"Sara" from New York has asked:
How do I know when I'm ready to dance professionally?
First, you need to examine your current skill level and credentials. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you been told by your teacher(s) and peers that you are an advanced-level dancer?
- How long have you been studying?
- Do you have a large repertoire of choreographies and songs that you're comfortable improvising to?
- Do you know the basic rhythms and are you familiar with traditional songs?
- Do you have at least 5 professional costumes?
- Are you fit? Can you perform 30 minutes with no break?
- Do you know how to create a glamorous appearance using makeup, hair pieces (if needed) and accessories?
- Are you proficient with a variety of props to include in your shows?
- Are you comfortable interacting with the audience and essentially being an entertainer as well as a dancer?
- Do you know what the pay scale is in your area for professional belly dancers?
- Have you watched the shows at the restaurants where you want to perform?
- Have you accompanied a professional dancer to a private event?
- Have you networked and gotten to know other professional dancers in your area?
- Are you comfortable negotiating pay with restaurant owners and event planners?
- Do you have business cards?
Beginner and intermediate level students are probably not ready for paid dance jobs. And it's not too good of an idea to book professional level jobs and do them free. If you are dying to hurry up and become a pro, take as many classes as you can and try to achieve the items listed in the bullets above. You will move beyond your current skill level if you stay committed. Professional belly dancers probably need at least 3 years of continuous training, and that's on the low end. Dance training in other genres helps to speed up the learning process, too!
There are so many appropriate opportunities for students of belly dance to perform at, like haflas, student nights at restaurants, student troupes and more! Getting the performance experience you'll need to go pro will better serve you in that journey. What you need to do is study, study, study (the dance, music, have many choreographies, know the cultures you're dealing with, the business of belly dance and have a ton of pro costumes and MORE) and take the appropriate performance opportunities when they are available so you'll be prepared for that day when you do your first pro audition.