Comparing bellydance wages to minimum wage
written by Dima of Lotus Moon, Maine/New Hampshire

Many new dancers want to share their love of dance with others through performance. Learning something new is exciting and fun, and many people enjoy performing. A great way for students to do this is through student shows (haflas) or charity events. Some really enjoy performing (I certainly do!) and will seek out other gigs such as festivals or birthday parties. Before you consider taking such gigs, please take a few things into consideration. These gigs are professional level jobs, and anyone who takes these jobs deserves to be paid at least the minimum standard pay for that job. Even if dancing is not something you plan to do full time, even if you just do it for fun. Why you may ask?

If someone takes a second "day job", even if it's a job they really enjoy, legally they must be paid minimum wage. The reasoning behind this is simple. All the employees should be paid a minimum so that employers don't take advantage of people who are willing to accept less pay for the same job. This way everyone can afford to live off of their income. If there was no minimum wage imagine the problems it would cause. People desperate for jobs would offer to work for less, putting others out of their jobs. People even more desperate would offer to work for even less. Before you know it, the wage is so low no one can afford to live off of it. The employers would know they could pay ridiculously low wages and would never raise them.

Bellydancers do not have a minimum wage enforced by the government. Therefor, the community has set their own minimum so that everyone can survive. If the dancers cannot afford to be dancers the community as a whole loses. The costumes we love, the music that moves us, the videos that inspire us... all these things are funded by dancers, and many dancers are funded by their professional gigs. If dancers cannot afford their costumes, music, videos, etc., everyone in the dance community loses. The less dancers, the less community, the less opportunities.

With these things in mind, if you feel you are ready for professional gigs please contact your teacher for guidance. Your teacher can advise you on proper costuming, music, and your regional rate. Or check out local rates in your area by asking dancers in your area what the going rate is. Samira Shuruk has a website that lists some standard minimum rates for different areas.

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