Joining a professional belly dance company is a great way to improve your technique and maintain professional development. Most artistic directors do not pay for rehearsals and some do not pay for performances. For many bellydancers, this trade off is worth it, for some it is not.
There are some belly dance artistic directors that expect the bellydancers in their company to pay to take their professional development workshops and demand that they take them to keep their position in their belly dance company. I personally feel that this is unfair. As an unpaid dancer, you are doing the artistic director a favour by rehearsing and sometimes performing for free to realize the artistic director’s vision. I feel it is taking advantage to demand that the company dancers pay for the artistic director’s workshops. If the dancers are not getting paid, then why should the dancers pay for their workshops. It is just demanding too much.
I have also encountered artistic directors of bellydance companies who forbid company dancers from taking classes elsewhere for fear of embodying a different belly dance technique. I think the artistic directors should not worry about this, let alone forbid it. Learning different technique allows the belly dancer to understand the artistic director’s technique by shear difference. By virtue of its difference, the other technique can be solidified. As well, if the dancer is professional, she should be able to turn on and off any learned technique.
So, bellydancers, my advice is, yes, join a professional bellydance company, but do not think that the artistic director is doing you a favour. It’s actually a mutual exchange. Dancers in different genres of professional dance companies generally get paid for all rehearsals and shows, especially if they are members of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists.