Belly dance, at least in America, is a unique subculture – a community, an art form and a cottage industry with its own unspoken rules and boundaries. It’s built on relationships, first and foremost; not on traditional corporate marketing programs or small business initiatives that make headlines for creating the millionaire next door.
That’s the reason when aspiring dancers ask me for advice on how to make it on the workshop / seminar circuit, my answer is always the same:
Be there. You have to spend the money to travel, participate in and support other artists’ workshops, seminars and shows in order to meet people and build real relationships. This is how you get invited to be there – by being there.
The same holds true when you have a fabulous show you want to take on the road. I’ve been producing the theatrical adaptation of Confessions of a Belly Dancer © ™ and have successfully sold out shows Off Broadway in NYC, Chicago and Kansas City. Plans are in process for the tour to continue in 2015.
Now, holding a show in your own neighborhood can be tricky. With so many events and ‘friendly’ competition between dancers, teachers and event sponsors, it can be difficult to have a successful event in your local area. When you decide to go someplace else, and hold an event in someone else’s ‘territory,’ it’s easy to run into devastating obstacles and debilitating challenges.
How do you overcome these issues?
The secret to the success is simple. Build and maintain genuine, authentic relationships with fellow artists.
If I Can Make It There, I Can Make It Anywhere
In NYC, for example, several amazing women stepped up to the plate. Carol Tandava Henning, who produces her spectacular one-woman show Blood on the Veil, took on our PR efforts. She connected us with her PR agent and, through her Platinum Sponsorship, made it possible for us to reach both mainstream and niche media throughout NYC. She led meetings, provided local ‘on the ground’ support and directed the follow through necessary to achieve our goals.
Queen Esma and Katrina Eady, both Gold Sponsors, made it their personal mission to fill the house. They took posters and fliers all around Manhattan – posting materials in restaurants, bars, Middle Eastern establishments and dance studios across the city. They tirelessly spread the word through the dance community and built energy and excitement about the show.
The beautiful Jehan Kamal and Belly Dance America, Platinum Sponsors as well, provided amazing support. Hanna, Jehan’s husband, helped us spread the word through the Belly Dance America network. Jehan reached out to friends and mentors, such as Phaedra and Samira whom I consider the NYC elite, and I was so honored to have them in the audience.
The result was a full house, AND support from artists who were also part of the show. We met amazing, talented dancers who gave their artistry and hearts to Confessions and really made a special dream come true.
I’m Going to Kansas City, Kansas City Here I Come!
Kansas City was just as spectacular. Theresa Maze and her husband and drummer, Ed D, were our ‘on the ground’ ambassador and our Platinum Sponsor. They worked with the theater, managed local logistics best handled in person, secured us sponsorships with local venues such as Uptown Arts Bar, the beautiful location where we held our photo shoot. They put in countless hours distributing fliers, making phone calls, holding local meetings to answer questions for dancers interested in auditioning for the show and creating the environment for success.
Theresa connected us with a local PR professional, Jenn Harris of Createful Studios, with strong connections in the mainstream and LBGT community. Jenn’s connections in the LBGT community were important because a pillar piece in Confessions openly discusses transgender in a very personal, meaningful way. Theresa and Ed D opened their homes and their hearts, and put in the time and effort that guaranteed success.
Once again, Confessions played to a full house of both belly dance and mainstream community members, with an international cast of amazing dancers who were part of an important piece of work.
Not Just In Dance
These experiences taught me the universal truth of genuine, authentic relationships built on mutual respect and trust is the key to making dreams come true.
Not just for an artist aspiring to build a career on the workshop / seminar circuit, Not just for a producer who wants to take a show on tour. No, it’s the key for much more. Truth be told, it’s one of the primary keys to life.
After all, if we’re not here to create relationships that build each other up and elevate our spirits and our art form, then what’s the point?
Be there. And generously give back.
About the author: Known for her energetic, powerful and fun-loving original style, Raksanna is an award-winning, internationally recognized Middle Eastern dance artist. She is a highly sought after educator and workshop presenter and travels the world, teaching and performing at premier festivals and in intimate workshop settings.
She is the artistic director of Raksanna’s Near East Dance Ensemble, the author of the series Confessions of a Belly Dancer © and the executive producer and director its’ touring theatrical adaption.
For more information about Raksanna, visit www.raksanna.com or send her an email at email@example.com. She loves meeting dancers from around the world and sharing the passion for dance! You can purchase any of the books in the series of Confessions of a Belly Dancer © at www.lulu.com/Raksanna and learn more about the show at www.confessionsofabellydancer.com.