In my book "Teaching Belly Dance" I advice teachers to always have a back up plan...or two. Things do go wrong, and its part of your role as a class teacher to move seamlessly through the lesson no matter what. As if the universe wanted to make me put my money where my mouth is, last Tuesday was not a good day....
So first off you have to know that my husband broke his foot two days before. While he got amazing treatment, it did mean that we spent a lot of time in the hospital and he was forced to spend a couple of days at home.
I have a plan for the days when I am working in the evening. I tend to write or edit or generally work on "Teaching Belly Dance" for a few hours, then around 11 I write my lesson plans which takes about an hour, then I move on to my music plan, which is about an hour more, then I often have to practice (particularly if there is some choreography in the lesson). I cant teach it unless I can do it - and being able to do a move or a combination a month ago is not the same as being able to do it tonight ! So that was my plan last Tuesday - not particularly a busy day.
Then my husband asked if we could run some errands - of course I am taxi, because he cant drive with a broken foot.
One of those errands was to drop a check in with the garage. Its a bit of a drive, but we had time.
Three hours later they have finally processed the paperwork and we have an appointment "soon" with the correct member of staff who can take the check. My phone is dead and we have watched three episodes back to back of some weird crime drama on their TV with the sound off. It was the pool boy...
oh and I have an hour til class.
Thankfully I had done my lesson plan and music plan.... practice not so much... and I hadn't downloaded my music plan to my ipod.
I get home, charge my phone, put on make up and go to plug in my iPod.....Nothing. Its not flat, its just crashed. Its now five minutes til leave the house time. I do that reset thing with the outer and inner buttons..... nothing.....I grab water and try to re-set again..... and I reset again.....Now I really have to leave the house. Thankfully I have music on my phone, but not for my plan.
I have millions of track - just millions - and I like to have a theme or a pattern running through the weeks for my classes. I spend a lot of time picking just the right track for each activity - but I cant keep all those tracks on my phone, its just not big enough. Instead I keep a minimum list of essentials :
Posted on December 19, 2013 In my book “Teaching Belly Dance” I talk about the different ways to promote your classes, but today I thought I would look at social media, and Facebook in particular, in more detail.
Posted on December 27, 2013
As a belly dance teacher your role may soon evolve into that of an agent, booking dancers for restaurants, parties or shows. In my book “Teaching Belly Dance” I run through some tips for how to do this and still stay friends (Super Tip : use contracts !), but I have also added a chapter on how to keep dancers safe.
This is controversial for me. I am the mother of two grown sons and a daughter. I believe that one of my most important jobs is to teach my boys not to rape, to respect women, to be the sober one at the party, to call the police, to take a drunk girl home or to call her parents, to protect her, defend her, to speak up. And yet I spend more time teaching my daughter how to stay safe. Why?
I want her to be able to walk the streets after dark, just as her brothers do. She should be able to call on a neighbor to borrow sugar, stand by her broken down car and wait for the repair man, to stay in a hotel on her own….
Statistically all these things are safer than the first few weeks of dating a new man, meeting his friends, visiting his home for the first time. The Hollywood monster maybe the stranger lurking down a dark alleyway, but the real monster is the boy next door, the new boyfriend, the man who wants to ask you for a date. Yet I fear the stranger too.
As your belly dance teacher I also become your mum, like it or lump it. I’m going to tell you not to take the booking, cos it sounds a bit dodgy, not cos I want the gig myself. I’m going to come with you, guard the door while you change, stand between you and the drunks while you dance (and pretend to take photos), and drive you home. I know you fancy the man a the bar, but you are not staying to chat tonight. Call him tomorrow when he is sober and you are not the “belly dancer”. Sadly he probably wont be so interested. I am old and grumpy and bossy and a spoil sport.
Years ago, I would call on a neighbor each afternoon and take her for a walk. She was about ten years older than me, amazingly bright and fascinating. She had traveled the world and was a wealth of information about the Middle East. She needed someone to walk with her as she was in the last few weeks of carrying her twins. It was a joyful shuffle and sway around the block. I was first choice babysitter to her babies, walked them home from school when she went back to work, spent Christmas afternoons admiring their presents. Today one of those twins posted a very interesting blog about “rape culture”, she quoted feminists, anti-feminists, sociologists and scientists. I’m kind of proud to see that this teenager is obviously studying this subject in depth and feels strongly enough about her views to share them with others. But I am also sad. She is 15. My generation should have sorted this for her. People like me and her mother – strong, intelligent women – we have been teaching our boys not to rape, but its not enough. She sees more work to be done, and she is right.
In the chapter “Keeping dancers safe” I list the things we need to do as dancers, and teach to other dancers, to be “street wise”. I wish it wasn’t necessary. I wish I could cut that chapter. I wish that every dancer could feel safe from attack. But in the mean time I’m going to spell out in my book the “rules”. I am happy to be mum to any performer, and if I cant be there then let me give you my voice in your head telling you to be alert – like it or lump it !
Teaching Belly Dance is available on Amazon -
Return to Sara's Blog to read more including : "I'm Perfect for Belly Dance, and so are you!" and "Picking out a Troupe Costume".
Sara Shrapnell's new book "Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage", with Dawn Devine, Alisha Westerfeld and Poppy Maya is available in summer 2016
Posted on December 29, 2013
I’m not usually one for New Years Resolutions, but I do like to set myself aims and now seems like a good time to re-set.
My last set of aims was written when I moved to the USA:
I think these are going to be my new aims :
I get asked this all the time “how much should I charge for….”
