Ever thought about booking a belly dancer for a party or special event at your venue? With a good dancer costing around £80 for around 20 minutes – which can double on nights such as New Year’s Eve – you’ll want to ensure value for money. But many restaurants don’t make the best of this opportunity, says professional dancer Rosie Sedgwick.
After spending years dancing in different restaurants around the North West, I’ve seen what a difference a bit of preparation can make!
Advertise that you have a dancer – in your window, your facebook page, your website. Use an image of the actual dancer if you can, if not a generic one.
When customers book, tell them there is a dancer (and what time) and ask if they want to be seated by the performance area. That way the dancer knows where to focus her attention, and people can choose to sit further away if they like.
Make sure your sound system works, and accept that the music will have to be significantly louder than your normal ambient music. A dancer is responding to the music, so she needs to hear it: customers will engage with the whole event better if they can see her projecting her personal interpretation of it.
A dancer needs somewhere to change, and space to perform (it doesn’t need to be huge – we are very adaptable). Move some tables if you can.
Announce the dancer, with pizzazz! Use her name if possible. Let your customers know that something special is about to happen, build the atmosphere.
Some people in the UK are unsure of the etiquette in relation to dancers, and feel awkward turning their chairs or even their heads to watch, but she is there to entertain. An announcement legitimises turning to watch – and this creates a much better atmosphere all round
Make sure all the staff know there is a dancer coming (you would not believe the number of times staff look confused at the dancer’s arrival) and that they are primed to help set the party atmosphere.
Most dancers bring a selection of props with them – fezes and hipscarves, to dress up the customers and encourage them to party. It helps to start the ball rolling if your waiting staff appear wearing a fez or a jingly coinbelt . . . everyone smiles!
Finding a dancer
There are agencies and other organisations, such as the North West based Sirocco Academy of Egyptian Dance, whose dancers are guaranteed to be of a high standard.
Others who work freelance may be good, but ensure you ask for references or ask them to come on a less important night and see how they perform.
A good dancer will discuss with you exactly what you want: Is she creating a party for the whole restaurant or has she been requested by a specific group?
She needs to understand what is expected so she can choose music and costume appropriately. She should possess extensive background knowledge about a range of music and dance styles (so, for example, she would use Turkish music and dance moves in a Turkish restaurant).
In the festive season we often get booked to dance in Greek or Indian (or other) restaurants, and a good dancer can tweak her choice of music to respect these different cultures and the preferences of the management
It is a good idea for the dancer to visit the venue first, to check layout, sound system and so on. (I always bring my boombox everywhere as a backup in case of technical issues). She may have suggestions or advice about how to arrange things: please heed this – she knows what she’s talking about!
Tell her anything you can which will help things run smoothly – particular customers or groups who do or do not want to get invited to dance, a birthday celebration, if there is any reason why she should wear a dress instead of a two piece costume.
What we dancers want to do is arrive unobtrusively change into costume, burst out and create a dazzling and fun party for your customers, who will of course then go and tell their friends how wonderful it was!