|How do I get started Belly Dancing …
What style of Belly Dance should I consider ..
Belly Dancing Shows and professional performances …
Dancing Qualifications …
I would like to take a weekend course to learn to belly dance – do you offer this?
Although a Fun Workshops will give you a taste of what bellydancing is all about, learning the art takes a considerable length of time. Just getting in touch with your own body takes at least a month or two of 1 class per week, or even at best, 2 classes a week!
Each class builds on what was learnt the previous class. The ultimate enjoyment comes when you are in intermediate level, where your musicality and technique is advanced enough for you actually let go and interpret the moves and the music as your own.
Can anyone, any age or shape, do Belly Dancing?
Yes, yes, yes! As long as you have a sense of humour!
The very young children, under the school going age of 6, seem to battle with concentration, so we encourage adults only! And if you have grey hair… I ask you, just WHY have you waited so long…get to class and find a part of you that you may have forgotten exists!!
The weight of the dancer is irrelevant – getting to love and accept your inner goddess is more important, and then you will learn to love your body, irrespective of its shape! Embracing your ultimate feminine self means the acceptance of who you are, both physically and emotionally.
Will I lose weight doing Belly Dancing?
Yes. As with any exercise and balanced nutrition – stick to it and you will also get fitter. You will also have much more energy and your zest for life will be renewed! This is a really fun way to work up a sweat – why are you still reading this and nor up and wiggling around the room? Have you called yet to book your place in the class yet? No seriously, if you need a bit of exercise and are not keen on heavy physical workouts, then I suggest you ease into this challenging yet gentle art form with a smile!
Can I still belly dance when pregnant or injured?
Yes, but your teacher must know of your condition and your doctor must give you the okay as some of the movements are quiet vigorous.
Herewith a very relevant and valuable contribution by one of our students on this topic:
“PUTTING THE “BELLY” INTO “BELLY DANCING”
During the Autumn of 2005, we were blessed with the birth of our beautiful new son. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only new addition to my life . . . You see, I was also a few extra pounds richer. So I started belly dancing. And it worked! As the flab started melting, the goddess inside me started growing . . . but . . . the goddess wasn’t the ONLY thing that started growing! Not only did I shimmy those fat rolls away, but I’ve also shimmied a New Life into my body . . . the life of our second child. What makes this so astonishing, is that with our firstborn we actually struggled to fall pregnant.
In fact, we struggled to the extent that my son could only be conceived with the help of fertility drugs. And the only thing that was different this time around, was the fact that I’ve been doing belly. Therefore, I honestly believe from the bottom of my goddess soul, that this baby is a belly baby! For me personally, belly dancing was the best thing I could’ve done during my pregnancy.
I enjoyed all the benefits that I would’ve with any other moderate exercise program (quicker recovery, better fitness level, lower heart rate, etc), but with the added advantage that I was surrounded by a network of lady friends who really showed a keen interest in me and my developing baby. But belly dancing didn’t only help me to fall pregnant – it’s also contributed richly to my pregnancy experience.
Firstly, I had a lot more energy. With my first pregnancy I used to be exhausted all the time. So much so, that I used to fall asleep writing. (Please note – not reading, but writing!) This time I seemed to have a fountain of goddess energy that kept me going and going and going . . . like a pregnant Duracell bunny!
Secondly, I’ve gained less weight at a much slower pace than I did the first time around. Nice.
Thirdly, I didn’t have any backache, which is something that really got me down in my first pregnancy. This, to me, is astonishing proof of exactly how much belly dancing strengthens all your core muscles.
Fourthly, it taught me to laugh at myself. (Heck, you would too if you were shimmying a bump in a mirror!).
Fifthly, I got in touch with my body again. It’s amazing how we loose this very important dimension of being a “whole” person in today’s society. And what about the baby, you might ask?
Well, the amazing part is that this active little butternut, ALWAYS fell asleep in the womb while I was dancing.
Generally speaking, belly dancing has given me (pregnant or non-pregnant), a lot more confidence in myself. Every week I get challenged to step out of my comfort zone. And trust me, it’s not always easy. But it’s the only way to grow. And yes, some evenings I am tired after work and I don’t always feel like going to class, but the feeling you have after finishing . . . man . . . I’ll go to class, even if I’m nine months pregnant and it’s snowing outside, just to get my weekly “fix”.
And last but not the least belly really helped the recovery process. If Belly dancing helps you to get in touch with your body, it does it even more so when you’ve got a tiny human being growing inside your womb. Suddenly, all the hip circles, the figure eights, drops, lifts, etc, are done with a small life at its core . . . you do it with a whole new purpose – to prepare your body for the wonderful journey of childbirth.
The dancing, together with the Jewels’ group support, helped to make it a far less stressful pregnancy than my first one, and I reaped the benefits in my “new” baby’s temperament – he started sleeping through after about 8 weeks, and even during the first 8 he only woke up once a night. Now, some people might argue that it’s not because of the belly dancing, but it’s the only thing I’ve done differently to what I did in my first pregnancy.
