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How many hours for a bellydance gig?

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In a previous post, we looked at The True Cost of a Performance. In this installment, we look at the incomparable Delilah Flynn’s question of:

Q. “How many hours does it take you to do a belly dance gig?”

Delilah’s Answer:

8PM show. 

I have to eat my last meal by 3:00 PM or I feel sluggish and bloated. So I have to plan my day accordingly. Open suitcase and gather costume pieces. Iron veil if necessary. Make sure I have costume, make up, zills, evening dress, shoes and stockings in the early day so incase I have to run an errand I have time. This takes about 30 minutes somewhere in my day. 

Getting Ready for a Bellydance GigI shower at 5:30 and begin putting on makeup and doing hair at 6:00-6:45 and get dressed and load the car with costumes, sound system, props. 

Arrive at the gig to get acclimated at least 30-40 minutes in advance so I leave the house at 7:00 if local. The show is at 8:00 give or take a few . Usually shows go on a little late if the audience is still arriving . 

By 9 :00 I should be finished and need 30 minutes to cool down before stepping out in the Seattle rain. How ever the audience usually wants to meet the dancers so going out and saying hello is a professional curtesy.  So I probably am in my car at 10:00 realistically.

I estimate it takes me 30 minutes pre-plan during the day then 5pm-10:15 pm is my time investment for 1 nightly gig. So around 5 1/2 hours including driving and parking. If I have to set up sound lights or rehearse and do a sound and light check, then it could be all day long! If the show has 2 sets or is a theater show it could be all night too! 

The time it took to procure costumes, music, equipment, design and print business cards is another time investment and is why we don’t work by the hour but by the gig. When dancers get $60-$100 for a gig it’s not star wages or anything near! 

So even the lowest dancer on the totem pole should get paid I think. If the club or gig is resistant then perhaps you are deluding yourself as to your worth as a performer. This is where the stuff gets so sticky. “But I want to dance!” Yup…I know. Find a hafla, festival or recital show. So if the club is at least paying 1 dancer is it different? Maybe. How much are they paying her I suppose would be the next consideration. How many tables are in the room. Has business increased because of the show? Is the club owner advertising the show or is he just figuring your friends will come in. Ugh! Are the other dancers announced as students with a professional representation of belly dance getting paid. Maybe thats fine. have you spent all this time getting ready for your gig and there is still no audience. If the club owner has no investment in the show he won’t advertise or get the word out (believe me restraunt owners are exhausted). He will rely on YOU. So then it’s even more of your time!

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Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

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