How to Tip a Belly Dancer: Manners & Etiquette

How to Tip a Belly Dancer: Manners & Etiquette
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How to Tip a Belly Dancer: Manners & Etiquette for the General Public 

It’s your first time seeing a belly dancer and you don’t know what to do. Below is everything you need to know, including how to tip a belly dancer and how to enjoy the experience.

How to tip a belly dancerHow to Watch a Belly Dancer: While I get hired regularly by people who love belly dancing, I recently read about someone having an “uncomfortable” experience, which lead me to this post. Sometimes watching a belly dancer can make you feel embarrassed, uncomfortable or shy. This can happen when we don’t understand 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. Below are some things to keep in mind, which will help you relax, so you can enjoy the show.

  • It’s okay to look! Follow the movement with your eyes, look us in the eye, look at our bellies, and … admire the bling!
  • We’re not trying to flirt with your partner. We’re totally immersed in the music, the feeling it evokes from within us, and expressing that through movement. We’re hoping that you’ll love it as much as we do.
  • Yes, we are showing our bellies! If you’ve seen a Latin dancer, then you’ve been shown a lot more skin! How about a ballerina? The costuming is one of the things that I like best about belly dancing… women of all shapes look beautiful, as it accentuates what nature gave us…hips! Of course, we don’t always show our bellies. When we dance to folkloric music, we may wear the traditional costuming that goes with it, much of which is more conservative.
  • Be an observer! Allowing yourself to become immersed in a new experience can help you feel more comfortable. Observe how the dancer interprets the music. How does she respond to the tempo and pitch? Does she dance to the melody or percussion or go back and forth between the two? Notice how she uses the entire body and at other times isolates specific body parts. How does she interpret the accents in the music? Pay attention to the arms, wrists, and hands as they float, glide and strike with the music. Watch the chest and shoulder movements. Do some of the moves remind you of Western dance…ballet, jazz or modern? Do you see a story developing? Does it evoke a particular feeling from within you? By relaxing and opening yourself up to a new experience, I think you’ll see why we love it so much.
  • Show your appreciation with a smile, by clapping, by tipping and/or with a traditional “zagareet.” To zagareet, cover your mouth with your hand and make a high pitched hum, while rapidly moving your tongue up and down.
  • By all means, eat! Don’t feel bad about eating. We want you to enjoy yourself. It’s totally acceptable to eat and watch the show, just as you would if you were watching any other dinner show.

Tipping a Belly Dancer: Tipping a belly dancer is an acceptable and traditional practice. Also, it’s an opportunity for the audience to show appreciation for the dancer. Like any other job in the service industry, a portion of a belly dancer’s income comes from tips. If you feel uncomfortable about it, think of it as a cultural experience. Properly tipping a dancer is not sleazy but a cultural norm that may be different from what you’ve ever experienced.

  • Generally, you tip the belly dancer during the final section of the dancer’s musical set, just after the drum solo. In most cases, the dancer will dance around the room or tables to interact with the guests during this “final” part of the set.
  • Fold a bill or two in half lengthwise and tuck it into the back or side of the dancer’s hip belt, the back of the bra strap, or the arm band or glove. Never tuck money into the front, middle of her costume. (Folding the bill the “long-way” will make it easier for you to tuck in securely, so it doesn’t fall out.) It’s okay to use both hands!
  • If a tip falls out of the dancer’s costume, you may pick it up and tuck it back in or hand it to the dancer at the end of the show. It’s seen as a polite gesture for an audience member to go around and collect all the money that has fallen out.
  • A guest may present the belly dancer with a traditional “money necklace,” bills connected together, or a “money shower,” bills thrown over the dancer’s head, which are collected and given to the dancer after the show.
  • Men and women can tip the dancer as it’s not seen as a sexual thing but as a sign of appreciation.
  • Don’t hold the money in your mouth, as you’ll end up feeling foolish as it will remain there!
  • It’s okay to hold the bill up in the air to signal the dancer to come your way so that you can tip. However, don’t wave the bill around in front of the dancer as if you’re expecting her to do something special for you.

When to Hire a Belly Dancer:

  • We dance for bridal showers, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, educational shows, theatre productions, children, corporate parties … you name it. Actually, we do a lot of weddings, as it’s traditional for Middle Eastern couples to hire a belly dancer to perform at their wedding.
  • Professional belly dancers will most likely say “no” to all-male parties or bachelor parties.  Of course there can be exceptions. I once danced for all the men in one room, while the women were upstairs and then they traded!  You see, we aren’t strippers. The person who mistakes a belly dancer for a stripper is unfortunately, culturally deprived, in my opinion! I’m sorry if that sounds harsh.

How to Hire a Belly Dancer: 

  • Do an online search using the words “belly dancer” followed by your city name. Example: “belly dancer Seattle”
  • To find a pro, look for a dancer who lists her credentials, displays a lot of photos showing her in different settings, and includes video footage for you to review. Look for professional costuming, too.

Further Reading:

For more info about the author, Mellilah, please visit    

About Mellilah Jamal

Mellilah teaches belly dance classes in Redmond and Bothell and performs for private parties and restaurants throughout Seattle.


  1. Great blog Mellilah!

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