ad 4 oasis dance company

ad 4 Fahtiem

Atemis and Hassan Deeb dance at Carnival of Stars 2006
Atemis and Hassan Deeb dance at Carnival of Stars 2006
Artemis dances at Carnival of Stars 2004
Artemis dances at Carnival of Stars 2004
Artemis vending at Luna Gitana event in 2005
vending at Luna Gitana event in 2005

Gilded Serpent presents...
A Vendor's View
by Artemis

Artemis Imports began as a mail-order and event-vending business in 1983, and I would like to give some insight to the dance community about the vending experience.   While festival attendees are making last minute adjustments to costumes and choosing their music, vendors are finishing up on a process of packing and making ready displays that often began months before. Everything that is displayed had to be chosen and packed, decisions made as to which items to bring (often wrong, as one cannot know exactly what people will want), and how much of each to bring.

One thing that makes vending a very stressful job is that the booth fees for the larger events are now pushing $1000, and sales income must cover that cost first, then hotels, gas, food, and all of the extras needed to stay a weekend somewhere.

Then, we must somehow get to the event, which can be 400 miles or even more away.  Some vendors will drive from neighboring states, driving 13-18 hours or more. It is a joy when an event is within a 3 hour driving distance!  Since most of us drive vans, some quite large, you can imagine the cost of transportation, due to the ever-increasing cost of fuel.  For vendors who don't drive, attending means obtaining airline tickets, jamming full two suitcases to carry, and paying for the advance shipment of the remaining inventory.   When we arrive at the event, it becomes about the “haul in.” For spring and winter events, it is always about rain: will it rain or not?  Rain is awful to deal with!  How do we minimize water damage to our items?  How do we not come down with the flu, after having been soaked in the unloading process?

Some wonderful events give us a few hours on the day before to haul in, and we LOVE these events, because hauling in and setting up a booth in a 3 hour interval is about a 10 on the stress scale - but normally, the 3 hours is what we get.

 (This doesn’t affect the smaller vendors, the one or two table people, as much as it does the larger vendors, of course.) After the haul in, it then becomes about how to deal with our allotted space - it is never perfect, but we have to make it work.  It is at this time that most promoters get the biggest headaches, since 90% of us will be unhappy with the space we are given because our expectations were different, and we will express our dissatisfaction to the promoters.  But somehow, using a lot of “patchwork” technique, we make that difficult space work.   When the festival begins, and dancers start coming by to shop, we are nearly ready, but rarely completely done. Our day will be 12-14 hours of standing, bending to get items, talking to customers, trying to help everyone as quickly as possible, and answering questions. We don’t attend “after parties,” because by that time, we are ready only for bed! As vendors, we usually see most of the dancers and hear most of the music, (we can tell what is really popular by how often we hear it used), so, you might say, we really have a finger on the pulse of the event. We at Artemis love talking to dancers that we only see at these events, some only once a year - it is like long-term friendships being re-validated.

Our goal at these events is always to provide an array of fairly-priced items and to give honest assessments of the music and DVDs that we carry. We delight in being able to offer unusual items not seen elsewhere. At most of the events, we have a great deal of fun and of course, it is always wonderful when the promoters can offer us a dance spot, since dancing is really what it is all about!
At the end of the event, when dancers go home to relax, we have to break it all down, pack boxes, sweep up, do a “haul out,” (about 3-4 hours) and then drive "home", whether that be a nearby hotel or our own homes. This is when we are REALLY tired.   Some of the difficulties that we have encountered at the belly dance festivals are shoplifting, (which always makes our guts hurt, because we have trustingly put the items out for close examination), dealing with some “me first” customers, (who like to interrupt us when we are writing up a sale or helping someone else), temperature problems in the hall (makes one feel like fainting), complete blackouts at an event, and promoters who are rude and use storm trooper behavior to manage their events. Mostly, we deal with wonderful promoters, who are willing to listen to complaints and try to solve the problems.
However, now I want to get down to some personal comments.  Recently Artemis has said “adieu” to vending at the Rakkasah festival, both because of the culture of fear that has been carefully cultivated amongst the vendors by the promoter, and because of the inability of the promoter to behave without rudeness towards this vendor of 23 years' duration at that event (that’s almost $25,000 in vending fees, and that should buy some form of civility).

