Rates and ethics for CT Bellydancers
This is meant to be a useful resource for fellow dancers, not a formal legal document. The information presented here is based on years of experience and countless conversations with professional dancers, mentors and teachers. It is important to me that we, as a community, have agreed upon standards to avoid undercutting and devaluing our art or our business. Please be aware that some dancers will charge less or adhere to a different set of standards for whatever reason, however, the information below is agreed upon by the majority of professionals. This is not an attempt at rate fixing but to share information about the standard practices within our community. Similar blogs/articles exist for various areas.
What does a typical show cost?
$100 – $125 for regular restaurant show – 25 minutes standard set/ same day cancellation fee should apply / full payment if dancer arrives at restaurant ready to perform and is cancelled upon arrival. (ooooooh….a dancer’s pet peeve). It is considered under-cutting if a dancer performs longer than 30 mins for the same fee or does multiple sets for the cost of one.
Why? Restaurants who hire bellydancers regularly are a source of “advertising” for the dancer and pay for her services as a means to enhance the customer experience. These are shows we can schedule around and the fee, for the most part, has not changed much since the 1980’s. There are a handful of places in the NY metro area that pay dancers $80 because they have been doing so for many many years but they are phasing out. Some restaurants in NYC/Metro area are starting to pay $150 per show but there is an effort to make the base $125 standard.
$200-$300 base rate for private parties. I charge $250 for local private parties as a general rule but I have made exceptions for charitable events, shorter sets closer to home, etc. At this stage, I would not go below the standard $250 rate since that is what 99% of my colleagues charge. Travel fees apply if more than 30 minutes from my home. Some dancers start at $300 and some start at $200/$225.
Why? This rate is based on a dancer’s preparation (90 minutes, in my case), music selection, rehearsing, drive time, arriving early, warming up, performing, wear/tear on costume, posing for some photos, waiting to get paid, etc. More than 30 minutes of waiting results in an additional $50 fee per half-hour. We love being a part of special occasions and we’re happy to pose for photos but, since a dancer often has several shows per night, we have to stick to a schedule out of courtesy to all of our clients. Please note, a dancer who stays more than 30 minutes of non-performance time should charge accordingly.
Notes on etiquette: It is best to dress professionally for private parties. I have heard stories of dancers posing for photos with their sweat rags in one hand and a wad of money in the other hand. Just be tactful and remember this is a chance to change people’s perceptions about bellydancers. We need to elevate those perceptions. Also be mindful of cultural considerations in terms of music selection and costuming.
$300-$350 base rate for weddings. The reason this is slightly higher is there is more preparation in order to ensure that we represent ourselves to the best of our abilities. The nicest costumes, the extra time/care in getting ready, the pre-show communications with the bride or family members to go over every detail. I have exchanged 20+ emails with some brides. We want to exceed a couple’s expectations on their most important day.
No “for exposure” gigs. When a client offers no payment but says the dancer will receive “exposure” please consider the message that sends. We are working hard to move beyond sharing out talent and skill for free.
$200 base for the “Moving Scenery” gig. Sometimes dancers are hired as pure ambiance. There is no difference in prep time for these gigs and snaking around a venue doing “light dancing” is actually quite exhausting and puts more wear/tear on the costume. If it’s more than 25 minutes, charge accordingly. For reference, I quoted (and was booked) for $400 for a 90 minute moving scenery event.
Nonprofit rate and Charitable Contributions, hey, to each her own. Many of us have big hearts. I know there are differing opinions here but, for example, I will do up to 3 or 4 per year which equals about $1000 of my services.
Suggested Protocol for Booking Shows:
Respond to inquiry with rates, a list of questions regarding location, size of the party, sound system (provided/needed), average age of guests, whether or not the performance is a surprise, etc. The more you ask, the more the client feels at ease knowing you care and will plan a show that’s right for their event. Once rate is agreed upon, send a contract confirming all the details and collect the deposit that you are comfortable with. Check in before the event to see if there are any changes. On day of show, arrive at venue early enough to change or warm-up. Wait in the car and hydrate if you don’t want to go inside right away. Call or text your contact person. Hand music to whomever receives it and try to scope out the room where you will perform (best to wear a cover-up). Dance and then feel free to thank you whomever hired you and hand them a business card (or two). Follow-up after the event to thank your client. If there is a photographer, you can exchange cards to try and get professional photos or video (I don’t often have luck with this).