So when IS performing for free good publicity?

Eshta

New member
Howdy folks!

Ok, so we've had a number of threads around lately discussing how performing for free is a BAD thing as it brings the value of the artform down for EVERYONE.

But on the flipside...

I've been chatting with a very talented dancer who became well-known in a short space of time. The short and long of the conversation was that although in general she wouldn't dance for free, when you are trying to establish yourself in an incredibly competitive marketspace, you have to know when dancing for free truly does equate to good publicity. She wasn't referring to restaurant work or anything facing the GP, she was talking more about belly dance events generally targeting the belly dance community themselves, the overwhelming majority of which are unpaid or just pay travel expenses.

What do you guys think? Is performing for free ALWAYS bad, or is it ok sometimes, and if it is ok sometimes, what are the circumstances that make it ok?
 

da Sage

New member
You have to show your skills to the local dancers if you want to be recruited for troupes or substitute gigs. So doing a free performance where other, working dancers will be watching as part of the audience is the best way to introduce yourself (or your recently improved skills) to the dance community.

I think that fundraisers can be good opportunities, too. But there, you have to be extra-careful not to undercut.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
When you perform at benefits for good causes. This way it shows that for charity you are giving of your time and talent and that you believe in a good cause. Many dancers do consider this to be politically correct, as it is understood from the beginning that no one is profiting but rather that all proceeds are going to charity. Many times, however, the venue doesn't provide the place for free nor do caterers provide food and drink for free but the performers themselves are part and parcel of the actual event and are given credit for helping to raise funds for these charities.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I have always been happy to dance pro bono for nursing homes, school events, and other community venues that have little or no money for entertainment. Some of the most fun I ever had was dancing for the senior citizens center in Laramie. My students are also happy to perform free in certain venues just for the experience of being in front of people. Folks know they are students and people in Wyoming are great: they'll stand up and cheer for the sheer joy of being entertained.

My objections to dancing for free come when organizations that can afford fees want to get something for nothing at a dancer's expense. Charging admission and not offering to pay "the help" so much as dinner is on the top of my list of snarlies.
 
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Caroline_afifi

New member
Hi Eshta,

Being good does not automatically equal being paid and vice versa.

Of course people have to dance at some occasions for free. You cannot simply say 'Oh I am good now so I want everyone to pay me!' this takes time to build. I still dance for free on some occasions like a friends birthday a charity etc.

Dancers need exposure and exposure does not pay wages.

Of course it must be done with respect and itegrity for others, we need to be sensitive about how where and when.
 

Shakti

New member
My former dance troupe did one high profile charity event, then the phone rang off the hook from other good causes expecting hoping for the same favor. The way I see it, the venue ppl, and the caterer's are all getting paid, why can't a performer? People at non profits often do draw a salary too. My troupe adopted the cause so we were available for their events.

Community events were you can give demonstrations and teach the public is a great way to make contacts to fill space in your class. Like outdoor festivals. Bring lots of flyers!
 

LadyLoba

New member
I'd probably use the same guidelines for donating any other type of time and talent. Like Shanazel was saying...if it's for a cause you truly believe in or something you want to support (like your community) and you really want to give of your talent and know it will be appreciated, then I think it's a wonderful thing to do both for the art form/publicity for your dancing career and for society.

On the other hand, if we're talking about something that any other type of performer would be paid for, then I would not belly dance there for free.

**I mean "I" as in "If I were a skilled dancer." I'm not qualified to do so much as sign up for a school talent show that allows everyone who puts their name down to perform and call it belly dancing. :)
 

Eshta

New member
Hi Eshta,

Being good does not automatically equal being paid and vice versa.

Of course people have to dance at some occasions for free. You cannot simply say 'Oh I am good now so I want everyone to pay me!' this takes time to build. I still dance for free on some occasions like a friends birthday a charity etc.

Dancers need exposure and exposure does not pay wages.

Of course it must be done with respect and itegrity for others, we need to be sensitive about how where and when.
Hiya Caroline, haven't seen you around for a while!!

I agree, and actually I don't have a problem dancing for free when it suits me. I'm turning down paid work to dance at a friend's student hafla in December. My reasons for this are as follows:

- she is a friend and a dancer I truly respect, and I am honoured she would ask me to dance at her event!
- I enjoy dancing for people who 'get it', so while I may not get paid in terms of cash, I get payoff in terms of an appreciative audience!
- Her events are well organised and well attended. I may get some exposure, but I am confident that things like music won't fail, the lighting will be good, etc so as long as I don't dance badly, I won't get NEGATIVE exposure due to things beyond my control.
- I'll probably get a well-recorded DVD of my performance, and some good photos that I can use for publicity.

