As a troupe director, I know that its impossible to please everyone when it comes to costuming. Each member has an opinion about colors, shapes, styles and coverage that works for their body. Sending a dancer out on to stage in an ill fitting, or ugly costume, or one that just doesn't suit them, sets them up for insecurities and failure. A well thought out costume, that makes them look and feel beautiful, both as part of a team and as an individual helps them perform to the best of their abilities and take home happy memories.
Here are a few things to consider when planning your troupes costume:
How do you get a "put together look" with a large group of dancers? Here are my suggestions:
For the photo above each dancer was given the same instructions. The wrap top was the key fabric and comes from www.Bellydance.com. We found that the matching pants were a little short for our taller dancers, so we added in a black pant in the same cut, but an interesting fabric. Our second fabric is black and silver Assuit as we were dancing at Assuit Fest that year. The dancers added Assuit to their bras and belts as they wished. Trimming a bra with Assuit is fairly cheap if dancers can split up a piece of fabric between them. Other dancers enjoyed the opportunity to include larger or vintage Assuit pieces. Skirlets and belly drapes were options. Each dancer was asked to find jewelry that suited her personality and a large flower in a stand out color.
In the stair case photo below our troupe chose to use a "Pick and Mix" bra and belt set as our neutral. On this occasion we paired it with matching yoga pants in a fabric we knew would stand out at the venue and a large flower in the same shade. Each dancer added wrist or arm bands to compliment her shape and jewelry that matched her personality. On other occasions we paired it with a purple skirt and wrap top. The purple set also mixed and matched with harem pants and a tube top to give a more modest look for outside events as you can also see below. We also all owned a circle skirt and veil in a candy color, which you can see in the third picture. From this one, expensive set, we had three very different looks, using cheaper, off the peg, pieces.
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance teacher, performer and writer. Her first book "Teaching Belly Dance" is available on Amazon. She is currently writing "Becoming a Belly Dancer" with Dawn Devine, Alisha Westerfeld and Poppy Maya.
At this time of year we are bombarded with fitness tips, diet plans and the new, hot, weight loss fads, but one thing that all the experts agree on is that the only way to maintain a fitness regime is to enjoy it. Fitness activities have to be fun to keep you coming back, long after the January motivation is gone. It doesnt matter if its Zumba or soccer, pole dance or parkour, make 2015 the year you love your workout.
Here are ten reasons why I think you should give belly dance a try this year :
1, Its easy to get started but hard to master. You will be dancing from your first lesson, but after 20 years you will still be working on perfecting the layers.
2, You need little or no equipment. You can dance to music on the radio, or download an album from Amazon. It can be danced barefoot and you can practice in a tiny space. (Even on the bart!)
3, Its as intense as you want it to be. Put as much or as little into your dance class, because you know how hard you need to work in each lesson. Belly dancers may glow, but we know how to dance for an hour without sweating !
4, Any woman can get an hour glass figure. Belly dance may not be the quickest way to lose weight, but working the core and hips helps lose inches from the mid section. Belly dance is also fantastic for toning the upper arms, strengthening the legs and improving flexibility.
5, You will learn so much more than you expect, like how to look amazing in photos, Egyptian food recipes and how to turn a veil into a quick, stand in, costume.
6, You dont have to perform (although you may find you want to).
7, Women friends are amazing. Although men are welcome in class, the majority of belly dancers are bright, funny, educated, interesting and exceptional ladies. Our ages range from teens to 90’s and we have more in common than you might think if you saw us laughing over lunch.
8, Your body can do some amazing things. Injuries and disabilities can’t limit our love of dance.
9, Its addictive. Dance creates endorphin as well as burning calories. Belly dancing makes you feel great!
10, Belly dance is lots of fun. Trying shimmying without laughing !
Ok, so not everyone is cut out to be a belly dancer. But when you think about getting fit this January, make sure you are keeping it fun, so that you are motivated for the whole year.
