Wednesday, December 17, 2008

PSA: Mind your socks

Just a public service announcement to my fellow performing bellydancers freezing their butts off on the way to gigs this winter....

If you wear socks that will leave any sort of a mark on your leg, roll them down or take them off well before you arrive at your gig!!

Nothin' says "NOT sexy" like a tube-sock mark on your calf.

That is all.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Twilight Zone (aka oversaturation)

This is something that happened to me a few months ago at a gig, and I posted about it on Someone just resurrected the post, which reminded me that I never blogged about this interesting event, it is:

I was at a gig over the summer waiting to go on. It was at a big restaurant with two party rooms. I was standing outside my party room, ready to go, with my gold wings wrapped around me. I look down the hall to the other party room, and there is a bellydancer standing there, ready to go on, with her gold wings wrapped around her. My first thought was this was some cruel joke - I didn't realize there was another room and I thought the host was going to have us both come out together. Then, when I realized she was there for another party, I panicked that we were both at the right parties, that that maitre'd didn't just say to the hosts "the bellydancer is here" (not by name) and stick us in the wrong spots. We quickly introduced ourselves (she wasn't someone I knew and/or recognized - she said she was booked by an agency), and then my music started so I had to go.

But wow, in those first few seconds of seeing a bellydancer down the hall I was soooo confused. And really - is it so common to hire a bellydancer now that two out of two parties in the same place have one performing at the exact same time? I thought we were a special treat for the guests, because most people don't have much exposure to bellydance? Are we becoming trite or cliche? Have we oversaturated the market? Have we made ourselves un-special?

Anyone else have a twilight zone story to share?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Oh What a Feeling, When We're Dancin' on the Ceiling...

Well, not the ceiling, exactly. That would be kind of hard. But what about the chairs? Or the tables? Do you dance on them?

Being a born and raised American, I'm not so comfortable with the idea of dancing on the furniture (not to mention the act itself making me uncomfortable - I really loose all sense of balance when at least one foot is not firmly planted on the ground). To me, dancing on chairs and tables (and bars) has always seemed a little, well, raunchy. Exotic dancers, the Coyote Ugly girls...the list could go on, but you get what I'm saying.

But it's different will bellydancers - to some Arabs, anyway. Sometimes, they expect you to dance on their chair. And if they offer you their chair and you don't dance on it, they are actually insulted. When I used to dance with Amira Mor's company, there was a point in every gig when Amira would go around yelling for all of us to get up on the chairs - and so we did, 6 or 7 bellydancers, scattered throughout a restaurant or banquet hall, standing on chairs and shimmying their butts off. It was a sight, I'm sure. I always felt kind of weird doing it, although I have always been treated respectfully by the guests who have graciously given me their chairs.

Tonight was the first time I got on a chair since I left Amira's company. I was at a crazy 70th birthday party - so much fun, kids everywhere, adults dancing with me; it was a blast. Towards the end of the set, one of the kids (a young teenage girl) was just standing on a chair and dancing. And then one of the adults got on a chair. And then another. And then me. I jumped up there with them and they loved it. And I loved it to. It was so much fun, and I'm sure it made for some great pictures.

I think that, with the right crowd, dancing on the furniture can be a fun addition to a show. With the wrong crowd, it can be taken the wrong way, so you need to be careful reading your audience. I think I'll consider doing it more often, when I find the perfect moment, like tonight.

What do you think? Do you dance on chairs or tables? What has been your experience with the reaction of your audience? Any mishaps? Love it, hate it, tell me!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ballet for Bellydancers is BACK!

Back by popular demand - Jennifer Alvarado will be teaching another "Ballet for Bellydancers" workshop. The last workshop was such a success (and sold out!) that we had to do it again!! Don't believe that ballet can be fun?? Read HERE to see what everyone had to say about it last time!

