Thursday, May 24, 2007

Glam. Not Glam.

I had my monthly show at Parker Jewish Adult Day Care today. Forty five minutes. They have me dance for forty five minutes. I now know why football players throw up after long, hard practices.

As I hunched over the toilet at the Day Care center dry heaving, I laughed to myself. I thought of this post, by Lucy on Bhuz, and how appropriate it was especially at that moment. So, with Lucy's permission, I am posting her extremely on-point monologue here for you to read. Enjoy.

Not glam: An inch of black crust on your feet from dancing in dirty restaurants. Detangling your sweaty, hairsprayed hair when you get home. Ass sweat. Crotch sweat. Belly button sweat. Sweat in places you didn’t even know you COULD sweat. The hard, rough calluses you get on the balls of your feet. Deflecting patrons who want to tip you in inappropriate places. Trying to keep your spirits up when you’re dancing for people who aren’t even paying attention to you, or worse, giving you dirty looks. Arguing with a club owner over money. Trying to dance with your eyelids stuck together thanks to an overzealous application of eyelash glue. Standing in a filthy kitchen, waiting to dance, and trying to keep the hem of your $800 costume off the floor. Changing in a cockroach-ridden storage closet. Trying to dab the sweat dripping down off the tip of your nose without the patrons noticing. Attempting to pee while still in costume without letting any part of your designer duds touch the toilet seat. Restaurant owners who think you can do a show, no problem, in the 6″ between tables and without any open space at all. Taking your wig off in the car and throwing it in the back seat, and then realizing that the people in the next car over are watching you. The smell of your head after you’ve sweated in a wig for three shows. Getting your veil back after a show and realizing that someone accidentally dipped it in hummus. Waking up the morning after a show with weird dance-related injuries - a rhinestone-shaped bruise on your knee, pinch marks from your bangles, scratches on your underarms from where you brushed against a jutting prong on your costume bra. Keeping your stage face on while a drunk asshole shouts, “Hey, loooookammmmme - I’m a bellydancer TOO!” and starts pelvic-thrusting his way across the floor (although you get your revenge when you swat him harder than is really necessary during your “playful” cane song). Waking up the next morning and realizing that you forgot to unpack your costume bag after the show last night, opening it up and being hit with the smell of damp sweat, shisha and cigarette smoke. Running into the back room after a show and having to bend over, heaving, to get enough air into your lungs.

Glam, or just plain fun: Making a little girl’s face light up. Getting a little Persian grandmother up to dance and having her family stuff your costume with twenties in appreciation. Buying out CVS’s entire stock of false eyelashes. New costumes. New music. Hitting the beat JUST right and doing something amazing that you’d never done before, never dreamed of doing before. Dancing to your favorite song at an Arabic nightclub and hearing the crowd sing the lyrics for you. Navigating your way across a stage that is so covered in dollar bills that you are afraid of slipping. Seeing yourself make money, REAL money, not a paycheck - dollar bill after dollar bill, until afterward, you cannot even close your wallet for all the money. Having someone want to show their appreciation for you so much that they write you a check as a tip. Dancing for people who appreciate all the work and research and sweat time you’ve put into becoming a great dancer. Being on stage, being beautiful, creating art with your body and your spirit, becoming music embodied, watching your skin shimmer and shimmy under the lights.

Lucy's website is and her blog is

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How did you get your start?

A recent thread on got me thinking. How did you get your start in bellydance? What made you take your first class, what made you decide "I want to do this?"

For me, it was almost an accident. A friend and I were going into major dance withdrawal after graduating from college and being finished with the dance team. We were taking various hip hop classes at Broadway Dance Center in Manhattan. One of our favorites was the class on Monday nights, which we never missed. The beginner bellydance class with Amira Mor was immediately after this hip hop class, and we decided to try it out for fun one day. I had always had "fantasies" about being a bellydancer, and had put learning how to bellydance on my "things to do before I die list," so I figured the opportunity was there, and I should take it.

We HATED it! The group was working on a veil choreography, which we later learned was one of the more "advanced" choreographies in Amira's repertoire. We had neither a veil, nor the ability to move our bodies the way some of the students in the class could (don't get me wrong, we weren't the only clueless people in the bunch, but there were certainly girls in the front who appeared to really know what they were doing).

