How to Make-it (Or Break-it) in the World of Bellydance



The following thoughts are my own and in no way reflect anyone else’s thoughts, opinions, or statements.


This is of course in the world of Belly Dance, but I think the rules can apply to any sort of club, group, sport, team, or just general life.

Qaina having passed, we sat down to talk about how things went. And like every year, there’s always some things that could be changed and dealt with differently. It’s how the event grows every year. The one thing that fails to change is how some people treat us and the demands some people (hahaha this is what we call “vague-booking”) treat Jez and the other staff members.

And this got me thinking.

If you want to make it in the world of belly dance, maybe you should stop acting like such a diva? (Not aimed at any one person in pa…ok it is. Not going to lie. I’m also not going to say who it is that inspired me to write this blog post. I will however say, if you’re reading this, odds are it’s NOT you.)

So here are a few rules I’ve come up with…just general guide lines and things that have come up again and again in conversations over the years.

Followers, feel free to chime in with your own advice.

1. It Doesn’t Matter How Good You Are if You’re a Colossal Bitch.

BE HUMBLE!! Some of the most amazing dancers I’ve had the pleasure to take workshops and classes with are also the most humble and sweet women (and men) I’ve ever met! Lets use Zoe Jakes as an example, hmm? She’s such a darling woman, and so fun! It’s the reason people want to work with her!

If Zoe Jakes was a huge bitch, no one would want to take her work shops. No one wants to be put down or made to feel bad about themselves. Also, no one would want her at their shows.

Divas are a huge pain in the ass to deal with, they make unreasonable demands and demand special treatment that event coordinators¬† roll their eyes and at groan about. It’s not like people running events don’t have ten thousand other things to do…that brings me to my next rule…

2. Don’t Ask For/Expect Special Treatment

If you’re just starting out, guess what? No one knows who you are, and no one cares. The quickest way to get put on the back burner and ignored is to demand special treatment from someone running the show…

Now, the exception to this rule is if there’s a handicap involved. In which case you have the right to ask questions and ask if a special arrangement could be made to accommodate. If you’re nice about it, odds are you’ll get your way. (Like a special pumping/feeding station set up for breast-feeding mothers.)

Lied, another exception is with food allergies, but don’t go asking to have the menu changed just because -you- can’t eat it. Asking about ingredients to save your life is fine, demanding a menu to feed the masses be changed is another. (A common problem at many SCA events, or so I hear.)

3. Send Your Music/Show Info On Time

The people running things have enough problems to deal with, they don’t need to wait on your music or show info. Also, they most likely have a waiting list a mile long for the show of people just begging to get in. If you want to secure your spot, send in what is asked of you in a prompt and timely manner.

If you get bumped because YOU neglected to do what was required, don’t go begging to be put on the show list again, and don’t be surprised if you’re not invited back or your request is declined next year.

4- Arrive on Time and Expect to Stay for the ENTIRE Show

I’m guilty of this offense when I was just starting out when I danced at my first Pennsic Expo then promptly ditched it and went back to camp. I decided to listen to ex-troupe mates rather then my own judgement.

It shows a vast amount of disrespect for your fellow dancers when you arrive at the show, dance in your spot, then change and leave with out so much as a word of thanks or praise to anyone else.

Guess what? Everyone else worked just as hard as you did…maybe even harder! They deserve your respect! Stay and watch them. Support your shimmy sisters.

The ONE exception is a professional dancer who took time out of their schedule to arrive at your event and perform for CHARITY to leave quickly and run to a paying gig because they squeezed YOU in as a favor to you and the event.

If you can’t show this sort of respect, humbly bow out ASAP and apologize to the show-staff. If you paid to be in the show, be respectful of the rules the staff has issued for refunds. No refunds means no refunds. You agreed to this when you registered to be in the show, respect it.

If you have to leave in the middle of an event because of a family emergency/illness we understand that, apologize later, you won’t anger anyone.

5- Be Active in the Dance Community

Yes, you should be in as many shows as possible, but you should also attend as many shows as possible. Let people know you’re there to support them. Be active on forums, get involved with charity events, volunteer time/merchandise.

Talk and build relationships with your fellow dancers. We’re some of the most supportive and amazing people you’ll ever have the pleasure of knowing.

I’ve never felt more supported of blessed in my own personal time of need, all thanks to the love of the friends I made through dance. Be there for them, they’ll be there for you.

If you stay aloof, not only will people think you’re a snotty brat, but you’ll be robbing yourself of lasting friendships.


Be yourself both on stage and off. Studying with the greats is fine…but don’t be their clone. Nothing turns an audience of dancers off more then seeing a dancer and being able to point out exactly who they studied with and even noting the fact they look like a poor clone of said instructor.

People want to see you. They want to see and get to know your personality and your own style. Don’t. Rip. Your. Mentors. Off.

I’ve been told I sound a lot like my mentor when I teach…OF COURSE I sound like Jezebel Shuvani in the dance studio. It’s natural for people to teach the way they were taught…but I have never, not once ever been told “Your dance style is just like Jez’s!” Yes, some of Jez’s combos and moves come second nature in my dance, but I make them my own.

I’d like to quote Chandara Gamal of Bellydance Columbus. “Someone told me at Qaina last night, then when they watched my girls perform, they saw ME in them. That was spectacular enough on its own, but then I remember someone telling me years ago that when they saw me dance, they saw Soraya Al Musri in me. ”

I like this quote a lot. It’s 100% acceptable and flattering for a mentor to be seen in their students, it’s completely another for their students to be little clones. Chandara, you and your gals are doing it right!

7- Be Catty In Privet

We all do it, and we’ve all been there…Taken a workshop or gone to a show that just didn’t measure up.

Don’t air your dislike on Facebook or Twitter.

Yes, you’re entitled to your own opinion about what happened, but it shows a great amount of disrespect to the teachers and staff who worked hard to try and show you a good time.

It also reflects negatively on you, and makes you look like a whiny brat.

If you were that disappointed/disgusted/angry, talk to your troupe mates about it, and explain why it was you didn’t care for it. Saying “It just sucked.” isn’t an acceptable answer. Be sure to be able to support your opinions.

As a whole, we do want to know whether something/someone is worth checking out, and trust me, whatever you say good or bad about an event will get out and get around just fine with out you having to publicly bash it.

There’s a bonus to doing it this way…If you’re the one being a bitch, your troupe mates won’t spread the word and make you look like an idiot. They’ll save you from self humiliation. Sometimes our own bad days keep us from really enjoying what was otherwise a great time.

8- Be Helpful

If someone’s looking for an extra hand to run an event, do it.

If someone needs help pinning a belt in place, do it.

If someone’s struggling with a costume bag and a door, help them.

If someone needs help with eyeliner, HELP THEM!!

I think that’s about everything I had to say…

What do YOU think? Let me know what you think it takes to make it in this wild, sparkly, jingly, world of belly dance!!


3 responses »

  1. Well put. There’s a huge difference between confidence and arrogance. I figure as long as there’s more ways to improve myself, I can’t judge anybody else. Every single belly dancer has her strengths and weaknesses, which are always different than everybody else’s. We’re like snowflakes that way. These are great rules, and apply to life in general. Most of these are just common courtesies and I’m legitimately surprised that people need to be reminded. But thanks for summing it up in the list!

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