Here's the info:

September 21, 2008
Jennifer will be teaching a 2 hour workshop including:
~ Barre exercises and center floor excercises focusing on proper posture, proper arm and hand positioning and proper foot placement;
~ Core and lower body strengthening and conditioning;
~Traveling movements, including turns and spins
If you attended the first Ballet for Bellydancers workshop, you are of course welcome to come again! Jennifer will be doing some of the same exercises, as well as working on new things, so it will be a great experience for new and old students alike!
Registration begins at 12:30
Class begins at 1:00
Workshop will be held at Queens Dance Project
34-57 Francis Lewis Boulevard, Bayside, NY
Prepay : $30At the door:$40 (space permitting)

Don't miss out on this amazing opportunity to improve your dance!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Talk to me about your restaurant sets....

This summer, my intermediate students have been working on the elements of an American Cabaret show. We've gone over the basic parts - entrance, veil work, audience participation, prop and/or chiftetelli, drum solo, finale (of course while zilling all the while).

I know this is the old school AmCab way of doing things, but this is how I've always structured my sets, and I'm the first to admit that I'm an AmCab girl all the way (veil wrapping and all!). But what are the other ways to structure a set?

How do you do it? What style of bellydance do you do? Does your style affect your set structure? I know that the NYC scene is very AmCab with heavy turkish influence, and most of the sets I've seen follow my format, or they just do a bunch of pop songs to get the crowd up and dancing (no real "set"). But I'm curious to know what else is out there! Talk to me about your set, please!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How old is too old??

Kind of a spin off to my previous "How young is too young?" post a few months ago....

Lately, I've been getting a lot of comments on my age - good comments, ones like: "Oh, I'm so happy you are young! The last bellydancer we had was really old!" or from a DJ: "Can I have your card? I am always getting requests for bellydancers but the only dancers I know of are so old!"

So, I have two questions: First, does the general public (GP) have a different perspective of what "old" is? When they think "bellydancer" do they think 20-something hot chick with perky boobs and a golden tan? Does the GP think that anything close to 40 is old? Because, I've got to tell you - I have yet to see a website of a 70 year old woman advertising herself for bellygrams. When I think "old", I think grandma-style. And while I, as a dancer, can appreciate that bellydancers get better with age, I am aware that the GP doesn't feel the same. But I am concerned that the label "old" means something totally different for me as it does for the GP.

Which leads me to my second question - will I know when I'm too old?? As I am about the leave the realm of the 20-somethings and embark on a new decade, I worry about "aging out" of this dance, which has also become a pretty lucrative career as well. I mean, I understand that no one wants an old lady dancing at Uncle Bob's birthday party, but will I still think I'm "young enough" when others think I'm past my prime? I don't want to turn into one of those dancers that people complain to me about - the dancer who thinks she's still "got it" when everyone else snickers behind her back.

What do you think? How old is too old, and when should a dancer hang up her bedleh?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Best. Party. Ever.

Tis the season for weddings, and I've been dancing at quite a few lately. Two this weekend alone. I love dancing at weddings, but this weekend I had the opportunity to dance with the coolest guests at the best wedding ever (from a bellydancer's perspective, of course!).

I drove all the way down to Pt. Pleasant on the Jersey shore (on a Friday night - talk about a stressful situation! I was petrified that I'd get stuck in shore traffic and miss the wedding!). My husband and I decided to make a mini-vacation and spend the night on the shore. I was hoping for a good party - a rockstar party, if you will - to make the long drive worth while. What I got was better than any rockstar party I've ever danced for.

The crowd was awesome. It was a mix of Arabs and Americans, but everyone was up and dancing. The groom and all his friends were Arabic, and they did not sit down the entire show. They were up and dancing with me, singing along to all my songs (I had added some new pop songs to my set, and I'm so glad I did - they knew all the words and obviously loved them!). There was an older man (very old....) who was dancing along the sidelines, so I pulled him out to the dance floor while I danced my slow and sexy almost-taksim to Jemileh. He was getting his groove on right along with me! And then he gave me the best compliment a bellydancer could ask for....he said "Are you an Arab?" Me: "No!" Him: "You're not??? What are you??" Me: "I'm Italian!". Then he started cracking up (this is all on the dance floor during my show, mind you) and said "But you are SO GOOD! How can you be this good and not be Arab??" I melted.

