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

Undercutting. What is it?

We’re all familiar with the term “starving artist”…well, unfortunately, Belly Dancers are heading in this direction, at least in most of the U.S. Undercutting happens when a Belly Dancer offers her services at a lower price than a competitor.  Undersell, underprice, underbid are also synonyms to undercut.

Undercutting is GOOD….for the CONSUMER! Why?

From a consumer standpoint undercutting is great! Getting a service for less saves money, hence the consumer has more purchasing power (maybe they can get TWO Belly Dancers for the price of ONE! Yay! …I’m kidding).  Competitive pricing works great when applied to certain products or services, however when it’s applied to the value of a human being performing her art in your home things can become confused.

Undercutting is BAD…for the PROFESSIONAL Belly Dancer. Why?

A professional Belly Dancer has spent years learning the art of Middle Eastern dance with countless hours of rehearsing, numerous costs on classes, workshops, costumes, makeup, shoes, props, etc.  There is a COST associated with this EXPERTISE.  However, over the years inexperienced and/or uneducated Belly Dancers have been willing to perform for less and less.  That “less” has even turned into $0.00 at some restaurants where a Belly Dancer will perform all night for tips only.  What’s sad is that it is the BELLY DANCERS who have created this rate decline…through undercutting.

Undercutting not only rapes professional Belly Dancers of the ability to make a living it also DE VALUES the art form AND the woman performing it.  Let’s use shoes as a comparison. Payless VS. Christian Louboutin.  Think of the difference in QUALITY and VALUE.  Payless shoes = $10.00, Christian Louboutin = $900.00.  I could care less if my Payless shoes get ruined but someone help me if my Louboutin’s get a scratch!  Now apply that concept to a young woman belly dancing at a private party.  Get it?

Undercutting comes down to QUALITY and VALUE. Like they say, “you get what you pay for.”

Who Undercuts and Why?

  1. Amateur Dancers. These ladies are amateurs and because they are “less experienced” they believe they should charge less.  These girls should be focusing on studying and learning, not performing at private events for money.
  2. The Competitors. These women are competitive and naive and are willing to devalue themselves by undercutting in order to “win” a gig over another dancer or school.  Why dance for $150.00 when you could make $250.00?
  3. Go-Go Dancers. These seasoned performers already dance for a living so they assume throwing on a Belly Dance costume makes them “Belly Dancers”. Problem is the go-go rate is WAY LESS than the standard rate of a professional Belly Dancer.  They undercut without even knowing it.
  4. Easy Money Makers. These women will use their bodies in any way possible to make money…including dancing on a table in a hip scarf and flip flops for $1 bills. These women usually have little respect for their bodies and use their sexuality to make money.  They not only undercut but they degrade the art of Middle Eastern dance, it’s embarrassing.


WHAT’S THE SOLUTION to Undercutting?

Education, Maintaining the Standard Rate…and deep breathing.

Belly Dance Schools and Instructors around the nation need to take on the responsibility of setting and/or upholding standard rates (and etiquette guidelines!) to maintain the respect and integrity for Belly Dance as an ART and a LASTING PROFESSION.

In addition, those professional Belly Dancers must KEEP THE STANDARD RATE UP even if it means losing a gig or two or three or four!  I’ve lost HUNDREDS of gigs in my time…does it hurt?  YES! But you know what makes up for it?  The fact that I have clients that are willing to pay my rate because they VALUE ME. So keep up those rates, ladies!

 Here is a FUNNY Video on Undercutting in Belly Dance!