Considering Bellydance for Your Holiday Party Entertainment? Read This.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for every bellydancer who promotes him/herself as a professional but, by and large, this is what you can expect if you’re looking to book a dancer for your holiday party.

Rashmi_Masquerade_Ball (604) In the NY Metropolitan area, we’re in the midst of a heatwave and summer humidity has a relentless grip on those of us who must venture outdoors. It doesn’t seem to be the right time to talk about winter months, and yet, holiday party bookings are starting to come in. Most savvy planners are well in the throws of booking venues and Rashmi_Masquerade_Ball (1179)entertainment for their holiday parties so I thought I would share some of the most common questions I receive.

  1. There really is no such thing as booking too early. I’ve been booked up to 18 months in advance for some weddings. The benefit of booking early is that it allows time for the performer and host/event planner to establish rapport and cover every preference in detail. For people have a vision, say, a Moroccan-themed party or a cultural event, the dancers will bring this theme to life. By making inquiries early, you can be as selective as you like. Take time to watch the dancer’s video clips or have conversation with some of your preferred dancers to get a sense of their professionalism.
  2. Is it Family-Friendly? 100% yes. In some cases, clients prefer to have dancers were a “belly drape” to cover the abdomen. The costumes we wear are designed to accentuate the movements of bellydance. Children, in particular, are usually the first to get up and dance. The performances are joyful, elegant and interactive (unless requested to be more of a staged show). We have all worked hard to dispel lingering stereotypes that portray our art in an overly seductive manner.Rashmi_Masquerade_Ball (1197)
  3. What does a typical performance involve? Generally speaking, performances are customized to fit neatly into a variety of circumstances. However, most sets are 25-30 minutes and include an entrance, a balance prop (sometimes a tray of candles or sword), a dynamic drum solo and songs for audience participation which is gently encouraged, but never forced. Performances can be solo, duet or groups. For larger venues, multiple dancers is the best option to ensure that all guests can see a performer at all times. It instantly elevates the experience to watch group performances.
  4. What is the fee for a performance? This varies, depending on location and specifics. A general rule of thumb is to expect to pay $250-$300 per dancer for holiday parties. If a show requires rehearsal time, travel, etc… the rate may go up. Our fee is based on 90 minutes of prep, time spent crafting a culturally appropriate playlist and planning the show, travel to and from venue, time spent posing for photos, to off-set wear & tear on expensive costuming, insurance costs and all correspondence leading to the event. Some dancers may charge less but in NY/CT this is a fairly standard rate. This is the part of an event that will shape people’s experience and leave a lasting impression.
  5. How will the audience react to seeing bellydancers? This is a common question I receive from people who are new to working with dancers. It is not possible to say with 100% accuracy but, in the years I’ve been performing, most audiences tend to clap, smile and say very kind things. Even if an audience is on the reserved side, they warm up quickly.

This is a celebratory art form that has lasted thousands of years. It is infectious joy. Holiday parties and events are a perfect pairing for this beautiful dance. If you have questions, would like to book Infinity Bellydance a duet, or a solo performance with Tava, please visit http://bellydancebytava.com/contact/ to make an inquiry.

The holidays will be here before we know it. In the meantime, let’s make the best of the summer temps!

Infinity Bellydance is Mariyah, Sira, Layla Isis and Tava. They have performed as soloists and in troupes for over 15 years, for stage, movies and television in New York and abroad. Driven by the passion to present bellydance as an art that is elevated, exceptional, and authentic, they have collaborated in countless theatrical productions, instructional and performance DVDs and taught workshops around the world. They perform regularly in a wide variety of settings as entertainers, cultural ambassadors, and artistic educators.

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Tava’s Book: “Little Book of Big Advice: Enlightening Ideas for Bellydance Professionals”

Tava’s new book “Little Book of Big Advice: Enlightening Ideas for Bellydance Professionals” is available on Amazon.com.

Little Book of Big Advice: Enlightening Ideas for Bellydance Professionals

Little Book of Big Advice: Enlightening Ideas for Bellydance Professionals

Little Book of Big Advice: Enlightening Ideas for Bellydance Professionals is an essential read for dancers who may be considering a transformation from hobbyist to professional. Tava Naiyin, author and highly-accomplished bellydancer in NYC and CT, writes candidly about her experiences as an artist who has relied exclusively on dance-generated income for 10+ years. After receiving countless questions from budding dance professionals across the U.S., she compiled her answers and wrote this book to address what she perceived as possible gaps in training. This book cannot take the place of a mentor, however, it aims to promote industry standards and help bellydance artists determine if they have the right skills and circumstances to turn their passion into a career.