I seriously felt like a guest at this party, I was having so much fun. I couldn't believe that this was my JOB - I was being paid to get out there and party with everyone else! It was truly an amazing time and I wish every party I danced at could be that awesome (although I don't know if I'd have the energy to keep up if they were ALL that crazy!). It made my trip down to the Jersey shore totally worth every minute stuck in traffic (oh yeah, and my husband and I had a nice time on our mini-vacay, which made it worth it too....;-).

Good luck to the bride and groom (and to all my brides and grooms who have really all been wonderful people). May you have a lifetime of love, happiness, and dance.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Show was a Success!

Our third annual student showcase was a success! This was certainly the best show yet - they just keep getting better!

All of the performers worked so hard perfecting their dances and preparing to dazzle the audience - and it worked, the audience was dazzled.

The Taiwan Center was a great location - big stage, lots of seats. We'll be back next year for sure!

Here are some pictures from the show, I'll be putting more on the website soon. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Just had to share these....they are from a wedding I recently danced at. I love dancing when there are children in the audience, especially little girls. Little girls love the sparkle and the glitter and prettiness of it all. You can just tell that their new dream is to be a bellydancer when they grow up, which is an especially interesting observation in light of the post below...


Friday, April 11, 2008

Choreography vs. Improvisation

I'm trying to work on my Solo for the upcoming showcase. I want to dance to Jemileh, by Pangia. I love that song. It's so beautiful, it puts me into that "magical dance place," where you can feel the music and forget about the audience - you can just dance.

I love impov-ing to that song. With it's predictable rythym, it's easy to make your improv look like a choreo, as long as you know the song. And I'm no stranger to improv - it's what I do. When I dance, 95% of my performance is improv. I really enjoy it - for parties. Not for stage shows.

For some reason, I feel as though standing on a stage means I must have a choreography prepared. I feel absolutely uncomfortable doing improv on stage. Maybe it's because I feel more comfortable improv-ing in an environment where I can interact with my audience, and where it is necessary for me to be able to change things up in response to the actions and emotions of the audience members. Maybe it's because when I'm on stage, I don't get that interaction - on stage, it's like I'm on display - no matter what the audience is doing, I just keep on truckin' with my dance, especially since I can't see the audience from stage half the time anyway, what with the glaring spotlights and all.

But I'm having a hard time with it here - I want to dance to Jemileh, a song I know like the back of my hand and that I am so used to improv-ing to. But, it's going to be on stage, so I want to choreograph something. But I'm finding that extremely difficult because I just want to improv.

Ugh. And so, two weeks before the show, I still have no solo.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How young is too young?

There have been some threads recently on talking about children bellydancing. It has gotten me thinking about the subject - how young is too young to start dancing?

I've always thought that - when I have children - if I have a girl, she will be dancing as soon as she can walk. Not just bellydance, all forms of dance. I started "ballet" and "tap" (if you can call it that!) when I was two, and never looked back. I envision signing my toddler up for dance classes, and dressing her up in sparkly costumes. I want us to dance together, and to perform together. Dance is such a huge part of my life, I can't imagine not sharing it as much as I can with my children.

Suhaila Salimpour and Isabella Khoury are a great example of a mother/daughter dance duo, where the daughter is a bit on the young side. Isabella is around 9 years old. Some people think that's too young. I say it depends - what kind of 'moves' is she doing? What is her costume? Is she trying to emulate and adult, or is she doing the dance in 'child-appropriate' manner? I think it is great to start a child young - especially in bellydance, where so many of us don't get our start until we are much, much older.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's showtime!!

Well, almost....

My yearly student showcase is a little more than one month away. Practices are starting to get longer, and more frequent, and the stress levels are visibly up in class. Everyone is thinking show, show, show.

