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Gilded Serpent presents...
The Devil's Details, Show Ethics for Professionals
Part 4 -
What NOT To Do
by Yasmin
  • Show up drunk or stoned. No more needs to be said.
  • Not try the newly burned CD before the party. There is nothing worse than getting all the way to a job and finding out your CD doesnít work and you donít have a back up.
  • Hand your CD over without your name or a case. What if the person playing the music puts it on a pile of all the other unlabeled home-burned CDs he may have? If you are in a multiple dancer show you may just have to perform to someone elseís music. And you can forget about getting your CD back.
  • Put other music on the CD before or after your show music. Having other music on your show CD tempts fate and Murphyís Law and was mentioned above. If your CD has multiple tracks, write the number of tracks for the DJ. It will help him be prepared for the end of the show and your exit.
  • Badger the musicians about music. Also discussed above, musicians have a lot on their minds the night of a performance. If you wait until then to talk to them, your chances of having a meaningful conversation are slim. It is best to call before the party or come prepared with a list of well-known songs you know how to dance to.
  • Cheat the musicians out of tips. Donít fool yourself, they see everything. They will never forgive you for it and they will never trust you again. Plus your name will be mud with all the musicians in town. Is a $20.00 dollar bill worth the consequences?
  • Cancel last minute or not show up. This is another cardinal sin of professional belly dance. Broken bones and a death in the family are about the only legitimate excuses. Even then it is your responsibility to find at least one sub before you call in to announce the bad news. A cold, the flu, a sick cat, a broken fingernail, a better paying job elsewhereÖ are not good enough reasons. You may be the best dancer in the world, but if you canít be relied upon to show up for work no one will hire you. Word gets around quickly.
  • Refer a sub you do not know. If you recommend someone for a job, you should be able to vouch for their dancing ability and their character. If you canít, it is better not to put your reputation on the line. If you do refer a stranger, Murphyís Law dictates that she will totally embarrass you and the customer.
  • Show up late without calling. This too is unprofessional behavior. If you are caught in traffic it is not the customerís fault. It is better to deal with the problem quickly and tell the truth. The owner or customer may be able to delay or rearrange the show for you if they know exactly when you will arrive. Or they may not have room at any other time and you can turn around and go home. Assume the consequences. Liars are always caught eventually anyway.
  • Stay after your show when you donít have to. It ruins the mystique. It implies you have nothing better to do than sit in a bar all night. How exotic is that?
  • Sit or be too friendly with guests/customers you donít know. This only reinforces the idea of belly dancer as prostitute. You shouldnít have to sit and open bottles for a good wage, not in the US at any rate. It is one thing to go over and say hello if customers ask for you. Weddings and private parties are often arranged in this way. It is quite another thing to spend the evening with strangers. It signals to all the regulars that you will sit with them too. And if you donít, the club may loose their business. Check your motives. Are you working or are you playing the diva and flirting with customers? If the later is the case, go home and save your charms for when you are on stage.
  • Play only to men or flirt with womenís dates without their permission. Donít ruin the night out for the lady. The guy may like the attention while heís getting it, but he wonít get anything else for the rest of the evening from his companion except grief. He certainly will remember that and wonít bring another date back to the restaurant. Your employer loses a customer and if it happens often enough, you will lose your job. Put yourself in the ladyís shoes. Would you want someone coming on to your husband or boyfriend?
  • Think that the show is about you Ė it is about, for and paid for by the audience. Star behavior only turns off customers. They want to have a good time, not be constantly reminded of your magnificence.
  • Use facial expressions or movements that are not appropriate to the audience. Again, dance for yourself in the mirror. Do you use any facial expressions that might offend women or children? Sticking your tongue out, even a little, is never a good idea. Do you have any muscle ticks or nervous habits that might come out under stressful conditions? Filming your self during a performance is always a good idea.
  • Say bad things about other dancers or musicians to the people you work with or to customers. What goes around comes around. You never know when your words will come back to haunt you. Itís best not to get involved. Remember that there are at least 2 sides to every story.
  • Try to make the musicians look bad while you are dancing on stage. I went over this above. Making a scene only makes you look amateur and petty. Itís better to deal with snafus gracefully and go on with the show. Donít make your problem the audienceís problem. Smiling through disaster will make you look the professional and endear you to the band when you address it nicely later.
  • Play finger cymbals off beat. If you canít play them well, donít play them at all, particularly if you are working with a band. You will throw them off beat and then the music will really sound dreadful.
  • Drop your veil in the middle of the stage or where you will step on it. A veil on the floor is distracting. Audience members will watch it and wonder how long before you trip on it. And trip on it, you will. Thatís Murphyís Law.
  • Use a prop you are not good at. Why set yourself up for failure? Try to be objective about your dancing ability and your skill level with the prop.
  • Choose a song you donít know what the lyrics mean. If you are performing in front of an audience that understands the lyrics of your song and you donít, you could insult them without even knowing it. I once witnessed an extremely famous American belly dancer doing Ďhappy, happy, joy, joyí to one of Om Kalthoumís saddest songs. I was offended. I can only imagine what someone growing up with the music felt.
  • Use a plastic smile. If youíre not happy dancing you should reassess your reasons for performing. If you are happy, let the joy shine on your face. But your joy must look real, not fake. Watch yourself in the mirror when you practice. Smile at yourself. Get used to how a real smile feels. It is not etched in stone. It comes and goes.
  • Wear a belt where the back gaps.  Make a thread casing for elastic and sew it either on the sides or in the back of the belt. Men may think they want to see your crack, but not really. They certainly donít want to see your underwear or the safety pin that attaches your skirt to your belt. Certainly women donít want to see any of it.
  • Wear a bra that doesnít fit. Gaping holes between the cups and your skin are not pretty. Besides your nipples, they show you couldnít adjust your costume properly or that you didnít know how.  If you canít do it yourself, pay someone else to do it. Donít think no one will noticeÖ Sagging and Ďsports-bra-smashí are not flattering either. Look for healthy cleavage but not overflow Ė either over the top, under the bottom or out the sides.  Check that the back strap is snug, so you donít fall out when things really start to jiggle.
  • Enter the profession without guidance. In this day and age there are many wonderful professional dancers and experienced teachers all over the world that newcomers can go to for advice. Besides answering your questions, they can also boost you up when the going gets rough and to see reality when you have blinders on. Ask what the going rate for a show is in your area. Find out the places not to work and why. Learn who the other working dancers are in your city and go see them perform. Are you up to their standard? Are there any professional associations you can join, a newsletter to subscribe to, any Internet list serves to belong to? Donít be too shy or too proud to ask for help. Knowledge is power, and it just may save your life. Donít kid yourself. This can be a dangerous profession. You owe it to yourself to do research.

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Ready for more?
5-4-07 The Devil's Details, Show Ethics for Professionals, Part 1- Booking a Party by Yasmin
When a dancer looks good, she, or another, will get called back to perform again. When she looks bad, customers might be turned off to our lovely art form forever. Therefore, a bad dancer not only ruins things for herself, but for all of us
8-29-07 The Devil's Details, Show Ethics for Professionals, Part 2- The Cross Cultural Factor by Yasmin
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