So from my point of few, get yourself and your growing belly to class. It’s the best way to make the most incredible 9 months of your life even better. Annette
Some Thoughts for Beginners
By Charlotte Blignaut
Published in July / August 2003 edition of SA Dance
The more I learn about belly dancing the more fortunate I feel to have discovered this amazing dance. It constantly proves to be so much more then just a means of expression, it is without doubt also a wonderful vehicle of exploration and discovery. It is perhaps for this reason that I would like to share the following with those who have just begun to take up belly dancing or who are considering doing so. Belly dancing provides women with a safe environment in which they can discover and explore the essence of being a woman.
There is a Goddess within each of us that demands, not only our acknowledgment but also our respect. Very often a beginner would be filled with feelings of self-doubt and awkwardness but with perseverance and the right encouragement these obstacles are quickly overcome.
It is incredibly rewarding to see the amazing growth that, invariably, takes place within each student. Not only will the novice dancer be introduced to parts of their body that they may not have been previously aware of but they will be taught to simultaneously move opposite portions of their body in an articulate and uniquely feminine way.
The movements will not only give you a good cardio vascular workout but it also creates that awareness which is so vital to poise and a graceful carriage. You don’t have to be blessed with loads of natural talent to reap the benefits of belly dancing; just being a woman is talent enough. Not every student will be destined to become a professional dancer but with the right attitude and teacher there is no doubt in my mind that this marvellous dance can profit every woman, you just need a good sense of humour and the willingness to have heaps of fun.
Are there different styles of Belly Dance? If so, what do they entail?
Yes there are different styles – for e.g.: in the Turkish style is awesomely energetic and the dancer leans back more than the in Egyptian style. If you watch a Lebanese dancer you will see she would move her hips very slightly and the arms usually stay at shoulder height, similar to the Greek dancing. Moroccan, Tunisian, and the Gulf all have their own dance style characteristics too.
Some dancers dance on their toes and some dance flatfooted – each brings out different body and hip movements. Each also has its folkloric dances, as with any country. I teach a combination of all the above – and I personally use music from each country as this also dictates that you move differently depending on the music you are required to interpret. The interaction with music is a vital aspect of this dance form. I enjoy the fusion bits occasionally too… it makes for great contrast and adds variety to tradition. Costuming varies from country to country too.
There seems to be many Belly Dancing teachers. How will I know if this is a credible Belly Dancing school?
Very good question! The teacher comes when the student is ready, so when you have started thinking about this art form, it is essential that you are discerning about where you choose to go. Do your homework BEFORE you invest in your future in these classes:
- Email/chat to the teacher about her experience – has she ever been to the countries where this art is an intrinsic part of its character? If so, has she been on intensive training there? Does she proudly show and share photos, experiences and names of the people she attended classes, master classes or group workshops with? It is important to be able to verify that she was indeed successful in her training…very often the actual training details she has undertaken, are left out. I have even had teachers/students who have professed to be successfully trained by me, but either never completed or never were very successful with student training or performances themselves! Does she claim that what she does is the ultimate in belly dancing? A good teacher, as with anything, will admit that we are ALWAYS learning and can never know it all! Her answers will give you some insight into her attitude toward this amazing art.
- Participate in one of the classes to see if this where you feel that you will learn what you want to learn and if it seems authentic – does she share her knowledge/terminology and is she professional in her approach and do her other students enjoy the classes?
- Take note of the condition of the studio. The environment must make you feel comfortable too! Does she keep to class times or is there much chatting or class always late in starting, or worse, classes cancelled even though you have paid her for them? If she runs her classes according to a syllabus it is physically not possible for her to give you proper input if you join the rest of a class that has already started her course… holding up the rest of the class to catch up late comers will possibly annoy or frustrate everyone in the class. So be sure you are getting value for your money spent.
- Is there a troupe of performing dancers, and does she perform herself? With a high standard and reputation? If yes, where? Go and watch them and be sure that the standard is high in your eyes too and be sure that the style is something that you would like to really learn and be associated with. Dare to dream!
- Do you connect with the teacher? And I don’t mean when you chat to her on the phone before you have met her …like each of us in the modern world often finds .. often your tele enquiries come thru at the most inopportune moment, eg when driving! Not everyone feels immediately safe enough to allow themselves to become vulnerable in a strange place like a dance studio. Often stepping out of your comfort zone in front of strangers could make you feel like this. You need to be in her classes to feel for yourself… so ask yourself, can I grow here or not? Am I ready for the growth and comfort zone expansion or not? Are the other girls friendly? Chat to the other girls…be sure what you have been told and what you see is what you are getting – is she committed to her students(i.e. YOU) getting it right, or just being liked by her students?
- Does the school communicate effectively to all students through regular emails or tele? If a teacher is really in demand and very busy, you will probably find she is successful in her communications re her passion, dedication and standard she offers to you. Personally it is just not physically possible for me to answer the phone 24/7… I would not have time to run classes or prepare for them! A well oiled form of communication with her students, using the latest in technology also tells you that she is effective and that her students/clients are also in touch with change and technology of the current times. A sign that the teacher/school is adaptable and full of growth and fun for students! Whether she teaches the art full time or part time can also give you an indication of her passion/commitment to what she offers her students.
