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  1. #1
    Master BHUZzer Sonja2's Avatar
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    What is a Professional?

    Hi. I'm the editor of an online magazine focusing on bellydance. I've wondered this for years...what actually constitutes a professional in the bellydance world? Are you a professional if you have one paid gig? Are you a professional if you have a steady gig, even if you've only danced 2 years? Are you a professional if you are a teacher (good or bad)? Are you a professional if you have studied for 10 years with master teachers but never perform for pay?

    I am curious, and I'd like to publish some of the responses I get in my magazine. I'd love to hear your opinions, and please include whether I can paraphrase or quote you. Thanks!!..c::


  2. #2
    Advanced BHUZzer mrsnj20's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    I'm interested to hear the answers to this question..


  3. #3
    isabel
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    Re: What is a Professional?

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  4. #4
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Zumarrad's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    Well ain't THAT a can of worms. I'd say in the world of belly dance, a professional is someone who says she is. That's someone who gets paid, someone who thinks she should get paid, someone who's been on a stage once in her life, someone who's a bit good, someone who wants people to look up to her...

    My personal view is that you are a professional belly dancer if the majority of your income comes directly from your work as a belly dancer. Anyone else is a paid hobbyist, no matter how good they are.


  5. #5
    Advanced BHUZzer Bellydancefanatic's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    Someone is a professional Bellydancer when it is she/he's profession. Meaning that she/he has dedicated years of hard work and study, and "practices" the profession of Raks Sharqi (Bellydance, ME dance, whatever you want to call it). I agree with Zumarrad to a certain degree. If the majority of the income comes from dancing, then that person can be called a professional. I think it would have to be the primary or main profession, but someone could have multiple careers/professions, and I believe, could still be called a professional Bellydancer.

    (You have permission to paraphrase/quote me if you like)

    BDF


  6. #6
    Ultimate BHUZzer SatinWorship19's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    Quote Originally Posted by zumarrad View Post
    My personal view is that you are a professional belly dancer if the majority of your income comes directly from your work as a belly dancer. Anyone else is a paid hobbyist, no matter how good they are.
    Going to very respectfully disagree on this. The vast majority of dancers I know are employed in the "real world," at the very least to obtain a steady income and benefits and (in an ideal world) because they love what they do. It's not always easy, but one can definitely integrate classes, workshops, practice time, costume alterations, research, promotion, accounting, and gigging in their free time: in fact, that's all I seem to do when I'm not "working!" Myself and other "working" dancers still carry out all the above functions of a pro, but perhaps with a bit more creative time management so as not to go insane.

    "Paid hobbyist" isn't a terribly offensive term to me, as I have essentially morphed a favorite pastime into something lucrative and I'm fortunate to say that I LOVE what I do....it's just that "hobbyist" to many others connotes a sense of dabbling, lack of seriousness, amateurism, or an absence of business savvy. I strive for the best in professionalism in my dealings with clients and I'm putting together some pretty damn slick promo materials. Hopefully nobody's gonna find out about my office job, pat me on the head, and say "Aww, how quaint. Lisa found a new hobby."

    On the other hand, I don't necessarily equate monetary compensation for performaces with being a "pro," either. I think there's a few tiers. Costuming, how you present and promote yourself, dance skill, factual knowledge....there's a lot more that goes into it. I think I might have to chew on that for a minute.


  7. #7
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Zumarrad's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    I understand where you're coming from re the "hobby" thing and agree that one can and ideally should act professionally without actually meeting all criteria for being professional. But seriously, if it's not your job, it's not your profession either.

    So here's a question. My former teacher, who was a very good dancer and a very professional dancer in terms of her presentation, knowledge, ethics and behaviour, made her sole income from belly dance (performance and teaching) for a number of years. Was she exactly the same as someone who did similar work but had a husband paying the main bills? Or another day job paying the main bills? Was she less of a professional because she didn't have an Eman, even though one of the key reasons would be because she was using her dance income to pay the mortgage?


  8. #8
    I could get used to this! Varuza's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    In the writing world, from what I can tell, a professional writer is about what zumarrad and Bellydance fanatic said: someone who essentially lives on his/her writing. I tend to agree for belly dance as well, with exceptions.

    I think it depends on how we're using the word. It's both a noun (a professional) and an adjective. When used as a noun, I think it means that it is the person's profession. But one can be professional and not a professional, if that makes sense. Someone who exemplifies the qualities associated with professionality would be professional, even if they were not living on their dance income.

    I don't think being a professional is better or worse than being a paid dancer who has another job they are living off of. But I do see that living on dance income does bring a different level of commitment: if they stop dancing, they lose their main source of income, which could seriously impact every aspect of their life. If someone who is being paid for dancing, but their main income comes from another source, if they stop dancing, they will not lose their main source of income, so it's not as critical to keep being paid, etc.

    I could not live on my writing - I tried it by accident while unemployed and it really screwed up my life not to have any external structure/daily schedule.


  9. #9
    Master BHUZzer casbahdance's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    To paraphrase Zumarrad, this question really does open up a can of worms! I, someone who has been surrounded and engulfed by this dance nearly her entire life, still do not have a truly good definition of "professional bellydancer."

    Do I make a majority of my money through BD? Yes, I make a majority of my money from BD, but it's not what pays the bills in my household.

    Do I own professionally-made, high-quality costumes? Yes. I use the money I make from my professional activities as a BDer to pay for them. I have also made a few of my costumes.

    Am I skilled, well-trained and knowledgeable in BD? Yes. I teach other people about BD; I continue my own education with classes, workshops and consultations. I can also give performances that are not a complete embarrassment to the BDing world!

    I don't think being paid to perform necessarily makes one a professional. Many student-troupe dancers have been paid to perform with their fellow troupe-mates, but payment in and of itself . . . When I think of myself getting a (tiny) payment when I first started out, I shudder to think that I would have been considerd a pro just because I was paid -- I most certainly was not a professional.

    Certainly owning a high-end costume doesn't make a professional either. We have all seen a lovely lady or two all dolled up in her very finest sparkley costume direct from Egypt take one step to her music and known she was a complete amateur.

    To quote bellydancefanatic, "Someone is a professional Bellydancer when it is she/he's profession. Meaning that she/he has dedicated years of hard work and study, and "practices" the profession of Raks Sharqi (Bellydance, ME dance, whatever you want to call it)."

    I like this definition; I would assume that someone who "'practices' the profession of Raks Sharqi" is someone who demands and gets market rates for that practice. She/he doesn't have to work every week at Al(addin)'s Hookah Bar and Grill nor have a private party booked for every weekend of the year, but is more than competent to accept such an engagement and displays the skills necessary to provide a truly professional performance.

    A professional performance requires an understanding of one's audience and how best to entertain that audience, ability to interpret music correctly, and very good technical competence, to name a few things right off the top of my head. Knowing one's audience allows a professional to select appropriate music and costuming. Additionally, a professional must hold within, and exude out of, herself the confidence to "carry" a performance in such a way that the audience is comfortable.

    I'd call myself a professional belly dancer.

    Deborah
    (you can quote me, if you find anything of value!)


  10. #10
    Mega BHUZzer maliaraqs's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?



  11. #11
    Master BHUZzer Sonja2's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    Many of you have given me some very valuable insights, and I really appreciate everyone's comments. I hope you all won't mind if I include many of your comments and thoughts in a future article (of course you'll receive credit, and the mag is free, so of course you can have copies at http://web.mac.com/knoxundulations)

    Let me pose another question, related to this one. Can you be considered a "professional" and be terrible? By that I mean, if you happen to be great at marketing but terrible at ME dance, and you manage to pull in a bunch of unsuspecting students who know nothing about the dance because you live in a small town, for example, where there are few examples of quality dancers, are you then a professional? I once had an experience where I took lessons, about 11 years ago, from a "professional" dancer, only to find out, years later, that I had learned everything wrong!! Turns out, she had only been dancing 1 or 2 years before she started teaching... to me, regardless of whether that was her sole source of income, that now seems unethical.

    Using myself as an example...I have been dancing, off and on, for many years now, but seriously for about 3-4 years. I have a steady, paid gig at a local restaurant, where I could dance more often if I wanted to. I have worked paid parties, have danced in multiple cities, participate in a troupe that performs festivals & theatre shows, etc... I have studied with master teachers from Egypt & Argentina, in addition to my own extremely talented teacher. I have taught classes in her absence. I also have a totally unrelated career, where I consider myself to truly be a "professional". In the case of bellydance, if you go to my profile, you'll notice I've not marked myself as professional. Primarily, this is because I don't know what that means :Aembarassed: So, am I a professional? A "skilled hobbiest"?

    Looking forward to more opinions & comments!!!

    Sonja


  12. #12
    Mega BHUZzer Elianae's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    I'd like to propose an interestging twist on what "Makes a Professional". Is there a difference between "Professional" and "Artist"? I know of several people that would consider themselves to be "Professional", though they have day jobs. They have talent and skills, years of teaching and performing under their belt, and all the costumes a "Pro" dancer could look for. Basically, I'm talking about people who already have money to devote to their hobby. It's easy to be "Professional", if you can go jetting off to competitions several times a year and promote yourself! Not to say they do not have talent. That's not what I'm saying. But I have seen some fabulous dancers who don't have "Professional" costumes, or maybe don't promote themselves enough to be called "Professional". But to me, they would be due to their level of artistry and mastery.

    Do you understand what I'm saying? I guess sometimes it's a fine line.

    Sonja2, you can quote me, if you'd like. I'd be happy to express more thoughts on the subject or discuss it with other Bhuzzers.


  13. #13
    Mega BHUZzer Elianae's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    I guess what I'm saying is "Fancy costumes and money does not a Pro Dancer Make", neccessarily.


  14. #14
    Just Starting! mchelle's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sonja2 View Post
    Can you be considered a "professional" and be terrible?
    I don't see why not. There are bad "professionals" in many fields. Bad doctors, bad teachers, etc. "Professional" is not necessarily a value judgment. It can be; if, for example, you say of someone who is particularly reliable or skilled or some other quality, "She's a real pro," or something. But I think when someone says, "I am a professional bellydancer," it means one of these, from the definition posted above:

    1. following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain: a professional builder.

    5. following as a business an occupation ordinarily engaged in as a pastime: a professional golfer.

    7. undertaken or engaged in as a means of livelihood or for gain: professional baseball.

    11. a person who earns a living in a sport or other occupation frequently engaged in by amateurs: a golf professional.


  15. #15
    Advanced BHUZzer caroline_afifi's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    There is something about 'conduct' here too.

    Professionalization is also a process. Most proffessional fields have some form of 'code of conduct'.
    For this to happen in The MED community, people would have to agree on what constitutes 'unproffessional'.
    Pandora's box creaks..


  16. #16
    Master BHUZzer norma's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    What makes a professional? - Tribal Bellydance - tribe.net

    We've discussed this numerous times on tribe. Here is one thread.


  17. #17
    Mega BHUZzer maliaraqs's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    [QUOTE]Let me pose another question, related to this one. Can you be considered a "professional" and be terrible? By that I mean, if you happen to be great at marketing but terrible at ME dance, and you manage to pull in a bunch of unsuspecting students who know nothing about the dance because you live in a small town, for example, where there are few examples of quality dancers, are you then a professional?

    So, am I a professional? A "skilled hobbiest"?[QUOTE]



    Hi Sonja,

    As my husband likes to say, the worst and lowest paid player on the Mariner's is still a professional. I'm certainly not saying that about you (obviously I've never seen you dance), but something for us all to remember. In other professions, when you work with other pros and get paid you are a professional. Obviously apprentices can get paid as well, but don't go out on their own or promote their business as a solo professional/teacher.

    Based on your description, I would consider you a pro. I think that rather than dancers being so quick to judge who is and who is not "professional", we should be more willing to accept each other's different talents and learn from one another. Of course there is at least one person in my community that I don't think is up to par, but she's still considered a pro by others and still gets hired for pay. So she must be doing something right.

    Obviously there are dancers truly not qualified for paid work. There are staples, like skill, costuming, stage presence. ..g.: When it comes down to it though, is your client satisfied and did you execute what you were hired to do in a professional manner.

    ~ Malia


  18. #18
    Advanced BHUZzer CharlotteDesorgher's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    I would agree with those who say a professional bellydancer is one who earns her/his income primarily from bellydancing. And it doesn't actually relate to how good you are. You can be a superb, very experienced dancer who behaves very professionally, but if you have another main job then even if you take paid gigs you are not a full-time professional. In that situation, I would say you dance semi-professionally.

    When I was a singer I sang as a paid soloist - no amateur choir work - but, as my main job at the time was in public relations I styled myself a semi-professional singer.

    And yes, you can be a crap dancer, but if you earn your main living as a bellydancer you are a professional. A crap pro, but still pro.

    Hmm having said that - I think that people who are not full time professionals, but who dance professionally, should still enter the professional categories of competitions. Does that negate my argument? ..c::

    Oh, and when I think of my dear friends Bea and Artemisia, I think pro bellydancers. Argghh I don't know what I think at all any more
    Last edited by CharlotteDesorgher; 05-19-2008 at 09:58 AM.


  19. #19
    Master BHUZzer casbahdance's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    Quote Originally Posted by sunshine View Post
    Argghh I don't know what I think at all any more
    Yup.

    Deborah


  20. #20
    Mega BHUZzer ruta21030's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    to me, a professional is not only a person who has developed a high enuf level of skill in their chosen field/passion, but also exhibits and equally high level of polish, decorum, willingness and practice of continuing education, and is renumerated for it....short n sweet, and rife for interpretation, but the gist.....

    now, you don't need a closet full of emans, pharonics or sahars.....there have been many wannabes that spent the money on costumes, but not on classes, and their behaviour on forums and in public have been abysmal, yet they consider themselves pros (and HAVE been paid)

    aside from ability, and knowledge, and presence, which are musts for someone going pro (IMHO), presentation of the art in a positive way is also important....costumes that are clean, in good repair, well made (tho that can be expensive, it doesnt HAVE to be!), hair and make up that is elegant, polished, and appropriate (i've seen some HOT MESSES in venues, and promo pics), appropriate garb in between, or before/after sets (cover-up, or, if not feasible, good, clean, well fitting clothes), good preparation of promo material, including cards, postcards, well made resume, well done website that's easy to navigate..........

    pro's should also behave in a way that doesn't reflect poorly on the art, ie., gossiping, mean spirited talk of other dancers, undercutting, showing up drunk/high, cursing, flagrantly sexual.............etc....there are alot of things that make a professional......


  21. #21
    Mega BHUZzer maliaraqs's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    Ruta, well said. Along with what I posted, I completely agree with you!


  22. #22
    Advanced BHUZzer Marianna's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    I agree with Zumarrad with a rephrase of the amount of the dancer getting paid. Yes, it's true in a sense that a professional dancer's income will be most of her income from dancing.
    However, I know at least one dancer who is a professional in every sense, (a good dancer and probably makes a LOT of money dancing/teaching) but still has a day job, which pays probably a heck of a lot of more. She's still a professional though, the day job is just there for a more secure financial future (and present)


  23. #23
    I could get used to this! Varuza's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    Sunshine: I really like the semi-professional idea! I had wanted to differentiate between serious dancers who did not earn their main income from belly dance, and 'paid hobbyists' which I did see as being less serious. I had thought just leaving off all modifiers, i.e:

    Professional Belly Dancer

    Belly Dancer

    Paid hobbyist

    But I actually like semi-professional better.
    ---

    As for whether a professional could be bad... I think it's possible, to a certain extent, although I wonder how long they'd be able to support themselves through bad dancing.

    To go back to writing, though, I think in some cases, being a professional can lead to poorer quality as the writer needs to write what the publisher demands, and publishers don't necessarily know what the writer is good at writing, so they may end up writing stuff they aren't as good at just for the publisher, and ignoring the work they may really want to do because it wouldn't sell.

    The best professional writers are those who can write well even on less ideal topics.

    The problem is when the audience demands/asks for/wants what is considered by people in the industry as "bad" (such as, for writing, formulaic writing). I'd guess this would be a concern for belly dance as well, but I'm not sure exactly how it would apply, since I haven't been around in the culture long.


  24. #24
    Mega BHUZzer ruta21030's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marianna View Post
    I agree with Zumarrad with a rephrase of the amount of the dancer getting paid. Yes, it's true in a sense that a professional dancer's income will be most of her income from dancing.
    However, I know at least one dancer who is a professional in every sense, (a good dancer and probably makes a LOT of money dancing/teaching) but still has a day job, which pays probably a heck of a lot of more. She's still a professional though, the day job is just there for a more secure financial future (and present)
    bravo! i envy those who literally make their living as a dancer/teacher, but many, for varied and sundry reasons don't have the same resources, or fall-backs.......so a day job is necessary...........my hat's off to those that make their living tho, it takes alot of courage to do that ..g.:


  25. #25
    Mega BHUZzer ruta21030's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    Quote Originally Posted by Varuza View Post
    Sunshine: I really like the semi-professional idea! I had wanted to differentiate between serious dancers who did not earn their main income from belly dance, and 'paid hobbyists' which I did see as being less serious. I had thought just leaving off all modifiers, i.e:

    Professional Belly Dancer

    Belly Dancer

    Paid hobbyist

    But I actually like semi-professional better.
    ---

    As for whether a professional could be bad... I think it's possible, to a certain extent, although I wonder how long they'd be able to support themselves through bad dancing.

    To go back to writing, though, I think in some cases, being a professional can lead to poorer quality as the writer needs to write what the publisher demands, and publishers don't necessarily know what the writer is good at writing, so they may end up writing stuff they aren't as good at just for the publisher, and ignoring the work they may really want to do because it wouldn't sell.

    The best professional writers are those who can write well even on less ideal topics.

    The problem is when the audience demands/asks for/wants what is considered by people in the industry as "bad" (such as, for writing, formulaic writing). I'd guess this would be a concern for belly dance as well, but I'm not sure exactly how it would apply, since I haven't been around in the culture long.
    there are so-so, or bad dancers that are excellent self-promoters, so they gig, right and left, yet they don't take the same care with their appearance (or hygiene), have little knowledge of dance etiquette (or pricing in some cases), go the 'cheap way out' with cards, web design, costuming, accessories etc. (disclaimer on this......there are economical choices for all these things, but if you get rhinestones from the dollar store that LOOK like they're from the dollar store, it'll cheapen the look of a second hand, otherwise excellent eman, or a friend's blurry snapshot over a photo shoot), and still dance like a beginner

    sometimes that is the first/only time a person has contact with BD.....they may not get return business, but good self promo will keep them gigging...


  26. #26
    Ultimate BHUZzer SatinWorship19's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    Yes. Ditto to everything Ruta said.

    Perhaps, I take this argument a little too personally since I have trouble coming to grips with the impossibility of splitting my body in two to excel both in my day job and in getting my dance business off the ground and running. But I still don't think it's as simple as dividing the scene into "professionals" and "hobbyists."