If you would like to try belly dance for free, we have classes in Dublin on the 7th and Livermore on the 9th. Details are below :
7pm, Janurary 7th, Dublin
Radiance Ballet School
6800 Sierra Court, Suite L, Dublin, California
6.45pm, January 9th, Livermore
Valley Dance Theater
2nd Street, Livermore
Normal pricing is $12 for 45 minutes, but these dates are free. Classes are also available through the City of Pleasanton, starting in February.
For more details please visit our web site :
I've been following an interesting discussion on Facebook about warm ups and I wanted to share a chapter from my book including examples of the warm ups that I use. Teaching Belly Dance is available on Amazon :
Your warm-up has a number of aims:
You will notice that I have not listed stretching as an aim in the warm-up. Although we still see teachers stretching their students before class, it is generally considered to be unsafe to stretch before the body is fully warm. Advanced ballet dancers, gymnasts, and martial arts experts sometimes stretch to prepare the muscles, to avoid “ripping” the muscles during extreme moves. If you are teaching your students extreme moves in your belly dance classes, you may want to reconsider your lesson plan! Even professional ballet dancers do not need stretching before a belly dance class, because belly dance doesn’t require the dancer to move outside her natural reach. Most of our students are not in that 0.1 percent of top athletes or dancers who may need to stretch their muscles before placing extreme demands on them – and these people generally have professionals keeping on top of the research for them. If you plan your lesson well and teach new moves later in the lesson when everyone has had a chance to fully warm up, then you shouldn’t have any problems. If you want your dancers to be more flexible, the best way to help them is to repeat the basic moves regularly in class, which will gradually increase their range.
Warm up the body gently, taking into consideration the room temperature and your students’ fitness levels as well as the kind of day they have already had. If you teach in a very hot country and your students have to climb four flights of stairs to get to your studio, you won’t want to start with squats. If, however, your students have just walked through snow to come to your class and the heating isn’t working, you would be better off allowing them to keep their coats on and to jog in place (or sending them home).
Set the tone of your class and help everyone to relax by picking music that is soothing, gentle, and positive. Move with soft, flowing movements, and take time to talk to the group and perhaps introduce some of the ideas for that day’s class. The joints are lubricated with synovial fluid, which protects them from wear and tear and acts as a shock absorber and cushion during movement. Distribute the synovial fluid by using gentle circling movements at each of the joints. I find it best to start at the bottom of the body and work up in order to not leave anything out. Watch as your students move to see if anyone is favoring one side of her body or pulling a face as she moves a joint. They may not be aware of any aches or pains until they start to move.
Once the body has been gently warmed up and the joints lubricated, then the warm-up can become more intense and upbeat. Pick music that is joyful and lighthearted with a regular beat throughout. Once your students know some belly dance moves, you can use them as part of your warm-up in a very relaxed, follow-me style.
Unless someone seems likely to injure herself, warm-up is not the time to correct any movements. Better that they bounce around and get everything warm than tense up and try to do a perfect hip drop. For new students, a simple step tap or walk in place is enough to warm the body. Add arms, hand moves, shoulder rolls, and changes in the size of the step to add variety and interest and to make sure the whole body is working. The body tends to glow – that is, sweat – once the muscles have reached a good working temperature, so take this as an indication that you have worked your students to the right level of intensity.
Practical Tip: Before your first class, practice your warm-up every day for a week so that you don’t run out of energy halfway through or sweat more than the students! Speaking while working out is so much harder than it looks and can mess with your natural breathing patterns. You want your students to feel like they’ve had a workout, maybe make them sweat a little, but you also need to be able to talk straight after your warm-up.
I find it helpful to have a basic move for each warm-up. That may be a step tap, step close step tap, march, or square walk. Mark your basic move with its own arm position and return to it often and before each change of arms or combination. This allows the students to return to the familiar if they got lost in the warm-up and to keep the same pattern as the rest of the class without feeling they look foolish. If you find someone is not keeping up or it looks like too much for them, call out and remind them that they can stick to the basic if they prefer. Continue with each change for at least a count of eight, if not sixteen or thirty-two. This allows the dancers to see what you are doing and get confident in their moves. If no one can do your warm-up, it is too hard. Warm-up time is not the best point to challenge your students mentally.
