Once again, I truly had no idea when I posted this question to social media, the literal firestorm of responses that would ensue. Part 1 was very informative and here is part 2. If you want to check out the whole thread, just find me on Facebook. So here goes, the worst bellydance advice you can give or in this case, that we have already received, Part 2!
- Egypt was “killing the dance” and that Western women would need to preserve it until they were ready to take it back. This is definitely a new one for me. I think all dancers should have the goal of being as authentic as possible and learning as much about the culture from whence a dance came. But I would not go so far as to say we are preserving it.
- Too slim to bellydance. This is one that I have dealt with personally. I have been told that I do not have enough of a belly to be a bellydancer and been asked if I used to be a ballerina. I repeat once again that there is no body type for bellydance. A sub-portion of this is not having enough “jiggle.”
- Clench your lower back for drops and oomis. This leads back to the tilted pelvis conversation. I am working on an entire post about that one- Posture and Bellydance. It may take me a bit but you will see it sometime in the coming months.
- Don’t get involved with your competition. Now I am not advocating that you need to be friends with every dancer in your area but being involved with your competition is not a bad thing. You can support each other and lift each other’s businesses up. Usually not doing so results in ill will which just makes the drama in a particular area even worse. Collaboration is key!
- Just plop the sword on your head. Balancing a sword is not as easy as we make it look. Any prop mastery takes time and proper training. It’s not a plop and go situation.
- If you are not from the culture then you have no right to profit from it. This has become a hot button from time to time. I have seen posts as to the pro and con and I can see the points made by all sides. I believe that as long as you are a professional presenting the culture in a positive light and you are informed then there is no reason why you cannot choose it for a career and make money from it. The world needs more culture and joy, not less.
- You need me. You can insert teacher, significant other, manager, whomever you wish into the “me” portion of that statement. You do not need anyone to succeed in dance so far as you are dependent on them. Yes you do need to learn and it helps to have great teachers but they should not rule your life.
- Everyone should dance the same. I don’t think this is even possible. If you are surrendering to a song, then I should/would expect to see your personality. In a group, there are some instances where personal expression is hindered for the sake of a cohesive look to the piece but I was shocked to hear that some are being told that they shouldn’t put their personality into their dance.
- No mirror. I have taught in locations with and without mirrors. I have seen some instances where mirrors hinder the learning process if a student becomes too involved in whether their movements “looks” like mine. I think a balance is needed. Half in front of a mirror, half without. With the age of video, that’s actually my preferred method to check my practice. I can use it as my audience, practice more effectively and get to watch the results at the end!
- Change yourself to look more exotic. You can put in dye your hair, use tanning lotion, don’t use tanning lotion, wear colored contacts, wear contacts, the list is endless. There is no rule that says a dancer has to look a certain way. A venue or a client may want you to look a certain way but in my experience, if it’s not a reasonable request – such as style of costume or props- then it might not be the venue or client for you.
- Only dance to fast music. I have had a lot of clients request this and for some parties, or perhaps a hookah lounge, it does work. Per my experience, putting in a song with a different tempo changes the audiences mood and also allows them to relax into your show. Think of it this way, if you heard the same 4 beats in a song over and over wouldn’t you get bored?
- You’ll never make a living. This is a loaded question. This all depends on the area in which you live, what the rates are and also what your idea of a living is. You also need to be willing to work hard and hustle everyday. Everyone’s idea of success is different. I know of many dancers who make a living solely out of bellydance and while they work very hard, they are quite happy and have not lost their love of the dance. That last part, to me is the most important.
- Accept the private show invitation to the foreign Arab diplomat’s residence. Private shows of that nature are not going to advance your bellydance career. Well, perhaps not in the way in which you would like. If you are comfortable taking those types of gigs, then feel free. But you have to learn to screen your clients very carefully and know what they mean by a private event and what you mean.
- Do it the way I do. This leads back up to the body type and some of the mirror discussion. Unless you and your teacher look exactly the same in body type, it’s not going to look the same. If you look at that statement as a comment on the follow the butt teaching method then yes, it might be doubly difficult. Teachers try to break down movements as best as we can but sometimes even we can figure out how we are moving the way that we move.
- Shake your chest at the men. Shoulder shimmies are not “boob” shimmies. The “ladies” may move as a result but they are not the same.
- There is also the combo of do it the way I do and everyone should dance the same- dance with my personality. Just because your instructor is a very femme fatale style dancer does not mean that you have to be. We all have a different life experience that we live out through a particular song or movement. It may be the same as someone else’s or it may not be. One is not wrong or right, it is simply different.
I hope that you have never any of these from Part 1 or part 2. .I am also planning on expanding on some of these topics in further blog posts so that the resource can exist online and perhaps prevent some of these from being past on to newer dancers. Feel free to add your own in the comments section below as I believe that education is key and it’s never too late to learn something new or to unlearn something old.