Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dancing Tuesday! Holiday hafla 2013

Well. I had just a magnificent time on Saturday. I was nervous, but I managed it better than I ever have. I get a lot of sideways looks from people when they find out that I am a dancer who performs regularly, because it doesn't seem to fit with my otherwise shy personality. And I don't blame them. :) I did dance as a child (ballet, tap, jazz. I was always a ballet girl, never cared much for the other two), and had an annual recital, but this whole Middle Eastern dance thing does certainly challenge me more. I dance in public places, I dance by myself, it's kind of crazy. But it's so, so wonderful. Dancing and interpreting music with your body is so freeing, so joyful. And this particular hafla had more than just belly dancers performing. We also had a modern dance duet, a Bollywood class and a Flamenco class. It was spectacular. Let us discuss. :)

I was dancing fairly late in the program, which did cause nervous anticipation to build, no doubt. But I was mostly able to enjoy watching without letting my nerves get to me. I saw a few solos, and the other belly dance classes perform. Then the Flamenco dancers. OH MY GOSH. I am now obsessed with Flamenco. :) BEAUTIFUL!! The music is *gorgeous*, as expected. I had never seen Flamenco dance before, and they do a lot of footwork (baile :))with carefully timed stamping. I adore the skirt swishing (I'm certain there is a beautiful Spanish word for this that I am not aware of), and they also use lovely hand gestures called palmas. These are similar to what in Middle Eastern dance we call hand undulations, but in Flamenco the fingers are far more separated, and they also use handclaps.

I watched the group perform with fascination. I loved their beautiful red and black gowns with roses tucked in their hair. There was one woman in the front of the group who was *outstanding*. I heard her fretting afterward that she had made a mistake, but I saw none of that. As the group danced, I saw only her, she was SO good. I noticed that the dancers did not smile when they danced, it seems to me that Flamenco is a more serious, passionate dance. And this favorite dancer of mine had the absolute perfect facial expressions, the emotion of the music just played out on her face like a book. I was entranced. I have already emailed the instructor about when she is offering a beginner class after the first of the year. :0

Ok, so moving on. Loved the Flamenco. Then our group danced the first of two numbers, which went well. This was the very first number I danced in for the night, and so I was more nervous at this point than I was later in the show. When I'm nervous, I notice that when I try to smile my cheeks quiver, I HATE that. Claire always tells us "try to smile, but if you can't, just look pleasant." So I did my best to look pleasant. In looking at the photos, it appears to me that my pleasant face isn't all that different from my anxious face:

The Anxious Face
...but I did what I could.

Part of the problem was that the audience was a bit...quiet. I managed to beam at a woman who seemed to drift off before my eyes. Clearly, she was not worthy of the beam. I took my beam elsewhere.

Like a lot of American audiences that I've seen, I got the feeling that this audience felt like it's impolite to make noise during a performance. This is interesting, because ordinarily I agree with them, but for dancing, appropriate noise is a very good thing. Encouraging, even. But I think that American audiences are used to things like...ballet. Where we don't make noise. At all. But other types of dance? Noise people!!

At any rate, that number went just fine, and you can see above that I even got my veil tied around my hips well, which doesn't always happen in the heat of the moment, so I was pleased. It was time for a short intermission, then a round of solos. Of which I was the last.


I had a kicky number planned from the album Cairo Nights, vol 1. Starts out fast and upbeat, transitions to a slow taquism, and then finishes with a drum flare. I really love it. I tucked my veil into the top of my skirt so that I could pull it out when needed, and away I went.

I love this picture, because it captures me perfectly. I was HAPPY. I had no trouble smiling this time. I loved my music, I love dancing, and I felt full of joy. It went very, very well. I was improvising, and although I dance much more relaxed when I do that rather than when I choreograph a piece, the only thing I don't like about improvising is that there are always points at which I can only remember 2 movements. Hip circles for everybody! So I worry that I do too many of those favorite movements. But I've realized over time that the audience doesn't really remember what movements you perform. They remember your FACE. How confident you looked and projected, how you brought your joy and personality out in the performance. That's what makes a good performance in their mind. I projected my little heart out and danced.

My veil did behave at the taquism, like a good prop should:

When my drum flare part began, I could actually feel the crowd come to life. That's my favorite part of the song, and I could tell that my energy was having an impact on them even in their quietly polite state. :) That is a GREAT FEELING. When I struck my final post, I felt thrilled. I knew that I had given the best performance that I was capable of, and that's all I ever ask of myself.

After the show was over, the videographer sought me out to compliment me on my dancing. That, of course, meant the world to me. But my favorite part was when he said that he loved how much I smiled, that I was an easy subject to film because I was so joyful. To me, that is what dancing should be to all women. We should not allow ourselves to feel self-conscious or to let others make us feel self-conscious. Dancing is about joy, both within and what we project back to the audience. That is my mantra for the day.

At the very end of the show, our group had one final number, and finally, here is the promised wing picture:

That's me in the front, doing my best butterfly impression
It went well, but pieces with props are always fraught with danger. My wings nearly tangled with a troupemate's at one point, and I was afraid someone in the audience was going to lose an eye, but the wings behaved. Our costumes for this number are new, and I have a love/hate relationship with them. :) This is the first time I've ever danced in a bra and belt set, and I'm finding that the belt is extremely unforgiving. Lose a few pounds, and suddenly all of the clasps that you have put on are useless against the unrelenting grip of gravity. My belt was fine a few weeks ago, but a loss of two pounds had me fretting in the dressing room. I pinned it to my skirt, and it wasn't until I was dancing that the thought crossed my mind that maybe that wasn't such a great idea.


It was fine, but believe me, I won't be doing that again. Alterations: coming right up!

All in all, it was a beautiful night. I'm so grateful to have this thing in my life that I love and that has given me so much - joy, happiness, and even a fragile bit of confidence for a girl who was voted shyest in her senior class.

April 2011: Belly dancing at 33 weeks pregnant!

Have I mentioned that belly dance is also pro life? :) Isn't it awesome?! I once saw a video on You Tube of a pregnant woman at a belly dance *competition*. She came out wrapped in a veil. She did some flarey movements, turned around, unwrapped her veil, and spun back to display a clearly third trimester belly in her two piece costume. The crowd ROARED with approval and gave her a standing ovation. I mean, did you ever?!

I'm never letting anyone make me feel badly for belly dancing ever again. There it is, the "b" word!! Belly dance is feminine in the best possible way. It is beautiful. It is *family friendly*. It is amazing, and I love it.


  1. I've always been fascinated with belly dancing (it's a favorite to see at renaissance festivals) and if I didn't live out in the middle of nowhere maybe I would take a class. Love the costumes! Do happen to have any video recommendations for beginner belly dancing? This is officially a reference question :)

    1. lol. I haven't used either of these, but I've examined the reviews on Amazon and people are mentioning things that should definitely be a part of beginning instruction, so I take that as a very good sign.

      One is "Belly Dance for Beginners": http://www.amazon.com/Belly-Dance-For-Beginners-Leila/dp/B001TK80FC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386881938&sr=8-1&keywords=belly+dance+dvd+beginners

      and the other is "Amira's Bellydance 101": http://www.amazon.com/Amiras-Bellydance-Dancing-Basics-Beginners/dp/B001W2HZ0S/ref=pd_cp_mov_0

      The belly dancing reference librarian, at your service. :o


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