    Why should a dancer who's every bit as talented, devoted and savvy as a "pro" get demoted to armchair enthusiast status just because she also happens to work a 9-5? If you can fend for yourself as a businessperson, you should be in the running for the title of professional, whether or not you have alternate means for paying the bills. The way I see it, balancing dance and "work" is kind of like having two jobs.

    Unfortunately, having a day job is a reality for the majority of dancers I know. Especially those who are single and don't have a partner to contribute toward living expenses.

    Extreme scenario, but what if I technically earned all of my income through dancing, but also had a rich husband and sat on my tuckus all day eating bonbons and grooming my unicorn instead of practicing? Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, what if I was an accomplished performer with a sick ad campaign, classes that are bursting at the seams, a solid reputation and a great work ethic, and DVD's, competition titles and resounding accolades under my belt....yet I also held down a semi-important office job by day? I know which dancer I'd take more seriously.

    I think there are many more factors to take into consideration than source and volume of cash flow. I'll also reiterate that I don't think that getting paid is universally equivalent to being professional, as I know of dancers who have bought shiny costumes and sought paid gigs after 1 year of dance experience. But I think professional, to me, is a term laced with intangibles: decorum, class, experience, business savvy, knowledge, generosity, skill. It's kinda like the term "porn:" there isn't always a clean-cut definition (some nudity is clinical or artistic!), but you know it when you see it ..l;,

    In agreement with Deborah and Sunshine: I just don't know anymore.


  27. #27
    Mega BHUZzer indigostars's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    If we go with a cut and dry answer, professional is a term used for people who primarily make their money doing said job/activity. You don't have to be good at it, love it, or anything.

    If you want a less concrete answer, I'd say anyone who conducts themselves in a certain manner. S/he knows his/her stuff, dedicates ample time to the art, and epitomizes what a person in said art should be. It's getting into the concept of professionalism, which is another beast.

    In most situations, though, I'd say that I'd go with my first response. I'd call one a professional, as long as s/he earned primary income through dance. It isn't a slight against people who have to pay their bills through other means.

    Unfortunately, professional doesn't always mean talented. That's why I'm not trying to slight anyone who teaches but has to earn income elsewhere.
    Last edited by indigostars; 05-19-2008 at 12:04 PM.


  28. #28
    Advanced BHUZzer jetgirl's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    I used to call myself semi-pro: I was paid for gigs, took the dance form seriously, and presented myself in a professional manner; but I still had a career day job. Just this weekend, my (non-dancer) friend said that I am "Olympic level": I don't get paid on a regular basis, but I train and am serious about my performances and costuming. This terminology actually made us laugh quite a bit, as it led to flights of fancy about Olympic bellydance events akin to ice dancing.
    Sometimes I just say it is my avocation instead of my vocation.


  29. #29
    Ultimate BHUZzer SatinWorship19's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    Quote Originally Posted by jetgirl View Post
    I used to call myself semi-pro: I was paid for gigs, took the dance form seriously, and presented myself in a professional manner; but I still had a career day job. Just this weekend, my (non-dancer) friend said that I am "Olympic level": I don't get paid on a regular basis, but I train and am serious about my performances and costuming. This terminology actually made us laugh quite a bit, as it led to flights of fancy about Olympic bellydance events akin to ice dancing.
    Sometimes I just say it is my avocation instead of my vocation.
    HAHAHAHA! Olympic Level is brilliant. When I'm not practicing or taking workshops, I'm at the gym, training. Or otherwise working on costumes. All while running on maximum energy levels after a long day at work and commuting to work.

    If "professional" is off-limits, I think we need to claim "Olympic Level" as our own. I like the sound of it, better :-P


  30. #30
    Established BHUZzer CFerhat's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Professional?

    One can also make the distinction between full-time and part-time professionals. A dentist who chooses to work 20 hours instead of 40 hours a week is still a professional. The training, services, code of ethics etc. remain the same, but the actual amount of time spent "performing," and the associated renumeration would be lower.


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