Think about your lesson when planning your warm-up. Focus on the parts of the body that will be working hard in the lesson, and introduce components that help with moves. It is wonderful to be able to say “You just did this in the warm-up” as you introduce a section of the main body of the lesson.
SUGGESTED WARM-UP FOR TOTAL BEGINNER DANCERS.
With soft music, each move repeated around sixteen times:
With upbeat music, each move repeated around sixteen times:
SUGGESTED WARM-UP FOR MORE EXPERIENCED DANCERS
With soft music, each move repeated around sixteen times:
With upbeat music, each move repeated around sixteen times:
If you like this chapter, check out the "look inside" feature on Amazon and read the first few chapters of "Teaching Belly Dance" for free :
If you like this blog, go back to the blog page, for others you might like including:
Being Part of the Solution
Dealing with Difficult Students
I'm Perfect for Belly Dance (and so are you)
Or check out these Hub Blogs including:
"Your First Belly Dance Workshop"
The Top Ten Belly Dance Tunes for Performance"
"Finding a Great Belly Dance Teacher"
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
She has taught more than 4,000 belly dance classes, both in the UK and US. She now teaches in Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore in the SF bay area, as well as workshops world wide and on-line via the Belly Dance Business Academy. Her classes are known for their humor, detailed breakdowns and cultural context. Students who have studied with Sara have gone on to teach and perform in all styles of belly dance and many have made their living through performance or teaching.
Sara’s first book “Teaching Belly Dance” is available on Amazon. Her second "Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage", co- written with Dawn Devine, Alisha Westerfeld and Poppy Maya, is available in 2016 .
Much as I wanted to include the following in my book “Teaching Belly Dance”, I know that Facebook moves and evolves its policies almost weekly. The information here is based on my understanding of Facebook in 2014.
When I joined Facebook in 2005 it had a nice, simple idea : Post stuff on your wall that your friends would like to see, see what they are posting in return.
It was pretty, smart, easy to use and a good step up from Tribe, Bhuz and the MED list. Here was a new way to communicate and connect with Belly Dancers from around the world. Little did I know....
Facebook is now my top means of communication with the outside world. With the mobile app I can check my feed at least once an hour and keep track of thousands of friends I have never met. When I attend belly dance events I post first to make connections, so even though I have moved around the world, I can meet up with familiar faces. When I want to buy or sell a costume, I go to Facebook first. If I want to send a message to my students I put it on Facebook and when I want to advertise an event…. Facebook is my first port of call.
Of course not everyone is as addicted as me, and we are seeing a split in the world of belly dance between those in the know (on Facebook) and those who avoid sharing their every moment with a faceless corporation with limited ethics. I want to plead the case for using Facebook to promote ideas, raise your profile and get bums on seats at your events. Please excuse me if I start with the basics :
The first thing I am going to suggest is that you separate out your “family” Facebook and your “belly dance” Facebook. Using Facebook to advertise to belly dancers will be boring for your non dancer friends. Split them up. For a while Facebook worked on circles and groups, but that never worked. Have two Facebook pages, or three or four. Yes it breaks the rules, but it’s a small rebellion. You may choose to have a “fan page” instead, but I find that people prefer to be your “friend” than your “fan”. Maybe I’m just not famous enough :)
Next you need to get followers. This takes work, is boring, but it has to be done. Find a friend and look on her friends list for anyone else you know. Repeat. Hopefully people will notice you and send you friend requests too. Its up to you who you accept, but I have rules :
And here we start to see the problem with advertising events on Facebook. Nine years ago most of us had 100 friends, posted twice a day and could keep up with each others news. Now I have over 1,000 and I limit my friend list. Many others have ten times that split between different accounts. In order not to bring the facebook universe to a grinding hault Facebook decided to limit your feed to your top friends, and you didn’t get a say in who those people are.
Let me say that again: "You don’t get to decide whose posts you see or who sees yours."
If for example you wanted to post “Informal Hafla at mine right now, bring a bottle”, some estimates say that 30% of your friends will see that post over the next few days. Not too bad, but that 30% might all be three hours plus away from where you live, while the belly dancer across town who is bored tonight will never see that post.
You can influence what you see on your own feed by “liking” posts from the people you want to hear more from. If you like or comment on your class mates baby photos, Facebook will make sure you see the second batch.
It therefore follows that if you want more people to see your posts you need to encourage them to “like” or comment on your posts. Some people come right out and ask and that is why you see these kinds of weird fishing posts :
These posts are all about collecting people who will see your next post. There are companies who set up Facebook pages like “Kittens are the best”, fish for highly interactive friends by posting kitten pictures then sell the page on to a company (lets say a Onesie company). A few weeks later they change the name of that page. Suddenly you find that you like “Adult Onesies are the best”, they are filling up your feed with adverts and all your friends are laughing at you. That’s a silly example, but beware, that’s how you get unexpected porn show up in your feed.
As a belly dancer you may want to fish for more likes and comments to help promote events you are working on. For example your friends may all like a new video of Rachel Brice that you share, or a photo of you in your new costume. Likes cause more likes. If Facebook sees that most of the 30% of friends they showed your post to liked it, they assume it is important and show it to more. If they also like it, then your message will spread. If your next post is about your event, Facebook sees you as an important person and sends your new post out to more of the folks on your friends list.
However if you post the same thing or something simiar, Facebook will limit its access to your followers who don’t want to see the same posts time and again. This is a huge problem for us if we are promoting an event. Say you posted this ;
Let us assume that 30% of your followers saw it. Three people clicked like.
If you post it again, word for word, the next day it will only get seen by perhaps 10% of your followers and some of those will over lap. This second post has no hope of reaching your prime market. You feel like you sent it out to everyone on Facebook (twice !), where in reality just a few dozen saw it. We need to do more.
The first thing you can do is set up an event on Facebook and invite people. Facebook prefers to send people to its own pages over outside web pages. Put everything on the events page that you would on a web page and post something slightly different to your wall :
With an event page you have the chance to invite people directly. I suggest you start a “hit list”. As you connect with people on Facebook make a note of who they are, where they live and how you intend to market to them. It is no different to keeping an address book. I have a list of people who live within an hour of me, who I invite to events I organize. My second list is of people who have shown an interest in starting classes, and I send them an event invite each time a new course starts up. My final list is of people who may host a workshop with me when I travel. For a local event I am going to invite everyone on that first hit list.
Event invites go straight to notifications and have a higher chance of being seen. However, so many people send out blanket invites (to everyone on their friends list) that many of us skip over those notifications assuming that they are out of area. Please don’t do this – it spoils the effect for the rest of us ! It also helps if the name of your event includes a location :
The next way you can enhance the views of posts about your event is to tag people. Tagging promotes your post with both your friends and the friends of the person you tag. For example, before I taught in Bristol last month I tagged the host, Sasha, in many of my posts:
Her students and other dancers in the Bristol area where more likely to see that post because she was tagged in it, and it may have helped bookings. It also helps promote her as a community leader and workshop host. She did a great job, and I want other people to know that.
Some people are very open to the idea of tagging each other in posts, but limit it to people you are working with on a project. You can’t just tag the most famous belly dancer you know and expect her friends to like you too. Have you seen the posts where a costume designers puts up pictures of new costumes and tags every belly dancer in the universe? You don’t have to help promote their work if you don’t want to. However you should be open to helping out friends by using the tag option. Adjust your setting so that you have to approve any tags others might put on photos or posts. That way you can control how your name is being used, while still promoting events and products you support.
