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  1. #1
    Official BHUZzer shushanna's Avatar
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    Size and going professional

    After a good five years of constant and intense training (I'm very lucky to have Kim Leary as a teacher), I figured I was ready to dip my toes into doing gigs. I bought and made a few professional quality costumes, designed a website, ordered glossy business cards, and started getting hired. I've done four birthday parties so far, two of which were for the same large family, so I'm getting repeat business at least.

    And then six weeks ago I did my first restaurant gig. It was at the S&H Kebab House in Philadelphia near South Street. The owner, Sal, is a very nice Turkish guy, and the restaurant was very pretty inside, though a little on the small side. Great food btw. I did two 20 minute sets for $80 (if memory serves), and afterwards he said I did an excellent job and was a really great dancer.

    Then last week I got an email from my friend Jen who coordinates the montly dance schedule for that restuarant - a really nice girl - and she was left with the unfortunate task of having to tell me that Sal no longer wanted me on the schedule. She asked him about it and he said that I was really nice, very polite, a great dancer, but that I just didn't fit what he was looking for.

    I know a few of the other dancers (range of colorings, range of ages, all thinner than me), so it wasn't hard for me to come to the conclusion that my size was the issue. I wear a size 14. I'm 5'6", very broad shouldered, and wear a 38 DD.

    I have to say I'm saddened by this rejection, but at the same time I realize that this is a business and people can choose not to hire me because something like this.

    So... what size do I need to be? A 10, an 8?

    This isn't to say that I'll turn my life on end to be that size, but just that I'd kinda like to know.

    The thing is, I've actually been to restaurants with dancers that were bigger than me, and they rocked the house. Should I just look for other restaurants?


  2. #2
    Fotia
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Or maybe you being the newest were let go first? That's a possibility too. If the people really liked you they are not going to let your size deter them if you are bringing people in.


  3. #3
    Official BHUZzer shushanna's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    You may be right Fotia. Maybe he wanted fewer dancers in the rotation. And I was definitely bringing people in. The night I danced half the people in the restaurant were my friends who came to see me.


  4. #4
    Ultimate BHUZzer kina's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    People suck.

    That having been said, IMO, to be commercially viable as a dancer, you do have to fit a certain esthetic, and sometimes in some areas, for some people that means leaner.

    Not necessarily lighter, but leaner.

    an example of this is Jillina who prior to the Bellydance Superstars days had a tiny tummy and an overall rounder look to her (watch any of the award dvd's from IAMED from 1 - 5)

    Once she became involved with the BDSS, she lost some of the roundness (sadly, imo)

    For your area, i would look at who are the successful dancers, not for technique, etc, but for what image they convey and see if you can live with that.

    You may not ever be restaurant dancer, but that's not a barometer of success in this business if you are getting private parties.

    If you are healthy and your weight reflects that, and you are satisfied with yourself, then you might not even want to be a size 8 or ten.
    - A deeply desired goal gives context to present experience... M. Stanton Jones

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  5. #5
    Established BHUZzer emtink's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    i wear a size 14/16 and have never had an issue (that i know of) with my size. i've danced at restaurants, private parties, festivals, community events. i don't feel the need to lose weight to make myself more marketable, even though being thinner probably would make me more marketable.

    sal's issues could have been size related or it could have been dance style, costuming, customer interaction, any number of things. its too bad you don't know what his reasoning is. but to go 'pro' i think you can be any size. go forth and find new gigs!


  6. #6
    Ultimate BHUZzer tahiradancer's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    I am going to come from a different perspective here: Young and thin is what many people want to see. It's the young pretty girl is going to attract the audience members mind set. While this is not always the case, I have found that to be commercially viable to the general populace, being on the lean side is going to get you more jobs.

    As for size, this will depend on you and your particular bone structure, etc. I am 5'6" ish med - large bone structure and even when thin wear a D bra. I find that I am most in demand when I am down to a softly muscled size 8. (For me that is about 138#.)

    While it is unfair and we do advertise this dance form as Equal Opportunity, the truth is that when we are being paid, we need to look at what is considered to be the commercial norm.

    (just to put this in perspective, there are several professional troupes here in LA which have a size restriction. While this has more to do with troupe costumes, it is also about the look and the marketability of the overall troupe and individual dancers.)

    {{{HUGS}}}


  7. #7
    Advanced BHUZzer _Tanya_'s Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Size is not the issue, it's more composition.
    The larger you are (hight wise the more difficult it will be to go based on clothing size.) Add to that the very biased vanity sizing and very few of us know what size we really are.

    To be honest at 5'6" with a large bust you should probably aim for a size 10 tops but even then you may have issues getting hired. The closer you are to big cities the more difficult booking work will be based on looks. Talent and skill are big factors in hiring but keeping a "professional" and "marketable" figure are important if you want to work.

    It's a cold hard truth that many do not like and others would like to change. Arabic audiences usually have a little more wiggle room for size (as they tend to lean towards more fleshy dancers) but for American audiences there's a specific look.

    ETA: This isn't to say you should change how you look (I've seen you, you're a beautiful woman.) But in cities (especially where there are more dancers then gigs) looks are an important part. If you don't feel like dieting or trying to change your body simply look for gigs that suit your look.
    I've seen large dancers do their thing and do it well, but rarely if ever do I see a larger dancer working the circuit (either in Jersey or NYC)
    Last edited by _Tanya_; 10-05-2009 at 03:05 PM.


  8. #8
    Established BHUZzer turkishdancer's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    I am involved with scheduling dancers in few restaruants in San Diego and I am Turkish. I understand really well Arabic, Persian and Turkish cultures since I grow up there.
    I know most restaurant owners I work with like pretty girls (not so young), pretty costumes, and a talent.
    On the other hand I worked with some Arabs in various occasions they like both voluptous and thin look, so it depends.
    But in general Turkish people including restaurant owners dont appreciate a talent that comes with a larger size...overall they like visual art to associate with good look and average to thinner body shape.
    So I would say if you work on your diet and exercise I am sure you could get to your size that you could be more marketable...I really dont want to say the wrong thing to offense anyone, but it might be unfortunately necessary for restaurant venues and party owners to appreciate your talent because you are already beautiful and this will complete your talent. I have seen in general larger size dancers get free gigs instead of getting well paid gigs unless they are already famous, teaching workshops...


  9. #9
    Master BHUZzer tigerb's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Okay, this is sort of semi-off-topic, but can you have your friend politely ask the owner HOW you did not fit what he wanted? Maybe he is too polite to say "her size", I don't know, but it seems to me it would be good to know whether it was your size... or your style... or your, I dunno, magnetic aura. Maybe your friend could say you are looking for constructive suggestions for the future, or something.

    Just seems like it would be good to know for sure.


  10. #10
    Official BHUZzer kateryna's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    I think many new dancers initially deal with rejection regardless of size and it always sucks. Even when you are an accomplished dancers you will still encounter that time to time. The first thought that goes through your mind is always something wrong with the way you look and you have to change that. I say, just keep performing and getting more expirience interacting with the audience and improvising to new music. As you get better you'll have more opportunity to find the place that fits you, not the other way around. Short, tall, skinny or curvy, you may never satisfy some people, so I think that the best thing to do is what makes you happy.


  11. #11
    Master BHUZzer Sonja2's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    As a scheduler, I can say it may be just that he wants a change or your style is not his forte or maybe some other reason--don't assume it is your size -- you sound fit to me at 5'6.


  12. #12
    Official BHUZzer catysue's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    I'm very sorry that happened to you :( I'm a size 14 as well, though by the sound of things I have a smaller frame than you (I'm only 5'4 and 36C.) I'm only a baby dancer but I have plans to go pro one day and my size is something I'm definitely worried about. Right now I'm definitely at a place where I want to lose weight anyway - I've gained 50lbs in the past three years and I am definitely not happy with my weight.


  13. #13
    Advanced BHUZzer phillyraqs's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Hi Shushanna! (I'm the scheduling dancer that Shushanna refers to upthread, and emailing her was definitely an unpleasant situation because the restaurant owner's opinions do not reflect my own and I'd be happy to schedule her any time!)

    The owner asked at the time to not schedule a few dancers for the future, without a specific reason other than they were not a "good fit." Why weren't you a good fit? Who knows - restaurant owners are a strange breed a lot of times, and trying to guess their reasons can be an exercise in futility.

    That's the tough part of commercial gigs sometimes - you don't always know why you don't make the cut. I've been passed over for gigs, sometimes for my size, sometimes for my look, sometimes for who knows what. But I've also gotten gigs because I'm not thin. So it goes both ways.

    Email me if you'd like some info on other restaurants in the area, I'm happy to share. Being a restaurant dancer in Philadelphia does not define success by any means. I need to collect my thoughts on this more, I never feel articulate on bhuz, but feel free if you want to chat - I'm better with advice in person!


  14. #14
    Master BHUZzer andalee-oriental's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    I think every full-size dancer faces this dilemma at some point. I know I have and still do. While I would like to lose weight for health reasons, not to get gigs, part of me is resentful that there is such a look to be desired. OTH, I get why that is: it's the entertainment industry. I get so frustrated that our culture focuses on beauty and thinness, but you know what? You can either run with it or you can't. Those are your only two options. Because of my size, I've decided to focus on teaching and gigs where size isn't important (home parties and cultural events). Why make myself feel bad because I don't fit into a certain mold? I already feel bad for being overweight and unhealthy, I think that's enough self-pity...


  15. #15
    Advanced BHUZzer phillyraqs's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Quote Originally Posted by tigerb View Post
    Okay, this is sort of semi-off-topic, but can you have your friend politely ask the owner HOW you did not fit what he wanted? Maybe he is too polite to say "her size", I don't know, but it seems to me it would be good to know whether it was your size... or your style... or your, I dunno, magnetic aura. Maybe your friend could say you are looking for constructive suggestions for the future, or something.

    Just seems like it would be good to know for sure.
    I tried to press the owner for more details, unsuccessfully, but my impression was that it was more a style/magnetic aura thing rather than looks. He might have just been too polite to say it was her size (I'm plus size myself) but his reasons seemed to be more intangible and, well, vague.


  16. #16
    Official BHUZzer shushanna's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    See, this is the best part about bellydance. The people are awesome. :-) I really appreciate all of your insight and advice, ladies. Especially Phillyraqs / Jen who has been nothing but supportive through this whole experience.

    And I kinda hope that this thread will be helpful to any of the other dancers going through the same thing, but who wouldn't feel comfortable posting about it.


  17. #17
    Advanced BHUZzer phillyraqs's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Quote Originally Posted by shushanna View Post
    See, this is the best part about bellydance. The people are awesome. :-) I really appreciate all of your insight and advice, ladies. Especially Phillyraqs / Jen who has been nothing but supportive through this whole experience.

    And I kinda hope that this thread will be helpful to any of the other dancers going through the same thing, but who wouldn't feel comfortable posting about it.


    This is definitely something that every dancer faces as she goes professional - thin or not, you get rejection and you think, "I'm too fat! Too thin! Too pale! Too dark! Too old! Too young!" Where's Satin, didn't some mean girl dancers tell her she wasn't exotic looking enough?

    On the size aspect, I never felt so body conscious until I started to dance professionally - I've had really rude comments from owners, waitresses, patrons ("Hey, the dancer's fat!" To which I replied, "Yeah, but not deaf!"). I feel pressure to maintain or lose weight for troupe functions - not only for costumes, but for a professional look since we do corporate work.

    There are venues where I know my size is more acceptable and I can list a few places where I'd never be able to work in Philly - they want young, thin, and talent optional. (Also, sheesh, the way I talk, you'd think Richard Simmons was outside my house every morning, cutting through the walls to get me out - really, I consider myself pretty normal sized.)

    Also, another aspect of going pro is having to learn a whole new skill set on your feet of managing crowds, audience interaction, waitstaff interaction, and "entertaining" rather than dancing - I always think that being a good restaurant dancer is a lot different than being a good dancer. Sometimes, people pick up that you (and I am using general you, not Shushanna-you) are new and don't want someone new - giving you the conundrum of how do you become an experienced dancer without experience?


  18. #18
    I could get used to this! melodyrnr's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Me too Suzanne, I can't tell you how many times I was passed over or not allowed in a troupe because I was a blond "WASP". Pretty soon it will be because I'm "too old". Don't give up or be disheartened....the right job for you is out there! I danced at a place last night and afterward they were telling me about another dancer who had filled in one night. I happen to know said dancer and she's really not that bad....but they ripped her up! "She doesn't smile, she can't dance, the customers are bored, the customers laughed at her, etc...." They went on to mention that they've had girls in there who couldn't even dance but the customers had so much fun because of her personality. Now that is a sad reality but I learned along time ago that a restaurant gig isn't the place to show your serious ahhhhtsy side....save that for the haflas.....They want the customers to be clapping and dancing with you....unfortunately. There is a fine line between making customers happy and shameless baffoonery though.


