Hello folks! This is the next installment in my series on professional Bellydancers around the world. I am interested in how the same job differs with geographical location. The articles have definitely been eye opening!
I'd like to introduce the lovely Candice Frankland. I met Candice in New Zealand on one of her dance retreats a couple of years ago. What I like about Candice is that she is incredibly encouraging of everyone around her. She has obviously built a great business, but has also gone about it with integrity. If you have met me, I have absolutely no interest in undercutting or creating negativity about other dancers in the scene. I therefore gravitate towards women with the same perspective.
What does a typical night of gigs consist of?
It all depends! I used to perform at restaurants every Friday and Saturday, but I do that less often now. These days the kinds of gigs I get are usually corporate functions, birthdays, hens parties, and weddings as well as a few local, national and more recently international festivals each year (a highlight of which was performing an item with my dance hero, Aziza, in Istanbul last year! Dreams really do come true...).
A typical day (12-14 hours on average) usually involves getting up, grabbing some fruit, then heading into the studio to rehearse. Then it's several hours of admin, event planning, e-mails, phone calls, dodging cats- and after that it depends on whether or not I have classes to teach (week nights) or gigs to go to (weekends).
My gigs are usually booked through my website, e-mail, or by phone. I talk to the clients about what they're looking for and what we can offer them (solo or troupe performance, how long a set do they want, any particular props, and so on), then draw up a quote. Once the contract is signed and the deposit is paid, the gig is confirmed and we're ready to go. I get ready for my gigs about an hour or more before I need to get on the road and Auckland is a ridiculously spread out city, so GPS is my best friend.
A typical set list for a corporate event or restaurant gig is 20 minutes, and I tailor the music to the audience. I do a grand entrance, usually with a veil or wings, some fluffy pop pieces, maybe a little bit of cane if there's enough room and I feel like it. Then some fun audience interaction to round it all up and leave the guests partying on the dance floor!
Anyone who’s been to a comedy show in Auckland knows our audiences can be tricky. They tend to be look very serious and after realising that they are enjoying your performance so much that they aren't thinking about what their facial expressions are doing - I have since made it my mission to put a smile on even the most stoic faces! Fortunately, there's always someone in the audience who is itching in their seats and visibly ecstatic watching you, and I show my appreciation by picking on them during the audience interaction segment :) Some of my favourite moments have been getting kids up to dance - I dote on them like nobody's business, teaching them how to shimmy or making a conga line with them through the crowd.
Hen's parties are my favourite type of environment - who doesn’t want to hang out with a great bunch of women, ready to party and celebrate each other’s lives! I typically perform for them for about 10 minutes, then move onto a lesson, and play some games with them. At the end there should be hysterical laughter, which means I've done my job and it's time to leave them to it.
Tipping is not a part of the culture in New Zealand, which means it seldom happens, and I’m ok with that as I don't have to negotiate people trying to stick money into my costume. I don't begrudge dancers who do it - I think it often depends on the context of the situation where you’re performing. Occasionally a client from the Middle East will come up to me after a performance- they'll hand me a tip and let me know how much my dancing meant to them (someone once said I reminded them of Souhair Zaki - I floated on a cloud that night!). In all the times this has happened to me, I've never got the sense that they were trying to get something more from me, only that this was how they showed their appreciation, so I respectfully accepted the tip. I do have a fun story of a cute granny who tipped me after grabbing my bum claiming that she just wanted to touch the beading on my very heavily fringed costume :D
Once I've finished my set, I don't often stick around. I believe very strongly in professional behaviour to uplift the way people view and treat our dance form, which means I don’t accept any offers to stay for drinks after performing, or mingle with the client’s guests. Sometimes I have another gig to get to, so I have to leave, and sometimes I'll have made plans with friends or family. As a general rule of thumb, once my job is finished and my payment is collected, it's time to leave while people are still buzzing about the show.
Overall, I feel like I'm very lucky. I've read plenty of accounts of dancers who work in poor conditions both in the Middle East and in Western Countries, and from what they've said it can be dangerous and disheartening. That's not to say performing in Auckland is perfect (oh, the crazy stories I could tell...), but I work a good number of gigs with my team of wonderfully talented dancers and friends. I love what I do and so do they, and I'm thrilled whenever we get the chance to perform together - that’s my happy place - when I’m dancing with my troupe/friends. I know it’s a solo dance form but if I get the choice, I’d rather be collaborating with someone on a project or on stage with my troupe ladies having the time of our lives!
Candice owns and runs Pheonix Bellydance in Auckland, New Zealand:
Melbourne Belly dance
Melbourne Belly dance. Professional Belly dancer in Melbourne, Australia. Book a Bellydancer for weddings, parties or corporate events. Private Belly dance classes in Melbourne.