We decided we were done with bellydance. Been there, done that, hated it! That was in October of 2002. We avoided that class at all costs until January, when a friend of my friend decided she wanted to take bellydance. We reluctantly agreed to go with her, so we ended up once again back in Amira's class.

Well, this time we actually enjoyed it. The choreography was more our speed, and we felt a little more comfortable following along. We learned that the group was preparing for a student showcase, and Amira asked us to join. During rehearsals for the showcase, Amira asked us to be in her company, and the rest is history.

So, that's my story, that's how all this craziness began. What's yours?

(By the way, if you have yet to sign up for and participate in the message boards, I highly suggest that you do so. You will be amazed at the wealth of information available from dancers all over the country. Be sure to say hi when you sign up - my handle is (what else??) danielabellydance.)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Gotta give 'em props.

Or do you?

Sometimes, I feel like my bellydance performance is more of a freak show than a dance show. I feel like, if I actually went out there and just DANCED for 20 minutes, the audience would get bored. So I have to distract them, with fun and exiciting props. Oooohh, look at the pretty wings! Ooooohh, watch me balance this sharp and dangerous sword on various body parts! (I haven't yet entered the realm of flaming candelabra on my head, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time...).

It's not that I don't enjoy using props. I do, really. They are fun, and sometimes challenging, and I do like working withthem. My current, standard show consists of wings, veil, sword and finger cymbals.

It's just that I sometimes wonder if I'd be able to hold the audiences attention without them? We live in a world where live action movies like Spiderman can show real, human actors swinging from building to building from spiderwebs coming out of their wrists. Are audiences jaded because of it? Does it take a lot more to "entertain" now that hollywood and technology have set the bar so high?

Can a simple dance awe the audience? Or do today's audiences need more?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Dancer killed in VA Tech shootings

One of the students who was killed during the Virginia Tech massacre was a freshman by the name of Reema Samaha. Reema was a bellydancer, and a member of the bellydance troupe Hill and Veil on the Virginia Tech campus. The bellydance community around the country has been extremely devastated over her death. I'm going to cut and paste a post from Kira on to fill everyone in on the situation, and inform you of the fund that has been set up in her name to benefit future members of Hill and Veil.

I urge you all to donate in Reema's name.


As some of you know, we lost a sister in dance at the Virginia Tech Massacre - Reema Samaha.

A memorial fund has been set up in her name.THE REEMA JOSEPH SAMAHA MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE MEMORIAL FUND will be used to assist the student-members of the Middle Eastern Dance Association of Virginia Tech. Depending on the amount donated, the fund may be used for a one time gift in Reema’s name or for an annual award, perhaps a small scholarship.

Her Bio from VT Hill and Veil MED Troupe Webpage - Reema has been dancing since she was 2 years old. She has been classically trained in ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop and has had experience in many other styles. Her love for belly dance came from her Lebanese heritage and she has been exposed to it from a young age. She has taken classes, attended workshops and has performed for her Church's Middle Eastern Food Festival and in front of her high school. She won best individual performance in her school's talent show her senior year. She is very excited to be part of Hill and Veil and looks forward to learning and choreographing with her fellow members.

Online donations for the Reema Memorial Fund can be made at:

In the "Gift Designation" area of the form go to the box "Other Designation" and type in Reema Joseph Samaha Middle Eastern Dance Memorial Fund. There is a general scholarship fund set up to honor Reema. However this particular Middle Eastern Dance Memorial Fund will go for a scholarship for a member of the university's student troupe.

Here is how to make a donation by check:

Make check payable (in any amount) to Virginia Tech Foundation, Inc. Mail to:
University Development
902 Prices Fork Road
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Be sure to either write on the check or in a cover note that the donation is for the REEMA JOSEPH SAMAHA MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE MEMORIAL FUND.

If you would like to send a hard copy of a card, you can send it to Hill and Veil's address and they will send them on to her family.

The address is:
Hill and Veil
703 Montgomery St Apt 1
Blacksburg, VA 24060

Here are the some clips of Reema on youtube. She was an incredible, wonderful, and passionate young woman who deeply loved dance. Reema is the one in green, dancing in the middle of the debke line. The debke performance is from the weekend prior to her passing.

Souzan, a member of Bhuz, has been instrumental in organizing the scholarship and working with Liz from VT Hill and Veil MED Troupe to make this happen. Many thanks to both women for their hardword in keeping the legacy and memory of Reema alive, along with all the other Bhuz members that supported them in their efforts.