Sunday, April 10, 2011


Did you ever notice how, after Starbucks became a hugely popular worldwide corporation, other businesses selling coffee began using the same font on their signage?
It was almost as though that particular font was synonymous with a strong cup of freshly brewed coffee. This is an example of branding.

As dancers, our promotional photos are usually what gets us hired, or at least considered for an audition. Our bodies and our personas are our “brand”. Your promotional photo needs to be stunning, and it also must tell your story completely, in a non-verbal way. A strong image is a fantastic advertising tool, and your publicity shots can be used on any sort of promotional material, such as websites, business cards, print ads, postcards, dance class flyers, posters, even t-shirts.

When you are in the process of selecting your promo shots, keep in mind what exactly you want to portray about yourself. Your photo should not only be eye-catching and memorable, but easily identifiable. Publicity firms and advertising agencies call this branding, and in effect, by marketing yourself as a belly dancer, or a burlesque artist, acrobat or clogger, your brand needs immediate public recognition.

Many dancers use a close-up head shot for their business cards or websites. While this isn’t a mistake, it doesn’t really “say” much about the dancer to the general public the way a full-body or three-quarter length image does. A beautiful costume and a physical pose illustrating what type of dance you do will leave no question about your specialty. Even if you are planning on using your promotional pictures on cards that state your profession, ultimately, your goal is to create an image that needs no explanation.

Most people think in generalizations, and the individuals looking to hire a dancer are no different. Type-casting is a reality. And this is doubly true when a potential client is picking a performer from the internet, and not holding live auditions.

The following descriptions are stereotypes, or archetypes: a belly dancer must have a two piece costume, finger cymbals and sheer veils, and the typical burlesque dancer must be pin-up perfect with retro-style undies, stockings and garters. A ballerina needs to be in fluffy tutu and toe-shoes; a hip-hop dancer must be wearing slouchy pants and a sideways baseball cap, a Flamenco dancer surely will have on a ruffled polka-dotted dress and be carrying a small lace fan.

These all seem like a tired clichés, right?

Well, to the general public, they’re not! So, do whatever experimenting and envelope pushing you want within your genre of dance and in the dance community itself, but for promotional photos that will get you hired for gigs, you must consider how the general public will see you.

Your picture doesn’t have to be “generic”, it can be artistic or dramatic, but it should accurately portray the style of dance you do. Essentially, you can’t go wrong with using a “standard” type image, because your photo is advertising your product- you – and the cliché accouterments of your specific dance style are, to “civilians”, comparable to a corporate logo.

If you were a horse trainer, your promotional photos would probably show you in the ring with a horse, standing in or near a barn, or at least wearing some sort of equestrian outfit. A race car driver might be in a suit and helmet, posed in front of a sprint-car in the pit or holding a trophy near a track. It would be silly- and confusing to the general public- for either a horse trainer or a race-car driver to have promotional shots taken in an evening clothes holding a glass of champagne! Does that say anything at all about either person’s profession or exactly what it is they specialize in ? No, it doesn’t.

It doesn’t matter what style of dance you perform, whether your specialty is fan dancing, North African folkloric dance, Samba, Bollywood or Gothic fusion belly dance- just be sure that your photo makes it crystal clear what, exactly, it is that you do.


  1. Ah! Thank you for this! It goes for all aspects of something you're selling whether it be acting, or selling clothing, your product MUST be clear!

  2. Nice... really important info! ;)