On March 3, we held our second Coffee Talk about going pro called “Like A Boss – Teaching & Performing Professionally”.
We had a lot of questions leading up to this Coffee Talk, including one that kept coming up from a few sources – “Why help people learn about going pro? Isn’t that just creating more competition?”
The short answer is, “Not really”.
Here’s the long answer, and it might also give you an idea of why we choose topics like this for our community based discussions.
In order for dance to be a viable industry for even the casual teacher or performer, we need to have standards that we all adhere to. Standards for pay, ethics, and operations can really improve conditions not just for those who work as teachers and performers, but for the students and audiences that hire us.
A dancer who handles her business well is going to have happy customers, and happy customers create repeat business and more demand for our services. Students who take classes from organized, caring, and skilled teachers are more likely to tell their friends about what they do with their evenings, and that means more students for everyone as the dance becomes a popular way to exercise and socialize. Professionals who respect minimum rates and refuse to undercut for gigs support a healthy base rate for everyone who dances in restaurants or at private parties – remember that customers sometimes shop around, and the lower our rates get, the more difficult it is raise them up again. Someone who is willing to dance for dinner can hurt the dancers who charge respectable rates, and that affects their livelihood. There are so many reasons why professional dancers need to be on the same page in order to have a healthy, growing industry.
Another reason why we wanted to host the topic of going pro at Coffee Talk is because it is rare for teachers to be able to offer these kinds of tips in the usual classroom setting. Having an open house where all are welcome to come and learn can help to break down some of the walls between teachers and students in particular. One huge point that we made near the end of the evening was that as teachers, your job is to make your students so good at what they do that they don’t need you anymore.
Your job as a teacher is to create the next generation of teachers – to inspire the urge to learn more, to master a skill, to gather information and do in-depth research. As teachers, we must never be afraid to “train our replacements”. That won’t happen overnight anyways. Teachers need to be generous with their information, and have a true desire to see people grow and excel. If you don’t genuinely want to see others succeed, as yourself why you are teaching at all.
Our going pro Coffee Talk went on for 4 (FOUR!!) hours as we covered marketing tips, social media use, professional gigs, why training is important, what to bring in your gig bag, how contracts work, etc. and we could have kept going! At our first Coffee Talk, we covered some of the rich history of North American Belly Dance, and that too was intended to help create a community that was not only supportive of the professionals that came before them, but informed about their teachers’ teachers, the route that this cultural dance took from it’s homelands to our part of the world, and how it has – or hasn’t – changed because of that expansion. In order to know where we are going, we have to know where we came from.
A strong community is an informed and respectful community, and we hope that by sharing whatever we can about how to be the best students, dancers, and teachers that we can be, we will reinforce the professional and artistic foundations that Vancouver has proudly grown from for so many decades.
Thank you to all those who joined us for Coffee Talk – Like A Boss! We will announce the topic & date of our next Coffee talk soon.