December 11, 2014

What Happened to Restaurant rates in Orlando, FL Bellydancers?


b2ap3_thumbnail_belly-dance-restaurant-rates-orlando-fl.jpgI have wanted to write this blog for a long time as in the past 3 years there has been a drastic drop in what belly dancers in Orlando, FL have been charging at restaurants, and I want to know why…


My first restaurant job ever was at a restaurant called Opa. I had been bellydancing for only a short year and was directed by my teacher to go an audition so I went, and well, I got the job and started dancing there. I was a super beginner and had no idea that there were standard rates. They offered me $75 at the time for 3 1/4 shows which was nothing (but I didn’t know better)!


Working there I soon found out a ton about belly dance and the industry amongst other dancers so I began to realize that what they paid all the dancers there was pretty low, so after some time working there and improving my skillset, I asked for a raise, and you know what, I got it! Now it was $100 for 3  ¼ shows and I felt quite happy, but still, that wasn’t enough, because at the other 3 restaurants I worked at  I followed the standard Orlando rates practices (now that I was told by several dancers what they were) and was charging $75/30 minute show if a semi-pro and $100/30minute show once I became pro. So I asked for more perks and you know what, I got them! The worse they could say was no, but in my 5 years working at Opa I was able to negotiate free costumes, rates, more rest time between sets, and etc.


This for about the last decade had been the standard in Orlando, FL and anyone going under that was of course undercutting. It happens innocently enough, like it did with me, so I thank my teacher and dancers who guided me to raising my rates and making things better. As I continued to grow in skillset in my shows and right before I “retired” from regular restaurant dancing, I was commanding $125 for a 20 minute show at hookah lounges and restaurants here, and I thought that all the contracts, negotiating, and hard work that had gone into making that possible would continue on and spread with other dancers, but now I am finding out that it didn’t!


In fact several friends who are very professional and high caliber dancers tell me they are charging $50! Fifty measly dollars….as a wise dancer once said to me, “I wouldn’t even shave my legs and get out of bed for $50”.

 b2ap3_thumbnail_orlando-belly-dancer-rates.jpgWhat caused this?

Why have things gotten so out of hand? Why are professional dancers who I love and respect charging so little? Why can’t we all have a meeting together and talk about the old standard and see if we can slowly raise that up again, and then go beyond that within a few years time? It has happened before, and it can happen again. We all know who are working the restaurants, so lets meet up in  casual and relaxed setting.


Back in the day, if you were a $50 dancer, owners KNEW that they wouldn’t be getting a great dancer at their restaurant, so they had the push to pay a little extra if they wanted higher level talent and entertainment. What happened to this? Why are many Orlando bellydancers bending to the will of cheap restaurant owners? Why are we scared to negotiate with owners? Why are some scared to even bring it up with their managers? Why is this all happening?

 Invitation to Have a Meeting at my Casa

I would love to invite the working dancers in the community (whether newbie or semi-pro, or pro) to please have a meeting with me, and we figure out how to make things better not just now, but for the future. This is a touristic city, we can make so much more if we band together like in old times. I miss that.  We should be able to speak openly about rates, give work to each other when some is in need, nurture the newbies, and raise the bar, not lower it.


I invite you to message, email or call me and lets set up a fun date/time at my house, and talk openly, respectfully, and make a positive change. I love my community, so let’s fix this together! No cattiness or  disrespect will ever be allowe din my home, this is to be a respectful, and open discussion on making positive changes and educating one another to make a plan.

7 Comments on “What Happened to Restaurant rates in Orlando, FL Bellydancers?

Yanira Chaar
December 11, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Excelente Jennifer! En PR pasa exactamente lo mismo, pero yo sigo y seguiré cobrando lo que es! Lo justo! Tienen que ponerse de acuerdo, pero aún así, siempre habrá alguie que cobre menos para ¨josear¨un show. Controlar lo que hacen otros, es un imposible! Pero no hay peor gestión que la que no se hace! Voy a ti!

December 11, 2014 at 6:22 pm

gracias yanira, si es verdad que uno puede controlar, ni quisiera eso tampoco, pero si hay que hablar con la comunidad y tratar lo mas posible para que todo el undo al menos sepan en cuanto típicamente es un show, si no, ahi es cuando se quiebran las cosas

Verónica Pavón Llácer
December 12, 2014 at 11:39 am

Hi Jennifer, can I write you in spanish?, I´m from Spain, I just read your post and really it is happening same here!!!, thousand km far away.