Please feel free to share, tag me and comment on any posts about this blog, or about my book ! If you interact with my post it will reach more of my fiends and maybe some of yours might like to know more about me :)
Personally I am a big fan of advertising on Facebook. Adverts appear in the main body or side bar of the feed of the people you target. The great thing with Facebook ads is the targeting. For example, before a new semester in Pleasanton I advertise to women over 20 who live in Pleasanton, like dance and are not already connected to me. Over this weekend I advertised to people in the UK,USA, Canada and Noway who like belly dance. That advert helped me find 40 people who liked my book, and 4 people bought it. It cost me $5. I think that is money well spent.
Facebook users say they hate adverts, but I think many are more interested in seeing targeted ads. Be honest - you clicked that advert with the pretty yoga pants....
Make sure that all your promotional work links back to one place (most likely your main web site) and remember that people hate to click more than once. If you are promoting an event make sure that when they click on your post or advert they get to a place with all the information they could possibley want.
Finally remember to work as part of a community. By sharing other peoples events you help that event information reach more people and position yourself as a “gatekeeper” informing other belly dancers of what is happening. Gatekeepers get more attention and are more customer friendly than those that fish. Your increased popularity in turn increases interest in you, your events and those whose information you share. The more of a community we can build the faster we can get information to people who want it. Post often but keep it fresh and mix up your topics, providing new information and topical news in amoungst your continued promotion of yourself and your events. Too little and you wont be heard, too much and you turn your market against you.
Here are my top tips for marketing your event at belly dancers via Facebook:
1, Set up a web page with all the information laid out clearly
2, Set up an event and invite your “hit list” to attend. Make the location clear.
3, Post your event on your wall every few days. Say the same thing with different words, add pictures and make each post new and different. Dont always include the same web site link in the main text:
4, Fish for likes and comments:
5, Advertise on Facebook but target your ads at your prime customers.
6, Ask your friends to share your post. Share other peoples posts.
7, Tag your friends (but ask them first):
8, Don’t limit your focus on Facebook – make a web site, email the local teachers, send out flyers and talk to people over the phone.
Good luck with your event, and feel free to share this post, tag me, and buy my book !!
In my book "Teaching Belly Dance" I advice teachers to always have a back up plan...or two. Things do go wrong, and its part of your role as a class teacher to move seamlessly through the lesson no matter what. As if the universe wanted to make me put my money where my mouth is, last Tuesday was not a good day....
So first off you have to know that my husband broke his foot two days before. While he got amazing treatment, it did mean that we spent a lot of time in the hospital and he was forced to spend a couple of days at home.
I have a plan for the days when I am working in the evening. I tend to write or edit or generally work on "Teaching Belly Dance" for a few hours, then around 11 I write my lesson plans which takes about an hour, then I move on to my music plan, which is about an hour more, then I often have to practice (particularly if there is some choreography in the lesson). I cant teach it unless I can do it - and being able to do a move or a combination a month ago is not the same as being able to do it tonight ! So that was my plan last Tuesday - not particularly a busy day.
Then my husband asked if we could run some errands - of course I am taxi, because he cant drive with a broken foot.
One of those errands was to drop a check in with the garage. Its a bit of a drive, but we had time.
Three hours later they have finally processed the paperwork and we have an appointment "soon" with the correct member of staff who can take the check. My phone is dead and we have watched three episodes back to back of some weird crime drama on their TV with the sound off. It was the pool boy...
oh and I have an hour til class.
Thankfully I had done my lesson plan and music plan.... practice not so much... and I hadn't downloaded my music plan to my ipod.
I get home, charge my phone, put on make up and go to plug in my iPod.....Nothing. Its not flat, its just crashed. Its now five minutes til leave the house time. I do that reset thing with the outer and inner buttons..... nothing.....I grab water and try to re-set again..... and I reset again.....Now I really have to leave the house. Thankfully I have music on my phone, but not for my plan.
I have millions of track - just millions - and I like to have a theme or a pattern running through the weeks for my classes. I spend a lot of time picking just the right track for each activity - but I cant keep all those tracks on my phone, its just not big enough. Instead I keep a minimum list of essentials :
How much !? Posted on December 17, 2013 I get asked this all the time “how much should I charge for….”