Vending is mostly a very positive experience for me, and that is because of the wonderful dancers that I get to chat with, the networking and information sharing between vendor/vendor and vendor/dancer, and of course, because of the participation in an event that promotes, what we all love—the dance. Twenty years ago, there were a few events a year; now, every month there is a choice of events to attend. Twenty years ago, the events didn’t have a glut of vendors such as they all seem to have now - kind of a sensory over-load, when it comes to costumes and such - but on the other hand, it gives dancers a larger choice, and more bargaining power.  

Promoters need to respect their vendors, not just for fees that they have given them, but because without the vendors lining the room, where is the color (other than on the stage),  and where is the “bazaar” atmosphere of the event? 

I think dancers are enjoying the small and medium sized events more these days, and I have had many dancers tell me it's because they don’t feel lost in the overkill, and the vibe is more relaxed and just feels better. One very seasoned vendor/dancer remarked that she felt that the hey-day of the “mega event” was on the wane, because people have realized that they could have just as much, or maybe even more, fun at a smaller event. The admittance costs are also an issue. Many of the door fees at big events are so high now, that dancers must choose which day they can attend, and, given the current economic climate, this coming year will make this even more apparent.   Whatever event you choose to attend, you can take a different look at your vendors, now that you know something of what we do to be there to offer you a great shopping experience. We all share the dance, and some of us are dancers as well as vendors!

Artemis at Carnival of Stars Festival in Hayward, November 2007
Artemis at Carnival of Stars Festival in Hayward, November 2007

We at Artemis look forward to seeing you at many events in the coming year; check out our webpage,,  to find out where we will be next!


Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
3-15-05 Rakkasah From a Vendor’s Viewpoint
Ah, Rakkasah! For many years the highlight of my vending year! A wonderful idea that has gradually faded over time….

9-13-02 Mailbox Missives: Are You Helping or Hurting Our Vendors? by Shira
Fortunately, very few bad vendors exist.

1-28-08 The Devil's Details, Show Ethics for Professionals Part 5 - Beauty by Yasmin
For new dancers, mastering the art of glamour can be daunting. But take heart, while internal sensuality requires character work, external beauty is easier to fix

1-22-08 “Dancing In The Streets; A History of Collective Joy”Authored by Barbara Ehrenreich, A Book Recommendation by Delilah
In her book, Barbara Ehrenreich takes one back to the original motivations of dance along a historic journey of how human impetus to dance, has been repressed by societal hierarchy, and religious zealots.

1-16-08 Backstage with the Reda Troupe by Debbie Smith
Seeing the company in performance six times was truly a wonderful experience, because each time I saw some new detail or subtlety in the movements, the costuming, the structure of the dances, and in individual performer’s presences on stage.

1-15-08 Cairo’s Streets Come Alive: Baladina Egyptian Dance Theater and Sharia Mohamed Ali by Erin Crouch photos are by Adrian Fenty
October 13, 2007, Chicago, Illinois. A modern temptress steals a man away from a traditional woman, who then finds a new man of her own. Perhaps a necessity for a dance company composed of mostly women, men seemed a hot commodity in the performance.

1-15-08 Photos from " Hate the Game Not the Player" in Oakland, California Photos by Liza Heider
A day of dance by Bay Area's Award Winning Bellydancers Presented by Shabnam and Mo on Saturday December 9th 2006

1-10-08 John Bilezikjian Where Old World Charm Meets Musical Genius by Elizabeth Artemis Mourat,
First in the series- DANCING WITH LEGENDS…honoring the musicians who shaped our dance world

1-9-08 Remembering Lynn Zalot and the Creation of the Habibi Magazine by Sadira
While everyone knew of Bob Zalot, who came to so many performances sporting his happy smile and booming laugh, many had no idea that his wife, Lynn was the true guts, heart, and workings of Habibi.

1-7-08 IBDC Part 2:- A Gilded Serpent tale, Alex in Wonderland, by Amina Goodyear
Unfortunately, the event did not draw the amount of vendors he had expected and, I believe, because he himself had not yet made a reputation for himself as a credible festival producer, he did not get the numbers of the dancers he wished for. Belly dancers are special people and Alex personally did not understand their basic nature.

ad 4 Artemis

ad 4 Dhy & Karen

 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines