Taking it to the Next Level
is very different from learning to dance. Taking that leap
from attending classes to dancing on your own in front of
an audience can be scary, so try to think of it as a fun
challenge and an opportunity for you to share what you have
your friends. Youíve worked hard to learn to dance, so why
keep it a secret?
think that performing is a way for egotistical
show-offs to get attention. Nothing could be farther from
the truth. A true performer entertains her audience, doing
best to make sure everyone is having a good time. What
could be more
generous than that?
What you like to listen to best and what you dance to best
may not be the same. Only practicing to a particular song
piece in front of a mirror or camera will let you know.
Practice in costume! You donít want your jewelry catching
or your hip belt riding up to your waist when youíre actually
feel the musical accents, rhythm changes and the end coming
before they happen? If you canít, try a simpler
of music. You donít want to be surprised by the end of
a song right when youíre in the middle of a step.
length and tempo of the piece work for you? If you feel that
you have to race through your steps
in time, you
need a slower piece of music. If you are winded by
the end of the song, try something shorter. If the music
ends and you are
just getting warmed up, celebrate! You are ready to
try a multi-part solo.
feeling of your music match the tempo? Some music feels quite
lively, but the beat is actually
slow. If the
quick enough for you, try alternating your steps
between full time and double time and see if that works. A
song like Stingís
ďDesert RoseĒ feels slow and lyrical, but the beat
is actually quite fast. Can you dance half time to
another piece of music.
your setting before you choose your music. In a noisy restaurant,
that lyrical flute piece might
lost. In a small
living room, your favorite drum piece might be
Find music that your audience can relate to. A
five minute amané for
your taqsim might work great for Arabs, but Iíve heard Americans
describe this as ďI have a toothache music.Ē I love Ofra
Haza, but she was Jewish, so I wouldnít
use her music to perform
for Palestinians. In the end though, if you really
love a particular piece of music, your dance
will radiate with your
and audiences will share your joy.
If you want
to work with musicians, you need to develop a talent for winging
it. Back when I was
a baby dancer,
doing 5 shows
a night, 7 nights a week, all the clubs I worked
in had an artistic director, and extensive yearly
the band and all the performers were required.
Nowadays, no one seems to have time for rehearsals,
are lucky if you get
to request songs, so if you are dancing to live
music, you need to learn to improvise!
(author's mom) boogies to the band at Papa's Taverna
on one of her visits to the SF Bay Area. Notice that promo
tape is in her hand, ready!
The best way to learn to dance well, is to DANCE,
as often as possible. Classes, home practice
your technique and transitions, but if you
want to learn to freestyle better, put on a favorite
and dance around your
living room. When a particular combination
of moves feels ďrightĒ, write it down. This is the
own combos. Now
vary your posture and add different arm positions
or a dip or a hop, and suddenly one combo becomes
Once you have several
combos you like, try mixing and matching various
elements from combo to another until each one
flows from one
step to the next.
Then try some step progressions, starting with
a simple step and then embellishing it with
different arms or
Add these to your combos. In this way, three
different combos with three steps each can
get a beginner
a whole song!
If you keep doing this, using different tempos
and rhythms each time, soon you will be able
band can play
like a pro.
To choreograph, start by just listening to
your chosen piece until you know every nuance.
tell you to leap
around joyfully, or stay in place, controlled
and focused? As you listen, a couple of steps
come to mind.
Try them in
one order, then reverse them. A good choreography
will evolve over time. Donít expect to get
it right in one
you will perform your choreography for someone
with a critical eye who can give you some
constructive criticism, then
youíll decide what needs to be re-worked,
perform it again.
My sister and I have been doing our mom,
Raks Kahti choreography together for decades;
it just keeps getting
up your own choreography or performing someone elseís, do not
try to get fancy.
You should only do movements
do very well when you are on stage! If
a particular step is too hard or doesnít work
for you, substitute
honor a choreographer more by making her
work look good than you do by sticking
to her every
if itís one
you canít do
are important, too; keep them simple and logical so you can
that performing is more
about entertaining your audience and
communicating your love of dance to them than it is about
doing the latest,
makes perfect! When performing a group choreography, itís important
you donít have to
think about what step comes next, so
that you can focus on
you are going to choreograph a solo,
you need to go one step further and
you donít have
to think about the steps or the technique.
This will leave you free to feel the
music and pay
to your audience.
The Cabaret (or 5-Part) Routine evolved
in the U.S. in the early Ď60s. There
generally it goes like this:
- The dancer
begins with a fast, exciting entrance piece.
comes a slow piece, a bolero or taqsim wahada (slow chiftitelli),
- In the
middle is an up-tempo number, maybe a folkloric
piece or a karsilama
or a debke
get people clapping.
use this middle piece for
a cane dance, or to get
a few people up
audience to dance
slow piece is used for floorwork and/or any
balancing a sword or
tray, or hand-held
candle dancing, or balancing
on water glasses.
solo plus finale. If the dancer goes out
she will usually
do so just
you are dancing to CDs, you can choose a single multi-part
composition written for dancers, such as Aziza or Set al Hosín,
or you can put together your own favorite songs into a 5-part
routine. Make sure to leave a bit of silence between songs for
the audience to clap, but donít leave too much! Ten seconds of
silence can feel like a painful eternity when a room full of
people are looking at you.
planning your performance rather than choreographing it.
youíve chosen your music, learn it by heart, paying
special attention to the transitions so that none of them
will sneak up on you when you are on stage. Find all the breaks,
listen to the instrumental changes, and think about what
do for those parts. Plan your entrance and finale. Choose
a few step combos that will work with each piece in your routine
you wonít draw a blank on stage, but donít lock yourself
a long complicated series of steps to remember. The audience
may only be on one side of the performance space or all around
it, and the stage may be bigger or smaller or more slippery
than you expected; you need flexibility!
author's son, Connor
if you mess up or forget your choreography, keep smiling! Only
you know what you planned to do. This isnít
and no one is going to give you a score. If you relax and
have fun, your audience will too.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
Vision of the Desert Archidance by Piper Reid Hunt, Ph.D.
I had heard about trance dancing before, but had never
seen it in an authentic context.
Is it a dirty word? by Piper Reid Hunt, PhD
Cabaret, the original fusion belly dance, is accessible and
fun for everyone, regardless of one’s dance education.
Devil's Details, Show Ethics for Professionals,
Part 3- Separating the Girls from the Women by
a performer conducts herself as a professional she is much more
likely to obtain repeat engagements and referrals. No one wants
to be seen knowingly hiring an amateur. It is bad for business
and a customer’s image.
BellyPalooza: the Daughters of Rhea Belly Dance Festival by
Elaine, Most photos by Allen J Becker
4, 2007, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland. The weekend
of dance workshops and performances took place once again in
Baltimore on the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, one of the most
elegant venues imaginable for such an event.
the Language of Belly Dance by Shems
dancer’s path should be the same, moving from technique
to refinement to pure inspiration.
to Avoid the Executioner: A Journey into Creative Listening by
can ruin an art form as it would the fashion industry—or
any other endeavor
based upon creative thinking.
to Charge What You Are Worth by MIchelle Joyce
first step to becoming an effective negotiator is to emotionally
detach yourself from the outcome. If you can’t walk away
from the deal, you have already lost.