Thursday, February 25, 2016


Photo by Kat Bushman

 People  tell me that  me that when I perform, my presence is so large that it fills the entire venue. But it wasn't always that way. Over the years, on what I call my "Work/ Study Program", I learned to master the art of crowd control...especially in venues where tipping was encouraged. 

As a baby dancer, I avidly observed professionals working. I studied the way they handled crowds, watched their interactions with the audience, the way they got the crowd all fired up, how they  accepted tips and the crowd control tactic they employed for handling rowdy customers. I noticed that the dancers never  broke  from their stage persona, even when in a small venue where they personally could relate to the audience, all up-close and personal.

  The most  important  thing I noticed was that direct eye contact is paramount!

Dancers always appreciate a lively, demonstrative crowd, and it’s our job to get the audience riled up and festive.  So don’t be afraid to make direct eye contact with your audience members- it’s the surest way to make them feel connected to you- and to get them to tip you!  

 As for rousing a reticent audience, by using eye contact gestures alone, you can have the entire crowd clapping along to the music, or get them to be silent during a quiet part of your set.  If you want to break the ice with a tough crowd, the best way to do it is to call a child up to dance with you- they’ll almost always jump at the chance, it’s totally cute and of course, people love a good photo op!  If there are no kids around, select a pretty, vivacious-looking woman, and pretty soon her friends will join in... cause it’s a great social media moment!

 If someone you’ve gotten up to dance overstays their welcome, just “present” them to the crowd, and get them all to applaud- everyone will understand the idea that their dancin’ machine friend is now taking a bow, and should return to their seat.

 As for tipping- at belly dance shows, it's  a popular practice that stems from hundreds-if not thousands of years of tradition. Both the audience and the dancer enjoy tipping; the performer makes supplemental income, but tipping also allows for audiences to interact with the dancer and show appreciation for her skills..and once again, if you want to get tipped, eye contact is crucial!
Photo: Kat Bushman

 As far as tipping goes, most clubs and restaurants have a system in place where an employee, such as the manager or a waiter, will pick up the dancer’s tips and bring them to her dressing room after the show. If tips fall from your costume and a customer notices, they’ll sometimes let you know.  In this case, I either assure them the waiter will get it for me or ask if they wouldn’t mind retrieving it.

Inevitably, you’ll encounter some show off  that’ll offer you a tip… held in his teeth.  I’ve found that the best way to handle this is with humor and pantomime.  I’ll either pat the guy on the head as though he was a dog with a bone in his mouth, or gaze directly at another member of his party, point at the offender and pull a comical face that silently asks  “What’s he doing?”  Usually, someone will make him stop- or they’ll grab the money and tip you properly! 

Once in a while, things can get a little out of hand, especially if the venue serves alcohol. If an audience member does anything during your show that pushes your personal boundaries, interferes with your comfort-zone, or personal safety, or is just being disruptive or seems intoxicated, you have two choices.  You can enlist the service of the nearest waiter or simply remove yourself from the situation right away and report it to the management. This type of behavior is always frowned upon- there are definitely certain circumstances where the customer is not “always right!

 Many audiences are unsure of tipping protocol, and don't want to offend the dancer or do something impolite. There are a few discreet ways to let them know that tipping is OK. Often, dancers will seed their belts with hidden a bill or two (which can be prudently revealed mid-set) giving the audience the idea that tipping is acceptable. Another way to do this is to have the servers help you out before you go on by courteously asking patrons if anyone needs change to tip the dancer.

Whenever you get tipped, make sure to thank the person who tipped you, either verbally or with a nod of thanks, and big smile...once again looking the audience member directly in the eye!
Tipping is a way for the audience to tell you how much your performance meant to them.  It’s our job as dancers to transport the audience, and by receiving their tips graciously, you can also take satisfaction in knowing that you have done your job… and done it well.

 My workshop, I’m With The Brand: Marketing And Promotion For Dancers is now available as an online class…

Purchase here- and watch as many times as you like!


Come say hi to me on the Inter-Webs !


  1. How do you handle dead audience though?

    Like low turnout on an evening with bad weather, or a table that is so into their own party (or so shy and uncomfortable) they refuse to look up.

    1. If it's in a place like a restaurant, I usually talk to them while I dance! I always pick a woman, cause I want her to feel comfortable. something like, "Great necklace" or "love your dress" do something a little bit "intru

    2. ..."intrusive" like put a veil around someone's neck or play my cumbals ( quietly) near their head, so they'll turn around : ) Always works & thy lighten up and have fun!