Readers can expect information about costume purchasing and care, performance etiquette, general do’s and don’ts, how to get the most out of practice, staying inspired, juggling art vs. commerce and more. Ms. Naiyin’s bellydance colleagues and mentors weigh in to share their thoughts and resources on topics ranging from: how to find your own dance voice, keeping the dance flame lit and effective marketing strategies. Readers can expect inspiring and practical tidbits from top bellydancers Andrea (NY), Angelica Jordan (Quebec), Maria (CA), Riskallah Riyad (CT), Sira (NY) and Zaina (Globetrotter). Anyone who is considering a career in dance or the performing arts will come away with useful information to help them make informed choices and avoid costly mistakes. To learn more about Tava, visit BellydancebyTava.com

What people are saying about Tava’s book:

Whether you have a burgeoning curiosity about belly dance as an art form, or are already a seasoned student ready to take the next step, this book is a must! Tava’s advice and insights come only from years of studying, training, performing and evolving as a dancer and as an artist in general.

Tava does not preach from a pen and ink pulpit; She is with you through this book, sharing her own experiences, “aha! moments”, mistakes, stumbles and triumphs as a dancer, artist, teacher and mentor. Her writing style is inviting and smooth, and this book is hard to put down once you start reading! She includes anecdotes and input from her mentors, peers, and students. Her love for this dance and her unyielding devotion to keeping this dance elevated and held to high standards is readily evident. Once you finish reading, you will understand what a gift this is to the world of belly dance!- Christine R.

An insightful book from the artist’s perspective. This book is not just about dance. It’s about passion, perception and practicality. Valuable advice in this age of “do what you love.” Anyone considering doing so would gain important insight into balancing one’s art and inspiration with the realities of life.

The interviews convey the deep respect these women share for the culture and dance they represent and the accompanying photos are beautiful. Bellydance is lucky to have such passionate and articulate advocates. – Mary

Photoshoot with Adrian Buckmaster

Sometimes I am down on social media for creating a false landscape of “everything is perfect.”  With everyone wanting to share their best emotions, accomplishments, filtered photos and happy occasions, it can be a place of appearance over substance.  It does, however, have its good points.  Reuniting with long lost connections, fostering community, raising awareness of important causes, networking for job search and, (as you’ll guess from the title of this post), finding talented photographers.  This is how I came to find Adrian Buckmaster’s work.

Strolling through my news feed one morning I saw some striking photos of a dear old friend that I had lost touch with until very recently.  Keep in mind, the world of bellydance photography is often very “safe” in terms of its’ need to cast a wide net and have mass appeal for potential clients.  It’s only natural that the trend would be smile and look pretty in one of the following 5 poses – it’s commercial photography with the intent of being hired.  I’ve done it myself on occasion.  In any case, this particular photographer jumped out at me for having a unique aesthetic with a lot of honesty and heart.  I wrote to my friend, told her that her photos were captivating, and asked for the photographer’s info.  I wanted to take some risks!

I am honored to have collaborated with every photographer I’ve worked with and while I have some of the “traditional” stuff, I tend to push the boundaries a bit.  I’m proud of this.  The shoot with Adrian was certainly no exception.  My objective was to be less concerned with “looking pretty” and to practice the delicate skill of revealing myself as opposed to tacking on a layer for the camera.  Adrian helped to guide me to that place.  It’s not always comfortable to go there, nor is it a skill I have mastered, but I am less interested in saying “Hi, I’m your friendly bellydancer.” I’m far more interested in saying, “This is me.”

I arrived at his studio with no makeup on (at his request).  We started the shoot this way and then it evolved — first in a simple white top and then it graduated to my most elaborate costume.  Deity Delgado did my makeup and was on hand to help with styling.  She would adjust my hair to match the feel of the lighting and costume, add a bolder lip when it was called for or added high drama for the last leg of the shoot.  They are both masters of their craft.  Sharing a project with fellow artists is the stuff I live for at this phase of my dance life.

I hope you enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Photos by AdrianBuckmaster.com with makeup/styling by Deity Delgado.

Note: If you do not have the rights to an image, do not use the image.

