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Thread: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?




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    I could get used to this! carolbui's Avatar
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    What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    I've seen a lot of threads about how to get started, many posters saying wait until you're ready.

    Aside from non-technical stuff like now to interact with the audience, how to recover from a mishap, improv, etc...what belly dance-specific skills would you say is absolutely necessary before you start performing for a public audience? i.e. certain types of layering, arms, certain shimmies, props, range of repertoire, etc.

    I guess another way to ask is how do you know when you're at the high intermediate/advanced level?


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    Master BHUZzer beafarhana's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    I don't think what moves you can do is as important as being able to do moves in a fluid flowing way, so that transitions are seamless, so that you maintain good posture with a strong core, and the arms have dynamism and strength. I guess I'm talking about Quality of Movement. If you don't have that, if you don't look comfortable in your skin, then whatever moves you do will look weak and ineffectual.

    In my opinion, Improv is a technical skill. It's an essential for restaurant dancing, even if you rely principally on choreography. You never know when the unexpected will throw itself into your path, dodging waiters, patrons getting up & dancing, even when it's not the time you'd "planned" for audience participation, music being changed by the restaurant staff who think they know better than you what the public wants.

    I would also add as an essential technical skill having a clear awareness of "style", i.e. whether the music you are using is Turkish/Egyptian/Lebanese/classic Oriental/Baladi/folkloric/pop/dabke/whatever... And dancing in a way that is reflective of that style.


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    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Zumarrad's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    You need to be able to provide at least 15 minutes of good performance quality dance. Depending on the needs of your market you should be able to dance with veil and zills, and possibly other props. You should have good, strong posture. You should be able to travel and to dance on the spot at the appropriate times. You should be able to negotiate your dance space and adjust yourself accordingly. Ideally you should have a good sense of floor patterns and how to create pleasing ones on the spot. (I do not have this skill!) In some areas you should be able to work with a live band. You MUST have some improvisational skills - the more the better, but at the very least you should be able to wing it if your choreo gets thrown, if you have to get audience up, etc. Really, a restaurant set should be mostly if not completely improvised, but a hot choreographed drum solo won't hurt.

    You don't actually need a LOT of moves. Being able to shimmy well and walk at the same time is, I'd say, obligatory (lololol. No, but seriously, I've been in a lot of places where they want shimmy shimmy shimmy shimmy nonstop and if you can only stand and shimmy, you're NOT READY.) Being able to undulate on top of your travelling moves is also pretty high on the list. Being able to carry your arms in an attractive confident manner is good. Snake arms, head slides etc are not obligatory but they are handy for those cheesy moments. Hip drops, a few different kinds, figure eights ditto, some nice travelling steps... that's pretty much it. It's more important IMO that you know where to do what and how to put them together to look nice and interesting. And that is the hardest part.

    Those are your bare basic minimum requirements IMO. But bear in mind that I'm coming from a place where I think that's all I do and I really do a LOT more. If you can list a bunch of moves that is longer than that, and probably you can, that's great, but the real work is putting them all together.

    In some places people will have a more discerning eye and they will want MORE, way more than that. But in the end your job is to look pretty, move in a recogniseably belly dance fashion and do it beautifully. All the rest is, as my teacher used to say, its own reward.


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    Master BHUZzer shems's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    I don't like the idea of bare minimum requirements. I don't want to see a dancer performing in a restaurant until she is already a strong dancer (not just cutting it).

    I've seen many women develop all that is takes to be well rounded, beautiful and entertaining dancers by putting hours in class and performing in recitals and haflas. I don't think professional performance should ever be a bare minimum kind of situation. I'd prefer nobody pursue professional venues unless they've already developed into a well rounded and skilled dancer who can really bring a lot to a performance.

    I really want to watch a dancer who has developed her own distinctive signature and owns her movements. Somebody who could keep me entertained for hours, but selectively shares a portion of her skills in a well planned show.

    Certainly more that an easily quantifiable bare minimum set of moves or props, or a mere they should be able to keep it together for at least 15 minutes. Of course, I also don't believe that dancers should ever be used as background noise and atmosphere (which they are in many, possibly most restaurants). True bare minimum in many venues is: do you look pretty in your costume.


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    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Zumarrad's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Shems, I agree, but there are people out there marketing themselves as professional dancers with a five-minute choreo. And in some places what is acceptable in a working dancer would not even be an intermediate student in another.