To give you an idea, here a normal amount ( which I dont mean is good!) is around 50-60 euros for 20 to 30 minutes dancing, it is really little.
I agree with you 100%. In my case, I´m dancing in a restaurant since 3 years ago, of course there is no contract, before I have been dancing during 6 years in a libanese restaurant, so…9 years ago they were paying 40 euros!! but I spoke with them, then it was 50, but asking for more after 6 years they told me that if I want another will come, yes,,sadly they said that, why? because other dancers will dance even for free!!!, or for 20 euros, depressing right?

So I agrre with you and understand you, it is a difficult situation, we shoudnt be afraid for asking more salary, but if you ask many times the owners will tell you: ok go, I will get another one. At the same time that it is you job and your passion you dont want to leave it cause you love to dance but it is your job and u also need the money ( I am explainning the main situation in Spain, in Valencia), so finally you will continue and insalah and working hard soon you will be better paid, of cours asking and talking so many times with the owners.
My best regards from Valencia, I don´t know you face to face but I really feel you are so kind and wondeful, besides you are great dancer!,
mmm now I saw that someone wrote you en español , ajjaja ok, así practico no pasa nada,


December 12, 2014 at 1:21 pm

I have a few theories. First, at least in Dallas, there’s an abundance of “one class wonders” who have the Classic Look of a restaurant belly dancer, so when they get to perform at their studio’s haflas (usually held at restaurants), they get noticed for a few things: age, attractiveness, body, and costume. If they look like a bimbo barbie belly dancer, the restaurant owners generally don’t care how good they are. I’ve seen truly atrocious dancers working in restaurants in Dallas/Fort Worth. Of course, I’ve known some amazing ones as well, but generally, it’s the look that gets the jobs here, not the dance experience.

And, along with that, these restaurant dancers are also generally NOT people who are belly dancing for a career. It’s for fun. It’s a hobby that lets them feel good about themselves when they get tipped. Therefore, their payment is something that they’re either NOT worried about (because it’s not a job), or because they just don’t understand restaurant dancing jobs ARE jobs that should have a respectable pay. So yeah, they’ll dance for $50 for 3 hours of work. They don’t know any better, or aren’t concerned.

And these restaurant owners here probably realize that paid gigs for belly dancers are almost unheard of, unless you’re a featured instructor or working a corporate event/wedding. So, they just dangle $50 and $70 dollars at people because they know there’s always someone willing to work for such meager pay, so it doesn’t matter so much if that person is great or just ‘decent enough’. I know I would have jumped at the chance to work for that amount towards the beginning of my belly dance career, when I was ecstatic anyone wanted to pay me for ANYTHING.

So, in my mind, there are always people willing to work for shit, so there’s no incentive for the owners to pay more if they don’t care about having quality dancers. I hate disclaimers, but just to cover my ass a little, yes, there are some great restaurants who pay $150-$200 per set, and dancers keep all tips, and lots of restaurant belly dancers in DFW are fabulous. Belly dance is just not a big industry here in Dallas, so there’s not a high bar standard for performers, rates, and what is and isn’t appropriate payment.

That’s my thought.

Nadya Sabina
December 14, 2014 at 6:43 am

I’ll soon go pro and I will then be the only pro dancer in my region. I am definitely going to set the money bar reasonably high so that I won’t start out making the region’s future other dancers have a harder time getting properly paid. I figure that they will probably listen to me more if I actually am the only bellydancer they can turn to for entertainment.

December 19, 2014 at 1:18 pm

gracias por compartir esto con todos aquí en este blog Veronica! tienes razón, uno puede preguntar varias veces que le suba el sueldo a uno, pero si hay limite. Uno como profesional después de tanto tiempo trabajando en un restaurante empieza a conocer a el jefe/jefa muy bien y de ahi empiezan a aprender como mejor manejar cuando uno requiere que le suban el sueldo. Espero que las cosas mejoren en tu area. acabe de empezar un grupo en fb para mi area y todas las bailarinas que trabajan en esto o piensan en trabajar en restaurantes ya están anadidas. cada semana vamos a hablar sobre estas situaciones deificareis, y ojalá que con tiempo, las cosas se mejoren, y a lo mínimo, que todas sepan le etiqueta apropiada para trabajar en esta industria .

December 19, 2014 at 1:23 pm

oh yes, in the beginning when dancers like me didn’t know better because frankly i didn’t realize that this could be a career, we are happy with just $50. if there was more communication from community then that could have been avoided for sure. I am sad to hear Dallas is a bit tough, but must trudge on.

I definitely agree with you, if the owners don’t care about dance quality and just looks that is where these hobby girls should go. But where the owners do want an elegant, quality dancer, that is where people know that they can find family friendly and amazing dancers. either way, whether its a hobby dancer or a pro dancer, to try to strive for set rate intervals as a base would be the best. oy vey….the hard parts of being belly dancers and having to deal with “hobby” “belly dancers”, it is so annoying!


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