I had no idea when I posted this question to social media, the literal firestorm of responses that would ensue. I had a list of my own of some of the bad advice I have received or heard over the years but what I saw in the responses took things to a whole other level. I am not going to name names but I am going to go through the responses. And it’s going to take me 2 blog posts to get through them all. No joke. 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.
- Racism does not exist in the dance community. This is false. As much as we would like to believe that it does not exist in the world at all, this is simply not true. It is also not true within bellydance. It exists and unfortunately is not addressed and quite a few dancers have gone out into the world not equipped to handle it. This is something that I have now noted to touch on in my own classes while teaching.
- Once you go pro, you never have to take a lesson again. This is probably one of the most shocking to me. As an eternal student, this is just not true. Also, why would it apply to bellydance when it doesn’t apply to any other profession or art form? There is always more to learn and to grow from.
- Cultural misinformation. This is going to be the topic of a whole other blog post. I myself have experienced this in terms of Greek culture. I was told that particular dance was to a song and that is was in fact a Greek folk dance. This was from a teacher who had studied for years. It turns out that she herself had been misinformed by someone she had studied with. This incorrect knowledge had been past down time and time again.
- If no one can see it, it doesn’t matter. This applies to feet and leg placement. Just because no one can see it under your costume, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to it. Not being aware of what your legs and feet are doing can cause incorrect posture and eventually pain.
- There is a specific body type for _____(insert style of bellydance here). This is simply not true. It does not matter what your shape is or your size. If that is a style that you enjoy and want to pursue, pursue it.
- Christians should not bellydance. If that is true, then I am surely in trouble. Bellydance is not a mortal sin or evil. There is no rule that I am aware of that says Thou Shall Not Bellydance.
- Dancing to music with lyrics is unprofessional. I have only heard this in the context of Om Kalthoum. When I first started dancing, I was told that no one was “allowed” to dance to her voice. It doesn’t matter if the vocals are there or not, if the song has vocals, people are going to know what they are and sing along. I believe that perhaps it should have been, always know the lyrics of the song you are dancing to. If you are emoting happiness and the song is about strife, then that to me, would look unprofessional.
- Size is more important than talent. Again, so not true. I see successful dancers of all shapes and sizes. If you can dance then you can dance. There are some thin people who can’t keep a beat and vice versa. Your talent and passion are what matters, not your size.
- Your movements flow together too much. This was definitely a new one for me. To me, this is a goal. Isn’t that what good transitions are all about? That they make one movement flow seamlessly into the next?
- Use shelf grip to make your sword stay on your head. I had no idea what this was so I asked for a definition. Shelf grip is put into shelves to keep things from rolling around in a drawer. I totally understand using something to keep your sword from slipping but I would imagine making it something that doesn’t come off, isn’t a good idea.
- Pelvic tilt. This was a hot one so it will be the discussion of a future blog post for sure! I personally try to teach a neutral pelvis- keeping your back as flat and straight as you can. This is not easy if you are blessed in the bottom area and may have a natural sway to your back. I have been told by other dancers that either a severe anterior shift was never corrected and/or it was over-corrected by a severe forward tilt. This has caused a lot of unnecessary pain and strife. You should always strive for neutral. No particular style should be forcing an unnatural body posture onto you in order to execute a movement. Proper posture and neutral pelvis are the way to go.
- In ____(style of bellydance)___ we do it like this. That is only a ____(style of bellydance)___ thing. No one style owns anything. Yes, there are variations on movement but there is no “wrong” way to do a hip drop unless you are harming your posture.
- You can only zill with one hand. By this it was meant that you are taught that only the right hand can be the dominant hand when playing finger cymbals. This is not true. Either hand can be the dominant hand. It all depends on the way you play and the way you want to play them.
- You should stop dancing professionally after the age of 35. This is total crap. I am not going to name dancers and their ages but I know many MANY dancers who are far older than that and still teaching, performing AND in restaurants. It has nothing to do with your age but how you feel and if the audience likes your performances.
- The palm of your hand is offensive. This is a new one for me. There are gestures that can be offensive that you should be made aware of by your teacher but not the palm of your hand. It can not be pretty to hold your hand with the palm facing the audience so perhaps that is what was truly meant.
- Charging less than others. If you are a professional dancer taking professional gigs then you should charge the going rate. Now, you might charge as much as say your teacher who has more years of experience than you but it should still be within the rates for the area. It should not be a situation of they charge $300 and you charge $60.
- Don’t wear flowers in your hair to bellydance, that is not bellydance. This one is just out of left field for me. I don’t even know where to begin other than just to say no. This is incorrect. Wear all the flowers you want!
- Don’t wear shoes because if you do they will think you are a prostitute. As a dancer who wears shoes all the time to perform, I am going to have to say negatory on that one. I have heard the opposite- that shoes are a sign of status and actually elevate you in some cultures. For me, I want to keep my feet safe in a place where someone could drop a glass on the floor.
I hope that you have never heard a lot of these and perhaps seeing them here will save you some strife. There will be a part 2 with even more advice to (hopefully) avoid.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.