In our book "Becoming a Belly Dancer" - the stagecraft handbook for belly dancers - we avoided costs that would quickly become outdated, but here are a few pointers on how I calculate costs for all kinds of events:
No matter what the job is start with your “I wont get out of bed for less than” price. This expression comes from the modelling world, but it works for other businesses too – just how much money do you want before you will get out of bed, put on your full make up, and “be” the belly dancer? This will depend a bit on what kind of work you are being offered – for example I hate teaching kids, but I love my regular students – I probably want twice my “get out of bed” price for a morning in a school. This also covers costs associated with being a teacher or performer that might come under the umbrella of “admin” or “hassle”. You might factor in the cost of your mobile phone, computer, internet into your annual business costs, but what about time spent on the phone or answering emails? Sometimes a booking can be organize with a quick phone chat followed by the emailing of a contract. Other times it takes twenty calls before the client decides they want to book the balloon artist instead. And I cant calculate the many hours and miles I have burnt on my quests for keys for dance studios over the last seventeen years. If you still feel as if you don’t deserve the “get out of bed” price then use it as part of your negotiation when a customer wants you to drop your price.
Add in the things you can put a price on. How much will the traveling cost you? Gas/petrol, bus tickets, train fare…. add parking, entry fee if you are being charged. How much is room hire? and insurance?
And how about those things that are harder to price? Do you need a new costume? or does your costume need repairs or a dry clean? You will need a full face of make up, and perhaps false nails, eyelashes or a spray tan. Divide these costs between how many jobs you do between payments. So if you perform twice a week all year and buy three costumes each year, you should divide the cost of the costumes by 100(ish) jobs (3 costumes @ $300 = $900 divided by 100 jobs = $9 per job), if you do your nails each month then that cost is divided by 8 jobs ($40 divided by 8 = $5)…. and so on
Next you can charge for your skills. I charge $25 per hour to teach and $50 per half hour to perform – or to wait to perform ! Remember that you should be paid for all the time you are on site, not just for the time that you are on stage. You are still a belly dancer goddess while you are hanging out in the toilets waiting for the stage to be set up. Make sure that your booker knows that they will be paying for you from the moment you arrive and that you have to leave on time. Or you can simply assume that every 15 minute performance will include two hours of hanging about and be happy to know that you are being paid to text your mum or read a book.
Now to preparation. Each one hour beginner lesson should take about an hour to prepare. More advanced classes are about twice that; an hour of studying the style (taking workshops, watching videos and on line research), plus an hour of lesson planning. If your preparation hourly rate is $50 then you want to recover $100 from each advanced class. If you have twenty students then that will be $5 each. Don’t forget to add in other charges to that (such as hall hire, teaching time and insurance) before settling on a class fee. If you have a student who would like a private lesson look at how long the preparation is going to take. Assessing their choreography will take less preparation than writing a choreography especially for them. When taking a booking for a performance add in preparation time to that as well. How long will it take you to put on professional level make up? Do you need to plan a new playlist? Write a new choreography? or re-learn an old one? If the client asks that you perform to her favorite piece of music, add in the cost it is going to take you to prepare something special for that tune, and/or to purchase the music.
Lets look at a few examples:
That is not to say that you can not give your time and energy as a gift for friends or charity if you want to – just as an accountant can do his grandmothers tax, you should be allowed to teach your daughters brownie troupe if you want to – BUT – always let them know the cost of that gift, so as not to distort the general public’s idea of what a belly dancer costs. Personally I always work from a contract, even if I intend to “gift” my fee back to the charity, and I ask for payment up front on the understanding that I will return the money if the event goes well. It also means that someone with a check book approved my booking. In the early days I would turn up ready to teach or perform only to be told “Sorry, I just spoke to the committee and they didn’t realize I had invited you. They are not sure its suitable. Sorry I wasted your time….” I think its better to have that conversation three days before a performance when the check hasn’t arrived (and I can take the phone call in my PJs).
Your contract should make it very clear what the client is paying for, how long you will be on site, when you get paid, if you want cash, what happens to any tips, how many students you can teach (and ask that they are sober if you are doing a party), who is paying for the room hire, who is insured and clarify the cancellation policy.
If you like this blog, go back to my blog page and check out some others like:
Teacher Knows Best
Dealing with Difficult Students
I'm Perfect for Belly Dance (and so are you)
Why Belly Dancers need to Walk the Line
Teaching Belly Dance: Making Corrections
Being Part of the Solution
Or check out my Hub Blogs including:
"Your First Belly Dance Workshop"
The Top Ten Belly Dance Tunes for Performance"
"Finding a Great Belly Dance Teacher"
The book “Teaching Belly Dance” includes some example contracts to help you hire an outside teacher to teach a workshop for your students or perform in your show, plus lots of other advice for anyone who teaches belly dance. “Teaching Belly Dance”, by Sara Shrapnell is available through Amazon.
Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage is a stagecraft handbook for belly dancers of all levels and all styles. It includes a chapter on getting paid and has lots of help for those who want to find great gigs.
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
She has taught more than 4,000 belly dance classes, both in the UK and US. She now teaches in Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore in the SF bay area, as well as workshops world wide. Her classes are known for their humor, detailed breakdowns and cultural context. Students who have studied with Sara have gone on to teach and perform in all styles of belly dance and many have made their living through performance or teaching.
Sara’s first book “Teaching Belly Dance” was published in 2014. Her second "Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage", co- written with Dawn Devine, Alisha Westerfeld and Poppy Maya, is a stagecraft handbook for belly dancers of all styles and levels. Both are available on Amazon.
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
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