As I continue to mentor newer dancers in the restaurant scene and in the gigging scene, I am seeing a lot of stories and requests for advice on getting hit on. It could come from owners, customers, you name it, but it is a situation that arises quite a bit for the gigging bellydancer.
There are those who will say that we should be used to it. With our bigger than life personalities, costumes, and smiles when performing, it may be hard for some to take a hint. There are also those who might say that it is a part of the culture in which we spend our time performing- that it is a part of the stigma of being a bellydancer and they think of us as “loose women.”
I won’t get into that discussion as part of this post but I would like to share some of my experiences and some of other dancers and how we have handled them. We are not perfect and everyone’s reaction and frame of reference is different but I hope that this helps all dancers in some way.
I personally have had the following said to me:
“Give me your measurements. I bring you a costume from Egypt”
My response: No Thank you. I have plenty of costumes.
This statement was said to me on numerous occasions with escalating emphasis. The owner at one point asked me if I had given them up. I replied that I had not and he said it was good. That it was just the guy being perverted and wondering what my size was.
” Sometime you give me private dance.. hahahaha.. I know this guy he said this to the dancer, and she said ok, it is no good. what would you say.”
My response: I do not give private dances. I would say the same thing to him that I am saying to you. That is that dancer’s choice.
I could tell he was trying to goad me into trashing the other dancer in some way or validating his opinions but I refused.
I have also had the you’re gorgeous, beautiful, you’re husband is a lucky man, said to me as well. What I am hoping to address here are some of the more severe situations.
From my colleagues:
” That’s happened by a staff member before. His casual flirtation started to go too far. I upfront told him that he’s overstepped and he gave up. It’s happened less with customers as I only interact with them when I’m dancing (unless it’s a private). “
“One time when I did a private a man from a different party in another banquet room in the facility, that I was not involved with, tried to purchase sex from me! I told him I’m not engaged in that kind of work and walked away. Unfortunately he got my phone number from a business card I had given someone else. I ignored his text. I did tell someone from my own party though and I had a driver that day so I felt safe. Now, I could have taken it further and tried to embarrass him in the lobby but I didn’t want to make a scene at that time.”
This is an example of some of the things that happen to dancers all the time. The best thing to do is to handle it with strength and grace. It’s ok not to make a scene but not ok if your safety is threatened.
“Usually just roll my eyes or laugh it off. Twice I needed help from staff. Once, a clearly very intoxicated man refused to accept the end of my show even after I had done 2 additional songs. As I was leaving he grabbed my arm so hard it left a bruise. All the wait staff sprung into action and he was kicked out. The second time, a guy, also drunk, made an extremely vulgar comment towards me. I told the DJ out of personal disgust. The next thing I know, the owner is telling at this guy in Arabic. I got a really REALLY nice tip from the guy’s WIFE.”
This is a great instance of staff and owners standing up for a dancer. It doesn’t always happen but when it does, it feels really good!
“Grimace and try to make my exit, or just straight up ignore it (one time I got yelled at across a parking lot). I’ve never had any serious problems (so far, fingers crossed). I’m engaged though and I always wear my ring to gigs if that helps. My bigger harassment issue is the occasional customer trying to jam dollar bills in no-no zones when I’m dancing at venues that allow body tipping. I usually gesture at my hip or armband, but I’ve definitely had people try to get grabby or shove it.”
Unfortunately, sometimes you do have to say you are otherwise attached in order to get those unwanted advances to stop. Sometimes, that isn’t enough either. If you do accept body tipping, there are those who do not understand what your limits are and will try to take advantage. It is best to stay strong and not let them do it if it doesn’t make you comfortable.
” One place used to have the bouncer walk me out but I’ve also heard about that backfiring. A patron offered to help a dancer carry her things to her car. They did so, dancer drove off, and then they ran an errand. When the patron went back after being gone for so long, they were questioned by others and they proceeded to claim that they had intimate relations with the dancer during that time.”
I am not trying to scare you all but I wanted to make you aware that things can backfire. What seems to be innocent and safe, can be twisted. Gossiping and a outlandish story sometimes win over the truth.
What are your experiences? How did you handle it? Please comment and share yours so that we can better prepare ourselves and the next generations of gigging dancers.