8 Tips for New (Paid) Fire Dancers When Booking & Building a Show

Posted on October 4, 2014 by


If you’re new to performing for money and are trying to figure out how to set your rate, when to do a gig for free, what the problem is with undercutting, understand why that girl with tits got a booking and you didn’t or generally looking for more understanding of how to build and charge for your show, here are some ideas to help get you started. And, while we’re sharing, here are 8 tips to consider when building a show, based on our experience and observation of ourselves and others in community — students and peers alike.

8 tips for Fire Dancers

Artist: GlitterGirl
Photo: Tommy Wong

  • You deserve to get paid.  Of course it’s fun to do what you love and love what you do for money. However, never let the fact that it’s your passion stand in the way of you getting paid for it. In fact, we have it ass backward. People should be paid more to do what they love so they do it more, do it better and bring more people joy so more people want to pay them. Imagine if everyone was rewarded for doing what they loved… the world would be so much more fun and happy. And people would love working rather than hate it so much. If you’re one of the few people getting paid to do what you love, please honor that, embrace it, celebrate it, and take all you can get for it because we need more of that on this planet if you ask me.
  • Just because you deserve to get paid, doesn’t mean you’ll get what you want when you first start out. Remember that although you know what you’ve put into your craft, it may not be obvious to others and on top of that, there is an ever growing market of colleagues with whom you will be competing. Just because you say you’re ready to perform, doesn’t mean you’ll actually be getting the gigs at the pay rate or frequency you’d like. In the beginning, that’s okay. Sometimes it’s worth it to take lower paying gigs when starting out to build a reputation, get referrals, practice performing and learn the booking process effectively before being put in front of bigger clients.
  • Have strong marketing. Look at other professionals in your area to see what they are selling. The best way to get business is to differentiate yourself from others with your ‘strong’ marking, by which we mean, at a minimum, the following:
    • high quality videos of performances
    • wearing costumes and makeup
    • high quality photos
    • a decent web site
  • You can always drop your rate and almost never raise it. A client will almost always be excited by you lowering your rate because that means they get more value for their dollar. However, it’s much harder to raise your rate. If you leave room for negotiation, that allows you to start out high and offer more services for the price in order to get what you want. If, on the other hand, you start out too low, it’s nearly impossible to get what you’d like if that requires an increase, which often means either resentment or letting gigs go.
  • Less is more. Having done shows for more than a dozen years and having seen a lot out there, I’d be surprised if most artists could capture an audience doing 20 minutes of the same prop the entire time without some other dimension to the performance (i.e., acrobatics, clowning, patter). We have a pretty ADD world out there and they really respond to variety and the next great thing. In my experience, what works best is a show that builds — considering things like:
    • number of wicks
    • size of wicks
    • brightness of tools
    • static vs passivity of the performance
    • tempo of the music
    • energy of the expression
    • perceived difficulty (because actual difficulty and perceived difficulty are definitely not always the same)
    • utilizing a variety of props to keep the audience engaged. Also, when there is variety, the audience has something to look forward to if they are bored (be it authentic or the too cool for school attitude) with what they are seeing.
  • Size (of flame) matters. How many props we’ll use in a show — at least when we do a booking — is dictated by the duration of the show and how long the props look good on fire. Props with dim lights are kind of like half an erection (that never makes it to full mast): you think something good is going to happen, but it never quite does. You see wisps of trails in the sky but it’s not that bright and unless you’re trying to bring down the crowd or end the show, it is my incredibly strong opinion that extinguishing before any wicks go out is waaaaaaaaaaay better than letting one or more wicks extinguish in the set if you can avoid it. To that end, our sets are usually 2 (for smaller wicked props) min – 3 (for larger wicked props) minutes and almost never more than 3.5 minutes. So a 20 minute show might be 8-10 burns, depending on props and the artists spinning.  (With respect to fire brightness, there are exceptions: a full song to which you have an ending where the prop extinguishes; the closing of a show or act where you’re gradually letting the wicks go out at the end; and/or an act where you’re working it down to dim enough to blow out are three specific examples of exceptions that are artistic enough (or can be at least) to warrant the exception)
  • Train hard and know your limits. 20 minutes of all spinning with no talking or patter seems long for someone just starting out in performing to me. we do 8-10 burns in a 20 minute show so that’s 8-10 sets of props. Very few artists I know breaking out have that much gear at the ready.
  • Get as much as you can while having realistic expectations. If you can get $350 and you’ve never performed before, go you! That seems like a high number for a freshman professional to command even in my market which is one of the most expensive places in the country to live.

If you’re ready for fire safety lessons via private instruction, want to try Zero to Fire in 4 Hours!, want to join our next beginner class or have other questions, contact GlitterGirl directly or subscribe to our newsletter for mailbox delivery of this and other articles written by Temple of Poi founder and visionary, GlitterGirl, who has been a full time flow arts coach and instructor since 2002. If you seek professional guidance associated with creating a safe performance, obtaining a permit in San Francisco or other personalized coaching, contact GlitterGirl directly for a free consultation (GlitterGirl <that pretty little ‘at’ symbol> TempleOfPoi <daaaaaaaught> com).

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