Baba Yaga Music Home »   Encyclopedic Dictionary »   Costume Index »   Many-Colored-Land Costume Home »

[ Keep up with new discoveries with a free subscription to the Baba Yaga Newsletter. ]

Dancing at Public Events

Be Comfortable, Be Safe, and Be Covered

Be prepared for the special challenges of looking professional on an elevated platform, working a booth, walking around, sweating, safeguarding your personals, avoiding injury, and protecting your costumes.

Be Prepared... to keep your gig for next year!

ISAMETD, the Indiana State Association of Middle-Eastern Teachers and Dancers, drew up a Festival Guidelines checklist after they nearly lost an important annual gig at a state festival when the younger dancers started strolling around in costume bra and skirt with no cover up. Here is an enhanced and adapted version to consider when performing in any public (restaurant, party, festival, conference, benefit gala) venue.

On Stage:

  1. When performing on an elevated platform, such as a stage, pants need to be worn under any flaring skirt. Unexpected glimpses of bare legs will disconcert the audience and have them watching for glimpses of your underwear instead of your dancing.
  2. Wear a cover-up to and from the stage, and make sure it IS covering you up. Don't leave it hanging open in front like a bathrobe.
  3. Do not forget your dance slippers! You cannot control the condition of the surface you will be dancing on. A sliver of glass or burning hot concrete will ruin your day fast.

Working a Booth, Greeting Audience or Walking Around:

  1. If you are wearing a costume that bares upper legs, belly or cleavage, a cover-up must be worn. If you are using a veil as your cover up, make sure it covers your breasts and belly. If you are working a booth, a folkloric costume (beladi dress, ghawazee coat over tunic and pants) is perfect.
  2. You may be the cutest thing since Ruth St. Denis, but control yourself... this is a dance gig, not a swimsuit contest. The costuming that catches all eyes as you stroll around may not be the costuming that gets you the gig next year.
  3. Yes, a lot of your audience is dressed in less than you are. No, you may not do it anyway. If you are dead set on strolling around a public venue displaying the beauty of your cleavage and thighs, maybe burlesque is the dance art you seek.

Prepare to Sweat

  1. Bring a hand towel to wipe down and water to drink.
  2. Powdered Gatorade or similar sports drink in water will combat heat exhaustion in hot weather.
  3. A cover-up made of natural fibers (absorbs sweat) will add greatly to your comfort.

Prevent Theft

  1. Do not let people handle your zills, swords, veils or jewelry, and make sure you collect them and take them with you when you are done performing. It is surprising how fast a sword can grow legs in a small restaurant.
  2. Do not, do not, do not leave your wallet in a purse on a chair or in an unguarded corner. There are only so many guardian angels assigned to the wallet-protection detail. Yours may be off on another assignment that day.
  3. The more public the venue, the more watchful you should be. Take turns watching each other's items.

Prevent Damage

  1. When deciding what jewelry, makeup, shoes, street clothes and cover up to bring, consider the venue. The larger and more public the venue, then the more possibility for things to get lost, stolen, soiled or damaged. Carry your items in one bag that zips shut and which is relatively waterproof and sturdy.
  2. Do not leave things on the floor... someone WILL walk on them. Hang them up, keep them in your bag, tuck them under a table.

Prevent Injury

  1. Wear suitable foot gear at all times, off stage and on.
  2. Do not use a sword, candles or cane close enough to an audience member to cause hurt if it falls.
  3. Do NOT hook up with audience members at the venue. Many people think that belly dancers are by definition strippers and prostitutes. Why find out the hard way what a handsome photographer or musician thinks belly dancers are good for? Exchange a few words, exchange a business card, and say good bye. It is also dangerous for your professional reputation; people love to notice this kind of behavior. And yes, the folks over 35 (the ones with the money, by the way) will think worse of you and the dance.
Denishawn Underneaths

Ruth St Denis and Denishawn,
New York Public Library online.
Maura Enright, Proprietor
©2013 by Maura Enright
© means the content is copyrighted. Your links to this content are much appreciated.