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PERFORMANCE NAMES - PHILOSOPHICALLY
• "Dance" names, "Stage" names, "Professional" names... they do have a purpose!
They allow you to focus your attention and feel the part when you are acting "in character" doing something that takes a specific set of your skills and needs to crate a specific environment for success.
It is hard for many people to be focused on their own performance -- communicating exotic beauty (focusing your sense of balance & music interpretation skills for dance) or staying in a civil war personae (which is a continual acting job) -- without something that firmly anchors the attitudes and beliefs needed for the job.
Armies may have hats, CEOs may have a way of dressing, artists often have special names that help them to focus and feel the part.
• Professional names also have the special benefit of cuing your audience and setting them up with their own predisposed responses to performance.
Perceptions are funny things, hard to comprehend. There is much power in words because even simply hearing them without any additional action they have to be interpreted through the whole veil of our experiences, rendering them able to tap into a complete well of underlying beliefs and opinions and making a simple word capable of creating a remarkable level of response.
Our expectations often CREATE our experience, as in the classic case of the teachers being told they were teaching a gifted program and all the students performing much higher due to the expectations of the teacher.
We want to create a sense of appropriate expectation that enhances our mystique by using an exotic name that communicates that you will be producing an exotic product.
• Some people do not use professional names, preferring their own given name, and that in itself is a statement.
They may be attempting to declare publicly that their presentation is so fully integrated into their true self that they don't need a focusing tool...or they may have a predisposition against public flights of fancy. Whatever their reasons, if you are one of those people you might as well put this down because this is a list of names for dancers!
PERFORMANCE NAMES - PRACTICALLY
One excellent and practical reason to have a performance name would be to mask your contact information.
If you are publicly introduced as "Gardenia," it makes it less likely someone will track you down for stalking purposes if they take a fancy to you during performance... and this brings me to an essential concept:
ALWAYS respect the selected performance name of another person because you may be actually endangering them if you do not.
Many people feel compelled to show they are special and know a performer's "real" name by name-dropping it, either calling the performer their civilian name when talking to the performer, or referring to them by their given name.
Remember this is disrespectful and self-aggrandizing behavior and can be like putting a big STALK ME AT MY DAY JOB sign on the back of a popular performer.
If the performer is not concerned about public use of their given name this is all really academic, but you must not assume the performer doesn't mind.
Additionally, remember that many people get interested in things BECAUSE of a name (Officer Rambo Lawman?), and they may really HAVE an unusual first name... so curb your curiosity!
Last thought: would you insist that someone named "Honey" Burnside confess her "real" name to you? Refer to her repeatedly as "Hortense," if that was indeed her given name? American nicknames are no less stage names than Chesme Bulbul (Turkish: eye of the nightingale).
Get in the spirit, respect each other, and have some fun!
SELECTING A NAME
Many instructors do name their students -- which can be a lovely tradition unless you don't like the name they give you – but if you are selecting your own name, you may want to take some safeguards to select a good name...
• Check for alternate meanings in different languages for the same name. "Bird song" can equal "String Bean" in another language. Don't get completely paranoid about this as you usually can't completely avoid it.
• Run your narrowed choices by your instructor or take an active interest in finding out if there are local, or even national performers using that exact name. Leads to much confusion.
• A second name or longer name can really be to your benefit -- For example, "Aziza" is an EXTREMELY common name, and one of the few ways to avoid confusion without changing your name is to add a second name like current dancers Aziza Hayat or Aziza Sa'id or Aziza Nawal did. The best known Aziza in the United States is probably the costumer Aziza, and she uses punctuation to make her stand apart "Aziza!"
• You might also explore using status indicator middle names like um (mother of), bint (daughter of) or al (of the x tribe/family). "Razi bint Naia" is honoring her instructor Naia, "Sidonia um Dunia" is the temptress mother of the world and Raks al Rooh are the dancers of the soul.
• Make certain the name is pronounceable to a reader. Have several people read the name to you. Remember that most people will not be coached on how to say your name and you will be introduced most often by what the name APPEARS to be when read. Alternate spellings can be your friend, since Arabic and Greek names are being spelled phonetically anyway because they are translations from another alphabet.
• You may think of selecting names with some similarity to your given name... (Sharon = Sahiranee; Jay = Jamir)... this aids in recognition. But often the names with the magical concept we want to convey aren't alliterative.
• Do take time to decide. If you begin to become known, you will surprise people by changing it. We expect names to be permanent thing..