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Photo of Shira

 

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Belly Dance Tips & Tricks & Hacks:
General Topics

 

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Table of Contents

 

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Learning to Dance

  • Watch a Large Amount of Dancing. You learn only part of what you need to know in the classroom. Go to watch professional performances at your local restaurants and shisha bars as often as possible. Don't just watch your own teacher, watch other dancers, too. There is much you can learn from watching a variety of established professionals perform.
  • Be Kind to Yourself. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn some things slowly. Don't expect to do everything perfectly the first time you try it.
  • Make Written Notes. Write down what you learned as soon as class ends, while it is fresh in your mind. Even if your teacher gives you handouts, make your own notes. By thinking about what you learned and choosing your own words to describe it, you'll retain more of the material.
  • Keep Learning Outside of Class. There's not enough time in class for your teacher to tell you everything she knows. Outside of class, read books, watch video documentaries, and use the Internet to expand your knowledge.
  • Beware of Drama. If your teacher or classmate quarrels with another dancer and asks you to take sides, avoid doing so. Focus on learning to dance, not on bringing stressful drama into your life. If this person is organizing a hate campaign against someone else today, chances are she'll organize one against you in the future if you keep her in your life!
  • Whom to Believe. Your friends and family may tell you that you're a wonderful dancer and urge you to perform professionally or teach, but remember that they are not experts in belly dance. If you believe them, you may end up making a fool of yourself by trying to do something you're not yet qualified to do.
  • Practice In Your Car or At Your Desk. When sitting at your desk, or when driving your car in slow traffic, embrace the opportunity to practice belly dance! Certain moves use muscles that are actually easier to feel when seated. Try abdominal rolls, flutters, the Egyptian-style raising/lowering of the rib cage, tummy pops, or glute squeezes. If stopped at a red light, try shoulder rolls, head slides, or head circles.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.

Shira

 

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Teching Belly Dance and Directing Troupes

  • Teaching. Don't show obvious favoritism to students you are grooming them for something such as club work or your professional troupe. Everybody in that class paid the same amount of money for it, and all should be made to feel welcome. Offer a separate class for aspiring professional dancers as a specialty class, and accept enrollments for it only from students you are willing to give that level of attention to.
  • Choreography for Troupes. Design troupe choreographies to have segments where one or more dancers are facing somewhere other than front. Many performance environments have audiences arranged in a U shape around the dancers, and some even have audiences on all four sides.
  • Choreography for Troupes. Use formations such as circles, small groupings, etc. It reduces the need to keep lines straight, and makes the choreography more visually interesting.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision, Glendale, California.

Shira

 

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Personal Safety

These personal safety tips are intended for students. Advice for working professionals appears elsewhere on this web site.

By Shira

  • Carry a Sword. A sword can be a dramatic dance prop, but it also may help deter a potential attacker. Even a prop sword can be a valuable weapon, and you won't look like an easy target if you're carrying one.
  • Know the Risks. Before signing up for classes in a new studio, research the neighborhood's safety. Check police records for crime rates, and check the sex offender registry (if there is one) to find out who may live in the neighborhood.
  • Take Precautions. If you have reason to believe the neighborhood around your classes or dance parties is unsafe, then try to come and go in pairs or groups. Watch out for each other. Keep your cell phones charged, and keep them with you.
  • Earthquake Safety. If you're in a part of the country that is likely to have earthquakes, find out where to take cover if an earthquake should happen while you're at the dance studio.
  • Tornado Safety. If you're in the part of the country where there are frequent thunderstorms, find out where to take cover in case of tornado. Set your cell phone up to receive severe weather alerts if there is a severe thunderstorm watch while your class is in progress. Ask your teacher to install a weather radio in the studio.

By Tanya Liptak

Tanya Liptak is a dancer in Phoenix, Arizona.

