Workshop and Show Etiquette for Belly Dancers

"For Beginners"
(reprinted from ZAGHAREET! July/Aug. 2003)
by by Anthea Kawakib Poole

   Will you be attending a belly dance "event" soon? A workshop/seminar, or show? Right on baby! My motto is "Keep the teachers teaching"!  

   There are as many permutations of a belly dance event as there are sponsors & teachers. Some workshops are low-key local events where you can meet dance students who live in your area. These are a great way to find others who share your interests, and experience different teaching styles available. 
   Other workshops are of national interest with well-known instructors who draw students from out of state. You will feel more anonymous in this situation, maybe even lost in the crowd. Unless specifically stated, most of these workshops are geared toward intermediate-level students, and if you haven't mastered the basics, you will miss a lot.
   Ask your teacher about attending if you're not sure you're ready. Most teachers encourage their students to gain a wider knowledge base by attending other teachers' events and even freely advertise them by making their flyers available. Every once in a while you'll hear about a teacher who doesn't - but they're few and far between, I hope!

Here's some tips on attending your first workshop.

(For what it's worth, I've noticed a strange phenomenon at workshops in recent years: after each and every execution of the material by the workshop attendees, they'll give themselves a big round of applause. What is this all about? I'm mystified. It used to be that the only applause heard at workshops came after the instructor performed the choreography as a demonstration for the students; or at the end of the workshop, as thanks to the teacher. Are our expectations of ourselves so low that we need applause after our every effort, whether successful or not? I'd like to hear others thoughts about this. I feel that constant 'applause breaks' disrupt the flow of instruction, eat time, and often generate loud chatter, all of which can make it hard for the teacher to get things done in the time allotted.)

Going to a show?

   They're so much fun! These can range from fancy sit-down dinners to informal "hafla"-type affairs; from theaters to local meeting halls. The location and price can give you a clue on how to dress (you might feel out of place in a sequin dress for a show at the local school gym-cafeteria).
   Many seminar shows allow any level of dance student (who attended the workshop) to perform, so you'll see a great range of ability, interpretation, and costuming.  You may see things that you WISH you could do, or that you swear you'll NEVER do - either way, you're still learning from each performer, so respect them for sharing themselves with you.
   It's always OK to show appreciation with applause or cries of encouragement, or even zaghareet! You may even see tipping at shows - especially during restaurant/nightclub-style performances (as opposed to theatrical or folkloric pieces). Some of us, especially those who've made a living at restaurant dancing, ALWAYS welcome tips; but others may feel 'cheapened' or distracted (I'm guessing!) so if in doubt, skip it. If you do tip, shower the dancer with money, tuck it in her belt, or even put it in her hand.
   Of course, please never laugh or talk outright about a performer who amuses or dismays you - at least wait until you're out of earshot of anyone else. Remember, "what goes around comes around" and YOU will want your future audience to be kind and polite when YOU perform!  If the performance is too painful to watch, discreetly look away and avoid comment.  Guess what - many 'regulars' in the audience will have noticed any 'newbies' in their midst, so you're not as "anonymous" as you think!  You may not realize it now, but you will probably see many of the same people attending future workshops and shows - and the belly dance community has "big ears" and long memories. 

   Soon you'll be an 'old hand' at these events too, and will look forward to seeing your dance friends as much as attending the event itself. It's even more fun to attend these events WITH friends - you'll have plenty to talk about on the ride home! 

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