In my book “Teaching Belly Dance” I avoided costs that would date the book, but here is how I calculate my fees:
No matter what the job is start with your “I wont get out of bed for less than” price. This expression comes from the modelling world, but it works for other businesses too – just how much money do you want before you will get out of bed, put on your full make up, and “be” the belly dancer? This will depend a bit on what kind of work you are being offered – for example I hate teaching kids, but I love my regular students – I probably want twice my “get out of bed” price for a morning in a school. This also covers costs associated with being a teacher or performer that might come under the umbrella of “admin” or “hassle”. You might factor in the cost of your mobile phone, computer, internet into your annual business costs, but what about time spent on the phone or answering emails? Sometimes a booking can be organize with a quick phone chat followed by the emailing of a contract. Other times it takes twenty calls before the client decides they want to book the balloon artist instead. And I cant calculate the many hours and miles I have burnt on my quests for keys for dance studios over the last fourteen years. If you still feel as if you don’t deserve the “get out of bed” price then use it as part of your negotiation when a customer wants you to drop your price.
Add in the things you can put a price on. How much will the traveling cost you? Gas/petrol, bus tickets, train fare…. add parking, entry fee if you are being charged. How much is room hire? and insurance?
And how about those things that are harder to price? Do you need a new costume? or does your costume need repairs or a dry clean? You will need a full face of make up, and perhaps false nails, eyelashes or a spray tan. Divide these costs between how many jobs you do between payments. So if you perform twice a week all year and buy three costumes each year, you should divide the cost of the costumes by 100(ish) jobs (3 costumes @ $300 = $900 divided by 100 jobs = $9 per job), if you do your nails each month then that cost is divided by 8 jobs ($40 divided by 8 = $5)…. and so on
Next you can charge for your skills. I charge $25 per hour to teach and $50 per half hour to perform – or to wait to perform ! Remember that you should be paid for all the time you are on site, not just for the time that you are on stage. You are still a belly dancer goddess while you are hanging out in the toilets waiting for the stage to be set up. Make sure that your booker knows that they will be paying for you from the moment you arrive and that you have to leave on time. Or you can simply assume that every 15 minute performance will include two hours of hanging about and be happy to know that you are being paid to text your mum or read a book.
Now to preparation. Each one hour beginner lesson should take about an hour to prepare. More advanced classes are about twice that; an hour of studying the style (taking workshops, watching videos and on line research), plus an hour of lesson planning. If your preparation hourly rate is $50 then you want to recover $100 from each advanced class. If you have twenty students then that will be $5 each. Don’t forget to add in other charges to that (such as hall hire, teaching time and insurance) before settling on a class fee. If you have a student who would like a private lesson look at how long the preparation is going to take. Assessing their choreography will take less preparation than writing a choreography especially for them. When taking a booking for a performance add in preparation time to that as well. How long will it take you to put on professional level make up? Do you need to plan a new playlist? Write a new choreography? or re-learn an old one? If the client asks that you perform to her favorite piece of music, add in the cost it is going to take you to prepare something special for that tune, and/or to purchase the music.
Lets look at a few examples:
That is not to say that you can not give your time and energy as a gift for friends or charity if you want to – just as an accountant can do his grandmothers tax, you should be allowed to teach your daughters brownie troupe if you want to – BUT – always let them know the cost of that gift, so as not to distort the general public’s idea of what a belly dancer costs. Personally I always work from a contract, even if I intend to “gift” my fee back to the charity, and I ask for payment up front on the understanding that I will return the money if the event goes well. It also means that someone with a check book approved my booking. In the early days I would turn up ready to teach or perform only to be told “Sorry, I just spoke to the committee and they didn’t realize I had invited you. They are not sure its suitable. Sorry I wasted your time….” I think its better to have that conversation three days before a performance when the check hasn’t arrived (and I can take the phone call in my PJs).
