Oriental Dancer.net - Belly Dance Hub
About Salome | Photos & Video | Performance & Instruction | E-mail Salome



The Minimum

By Salome

So far we've covered the players and some of the risks. Now we are getting down to what every first timer wants to know. This Q and A does not cover every point that should be covered in your contract. However it does list the basics so without further adieu...

Does the client pay for my international travel? Yes, the client pays for your international round trip airfare. Either you or the agent will make the reservation. The client will pay for the ticket. Depending on the arrangement the round trip tickets will be couriered to you, you may retrieve them from a travel agent or at X airline desk at the airport.

What about domestic travel at the country of destination? The client pays for all necessary domestic travel in the country of destination. This includes but is not exclusive to; transport from the airport to accommodation upon arrival and departure. Transport to your place of performance and back to accommodation. All round trip long distance domestic travel to reach your place(s) of performance and to accommodation. It is your responsibility to indicate what standard of transport you will accept. Don't assume you will be whisked around in an air conditioned luxury car. You need to specify it. Also it isn't the client's obligation to provide transport for your personal agenda, like sight seeing etc. If you want to go to the movies or shopping they can be accommodating (most of the hotels I have performed for have given me a car/driver) but are not out of line to refuse.

Who pays for my visa and what type should I get? The client pays your visa fees. You can request exact amount for said fees or take the risk of being reimbursed. If being reimbursed save your receipt and remember to take it with you. Oft times an agent will suggest that you apply for a tourist visa, even though you will be working in a foreign country. They like to do this because it saves them money come tax time. However, you are the one who will be penalized if caught. This can be immediate deportation with future refusal of admittance to that country. If you refuse to apply for a tourist visa, understand that the agent must prepare special documents in order for you to apply for a performance visa; you will need his co operation. It's not as simple as checking the box on the visa application.

Does the client pay for my food? The client pays for three meals a day plus non alcoholic beverages (including bottled water during performance periods). This usually works out in one of two ways. Some provide a food allowance in cash. Figure out how much an average meal is in that country x 3 to be sure the figure offered is adequate to cover you eating expenses. The other method is eating at the restaurant of the venue you are performing at and or living in.

Does the client provide accommodation? The client provides accommodation from the moment you step off the plane until the day of your departure. There are two acceptable ways accommodation is provided. Either you live at a hotel (often the same one in which you perform) or you are provided an apartment. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be specific when it comes to lodgings. If you simply accept "client will provide accommodation" that is a blank and remember what I said in the previous article, blank equals risk to you. You don't know what the accommodation is, it could be a dormitory with 80 other people and no privacy, it could be the client's house, it could be a seedy hole on skid row crawling with roaches.

Does the client provide medical insurance? Most clients offer medical insurance that will cover everything except dental and pregnancy. However some don't. On short and long term contracts it's very probable that you will need to seek medical treatment at least once. I would insist on medical.

How do I rate my time? The length of the engagement dictates how your time is rated. If it is a one time engagement you will be paid on a fee basis. If it is anything other than a one time engagement you will be paid on a salary basis.

Dancers always want to know what other dancers are making, to have a scale by which to follow. Part of it is relative to nationality. Wages vary pretty wildly from $400 to $4,500. If you are just starting out: a one time show with performance length not longer than 45 minutes / in the neighborhood of $1,000. Salary with typial performance schedule somewhere from 2,000 - 3,000

How do I figure my salary versus my fee? You don't multiply your fee x 30 days to figure your salary. And you don't break your salary down by day to figure your fee. Weigh the expectations of the job. Are you dancing one twenty minute set a night or two hour long sets a night? Are you dancing in the same place or are you expected to travel hither and yon? Decide what your time and effort, specific to the offer, is worth to you and add on accordingly. Your fee will be high in comparison to your salary. Clients will be prepared for the contrast in salary and fee, this is a standard practice.

