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

Dancing Abroad - The Dangers

By Salome

Now that some of the mystery has been laid aside in "Dancing Abroad - The Players" let's touch on risk. Working in your own community can pose risk; from your safety to your business interests, so to can accepting a dance engagement in a foreign country.

Personally, in my career, I make strategic choices about where, when and for who I will perform. There are venues I will not accept engagements in, I almost never take an engagement with a private party, never with a hotel or casino that's less than 5 star, never with a nightclub venue that is stand alone and I never take a contract with an agency that sells my show once in country.

High class venues are concerned with their reputation, they are experienced in importing artists, and they handle their affairs legally. All of that adds up to setting myself up to have a successful, and positive experience.

You may be actively seeking work, or receive an unsolicited offer or contact from an agent or client. While the prospect of traveling afar to do what you love is both flattering and exciting, for your sake, take time to examine each proposal.

I have been offered a dance job with consummation duties, what does that mean?
Consummation contracts are not uncommon for low class nightclubs and lower star hotels. A woman, or women, perform several short dance routines throughout the night. During the lengthy intervals of her 'show' she sits with the guests and encourages them to buy her cocktails. For every cocktail a guest buys she earns a percentage of the sale.

Some women enter into this arrangement knowingly while others believe they were hired for a dance contract in beautiful Cyprus, for example, but find themselves in a front for prostitution. Consummation contracts are largely successful because women from poor countries are targeted. These clients typically pay for a one way ticket to the destination with the promise of a return ticket some time after arrival. Women who have no means to buy a return ticket home end up having to ride the consummation contract out.

"Consummation" is an industry term and a client or agent may use it in his offer. If they do, it's not the kind of agency or client you want to work with. Also, never accept one way travel. If consummation is not outright mentioned, take note if there is guest contact/ interaction required and the length of time you would be expected to be in the nightclub. A legitimate performance contract will not have an 8 hour schedule. There are exceptions to a long schedule, like a theme park, wherein you do frequent short shows during the day.

I have been offered a dance job with animation duties, what is animation?
There is nothing sinister about animation, even though its focus is on guest interaction. It's on the up and up but it's no performance contract. Many resorts, like Club MED and cruises have an animation team comprised of men and women. Their duties include things like performing aerobics poolside, leading sports activities, dining 3 times a day with the guests and conversing, perhaps teaching a class.

In the evening the animation team performs a house show. The choreography, theme and costumes are provided by the hotel. You would need a strong back ground in ballet and jazz to qualify. In a real dance contract, your only duty is to perform a dance show, no animation.

I have been offered a dance job abroad, is it for real?
Maybe, maybe not. If you are commercially viable: have the body, the face, the right age, talent, costumes, repertoire... your marketing could have gotten someone's attention!

Another possibility is that a client requested an act that an agency doesn't carry or does carry but is already booked and they are casting around. In this instance the agency may solicit dancers with an open call. A legitimate agency contacting you with a need will spell out specifics. They actually have a job they are interested in hiring you for.

I would warn though that open calls can also be from wannabe agents trying to break into the industry themselves and are looking to build a roster of acts. Be wary! At the very least, there is a high risk of incompetence. If it is your first time out, better to proceed with an experienced entity.

How can I limit my risk of getting involved with an unsound entity?
In the first article I talked about how the system of employment generally works. Successful agencies have clients that they regularly supply entertainment to and these are the agencies you want to target.

How can I ascertain an agencies legitimacy?
Risk always exits. But there are some clues that will help in making a determination. How long has the agency been in existence? Established agencies have a track record, one you can check out with a little investigation. Who are their clients? Major airlines, hotels and cruise ships, Coca Cola, IBM? Big time players will work with competent agencies. And finally get references of foreign dance artists that have worked with them and CHECK them out.

No agencies will pick me up, what's wrong?
Some people get picked up with relative ease and quickness, for other's it takes time before they can get an agent. Also you may not be seen as commercially viable in this area of the industry. Rightly or wrongly, in the luxury venue business they want slim, young, and attractive. Those are top priorities for clients and agents know it.

What if I am confident in an agency and they have made me an offer?
After years of training, paying your dues and developing into a caliber performer, thousands of dollars worth of costuming and promotion later you have reached a milestone. Let me say both congratulations! And hold your horses. You feel giddy and exhilarated at having made it to this point. However the making or breaking of you comes next - the contract.

What do I need to know about contracts?
I am not a lawyer. I have the good fortune to have one in the family who consulted on all of my early contracts. But my advice is just that, mine. When in doubt, consult an attorney. The only thing worth anything is your contract. Understand that, believe it and stand by it. You may be afraid to negotiate. You may be so excited at the prospect of performing abroad that you fear setting terms will lose you the job. If you accept a contract that entails sizeable risk to you I have no pity for your hard times. Sorry, but if you cannot set boundaries and protect yourself in this business you have no place in it.

The purpose of the contract is for both parties to detail expectations of one another and in this end and most importantly to limit risk. The initial contract offer will (most likely) put moderate to enormous risk on you while limiting the liability of the other party. Your job is to examine each clause in the contract, weigh the risk to you and counter offer.

Also no point should be left out or unspecified. For example, you have come to an agreement on services and salary. That's great but not enough. When will you be paid, how, in what currency? What if the show is cancelled for a holiday, in-service or no guests come? You need to specify each point to limit unsavory ramifications.

A contract is a binding agreement regardless. For that reason you might consider adding an act of god clause in your contract, consult an attorney for specific wording. I have been through SARS, a violent Maoist revolution in Nepal, the tsunami in India... An act of god clause will release you from contractual obligation (if you so choose). It leaves the option open if things get hairy.

Don't expect negotiation to be easy. You will be pushed to accept the contract in its original form because that's in their best interests. 'They' are also prone to making one verbal agreement yet having a different agreement in writing. Remember what I said, the only thing that means anything is your contract. Let's go through a few examples of what your negotiation process might look like.

CLIENT SAYS: The artist will stay in the performance area only during her performance time, unless the hotel management makes a specific request.

SALOME SAYS: The hotel management can make a specific request for you to take your top off and give a lap dance to a guest, or for you to cocktail waitress or to clean the bathrooms. Fortunately, nothing like that has occurred, or even been suggested, in my personal experience. But consider that the nature of the request is a blank. Blanks equal risk to you. They are undefined and you are agreeing to it. Your counter offer might read: ...unless the hotel management makes a specific request for her to sign autographs or pose for pictures with guests in her costume for up to 20 minutes.

CLIENT SAYS: The artist should venture out of the Hotel only with an escort from the Hotel or the agency, only after approval of the agency

SALOME SAYS: This isn't totally unusual; in some areas of the world an escort is necessary for your own safety. However "only after approval of the agency" gives the agency complete control to restrict your movement. Your counter offer might read: The artist should venture out of the Hotel only with an escort from the Hotel or the agency. The agency is responsible for providing 3 excursions outside of the hotel per week. A week is identified as 7 consecutive days. The agency will accommodate the artist, above the 3 excursions per week, when she has an immediate need to leave the hotel grounds.

My purpose is not to make you replete with concerns. But I want you to think over each word on that piece of paper and what it can mean to you. This is the time to think only of yourself. Operate from a place of being an intelligent, strong, business woman and you'll set yourself up for success.

For a continuation of the topic visit the next installment "Dancing Abroad - The Bare Minimum".