I thought (after a nudge from a certain little Mouse) that it was a good idea to expand on passing up gigs and performance opportunities. It’s real hard to do… but it’s something that needs to be learned.
Don’t attempt something that’s not your style
I think that it is crucial that you know what is within your range and what isn’t. And, with that in my mind, to assess whether you can take on a certain gig or not. Most people would have the common sense not to take on a fire dancing gig if they’ve never done fire dancing. There are many risks associated with it that makes it really obvious that it shouldn’t be attempted if untrained… though I’m sure that some have attempted it. *sigh*
Anyway, what is less obvious is when we’re asked to do something that we’re somewhat familiar with and is generally without health-related risks. If you’re a tribal lady and are being asked to do a cabaret performance, as I mentioned in the previous blog post, don’t just shlap on a glitzy cabaret costume and expect to deliver a cabaret performance. Likewise, if you are a cabaret lady, don’t just shlap on a tribal costume and expect to deliver a tribal performance. Even if you think that you know what the other style is about, unless you’ve been trained in that style, it will not come out correctly per the style.
When I got the gig to dance at Greek Islands, it was clear that they wanted cabaret dancing. While I had 5 years of training under my belt in cabaret, that was back when I was in Quebec and I hadn’t really done it in like 6 years or more. Although there is such a thing as ‘generic belly dance moves’, to get the cabaret aesthetics, I really worked on remembering those moves, accompanying arms movements, attitude, etc. So, when you see me dance at Greek Islands, it is decidedly the cabaret style that you see.
Disservice to the style
While you may think that it doesn’t matter if you really know the style or not, it’s really a disservice to the style to perform it. Why? Well, those folks who are seeing you perform will assume that this is XX. So if you’re performing cabaret, they will assume that what you are doing is representative of cabaret. And, you know, you can replace ‘cabaret’ with any other genre or subgenre and it’s the same old story. Another reason why it matters is that there are people who spend painstaking amounts of time working on the style and showcasing it in a certain light and you may crush all of that work in 5 minutes flat (okay, I’m exaggerating here but you catch my drift).
Professionalism and courtesy
What it boils down to, essentially, is that you want to behave in a professional manner. So if something is not your style, it would be more professional to pass the opportunity… and it would be courteous to pass the opportunity on to another dancer in the area who actually does perform that style. It’s totally fine to say that you can’t take on the gig but you can refer the person to another person who could. And, you know what? You’ll receive that favor back eventually. For example, there is a cabaret instructor in the area with whom we exchange students: if they want to do tribal, she sends them my way and if they want to do cabaret, I send them her way.
Agreement with the terms/Paying to perform
What I wrote up until now was really more about gigs with a general public audience (and it’s even more true for paid gigs, obviously). Agreeing with the terms for the performance is really universal for paid or non-paid gigs and for the general public or belly dance shows. I’m really going to pull this from a thread that was on tribe a while back about whether performers should have to pay to perform in a show.
I get this question a lot. Do dancers have to pay to perform? Generally speaking, we are providing free entertainment (except for the headliner(s) who will be paid) so we generally don't have to pay the admission fee. So you can view it if you want as receiving a compensation of free admittance to the show in exchange for your performance. However, there are exceptions like fundraisers where performers will sometimes be asked to pay a certain amount anyway, even though they are donating a performance.
I still stand by exactly what I said on tribe so I’m copying and pasting here. ;)
“In my opinion, the organizer should be free to handle the financial matters as he or she sees fit so as not to get in debt over a belly dance show. I've not seen any abuse by any promoters here in the Midwest. I've had to pay to cover the room rental fee b/c the event was a benefit and I was totally on board with that. I had to pay a discounted ticket for performing and I was also on board with that.
Surely the dancers knew ahead of time the fee... I mean, surely it didn't suddenly spring up after they performed! If, as a performer, you don't agree with the terms for you to perform (whether it's fees or anything else, really), then just don't perform. I know that we all want to perform as much as we can but, hey, if the terms don't suit you, then you'll have to make a decision...”
That is the key: if the performance requires you to do XX and you're not fine with it (and it can be any element, really), then just don't perform. They say that you have to dance to the live musicians but you don't want to do it? Don't do it. They want you to pay 15$ to perform just like anyone else who will be watching the show and it irks you greatly? Maybe you shouldn't do it. They ask you to dance with a boa (feather or live) and it just ain't your thing? Don't do it. :p
Belly dance shows/Hafla
If the belly dance show/hafla has a theme that doesn't jive with you, your style, your personal values, or whatever else, you might want to consider passing up the opportunity too. However, that will generally not be the case. I think that it's very rare that this will happen but, if it does, do take time to consider whether it's a good idea to perform or not.
Most often, though, by all means, do feel free to explore different styles and genres in a belly dance show/hafla. That’s exactly what they’re for… among other things. You can experiment, try out different things, see what works out and what doesn’t. It’s fine. I do invite you, though, to still consider whether you are really doing a fair attempt at the style or just shlapped on the costume.