Tipping is a universal gesture of gratitude. When you put together a big event, you will want to thank everybody who helped make the event go so smoothly, from the caterers to the DJ to the photographer. Naturally, many party planners will also tip the entertainers. By now, you should probably know what I’m getting at!
While most belly dancers don’t demand tips, we certainly appreciate them. After putting so much hard work into helping you execute the party of your dreams, it feels great to be rewarded for our efforts. Plus, tipping can add fun and authenticity to any show. In many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures, tipping the dancer is said to bring good luck!
There are many acceptable ways to tip a belly dancer – some are discrete, and others are very showy. If you want to reward the beautiful dancer that you hired, but you’re not sure to start, here’s what to do….and what not to do.
If You Want to Be Discrete:
A lot of American audiences don’t tip belly dancers because they don’t know how. Plain and simple. But it’s actually quite easy. Many of my clients will include a gratuity when I collect their payment after my show. Sometimes, audience members will slip me a bill and say “Great job!” as I’m leaving. This is easy! Now are you feeling daring?
The Money Shower:
No, it’s not a game show! Popular among Egyptian and Arab crowds, the money shower is an awesome way to tip a belly dancer. To start a money shower, a guest will approach the dancer and “shower” bills over her head. Other guests may join in. Many dancers love this method because it’s fun and non-invasive. But be careful! Dollar bills on a hard wood floor can get quite slippery, so it’s best to wait until the end of the dancer’s show to “make it rain.” Here is a great video of a dancer and guest enjoying a money shower.
Tipping in the Costume:
Another popular way to tip a belly dancer is to slip a folded bill into her costume. The dancer may have fun with this, doing shimmies or hip bumps while you attempt to tuck in the tip. In my experience, costume tipping is especially popular among Turkish and Greek crowds. Due to the closer level of contact, it is absolutely imperative to let the dancer take the lead and direct you to the appropriate areas of her costume. Though every dancer has her own personal comfort level, most will accept tips in the side of their belts, or in their armbands or wristbands. Virtually every respectable dancer I know will not accept a tip in the bra cups, or down the front or back of the belt. So for the love of fattoush – don’t even try.
And a word to dancers: Just because many established dancers accept tips in the side of their belt or in their arm bands, doesn’t mean they are doing anything sleazy or inappropriate. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. In many situations – namely ethnic weddings, where tipping the dancer symbolizes good luck to the married couple – your audience will be more offended if you turn down their gesture of goodwill than if you accept it. Cultural context is everything.
- Tip Basket: Some dancers will pass around a basket for tips at the end of their show.
- Money Garland: For those who have a little extra time on their hands, here is a cool tutorial on how to make a lei out of $1 bills. This is a far less common way to tip a dancer, but it is quite lovely!
- “Look, Ma! No Hands!” This sounds a bit odd, and I have yet to experience it firsthand, but dancers at Greek venues occasionally report guests licking a bill and sticking it to the dancer’s sweaty forehead.
While the tipping traditions I described above are intended to be pure fun, there is such a thing as getting carried away. So when tipping, please don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want your kids, your grandma, your Pastor or your boss to see. These “gentlemen’s club” behaviors include, and are not limited to: stuffing bills down a dancer’s bra, copping a feel (eeewww!), or placing a bill between your teeth or down your sweaty shirt. If you attempt any of the above, the dancer will simply ignore you and refuse the tip – or worse. Belly dancers have an intrinsic flair for humiliating grown men. My friends have been known to put insubordinate tippers in a “time out,” slap them on the wrist, and flick them upside the forehead with a brass finger cymbal. Moral of the story? Behave.