#@$&^#@#$ Saqra said on Facebook

Tips I've posted on Facebook. And I know darn well you are probably just going to copy and paste. <grin> So please try and talk to your local festival or event sponsors and encourage them to have me for workshop(s) or watch for an announcement about the book on Facebook. I think I've changed my mind and I'm gonna do the compiled book after all. And if you use these tips please do credit me? I'm Saqra from Seattle (WA USA).

6/28/13 - DANCE THOUGHT: You are in charge of researching your dance. 
You are in charge of finding out what the credentials of your sources are. 
You are in charge of knowing the value of those credentials. 
You are in charge of checking the facts for yourself.... in person if possible.... through multiple quality sources if not. 
And a quality source isn't a quality source because they are famous 
...or look especially good doing whatever it is 
...or are extremely positive they are correct 
...or because they know a lot about a different topic.
Ask for sources from your sources before repeating what you are told.
And if you really don't know why you know what you know.... keep an open mind. And maybe go find out.

6/17/13 - DANCE TIP - KNOW YOUR GIG and know what you want from it.

Before I get to this one, I'm going to say that there are places in this tip that *I* start to want to argue with myself .... so I'm gonna say up front your mileage may vary.

But I think it is extremely important we explore our motivations and goals, and I know dancers that approach every single performance opportunity the same way, whatever their way may be.

We perform under many different circumstances, but if we are not aware of what we want in advance we can't effectively prepare to get the most we can out of the experience. Sometimes fighting for top dollar is not our prime goal, but if you aren't ready to work for and collect your other rewards you have wasted your time AND left the money on the table when you shouldn't have.

I separate shows for myself into four categories: paid gig, ego gig, practice gig, promo gig. Each has its own purpose... and I require that I am clear with myself in advance what THIS gig is.

[I STRONGLY suggest you focus on creating your own opportunities whenever possible. Stepping in and trying to undercut and assume a paid gig for your promo or practice goal is obviously going to cause tremendous amount of conflict in your community. And if you are even reading this tip you know enough to figure that out. Do NOT use this as an excuse to justify what you know is bad behavior.]


PAID GIG - If a gig is a paid gig then the focus is on the work for pay.

Though it is not the responsibility of one gig to pay for a large percentage of all your years of practice and your costuming, it is the responsibility of the gig to pay a reasonable fee according to prevailing local wages.

If there are no prevailing wages established in your area start by looking at the local rates of more comparable non-interactive performance artists like singing telegram artists, solo piano performers, comedians. A children's party clown should possibly make more because of the requirement of interacting effectively with multiple children while being a skilled performer, a person dressed as a chicken and waving on a street corner should make less than a skilled performer.

It isn't always easy to find out what the going market and the going pay rate are for a gig (remember, they are not always the same if an artist works through a service) but you need to figure it out if you are going to create your own rates without prevailing local wages to use. Your rates need to be realistic for your area, neither high or low due to a lack of information.

Planning for a paid performance, professionalism and the widest appeal for your style is required. Know exactly what is expected of you and deliver. Do not shorten your performance time unless it is requested. Do not suddenly decide that the paid gig at the church fundraiser is the time to break out the big black crucifix necklace and vampire teeth.

If you are consistently professional you have a much better chance of having the right attitude to stand firm on the contracted price and performance requirements.

In this day of easy written communication, there is no excuse to not have at minimum a written letter of expectation to send to your employer by email, indicating the rights and responsibilities of all parties. It may be hard to get a signed contract back from an employer under some circumstances, but working with a straight verbal contract is hard to defend if you need to.

Having the details written and seen/tacitly or directly agreed to by both parties makes the expectations of everyone clear. 

Once your rates have been stated, do not back off from that. You chose your rates based on established local rates, or on logical comparable rates. It is natural for people to ask you to reduce your rates. Remind yourself that this is a paid gig and the pay is the first priority.


Then we have three types of gigs where pay may not be the specific goal:

EGO GIG - An ego gig is a show you are doing for your ego. Because it is an especially cool venue (say for heads of state, for television, or maybe at an expensive charity or political banquet...) or because you just plain want to do it. It may not net you students or increase your exposure, and you still have to do a professional and non-experimental performance. It is important you be wonderful, have a good time and feel like a star. This one is probably just for your resume.


PRACTICE GIG - A practice gig allows you to hone a skill without really worrying about the audience. You can try a new prop, dance with live music if you don't get regular practice with that, try out new material and stage bits, try out ideas. The focus is on learning and experimenting.


PROMO GIG - A promo gig is when you perform to persuade your target audience to do something: take a class from you, hire you, tell someone else to hire you. You focus on making them remember you for the reasons you want them to remember you. Money isn't the goal, resulting acts of the viewers are.

And it isn't a promo "exposure" gig if there are no actual targets and no quantifiable payoff... it is just someone getting an artist to work for free.

A fundraising event is a promo event for an external cause, though it can be used for personal promo at the same time.


KNOW YOUR GOAL: If you know what your priorities are —  what you want from the gig —  then you can pursue your goal with clarity. You won't waste a practice opportunity doing a "safe" performance. You won't ruin an ego performance situation for yourself by feeling like you shouldn't have done it without serious pay. You won't forget your promo material for a promo gig. You won't undercut or devalue yourself and you will stand your ground for wages for a paid gig.

And you WILL catch yourself if all your gigs are the same type, like practice or ego gigs.



Contract (letter of expectation if employer is insisting on verbal) with performance terms/fees

Give the expected show under the stated terms

Avoid stepping out of the expected performance box



Best show EVAH! Best dance, best costume, most impressive props

Try for less tangible star perqs (meeting guest of honor, photos or video, a seat at the banquet, entry to the full event)

Admit this is probably not largely your target audience and it is not a promo gig

Make sure you can quantify what it is that is so cool to you about the experience



Know what you are practicing

Take some risks in your performance

You don't need your most impressive costume

Ensure nobody is paying you and you aren't going to lose students or opportunities

Take time to learn something from what you did - video if you are allowed

I would recommend this is a dancers-for-dancers gig



Know who your target audience is and make sure they really are there

Figure out what they want from you and give it to them

Find a way to tell them what you want from them (flyers, announcements)



Okay.... I can think of a thousand anecdotal circumstances with slightly different approaches needed, so I get the urge to argue away at this simplified way of seeing things myself. But I still think it is important to recognize what kind of gigs we are seeking and how to get the most out of them. In the end everyone makes their own decisions about what to do... and cajoling, scolding and bullying are most of the ways I've seen people try and change others with different agendas.

Sometimes people can't think past their own beliefs. Hopefully this is a tool to help with that.

But no matter what, I think your mileage may be better in a hybrid.


6/5/13 - DANCE TIP - Costume Maintenance: Protecting Sequin.

An ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure on this one. Sequin are NOT colorfast. Sweat and wear definitely do remove the finish and leave you with clear sequin. And once that horse is out of the barn you can't easily repair or replace the finish.

So these are suggestions on how to protect, repair or refinish sequin on a costume. These are methods *I* have used.... PLEASE be cautious doing things to your costumes! Try things on similar trims first.... try things in inconspicuous areas, etc. As I've said before.... your mileage may vary!

Some of the protection work is a big, time-consuming pain.... but truly you only need to do it once ever and I have found it to be worth the investment. I actually have done several pailette dresses, pailette belts and full pailette bedlah with this method. Saw a lot of TV doing it, too.

Please read all directions at least three times before doing anything and contact me if you aren't clear on something.... I'll do my best to answer any question.

PROTECT: Protecting sequin happens best by giving the sequin a clear overcoat.

You can spray appliques or continuous small sequined surfaces like the bottom edge or armpit edges of a sequined bra with some kind of clear plastic spray paint. I've used Krylon Clear Gloss with no ill effects EXCEPT that there will be a little bit of dulling from the spray droplets --- clear sequin under your arms, or slightly duller? I dusted all the sequin on all my costumes for years and they look EXACTLY as they did when I got done in the first place. Try it on a piece of wide sequin trim from the fabric store and see if you are okay with the appearance first.

