Isn’t Bellydancing just like Stripping? The simple answer, NO! I cannot stress it enough. Unfortunately, bellydance being associated with stripping is a misconception that bellydancers have to deal with a lot. Stripping is its own form of entertainment. It has movements and skill required in its own right but it is NOT bellydancing.
There have been a few times where clients have called me, and after talking for a few moments I realize that they don’t actually want a belly dancer. They want a stripper in a bellydance costume. In those instances, I politely tell them that I am not the entertainer that they are looking for and recommend that they search elsewhere. There are however, those phone calls where the client just isn’t educated about belly dance. They may have seen a less than professional dancer or perhaps a stripper in a bellydance costume and not recognized the difference. It is difficult to handle those calls without getting upset, but here are three tips to help you.
1. Do not raise your voice.
I know this one is hard. This person has just insulted your art, the craft that you work so hard on. Just go into the conversation assuming that they don’t know the difference. This will make it a lot easier for you to keep your calm. Yelling NO will not help you. “I’m sorry I think you must be mistaken…” or” I don’t think you understand the servcies that I offer, let me explain what I do…” are much better choices.
2. Ask them what they envision for their event.
Try to get a clearer idea of what they want. What do they want for their bellydancing event in Baltimore? See if your gut reaction to their statement that compared bellydance to stripping is what they see for their event. Maybe they just saw a video of someone sitting and wiggling on the guest of honor’s lap. Ask them more questions. Is it really about the sitting and the wiggling? Or about making the guest of honor feel special? Maybe it was just a posed photo at a party and the dancer KNEW the birthday boy. It wasn’t a part of the performance at all. These are all things that can be taken out of context. If they want someone to make their guest of honor feel special, then sure you can do that.
3. Explain, Explain and Explain again
Simply explain the differences between the two. You dance in a costume that looks like x,y and z and entertain and get the party started. You do not remove any clothing, you are family-friendly entertainment, your music is a, b, and c. For instance, in the above scenario where they wanted sitting and wiggling explain that you do not sit on anyone’s lap- who wants to wrinkle their costume? 😉 And that you can make the guest of honor feel special by getting them up to dance, by asking them to play your zills, and whatever else that you may do during your performances to enhance the experience. Reiterate that no, you don’t do THAT but you do THIS and how much better it is! “Bellydance by Amartia will make your client feel special by getting them up to dance, having them be her musical accompaniment….” You ARE a spectacular show and you want to make sure they know that.
Even with these three tips, you may still not be able to help the client understand the difference. In these cases it may be easier to just decline the gig and wish them luck in their search for entertainment. There is no shame for either party in you turning down the gig. You are just not the right performer for them: plain and simple.
I hope that you have enjoyed this blog post and that it helps you deal with you next client bellydancing is not stripping situation. Or perhaps a client will read this post and you won’t need these tips at all!