Blog Posts

Community, Charity and the Money Question

Posted on 5/17/2013 by Mara Thacker in performance money charity community

Summer performance season is upon us and I am happily watching our calendar fill up with dates for shows. And what a variety of shows it'll be!

So far on the docket we've got a charity performance at a local children's museum, a 45 minute slot at Friday Night Live with a second slot pending, a wedding reception, a dance party/show at the Iron Post and a few other things that are less concrete at this point. I am hopeful we will continue to add more events to our calendar because there are few things that I enjoy as must as glitzing up in a fabulous costume and hamming it up for an audience.

One thing that has been somewhat controversial in booking all these performances is the money question. The thing is as much as I'd like to spend all day every day dancing, I can't. I have a day job and it has nothing at all to do with dance. The same holds true for my gypsy sisters as well. And so it's fair to say that we are not professional dancers. Instead we are (talented) amateurs who love to dance and want to share our love with others in our community.

And yet we cannot dance for free. At least not all the time. There are a few reasons for this. First, there are professional belly dancers out there who make their living from dancing and every time an overzealous hobbyist comes along and offers to dance for free, they are undermining the value of her work and may even take away opportunities for the professional dancer to earn money. Like it or not, most Americans (maybe even most people) are not belly dance connoisseurs and are not really concerned about booking the very best belly dancer with flawless technique. Given the choice between "good enough" and "great", if "good enough" is free then they're going to go with "good enough".

Another reason we have to charge is costumes are EXPENSIVE. I'm not even talking custom-made, swarovski crystal studded affairs. Even the very cheapest "made in China" gear quickly adds up to hundreds of dollars. Never mind the stage make-up and accessories. In addition to costumes, it also costs us out of own pockets to purchase music, props and attend workshops to keep our skills up-to-date. All of which is to say that it ain't cheap to be a belly dancer.

So our solution was to come up with a price list that is a starting point for negotiation when performance opportunities come up. We based our list on a very helpful webpage that offers pricing tips for new belly dancers based on geographic region. We chose to stay at the starting prices in deference to our amateur status and to keep it affordable for local folks, while also helping us at least subsidize our hobby (most of us still end up spending quite a bit out of pocket). However, since we are in it for the love of dance and want to contribute to our local community we also made the decision as a troupe to accept some performance opportunities at greatly reduced prices if we feel that it's for a good cause and it isn't otherwise onerous (like too far away, conflicting with other plans, or a miserable climate situation).

Which is why this Saturday you will find us dancing for free at the Orpheum Museum's Building Fair. Because there are few better causes than local art and culture organizations that serve children. We hope you'll come out and see us there and also that you'll consider booking us for your own private event. And if you do, we hope you'll find that our shows are delightful and that our rates are very fair indeed.