What is this phenomenon of everyone and their mother calling themselves a “professional” belly dancer now a days? One of the big problems that exist in this industry is that there is no regulation. I realize that as an artist having the freedom to do what I please in my craft is essential, but there needs to be some ground rules in any industry, including belly dance. Costuming and Price definitely come to mind while we are on the topic…but let’s leave that for my next blog post jajaja!
Defining Some Basic Titles:
For now let’s focus on the basic issue of finding and using the appropriate title. There is no shame in calling yourself a novice, up and comer or any other of the terms below. I do not understand why so many dancers are scared to utilize some of these titles. Be honest with where you are. There is nothing wrong with dancing for a year and calling yourself an amateur… that is what the title should be! There is nothing wrong with dancing for a few years and calling yourself an “up and comer”. Here are a few basic terms that describe various skill levels:
-beginner: a person who is beginning something or doing something for the first time-up and coming
-novice: a person who has just started learning or doing something
-amateur: one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science. One who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession
-rising star: a person who is quickly becoming popular, successful, etc.
-professional: relating to a job that requires special education, training, or skill
How Much Training Do I Need to Be Considered a Pro?
Knowing the above terms is important as they relate to the next question one must ask themselves, “so how much training is necessary to consider yourself a professional”? This is a tough one, and many dancers never reach the professional level in my opinion. There are some basics I feel should be acknowledged as far as training (these are completely my opinion):
1. At least 4 years of serious, quality training with an actual professional. Can be less or more depending on how hard you train.
2. Training with more than one teacher. You should branch out, explore, question, and create. Everyone has something different to offer.
3. Take a public speaking course of some kind. If you are a professional you must be able to effectively communicate with others from different cultures, and utilizing various platforms.
4. Learn about and study at least some basics about the cultures whose traditions call for belly dancers and study the music. You need to know what you are representing!
While these basics are essential, they are nothing without my last note… “Have showmanship”. I see dancer upon dancer in this business who while they have a pretty face, nice costume, and decent training, are not exactly grabbing the audience’s attention. If you are blessed with good looks, good for you, but that alone will NOT make you a professional! You must engage your audience, portray the emotions evoked form the music, and get the message across. It is not enough to have a caked on smile for a thirty minute show. You need to grasp that attention and make magic with it. It is hard! I struggled with this for soo long because I felt silly for some odd reason, but wow, what a difference this makes. Without this last piece, everything else looks awkward, fake, and just does not give that presentation an audience expects of a professional caliber show.
Ok will step down from my soap box now. I leave this now to you dancers.