We have a lot to do and not much time to do it all! All of the students have learned their dances, now it is time to perfect them. Anyone thinking of doing a solo needs to be working on that now as well. Costumes are being bought and made, and tickets will start selling next week.

It's a crazy time of year, but we love it! If we didn't love it, we'd be crazy for doing it again and again!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Big Stage, Little Stage

I danced at a party the other day at a catering hall with a HUGE dance floor. The party had about 400-500 guests, so I'm sure they needed the space. But with just my tiny self on this ginormous (it's a word now, I swear. See?) dance floor, I spent half my time running around the dance floor trying to get to each side of the room. Very little time left for the moves that make bellydance what it is, in my opinion. And then, when I'd get to one side of the room, I'd do a vibration, or a shimmy, or some impressive ab-rolling that requires serious muscle control, and then realize that only 1/8 of the party could actually see me! The rest of the guests were scattered around the football-field dance floor - to them, it looked like I was just standing still!

And I was insanely out of breath, after only 20 minutes. I attribute that to the fact that I was running around a heck of a lot more than at a normal party, when I can stand still and do my "tricks" for a big chunk of the show.

I decided that a performance by a single bellydancer (I'm not talking about big, BDSS-type productions) is better suited for a smaller venue. While we might appreciate having enough room to actually move our isis wings around without impediment, our performance translates to the audience much better when they are up close and personal, and we don't need to run around the dance floor like track stars.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dancer insecurities

A wise old ballet teacher once told me "Dancers are the most insecure people of them all." Mr. Christopher firmly believed that all dancers were insecure - it was in our nature. Which was why he would start pounding his cane into the ground and yell at you if he caught you so much as whisper one word to the person next to you while someone else was dancing - he said that if a dancer sees someone else talking while she is dancing, she automatically thinks that they are talking about her. And not in a good way.

I always thought Mr. Christopher was a little off his rocker in most respects, but this point stuck with me. I think that we dancers are insecure, and I think it is because of the nature of our profession (or hobby) - that we constantly put our whole selves - our bodies, our emotions, everything - out there for the world to enjoy, or critique. How can we not become insecure? What if the world doesn't like our dance - since our dance is really who we are, does that mean they don't like us??

I recently danced at a private party in the back section of a restaurant that had a house bellydancer, who was going on right after my show. The dancer was from Greece (just arrived in America, actually), so in my born-and-raised-America eyes, she was the real deal. The singer for the restuarant was also there, and she was from Greece as well. After my show, both ladies were complimenting me and asking me questions about my dance - how long had I been dancing, who did I study with, etc. To anyone else, their questions would have seemed like genuine admiration - they really liked my show. But to me, the insecure dancer, their questions seemed insincere - like they thought I was crap and they were mocking me. Was that the case? I don't think so, I think they really did like the show - but there's always the nagging thought in the back of my head that I'm not really as good as I hope I am. Am I that insecure that I can't recognize and accept a compliment when I get one?

Do other dancers feel this way? Was Mr. Christopher right? Are we all insecure? Or is there a way to overcome the insecurities?

Ballet for Bellydancers

Sounds like fun, huh? Actually, it was! Last week, I hosted a Ballet for Bellydancers workshop, taught by Jennifer Alvarado, the owner and director of Queens Dance Project.

The workshop was a ballet class, but instead of focusing on pirouettes and tour jete's, Jen focused on the skills that we, as bellydancers, need to know.

I've taken ballet since I was a little girl, and it's been drilled into my head by dance teacher after dance teacher that "ballet is the foundation of all dance." While that might be a very grand statement to make, now that I am a bellydancer - practicing a form of dance that seems to be the farthest thing away from bellydance - I see how true that statement really is.

Ballet teaches strength, but it also teaches grace. It teaches proper posture, and proper arms and hands. It teaches you how to be aware of your body, so that you can become a better dancer. And shouldn't everybody know how to do that?!

Were you at the Ballet for Bellydancers workshop? Share your thoughts! And even if you weren't - what do you think about the connection between ballet and bellydance?