  6. #6
    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    1. Performing experience. If you haven't been dancing regularly at local events for student dancers, you're probably not ready for the big time. Someone who has seen you perform is in a better position than strangers on the Internet to tell if you are a natural and ready to go after a hafla or two, or if you'll need years more practice. You don't have to be perfect--improv performing is one of those jobs where you can't get most of your experience anywhere other than doing it, but a lot of beginning performers have stage fright and other audience-attention-induced anxiety problems, and if that happens to you, you should work through a bit more of that first. Do you have any other theatrical experience?

    2. Basic technical competence as a dancer. Do you go to workshops? Can you keep up? What does the restaurant expect of you? How good is your competition for the job?

    The problem with trying to guess the criteria for "high intermediate/advanced level" is that it depends on so many factors, because we don't have universally applied standards. The level of dancing required to perform as a pro in Fargo, North Dakota is lower than in New York City. That doesn't mean the dancer in Fargo shouldn't strive to be as good as the one in NYC, only that the communities (both the GP and the dance community) generally don't expect as much. There's also an aspect that what we, as dancers, look for may not matter to someone looking to hire you. If they want an ENTERTAINER--someone who looks pretty, stays on the beat, and makes the crowd happy, they don't care if you can recreate the entire RenFaire repertoire of Bal Anat circa 1969, know every choreography Mahmoud Reda ever taught in North America, lived with the Roma in Turkey for a decade, and can name ten ethnomusical differences between the Berber tribes of Algeria and Morocco off the top of your head. WE care about those things, but they may just want someone who has charisma and adds a pleasant ambience to their business. Or maybe that level of expertise is what they demand.

    Short answer: If you have to ask, you probably haven't seen enough and learned enough yet to be past the low-intermediate level.


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    Master BHUZzer SamiraShuruk's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    I agree with all of the above.
    I'm also going to add something Artemis Mourat teaches- that you need to have 9 songs "under your belt" and ready to go in order to be ready to go pro. I can never remember her exact list- so I always come up with more. But you should know - be able to do- intro, veil, balancing prop, saidi, beledi, zeffa, zills/sagat song, audience participation, tabla solo, Oum Kolthoum, karshilima, finale. I'd say this list has variations depending upon your region and style. If you don't do Turkish for example, well, no need to be able to do a mean karshilima (although I encourage thorough understanding :) I)
    You also need some of the business skills- negotiation, awareness of local standards (such as length shows etc) and rates.


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    Established BHUZzer Anthea Kawakib Poole's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Quote Originally Posted by SamiraShuruk View Post
    You also need some of the business skills- negotiation, awareness of local standards (such as length shows etc) and rates.
    Thank you! I wondered if anyone was going to mention that little part - like I just told one of my students, managers can SMELL a newbie as soon as they start talking to them & will most likely try to take advantage of them, asking for longer sets, trying to charge less money, etc. etc.
    Am I right, pros?

    BTW where is Artemis' great article on the "Top Twent Club Cliches"?


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    Established BHUZzer Anthea Kawakib Poole's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Quote Originally Posted by SamiraShuruk View Post
    You also need some of the business skills- negotiation, awareness of local standards (such as length shows etc) and rates.
    Thank you! I wondered if anyone was going to mention that little part -
    Like I just told one of my students who wants to go pro, managers can SMELL a newbie as soon as they start talking to them & will most likely try to take advantage of them, asking for longer sets, trying to charge less money, etc. etc.
    Am I right, pros?

    BTW where is Artemis' great article on the "Top Twenty Club Cliches"?


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    Established BHUZzer Anthea Kawakib Poole's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    of course I mean "PAY less money"


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    Mega BHUZzer Lara L's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    I agree with everything stated above and want to add understanding your music. Having 9-10 songs "under your belt" does not mean just listening to them a few times and being reasonably confident you could dance to them. Please, please spend the time to figure out what that song means, to you if nothing else! I do mean get the lyrics translation too, but deeper than that- please spend the time feeling the music rather than thinking about what you could do during this 8 count or that taxim.

    Don't know that this is a 'requirement' so much as a plea from a potential audience member! Commit to your 'role'!
    vanillacherry likes this.


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    Ultimate BHUZzer dunyah's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    What everyone else has said. I would add that it would be best if you had a mentor or a teacher to ask if you are ready and to guide you in your first steps toward dancing professionally. That will help you avoid a lot of the pitfalls.


