Saqra's Secret Tips
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(I make no claim to originating all the tips and will credit the lore whenever I remember where I got it! Got a tip? E-mail it to with "Tips" in the subject line. Include credit if known or if you would like to be credited!)

Check homemade CDs on a regular boom box before you go to a show. Burning at high speeds burns shallow which makes it undetectable for some older units... forgetting to finalize can leave it unreadable for anything but computers. And don't web surf while you burn as it can cause skips. You already know to check your cassette tapes by changing the balance from right to left while listening to playback to make sure they taped on both tracks (some on-site systems may play back only one track...and if it is the WRONG track...)


When doing a comedy bit, the audience is done in 3 minutes. You can't be creative enough to make it work after that. Cut off the music.

"Melodia" style fitted pants can look great (especially for tribal fusion! ... but even for practice pants!) but if you are wearing anything that adheres to your crotch you should either avoid open legged poses during performance, buy only dark pants, or wear some kind of panty shield between you and the world. The sweat can outline your parts or just plain fill the crotch area and is very visible to the audience in non-black colors. Ewwwwwwww.

Garlic, even just a little garlic, will hang in your system and people WILL smell it when you dance. I love garlic bread, but I only eat it on vacation.

Rhinestones can be most conveniently glued to your face with eyelash glue. Use the clear kind instead of the white kind in a tube, because though the white kind dries clear it will go white again when you sweat. You can also glue rhinestones to your belly and legs for interesting effects. Bindis can be reused same way.

Save 9/8 rhythm pieces for dancer audiences. American audiences mostly don't get it. And by the way, Karsilima doesn't mean 9/8... Karsilima is a specific folk dance.

Never point your palms at an audience unless you mean to. It often looks helpless and/or unthinking

If your music is good enough to make an audience excited without you then you have a great advantage over someone with just nice music.

Colored arm bands that match your costume bra make your bust look larger because they carry the color out to the side. Important to remember if you are a narrow topped person that wants to wear gauntlets (which carry the color down and make you look narrower).

Be tolerant of people who don't dance the same way you do. You aren't more right than they are, you just have different opinions. Live that way and we will all be happier.

Curving your arms elbow out when they are down at your sides gives the optical illusion that your waist is smaller than it is

I once got a TV commercial out of doing a full 20 minute routine for two women alone in a Greek restaurant. Did the whole thing pretty much across the room by myself so as not to disturb them. 6 months later they went out of their way to track me down for this commercial. I learned how important other people may think it is to be dependable from that one.

If you can't do your isolations with half a cup of water on your head, you ain't doing your isolations.

Never use Sterno in fire props. It is pretty much the same thing as Napalm.

Having trouble getting real passion and emotion into your slower dancing? Select a slow song you really like in your native language -- one that really touches you -- and PRACTICE with it. Practice communicating the content of the words. Let yourself really get into it. Then find an appropriate slow piece you want to perform to and work to communicate the emotions you hear in THAT music. Quick note: there is a popular song that sounds really upbeat if you don't know the words... the words are about someone losing their love and not being able to find him. I found it rather disturbing to see people bouncing and grinning to this music, even though that was what the music was asking for. Dance interpretation probably should generally lean more heavily on the musical interpretation instead of the lyrical interpretation since more people understand what the music is saying than what the words are saying. Disregard the "quick note" if it didn't make sense to you.

If your hips pop or click on hip slides or circles, keep your butt tighter when you move. Consciously flexing your buttocks will help support these joints.

Make your nails look longer by making a stripe of a darker color down the length of the center.

Your ears should be over your shoulders, and your shoulders should be down and relaxed even when your arms are over your head.

When your arms are posed down at your sides your elbows should be bent outward away from your waist. This not only gives a nice line to the pose, but it also takes advantage of something called a "corner illusion" and makes your waist look considerably smaller. This only works if your hands are at hip level, and not if your hands are at your waist..

Home burned CDs MUST be checked on a regular boom box before using them for a show. PCs can play disks that regular sterios can't. And it isn't going to hurt to copy that CD to tape for emergency backup.

Cheap costume jewelry that your skin reacts to can be painted with clear nail polish to protect your skin.

Learn to play the finger cymbals. A middle level dancer can occasionally beat out a truly inspired pro dancer just by playing cymbals well.

Avoid sharing a stage with another solo dancer. Only choreographed troupes and ATS dancers can share a stage effectively without constant comparison by the audience.

If you have a hanging belly, do consider wearing a body stocking. Not because there is anything wrong with you, but because it prevents distracting your audience with your tummy -- people can be kind of weird about that stuff. A cheap way to make them is to Get tights or panty hose (Sheer Energy and most exercise/dance tights don't run if you simply cut them), cut the top off right at the crotch so you have a legless tube (throw away the legs) and sew the leg edge of the panty hose tube to a pair of bikini underwear with a zigzag stitch so it stretches. When you want to wear it just pull it on like it is extra tall underwear and pin it through the waistband to the inside of your top/costume bra. There are lots of colors and patterns available to try, including fishnet and specialty stockings, but some of the specialty ones are more prone to running. If this doesn't make sense to you, email me at for directions -- then I'll know I have to put better directions here!

Men, to bring masculine energy to your dance cultivate strong arms and hands. Best basic hand position: fingers parallel to each other, hands gently curved... hands with energy in them...kind of like someone may throw you something like a basketball at any moment

Wearing a headband or hair ornament of the same color as your costume tends to make you look taller.

