I have been asked by many dancers recently, how you go about approaching a restaurant to belly dance there? This has happen so much recently that I have put a mentoring program in place. While this has been discussed in great detail in numerous bellydance forums I wanted to give my own experiences on the matter and 5 pointers to help you get started in the right direction.
1. RESEARCH the venue. Before approaching any restaurant it is best to do some online research. Do they already have dancing? How often? Who does the scheduling? Do they have the proper license to even HAVE dancing at their establishment? The best thing to do is find out all of these things first. Usually some Facebook research and Google is all that is needed. If they do have dancing then there are photos on their website or Facebook page. Also, if they are on Facebook then the dancers who are already there have probably tagged themselves or commented in some way. If there is a scheduling dancer don’t walk in and expect to immediately be added to the schedule. Contact them and let them know you are available to sub and are interested in being on the schedule. You will get a lot farther with a scheduling dancer if you are up front and respectful than if you are devious and try to go behind their backs. If the owner is the one running the schedule then by all means, start with them.
2. RESEARCH rates. I cannot stress this enough!! Know what the rates are in your area. What is the base rate that dancers are accepting at restaurants? If you do not think that you are worth that rate, then you should not be approaching a restaurant to begin with. A paid gig is not for getting performance experience under your belt- shows and haflas are for that purpose. You don’t want to mislead the public in any way- the higher a standard they hold for bellydancers the better! Once you know what the rates are then you can start your discussions with the owner with all of the information you need.
3. TALK. This may seem obvious but to many it isn’t. Sending a flyer to a restaurant is great BUT you need to actually go there and speak to the owner. You are going to need to get over whatever shyness you may have. Patronizing the restaurant in the first place is a good way to “get in” It makes you a familiar face to the staff and the owner. The added bonus is that you can scope it out- is there enough room for dancing, how is the sound system, what is the clientele like, is the food good. Simply emailing and sending flyers isn’t going to be enough to grab the owner’s attention and have them take a chance on you.
4. PROMO materials. I am not saying that you have to have a professionally shot promo video. But at the very least having some business cards with you and perhaps a photo of what you look like in costume are the bare basics. The more professional and put together you are the more likely you are to be taken seriously. Even if you are just meeting the scheduling dancer, have your business cards with you, a photo of you in costume, a resume- even just a short bio or maybe a DVD of a show or pull a Youtube video up on your phone- this will all help you get the job. At the very least it will put you in a more professional light and help you sell yourself.
5. PRESENTATION Again, this may seem like a no-brainer but apparently it isn’t. Please do not go to an interview in full costume and makeup. You may end up getting roped into an unpaid audition which is not a good thing. If there is already a dancer there, then you will definitely alienate her. When going to speak to the owner make sure that you are dressed nicely- business casual is a good idea and that your hair and makeup is done. Enough so that you look like you MIGHT be the dancer in those photos with the heavy makeup and lashes but not so much that you look like you’re ready to perform at that very moment.
I hope that these 5 tips will help get you on the track to approaching an owner or scheduling dancer on your own to belly dance at their restaurant. If you need more advice then feel free to contact me and I can get you information on Bellydance by Amartia’s restaurant mentoring program.