Use a light hand when spraying and go from several angles. If there is exposed fabric you are going to want to mask it in advance with painter's tape. If there are crystal jewels you are probably going to want to mask them as well (I am lazy and use removable garage sale type pricing stickers if I have a uniform jewel size on the item... do NOT use permanent adhesive stickers... I also treated the large irid coated jewels the same way I treated pailettes). And if there are pailettes, don't worry about doing them or not doing them.... you fix them next.

If you are also spraying bead fringe, go light. Do not saturate the thread the beads are on because it makes it a bit brittle and the beads can stick together in weird shapes if you didn't lay them straight.

Pailettes (the large sequin) are next. Get a bottle of clear nail polish (I have used "Wet and Wild"). TEST it on a sequin in an inconspicuous place.... follow the procedure I am about to describe and then let it dry COMPLETELY and see what it does. Some nail polishes have a brutal solvent in them that makes the finish crack weirdly (we called it the solvent being "too hot" when I worked in signs). If everything goes well, then....

Set your item down with as many pailettes as possible laying flat and not touching. Put three stripes of nail polish on the up surface of each one: center, left, right..

-Follow the usual putting-on-nail-polish rules (go fast, don't go over a place you've been twice).

-If you go over an area twice you will probably cause streaking (which is a GOOD thing when you are doing repairs, as you'll see in the next section).

-Do NOT get it on the thread that holds the pailette in place.... makes the thread brittle. Just get fairly close to the thread.

Wait for the nail polish to dry, and then flip over every single one of those #$%% pailettes and do the other side.

REPAIR: Not much you can do about damaged fields of small sequin, but if you have old untreated items with damaged pailettes.... the surfaces are scratched or dull from wear... you can usually do a lot to fix them with the clear nailpolish treatment. The solvent in the nail polish dissolves and redistributes the finish, filling in the scratches.

If the pailettes have only partially lost their color it may help that a bit as well.... it can't restore the color, but it can move it around.

If the pailettes have completely lost color you may be forced to try and refinish them.

REFINISH: Look for the Sally Hansen Chrome Nail Polish that most closely matches your pailettes (this is wayyyy more likely to be possible with silver and gold) and do the same test and treat as you would do with clear nailpolish – same rules..... don't get it on the thread.

Do try this on only one pailette and make sure you are good with the results before you go on. *I* was happy with the results, but everyone is different!

There you go. Just the sequin part of the costuming discussion since I haven't at this moment located the article I referenced that I had written.

This was for people who were following another thread about costume protection and repair.

PLEASE be cautious when messing around with your costumes.... my mileage was great, but I don't wanna get blamed if something goes wrong!


6/4/03 - DANCE TIP: Adrenaline effects on performance. (I'm going to be oversimplifying during this... biochem people, relax.)

When you are first performing... sometimes "first" can extend for years.... there is a massive dose of adrenaline that accompanies performance – the fight, flight or freeze response to stressors.

This can have some interesting unanticipated effects.

First, the adrenaline causes people to change steps too often and not complete moves. Your actual sense of time is warped ... it simply feels like time has slowed down. You feel as if any move you do has been going on forever. You are certain the audience must be bored.

The other really big thing that often happens is the post-performance crash: you get done dancing, feel exhilarated, then a minute later you are certain you suck suck sucked and should quit dancing and sell your costumes immediately.

The first one is easy to handle.... you simply need to perform more and get a tolerance to the adrenaline and an understanding and faith in that time really did not slow down. It hasn't slowed down. They aren't bored because after all they are all in the REALITY time zone where you are not.

The second one.... post performance crash....  is a biochemical reaction that can end your dance career. Serious problem.

When you are performing your body prepares for the fight/flight thing and dumps a bunch of chemicals into your blood, and dancing itself adds insult by using up your easily available blood sugar. You get done and your blood is sugar-free and full of half burned junk that makes you feel lousy when there is nothing to distract you (like.... say.... DANCING).

So you get done dancing and feel physically awful.... and nobody does everything exactly correctly when they perform so you start chewing on that and making yourself emotionally awful... which you then associate with your entire experience of performing.

And it becomes a feedback loop and you feel worse every time you perform until you finally quit.

So this is what you do after performing: have a snack to improve your blood sugar and refuse to analyze your performance until the next day. Just refuse to go there.

Your analysis of your performance is just as faulty right AFTER you perform as your sense of time is WHILE you perform.

Write some of your issues off to biochemistry and know that the more you perform the more resistant you become to "fight, flee or freeze."

As usual I'm gonna say your mileage may vary.... but if you are experiencing any of these things and don't listen to me please eventually send your costumes to: Saqra, PO Box 3934, Kent, WA 98089

Post-Posting: I was asked what to do about adrenaline dump... specifically during performance.
Mostly I think you need to perform frequently until the adrenaline no longer has such strong effect, then maintain frequent performance if possible. Then as your subconscious learns that performance isn't actually a threatening situation you will react with less of a dump.


5/24/13 DANCE TIP: Facial expressions for performers Part 1: Basics – First, this tip does NOT contain everything I would suggest about facial expressions or every drill I would recommend! And I have a completely different approach to charming/engaging an audience, or getting genuine emotion and facial communication into your dancing. That said....

We all know we have to give at minimum a non-distracting face or it doesn't matter how well we dance.

Whew.... that sentence took a lot of writing and rewriting.... I tried "pleasant" but there are now parts of our genre that regularly feature blank, neutral, or occasionally somewhat hostile faces. I tried "inoffensive" and that one is in the eye of the beholder. I tried "attractive"... same problem as both...

Different styles do feature different general facial presentations, many grounded on the status and role of female dancers in a given culture, others based on the imagination of the performer. And here I am talking about an attractive face for the solo western audience-focused oriental dance performer.

Got that? <grin>

When we are dancing we are usually thinking HARD. Doing a choreography, playing cymbals, "are we at the second boop-boop or did I miss it?," "what is the drummer DOING?!"

Facial positioning on stage is a skill that is executed while doing something else... just like a good hip drop, playing cymbals, handling wings....

Your goal is not to communicate your own inner feelings, but to communicate the feelings appropriate to your dance. If the two happen to be the same thing, well YAY! But this is a performance for other people.... not an encounter group session.


New performers should have one presentation goal: the rictus smile while not looking at the floor. The ability to make a dreadful big fake inappropriate smile at all times while not looking at the floor is step #1 in getting control over your wayward face.

The problem is that if you hold the glued on smile long enough your lips fasten themselves to your teeth (no matter how much Vaseline you put on ‘em beforehand) and you're gonna have to lick.

If you lick your teeth and/or lips where the audience can see you do it, you blow the illusion that the smile could possibly be real. You want the audience to subconsciously  think you need medication, not to consciously and absolutely KNOW you are intentionally faking your smile. Licking happens when you are facing away from your audience... when you bring your arm up in front of you on a diagonal and hide your mouth in your armpit behind your shoulder... not EVER when you are looking at your audience.

Right there is the best reason to watch every video of yourself that exists (see "watching videos" tip if you hate watching your own videos): people often have NO idea of what facial expressions or strange tics they may be displaying in performance... random flippy hands.... bizarre expression or no expression... crazy licking behavior...

We are TOO DANG BUSY DANCING to actually pay attention to every other detail!

It is very possible to have naturally strange expressions (I'm going to repeat this again in a moment) and it is better to have an unnatural smile than the dreaded "Elvis" one lip corner up concentration expression (I'm prone to that one), the "slack jawed yokel" mouth (just dangling open completely forgotten and perhaps waiting to catch flies), the "unintentionally angry bellydancer" face, or the "Jewelry Exchange - Services To Come" expression (chin dropped, eyes forward, mouth making a perfectly round O – all the women getting engagement rings on a jewelry company's commercials made this face for numerous years. This is especially bizarre when combined with biting your lips like "you are a naughty girl." .....and if you don't get what I mean by my interpretation of this expression you are welcome to email or message me and I will explain privately).

You really want to KNOW what faces you are making.

One trick that worked well for me was occasionally mouthing the word "Martini" when doing faster work (like Martini is really said.... not exaggerated  like "say cheese for the camera"). It wets the teeth by closing the mouth and goes through a progression of attractive expressions, ending in what looks like an attractive genuine-looking smile. Might even BE a genuine smile if you are looking forward to one when you get done with your performance.

Next to add to your facial repertoire is a good quality "introspective face" for slow or emotional pieces.

You really can only get away with "grinning unhinged bellydancer" during more introspective musical pieces for the first six months of performance or so. Then people begin to think you aren't progressing and you can't overshadow it with how well your steps are coming along.

It is very VERY possible to have strange expressions in this segment of the dance..... so many introspective expressions are unfortunate that this one is essential to spend time with making faces at a mirror or looking at your video. Or take a few photos and ASK YOUR FRIENDS what they think!

Your expressions have to stand alone without any context. Your audience doesn't know you as a whole person.

Pulling your brows together can make you look angry or really upset. Pressing your lips together can make you look closed or judgmental... puckering your lips can give a pruney or prissy kind of look... and if you never (appear to) look at the audience at all it can shut them out of the experience completely and put them off.

Try finding milder forms of an expression of peace, of longing, love, joy that touch your eyes more than your forehead and mouth .... stay away from strong yearning and desperation expressions, and let your body communicate part of the emotion instead of using your face at its fullest ability.

If you find your lips pressing together during slow work try blowing out a light puff of air. This softens your facial expressions tremendously.

Knowing where to look makes some people crazy, especially since looking at the floor isn't good at all and that is what everyone naturally wants to do. Tons of advice out there on that.... look out over the audience's heads.... look at the audience's foreheads and not in their eyes...

My own rules include look out over the top, look at the imaginary audience you have practiced to (different dance tip about rehearsing), and really look at, actually see, and acknowledge a live audience member at least occasionally. If you are dancing for tape with no audience then do the same, but then all the people are imaginary... including the person you are acknowledging.

REMEMBER: When you smile (even the rictus psycho smile) people smile back, and when you really smile directly at someone everyone in the audience feels it as if it is to them.

Once baseline expressions are practiced and in place it is appropriate to start experimenting with directing attention with your eyes, genuine complex expression, sudden smiles and other interesting effects, but effects and complexity just don't work until the dancer stops forgetting her face or being unable to leave it on a quality autopilot expression.

Before anyone starts yelling at me about genuineness of expression and the power of expressing something like "sadness on stage over a dead relative" let me say that there are times when genuineness of expression can be very very powerful, but this really is usually when it is done by a performer who already has control of their expressions. There are also times when you don't feel as sad/happy/whatever as the situation and music require. Control and awareness are important.

A last thought from my own experience.... I once came in second in a competition because my general upbeat expression was considered too over the top. I had been in very serious auto accident several days before and was completely shocked and delighted to have walked out of it just banged up a bit. I was hugging anyone I saw and made numerous huge life-changing decisions and revised my five year plans and was experiencing extreme honest joy in life.

And I looked a bit too dang happy for the judges. <giggle>

Well expressed honest emotion may not be the most appropriate thing for a show.

But channeled honest emotion often is.... which is a different "Facial Expression" tip.

As always, your mileage may vary and this is only in my opinion.


5/21/13 DANCE TIP: Color Levels - Teeth & Skin. Okay, you love your lattes & red wine and really have to bleach your teeth to meet US appearance standards. How white do you go?

Depends on how natural you want to look. If you go too "white" your teeth will take on a blue appearance that is very unnatural looking.

The old rule of thumb for dentists is to look NATURAL never bleach your teeth lighter than the color of the whites of your eyes. Your sclera are not "decorator blue-white."


And on tanning your face to make your teeth appear whiter: this comes up a lot especially with young people.

First off you know the sun damage/skin cancer info we keep yammering on you about -- perfectly valid, but you may not care.

The OTHER reason not to do it: on stage darker skin is harder to make up to get enough contrast to show expression well. Darker skinned women often work hard with color and subtle frosts and sheens in makeup to get stunning readable-at-a-distance-under-lights effects.

Wear sunscreen and have a slightly easier palette to work on.


Your mileage may vary.... but really, blue teeth look really unnatural.


5/10/13 DANCE TIP - Be prepared! aka "Always Have a Costume in your Car" — You LOVE to dance? You WANT to dance? Then be PREPARED to dance!


You can dance all over the world if you are ready. You need:

-A small bag

-"Wash and wad" costume

-Sheer veil

-Cymbals that are not your favorites (if you play them)

-Lipstick and Mascara/Liner if you don't wear street make-up

-Small hairbrush if you don't usually carry one

-Razor unless that ain't your style

-1 CD with 5 min, 10 min, 15 min routines (2 copies)


Take the bag... put the rest of the stuff in it. Put it in your auto trunk. If you are flying, stick it in the bottom of your suitcase.

Now, if this was a regular gig bag I would go on about safety pins, emergency Ghillies, sunscreen, and a bunch of other important regular gig items... but this is your serendipity gig bag. You may be in it all the time.... you may be in it once in two years.

You CAN'T perform when there is suddenly a spot in a show.... or at that women's conference... or on that Caribbean cruise... or a million other places if you are not ready. And if you are ready you will be stunned how many times you can be an ambassador of dance with your skilled and elegant performance.


The item breakdown:

-A small bag – Make it small for real. If it is too big you will be tempted to throw in everything in the world... jewelry, extra bottle of hairspray, false eyelashes, a GOOD (but heavy) costume... 

-"Wash and wad" costume. Think simple. Think NOT heavy. A simple flashy-fabric tunic and light belt. A "choli" and harem pants or closed circle skirt. A spandex outfit that isn't heavily beaded... something simple and attractive that doesn't wrinkle and is (OF COURSE!!!) in good shape. Remember: this is NOT for sudden stage show use, but for sudden use on the break of a band or a family reunion or a fair or festival or a wine tasting event... 

-Sheer Veil. This does double duty. You can use it as a veil (duh) if you use veils, but you can also use it as a modesty garment for a more conservative event when you have selected something two piece as your costume. Take the veil, twist it once in the middle so it holds its shape, then take it and drape it over one shoulder, blouse it, and tuck the hanging parts into or under your belt. It won't cover everything but it will cover the potentially crowd shocking tummy! Chiffon and any number of man-made fabrics survive being folded for an extended period of time without becoming wrinkled.

-Cymbals that are not your favorites (if you play them)... because you aren't going to see these but once in a while.

-Lipstick and Mascara/Liner if you don't wear street make-up. If you DO wear street makeup you may be fine for impromptu, or you may actually carry a lipstick. If you DON'T then you need the lipstick to use as blush and lipstick.

Mascara, eye liner, or a dark powdered eyeshadow wand is enough to balance the colored lips for informal. If the product isn't a weird color you may be able to carefully darken your brows as well... visible eyebrows are surprisingly important for performance.

Just buy new, cheap make-up since it is for emergency use.

-Small hairbrush. Actually optional...I assume you got wherever you are with your hairstyle intact. But I like to have one in there. The ends of your hair kind of clump throughout the day and I don't like that look on me.

-Razor, unless that ain't your style. Cheap plastic safety one. Juuuuuuuuust in case.

