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Where Have All The Cover-ups Gone?
by Ashiya and Naajidah

When was the last time you were out in public and saw a ballerina walking down the sidewalk in her white satin pointe shoes, tights and tutu? Have you ever walked into a restaurant and seen a troupe of tap dancers dining in their expensive costumes, complete with tap shoes?  Have you ever been to an ethnic festival, art fair, state or county fair and seen a liturgical dancer or lyrical dancer in her beautiful long flowing dress and slippers eating a Coney dog or riding the rides? It seems that whenever you goes to a workshop, a show or some type of festival where belly dancers are involved, our costumed dancers can be seen in all of these public situations and more.

What happened to professionalism? Mystery? Decorum and good taste? Where have all of the cover-ups gone?

Cover-ups add to the air of mystery. Remember that old adage, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? If you're dancing at an ethnic festival, why should the public bother going and seeing your performance if you've been walking around the festival grounds all afternoon in your costume with everything already on display? Putting on a cover-up generates a feeling of mystery. What does your costume look like? What kind of dance will you perform? Adding suspense to your performance heightens that moment when you first take the stage in your beautiful costume.

Having trained in dance studios and worked in the theatre for many years, we had it drummed into our heads from an early age that costumes are for the performance and only the performance. They were to be put on before the show and removed afterwards, and not doing so was the height of tackiness. When one had to appear in public in costume, one was to wear a cover-up at all times. Costumes are costumes and they are for performances..PERIOD. They' re not street clothes.

Running around in your costume before a performance negates that moment when you step on stage and reveal to your audience what you are wearing. Part of getting and retaining an audience' s attention lies in concealing your costume before you appear. Being a performer or entertainer is more than just getting up on stage and dancing. 

When you go to the theatre to see a performance or show, there is an anticipation that builds up in the audience before the opening curtain. You know there is something you want to see, but you don' t know what it is. If you walk into a theatre and everything is just sitting on stage and open to viewing, you' d lose that magical moment when the production starts. That anticipation and mystery is what you as a dancer lose when everyone has already seen you in costume. It' s a lot like your Christmas presents. If everything was sitting under the tree unwrapped then that build up for Christmas Day and opening the presents is gone. You' ve already seen what you are getting, and your interest turns to what you haven' t seen yet.

And running around in your costume without a cover-up after a performance is regarded by most professionals as tacky and totally unnecessary. There is absolutely no reason any performer should ever be seen in public in her costume when not performing. None.  The curtain has closed, the show is over and you (the dancer) have now become you the person. Would you wear your costume to the grocery store? Of course not. So, why would you wear it out on the street after a performance?

Go to any professional show; a nightclub where a top-rated belly dancer is performing, a workshop with a big name dancer, a national touring show. You do not see dancers like Cassandra, Morocco or the Superstars out in public before or after their performance without a cover-up on. There are many workshop sponsors who REQUIRE that anyone who performs in their shows wear a cover-up at all times when not dancing. And we applaud them for doing so!

As a performer, you spend hours getting ready for a performance. You listen for hours on end to find the right music, you rehearse for days and you agonize over choosing just the right costume. When the time arrives for the show, you make sure your hair is right, your make up is perfect and your costume is adjusted correctly. You choose your accessories with care and with one final look in the mirror you get ready to walk out the door. Now, are you really going to NOT cover up all that investment of time, money and effort with some kind of protection from the elements? 

Just ask yourself these simple questions. Are you a performer or an exhibitionist? Are you a professional or simply an attention getter? If you are truly a professional performer who wants to be treated as such, then wearing a cover-up is as much a part of your costuming as your actual costume.  

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