Tamalyn Dallal

Oriental Dance teacher, writer and film maker

Organizing a Performance

"There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish." ~ Warren G. Dennis

A note from Tamalyn; Many dancers have now become producers. Since I have many years experience producing theater shows and festivals, as well as traveling around the world to teach and dance, I have decided to give pointers on how to get started producing your show, and suggestions that will help make it a success. 

There are three common performance formats; 

1. Hafla; can be done in a dance studio or other space. This is a party setting where many dancers perform one after another. it is low risk financially and the easiest one to produce.

2. Theater show; Can be expensive. I will make a list of pointers from my experience that  contribute to successful theater shows.

3. Festivals; Often in a hotel ballroom or convention center. Often have several headline dancers.


*To produce a hafla (meaning party in Arabic), you need; Dance studio or space with good lighting; not flourescent, but also not so dark that dancers disappear. It is good if the dance area is lit and the audience is darker.                                                                                  

-The sound system needs to be good. There should be an announcer, plus someone to handle the music.  - All music should be collected a few days ahead of time and put on one playlist.                                                                                                                        

 - There should be a list of dancers and the order posted in the dressing room. People need to know the order ahead of time.               

- Establish a call time for all performers; generally an hour before the party starts. The performers should watch the performances to give enthusiasm to other dancers. Sometimes, people stay in the dressing room, or leave after their dance. The energy is better if dancers stay to support each other.`                            

- You will need the following staff; either volunteer, hired or bartered for classes or merchandise; ticket collector, sound operator, announcer, stage manager, set up/ clean up crew.                                                      

- If you have live musicians, find out their needs regarding chairs, sound, microphones.                                  

- Have someone pick up veils and fallen jewelry from the dance area before the next performer comes on.    

- Make sure the space looks good, with the decoration adding to the atmosphere.


Bringing Middle Eastern dance to the theater

Theater has a long tradition. It is not the place for a last minute, thrown together show. Theater shows can take months of preparation. If we are to honor our dance form and honor the stage we are dancing on,  the presentation must be professional. Theater is a place for the general public, not only dancers watching other dancers. 

1. Lighting and sound- The lighting designer usually comes to at least one rehearsal, most importantly, a dress rehearsal. The entire show must be run with costumes, sound and lights either early in the morning, the day of the show, or the day before. Photographers should photograph the dress rehearsal if they want to use flash. The videographer should be present to see the show they are going to film, though they should film the actual show.  Sound is extremely important. Gaps, wrong music, or long pauses make the show unprofessional and try the audiecne's patience.  

2. A show with flow; You can choose a theme. For example; I have produced the following; "Bellydance Through the Ages" where the music followed a timeline from 1920's to the present. Another, "Seven" merely had seven sections with seven themes in each section; 7 colors, 7 instruments, 7 nationalities, etc. "Infinito" was a feature length dace drama that told a story. "Sawah" was a journey through many lands. "40 Days and 1001 Nights" featured music collected on my travels for the book by the same name. "Supplemented Silence" was dance with silent films as a back drop and the sound track changed to danceable music. "Apathy and Passion" explored themes that embodied both words.                             The theme can be simple. The theater is not a place for a string of unrelated dances. It is for well thought out performances that are well rehearsed and flow together cohesively. Have all the music for the first half of the show on one CD that goes without stopping, though the sound technician should know to pause briefly if needed. There should not be assorted CD's. And there needs to be a run through to make sure there are no snaffus that will hold up the show. 

3. Backdrops and effects; You can rent backdrops from theatrical companies online. Smoke is fine in moderation, but be careful that the machine doesn't make a distracting noise or choke the performers. You can have the lighting person add colored gels or designs with either a black or white backdrop. You can use two to four backdrops per show.

4. Promotion; The web is important, but not just Facebook messages to other dancers. It is important to reach beyond the dance community. You can post on events listings in your town, make post cards or posters to put around town. Contact radio stations to make announcements, plus newspapers. You never know when they will send a reporter to cover the event, or to wrote an article preceeding the event.. Call everyone you know about the show. Tell everyone you meet. Keep post cards in your bag to give at any time. Have the dancers do the same. 

5. Funding; There is a saying in concert promotion circles "You must be prepared to lose all the money you invest in the show. If not, don't do it." Things can go wrong; extreme weather, conflicting events, etc. Hope you will make money, but be prepared to lose all.    