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    I could get used to this! carolbui's Avatar
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    thanks for the

    thoughtful responses!! I was getting confused sometimes because I've seen a few pros that aren't very exciting, including one on a nile cruise ship a couple years ago, but I've also seen some incredible dancers in all types of performance situations - pros and non-pro. I wanted to see what you all would say is a good skill set for someone you'd pay to watch. some day I do want to be a professional dancer, and it helps to know what things I really need to pay attention to in my study. I have a private teacher, but I haven't met with her nearly enough because of my hectic schedule, but I practice like a fiend on my own, in addition to attending workshops (just went to a BDE one with Jillina!) and watching dvds. watching performances on youtube has been inspirational as well.

    thanks again.


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    I could get used to this! carolbui's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tourbeau View Post
    Short answer: If you have to ask, you probably haven't seen enough and learned enough yet to be past the low-intermediate level.
    perhaps, but I certainly wasn't trying to gauge if I could be a pro NOW. it's something I aspire to be in the future, and getting your feedback helps me to cover as many bases as possible in my study.


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    Advanced BHUZzer NazirahDances's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Quote Originally Posted by carolbui View Post
    perhaps, but I certainly wasn't trying to gauge if I could be a pro NOW. it's something I aspire to be in the future, and getting your feedback helps me to cover as many bases as possible in my study.
    When you meet with your teacher again, ask him/her for a list the things you should start to work on to meet your goals. Perhaps ask for a broad overview of what you need, and some specific details to focus on first. You can also look for workshops that have information and content for those who aspire to be professional bellydancers if there is something like that in your area.


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    Advanced BHUZzer da Sage's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    IMO, any restaurant dancer needs good arms, good "dance face", a genuine connection to the music and the audience, a love of performing, and to have perfected all the bellydance movements and skills that are normally taught in the first two to four years of local dance classes. She needs either major improv skills, or incredible choreography skills - a combination of both is ideal.

    With performing dancers, it so often comes down to ongoing performance issues that you can't really check off on a "skills acquired" list. While local dance students could come in and be catty about your dance if you don't throw in certain techniques to show your technical prowess, complex moves or sequences are not necessary to please most audiences...generally making a strong presentation of a solid dance is more important.


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    Advanced BHUZzer maurazebra's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Quote Originally Posted by carolbui View Post
    Aside from non-technical stuff like now to interact with the audience, how to recover from a mishap, improv, etc...what belly dance-specific skills would you say is absolutely necessary before you start performing for a public audience?
    Honestly, as a professional audience member and chief roadie for my daughter and her dance company :) I feel recovering from a mishap and improv is of the essence. There's no 'aside' about it. The perfect venue has a defined place for you to dance without having to dodge waiters and greasy tablecloths and customers going to the bathroom, a sound system that both works and can be heard by you while dancing, a clean place to change and safely stow your valuables, sufficient lighting so that the customers can see you. You probably won't start out at a venue like that. What happens when the DJ won't play the songs you gave him, the customer's recording system skips a lot, the restaurant owner expects you to change in the kitchen, the guest of honor insists on having you dance to his favorite song?

    I feel you need a lot more than a dozen songs under your belt because customers get bored by the same tunes, even if you dance to them excellently. You can start OUT with ten tunes, but make sure you've got another 5 in the mix by the next gig at the same venue. :)

    Make sure you know your customer and that you can deliver what they want. The local Egyptian customer may love you but the Greek customer may find that Egyptian style too cold. Your Turkish customer may love you but the Persian one will freak out over the same set. The Americans may expect sword! veils! zills! candles! fire swallowers! midgets! fortune tellers! Freaks! Lap dancing! So tempting though it may be to accept gigs because you are a good dancer, remember that if you are hired to ENTERTAIN as well as dance then make sure you can give them what they find entertaining.

    Know your 'it' quotient: Having an 'it' quality appropriate for the venue is of ABSOLUTE importance when entertainment is the primary goal and you don't have but a few seconds to make that first impression. Some dancers shine as soloists in noisy environments - they walk into a room and all heads turn. Some dancers shine as soloists in quiet attentive environments; in a couple of minutes they have the audience hypnotized. Some dancers shine as partners in duets and groups. Some people are outstanding presences on a stage, others do best in a festival environment. ALL of these are strengths. Work from your strengths, develop others that you are interested in, but KNOW what your strengths are so you know what you are getting into.