-1 CD with several varying length routines. Actual pre-thought-out routines (and not just a CD with music on it) will give you a better performance. And you want several lengths because telling the music person to stop it after the third piece or fade it out in five minutes does not show any kind of professionalism. A set with a definite conclusion OF THE CORRECT LENGTH will make you more appreciated. Carry two copies of the same CD.

And do include one longer civilian "birthday" set with upbeat catchy music and a minimum of dramatic slow or lengthy drum solo pieces. Civilians don't really want to watch you.... they want to watch a bit and party with you. So have something they can get up and shake to!

Jam it all in the little bag and send me the stories of your adventures! Your mileage may vary, but you'll probably get quite a bit more mileage!


4/30/13 DANCE TIP: Suggestions for getting the most out of your practice time. General Version.

Note: I have several versions of this... Beginning - Advanced Dancers .... Advanced - Pros & Instructors... specifically Music Interpretation.... Drum Solo Practice, etc. Since the average length of time people are in this field is about 3 years and I don't know what anyone is currently working on, this seemed like the more useful one to put here.

Short version:

~ 4-5 min upbeat song: Warm Up Muscles with Shimmies -  hip and shoulder.

~ 4-5 min slow song: Gentle Stretch with Isolations

~ 10-15 min: Step/Transition Drill

~ 12-30 min: Performance Practice.

~Cool down



~ 4-5 min upbeat song: Warm Up Muscles with Shimmies -  hip and shoulder. Start shimmies centered under you or centered over your torso and slowly move them out and back in in spiral patterns and/or simple spoked stars

~ 4-5 min slow song: Gentle Stretch with Isolations - Work your isolations slowly and smoothly through your range of motion, pressing out a little further than you would for performance (remember the 70% rule?). Imagine you are inside an object ---- just look around the room and pick something... plant pot...fish tank... whatever ---- and reach your body, arms and hands out to slide your parts smoothly over the inside of the imaginary object. Do remember to turn your torso and touch the back of the object with your hands/head/shoulders as well. ---- This is actually a good exercise ANY time since it makes you more aware of using your full immediate space. May not work so well on stage though, if you start doing "mime in a box".....next you'd have to add "walking against the wind."

~ 10-15 min: Step/Transition Drill - Select 4 steps/combos you would like to work with, plus one ultra-familiar step from back in your beginning classes (however long ago that was). Move in time with the music from the familiar step into the new step and return to the familiar. Do each of the new steps for at least four reps of old-new-old.... more if you felt the transition was messy. Try to never actually stop moving.... just stick on the old step until you are ready to try the transition.

Remember that transitions are different with different types of new steps/combos....with moving step to moving step the focus is patterning in the foot placement transition. With moving to stationary, you need to focus on getting into a good frame/pose and properly setting up for the stationary step.

Do make sure you are keeping your arms posed and/or including them in the step and transition practice.

~ 12-30 min: Performance Practice. - Using pre-made sets from 6-15 minutes, just run a continuous practice going from routine to routine. Try and remember to include some of your new transition practice combos, but it is more important in this segment you hear the music and pay attention to that.   

If you are working on a specific set for something (competition, performance, birthday present performance for your cat) then substitute multiple (at least three) run-throughs of your performance music for the pre-made sets. But don't just "do your choreo" if you are using one, take this time to really hear the music while you dance.

If you are making pre-made sets for this segment, you can select whatever you prefer as long as it would hold up for a show. If what you prefer is Classical Egyptian style music and the pieces you like are all longer then try not to select multiple overly similar pieces... you need to be able to interpret different styles and tempos of music if you are ever going to dance with live musicians.

~Cool down: Use your good sense. If you just did all high energy dancing then use a medium tempo piece and continue to move around with lower energy for a song before doing stretches. If your last set was pretty balanced then you can go straight to slow music and gentle stretches for flexibility. And if you were stealing time out of your day, omit the stretches when necessary, but try not to hit the chair and start computing for about 10-15 min.


Music tips:

If at all possible change out the music used in the "Drill" and "Performance" segments every five sessions.

If you put all your music in one playlist or on one CD so it can just run continuously you are more likely to complete your practice.

Keep your playlists/CDs and cycle them back in in the future.

This music is likely to become your go-to pieces for sets in a few years. Look for music you like, but do NOT agonize over it. Your tastes will continue to change.


Your mileage probably won't vary on this one. This is designed to work on technical skills, interpretation, polishing, learning new steps, learning new music..... this one works the same for everyone if they actually do it.... that is always the hardest part....


4/22/13 DANCE TIP - Finished Hands --  Arm movements start from your center back and continue out past your fingertips into the universe. But they come to a screeching halt and just hang there if your hands look bad.

There is also a problem with beginners getting discouraged due to feeling like their arm work is a (seriously not graceful) fail when they see themselves move.... even if they are executing everything correctly.

Soooo..... general tips:  try not to place your palms up facing forward overhead... it looks like you are swinging from the monkey bars (or you are being mugged when combined with stage fright face). When your arms are out to the side try and place your hands palm down or intentionally fully palm up.... palm forward looks like you forgot your hands were there.

And then the greatest and simplest tip of all: learn a good hand pose and lock it in. So here is a fast and easy way to train your beginners to have lovely hands....

Take a pen and place it crossways on top of the middle finger, and tucked under the little finger and the knuckles of the ring and index fingers (I call it the anti-flip-off position).
RELAX the ring and index fingers into a curve over the pen (this gets rid of what I think of as stiff "three stooges" fingers).
REST the little finger on the pen next to the relaxed ring finger (this gets rid of pokey "tea party" little finger).
Bring the thumb in relaxed underneath the index finger instead of poked out to the side (roughly where it would be if you were playing finger cymbals -- it will move towards the hand and away a bit as you do things like rotate your wrist, but it shouldn't go out to "hitchhiking" position).

Try doing hand ripples, florios, fingertip circles and infinities with the pen in place until the positioning feels (more) natural.
Keep bringing the fingers back into the side-by-side positions instead of splayed out as they often do for most people, and keep bringing that thumb back underneath instead of letting it stick out.

Um.... then try it without the pen because you can't pass a couple of pens off as props. Or at least that doesn't work for me and I've gotten away with dancing with hamburgers and golf clubs..... your mileage may vary.


4/15/13 DANCE TIP: Teach cymbals to beginners. -- It is really very, very important to teach your beginning students at least rudimentary finger cymbals. If you don't you make it much harder for them to learn later.

This is the deal..... when you learn to play cymbals it is like learning to drive a standard shift (clutch) car. If you learn to drive a clutch when you first start --- even if it is for a really short time --- it is much easier to master in the long run... even if it is many years later that the need appears. You learn how to drive with a clutch. Associated neural pathways form and the ability to learn the skill for real later is enhanced.

If you don't get exposed to the two skills at the same time (driving an automatic), then later if you want to learn a skill and want to use it at the same time you are.... using two skills at the same time. You are both driving, AND using a clutch.

When you learn two new skills at the SAME time they are bundled together in your memory and coordination.

It is much harder (though not impossible) for an experienced dancer to learn to play cymbals naturally with their dancing if they did not learn to dance and the cymbals at the same time.

Sooooo.... if you are a teacher you have kind of a responsibility to teach at least a small amount of basic cymbals to your dancers, even if you don't/can't perform with them yourself. And if you are a newer student, for heaven's sake! Go get some cymbals and learn something while moving before any more time elapses! And if you are an experienced dancer and you think you may want to play cymbals some day... well, don't put it off for the sake of "mastering your dancing first".... it only gets harder.

You don't HAVE to perform with them... you just want to preserve the choice.

DANCE TIP: Teach cymbals to beginners. -- It is really very, very important to teach your beginning students at least rudimentary finger cymbals. If you don't you make it much harder for them to learn later.


This is the deal..... when you learn to play cymbals it is like learning to drive a standard shift (clutch) car. If you learn to drive a clutch when you first start --- even if it is for a really short time --- it is much easier to master in the long run... even if it is many years later that the need appears. You learn how to drive with a clutch. Associated neural pathways form and the ability to learn the skill for real later is enhanced.