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photo by Adrian Buckmaster
makeup/styling by Deity Delgado & custom veil by Silkdancer.com

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photo by Adrian Buckmaster
makeup/styling by Deity Delgado

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photo by Adrian Buckmaster
makeup by Deity Delgado

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photo by Adrian Buckmaster
makeup/styling by Deity Delgado & custom veil by Silkdancer.com

photo by Adrian Buckmaster/makeup by Deity Delgado

photo by Adrian Buckmaster/makeup by Deity Delgado

 

New Bellydance Promo Video

My first attempt at using iMovie and, several hours later, I came up with this. I have already spotted a couple of things I may have done differently but in our business, we have to wear many hats! I have a lot to learn when it comes to video editing but I’m going to give myself a bit of credit for getting this together. I hope you like it! Big thanks to my dance partner and friend Sira (Bellydancer NYC) and the numerous musicians that have inspired me to dance in each of these clips: Scott Wilson, Maurice Sedacca, Mal Stein, Souren Baronian, Haig Manoukian, Carmine, Casey Bond, Eylem, Brad and the guys in U2 Nation!

Many Hats to Wear – Juggling the Business With the Bellydance

As I sit here thinking about it, there are many skills I have learned over the years which I would never ever know if it weren’t for the reality that my dance career is a business; without a staff.  I have worked for companies with various departments (IT, HR, Payroll, etc..).  Now, however, I feel like a one woman show who has to be all aspects of a business rolled into one.  The reality is that anyone who wants to be successful enough to have support staff, might not be in the right business as a dancer.  We do this because our bodies, minds and souls need it; and we don’t expect to become rich doing it.  If we could afford graphic designers, video editors, web developers, photographers and accountants for every single thing we needed them for, we’d be in a very different position.  Is this a drawback or an unintended benefit?

Professionally designed flyer (thanks go to Jackie Granda)

Sometimes it pays to pay the pros.  Other times, we can get by on our limited skill set…to a point.  For instance, if my flyers look “home-made” it doesn’t reflect well on my business.  Should this matter when I’m a dancer??  Well, the reality is that bellydancers are savvy and motivated women and men who have set the bar high.  I now do my absolute best to create flyers that are worthy of a “re-pin” on Pinterest, shares on facebook and re-tweets.  It sounds like a foreign language to use words and phrases like re-pin and tweet but this is our new reality.  What’s a gal to do?  Well, I went and bought Photoshop and spent countless hours learning how to use it.  For the higher profile jobs, I still call a designer to help me.

Ahhh, video.  When I first started as a dancer, I would hire a videographer and then pay her to do professional edits.  The result was a very small number of performance clips and all of my earnings from a show would go towards the video. Now, I have an HD camera and am teaching myself i-movie.  Youtube uploads are not just a way to increase our web presence and lead to better rankings on search engines, but they are also sending messages to our colleagues and potential clients about who we are as dancers.  Sometimes the do-it-yourself approach won’t convey the level of professionalism I’m looking for so I pay the experts when it’s a show that counts.

In the clip below, I tried my best to create a montage from a 23 minute show.  It took me 4 hours.  It does not look like something that would take 4 hours.  Load time and processing time was a big chunk of that but breaking it up into clips that would accurately showcase the feel of the night; mixing joyful audience connections with some technique is -well- really darn hard for a non-videographer.  But it’s a skill I’m learning to put in my bag of tricks and I’ll get better with time.

Don’t even get me started on staying on top of my receipts, managing taxes, updating my website.  I think I smell a part II coming.

What’s in Your Bag?

Lately, I have had the pleasure of watching a number of my students perform. They arrive at the venue and the nerves are running higher than usual so there may be one or two things that are overlooked. I’m hoping this checklist will help with preparation and I wish I had done one for myself when I was starting to perform. Let me tell you about the frantic moments or embarrassment I could have prevented. . . on second thought, some of those tales are best forgotten. Here’s my two cents for budding professionals on their way to perform.

I believe it all starts with a well stocked “gig bag” which only serves one purpose. In other words, it should not be your “gig bag” sometimes and your “summer beach bag” the rest of the time. That leaves too much room for error. One bag should have all of the supplies you need and your costume is the only item that need change. When choosing a bag, consider how you are traveling. I have one stocked gig bag for my NYC shows when I want a bag with wheels. I know that my car will be, at least, several blocks from the venue and I don’t want to throw something over my shoulder and risk injury. My suburban gig bag is a lightweight bag with large shoulder straps which is easy to transport and will only be carried a short distance. If you do a lot of haflas or performances with hoards of dancers in tiny dressing rooms, you might want to consider a bold print or color so your bag stands out easily. I have a lime green bag that I can always spot among the sea of black bags in the dressing room with dancer “stuff” piled high like a sculpture.