    Have a support system. This includes friend(s) who would love to escort you to a gig, drive you somewhere if your car breaks down, fill in for you if you have the flu, do emergency repairs and upgrades on costumes, critique your posters. Be sure you reciprocate in some fashion ;)

    Good luck!
    Last edited by maurazebra; 10-29-2010 at 07:00 PM.


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    Advanced BHUZzer maurazebra's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Quote Originally Posted by anthea View Post
    BTW where is Artemis' great article on the "Top Twent Club Cliches"?
    http://www.serpentine.org/artemis/Top20.html


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    Master BHUZzer norma's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    I agree with the above comments. I don't think a dancer should go pro with minimum technical skills. That is what halfas are for. Once you are a paid performer you have an obligation to put on a professional show. None of us have the right to dance. We have to earn it. It is not the time to be self-indulgent. The owner who pays us and the audience who pays to see us have the right to expect top quality entertainment. I just shudder when I see inexperienced dancers out there performing. NO wonder the GP doesn't have a good impression of belly dancing in general. Most of them have never seen a professional, experienced belly dancer.

    Improvisitional skills are a must. You should be able to figure out how to put steps to music and transition smoothly without someone doing it for you. You should know at least 2-3 steps to every basic bellydance rhythm based on your style and the venue you are performing in. You should have the stamina to perform at least a 1/2 hour without stopping. If you are dancing to CD you should have a wide variety of music to dance and not dance to the same set over and over. You should have enough costumes to rotate-for me I think 5 is a minimum.

    You need to be able to shimmy and walk and how to do a controlled shimmy while standing in place. Can you dance an entire show on a stage the size of a postage stamp? Can you cover the floor of a large hall? Confidence is critical and I think confidence comes from training, practice and experience.

    The best thing you can do is to watch other professional dancers, preferably local ones if possible ,and see what they do. Would you pay to see her on a regular basis?


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    Official BHUZzer micamica's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    One thing I haven't seen mentioned here (sorry if I missed it) is the ability to use a pause. Not just a dramatic pause when the music breaks or begins, but the thoughtful use of deliberate non-motion is a skill in any dance form.

    Nikki


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    Master BHUZzer sabrinabellydancer's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Yes to the statements upthread.

    Also, I tell my students they must be able to command their performance space and take charge of the room during their performance. IMO this is a critical mandatory minimum skill to be a pro. Whether you can layer 8 moves doesn't matter if you can't present yourself properly in your entrance or don't know how to have silent communication with the restaurant staff so the waiter knows to work around your show.

    There are so many show management skills involved in being a pro dancer, that go waaaaaay beyond how many songs you know, how pretty your costumes are or how many moves you can execute competently. That said, I think its critical for pre-pros to gig-assist with a high quality working pro, to "learn the ropes" of gig-ing skils.
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    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    A little tangential, but I think it's essential to hang out in the local clubs/restaurants that have dancers. Get to know what the people are like. Are they Americans, or Arabs? Younger or older crowd? What kind of music gets them all worked up?

    If they're Americans, they usually want to be 'wowed' by things like sword balancing, veils and 'doesn't she have any bones?' drum solos, so you'll need those skills and some 'tricks' up your sleeve.

    If they're Arabs, they mostly want to see that you know your music, know what your lyrics mean, have some basic 'cultural' steps and gestures, and know how to move to different rhythms. Older ex-pats just want to feel a bit of 'home,' so moves aren't nearly as important as culture.

    Young audiences (Arab or American) are sometimes more interested in the sex appeal of the dancer than her skills.


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    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Quote Originally Posted by sabrinabellydancer View Post
    Yes to the statements upthread.

    Also, I tell my students they must be able to command their performance space and take charge of the room during their performance. IMO this is a critical mandatory minimum skill to be a pro. Whether you can layer 8 moves doesn't matter if you can't present yourself properly in your entrance or don't know how to have silent communication with the restaurant staff so the waiter knows to work around your show.

    There are so many show management skills involved in being a pro dancer, that go waaaaaay beyond how many songs you know, how pretty your costumes are or how many moves you can execute competently. That said, I think its critical for pre-pros to gig-assist with a high quality working pro, to "learn the ropes" of gig-ing skils.
    Ohhh, yes to all this! And to be able to continue doing your 'moves' and commanding your space -- being in character and charming but firm -- while 8 men surround you and try to poke tips into your bra cups!