Your contract should make it very clear what the client is paying for, how long you will be on site, when you get paid, if you want cash, what happens to any tips, how many students you can teach (and ask that they are sober if you are doing a party), who is paying for the room hire, who is insured and clarify the cancellation policy.
The book “Teaching Belly Dance” includes some example contracts to help you hire an outside teacher to teach a workshop for your students or perform in your show, plus lots of other advice for anyone who teaches belly dance. “Teaching Belly Dance”, by Sara Shrapnell will be available early in 2014.
Find out more about the book here :
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Posted on December 19, 2013 In my book “Teaching Belly Dance” I talk about the different ways to promote your classes, but today I thought I would look at social media, and Facebook in particular, in more detail.
Posted on December 27, 2013
As a belly dance teacher your role may soon evolve into that of an agent, booking dancers for restaurants, parties or shows. In my book “Teaching Belly Dance” I run through some tips for how to do this and still stay friends (Super Tip : use contracts !), but I have also added a chapter on how to keep dancers safe.
This is controversial for me. I am the mother of two grown sons and a daughter. I believe that one of my most important jobs is to teach my boys not to rape, to respect women, to be the sober one at the party, to call the police, to take a drunk girl home or to call her parents, to protect her, defend her, to speak up. And yet I spend more time teaching my daughter how to stay safe. Why?
I want her to be able to walk the streets after dark, just as her brothers do. She should be able to call on a neighbor to borrow sugar, stand by her broken down car and wait for the repair man, to stay in a hotel on her own….
Statistically all these things are safer than the first few weeks of dating a new man, meeting his friends, visiting his home for the first time. The Hollywood monster maybe the stranger lurking down a dark alleyway, but the real monster is the boy next door, the new boyfriend, the man who wants to ask you for a date. Yet I fear the stranger too.
As your belly dance teacher I also become your mum, like it or lump it. I’m going to tell you not to take the booking, cos it sounds a bit dodgy, not cos I want the gig myself. I’m going to come with you, guard the door while you change, stand between you and the drunks while you dance (and pretend to take photos), and drive you home. I know you fancy the man a the bar, but you are not staying to chat tonight. Call him tomorrow when he is sober and you are not the “belly dancer”. Sadly he probably wont be so interested. I am old and grumpy and bossy and a spoil sport.
Years ago, I would call on a neighbor each afternoon and take her for a walk. She was about ten years older than me, amazingly bright and fascinating. She had traveled the world and was a wealth of information about the Middle East. She needed someone to walk with her as she was in the last few weeks of carrying her twins. It was a joyful shuffle and sway around the block. I was first choice babysitter to her babies, walked them home from school when she went back to work, spent Christmas afternoons admiring their presents. Today one of those twins posted a very interesting blog about “rape culture”, she quoted feminists, anti-feminists, sociologists and scientists. I’m kind of proud to see that this teenager is obviously studying this subject in depth and feels strongly enough about her views to share them with others. But I am also sad. She is 15. My generation should have sorted this for her. People like me and her mother – strong, intelligent women – we have been teaching our boys not to rape, but its not enough. She sees more work to be done, and she is right.
In the chapter “Keeping dancers safe” I list the things we need to do as dancers, and teach to other dancers, to be “street wise”. I wish it wasn’t necessary. I wish I could cut that chapter. I wish that every dancer could feel safe from attack. But in the mean time I’m going to spell out in my book the “rules”. I am happy to be mum to any performer, and if I cant be there then let me give you my voice in your head telling you to be alert – like it or lump it !
Teaching Belly Dance is available on Amazon -
Return to Sara's Blog to read more including : "I'm Perfect for Belly Dance, and so are you!" and "Picking out a Troupe Costume".
Sara Shrapnell's new book "Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage", with Dawn Devine, Alisha Westerfeld and Poppy Maya is available in summer 2016
Posted on December 29, 2013
I’m not usually one for New Years Resolutions, but I do like to set myself aims and now seems like a good time to re-set.
My last set of aims was written when I moved to the USA:
I think these are going to be my new aims :
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
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