Belly dancers in Orlando give restaurant adviceWith so many Belly Dancers in Orlando working the restaurant gigs (I worked restaurant for 5 years straight part time and still counting) I was happy when fellow belly dancer Minerva Santos-Townsend brought up this topic. 
Let me tell you, belly dancing in restaurants, when you find the right ones, are great money, but if you dance at restaurants solely for the monetary value, you will not make it very long or end up happy. I will share here as requested my thoughts and experiences on the whole thing, both the good and the ugly and I hope that for those of you out there aspiring to dance at restaurants will read on.

Q: Are the restaurants good experience?

YES! The ability to practice every week in an atmosphere where you can bring joy to others through the dance and improve your showmanship is invaluable. If you are wise, you will ask for critique and learn to become a beast of a showman. If it had not been for dancing at restaurants regularly in the beginning I would not be the showman I am today.

There are many negatives to dancing in restaurants as well such as jealousy, every now and then inappropriate behavior from clients, or garbage management. If anything, this experience will give you thick skin. The negatives of working in the restaurant scene will definitely help as the entertainment industry is not the easiest of industries to succeed in. If you can take all the negatives, you will be made into a stronger person from it.

Q: I find that restaurants are difficult to get into because they are all taken up by beautiful dancers, how would a new person come along?

To be perfectly frank there are a dozen tons of answers for this. Let me start with a few…
Belly-dancers-in-orlando-Restaurant-dancing-advice.jpg                     a) If you would like to work at a restaurant in your area, find out if there is a dancer managing the entertainment and contact HER first (wish I would have known this when I started).
                            b) If the dance manager is sweet and gives you a good vibe she will ask for an audition and then it is up to your skill and charisma. If the dancer for some reason seems like she is threatened by new dancers and shrugs you off, contact the manager. Yep I said it. I have met a couple of these “snakes” as I call them and they were so threatened of losing their job to younger dancers they would only hire dancers they knew were of a lesser level than them so they could assure their job. It is less common, but boy is it still happening!

                            c) Some managers only care about looks. I will be honest, my first restaurant gig was because of just that, I was just too naive to realize it. If you want to crack into a sea of beauties don’t rely on your beauty (it will only get you so far in the long run anyways). Kill them with your showmanship, charisma, dance skills, and confidence. Your best bet is to set up a meeting with a manager and show him/her you mean business and that he/she NEEDS to audition you.

My Advice

-Don’t expect to be given raises, ask for them when you know you have kicked butt consistently.
-Always win the women and children first.
– Dancing at the restaurant is not about YOU. You are there to entertain the crowd with your dance, not be a solo dance star. Win the crowd; you can do pieces that are inwards on the stage.
-Do not rely on one restaurant for your income. This way you will not be afraid to lose it. If you do this, you can stand your ground, not take any crap, and leave if you have to when unhappy.
– Don’t just show clients moves over and over, talk to them in the short few minutes you have, make them feel like they are special, and ensure they leave remembering the good time they had at the venue.
-Do not dance for the money. If you want to be a beast at a restaurant, you truly need to love what you do. There will be good, bad, and ugly and whether you’re sick, management got on your nerves, it’s that time of the month, or you’re not in a great mood, tough it out because you have a job to do and the dance should make you forget.
-Choose a venue that feels like a perfect match. You need to jive with the owners and management if not you will regret it. I finally have left one venue where I had been bored for a couple of years and kept the ones I love and couldn’t be happier. I recommend not staying in a venue if you feel bored or unhappy. I regret not leaving sooner to be honest.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Dancing at restaurants made me a stronger dancer and I highly recommend it, just make sure to choose a venue where you feel happy. Hope this blunt honest blog from one of the Belly Dancers in Orlando who has worked restaurant for many years as Bellydance By Jennifer Inc. helps.