  • Cover Up! When leaving the house to go to a performance, wear something that covers up your costume. This could be a caftan, a coat, a full-length cape, a Khaleegy dress, or anything else that hides the belly dancing costume underneath. Wearing only your costume, with no cover-up, could send an "invitation" that you absolutely do not intend to male observers who may take it as a sign you are "available" for activities you do not want to offer.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo of Shira by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Shira

 

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Staying Healthy

  • Dry Air. In winter, or in desert climates, dry air can make you more vulnerable to catching a cold or flu. Use a humidifier anywhere you spend a lot of time (bedroom, office, dance studio, etc.)
  • Dry Air. Spend time in humid places: use the steam room at the gym, or take a leisurely bath instead of a hurried shower.
  • Dry Air. If you can't avoid spending a lot of time in places with dry air, use a squirt bottle or a neti pot of salt water regularly to hydrate your nose and sinuses.
  • Indoor Air Quality. Hire someone to clean the heating ducts in your house/apartment or dance studio - allergens such as mold, dust mites, etc. can build up there, causing mucus build-up in your breathing passages, which in turn creates breeding ground for bacteria. 
  • Beware of Vasoactive Foods. Don't eat too many vasoactive foods in one meal - they cause congestion in nose/sinuses, which creates breeding ground for bacteria.  Examples of vasoactive foods are tomatoes, fermented cheese such as parmesan, wine, pineapple, etc. 
  • Get Nutrients. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables - they contain valuable nutrients to support your immune system. 
  • Warming Up. Warm up before you dance, to avoid injury. This is especially important in winter, when cold weather can make muscles knot up.
  • Avoid Slipping. When the ground is slippery due to snow, ice, or rain, use shoe chains coming and going from the studio to avoid injury from falling.
  • Sleep! Never, never, skimp on sleep - sleep is one of the very best things you can do to keep your immune system strong and healthy to fight off colds and flu!
  • Rest! If you start to feel as though an illness is coming on, stay home and rest!  If you rest early enough in a cold's or flu's cycle, you may be able to avoid getting sick. The rest will help you ward off the infection, plus you won't make anyone else sick.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision, Glendale, California.

Shira

 

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Dancing with Snakes

By Diane Randle

Diane Randle in Alberta, Canada has been a volunteer with the Calgary Zoo in Canada for five years. She handles large snakes quite often, and offered these tips for dancers who would like to perform with snakes.

  • Transporting Snakes. Snakes are surprisingly fragile and very susceptible to serious bone problems if they are in temperatures that fluctuate too much. So, care must be taken in transporting them. Keep them warm during their backstage time, especially if they are under hot lights. At the zoo, we use a cooler with a hotwater bottle wrapped in heavy toweling (it must be secure so the snake can't ever come in contact with the bottle itself!) to keep snakes warm when we are transporting.
  • Hygiene Is Important! Snakes carry salmonella and you must be very careful about washing their hands after handling your snake. Especially if you are starving because you haven't eaten before your show and are going to enjoy a plate of finger food!
  • Not Exactly Cuddly. Snakes or other reptiles don't make very good pets for most people, so don't get one unless you can appreciate snakes for what they are. Far too many end up being taken to shelters, or worse, released to make their way on their own, because people think they are cool and then get bored with them once they get them home and find out they don't do much.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo of Shira and Alice by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Shira and Alice

By Shira

  • Your Relationship. Your snake is not a prop. Treat it as a dance partner who deserves respect.
  • Choose Your Costume Carefully. Part of the appeal of a snake is its way of gracefully moving in its own right. However, this can also lead to bloopers onstage. Pick your costuming carefully for dancing with a snake — if it twines around your body, can it dislodge your bra or belt? Can it raise your skirt and expose what's underneath? Choose costuming that will ensure you remain decent even if your snake does put some creative energy of its own into the show.
  • Protect the Snake. Certain costume materials, such as coins, jump rings, and sequins, can be scratchy and unpleasant for your snake. Wear something that won't be painful for the snake.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo of Shira and Alice by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Shira and Alice

 

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