Summertime always brings opportunities for festival dancing. No matter where you live, I’m sure there is some kind of festival to celebrate something about your locality. So don’t be shy about asking for a performance slot.
The Blackberry Festival in my town is in it’s 28th year, and in nearby towns there is Ocean Fest, a Seafood Festival, Cranberry Festival, Pioneer Days Festival and the list goes on. We also have a local Art Festival.
One thing I’ve learned dancing at these types of events is to expect the unexpected and to stand my ground.
One year, while waiting to go on at the Charlie Tuna Festival in Charleston, Oregon, we were told by the person in charge that they were running late and the band needed to go on before us so it would be another hour until we could perform. So, we waited, and we waited. More than an hour went by and our costumes became saturated with the smell of barbequed tuna. Finally we went on.
This happened again and it seemed like the belly dancers were always the ones who had to wait or were pushed aside for the ‘more important’ acts.
So, I made up my mind it wasn’t going to happen again. Sure enough, at our next event, it happened again. This time I responded with, “I’m sorry, but we have something else we have to do, so we either need to dance now as planned or we’ll have to leave.”
First I have to respect myself and my art and every time I stand my ground I gain the respect of the event producers.
It rarely happens anymore, but then BAM! It happened again! This time there was no graceful way around it. The sponsor accidently double-booked our spot so we were told we had to share our hour with a group of Samoan dancers.
So, on the spot, I had to cut half our show. It wasn’t fun, but the Samoans were one of our best and most positive audiences.
Then there was the time one of my students was dancing, and a drunk from the beer garden climbed onto the stage and started to gyrate around.
I’m a momma bear when it comes to my girls, and with sword in hand, I went onto the stage with one of those ‘looks that kill’ on my face. He saw me coming and even in his inebriated state he could see I meant business. He looked at me, looked at my sword and then jumped off the stage to the delight of the audience and relief of my student.
Because I live in a fairly close-minded community, I have a rule that when we dance at festivals we wear belly covers and either tights or harem pants. Yes, it’s hot, really hot. And yes, my students hate this rule! But, since I started this, the smart remarks and complaints about our costuming stopped and the respect we received in our community has increased.
Despite the heat and the other hardships, festivals are a very fun place to perform and the best benefit is public exposure, a chance to be seen and to promote your classes and availability.
So, go out there and get some summer gigs!
Happy Summer, Mezdulene