Professional dancers often take stage names, but it’s a personal choice, definitely not a necessity.
Some belly dancers like the idea of adopting an Arabic stage name just for fun, or because they believe it helps them-and their audience- really get into their exotic dance persona. Burlesque dancers typically pick out retro-sounding names, or monikers that are sexy and sassy or uber-elegant. Roller Derby gals and drag queens often seem to go for puns. A name is part of the illusion a performer creates... which do you prefer, Norma Jean Baker, or Marilyn Monroe?
Many dancers opt for using a stage name it because they feel it’s better for maintaining their privacy-it helps keep their real life and their performing life separated.
If you’re toying with the idea of taking a stage name, do some research the same way expectant parents do when picking out names for their babies. You could use the name ( or a variation of it ) of a family member, or look for a word that has some significance to you. Names of saints, gods, goddesses legends or fables are always popular- and evocative- in many cultures, too. There are zillions of websites devoted to names from every language and culture imaginable, so cruise through the sites looking for definitions, meanings, and that speak to you.
Many dancers literally invent their stage names, either by using an exotic variation on their given name (like Jillina) making up an an anagram, or just by putting together a string of syllables that sound pleasing. If you’re inventing a name in this way, make sure it doesn’t have an odd meaning in another language. One belly dancer I know ( who shall remain nameless here) was getting odd looks and even snickers from the audience every time she was announced. For a few months, she had no idea why…until she discovered that her moniker meant “frog” in Arabic! Luckily, the addition of a vowel changed the meaning of her stage name.
Sometimes dance teachers name their students or protégés, and once in a while, students select a first name, and then take on their teacher’s last name as a tribute to their mentor. Club owners have been known to give names to dancers, too. Legendary dancer Morocco, whose real name is Carolina Varga Dinicu, got her stage name in this way.
Once In a while a stage name just sort of…happens, like mine did.
Originally, I wasn’t going to use a stage name, since my given name, Pleasant, is so unusual. Nobody ever thought it was my real name, so I thought it would suffice as a stage name. But since Pleasant routinely got mispronounced at the Arabic clubs and restaurants where I worked, my boss at a Tunisian restaurant started calling me Farhana, which roughly translates to “happy girl” or“ pleasant girl” in Arabic.
The title of “Princess” was bestowed upon me by Tonya Chianis, because I wore crowns and tiaras frequently- and also because there was another local dancer who already was using the name Farhana. In order to differentiate the two of us, Tonya and Atlantis listed me on a flyer as “Princess Farhana Of Hollywood”. Shortly after that show, I did a show and DVD shoot with IAMED, and without even asking me, I was listed on their poster the same way! Both monikers stuck, and before I even had any say in the matter, everyone was calling me Princess Farhana…or, of course, “Your Majesty’!
If you decide to use a stage name, make sure you’re not duplicating the name of any other established dancers in your area. You’ll also want to see that your name is spelled in a fairly straightforward manner, or you’ll spend the rest of your career getting annoyed when your name is mispronounced during introductions!
Pick out something with a great ring to it that has a comfy fit. You want to choose a name you can see yourself living with for years.
Once you start getting established, it will be pretty difficult to change your name because people will already be used to calling you by that name. Basically, you'll be spending a lot of time explaining why you changed your name, or letting people know that you are now being called something else. Unless your name-change comes at the very beginning of your career, before you are known, it's not sound business practice to re-name yourself because it’s confusing to everyone, from the people who hire you to your fans.