Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Ok: you’ve got the  technique,  you’ve got the look, and you’re getting the jobs... so how do you take your career to the next level?

 Branding, marketing and promotion.

Most dancers are pretty savvy when it comes to promoting themselves, but branding often eludes them.  As a performer, you  are selling a product-you.  In order to sell that product efficiently,  you have to think like an executive, and  develop your personal brand.

 Wikipedia defines Personal Branding as “the process whereby people and their careers are marketed as brands…leading to an indelible impression that is uniquely distinguishable.”

Did you ever notice that how after Starbucks became a hugely popular worldwide corporation, other businesses selling coffee began using the identical 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 talent and persona are our brand. And as a business professional, you’re promoting your product, which is you! Branding isn’t some difficult mystifying process; it’s more like presenting a product in an identifiable way, to the people who are likely to enjoy that product.  In marketing terms, a magnetic brand is a brand that attracts- and that’s what you need to do: attract students, workshop sponsors, restaurant or night club owners, workshop sponsors, members of the press and people to come to your shows.

The easiest way to develop your brand is by highlighting your unique personality. Think about your assets and talents, and figure out what makes you special.
 In my case, when I started dancing almost 23 years ago, I really wasn’t like any of the other belly dancers around…I was a crazy rock‘n’roll chick that laughed really loudly and liked to wear a lot make up. I adored retro anything and wore lurid animal print costumes before they were in style. I also didn’t know jack about branding- and it might not have even been a concept then!  But instead of trying to conform to the “standard” belly dance image, I decided I would be myself.   I sent my webmaster to a variety of belly dance websites so he could  see what they were like.  Most of them had hieroglyphics, pyramids, camels, and other desert-y exotic  images as their graphics.
“Oh,”  he said, “Now  I get the idea!”
 I answered,
“Those websites  are  all really pretty, but not my taste. I want something that’s completely the opposite of that, so it stands out.…I want MY website to look like a crazy “I Dream Of Jeannie” leopard print, psychedelic, Bollywood explosion!”
“Ok, you got it,” he replied, “But one question: What the hell is Bollywood?”
  Once I explained it to him, he went to work, making  the colorful extravaganza I desired. 
I wanted my website to be different, I wanted it to stand out- but I also wanted it to reflect my personality…I figured I couldn’t be the only dancer out there who looked and acted this way! I also thought that people who liked the same things I did would relate to me if   they saw me in person, in pictures or on a video…and it turned out, I was right. I  didn’t  even know  what branding was, but  apparently,I was doing it!
 Most commercial brands appeal to the public by presenting images that they desire, want to emulate, or have an affinity for. Unconsciously, I was building my brand.  Years later, I found out from marketing maven and belly dancer Julie Eason, that what I had done is a valid marketing technique called USP, or Unique Selling Position.
After you’ve decided on your USP and which aspects of your image or persona you want highlight, then you need to present your brand by using colors and images that can be associated with you, and being consistent with smaller things, like fonts and your logo, if you have one. Think of corporate logos and how identifiable they are, and you’ll start seeing the big picture.

 Make sure all your promotional materials, your ads and your website tie in together to sustain your brand. Experts say that it takes a person at least three exposures before they start to recognize a brand, so select your theme and be consistent with it. This is good  branding…and a great marketing tool.

Monday, January 7, 2013


 Hello and Happy New Year from Kansas!

The New Year has definitely started off with a bang- I’m in the Midwest freezing my California Girl butt off, furiously multi-tasking on three projects simultaneously, and really and truly counting my blessings!

The main and most important  reason I’m in Kansas is that I’m acting in award-winning director Steve Balderson’s new film, a romantic comedy called “Occupying Ed”. It’s such a funny, clever script by Jim Lair Beard,  full of twists and turns. Everyone working on the film is really talented, sweet and FUN! Steve  somehow always manages to pull together a fabulous cast and crew that bond immediately and this film is no exception.

 On January 5th, I shot a new instructional DVD at   the beautifully restored landmark, The Columbian Theater in Wamego, Kansas.  Based on one of my most popular workshops, “Strike A Pose: How To Make The Camera Love You” was directed by Steve Balderson, as well. 

 The DVD is full of tips and tricks to designed to help anyone  relax  in front of the lens and look great in pictures of any type.  Just some of the follow-along instructional poses include:  classic pin up and cheesecake posing, various types and genres of belly dance poses burlesque/showgirl poses, acting headshots, and character looks.   I wrangled local belly dancer Nashid and her troupe, The Eyes Of Bastet from Manhattan, Kansas to act as my models for the shoot, and they did a bang-up job!  English actress Holly Hinton (she’s playing the female lead in “Occupying Ed” even joined in and she modeled for   some of the cheesecake using a chair as a prop…she’d never done pin up modeling before and she’s a natural.

   Maharet Hughes, an incredible photographer and graphic artist (and a belly dancer of course!) drove in from Missouri to act as the on-set photographer for the DVD, and she’s also designing it’s cover…and she’s designing my new soon-to-be-published book, “The Belly Dance Handbook”!  The book is actually based on this blog posts- but it’s got waaay more info than I could ever possibly put down here. Basically, it’s a sort of “belly dance lifestyle” book… a companion for serious dance students and professionals alike.  There are chapters on everything from performing and handling stage fright to home drilling and costume care… from stage make up, stage directions and creative cross training to belly dance travel- and more!  The book will (hopefully) be out in late March.  I’m so proud of it- I hope you all like it as much as I do!

Maharet and I have been trying to get together for the past year and a half to work on the book, but  my  touring schedule always got in the way. Somehow the stars aligned for this time period. I’d never in a zillion years be able to pull off either the DVD or the book without her. She’s a total hoot- we’ve been close friends ever since she sponsored me for workshops a few years ago, and she’s got the mad skillz with photos and graphics.

 So yeah… I’m literally bursting with happiness so grateful to be starting 2013 in such an incredible way, collaborating with a lot of creative, talented people, on film and in print.

 Whoo-hoo, it’s going to be a fabulous year!!!!!


  Top to bottom:  With  belly dancer  Nashid ,  actress Holly Hinton luxuriating on the chair,  posing  dancer Kathryn Harth with  a scimitar and last but certainly not least...production sound man Michael Page gettin' his glamour on!