Owning it #2: Tips and what expect at my shows

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Unfortunately in the U.S. the predominant image of a belly dancer is an exotic, over-sexed woman who is dancing to excite men. I assure you that this cannot be further from the truth for 99.9% of belly dancers, but you, understandably, may not know this if you haven’t been around many belly dancers or seen a lot of belly dance performances.

So, if you’ve been wondering whether it’d be awkward to take your kids or your loved one to see a belly dance show I’m here to help! Below is information about what to expect from my shows at Al-Amir in Portland, OR.

If you’re wanting to attend another show, I’d suggest contacting the individual belly dancer at that particular venue and ask him or her to share details about what you can expect from their show. Many dancers have their information online with details about what to expect from their shows, so even contacting them directly may not be necessary.

Each belly dancer runs his/her show a little differently, so, again, I’m going to share with you what to expect if you come to my regular show at Al-Amir:

1. I perform a roughly 20 minute set of upbeat modern music, mostly Egyptian and Lebanese. I usually perform with a veil at the beginning. Sometimes I play sagat (little finger cymbals), but sometimes I don’t. It honestly depends on the song, the atmosphere, etc. I like to keep things fresh and change it up! 

2. I encourage audience members to get up and dance with me throughout the show, particularly women and children. Don’t worry if you feel uncertain about what to do. I will also show you basic movements, or I’ll just encourage you to dance however makes you feel most comfortable. This isn’t a “let’s embarrass the audience” type of moment, but intended to be a moment of friendly joy and celebration. I will NEVER force you to dance with me and will always respect your desire not to dance if that is your preference.

3. It’s typically acceptable, and even encouraged, to tip belly dancers. However, each belly dancer does this differently, so I encourage you always to ask about what each dancer prefers. I do accept tips when performing at Al-Amir, but unlike most dancers I prefer not to accept them in my costume. There is nothing wrong with this practice, but I have found it misleads my audience so decided to not do it anymore. You may hand any tip to me or give it to the wait staff. I occasionally have envelopes available for bigger parties with instructions on how to tip printed on the envelope itself.

4. I am not dancing to flirt with or otherwise offer any sort of titillation for you, your significant other, friend, etc. Inappropriate behavior is completely off limits and not tolerated by me in any way; my shows have been and always will be a family friendly event. If you have something else in mind I suggest you look elsewhere.

I encourage you to educate yourself and learn more about the history of belly dance in the US and in general. To start, I recommend articles and research by Shira, Morocco, Sahra Saeeda, and articles published in Habibi magazine. If you’re more of a podcast person, check out Belly Dance Geek Clubhouse.

There are also a great number of books out there. Contact me if you’d like some suggestions!

Kate performs at 8pm every Friday and Saturday night at Al-Amir Lebanese Restaurant located in downtown Portland, OR, USA.

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