You are standing backstage, all dressed up, warmed up and ready to hit the stage, when the MC approaches and asks you how you would like to be introduced. Your mind goes blank ! "Erm, just say I am the belly dancer...." you reply.
As they walk away you know what is about to happen. The MC will use one of the dreaded phrases everyone says about belly dancers:
"Now we have something a bit different..."
"Sara is going to do a super sexy dance for all you gentlemen..."
"All the way from the mysterious Orient...."
"Who is afraid of earthquakes?, because we are about to shake things up..."
There are two essentials that you must add to every bio:
- Who are you?
- Why are you here?
(You may prefer "Turkish belly dancer" or "Fusion belly dancer". If your audience is the general public, belly dancer will do. If your audience are mostly other belly dancers, add more details to your description such as "Sara Shrapnell is inspired by belly dancers of the golden age of Egyptian belly dance.")
"Sara Shrapnell is a belly dancer" is a little on the simple side. Yep, they got my name and why I am entering the stage, but I don't sound very exciting... As we have time right now, lets try and turn that intro into three or four fascinating sentences.
This is a good moment to focus on perfecting the "elevator pitch". Its a couple of sentences that tell others all about you or your project. Do you teach, love to perform, are you the youngest, oldest, world record holding, award winning or new in town? What makes you memorable or stand out from the crowd?
I like to use the triple threat "Writer, Teacher, Performer."
"Award winning" is always good, but remember, you should be able to back up all your claims. If you are "award winning", what is your award? Do you have the award at home? Can they google the competition ? If you hold a record, be prepared to share a link to the web site. Much better to pick a phrase that doesn't need proof, like "Enchanting", "Captivating" or "Beautiful". From a marketing point of view alliteration is always appealing (wink) - "Bella the Beautiful Belly Dancer!" Have a try and see what works best with your name.
Its always hard to write nice things about yourself. If you are having a problem with finding the right words, ask your teacher, classmates or fans for feedback. Do they think you are the queen of shimmies, or are they amazed by your back bends. Ask others to point out your strengths and see how you can work them into your bio.
Ask yourself what you want the audience to do, now they know who you are. Perhaps you want them to sign up to your classes, or come back to the venue next week. If you are at a belly dance event, do you want the audience to buy your book, visit you at your booth, attend your workshop....
"Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer. She is inspired by belly dancers of the golden age of Egyptian belly dance. Find her books on belly dance at her booth by the rest rooms."
"Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer. She is teaching a workshop later this afternoon on improvisation and adding emotion to your dance. You can sign up on the door for just $15."
"Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer. She has taught over 5,000 belly dance classes, and her new beginner course starts next Wednesday."
If you are in the business of belly dance, don't be afraid of a little self promotion!
Dawn Devine has a super tip: print out your bio on a sticky label. Then when you are at the event you can add your bio to whatever form or system the MC prefers. Sometimes its all postcards, othertimes they have a notebook. A sticky label works for everyone.
Finally, to save time, keep a folder on your computer with all your bios - short ones for events, medium ones for programs and blogs, long ones for events and your own web site. When you have a request for a bio, you can simply update an old one, rather than start over.
Biographies tell others about you, your skills and what to expect in the performance. Take a few moments now to create a bio that ticks all the boxes, and never leave it to the MC again !
Check out my medium bio below !
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
She has taught more than 5,000 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 also teaches through the Belly Dance Business Academy. This online resource includes lessons, classes and workshops for belly dance professionals. Check out her most recent workshop "52 Lesson Plans - And How to Write 5,000 More."
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 these Hubposts:
"Your First Belly Dance Workshop"
The Top Ten Belly Dance Tunes for Performance"
"Finding a Great Belly Dance Teacher"