Business Ethics, Protocols and Procedures for the Modern Belly Dancer

FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites

Belly Dancing as a Business - Leyla Najma's Belly Dance Blog

Through out the years I have talked with women from all over the world regarding issues and problems in the dance arena. Probably the most note worthy is business strategies that are over looked by dancers because they don’t want to mix business with something they love. But major problems can occur if a professional dancer doesn’t look at her passion as a business. The surface issues are the same today as they were hundreds of years ago the only difference is that in today’s market there are more dancers then ever before.

You can’t presume that everyone has your back especially when they have their eyes on the same prize as you. So the best way to get ahead in this dance form is putting down on paper priorities and goals you want to achieve. There are more friendships lost in this business due to mood swings or misunderstandings of verbal ideas, protocols and agreements. I’m not being facetious here because women have to understand that emotional decisions will usually come back to bite them in the you know where if they aren’t thought out in a sensible way. Here are some guidelines that I want to share with you so that you can at least protect yourself from unwanted and needless lessons that can be avoided by these rules of thumb.

Contracts and Agreements

1. If you want to dance at a restaurant make sure you don’t undercut the existing house dancers and ask what the going rate is per show. Though, with most restaurants it will be more of a verbal agreement, allow yourself room for negotiating advances and raises. Example: If I was requested to dance on an off night or weekend that I wasn’t originally scheduled on then my price went up and the restaurant owners new this and let the patrons know this in advance.

2. For any concert, outdoor event, city event or corporate party etc. make sure you get half your required payment in advance and let the customer or client know that it is non-refundable. This way if they back out you are not out your time or another gig.

3. Have your own contract for sponsors, clients or event coordinators to sign stating what you require of them and your expectations. Example: I was hired for a children’s hospital fund raiser out of town and I didn’t stipulate what I required as far as transportation, food, and lodging. I was kept at an inexpensive hotel but picked up by a limousine service the night of my show only to have to scramble to find someone to take my sister and me back to the hotel. They only arranged to have the limousine pick us up so there we were on the sidewalk of a exclusive club with no ride. The cook of all people ended up taking my sister and me back to the hotel. My sister and I still laugh today because we were literally shoved out the front door so they could close the place up.

4. If you plan on doing any workshops make sure you have a contract regarding class amount, registration, performance fees and other requirements. I taught at a workshop where students came last minute and the workshop hostess forgot to include them in with my payment. I was back home when I figured out what happened. I was out the money equivalent to $100 dollars and the hostess didn’t remember the students coming in. So a head count is a good thing to include at the beginning of class. Also make sure you let the hostess know what you require for a workshop show. Make marketing and advertizing a given for promoting your workshops or the end result will be poorly attended classes and a workshop evening of dance with no one to dance for but empty seats. It’s the sponsor’s job to put forth the effort to bring you out and your job to make it worth their while. But if they don’t advertize it can be costly for both of you!

5. If you get hired for a party or event give as much credentials as possible to the people hiring you. I have a “Promo Pack” prepared that has a video, testimonials, articles and reviews of my work. This way another dancer can’t come in and speak poorly of me and get a gig out from under me. This usually works in my favor and has kept the gig thieves from stealing my thunder which is my business dealings. It’s not seal proof because there have been a few times where dancers came in and stole a show away from me. Usually they get the gigs by doing them for little or no money and unfortunately this type of undercutting affects the community as a whole!


I innocently set up a simple evening show at a small restaurant in Taos, NM many years ago and found out there is nothing simple when women are involved. I assumed that I had everything under control. I didn’t give instructions or guide lines to any of the dancers I invited because I just wanted to dance and have some fun. But as some of  you might have guessed, drama ensued thereafter and I learned the hard way what can happen when you get a bunch of women together who have ideas spread all over the map. I had a former teacher who came in and tried to take over the show besides another dancer who was deep roots tribal to the point of not shaving her armpits and wearing a long thin beard down her chin. She had a condition that made her grow facial hair and my former teacher raised hell over the “Bohemian” belly dance look. Taos is artsy and everyone is low key so I wasn’t worried about it. In the end it was like herding cats that were feral hissing at each other every ten minutes. At the end of the performance I realized that procedures have their places along with etiquette and manners. Maybe it’s just human nature to behave badly but to be truthful with you I think sometimes women forget how to play with each other and have a good time.

You have to have guidelines for your dancing if it is a business or the fun times will stop happening. Just remember there is always one spewing cat in the crowd at any given time! Protecting yourself will keep them at bay or at least on their best behavior.

FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites

About Leyla Najma
Lifelong professional Belly Dancer dedicated to providing "Belly Dance Instruction That Is Easy To Understand And Learn That Connects The Dots"


2 Responses to “Business Ethics, Protocols and Procedures for the Modern Belly Dancer”
  1. Nilay says:

    Best article ever! Clearly experience speaks! And I thank you for sharing it!

    • Leyla Najma says:

      Thanks Nilay…………I think we all have funny experiences and bloopers to share especially with this dance form. A sweet gal from Louisiana inspired this blog of tidbits because we talked about how to keep the dance going and stay on top of things. My book is close to this…….should be interersting to see what you all think. I’m on my 3rd editing and hopefully that much closer to getting it published!

      Hugs and Blessings,