  24. #24
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Zumarrad's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    I was getting confused sometimes because I've seen a few pros that aren't very exciting, including one on a nile cruise ship a couple years ago,
    Depending on where you are, the standard is going to be dictated by the market. In western countries you often have a lot of dancers or would-be dancers and very few pro outlets. In NZ shoots self in foot you don't actually have to be all THAT good, just competent in the things I mentioned above, and look right/have something about you that is so pleasant that people like to see you dance. There are almost no dancer venues where I live, and only a few in larger cities, and there are a lot of dancers. I can think of three, maybe four dancers I know who could cut it in Sydney NOW (and three of them would probably be classed as "too old") though a few others would be able to step up their game if they were there and worked hard. And there are, again, LOTS more eager dancers than there are jobs for them.

    I imagine it's way harder again in any major metropolitan centre in the US, where competition for good gigs is even fiercer and the numbers of dancers is so much greater. Not to mention the level of training available.

    Whereas in somewhere like Egypt, even though the scene is by all accounts ruthless, it's also NOT a job that many women would want to do. So you're going to get women dancing who are pretty blah sometimes, who are doing it because it's the best way they can make money right now, not because (like, say, Dina or Randa or Lucy) they love the dance so much they've been willing to make serious sacrifices for it and worked incredibly hard to make themselves into unique stars.


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    Advanced BHUZzer phillyraqs's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zumarrad View Post
    Whereas in somewhere like Egypt, even though the scene is by all accounts ruthless, it's also NOT a job that many women would want to do. So you're going to get women dancing who are pretty blah sometimes, who are doing it because it's the best way they can make money right now, not because (like, say, Dina or Randa or Lucy) they love the dance so much they've been willing to make serious sacrifices for it and worked incredibly hard to make themselves into unique stars.
    This is a great point. We sometimes assume that any dancer performing in Egypt is going to be great. They are, by far, not. Or they are prostitutes. Or they have taken a few lessons and then jump to perform (and we complain at six week wonders!) to make money. Or, the venue doesn't want to spend a lot of money to hire a good dancer. Or they are folkloric dancers who do cabaret dancing on the side to make extra money.


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    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Zumarrad's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Quote Originally Posted by phillyraqs View Post
    This is a great point. We sometimes assume that any dancer performing in Egypt is going to be great. They are, by far, not. Or they are prostitutes. Or they have taken a few lessons and then jump to perform (and we complain at six week wonders!) to make money. Or, the venue doesn't want to spend a lot of money to hire a good dancer. Or they are folkloric dancers who do cabaret dancing on the side to make extra money.
    OR they never had a lesson in their lives because that's not what people want in a belly dancer over there anyway. At worst, they want sexy and available. At best they want raw feeling and musicality and beauty and a good show. Technique is secondary.

    Folkloric dancers would at least have some strong technique ...


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    Master BHUZzer SamiraShuruk's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zumarrad View Post
    ...Folkloric dancers would at least have some strong technique ...
    well? I'd actually qualify this by saying "folkloric dancers would at least have had the opportunity to gain strong technique as well as diversity in dance and rhythms"... not all actually HAVE that technique (although some are FABULOUS!).


  28. #28
    Master BHUZzer norma's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    A little tangential, but I think it's essential to hang out in the local clubs/restaurants that have dancers. Get to know what the people are like. Are they Americans, or Arabs? Younger or older crowd? What kind of music gets them all worked up?

    If they're Americans, they usually want to be 'wowed' by things like sword balancing, veils and 'doesn't she have any bones?' drum solos, so you'll need those skills and some 'tricks' up your sleeve.

    If they're Arabs, they mostly want to see that you know your music, know what your lyrics mean, have some basic 'cultural' steps and gestures, and know how to move to different rhythms. Older ex-pats just want to feel a bit of 'home,' so moves aren't nearly as important as culture.

    Young audiences (Arab or American) are sometimes more interested in the sex appeal of the dancer than her skills.
    This is most certainly true!


  29. #29
    Master BHUZzer casbahdance's Avatar
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    Re: What would you say the minimum technical skill set is for a pro solo dancer? say, at a restaurant?

    To speak specifically to the question of technical skills:

    I think one's movement vocabulary must be second nature . . . there's no thinking about a hip lift or a circle or a shimmy; rather, each movement just happens on autopilot whenever the dancer decides to do it. A person who must think about the technique for creating movement will not have the awareness of his/her dance space, audience, wait staff run amok, etc.

    From this "second nature" dancing follows all the other stuff that's needed, which has been thoughtfully discussed!

    Deborah


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