I make good money with my straight job at home, these rates aren't sufficient. You CAN make good money. I toured 5 years straight, with zero bills back home, and all expenses paid. But this is an unpredictable business and it takes 100% of your time to be a career dancer. If you have financial commitments, like a mortgage, taking a few short contracts a year and maintaining your day job may be more your speed.

I have been offered a short/long term contract, what about laundry? If your accommodation is in a hotel, laundry services should be provided by that hotel. If you are put in an apartment there should be a washer, free for your use, on the premises. If neither of these appy, make a provision for laundry service to be provided upon need free of charge.

What about security? Security, to varying degrees, is necessary and you should stipulate its provision during performance times. I don't care how upscale an event is, when there is alcohol involved (and there usually) someone needs to be on top of it and watching your back.

In the first article you said a dancer enters into a contract with the agent, why do you keep saying the client pays for...? If, god forbid, you took a contract with an agent who has no specific job but sells your act to different bidders while you're in country, then the Agent IS the client. If an Agent is contracting you for one specific client - the client is the one who foots the bill. But the agent is the one usually made responsible for administrating most of the terms and conditions. Whoever is named at the beginning of the contract is the entity who is responsible for paying you and your expenses unless otherwise noted in your specific agreement. I used the term "client" to indicate that entity.

Now that you have an idea of the basics you should expect, let's get a tiny idea of what the client may expect from you. Note: if you are performing in a source country there will be specific performance and cultural expectations that you must be prepared to oblige. If you don't already know what those are you probably are not ready to work there.

MUSIC - They provide the equipment but (obviously) you bring your own music. It needs to be in the format indicated in the contract. If the format isn't indicated, ask. Make a master and a back up of your sets.

COSTUMES - whether it's a one time or six month engagement the client will expect a multitude of professional quality costumes. The rule of thumb is a costume change for every set.

SHOW FREQUENCY - for short/long term contracts the industry standard is 4 days off a month. Be prepared to work six days a week before you get a break. Some only offer 2 days off a month. Also, indicate in your contract that you get 24 hours of rest before show commencement upon arrival.

SHOW LENGTH - Totally dependent on what the client needs. You may be the headliner, the only act, one act in a line up... The client may need twenty minutes a night from you or an hour +.

VARIETY - The client is going to expect more than one 'mood'. Arrange your show program so that it maximizes the variety of music and expression you are capable of. Also consider your audience, location and context. In *most* situations you are there to entertain. Performing some ten minute long, slow tempo, angst laden artistic vision will probably go over like a sack of bricks. It's a nightclub, a gala, etc. so keep the 'tempo' up and varied. Slower tempo songs can and should pepper the program but be in the minority. In addition, a program with many 3 minute ish songs is preferable to those with fewer but longer songs.

A few tid bits in summary:

before you can pass go you have to clear passport control/customs. An airline attendant can give you the form while you are on the last flight to your destination. Fill it out then, it will save you time and hassle.

You may want to change some pocket money at the airport for tipping bell boys etc.

Someone will arrive at the airport to escort you to the client. This can be the agent or agent's lackey or another representative of the client. Typically this meet and greet will go down before anything else. So freshen up. If you prefer to travel in sweat pants and your favorite t shirt from 8th grade, pack some fashionable attire in your carry on that you can change into on the plane.

Before your first show you will rehearse and the client will be present. No client concerned with their reputation will allow a show to go on before they have seen it in person. And besides you will need a tech rehearsal. Don't waste time noodling around when you get to your lodgings. Unpack what you are going to need for rehearsal, assemble props if needed, get your music out... This can take a lot more time when you are rumy and jet lagged and time is a factor.

Alcohol before rehearsal and performance is usually frowned upon if not specifically prohibited in your contract. If you are a glass of wine to calm the nerves type do so with discretion.

And lastly, if anything is hinky, the stage is littered, the green room is dirty, the food is sub par SPEAK UP. This is the time, right from the get go, to deal with it. You are not there to be best friends with anyone. You are there to provide a service and the client, the agent, must facilitate conditions that enable you to do so.

Good luck and Godspeed in all your dance adventures, I hope they are plentiful, safe and successful!