for their
event. If any dancer is offering her services as a performer,
she should realize her level of experience and her skill are nearly
insignificant next to the fact that if the client expects her
services as an entertainer, then they should always expect to
pay a reasonable amount for that service.
most clients contact belly dancers through email. It has therefore
become easier than ever to search for the lowest bid on a belly
the majority of my lifetime to this form of dance, and now being
an experienced and accomplished dancer, I can say that those newer
dancers who charge less (and those not so new dancers who charge
less) greatly hinder my opportunity to charge appropriate and
just compensation, for fear of knowing that I can easily be underbid.
While in search of a dancer the client is not so often concerned
with artistic mastery. What they are most often seeking is simple
entertainment and amusement.
Yosifah, with whom I began a discussion on this
subject, quotes: “Do doctors, dentists, computer technicians,
or lawyers charge less on their first day of professional practice
than they do after 10 years of experience? If all of the
belly dancers were men, would they book themselves as cheaply
as we do? I know a woman who is a professional clown
in this area. She books children’s parties for $200.
Should we be booking our parties for less than a clown?”
told me of her conversation with Najia,
her coach. Najia had apparently spoken with Bert Baladine
on the subject who is of the sentiment that if an inexperienced
dancer charges less than the experienced dancers in her area,
then she is undercutting the dance community.
think it is crucial that we become organized and in agreement
about a base price for a dance performance. I am calling on anybody
and everybody who dances professionally for parties and events
to agree on a base fee. I suggest $200 as a minimum.
Talk to your
friends, talk to your students, and inform your community what
you charge. Wouldn’t we all feel so much more confident in quoting
an adequate price knowing that the client cannot simply contact
the next dancer on their list and get the same service for less?
It is not
necessary to form a union or spend huge amounts of effort in becoming
organized. We simply have to communicate about this subject more.
is not rude to share your prices with your fellow dancers; it
is foolish to remain silent and divided.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
12-14-00 Troupe Tabu
goes to China! by Nanna
should be noted that somewhere between passing the audition and
performing, it was announced
that three out of four dancers in the group (not including myself)
Interview with Mahmoud Reda
Part 1: The Beginning by Morocco
Ministry of Culture should be of help, not a source of problems.
But anyway, they had control of all the theaters, so to find a
theater we must go to them, but they gave us problems. I don’t
know why; maybe they were jealous!
Rhythm and Reason Series,
Article 3, Community Warfare by Mary Ellen Donald
and again I hear dancers deplore the fact that in many parts of
the country there are warring camps among dancers; that is, groups
that openly oppose each other and that try to keep all useful
information and all jobs to themselves.
Carnival 2005 Page 1 June
11-12, 2005, Glendale,
help us identify faces. Thanks!
Hadia Speaks: a Telephone Interview
experience is that, although many dancers in Middle Eastern countries
are wonderful artists, they generally lack the skills to teach
in an effective, methodical, safe way.