December 18, 2010

Career opportunities for belly dancers

When asked what we wanted out of the class, all of my fellow beginner belly dance students proclaimed that they wanted to perform on stage, and be a professional belly dancer.  It was my very first belly dance class and I was the only one that just took the six-week class for fun, with no thought beyond the end of the session.  I never saw any of these ladies again after that series, and I chalk their comments up to youthful enthusiasm (yes they were about a decade younger than me), and just plain excitement about belly dancing.  I think that same experience repeats itself on a regular basis around the world, but do women really know what different opportunities and roles there are in this dance form?

In my other life (the one that pays the bills), I have a background in human resources and communication.  I periodically have friends who call on me to review their resumes or offer career advice.  I’ve even helped some people negotiate their starting salary in a new job because my specialty is compensation.  One friend even set me up on a “date” with her husband who had been recently laid off and was contemplating a major career change.  Call it career counseling or just a willingness to listen; I’ve have a talent for helping people figure out what to do with what they know.

The conversations start out in the same manner.  What do you like to do? What do you find interesting/exciting about your job? What do you NOT like to do? People may not realize it, but the list of things you don’t like is usually the most telling part of the discussion.  There are always tedious tasks in every job (even belly dance ones), but knowing what you don’t want is the biggest battle.  This approach has also helped me over the years to hone my list of what I want to do as a dancer and instructor and what I don’t want.  And when I’m feeling less focused, it helps me figure out where to put my energy and effort and what to pass by.  So here’s my list:

  • I don’t do restaurant gigs, or belly grams, or weddings…or Renaissance fairs.
  • If I have to compete with your dinner or your expectations of what a belly dancer is…I’ll happily pass.
  • I do love performing on stages (large and small), dancing to fabulous music (live and recorded), teaching, taking classes and hanging out with fellow dancers. 
  • If I can dance or teach and easily see your face in the audience…that makes me happy. I may even wink at you. 
  • I’m not looking to make a living as a belly dancer, but it’s nice to have extra income to offset the cost of costumes and workshops. 
  • I’m not trying to be a nationally known dancer, but I am looking to be respected for my dance, my knowledge and skills. 
  • If at the end of the day, I help you become a better dancer or woman through my classes, my performances or my online musings…I’m happy.
As we head into that infamous time of the year when people are off making New Year’s resolutions, I’d like to offer a little career counseling.  Instead of focusing on what will you do as a dancer in this next year, or what are your goals; I’d like to spend some time talking about what you CAN do as a dancer.  Consider this a list of belly dance career opportunities, options to choose from…but not a list of everything you should try and do.  Because you simply cannot DO and BE everything in this list, however you can DO some things well and you can BE accomplished with a little dedication and focus.

We’ll start in the next post with the first steps:  Student opportunities.  So, stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Great advice! I think entering into anything with the singular goal of making money can limit the experience. Does make you wonder whatever happened to those girls though... and how their dream met reality.