If you don't get exposed to the two skills at the same time (driving an automatic), then later if you want to learn a skill and want to use it at the same time you are.... using two skills at the same time. You are both driving, AND using a clutch.


When you learn two new skills at the SAME time they are bundled together in your memory and coordination.


It is much harder (though not impossible) for an experienced dancer to learn to play cymbals naturally with their dancing if they did not learn to dance and the cymbals at the same time.


Sooooo.... if you are a teacher you have kind of a responsibility to teach at least a small amount of basic cymbals to your dancers, even if you don't/can't perform with them yourself. And if you are a newer student, for heaven's sake! Go get some cymbals and learn something while moving before any more time elapses! And if you are an experienced dancer and you think you may want to play cymbals some day... well, don't put it off for the sake of "mastering your dancing first".... it only gets harder.


You don't HAVE to perform with them... you just want to preserve the choice.


And to the beginners who hate them I just tell 'em why I want 'em to do it, that nobody will ever make them perform with them, and that I will only make 'em do it for 10-15 minutes in the beginning classes... and they can do ANYTHING unpleasant for 10-15 minutes that doesn't involve bleeding, eh?


Advantages to playing cymbals:

Your cymbals can control the heart rate of the audience, making them more excited by your dance than is really warranted.

Your cymbals can save you when something goes wrong with your music, allowing you to perform to your own basic rhythms or counterrhythms.

Your cymbals allow you to play your own drum solo over the top of a bad drummer who doesn't understand how to phrase for a dancer.

And I've repeatedly seen mediocre dancers with great cymbals win competitions over superb dancers without them.


Once again.... this is the opinion of a dancer... who is also a musician. Your mileage may vary.

Advantages to playing cymbals:
Your cymbals can control the heart rate of the audience, making them more excited by your dance than is really warranted.
Your cymbals can save you when something goes wrong with your music, allowing you to perform to your own basic rhythms or counterrhythms.
Your cymbals allow you to play your own drum solo over the top of a bad drummer who doesn't understand how to phrase for a dancer.
And I've repeatedly seen mediocre dancers with great cymbals win competitions over superb dancers without them.

Once again.... this is the opinion of a dancer... who is also a musician. Your mileage may vary.

4/12/13 - DANCE TIP: Prop Routine Structural Progression --- As a dear friend once said:  "A sword is not a hat." (Shira - '13). I gotta concur with that.... NO prop is just a hat, with the exception of the Shamadan (candelabrum) prop ... which originally was ALSO not a hat. Though now it pretty much is.

When a dancer treats a prop as a hat it means the dancer has it on her head an inordinate amount of the time.  Some dancers have learned sword dancing as a dance where you stick a sword on your head and basically just dance.... and the moment you put something on your head there is no going back... you CAN'T surprise the audience much after that. You've shot your best trick -- the climax of your routine.

Now that is fine if you are only doing 30 seconds-to-a-minute, but longer than that.... there is an art to pacing a prop routine.

[Quick interruption of my post: there are a ton of other topics surrounding each type of prop which I will probably eventually discuss in other posts...not the least of them for general consideration is "intention and focus" and is the dance about you or the dance about the prop.... but I'm not going there with this post. This is JUST about "generally how to structure a prop routine."]

Now not every prop can work the same way.... some things can't be balanced... some things don't belong on your head.... some things don't travel... some things don't need to be presented.... BUT... it is most effective for the audience if presented in the following order.....

Here is the simple version of my general prop routine progression:
-Present your prop to the audience
-Framing & Gesturing
-Differential Balancing (anything but head)
-Floor if appropriate (5 positions were presented in a different post)
-Balance on head with the following movement hierarchy:
 Move Slowly
 Move Faster
 Level Changes
 Traveling Steps
 Turns & Spins

What each category means:
-Present your prop to the audience --- take a moment and show them the thing. Walk it around if appropriate.... you do NOT have to dance as you will distract your audience from the thing. This is the only time the thing really has impact with the audience.... when you show it to them and they first see it. You show them the thing and physically explain that this thing is important and/or pretty and/or special and the best dang one of these things there is by SHOWING them the thing and showing them you value it.

-Framing & Gesturing - "Framing" means you hold the thing still and move around it using it as a reference point in the air. "Gesturing" means you wave the thing around.... preferably in organized patterns and/or as part of a step.

-Differential Balancing (anything but head) - Put it somewhere on your body.... back of your hand, arm, knee, hip, shoulder.... wherever.... anywhere but your head. Use the following movement hierarchy: stationary, traveling, turning.  What I mean by "movement hierarchy" is that turning is more impressive to the audience than stationary so don't spin with the prop and then stand still doing hip work for an extended period of time with it in the same place or it is anti-climactic.

-Floorwork if appropriate (5 positions were presented in a different post) - okay to put the prop on your head towards the end, but then you are gonna have to get up with that thing on your head.

-Balance on head with the following movement hierarchy:
 Move Slowly
 Move Faster
 Level Changes
 Traveling Steps
 Turns & Spins

Take your time if you put the prop on your head... your audience will happily watch you place something on your head for 15-20 seconds (a LOOOOOONG time) without anything else to look at. You should NOT dance while you place a prop on your head... you aren't giving the act of doing so enough respect and neither will your audience.
And tips for different props will be in a different post.

Oh, and if you are working with a candelabrum with the head bands, yeah... you are wearing a hat and might as well start at the "balance on the head" step. This is why a Baladi progression is such a good music choice if you are actually doing a routine with a Shamadan instead of a processional. And if you don't know what I just said, don't worry.... that'll be in a future post.

If you've been told to do something different with props.... well, what do I always say? This stuff is just MY opinion and your mileage may vary.


4/10/13 - DANCE TIP: Floorwork Improvisation Structure -- Floorwork is a little daunting for many dancers. It can be extremely athletic and need a ton of strength and it can be done really badly, leaving the viewer with the impression that the dancer is just squirming around or is getting trashy in public with the invisible man.

I am going to skip over the huge topics of etiquette advisories, safety issues, history, "propwork and," and appropriateness to the venue for this post and go straight for a single technical issue: improvisation.

If you are unfamiliar with the term "floorwork" in the context of belly dance, what it is is a segment of the dance where the dancer actually literally sits or lays on the floor and dances around. [cough] If you are wearing an $800 designer costume in a dirty restaurant you may omit this segment.

There HAS been an upswing in interest in floorwork over the last bunch of years, though, so here goes.

Improvisation is incredibly easy for floor dancing. WHATEVER steps you use, there is an organizing principle that removes confusion immediately: there are 5 Positions for Floor Improv and you can only go up or down one number from each position:

1 One knee down
2 Both knees down
3 Seated
4 On side
5 Prone or Supine

There are numerous steps that transition between positions, but they still go through the positions. For example: "Berber Walk" or "Desert Crawl" or "Painful Egyptian Knee Thumps" (what *I* call them) is a traveling step on the floor. Not particularly good for your knees for several reasons including potential knee/floor impact, and putting too much weight/pressure on the knee joint when the knee is in an extreme position. It still looks good with a sword on your head so you may want to do it some time.  This is what it is: On the floor with one knee down and one leg bent in front of you with about a 90 degree angle to the knee and the sole down, shift your weight forward towards the front leg. When you are about to fall forward onto the knee, flip the forward foot top down and use the top of the back foot pressed against the floor as a braking mechanism so the front knee doesn't hit the floor hard.  Slide the legs together so you are kneeling on both knees, then bring the other leg forward until you are once more on one knee with the other leg bent in front of you. You have taken one "step."

Wow. Harder to describe that I would have thought. If you try it I suggest you wear knee pads until you can handle the controlling-the-drop-with-the-back-foot thing.

