Here is a summary of all the tips I’ve given about dancing in a restaurant over the time of my blog. I wanted to make it easy for everyone to find it in one convenient place!
Part 1: Starting out
Here are my 5 pointers to help you get started in restaurant dancing:
- RESEARCH the venue. Before approaching any restaurant it is best to do some online research. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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. 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.
Part 2: Handling Your Restaurant Audience
A lot of dancers who are new to the restaurant scene will wonder, why do people leave before my show? Or leave when they see I am performing? Or about to perform? This could be, as stated in my last blog post just be because they are uncomfortable with it. They might not know when your show is and/or plan to not be there when you perform. Not everyone is as crazy about belly dance as we are!
Why do people not make any noise for me or clap? This is hard habit for people to break. They have been taught that when watching a show, you stay quiet and only clap at the end, out of respect. Or it could be that they don’t feel that the venue, a restaurant, is one for clapping.
What if they don’t look at me? After having performed for a long time, I have learned that it isn’t always you. Try not to take it personally. It could just be that they don’t feel comfortable watching you. They may feel like they are leering if they stare at you intensely. I’ve had instances where people were staring at me almost glaring and I thought they were displeased with my performance. At the end of my show however, they told me how much they enjoyed it and were trying to figure out how I was doing those things with my body!
What if they won’t dance with me? Not everyone is into audience participation. People are shy or feel uncoordinated or are just not in the mood to dance. It’s OK! You can play with them and try to guilt them but if they stand firm. Move away! There is nothing more uncomfortable for an audience member than a dance who cannot read the table and sticks around when they are ready for her to move on.
What if they don’t tip me? Sometimes you won’t get tipped. This can happen. Tips are not a guarantee. They are appreciated, don’t get me wrong, but they aren’t a must. It could be that the venue just isn’t the right one for tipping or they don’t know if they can tip you. Some people honestly haven’t a clue about tipping. They also may not tip for fear of making you uncomfortable. Maybe YOU don’t want to be tipped on your body. Either you don’t at all or you can gesture to your armband when a customer wants to tip you.
Part 3: Handling a rowdy audience
This dancer has seen her share of rowdy belly dance restaurant audiences. They range from the tiniest of audience members all the way up the adults. The key is how to handle the situation. Here are a few things that you can try:
The spin away- If you have an audience member that just seems to be getting a little too close and you can see them coming, spin off to another part of the room. Sometimes just doing a few spins in one spot can keep them at bay.
The ninja arms- Don’t actually hit anyone! J This is using your arm movements in front of you, always moving keeping that space between you and the offending audience member. You can also incorporate the no-no finger movement as well- letting them know that what they are doing is not okay.
Zill snap- there are some who just don’t get the hint. Your zills can be used as a weapon- again not a ninja star! (Although I have had one fly off and hit a customer, by accident!) A sharp nip or loud noise can be enough to stave off an audience member.
Challenge them to a dance off- I have done this a couple times. Pretend to amp myself up and do a movement like a tummy flutter and then look expectedly at them as if to say- your turn! Either they can keep up which makes for a great story or a great night as the rest of the audience gets into it. Or they get the hint and let you finish your show.
Making them the center of attention- sometimes all they want to be is the center of attention. You don’t need to challenge them to a dance off, just give them their moment in the sun. Stand back and clap for them, encourage them. They usually lose steam and again, let you finish your show.
Signaling a waiter/manager- In extreme cases, where you think your safety might be at risk you may have to work out a signal with a waiter or manager to intervene. Hopefully they wouldn’t have to rough them up, but perhaps coming up and engaging them in conversation. Or coming up and pointing you to another table as if to say they want to see you over there!
I hope you have enjoyed the restaurant roundup. Feel free to check out my other blog posts on restaurant dancing for more details and to add your own! We can all benefit from the knowledge.