You can apply for local arts grants. This process usually takes about a year. So start fundraising about 1-1/2 years before the performance.  The cost of theater shows I have produced ranged between $20,000 to $40,000. It helps reduce risk if you have grants. Try to sell most tickets ahead of time. You can arrange to have tickets to sell yourself, and have others available through ticket agencies and at the theater. If you count on the ticketing agencies and theater, you probably won't have a full house. It takes a lot of energy and effort to have a full house. It should be assumed that if someone dances in a theater and people pay to see them that they are professional. There should be money in the budget, even if it is a portion of the profit, that can pay the dancers. 

6.Costs; Theater rental, lighting designer, videographer, and the staff that comes with the theater; Usually ushers, box office staff, security, sound, and other technical staff. These will be provided by the theater and added to your bill. You will need to print programs and posters. Theaters usually require insurance. I have paid approxomately $400 per show. If you have several shows a year, it is best to get yearly insurance.

7. Dancers should do two dress rehearsals, which include costume changes so dancers can know how much time they need to change. Make sure the schedule is well thought out, allowing for enough time to change costumes. No one likes to wait in a dark theater while peformers change costumes. Also, performers need to be quiet backstage. Voices can often be heard in the audience.


Showcasing our art is more than being good at dancing. If we are to be taken seriously, the way we are presented should be with care and professionalism. If you plan to produce shows in a theater, go to the ballet, Flamenco and other shows to get ideas on how dance can be presented.  

Exerpt from the Theater show "40 Days and 1001 Nights, Dancing Across the Lines,"  2007 


The festival format is where one or more instructors are flown in to teach workshops and there are shows, and sometimes competitions at night. These are often done in hotel ball rooms, though the festival performances can even be done outdoors. 

Things to think about;

Budget- Workshops tend to make more money than the show. If you have the show in an expensive venue, and people don't show up, you can lose everything you gained during the workshops. Be careful not to over extend yourself bringing too many teachers to give workshops. Especially if you are bringing them from other cities. You multiply your expenses. Make sure you have enough participants to cover these expenses. Study the contracts of the teachers/performers you are bringing carefully and make sure you both agree on all the details that are in writing.

Scheduling; During most of my carreer, people in each city consulted one another so events wouldn't overlap. Everyone loses when there is over saturation of events. Try to coordinate with other organizers to space out the time between events.  If another organizer has a yearly event, respect the dates of their event and schedule yours far from this date. It is a small circle of dancers who attend these festivals. This small number, divided is too small.

Show; Collect all music at least one week ahead of time and compile on a CD or Ipod playlist. Do a rehearsal for the show on the stage to make sure that the music is correct. These shows are somewhere between a hafla and theater show. They are one dancer after another. Generally, the guest artists should be the last performer. They should never open the show! It works well to have the organizer open the show if she performs.

Vendor; Another way to bring in more income to cover expenses is by having vendors. They pay by the table. Make sure they are in a location where there is high traffic and visibility. Vendors are in contact with dancers and festivals in many cities. They are good contacts and generally nice people to know. If they are hidden away in a room that nobody goes to they won't be able to afford to support your events in the future.  

Exerpt from the Orientalia Festival, which ran for 14 years in Miami Beach, plus Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Zanzibar, and most recently, just outside of seattle

Sponsoring me to come to your town

I have a few pointers on sponsoring me, or any other dancer for a workshop; 

1. Contact me directly via e mail tamalyndallal@yahoo.com. Not on Facebook, as there are places I go in the world that don't have FB.

2. I will send you a contract. The general rule is that if you are having a festival or event, you must pay all travel and accomodation expenses, plus the hourly fee and performance fee outlined on the contract.  If I choose to travel to your town for my own reasons and contact you about setting up classes, we can work out a special arrangement.

3. When working with a contract, please adhere to all the points on the contract, including providing 2 hours rehearsal time (for me alone) if there is a show, and 2 days jet lag recovery for transatlantic or transpacific flights. Keep in mind that any other performer from other disciplines will require rehearsal time to do a professional quality show.

4. Dance studios with wood floors and mirrors are best for teaching dance classes. Cement floors will put everyone in pain the next day. Carpets are rough on the feet, and often have cement underneath, causing sore joints in many participants. Wood floors and mirrors are the most conducive to learning.  


Exerpt from one of my workshops 

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