  19. #19
    Official BHUZzer shushanna's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Quote Originally Posted by phillyraqs View Post
    ("Hey, the dancer's fat!" To which I replied, "Yeah, but not deaf!").
    That's hilarious! Great come-back. ;-)


  20. #20
    I could get used to this! melodyrnr's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Ha, ha,ha.....Jen you just said exactly what I was attempting to say....its about "entertaining".


  21. #21
    Official BHUZzer shushanna's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Yeah, I totally get the entertaining aspect. My teacher Kim warned me before I started doing parties that there was a whole crowd-managing aspect to it, as well as a vaudville like smaltz. When you think about how we have to manage drunks, pay attention to the energy of the room, dodge waiters, give eye-contact but not too much eye-contact, and do it all with perfect hair, makeup, costume and - let us not forget - while dancing well.... it's absolutely astounding.


  22. #22
    Ultimate BHUZzer SatinWorship19's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Quote Originally Posted by phillyraqs View Post
    This is definitely something that every dancer faces as she goes professional - thin or not, you get rejection and you think, "I'm too fat! Too thin! Too pale! Too dark! Too old! Too young!" Where's Satin, didn't some mean girl dancers tell her she wasn't exotic looking enough?
    chiming in

    This is something I dealt with early in my professional career. Too pale, not "ethnic" looking, blah blah blah. (You should've heard the things people said the summer I decided to go blonde!) I still occasionally get crap for being petite.

    There's a lot to be said for transforming a negative into a positive situation. For me, I took the "liability" of having blue eyes, fair skin, an athletic bod and European facial features and turned this into my biggest asset, with a little help from the MAC counter, a bit of self-branding wizardry, and the confidence to sell myself well. Soon, the feedback went from "girl next door, not exotic enough" to "you could be a model or a Hollywood starlet."

    How can you "spin" your unique look? One of my dear friends is in her mid-40's, has a gorgeously soft, curvy bod, and doesn't have exotic features by any stretch of the imagination - but she's the It Girl of my community and books crazy amounts of business. Women respond wonderfully to her look, and people actually hire her because she's hot in an approachable, womanly sort of way. Maybe you can work on marketing yourself heavily toward women, for bachelorette parties, baby showers, etc.?

    Also, for what it's worth - restaurant dancing can be a frustrating experience regardless of your age, build, or experience level. I've found private parties to be infinitely more rewarding and much better for the ego


  23. #23
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Quote Originally Posted by shushanna View Post
    Yeah, I totally get the entertaining aspect. My teacher Kim warned me before I started doing parties that there was a whole crowd-managing aspect to it, as well as a vaudville like smaltz. When you think about how we have to manage drunks, pay attention to the energy of the room, dodge waiters, give eye-contact but not too much eye-contact, and do it all with perfect hair, makeup, costume and - let us not forget - while dancing well.... it's absolutely astounding.
    Totally!

    And yet... once you GET the gig and all the undercutters, backstappers, gossipmongers and other 'dance sisters' get done with you, that turns out to have been the easy part!


  24. #24
    Ultimate BHUZzer SatinWorship19's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    Totally!

    And yet... once you GET the gig and all the undercutters, backstappers, gossipmongers and other 'dance sisters' get done with you, that turns out to have been the easy part!
    hahahahaha this is SO true! ,r:;


  25. #25
    Fotia
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Shushanna, if you can pack 'em in, I would shake the dust off, move on and don't look back. Someone else will want you. What's one owner's famine is another owner's feast.


  26. #26
    Official BHUZzer lisazahiya's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    I just want to emphasize how much I've learned that people are fickle and everyone wants something different.... there is a restaurant owner here who insists only on blond bellydancers !

    I wear a size 10 or 12 pant and a size 4 top - I haven't had trouble getting gigs but have certainly found that I am some peoples' preference and certainly am not for everyone.


  27. #27
    Fotia
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Quote Originally Posted by lisazahiya View Post
    I just want to emphasize how much I've learned that people are fickle and everyone wants something different....
    Yeah, and if you listen to all of this stuff, you self esteem will always be in the crapper!


  28. #28
    Ultimate BHUZzer SatinWorship19's Avatar
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    Re: Size and going professional

    Quote Originally Posted by lisazahiya View Post
    I just want to emphasize how much I've learned that people are fickle and everyone wants something different.... there is a restaurant owner here who insists only on blond bellydancers !
    I think you hit it right on the nose!


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