Thursday, July 12, 2012

New York City Bellydancer, the incurable love affair

Being a New Yorker says a lot about a person. It makes other people feel that your an ambitious person, someone who likes diversity, you thrive in a fast paced environment, a multitask-er, a social butterfly, seeks challenge and craves action. On the other hand some might see you as someone with little patience, egotistical, self centered, money hungry and gets irritated easily. However you slice it New Yorkers are colorful and don't apologize for it.

Now Manhattan is my world. I know all about it, I can take you all over and tell you stories about every street. Historical stuff, fun facts and even my personal experiences... take your pick. I can't help it, everywhere I go I see a memory, every corner has a story to tell. Yeah I'm one of those people who can honestly say I love my NYC.

Now this is my take on how it is as working New York bellydancer...

Working here in New York you have to be on top of your game. Whether your working as hotdog vendor or wallstreet broker, the one's who succeed the most are the one's who give their best. You see New York has too much of everything so competition here lies in any direction you aim for.

Even in the bellydance community, we have so many belly dancers here in New York it would be enough to make your head spin backwards, upside down and inside out. I'm not saying that they are all professionals but overall they are dancers just taking classes, training to be, or want to become professional someday.

See New York bellydancers have a reputation of being strong in their craft, the reason behind that is that we have some great instructors and lots of competition. The more we both work together and compete each other, the more we grow as dancers. Dancers who get the most work are the ones who work hard to be the best of their game, they know the rules and deliver. Belly dancing in New York isn't about putting a sexy costume and wiggling around like a chicken without a head (girls who do that don't get far or last long). No this city demands talent, attitude and drive..without it good luck getting a job anywhere or keeping one for that matter.

One of the big problems here (like most places) is the undercutting issues that arise. Dancers lowering their rates to get the gig and bring all other dancers down with them. Why? Because keeping up the standard becomes harder if others pull down the rate. The smart dancers stick to their guns and charge their worth but that's not everyone. Part of this stems from the fact this city is so big, I think there seems to be an inner struggle to figure out how rates should work, in all different case scenarios. Another factor is a reluctance to discuss rates openly with each other. And lets not forget the teachers who don't teach professionalism to students outside just dance technique. Ok, lets wrap that topic up because its a never ending story everywhere. Back to the good stuff.

In NYC gigs are spontaneous and almost always exciting. Hey this isn't just a city, it's the big apple. Outside performing in normal Middle Eastern restaurants, lounges and clubs, there is so much more to do. You can be booked to perform a bellygram on the empire state building, do a dance parade in central park, host a student halfa at NYU, participate in a drumming circle at Coney Island, perform for celebrities in some penthouse on the Upper East Side...possibilities are endless. Everything from grand weddings in mansions to little birthday get together at a simple one bedroom apartment. Oh how I love the fact each gig is so different from the rest. Having this lifestyle means you get to be EVERYWHERE :)

Because of this nature of gigs, all dancers need to have something to contact them at all times (cellphones, email, blackberries...etc) especially if your a dancer full time. And if your going to be out all day on a Friday or Saturday it isn't unheard of to carrying with you a simple costume and makeup in your purse in case you get that sudden gig call. This matters too if your daily commute is long and you want to cover last minute gigs. In a funny way it makes us feel like live a clark kent/superman lifestyle where we can change anytime when the time is needed.

But hey this is just my take on what it feel like to be a New York Bellydancer.