When placing a prop on your head while dancing do not continue to try and dance. Come to a complete stop, and do not start dancing again until the prop is securely in place. The audience will NOT get bored and it will heighten the drama of what you are doing. Moving distracts from the focus.

Wearing a cover-up garment over your costume when you are not performing really is the best etiquette and preserves the mystique of your costume.

If you are a woman at a gig, do not ever allow any man to walk you to your car alone at night -- even somone you are aquainted with like the bartender, restaurant owner, or band. Always walk out with two women or one woman and one man. Just take my word and the word of many dancers for it. Make no exceptions. Protect each other.

Black bedlah style ("bra & belt") costumes tend to look less than flattering on most people. The contrast between the costume and skin color makes you look kind of bulgy. Black as a general costume color also doesn't show movement. and disappears against many different backdrops.

Be careful what you wish for. It is very hard to support yourself on dance alone. I tend to think many professional dancers are skinny because they can't afford food.

If your zills (finger cymbals) are clunking when you play them instead of ringing, first check that the elastic is not longer insite the cup of the zill than it needs to be, then try turning the thumb zil down slightly to make sure the cymbals are NOT striking exactly face to face. They should hit at an angle.

Darker plum and brick red lipsticks look better on stage than bright shades, but may look strange in broad daylight. Outline your lips in a darker shade to give them definition, and remember that you do not have to stay exactly within the lines! Shape your lips how you wish by exceeding the lines slightly above the upper and below the lower lipline in places that will make them look fuller! Black lipliner is not recommended, though -- it looks very harsh and reminds me personally of a poodle's little black lips!

When performing a shimmy originating from the knees, make sure you are not completely straightening the knees to locking position. Your knees should be bent or unlocked throughout ALL movements and your weight should be back towards your heels.

Plan in advance so you can drink plenty of water at events during the hot summer fair season. Also, many fabrics don't block the sun so DO wear sunscreen ALL OVER!

Injure yourself? RICE is the key: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Ice (20 min on/20 min off and repeat) and wrap every injury as soon as you can because the damage continues to be done during the time immediately after the injury occurs.

A "shimmy overlay" is when you are using the same part of the body to both shimmy and do an isolation. A "shimmy with an isolation" is when you are shimmying with one part of the body and doing an isolation with another.

The difference between "down hips" and "up hips" is which leg your weight is on. In the weighted leg has the hip moving up it is an up hip. If the weighted leg has the hip moving down it is a down hip.

To protect your lower back, find your true neutral lower back position and make sure your hip movements are happening at that neutral position and not with your pelvis pushed out or back. To find your true neutral position push your pelvis forward, center it under you, push it back (duck butt), center under and repeat first slowly and then at an accelerating tempo. Stop in the center position -- this should be your true neutral (it will probably be a bit forward from where you would expect). Try your shimmies and figure eights from this position -- your back will love you.

If you hand bead a costume, do your beadwork on a ribbon, or your flat beadwork on a separate piece of cloth and THEN sew it to your bra or belt. Then if you change size over time you can transplant your hard work onto a different set. Works for coin costumes also.

Powdered Ginger (available in capsules from anyplace carrying herbal health stuff) will help prevent the desire to throw up from spinning during veil dancing -- also good for any other kind of motion sickness. Throwing up just doesn't impress your audience.

Pack an old sock full of baking soda and rice and tuck it into a bra cup when you put your costume away (assuming we EVER put our costumes away) -- especially if you have the bad habit of storing your costumes in plastic bags. The baking soda will absorb any smell while the rice absorbs moisture. If you wear your socks to death, make a bag out of calico or any tightly woven natural fabric instead.

Need fresh material when you dance? Write down three things you always forget to do and look at the list just before you go on stage.

If you are dancing on an outdoor raised stage in the wind please wear harem pants or non-see-through full dance panties. Your butt detracts from your dance no matter how nice it is.

Limit the amount you flap your hands around. Your hands should not be constantly moving when you dance. It is a distracting nervous habit.

If you are going to dance to live music, try to see the band play before you do. Alternative: do they have a recording available? Alternative: get there early and try to see as much of them as you can before your performance.

Having trouble thinking of what to do when you are improvising? Select one step, preferably with a few variations and ALWAYS go back to that step whenever you can't think of what to do. Soon your mind will let you start to think more clearly when you dance, and if you do the step with the variations very few people will really notice the reptition.

Smile, position your arms and keep your eyes off the floor whenever you practice or during your classes. Make it a habit so you don't have to think about it when you perform.

When repositioning your arms during a series of movements, bringing your hands in to your chest before extending them back out in a new position will give a fresh and controlled appearance to many different arm placements. Example: A) Both arms out at shoulder height, B) Touch fingertips together just above and in front of your chest, C) Extend 1 arm up and 1 arm out at shoulder height.

Always use your own standards to judge information. A famous dancer is just as capable of teaching a dangerous or foolish step as anyone else would be. If YOU think a step looks stupid or offensive use something else.

A drop of your favorite essential oil on the inside rim of your zills (finger cymbals...sagat....) will permanently scent them. The oil beats into the metal.

Turning your elbows back when you extend your arms out at shoulder height will help reduce underarm flapping when you shimmy. Note: make sure you don't turn your palms to the back wall.


Copyright(c) 2002-2011 Saqra. All rights reserved.