So I don't have problems dancing for free, but I don't put a huge amount of consideration as to my motives for doing it. I do it when I WANT to do it. I don't do it a lot, but I also don't apply a lot of strategical thinking to it!

But I also know another dancer who will never ever perform if she's not paid. I respect the ethic but I think sometimes it's a pity as she will miss opportunities for exposure.

So I guess I am wondering if other dancers really think through a strategy in performing for free?

I've also noticed in London that many dancers who are trying to establish themselves try to "do the rounds" of performing at every single event that's going on in a roughly 3 month period! This occasionally works, but most of the time just creates over-exposure of that dancer.
 
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jenc

New member
We have dancers near us who will dance if someone opens a sandwich. Their teacher is a beautiful dancer who gives at least 6 lessons a week very cheaply BUT her dancers have not been let into the secret. I casn say this as I danced with her for about 15 months until I realised that i was learning nothing and was bored, so I left along with several others of the more established dancers. I think I could have preformed gratis about once a week during the "season" from summer to Christmas - but I had an excuse as it was in the next town.
 

~Diana~

AFK Moderator
We do it for free for charities but it depends on the situation and it is decided on a case by case basis. If the charity is paying other people do perform for them, then no we won't dance for free.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
Then there are the charities where they expect dancers to pay, saying it's all for charity. I am in the minority over this as I think that is expecting too much. I also got roundly trashed on this subject on another forum, never mind that in many cases, it's political, e.g., you dance at my event AND PAY, and maybe I'll do you the favor back. But even though I did do this a couple of times, it really went against my grain.
 

Eshta

New member
Then there are the charities where they expect dancers to pay, saying it's all for charity. I am in the minority over this as I think that is expecting too much. I also got roundly trashed on this subject on another forum, never mind that in many cases, it's political, e.g., you dance at my event AND PAY, and maybe I'll do you the favor back. But even though I did do this a couple of times, it really went against my grain.
:protest: I MAY consider donating a performance for a good charity event but I wouldn't PAY to perform! Regardless of the political consequences! Luckily I don't think we have many events here where you would actually pay to perform.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
:protest: I MAY consider donating a performance for a good charity event but I wouldn't PAY to perform! Regardless of the political consequences! Luckily I don't think we have many events here where you would actually pay to perform.
Oh honey, we have hafli here where they expect dancers to pay. Talk about shark feeding. . .:mad:
 

Shakti

New member
I may also reference my earlier post and say that at this event we also worked out a deal that our photographer could photograph us performing ( beautiful atmosphere). And we negotioiated that we could change into our party clothes and they had a table reserved for us and were served food and open bar. Pretty nice since it was a charity that was raising about a million USD that night. It was a 500 a plate dinner so it wasn't a bad deal. It took some deal making. But frankly I have spent 50$ on dinner that was better!

If they ask for free ~do not be afraid to counter offer!
 

Eshta

New member
Wow, that just feels wrong to me! Are there that few performance opportunities that dancers feel the only way they will be able to perform is to pay for the privilege?

How does it benefit the dancers? I don't mean that as an attack, but in the context of this thread, I can't imagine a performance opportunity being oh so very great that I would consider paying to do it...! What kind of performers are they? Amateur, professional, etc?
 

jenc

New member
Well we habe to pay to get in to all our haflas even if dancing. I don't know how the finances of that work out but it's £5 - £10 for a ticket.
 

Eshta

New member
Well we habe to pay to get in to all our haflas even if dancing. I don't know how the finances of that work out but it's £5 - £10 for a ticket.
Hmm, good point JenC, hadn't thought about the student hafla point of view, completely neglected a very large part of the dance arena!

I guess I overlooked it because the whole purpose of those haflas is to give students a performance platform. For my students, I've never organised a hafla solely for this purpose, my students have either performed at Saqarah (where they don't pay as a performer), or in the case of a university group I was teaching, they performed at their university end of term show, so didn't have to pay for that either.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
The most I have ever "paid" for dancing at a hafla is to bring part of the pot luck food. ;) Our haflas are intimate affairs compared to those in cities. The public is invited to watch the performances for a small fee, though friends generally bring food or offer services (music, door, supervising the food) in return for entrance. We have always have a blast, even the time a severe winter storm threatened to close us down all together. Half a dozen dancers and twice that many audience members turned up- little thing like a blizzard barely slowed us down.
 
Well we habe to pay to get in to all our haflas even if dancing. I don't know how the finances of that work out but it's £5 - £10 for a ticket.
It's the same for student haflas in Australia. There's no way around it, really - the school could never afford to put on a hafla if the students didn't contribute.
 
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