In my opinion, belly dance show etiquette can be separated into three general categories: performer, audience and organizer. Today I am going to take a dive into some quick tips on positive behaviors as a show performer. I have included some snippits from the original email that led to this post so you can see context along with a breakout of more information.
1. Be on time
"Please arrive no later than and be ready to practice at 4:30 sharp. We won’t get a lot of time to run through it and there are other groups who need to run through their pieces who will be waiting on us to finish."
I know I mentioned this in my “6 Tips/Tricks on How to Make Your Event Organizer Happy” post. but I will re-stress it again. Try to make being on time a regular practice. The event organizer will usually ask you to arrive at a specific time for a reason. Some of these may be: to make sure everyone is there, to make any last minute line-up changes, to avoid the dancers and audience arriving at the same time and delaying the show, and many more. If for some reason you are going to be late text someone and let them know. In this case, there were multiple groups wanting to run through spacing so it was super important that we start on time and not hold anyone else up.
2. Have your hair & make-up done
"Please have your hair & makeup done when you arrive, unless you are confident you can finish your makeup by 5:45. If anyone needs help with something please let me know beforehand"
I wouldn’t call this one an etiquette per say as more of a general suggestion. However i have seen dancers show up late, not be ready and cause chaos and add stress to other dancers in the dressing room (see #3). You could also delay the show, miss your performance or add extra stress to yourself, it is just not worth it unless you are experienced and practiced enough to know what you need to do and how long it will take you and even then sometimes there are snafoos. To me it is your 'job' to be ready to go when needed.
3. Be aware in the dressing room
"The dressing room is small and there are a lot of dancers going in and out. Please try to be polite and aware of other dancers. Change quickly, keep your stuff tidy and don’t linger."
This is pretty straight forward. In our case the dressing room was very tiny and there were multiple troupes in the show, some with costume changes. When you spread out and leave your stuff or are lingering unnecessary you could be disrupting or preventing another dancer her time to get ready in her best way. Also it can be very stressful and chaotic. Something else to think about is how you talk in the dressing room. Discussing how nervous you are over and over or radiating panicked energy because you are running late or cant find xyz can spread to other dancers and impact their energy.
4. Wear a cover up
"Do not wear your costume around the hall without a cover up. If you do not own a cover up of some sort please let me know and I will try to bring some veils at least. If anyone has an extra cover up can you please bring it?"
This is one that I see most frequently offended and drives me crazy straight away. At the very minimum wear a veil wrap. In part of one of her articles, Shira mentions some of the many reasons why this is important. You can check it out here. Sometimes as a new dancer you don't know any better, which is why as a teacher or an elder dancer you should take time to mentor them on cover-ups.
5. Be kind
“I don’t think this would be an issue with you guys but I would be remiss if I didn’t say it anyway: Be kind, polite and helpful to your other dancers. Be supportive and cheer and clap for them. If something comes up please save any negative comments/discussions for outside of the venue in the car or privately later.”
This one is probably the most important one the list, and lets be real...we have all done it. I know I went through a period of being very catty and I deeply regret it. Dance is supposed to be fun. Not everyone is going to be a professional superstar touring the world. When you are so worried about what everyone else will say it starts to stop being fun and people can start developing performance and self-esteem issues. In addition, it is just rude, someone put in a lot of effort and courage to be up there so you should respect that. If you didn't like it that is okay too, just be respectful about it. The more you talk negatively about other dancers the more you think other dancers are doing the same to you and you are the one that ends up with issues. It is more fun and enjoyable to dance for a positive atmosphere and at the end of the day that is what it should be about (more of this in the upcoming post about audience etiquette) and we should be building communities focused on lifting each other up not tearing each other down.
Now on the same thread of being real....shit happens...and students may want to ask questions like: "Why was she/he doing cane to a taqsim with jeans on?" or you may be like..."oh my god...I cannot believe she/he did that....what the fuck?!?!?!" but the show and public spaces are not the space to talk about it. How would you feel if you overheard someone discussing you?
Be helpful to other dancers. This is a community, look out for other dancers. If you see a piece of costuming about to fall off tell them, help people get into their costumes, if you see a newbie having a panic attack go talk to them. I have made more friends back stage of competitions through being friendly and kind then any where else. It does not make you less to help someone else be more.
What are some of your favorite performer etiquette items? Share them in the comments below and make sure to keep an eye out for part 2 of this Long Island belly dance post about show etiquette.
Tips, Tricks and Life of a Long Island Entertainer