My POINT was that you are going back and forth from position one to position two to position one to position two until you can't stand it and have to go to position three.

A lot of steps use the transition between positions or occur during the transition, like vertical hip 8s while going from position 2 to position 3 or vice versa.

Even if you don't know much about floorwork you can improvise it using some general rules
1 One knee down - you can do pretty much anything you can do standing up (including turning) except real travel
2 Both knees down - you can do pretty much anything you can do standing up minus travel and minus vertical hip things
3 Seated -  you can do pretty much anything you can do standing up minus travel and minus hip things
4 On side - here you usually have 1 arm holding you up off the ground, either at full arm reach or with the elbow on ground. Lower leg can be bent at the knee for a better balance base, or not. I found some woman doing this for an ab workout on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiHzDoDDMoQ and with this you can do things like torso undulations, shimmies, arm work, vertical or horizontal 8's in the hips.... whatever you CAN do. But not all that at the same time.
5 Prone or Supine - you can inch worm along, do undulations and abdominal work. Just keep your ankles crossed or at very minimum keep your feet together or you look like you are giving birth (supine) or like a walrus on a rock (prone)

It is pretty much impossible to go from 5 to 2 without going through 4 and 3, so whatever you are doing you KNOW where you have to go next. Identify where you are and you know you can only go one up or down through the list of positions. The less choices you know you have, the easier it is to improvise.
There are a ton of floorwork-specific steps and combos, but that is enough for one tip.

Did I say your mileage may vary?


4/3/13 - DANCE TIP: When to stop an accent "hold" or "Hanging" an accent. -- Every accent has a natural decay time. If you have a fairly rapid series of accents you don't have to worry about this, but if you have a slower series of accents or a few one-offs here and there it does matter more.

When an accent is held too long it looks like you are ("hanging there") being forced to wait for something... or ...perhaps have forgotten where you left that body part. The "execution" energy drains out of the accent and all that is left is you holding a body position.

Try this example:
We are doing an 8 count simple 3 step turn with a chest pop up. Our accent is on 5. (You with me so far?)... so it is 1234pop678.
We'll do one to the right, then one to the left.
Lets cadence (verbally count) the 1234 as "Turn, a, round, pose," and the 5678 will be our variable for this example.
I see three possibilities:
1) Turn, a, round, pose, pop, hold it, hold it, hold it; Turn, a, round, pose, pop, hold it, hold it, hold it ----- or play statues with the accent
2) Turn, a, round, pose, pop, walk, walk, walk; Turn, a, round, pose, pop, walk, walk, walk ---- fill the remaining counts
3) Turn, a, round, pose, pop, gradually relax upper body and arms across remaining three counts; Turn, a, round, pose, pop, gradually relax upper body and arms across remaining three counts --- release the energy while preparing for the next move.

Try 'em a few times. What looks better?
#3 looks relaxed and in control.
#2 may also look relaxed and in control if you naturally let your body relax and prepare for the next move while you walked. If you didn't, you felt goofy going for a walk while holding the " chest pop" position.
#1 looks like you are waiting and counting.

We are NOT robots. Our chests are not supposed to be getting stuck somewhere while/until something else happens. We are accenting with the accents of the music.

Aaaaaaaaaaand once again, my opinion and your mileage may vary. But try it?


4/2/13 - DANCE TIP: Drum Solo Pt 3 - Pop, Lock & Drop Technique. Pops, locks & drops manifest differently in more traditional belly dance than they do in Hip Hop or most Tribal Fusion styles. Pops, locks & drops in more traditional belly dance can be thought of as simply muscle-driven accents.

Many traditionalists detest these sharp accents and feel they do not belong in the dance form. Personally, I thin...k those traditionalists are seeing several factors that make the accents look extra bad: 1) dancers overdancing the music by doing accents where there really are none in the music, 2) dancers overdoing the accents that actually are there by slamming the heck out of any accent they hear even if the music is not really hard accented, 3) dancers doing random appearing accents that are too hard for the audience to follow.

If the music has sharp sounds then it is calling for sharp movements. If the sharp sounds are strong then the movement should be sharp and strong. If the sharp sounds are just medium in strength then the movement should be medium strength and sharp. If the sharp sounds are not particularly emphasized then the movement should simply be crisp.

Add to this the don't-do-anything-over-70%-or-your-ability rule I recently discussed and explained and you have got a recipe that says you must NEVER hit something really, really hard or it is gonna look bad.

And unfortunately many dancers do not have the control to get truly varying levels of pops, locks and drops... or maybe don't understand there is such a concept. They have one strength: KAPOW!

There is an actual neuro-linguistic programming problem with the very words "Pop" "Lock" and "Drop"... the actual words basically tell you subliminally to hit that accent as hard as you can. So the first thing to do is get rid of those subliminals.... and when you think "Lock" think "Click." When you think "Pop" think "Tap." When you think "Drop" think "Ahh."

Locks, pops & drops can occur all over your body. Any place you have at least two sets of muscles that can work in opposition. Hips, belly, rib cage, shoulders, arms, legs, back.... wherever you have muscles that can work in opposition. It isn't just moving your skeleton somewhere, it is about contracting or releasing muscle in relation to musical counts/accents.

Pops, locks and drops should actually be SMALLER (but crisper) than a corresponding skeletal movement. Example: Chest down vs chest drop or chest lock down. Chest down is a large clear lowering of the breasts. Chest drop - try pressing down your shoulders hard and then sharply letting go of the tension on the count (there is more to it than that, but I'm trying to simplify). Chest lock down - sharply press your shoulders down and slightly forward on the count -- you should feel your pecs/chest muscles also contract.

Why would you want a smaller motion? I also said crisper. Cleaner. And if you used your "glowing green goo" (different tip) to lead the eye then you don't have to make them look for the accent and find it.... you've already properly led the eye where you wanted.

Lock - A lock is a visual "click." To execute a lock muscles are contracted on the accent count and held.
Pop - A pop is a visual "tap." This is a two phase motion that is perceived to be one motion on the accent because of the speed of execution. Either the muscles are contracted and immediately released, or released and immediately contracted.
Drop - "Ahh" - A drop is a release on the accent count. Muscles are tensed in anticipation of the drop, then the movement is released.

Okay.... this post is getting too long. I'll hit different kinds of execution & combos in future posts. In the meantime....

There are different strengths of accent in music.
The dancer should not be hitting harder than the music.
The dancer should only dance to things actually IN the music.
You can produce a movement using primarily muscle OR skeleton.
Leading the eye where you want it to go makes it so you don't have to overdance (make movements too big or too hard).

Once again... my opinions.... my terminology... your mileage still may vary.


3/27/13 - DANCE TIP: BASIC CONTINUITY OF MOVEMENT -- Okay, this is about the "glowing green goo," for those of you who have had numerous workshops with me. If you haven't... well, here goes....

Put your hands above your head and wiggle your fingers. Imagine that your hands are covered with glowing green goo and that is what makes you move. If you are a "magical energy" kind of person then imagine that this... green goo is you magical dance energy and that is what makes your hands move. ----- Now IF YOU ARE NOT a "magical energy" kind of person, get this: you are controlling the audience attention by deliberately moving one part: your fingers. If you were in the grocers and just stood there and stuck out your hand and wiggled your fingers where would people look? At your fingers, right? So your imaginary goo is "moving something deliberately to control audience attention."

Magic or no magic, your hands are over your head and your fingers are wiggling.... and anyone looking at you is looking at your fingers (where your imaginary goo is).

Let's pretend the goo is a real substance.

Now move your hands around in the air dramatically..... the eyes will continue to watch your goo.... even if you separate them or put all your goo on one hand and hold still the other hand.

Any time you feel like it you can put the goo on your body and the eyes will follow it to its new location. Let's put your goo on your chest and move your chest. Note: you don't have to literally wipe it on... just get close so the eyes follow to your chest, which takes over making movements. Your goo is now on your chest.

