Gothic belly dance / dark fusion (whichever your preferred term) is a passion of mine. For me It’s not just about the music and costume styling that resonates with me. It’s also the fact that I feel there are no boundaries within my dance. I can be whoever I want to be on stage, I can create a whole performance piece with back story or I can simply dance however the mood takes me. If I want to be a vampy suckubus I can be and no one will have any issue with that, or if I want to be powerful and enraged like the goddess Kali I can and I don’t have to worry about dancing pretty throughout. I have performed at many gothic and dark fusion belly dance festivals which I love! At these events the audience has purchased a ticket to see a belly dance show and watch supportively, possibly going along to see favourite dancers and many in the audience will themselves be belly dancers. There is often a stage and if not it is made clear where the performers will be dancing and everyone is very respectful of that.
This weekend I am performing at my favourite goth club in London called Reptile. It’s a great venue tucked under the railway arches in the east end at Tower Gateway right by the beautiful and gothic Tower Bridge so unless you are having a goth night in a church you don’t get much gother than Reptile. Reptile plays an eclectic mix of goth, metal, industrial and sometimes experimental (you will have to be there till the end of the night to experience that 😉 to suit every type of goth from crushed velvet Vamp wearers to PVC punks. There is always a good turn out, always cake at the bar and beautiful people all around.
When compared with performing at belly dance events from my perspective dancing in the London goth clubs has a very different feel. Here your audience may not have ever seen a gothic belly dancer before or even be expecting your performance. This means you have to work a whole lot harder to get their attention, after all they came out to dance, hang with friends and party the night away and don’t really need your help to do so. I try to give the goth club audience an experience in dance that is relative to their culture so I try to use tracks they recognise, something their resident DJ would play rather than too much fusion music which they may not like or find it easy to listen to even if it is dark.
Performing to music they love and recognise certainly works with giving them what they know and love but the only problem with that is getting them off the dance floor in the first place, (like I said they might not even be expecting you) to do this you truly have to claim your space when you enter the dance floor. A less experience dancer could find themselves overwhelmed if unprepared and find people continuing to dance around them not even noticing or realising they are the hired performer. This is not an Arabic club where they may be more aware that there could be a dancer that night, it’s not part of their culture and they may not even understand it.
Don’t expect goths to smile and clap along to your routine like its a belly dance event, that doesn’t mean they are not engaged, it’s just not how they show their appreciation. Sometimes they will smile, woot and holla but it depends on the feel of the track so bear that in mind when choosing your music if you want to get a more external than internal reaction from them. Think of yourself as the hired dancer for a party, it’s about them having a good time rather than your artistic needs even if they love all the theatrics. Too many long drawn out theatrical poses and you risk loosing their attention so it can be a fine balance but the more you perform in their world the better you will get at understanding and delivering what they want. While they will expect to see plenty of dance tricks to keep them watching they want the theatrics too with entrances that set a dark, gothic mood to lure them in. As long as I have a good balance of technique and theatrics then whatever character I want to play the gothic audience will still watch intensely and embark on that dance journey with me. I have total creative freedom and I make the most of that. I have learnt a lot from performing in goth clubs, if you are an oriental dancer reading this I guess you could say this is my restaurant gig
In short, dancing in goth clubs is a balancing act between dance and theatrics and where ever you are in the world you might find your local goth clubs to be very different from mine but if you are interested in performing in the goth club scene be aware that it is very different from performing at your standard belly dance events so here are a few of my tips to help with your preparation –
1/ Make the audience aware of your upcoming performance before the event, either through club flyers with your picture on, e-flyers and club event pages. This is all about getting their interest before the club
2/ Make sure the DJ makes an announcement before you enter the dance floor. If the dance floor is full it helps for the DJ to include an announcement to clear the dance floor for the performer.
3/ Choose music they will recognise and enjoy if you want a bigger reaction from them but bear in mind the dangers of this in that they may want to keep dancing themselves when they hear your track. I find going on with a prop to make a big entrance not only grabs their attention but it also makes them move out of the way. A veil can work really well for this or even Isis wings if you are lucky enough to have enough space.
4/ Another tip to clear the dance floor is to choose a dramatic piece of music dark and mysterious, a piece that will grab their attention but they will stop dancing and pay attention as they won’t recognise the piece to dance to themselves. Film music can work really well for this.
5/ Don’t worry if while dancing they look like they are not enjoying your performance, goths have not been conditioned to smile and clap along. In fact if there look live a pack of hungry vampires watching your every move intensely you are more than likely getting it right! Trust me
6/A fabulous costume is of course a given but remember that goths wear some pretty fabulous costumes themselves to club nights and you certainly don’t want to be out done by your audience. Goths are very visual people so if you can make them want to watch you just so they can check out your costume then your onto a winner from the start 😉
7/ Finally.. Enjoy it! Performing in goth clubs just like restaurant gigs is a challenge but if that’s the kind of gigs you are drawn to you will love it as this is the stage were you can truly express yourself as an artist as well as a dancer.