Now that we’ve addressed color, size, shoulder straps vs. wheels, let’s talk about what goes inside. The juicy part, as it were. Here is a helpful checklist:

1. Performance Makeup
Don’t put in your expensive brushes and every shadow, liner and gloss you own. This should be a crude, yet, complete collection of performance makeup. If you had to get ready using only that makeup, you could still put yourself together and look beautiful but it’s mostly for touch-ups. If you lost your makeup bag, it should warrant a deep sigh and maybe your favorite curse word. It should NOT be tragic or cause tears.

2. Wipes
If you perform barefoot as often as I do, you want to seriously clean those feet before stepping into your shoes. Even when I do wear shoes, I like to have something to freshen up a bit if I get sweaty. Recently, I did a performance that I didn’t realize would involve non-water based silver face makeup and I was out of wipes. I looked like some rejected member of Kiss who had a face-rubbing fight. Thank goodness for a kind dancer who saw me scrubbing furiously in the bathroom and shared one of her precious wipes.

3. Safety Pins
Last night, I had two students that needed safety pins before performing. One needed a tiny silver one that blended in with her belt chain and the other had an all white costume that needed some strap help. I happen to have safety pins in white, black and silver…whew! Even as I move away from separate bra and belts, I still find that I appreciate the extra security of reinforcing with pins in one or two places.

4. Props
I keep my finger cymbals in my gig bag and a flamenco fan. I do this just in case I space out and forget my veil. In a pinch I can use fan if I need to.

5. Jewelry
I have a small bag with two necklaces, two pairs of earrings, bangles/bracelets and bindis.

6. A Cover-Up
It may be an old-fashioned rule, but don’t walk around in your costume before a show. At many restaurants, I change right into my costume and perform – no need for a cover up. There are, however, many instances when I do need one and I would kick myself if I forgot.

7. Misc.
Hair products (I suggest trial size and locked in a ziplock bag), Advil or something to relieve a headache, glitter for those who partake, a dance shoe in case the floor calls for it, back-up business cards in case your run out in your wallet, deodorant, water. If you’re changing in bathrooms, you might want to bring a small towel to stand on as you change. Hand sanitizer, a snack, a lighter, and extra candles (if you do candle tray).

I’m sure there are additional items that I haven’t mentioned. Please feel free to share what I may have missed. I still have moments where I’ve taken something out of my bag or run out of something I wish I had. It happens. Of course, it’s about the dancing but the more prepared we are beforehand, it’s one less thing to stress about. Enjoy!

Beautiful Silk

Generally speaking, the relationship between a dancer and her veil changes over the years.  Maybe she can initially be content with the beaded polyester fabric that comes with the costume.  Then, there may be a graduation to a lighter weight silk blend.  Over time, she may develop a preference for 8 momme silk over 5 mm and have them custom dyed to match a costume.  Well, if this latter dancer wants a veil to suit her refined tastes, she needs to order from Shaula of www.SilkDancer.com.

Two of my recent costume purchases included small amounts of brown.  One is primarily sea green, and the other a pink-ish snake-skin with brown accents.  The stones in the snake-skin costume reflect high amounts of teal which got me thinking about the ideal color combination that would perfectly highlight both costumes.  Since no such veil existed, I contacted Shaula.  I asked for a rectangular veil that was primarily brown with teal/sea green accents in the style of her “midnight magic” veil.  She agreed and when it was completed, here was the response I received from her:

Dear Tava,

Since you had mentioned both sea-foam green and teal, where the brown ends, I mixed a light sea-foam to a teal. I custom blended a rich brown to compliment the cool colors. Where the brown and sea-foam colors meet, there are many “fingers” reaching into each color just as on the Midnight Magic veil. . . I tried to use my impressions of you while working on the proportions and blending of the colors. For lack of a better word, I try very hard to make each custom piece really “fit” the personality of the dancer.

I was beyond anxious to try it out after reading all the time and care that went into its creation.  The day it arrived, my dog knocked over the garbage and made “garbage confetti” which took all night to clean.   Delayed gratification, I suppose.  I brought it to class the next day where I taught a choreography to Miserlou.  The veil “sang” perfectly.  There was no bulky hem to weigh it down and the colors were truly vivid.  Furthermore, because of the steaming process that silkdancer uses, it is safe to dry clean the veil if necessary.   I performed with it at Grisly Pear this past Sunday to the song Gezloren which Scott Wilson sang so beautifully.  Between the floating silk and the music, it was one of those “pinch me” moments full of gratitude and appreciation for being able to dance.  I believe there were cameras snapping photos  during the show so when I track one down, I will post to this blog.  In the meantime, for more about Silkdancer, visit the website: www.silkdancer.com.  Happy silk = happy dancer.