Monday, September 28, 2009
RAQ THE RECESSION-BELLY DANCE ON A BUDGET
People all over the globe, in every income bracket, are feeling the effects of the failing global economy… and belly dancers are no different! The belly dance world has been experiencing the fallout of this recession just like everyone else. Un-employment is high, and many are losing jobs. People are cutting back on necessities, not to mention luxuries and leisure expenditures. In general, it seems that belly dance students are attending less classes , and in turn, studios and instructors are experiencing lower overall attendance, which means less income. Restaurants and clubs have cut back on nights featuring live entertainers- belly dancers and musicians. Across the board, belly dance suppliers and vendors have noticed a drop in belly dance costume, prop, DVD and CD sales. Merchants are complaining about having less buyers, and buyers themselves are frustrated that they can no longer afford “luxuries” like belly dance costumes, DVD’s, and the like.
Yes, our county’s financial situation is dire, but there are things we can all do to make sure we can keep our careers, favorite hobby or dance practice alive. Sometimes, it just requires a little monetary juggling or re-thinking where and on what you are spending.
When I first began dancing almost twenty years ago, I was in a rock ‘n’ roll band, already leading the life of a “starving artist”… in other words, I was flat broke! Out of necessity, I had to get really creative about the ways I was going about moving my dance career forward, and figure out means for taking classes, getting myself costumed, and promoting myself. It was always a scramble to do this on a practically non-existant budget, but somehow I made it happen.
Recently, I began to recall all of the things I did “ back in the day”- my tricks for cutting corners and being able to afford music and costumes so I could do to achieve my goals… and I thought perhaps some of this might help other dancers get through these financially tough times, so here are some ideas.
USE THE BARTER SYSTEM
There are many things you can “afford” by using barter or trade, and that includes your continuing dance education! Ask your local studio if you can trade some volunteer time in exchange for classes…maybe you can offer to tidy up the studio, or sit at the desk to take attendance for regular classes or workshops, or do office/ administrative work in exchange for classes.
Want a private class but can’t afford one? Think of what you could offer your teacher. If you have a skill, it could be a straight exchange: are you a photographer, make-up artist, seamstress or web designer? Any of these talents could be traded for belly dance lessons. Or perhaps you speak French, or are good at gardening, book keeping, child-care- whatever! Think of the skill set you have and see if they could possibly be performed in exchange for private dance lessons.
Make a Dance Play Date with a friend. This is like a private lesson, essentially: two dancers get together and figure out what they want to learn from each other, book an hour or two of rehearsal time in a studio (or just get together at someone’s house) and give each other a private lesson in each other’s specialties, say sword technique for fan tips, Hip Hop or jazz dance know-how in exchange for a Saidi choreography, even a Cabaret and Tribal movement swap. We all have skills and talents that we want to learn or wouldn’t mind sharing. Just ask!
Carpool to classes- enough said! This saves on gas and gives everyone a chance to socialize and hang out, too. You can also car-pool to major dance events, and for road trips, of course, share hotel rooms. Bring along cooler or two and save some dough by bringing along your own water, snacks and munchies. This is usually healthier-and way less expensive- than buying food on-site at dance events.
Many instructors are happy to give private lessons to two students at a time, or even a small group, for the same price that a single person would pay. Ask around about it and you might be able to get private instruction for less than the cost of a regular class.
Combine printing and promo costs. Say you and a friend both want business cards- print them double-sided (one dancer per side) and split the cost down the middle. If you have an event coming up that is fairly close to another scheduled event, contact the other promoter and see if there is a way to cut promotional costs by sharing a website, graphic designer or by printing up both events on one flyer or post card. This will reduce your expenses, and also open you and the other person up to a whole new range of potential students, business contacts, or ticket-buyers.
Share props and costumes with your trusted friends. Own a shamadan but need some fan veils for an up-coming performance? See if anyone would be interested in a temporary prop-swap…this would save you having to buy the props if you are only going to use them a couple of times.
