Why we can't have nice things

Dunyah

New member
I have to admit I haven't read through all of the posts. But where I am from, this isn't that unusual. Well, having three different bands is unusual. But bands are comparatively rare and dancers are thick on the ground, so this situation does happen a lot.

I was invited to dance with a well-known band earlier this year. The dancers were told that if there was enough money coming in at the door, dancers would get paid, but only after the band was paid, the house was paid, and advertising and expenses were covered. Well, the place was packed, but guess what? Somehow there wasn't enough to pay the dancers anything at all. I thought they could at least offer us a free CD or something.

I also play in a band and I can tell you we are not getting rich. I don't know of very many belly dance shows that really rake in money at the door. After the expenses, organizers are lucky to break even. Sadly, paying dancers may not happen because of that. Sure it would be better if everyone got paid, but it often just doesn't work out that way. Unless people want to start paying $20 and upward at the door for belly dance shows, but our demographic here is used to paying $5-10 at the door.

Whenever I organize a show I try my best to make sure everyone gets paid, but sometimes the amounts are really pitifully small.

It's really a labor of love and not a professional gig in my area. If we took our band fee and averaged it out over the hours of rehearsal, travel time, set up time, time on stage, not to mention all the emails and phone calls with dancers and organizers, the hourly pay would be so small that it would be disgusting.

We try to provide a good show and a good experience for dancers, but that most often doesn't include a magnificent sum of money for them. Sadly.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
If each performer is poorly paid, that is unfortunate but equitable. If everyone is paid except the dancers it is not equitable. Period. Full stop. No exceptions. Anything else is a load of particularly fragrant fetilizer.

Until dancers find the intestinal fortitude to say a firm and collective "no" when asked to be the only freebies in the auditorium, this kind of nonsense is going to continue. What would've happened at that packed show had all the dancers refused to dance unless they were paid the same rate as everyone else? No dancers, no show, right?

Funny thing. You can have a belly dance show without live bands but you cannot have a belly dance performance without live belly dancers. This is a damned strong bargaining chip and in today's competitive dance market we need as a group to learn to use it.
 

Yame

New member
Well, without knowing any specifics about this event, it's hard to tell whether or not what she's doing is unethical. It sounds to me like she's throwing a belly dance event for the benefit of the belly dance community, not for profit. Something like a hafla, or even a larger-scale festival like Rakkasah (or anything in between) but that isn't meant to be a professional show.

I know of professional shows with high ticket prices that don't pay their performers, and I don't agree with that. But from the email, it doesn't sound like that's what it is.
 

Yame

New member
How does the belly dance community profit if the belly dancers are the devalued performers?
Are Rakkasah performers devalued performers? Are hafla performers devalued performers? Are competition performers devalued performers? Are performers at a workshop gala devalued performers?

There are tons of scenarios in which the belly dance community has events aimed at itself where performers do not get paid. The community profits because it gives people a chance to share their work and watch many others for a low cost, it gives people a chance to be a part of their community and to start learning how to perform without the pressures of a professional venue. Not everyone can be a professional, and those who can still need a place to start learning and practicing stagecraft and gain performance experience. Some people just want to perform for fun.

That's the point of a hafla, that's the point of a festival, and that's what the event the OP posted about sounds like to me. Without further information I can make no further judgment about it.

Would you rather us have no events where the performer does not get paid? Where will people get to dance for fun? Where will people get performance experience? Where will people get the chance to watch so many peers in one place? Where will people get to know about others in their community? There is a place for these events. They are absolutely necessary. In fact, if not for them, I believe we'd have even more underqualified "professionals" performing at *actual professional venues* for below-market prices, or for free.
 
Last edited:

Aziyade

New member
Yame, you make a good point, but (although it took me forever and a day!) I found the event the OP was talking about, and it is pretty heavily marketing to the general public.

I can understand a local dance instructor who says, "You know, my students really need some experience dancing to a live band. I think I'll hire Dunyah and bring her down to play for my students. We'll have a hafla and it will be good fun for the local dancers." In that case, no, I wouldn't expect the local dancers to be paid. Heck, I can even see asking them to pay a small door fee to help pay for the band -- this is the only "pay to play" scenario I approve of, btw :)

But this is a big event, marketed more to the public than the dance community. The organizers are hoping to create (it looks like) a festival kind of environment where both the bands and the dancers, and the fire-eaters and the lion-tamers or whatever, are entertaining the mainstream audience. In this situation, the lion-tamers aren't enjoying the festival -- they are paid performers. The organizer probably said "Hey, I'll bet I can get more tickets sold if I have lion-tamers, so I'm going to hire some."

The problem is that she said the same thing about the dancers. If the main function the dancers will have is to entertain the audience, like the lion-tamers, then I think they should be paid as well.
 

Yame

New member
Yame, you make a good point, but (although it took me forever and a day!) I found the event the OP was talking about, and it is pretty heavily marketing to the general public.


But this is a big event, marketed more to the public than the dance community. The organizers are hoping to create (it looks like) a festival kind of environment where both the bands and the dancers, and the fire-eaters and the lion-tamers or whatever, are entertaining the mainstream audience. In this situation, the lion-tamers aren't enjoying the festival -- they are paid performers. The organizer probably said "Hey, I'll bet I can get more tickets sold if I have lion-tamers, so I'm going to hire some."
Well, that's a whole 'nother story, then!
 

Aziyade

New member
Let me just say that was MY interpretation of the ads -- Andrea may have another one. but it did not look like a heavily "bellydancer only" event to me at all.
 

