Tips: Look and feel like a bellydancer

 I just started bellydancing recently. I was wondering how long you have been bellydancing, and how long before you become confident enough to describe yourself as “a bellydancer.”
Also, I don’t know a thing about sewing or crafting and I was wondering if you had any simple tips to enhancing my bellydancing costume. It is very basic…a straight skirt with slits up the side and a simple tie shirt, all embroidered. I just need to add accessories. Thank you for your time… Jeri

image_cabaretveil
MY FANTASY

Answer: POSING?
It’s natural to feel like you’re playing an assumed role, when first you present yourself as a “bellydancer”. Tell people that you are a student of bellydance. Even pros and teachers continue to study for decades. After several successful performance experiences, you’ll begin to feel comfortable calling yourself a bellydancer.

For me, it was several years before I stopped feeling like a poser who’d be called out as such anytime! But I got a late start in middle age. I saw  teenagers in my class picking up moves effortlessly, while I continued to struggle for many months. Many times I nearly despaired, but I stubbornly persisted. Cause I wanted to BE that image that I illustrated in pen & Ink (above left).

HEADPIECE WITH PENDANTS

Even if you do feel like a poser…simply don’t let on. Don’t give any clue to internal discomfort. That means proud posture, eye contact, poise, and a smile. But not a frozen smile! “Razzle-dazzle ’em…and they’ll never get wise.” ~ from “Chicago.”

This does take practice. Like many would-be performers, I experienced terrible stage fright – another thing I had to overcome. But I always KNEW I had a great costume …that helped.

AN EXOTIC STAGE IMAGE
Your look is important! It helps you achieve the right state of mind to assume your new persona as a dancer, even while practicing. That’s why I became so immersed in costuming. (Similarly, many students acquire a stage name to separate their bellydancer persona from ordinary life.)

belt_hipscarf
COINED HIPSCARF

I have many tips for enhancing a simple costume in my books. My first book Flattering Costume for Bellydancers has hundreds of illustrated costume suggestions for beginners (or anyone) to look like a bellydancer while feeling beautiful.

The most important for the student is a simple coin belt or a hip scarf with fringes, tassels, or coins. Flippy fringes or jingling coins help you learn hip movements and rhythm, and it’s fun. You can make these, or buy an inexpensive one that you can afford, if you’re in a hurry.

SKIRT STYLE
A straight skirt for a student is a bit constricting, because some moves can’t be gracefully done in a tight skirt – floorwook, for instance, or quick changes in elevation. For that, you need maximum freedom of movement for legs. So a fuller skirt and/or pants are good alternate costume pieces. I also feel that moves like shimmies and 3/4 walk look so much better when a flared skirt hides the rapid knee action – the hips then appear to be almost magically vibrating. That’ll make you feel like a bellydancer!

CHAIN/COIN DRAPE

ACCESSORIES, DRAPES, and JEWELRY
Hanging ornaments, draped veils, ethnic jewelry are part of the look. Armbands and headbands decorated with chains, coins or pendants create that distinctive bellydancer look.

If you don’t sew much, thrift shop jewelry is a great resource for accessories. Left, I’ve tacked (a few strong stitches) a chain/coin drape to the underwired bra beneath the tie-front top. This sways and jingles with the slightest upper-body move. A fancy jewelry chain would work as well, or a strand of beads. It’s a good use for broken jewelry. I got the bangles, earrings, and gold scarf pin and tassels secondhand too.

Book 2, Easy Costume has detailed how-tos for super-easy pieces.  Book 6, Thrifty Chic for Bellydancers features readymade pieces that have been decorated with hanging ornaments, jewelry parts, sew-on jewels, and ornate trims. Book 7, Headpieces for Bellydancers, has tons of accessories for the head and hair.

~ Dina Lydia

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