The following is a post by Portia Lange, Founder and CEO of Belly Motions, HipNotica Fitness Instructor, and Zumba Instructor.

I have performed in the deserts of Egypt, in the Piazzas of Rome, on TV, for celebrities, I have also performed in the rain next to a BBQ, at a horse stable, and in a parking lot on Kendall & 97th to a boom box the size of my foot.  Ummm, yeah.

Portia, Giza, Egypt 2008

Girls, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.  Is being a professional Belly Dancer awesome?  Absolutely.  Does it also test patience, professionalism and integrity?  Absolutely!

As an accomplished dancer, I can offer the following advice on whether a career as a Belly Dancer is for you.

1. First, consider WHY you want to become a Professional Belly Dancer.

Many students fall in love with the dance, the empowerment, the way it makes them feel.  This is what first hooked me.  We see our teachers and other performers in the lime light with beautiful costumes and glitter!  There are photo shoots, T.V. and magazine appearances… and of course, dancing for hundreds if not thousands of people!  How fun!

Portia, cover of ELLE Oriental Magazine, 2011

On the flip side, being a performer doesn’t always mean sharing the “art of Belly Dance” in a protective web of Arabian silk.  The reality is that a Belly Dancer is less of an artist and more of an entertainer Why?  Because 80% of PAYING gigs will be Birthday parties, weddings and corporate events for folks that could care less if we’re dancing to Um Kalthum’s “Inta Omri” or Shakira’s “Rabiosa”.  Most American audiences want to see a sword on our head with fire in our mouth while playing finger cymbals and undulating on the floor.  Sad, but true.

2. Next, do you have the LOOK?

Ladies, being an entertainer for the general public is like being a pop star; you must be talented, beautiful and fit!  Sometimes  a dancer’s look has more to do with getting booked than her actual talent.  Then we must consider the “self life” challenge…what does this mean?  There comes a point in a woman’s life when she’s viewed as being too old to perform at certain events such as private Birthdays or weddings, etc.  This hour glass begins to pour in the mid to late 30’s.  Note: Performing for the general public and performing for the Belly Dance community (or any artistic community) are two separate audiences and shouldn’t be confused. In this case, the older you get the more respected you become!  Yay!  Solution for those of us who are getting older!

3. Do you have the TALENT?

I once read that Martha Gram, the “Picasso of dance”, said, “It takes 10 years to make a mature dancer”.  I agree; however with the age clock ticking it’s time to get moving!  Belly Dancers don’t have 10 years to wait to get paid and Belly Dance is not as strenuous or complex as let’s say ballet or gymnastics.  In my opinion it takes 5+ years to be considered a “good” Belly Dance performer, 10+ years to be a “great” Belly Dance performer.  And so they say, practice makes perfect, so get on it!

4. Finally, do you really want your passion to become your career? 

Portia performing Shamadon at wedding

Ahh, passion becoming your career… I tell you this has pros and cons.  On the positive side, our passion can be that very thing that takes us to the top, driving us to become the accomplished, amazing performer we never thought possible.  On the flip side, when one’s passion becomes their work and their work begins to have deadlines, demands and restrictions, it become less of a fairy tale and more of reality.  If belly dancing is your true pastime, your hobby, your escape, you may want to keep it that way….UNLESS….


Consider these additional questions on your quest for Belly Dance entrepreneurship!

  1. Do you have the determination, budget and time to study the art AND business of Belly Dance?
  2. Do you have the “X factor”?  Do you have the “look”?  How old will you be when you’re ready to perform for paying gigs?
  3. Will this become a part time career choice that generates income or just a hobby that you take very seriously?
  4. Will you work for yourself (establish an LLC or S corp) or will you work for an agency or company as an employee or sub contractor?  Are you prepared to become business savvy?
  5. Have you taken the time to interview or shadow a Professional Belly Dance Performer?
  6. Do you have a MENTOR, a non competitive professional in the field that can guide you along your journey?

If these questions haven’t scared you away and you find yourself still wanting more, then you may have what it takes to become a Professional Belly Dance Performer!  Keep an eye out for my next post as I explain how Belly Motions trains and hires dancers.