AndreaSTL

New member
I looked at the MySpace pages of the bands, and here is how they categorize themselves:
Electroacoustic/experimental/progressive
Classical/folk rock/other

The third might actually play ME music, but I'm not entirely certain. I'm finding conflicting info online. Even if they do, that's only 1 of 3 targeted to the dancers. Nope, this event is mostly targeted to the GP. The dancers would just be icing on the cake. :rolleyes:

Live music in these parts is rare. I would be more supportive if the scenario was along the lines of what Aziyade described. Everyone pooling their money to bring in a band and building a community hafla around it actually sounds like fun, but that would more or less be a closed event. This is just wanting pretty dancing girls for atmosphere. :naghty:
 

Aniseteph

New member
... that's only 1 of 3 targeted to the dancers. Nope, this event is mostly targeted to the GP. The dancers would just be icing on the cake. :rolleyes:
In that case - WTH?!!! and I guess she will get the quality of dancing she pays for.

Aaand once again belly dance will be represented to the GP as something you do to electroacoustic/ experimental/ progressive/ classical/ folk rock/ other. For free of course. :( :mad:
 

AndreaSTL

New member
In that case - WTH?!!! and I guess she will get the quality of dancing she pays for.

Aaand once again belly dance will be represented to the GP as something you do to electroacoustic/ experimental/ progressive/ classical/ folk rock/ other. For free of course. :( :mad:
Yep. A few of us have been banging our heads against the wall over this for years. We are seen as BD police who don't want the art form to grow or evolve. :confused:
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Are Rakkasah performers devalued performers? Are hafla performers devalued performers? Are competition performers devalued performers? Are performers at a workshop gala devalued performers?
Devalue: To lower the exchange value of (a currency) by lowering its gold equivalency.

Substitute "performance" for "currency". If a dancer's performance is worth $0, and everyone else's contributions are worth (fill in an appropriate positive $ amount), then the dancer's performance has been devalued and so, by association, has she.

What does "hafla" mean to you? Here it is a performance of dancers using canned music or volunteer musicians in the spirit of "Hey, let's have a party and put on a show!" Not the same as a public performance where entrance fees are charged and everyone is paid but the dancers.

Competitions? Oh, hell, yeah. Competitions are the epitome of systematic devaluation. Don't bother to flame me on this one- I am indifferent to the slings and arrows of outraged competition dancers and beauty contestants. To each her/his own. Let's just say I'm not a fan.

The workshop gala performances I've attended featured financially compensated dancers, financially compensated musicians, and a fee was charged at the door to cover expenses. If everyone is paid but the dancers, then they are devalued.
 

Aniseteph

New member
What does "hafla" mean to you? Here it is a performance of dancers using canned music or volunteer musicians in the spirit of "Hey, let's have a party and put on a show!" Not the same as a public performance where entrance fees are charged and everyone is paid but the dancers.
I agree with that concept of a hafla, but IMO it can get a bit blurry for some people once it is scaled up and advertising leaks out to the GP. In some cases it IS still hey lets get together and put on a show, and lets treat ourselves to a band or upgrade to a venue with a stage, but the ethos is the same - community event that we want, so we pay for. The hired band is not there for the same reason.

There's an interesting comparison with amateur dramatics. Ours put on musicals a couple of times a year, advertise to the GP and get a pretty good audience for several performances (waaaay better than a BD show could dream of round here :confused:). They have a few regulars playing main parts who are good enough, and a large chorus who are no better than you'd expect. No one is paid. They might even have amateurs doing the techie stuff. I don't know if the band do it for the fun of it too, or if they have to be hired - up to them really.

IMO from their POV it is rather like a hafla, by them for them. They are just lucky enough to get the GP in in sufficient numbers to subsidise their hobby, and yay for that. Profits go into communal funds to cover expenses and fund the next production.

The artistic difference for belly dance <puts on BD police hat> is that everyone knows exactly what they are watching at the amdram and knows pretty much what good singing and dancing and acting looks like, and that this, er, is what it is - fun in a community way, and it's nice to see live performance. Belly dance is a whole 'nuther thing, isn't it... :rolleyes:

The bottom line that an organiser should be asking herself IMO is less "am I charging for entry", and more "is this a professional-appropriate event, or amateur-appropriate?". And that decision comes from the context of the event, not self-serving woolly thinking about fun and experience and exposure and oh dear will you look at that my budget won't cover paying dancers. :mad:

Professional-appropriate = standards, selection, and pay.
 
Last edited:

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Excellent comparison of hafla and amatuer theatrics, Aniseteph. I hadn't thought of it that way, but then what acting I've done in recent years has all been paid for. I wouldn't do it for free- it's too much work. And I don't do it any more because the increase in rehearsal time demanded by the director made it cost inefficient for me. She made a sneering remark about people who were "in it for the money" and I just laughed at her. This is the same woman who got angry if someone didn't treat their gigs like "a real job." :rolleyes:
 

Samira_dncr

New member
I'm late to the conversation, but I'd like to add just a thought or two.

In my area, a hafla is much like a recital. It's mostly students dancing for friends and families. Occasionally, a pro shows up and dances, but it's generally donated. There are times a pro is hired (typically out of town visiting instructors).

At recitals, performers don't get paid. In fact, more often than not, they pay to participate. I have zero problem with this. It's a hobby. We pay money to support our hobbies.

A show; however, is different. It's professional dancers performing. They do deserve to get paid. At my event, I typically pay the headliners a fair amount of money to perform. The rest of the dancers do get some form of compensation, but it isn't always cash. Usually it's a set $$ amount that they can use for show tickets or workshops.
 
Top