From there the goo can ooze to any part it can ooze to through your body from your chest..... up to your shoulders.... or from your chest, down through your torso and maybe into your hips.....

What your goo CAN'T do is, say, jump from your hips to your head.

If you want your goo to go from your hips to your head it is going to either 1) travel up through your body to your head or 2) you have to pick it up with your hand and move it there manually.

So try this: Reach up one hand.... ripple it down to your shoulder... roll that shoulder... slide it into a chest circle... let it slide out to both shoulders in a light shoulder shimmy....send it out your arms in a ripple to your hands.... finger tip circles coming down to your hips.... horizontal forward hip 8.... reach one hand to your hip and sweep your arm up dramatically... ripple your hand down to in front of your face.... drop your hand down and do a head slide.

Feel how the audience eyes would easily follow that?

Contrast that with a beginner holding one hand up and out, spinning the hand at the wrist as she does a basic four count type of hip step. "Hey! Look up here! No! look down here! No...."

Hey, when I learned originally I learned a bunch of steps. You went here and did snake arms.... there and did a step hip.... there and did a torso undulation... here and did a hip M. It was a disjointed step recital. Take the same steps: snake arms, torso undulation, hip M, step hip and do them in THAT order and it isn't disjointed. Look for the goo!

"Glowing green goo" is a rule made to be broken....there are times you may want to surprise an audience by moving something they aren't expecting out of the continuity area.... and there are other ways to direct attention to the area desired: looking at what is moving or going to move is a classic.... or you may want to circle a hand high overhead synchronized as you circle your hips... but as a general principle and rule of thumb this keeps you with excellent movement flow and the ability to chain accents without losing or confusing your audience. It is essential for your core movement organization skills.

Why "glowing green goo"? It actually evolved from my watching the opening of the Simpsons. The uranium rod that bounces into Homer's suit.... he picks it up and throws it out the window... and the travel of the rod continues to be the narrative organizing principle (for a short time). We are just ooozier in my imagination than a hard rod.

And if you don't like glowing green goo then go for purple light or golden sparkles or whatever you can use as an imaginary substance to direct your attention.

My opinions, yet again. Your mileage may vary.


3/26/13 - DANCE TIP - RESTRAINT: NEVER do something more than 70% of your ability. If you can move your shoulder forward THIS far then only move it forward THAT (70% of max) far. If you can make a circle THIS big then only make it THAT big, etc.

It is about showing your limitations.

Each person in your audience has a body, and when you dance can feel your movement in their own bodies.
When you do somethin...g to your maximum the audience can literally feel it hit the max. Conversely, when you do something less than your max they can feel the coiled potential.

You want your audience to see you as infinite in ability, so practice drills big and reign it all in for show practice and performance.

This goes for trick athletic moves like backbends, splits and drops. Make sure you can do it several times in practice before you do it once on stage.


3/25/13 - DANCE TIP: A BASIC CONCEPT - UNDULATIONS -- All rippling or undulating motions are created the same way.... adjacent body parts are moved sequentially (in order) to a new location, then they are moved in order back to their original locations if a more continuous rippling motion (undulation) is desired.
If you are rippling your hand you are probably moving forward: 1 wrist, 2 palm, 3 finger tips t...hen moving back 1, 2, 3 and this caused the hand to ripple from the wrist to the fingertips. If you want the hand to ripple from the fingertips to the wrist instead then 3 forward, 2 forward, 1 forward and 3 back, 2 back, 1 back.

If you ripple your arm from shoulder to hand you are working with... up: 1) shoulder, 2) elbow, 3) back of hand and down: 1) shoulder, 2) elbow, 3) palm of hand. From hand to shoulder all parts are reversed in movement order.

In your torso you have 1) chest and 2) stomach (good for floorwork to avoid the air-hump look); 1) stomach and 2) hips (the more traditional undulation/sway); 1) chest 2) stomach 3) hips (makes a big, relatively sloppy undulation, but that can be useful at times); 1) diaphragm 2) abdomen

Side torso waves and undulations usually use: 1) hip slide, 2) rib slide, 3) shoulder slide.... or reversed in order. A single ripple from one end to the other makes a HOT accent for a drum solo.

A basic leg ripple is 1) hip forward, 2) knee forward, 3) foot forward, then 1) hip back, 2) knee back (leg straighten... your knee does not bend backward... I hope), 3) foot return

So if you have a couple of parts and can move them in order to a new location and can move them in order back you can get some pretty unexpected undulations. You can undulate your fingers, hands, elbow to fingertip, shoulder to finger tip not just up and down, but side to side as well. From neck slide to top of head. From top of head to chest... to hips... to ground and in reverse. Your legs ripple forward and back and sideways. And of course your torso as above.... plus rippling and undulating on diagonals.

Got a student that can't "get" a basic undulation? Tip 'em off that things are happening in order.... it isn't just a random "suck your belly in and up" thing... doing that produces a circle. An undulation is a wave type movement.
Rolls are for a different day... probably after I finish up my planned Pt 3 - Pt 5 of drum solo tech. Undulating movements are just an extra easy and fast tip to write. <grin>

Once again this is only my take on this stuff.... your mileage may vary.


3/22/13 - Dance Tip: DRUM SOLOS Pt 2: ACCENT CHAINS. MODERN style drum solos (see Pt 1 about "old" style if you already are lost) usually feature what should be clean crisp drum accents layered over a rhythm.
If this is a live drum solo the drummer should be presenting an accent series and then repeating it 2 or 4 times with minimal variation, so live solos are more predictable when trying to improvise.
No...te: If this is a recorded solo the repeats may not be the case.... but the chaining technique is still extremely valuable.

If you can anticipate the accent series (like you just heard it once and there are three more) it is very easy to make creative and interesting accent series that do not confound your audience.

Overlay your pop, lock and drop techniques (discussed in an upcoming part of these tips, along with tips on how to determine when you should and should not be popping and locking like crazy) on a simple isolation. Hip 8, circle, slide, belly roll, undulation, arm move, chest move.... whatever... just a simple isolation. Stopping neatly along the line of an isolation gives a visibly clean chain of locks, pops, or drops. Or "stop accents" if you prefer.

The location of the actual stops along the line can vary tremendously so this is an inexhaustible supply of chained accent moves. The only limit to how many stops you can get on a single like is what you are able to do with body control... the audience is already looking at the correct part so the moves do not have to be large.... just visible and clean.
And it is very easy to chain without much fore planning.

Example: Music goes: "Boom, Boom-Boom, Boom, Boom"..... You have 5 accents to do. Starting with a simple horizontal forward hip figure 8 and some lock technique you can do an infinite number of different things.... here are two:
Hip back right corner of the 8, Hip fwd right corner of the 8 - Stomach lock in, Hip back left corner of the 8, Hip fwd left corner of the 8
Hip back right corner of the 8, Hip to center of right side of the 8 - Hip fwd right corner of the 8, Hips centered beneath you, Hip back left corner of the 8

This technique keeps you from just flinging a one of these and one of those confusing accent series at your audience, and keeps you from being completely dependent on combos you have memorized.

Old style teachers.... stop wincing. I'm going to add when I think accents are inappropriate! And I started in 1977 so I WAS trained in old style and I KNOW there are a lot of older instructors that despair over Pop/Lock/Drop. I swear it can be used well !! :D

Once again... this stuff is just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.


3/21/13 - Dance tip: DRUM SOLO Pt 1: BUILDS. So you are an Oriental/Belly/Raqs Sharqi/Cabaret Dancer and you CAN Tic-Toc your hips and move your shoulders forward and back and your chest up and down all at the same time and in some kind of order. Yay for you. Now stop it.
Combos like that are very popular in belly dance drum solos because of Hip Hop fusion influence. Combos that make you somewhat dumbfounde...d to watch them and give you, as a dancer, a feeling of how really HARD that must be to do and how coordinated the dancer must be.
Your job is to be the visual representation of the music. The video to the music's audio. And our drum solo music doesn't do that --- albeit dubstep and its closer relations do.... hiphop can...

