Belly Dance Restaurant Etiquette

We North Americans can sometimes be unsettled when confronted with a live Belly Dancer while having dinner at a restaurant. What’s going on? Where do I look? Oh no, she’s coming my way!

Sometimes watching a belly dancer can make you feel embarrassed, uncomfortable or shy – don’t worry, this is perfectly normal, and can sometimes happen when we aren’t familiar with something and don’t know how to appreciate it. So, if you’re feeling uncomfortable, let go of any preconceived ideas and allow yourself to experience something new.

But in case you might find yourself torn between wanting to look but not knowing where it’s okay to look, and trying not to be rude by not looking at all, here is some basic etiquette.

Where do I look?

I can tell you right now it’s okay to look, or not – it’s your preference.

The dancer is there for your entertainment, same as a band or lounge piano, so you can look as much or as little as you want and she won’t be offended if you continue on with your lovely evening with your friends.

If you do want to watch then please do smile, watch the different movements, ooh and aah over the fabulous costume, etc. etc. You can look her in the eyes of course, and at times she will direct your focus to where certain moves are happening, it’s all a part of the fun of the dance.

So long story short, it is perfectly okay, and desirable, for audience members to watch the intricate movements of a dancer. Dancers will approach your table in order for you to admire her costume and see her movements, some of which are impossible to see from a stage, up close. Enjoy the performance!

I’m enjoying this! How do I show my appreciation?

It’s lots of fun if you zagareet to show appreciation. A zagareet is a high pitched trilling sound that is produced by rapidly moving the tongue while using your hand to shield your mouth. In Arab countries it is commonly used by women to express celebration.

Another thing you can do to show your appreciation is to tip the dancer – yes this is entirely appropriate and traditional, and is even considered good luck to the patron! If you’d like to know more about tipping your dancer and what is the best way to do this, read my previous article on Tipping the Belly Dancer at a Restaurant.

Some Common Misconceptions

Dancers are low class – Don’t assume that the dancer is of some lower social standing than yourself – most of us have studied the art of belly dancing for years, and most of us are also legitimate software developers, lawyers, mothers, grandmothers, insurance agents, starbucks barristas, etc. etc. Just regular folks who happen to also love belly dancing and have trained long enough to get good at it and share it with others!

Belly dancers are just a “classy” version of strippers – No, this is not true. Belly dancers will never remove any part of their costume, the least reason for this being costumes are bloody expensive! (Anywhere from $200 to well over $1500, depending on designer, country of origin, and complexity) No way would she ever drop it, anywhere, if at all possible.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with stripping, and I’ve tried my hand at burlesque in the past and had a rip roaring time, but never the tween shall meet.

So go ahead – relax, enjoy the entertainment that is being provided for you, enjoy your dinner, and have a fabulous evening!