"Tala" from the Philippines asks:
How should a belly dancer market herself as a soloist?
Once your have figured out your special selling point, apply it to your marketing materials like professional photographs, business cards, video clips and an easy to navigate website.
Then apply to dance as a soloist in gala shows, restaurants and advertise your performances for hire in party and event directories online and in print. You will receive more invitations for paid performances at private functions if you are seen at festivals and restaurants. One gig leads to another!
And finally, in order to maintain a growing solo performance business, be sure to promptly return emails and phone calls inquiring about your services. Quote prices that reflect the market you're in, be on time to your events, have exciting music that reflects the culture of the people who hired you. And be sure to have your music on many different media including CD, mp3 files and on a flash drive. And of course, present an amazing, memorable performance!
Read "How Do I Know When I'm Ready To Dance Professionally" for more details on being a professional belly dance soloist.
Using modern, mainstream pop music also brings up issues of copyright infringement. If your gym already has a license to use certain music, then it may be ok to use some modern pop songs in your classes. The laws may also vary from country to country.
There is potential for copyright issues with music intended for belly dance, too. You just have to do your research and cover all bases. Some musicians require permission to use their music whether it's for a YouTube video or a public dance class or for a DVD production.
The next question to ask yourself is do you really want to use mainstream pop music when teaching belly dance? I can see how that may be appealing, but I think it's great to expose people to the beautiful sounds of Middle Eastern music. Since there are so many modern remixes of classical Middle Eastern songs, this could be your way to get students interested in belly dance as an art form beyond the gym! Your fitness class could be a door to the world of belly dance for many people, and you could grow attendance in your regular belly dance classes. You could even conclude each fitness class with a mini-performance of traditional belly dance to a classical arrangement of one of the techno songs you used. Plus, students love to see their teachers perform things that they're learning!
If you like the way Zumba formats their classes, use it as inspiration to create your own class. I used to teach a belly dance aerobics class at a "Lady of America" gym years ago. I created the movement format by choosing basic steps that were easy to pick up for new students. The moves repeated frequently for students to catch-on, but there was enough variety so it wouldn't get boring. I incorporated non belly dance moves like squats and lunges to add to the fitness aspect of the class. I compiled a music CD with upbeat Middle Eastern inspired techno music that had a steady tempo.
Some of my favorite techno albums are by Said Mrad, DJ Elie Attieh and Harem.