"Back in the day" (okay, prior to the mid-80s) drum solo music in oriental dance was more like a drum solo at a rock concert.... changing rhythms, changing time signatures.... NOT the modern style of overlaying a cake of rhythm with the icing of accents most common now.

The way the dancers most easily handled that music was with layering builds. The REAL concept of layering IMO.... not sticking one clicky movement with another clicky movement until something explodes.
The dancer was working with 4 kinds of builds (whether she knew it consciously or not): Speed, Complexity, Level change, and Travel. The dancer would lock into a simple shimmy and establish it, and then add one kind of build to increase the interest. Once the new combo was established the dance might add another build, or may break the energy by stepping forward or back or turning around and change to another simple shimmy..... then start ratcheting up the builds again.
Adding more than one build at a time made the change too explosive for the music.... much as the "left front up right back down" combos currently popular are too much for most music.

There are a lot more things on this topic, but the concept of builds are enough for one post...
... REMINDER: this is my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Definition of builds:
Speed - Establish a movement then speed it up or slow it down
Complexity - Establish a movement then add isolations, or add a different shimmy to the first one. If an isolation is in the same body part as the shimmy I refer to it as a "shimmy overlay"... if it is in a different part I refer to it as a "shimmy with an isolation" but that is me.
Level change - Establish the movement the take it straight up, straight down, angle (up and forward and return to down and center would be an example), arch it over. The idea is moving it up and down in literal space and can take numerous shapes.
Travel - Establish a shimmy and then simply go somewhere or add a traveling foot pattern.

Simplification of the order:
1) Start a shimmy and establish it by doing it long enough for the audience to see it
2) Add a build
3) Establish the combo
4) Add another build if desired
-------------rpt 3 & 4 as much as you feel like------------
5) Break the energy by stepping forward/back/or sideways or turning around and establish a new simple shimmy.

Works for "old style" drum solos, live music, and drum solos to which you are faking it.


3/13/13 Dance tip: stage fright.
I have a bazillion comments about stage fright since I did suffer from debilitating stage fright myself, but since I'm on my phone I'm gonna be short with this one....

When you rehearse (Uhhh... pre-tip is DO physically rehearse and do rehearse at some point in the costume you intend to wear for that performance...) take time to completely imagine an audience composed ...of either people that love you or people that hate you. Look into their faces...see where they are in the audience... imagine them as thoroughly as you can, and then practice with the awareness that they are "there."

No actual live audience will give you the amount of emotional self-response as the one in your imagination... real people become much less emotionally overwhelming.


3/10/13 Dance tip: If you choose to include armpit hair in your performance appearance, do ensure it is well groomed.


3/8/13 Dance costuming/makeup: we all know that stage performance requires heavier makeup just to have your features seen, but actually all costumed performances no matter how casual need makeup adjustment.

When you put on a costume you probably dress in a color/glitter scheme you don't wear for street wear. Your makeup needs to be adjusted for that. -- And if you really ARE wearing solid flat black on ...stage like most people do on street we are gonna have a talk about how flat black sucks up body movement....

Wearing a jewel-toned costume? Then your usual streetwear blush and lip treatment probably ain't gonna cut it, even if you do the "evening makeup" version and lay it on extra thick.

Your head needs to be in the same palette and DENSITY/SATURATION as the rest of your body (costume) or there is a visual disconnect and your head looks unrelated to the rest of the picture.

It isn't just about making yourself prettier and better defined with makeup... it is about making your face match and not look like a foreign object.

You (probably) wouldn't put high top tennis shoes with a silk gown... don't put civilian evening makeup with a stage costume. They are not related.

Don't know what to do to fix this? Get something like "Making Faces" (book) by Kevyn Aucoin for ideas and really evaluate what is required to be on the same level as the costume. (I PERSONALLY like this book..... there are plenty of other good ones so this is just a personal recommendation).

Or go to a department store or MAC and get your makep done and learn from that -- do note that they tend to just do flattering evening make-up though (especially if you are "older"), so you may need to tart it up afterward with glittery something or rhinestones glued to your face with clear "permanent" eyelash glue. No such thing as too much.....

Once again.... my opinion. Your mileage may vary.


3/7/13 Dance thought:
Stuff goes wrong on stage no matter how you plan.
Your job as a dancer is to make the audience okay with whatever goes wrong.
If you can incorporate the problem into your dance with an "I meant to do that" look, then yay.
But if it is something relatively major like a costume malfunction... or actually falling (without a serious injury you can't hide)... or dropping and breaking som...ething... you can't pass it off.
You can look angry or burst into tears or throw a tantrum when you get to your car.
But right now you need to acknowledge what happened and put your bra back on, rub your butt, kick the pieces of your shamadan under a table and SMILE YOUR TAIL OFF!
Smile like you are avertising your dental work!
Smile-laugh-dance or spin-smile-wave-and-leave.... whichever needs to happen due to the circumstances.
Do you remember the first time you saw another dancer step on her skirt and pull it down onstage? Or hook her belt fringe in a chair and pull it over? Or something equally horrifying? And can you remember how incredibly bad you felt for her... made you just about sick inside?
Your JOB is to not leave an audience feeling sick (even if YOU feel sick). And your job is to not leave your audience remembering nothing about you/your performance but that feeling of sickness.

It happened. Don't make THEM deal with it forever.

Our society so won't let us accept bad things happening to people to the point that we refuse to tell someone they have something on their front tooth because "it might hurt their feelings."
People aren't going to be comfortable with a major malfunction unless you MAKE them be comfortable.


Also 3/7/13 I often tell students "You are never stuck on stage. It doesn't matter if you have been there 20 seconds or 20 minutes, if you are dancing to live music, canned music or no music... all you ever have to do is spin, smile, wave and leave. Spin: breaks the energy. Smile: tells the audience you are okay. Wave: tells the audence you are leaving.... and leaving also tells the audience you are leaving."


3/6/13 Dance tip - Your hair in your face:
It is sooooo immediately identifyable as unnatural when you DON'T move hair off your face.

I'm not talking the piece dropping over the eye or something.... I'm talking about when it smears across your face or sticks sideways on your makeup in a glob.

So when it happens there is no point in trying to wait until you turn away or find a way to artfully brush i...t back... everyone is sitting there looking at that hair and waiting for you to get it off your face.... they can feel it stuck to their own faces... be relaxed and REAL and gracefully get it off now! Just reach up.... interrupt an arm from that choreography and move it back naturally.

You can still look graceful and feminine doing something natural that is very feminine... and THAT is very feminine.

If it happens repeatedly during a choreography then think about why it is happening and consider DOING something about it.... use moves where you block it in advance.... change your hair decoration....change your hairstyle or use more product.... NOBODY wants to change their beloved hairstyle for something like this but think a minute:

When a photographer captures a beautiful shot of someone with hair across their face it is while they are clearly moving... not when they are standing there with it stuck to their makeup and sweat (underlining to everyone looking that they are wearing a ton of paint and sweating).

This is my opinion. Your mileage may vary,


1/9/13 Performance etiquette is on my mind. Seattle is an on-body tipping area. Tips go on the hips, bra straps, or accessories... Not the bra cups or center front or back of belt. You CAN stop someone from inappropriate tipping without offending anyone. Groping should probably cost a bit more, dontcha think? If you drop a $50 or above you might be able to sneak it off stage with your toes unobtrusively, but under that should be left completely alone. Really even by your friends. Or you look desperate. And if $13 in ones is really going to make a big difference to your take home pay, think about that. You might need a real job and most pay much better than "bellydancer living on tips"