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General Tips for belly dancing at a Restaurant

by Schadia , © 2004

  • When Picking out the Music for your restaurant sets:
    1. Consider your audience. You are there as a paid entertainer. The restaurant isn't the place to unveil that new-age/alternative fusion piece you have been working on. Pick music that the costumers and the owner will like. Generally, don't pick songs that are too alternative. Don't pick songs that are too depressing or sad. Upbeat happy music is always good!
    2. Choose music that will allow for a grand entrance & a great exit... come out w/ a bang and end w/ a bang.
    3. Pick music that corresponds w/ your costume choice.
    4. Although discouraged at shows, lip-sinking is perfectly acceptable at parties and restaurants!
  • Drink at least a whole small bottle of water before you dance - the more the better. This prevents that ucky dry mouth feeling.
  • When you lay out your costume at the restaurant to put on, make sure you put the dollar on top of your belt - otherwise you will likely forget it. DON'T forget that dollar --- you will get more tips & tips sooner, if you have it.
  • Try not to toss your veil on the floor, put it on a railing or better yet wrap it around a costumer. If you can't pick up your veil gracefully when exiting, leave it there to pick up later. It gives you a good excuse to mingle.
  • If patrons want to take a photo of you, try if all possible to come back at the end of your set to do that. Sometimes the photographer will take FOREVER taking the picture. The time you waste there is money you are losing somewhere else. If it is unavoidable to have your picture taken during the set, try to make it quick.
  • Many customer want to talk to you while you dance (How long have you been dancing? Where did you learn to dance? Are you Iranian/Arab?) When this occurs, just smile, answer shortly if you want & move on. You can tell them that you will come back after your set to talk to them. You can then finish your set, put your caftan on and go back to that table to chat. It gives you a good excuse to mingle & maybe get some additional business for yourself.
  • Make yourself available after your performance - put on your caftan and then go to the bar for a few minutes. Scan the room to see if anyone wants to talk to you. Those customers are potential business, so make sure you are friendly and professional. If you think appropriate, ask them if they would like one of your business cards.
  • When chatting w/ costumers, do not sit down at the table unless they insist. Don't overstay your welcome. DO NOT tell patrons your real name, give out too much personal information and NEVER give out your personal phone number. This is not only dangerous, but ruins your image, so just don't do it. Basically, remember that you are working, be professional, maintain your belly dancer mystique and keep it short.
  • Don't forget to order your food either before or right after your last set. The food is part of your payment, not to mention very delicious! So, do make sure ya take advantage of it.
  • Make sure you take all your things w/ you & don't forget the tape/ C.D. in the stereo
  • Do not leave the restaurant without being paid!

Additional Tips for Brand New Restaurant Dancers

If you tend to have posture, arm position, or other problems, remind yourself of them before you go out & make sure you are conscious of them & avoid those problems.

Things that can sometimes be a problem

  • Your posture. Make sure to always, tuck, lift & extend.
  • Using your hands & arms well. Sometimes if a dancer is doing "improv" dancing she resorts to western-style dancing & lets her arms and hands droop or doesn't even use them. A dancer should use her whole body, including her arms and hands when dancing. Practicing in a mirror helps with this problem
Other things to do when you get started dancing at restaurants:
  • Dance Continuously ... New restaurant dancers will often stop and get that "Oh Goddess, what do I do next!?" look on their faces. You really want to avoid that - DO NOT STOP DANCING, even when you get a tip.
  • Practice at home, traveling around your house, stopping at various places to pick up pretend tips. Dance in large spaces & confined spaces in your house. Learn to adapt your dancing to both & also to TRAVELING a lot.
  • When using choreography … make sure that you know the choreography well enough to move in and out of it comfortably. Also practice dancing to a choreographed song & NOT doing the choreography. Come up with different key moves that you can use when you forget a section of the choreography or can not do the choreography for whatever reason.
  • Know Your Music… Whether improv dancing or dancing to choreographed music, listen to your show C.D.s/tapes as often as humanly possible. Cut down or stop listening to the radio at home and in the car --- listen to your tapes or other Arabic music. And, especially in the beginning, don't dance to music you don't know well. It will just create problems & make your performance less beautiful. You have enough to think about when you are dancing, you do not need to be wondering what is coming next in the music.
  • Now that you know that restaurant dancing isn't as easy as it looks, be sure to Practice, Practice, Practice!
See Tips for Improv. Dancing for additional tips.

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