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Ethics and Standard Practices in Belly Dance

"Ethical awareness is simply the recognition by any individual of the rights inherent in the existence of any and all other individuals."
(The URANTA Book, Paper 27, Section 3, para.1)

Ethics - moral principles; standard practices; and even etiquette (good manners) are important elements in the dance world and should be part of dancers' education. Dance teachers--who inspire as well as teach their students--should not only include concepts of ethics and standard practices in their curriculum, but also lead by example.

As dance students grow in skill and ability, some decide to step up to a professional or public level in teaching and/or performing. Unless they give forethought to ethical decision-making and become aware of standard practices, their inexperience often leads to mistakes that have far-reaching effects. Even innocent mistakes can cause hurt feelings and rifts in the dance community.

Unprofessional habits are often passed from teacher to student - the result of when people who lack extensive knowledge and adequate training begin teaching or performing. Some common concerns are: 

  • use of harmful dance techniques
  • illegally reproducing music or video
  • detrimental presentations of the dance
  • falsely representing others' choreography as yours
  • spreading malicious gossip and rumors about other artists
  • scheduling conflicting events in a local area
  • undercutting and lowering wage standards.

These negative actions impact how the public perceives the dance and can also create a hostile environment within the dance community.

Professionalism in Belly dance

   Oriental (belly) Dance is a specific form of dance derived from various cultural sources and folk dances, not jazz, modern, ballet, hip-hop, "club" or recreational dancing done in a belly dance costume. If you perform or teach, even if you don't make a living by doing so, set your standards high. Even hobbyists can produce work of "professional caliber" by gaining a broader understanding of the dance form, adhering to high standards, and following sound ethical principles.
   There's no consensus on the definition of "professional" - a professional could be someone who

  • teaches or performs for pay
  • derives most or all of their income by teaching or performing
  • holds themselves out to the community as a professional (not student) teacher or performer
  • consistently maintains high standards in these areas.
   Professionals take dancing and performing seriously. They don't demean the dance in the public's eye by treating it as a joke or of negligible value; nor do they encourage or condone disrespect for the art or it's proponents.

Should You Follow a Code of Conduct?

   I researched codes of conduct for the professional organizations of consultants, coaches, music teachers and tennis players; and also asked the opinions of students and other teachers or performers to put together my personal Code of Conduct (see link below). It is clear that for belly dance teachers and performers, following a formal code of conduct has two important benefits:

  1. it builds strong and beneficial relations within the dance community;
  2. it promotes positive perceptions of the dance outside of the dance community.
   This code outlines the principles I consider essential in promoting an ethical dance community, and in professional dance performance and education. They are examples of self-regulation among those who aspire to high levels of artistic endeavor in teaching or performing. I pledge to do my best to follow this guideline and I also urge others in the dance community to consider following it or their own. Taking this public step can help avoid the common "falling outs" that happen so often in dance communities; and our actions will reflect the honor and uplifting influence of the dance even when viewed by the general public. 

Liberty - Freedom of Choice

Some Oriental Dance organizations require adherence to their ethics or conduct codes and promise disciplinary action if neglected. A pledge of honor requires no signatures, just honest intention. Mistakes will be surely be made; but honest mistakes can lead to growth. Exercising your free will while still respecting others' rights brings true liberty to all involved.

If you wish to copy this article or the Code of Conduct to use in your work please do so, and credit is appreciated.

My Code of Conduct

Related Links on "Ethics" (moral behavior)

Maintaining "Standard Practices" in the community:
Samira Shuruk's list of current gig rates

Who is a "Professional Dancer"
Chelydra's article: "Being A Professional"  (PDF file)
Miramar's article "Cultivating a Professional Image"

Resources on "Etiquette" (good manners)
Anthea's articles: Student Etiquette Tips | Attending a Workshop or Show
Jasmin Jahal's "Class Etiquette"
Miramar's "Dance Class Etiquette"

"Ambition is dangerous until it is fully socialized. You have not truly acquired any virtue until your acts make you worthy of it." - UB 48.7.17