If you are ordering a set of Isis Wings in silver, see if someone else in your area has them in gold (or red, or whatever) and ask if she would be willing to trade them on a per-performance basis, so they could be used by each of you with more than just one costume…and you wouldn’t have to spend on two sets of wings! Or, you and a pal or two could go in together on buying an expensive costume or prop, and decide who gets to use it and when. Some friends and I were all going to buy expensive Sally Rand Ostrich plume fans, and before buying them, we all co-coordinated who ordered what color so we could interchange them for various shows based upon our individual costume needs.
As someone who makes a living from teaching dancing both live and on DVD, I don’t at all advocate illegal copying of any DVD’s or CD’s… but I do think it’s perfectly fair for individuals to buy instructional or performance DVD’s and CD’s and share them with each other. Either swap your DVD’s after a few viewings or have a “workshop” day or “DVD party” at your house and invite a couple of dance pals over to view the latest instructional or performance DVD.
EXTEND THE LIFE OF YOUR COSTUMES AND PROPS
Make sure to take care of all your costumes and props, keeping them clean, repaired and in working condition. This will help not only in extending the “life span” of whatever you own, but should you decide to sell it, it will keep the re-sale value of the item higher.
Hand-wash your work-out and class wear- this will not only save on energy and electricity bills, but the garments will last longer, because the color and fabric fibers get broken down in the clothes dryer.
Belly dance costumes can also be hand-washed , too, and a clean costume will definitely last longer. Many dancers are afraid to try it, but do a spot test first, to make sure the color won’t run. To wash your costume, fill a bathtub about a quarter full with cool water and a very mild hand-washing dtergent, like Coollove or Woolite. I myself use baby shampoo. Just swish the costume around a little, rinse very well, and lay it flat somewhere safe to dry. On highly embellished costumes, this may take up to a few days, but the costume –and it’s fringe-will sparkle like new.
Think of ways you could re-work older costumes to make them new and fresh again. Replacing worn-out fringe - or even taking fringe off completely- can make it look new again, and costs much less than buying a new one! Gather up all your un-used veils and sew them into a full gypsy skirt… if you have a costume with sleeves, see if they can be removed and made into gauntlets… try dying older or stained veils- most dye well, and the sequins will retain their original color…mix and match the costume pieces you already have and see if you can come up with new ways to wear them.
Get your wigs and falls re-styled instead of buying new ones. This will not only prolong their life-span, but is much less expensive.
Re-sole your suede-soled dance shoes with a thin layer of “dance rubber”- this will extend the life of the shoes as well as protect your feet.
Sort through your costumes mercilessly and figure out what you can part with. Sell old items or those that never fit quite right on the Internet, or in your local dance studio. You can definitely “find” some money this way- or be suddenly able to afford a new costume.
Organize a costume; accessory and prop swap with your dance friends- one dancer’s trash is another gal’s treasure!
Shop at second-hand stores for old evening dresses or accessories that can be used to make or enhance costumes. Take a hard look at what you own, or what you want or need, and figure out a way to get it, either by making it, or incorporating it in some way…like cutting off appliqués from a brides maid dress you bought at a garage sale!
Ask your local dance studio or gym if they have a discount “class card” or will offer a special price on a block of classes paid in advance. Many studios and gyms do this already.
If you are professional dancer, you might already know that larger companies like Capezio or Mac Cosmetics offer a substantial professional discount if you present a business card, or register into a “Pro” program. Work this option, girl!
Many on-line vendors have a mailing list you can sign onto that will notify regular customers of costume and prop sales- sign up and save some serious greenbacks! As for festival vendors, if you are coveting a pricey costume you can always have a word with the vendor about your purchasing options- some vendors may reduce the item’s price after a few months, or be willing to charge less if you pay in cash, or will put it on lay-away for you.
Explore ordering belly dance supplies whole sale. You and a few friends want new hip scarves, CD’s or need finger cymbals? Contact vendors and see if it’s possible to get a wholesale price on an order with multiple pieces.
If you have dance items, props, craft supplies or even old materials or trims you are not using, consider donating them to a student dance troupe, local theater companies, drama classes, kid’s day camps or even women’s centers. It will not only clear out your closet, you will have the great satisfaction of knowing that someone will be getting some good use out of whatever you don’t need!
Above all, don’t let the bad economy prevent you from doing something you love! Have fun, get creative and keep belly dancing! The world- no matter what the financial climate- will be a better place because of you!