This blog post has been a long time coming but I finally have to get it off my chest. Put down the grass skirt, put down the fire fans, and just hear (read, whatever) me out.
You are not a fire performer because you suddenly decided to be one.
You are not a hula dancer because you suddenly decided to be one.
You are not a samba dancer because you suddenly decided to be one.
You are not a snake lady because you suddenly decided to be one.
You know how insulting it feels to see a six-week wonder teaching belly dance classes or performing in restaurants and at gigs in awful costumes with equally awful technique? It sucks, right?That's how we feel when we see belly dancers purchase some basic fire equipment and start doing professional fire shows. NO, I'm not talking about dancers who want to showcase their new act that they have been working on at a recital or a hafla. I'm talking about the dancers that receive a gig request on Gigmasters asking for a fire dancer and they buy their first fire fans and say “I can do that!”1. ENOUGH.
I have been training in aerial arts for six months now. Do you think I'm going to buy my first lyra and go out and start doing gigs? Of course not!
1. I am not good enough.
2. I don't know the industry well enough.
3. I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
This behavior is problematic for multiple reasons. “Fake it till you make it” really only works when the integrity of other cultures and physical safety of the people involved aren't threatened. A majority of the time, when someone doesn't know the trade, they don't know the industry either. This means they undercut—whether intentionally or not—sometimes going so far as charging aslittle as 15% the appropriate going rate2!
It isn't just belly dancers that are guilty of this, I am aware. Trust me. I see it all the time with cirque and burlesque performers as well. However, I'm picking on you guys because of the outright hypocrisy. “Stop undercutting!”, “Stop teaching when you aren't ready!”, “You can't perform at my restaurant until you've been dancing for at least 2 years!” they shout at the top of their lungs while perusing the Home of Poi website, staring blankly at the strange names for different wicks and not knowing what any of these things mean.
You took (and still do, hopefully) your belly dance training seriously. Treat other dance forms with that same level of respect. Take classes3. Practice, practice, practice. Give yourself time to get at a level that is passable professional. Join discussions and forums. Get peer reviews. Take this stuff seriously, please.
1Actually, you can't.
2Speaking from personal experience here. Encountered someone at a party literally bragging to me about doing a duet fire performance that evening for less than $100 total. The MINIMUM rate for fire around here should be $350 per person. Cue actual eye twitching.
3 There are a ton of resources for classes. Live in the middle of nowhere? Good news, we live in 2016 and Skype exists! Contact your fave fire performers and inspirations and I BET they offer online lessons!