- And lastly, website references vs. verbal references…check for continuity…after all, it’s your individual goddess growth that you place in her hands when you start the journey!
Is it true that Charlotte/Jewels of the Nile teachers teach only traditional belly dance?
Nope! Although Charlotte has attended many Egyptian training workshops and Teachers seminars training by leading experts in Egypt, it does not mean that her dance is traditional only.
As you can see on the website, she has also travelled all over the world to investigate and research the many influences that different countries have used to approach the dance. She encourages her students to grow in the essence of the dance, as individuals, in the way that best suits their goddess personality.
You can’t however call what you do in the dance “belly dance” if you do hip hop (or any other form of dancing for that matter). If it isn’t pure belly, then call it something else… don’t misrepresent the art form – it is disrespectful to a culture that is possibly not clearly understood by South Africans.
Is it true that Jewels of the Nile belly dance studio is all about doing shows ONLY?
Wow, Nope, not at all…. every now and then the students have the opportunity to present their newly acquired skills on stage for friends and family at our regular belly dance parties (Haflas). We also have an annual showcase event – this is not cast in stone, but should they decide to make it happen – this depends on the amount of effort they have put in to learning the art form over the year.
95% of the time, they end up surprising themselves with just how far they have come … they usually cannot wait to sell tickets to friends, colleagues and family to be able to proudly strut what they have learnt! The spin off from this annual event is that we usually donated some proceeds to a chosen charity – it makes us all feel great to give back too!
Will all Jewels become teachers / performers?
Unfortunately many students initiate and start classes or attend a workshop in the art form thinking and believing they will not only get great exercise, but will also become teachers in the art and/or dream of being a world renown great solo performer – all this after very little or “some” training, and with almost any teacher who promises them this is possible.
Here are a few reality checks:
- Not everyone is or can be “the” inspirational teacher or performer (solo or group).
- Everyone can, however, access and use the fabulous positive goddess energy that great inspirational teachers and performers exude (which is often why most students are initially motivated to learn this art form!).
- Commitment to “me” time (weekly, daily or otherwise) is becoming harder and harder, due to “life happens” – traffic, finances, work pressure etc.
- The majority of students do not have much time to practice group dances at home anymore, either as fun fellow dancers group play dates, or individually.
- Belly dance is fun exercise and as a highly skilled art form, it can only positively affect your life, body, (hormones) EMOTIONS AND MIND if you do it regularly and execute all technique properly during every class!
Dancing in public – how soon can I do it?
Mmmm …sure, have you reached advanced level?
Usually it takes about 3 years of training before you enter a performance training threshold. And if you are not a trained professional performer, you cannot seriously charge for your “performance”. Be sure that you are indeed capable of giving them what they are expecting and paying for – there are many dancers who have been embarrassed and demotivated when clients have asked them not to come back.
A good teacher will not (and should not) book you for belly dance shows if you are not yet at the already set high standard that the dance in performance is expected of.
Do we get certificates?
Yes, IF you want! Per level completed based on a minimum of 95% class attendance and successful mastering of the technique required in the syllabus per level.
What does having a certificate mean to me? Short term/long term?
Nothing really in the rest of the world – unless the school offers further comprehensive training in the form of performances or a teacher’s training course. For students who join workshops or weekly classes just for fun, for exercise or just to “show off” their new talents to hubby, friends or family, each level certificate is simply a personal achievement, nothing more. (As you know, certificates can be printed out on any computer and issued randomly.)
The art of belly dance should be … to encourage and stretch your comfort zones and should grow you as an individual or facilitate new avenues where you can learn more … even I never stop learning … I learn from my students, my clients and from others in the industry every day.
Being humble throughout the process of life is essential for everyone! Any teacher that puts students in the public eyes MUST have a training programme for this. It is not easy to be vulnerable as dancer in the public, and carries a responsibility to the rest of the industry as this is where the public learn what the art is about.
Can you give me some costuming advice?
Now there’s a subject you can dedicate an entire site to! But let’s just touch the surface.
Costuming has evolved in the dance industry, as with any style of clothing. As a beginner in belly – it is always rewarding to not only experience the dance creatively, but also to make your own first costume, or part thereof. We do have the option of buying directly from many international countries and internet sites now though. The sizing is usually not quite right, but the alterations are usually minimal to accommodate the SA dancer. They often work more cost effective than buying all the sequins, beads etc . . . not forgetting all the time spent making up the costume. We also have fantastic dressmakers who specialise in tailor-made costuming and alterations here in South Africa. But your choice entirely.
Styles can vary according to each style of the dance, per dancer or teacher styles. It is really important to wear what suits your figure type though – don’t be swayed into buying the latest or oldest, most expensive or cheapest – choose what suits YOUR BODY shape! Ask your teacher to help you! You must feel like a goddess with the outfit on!
- Colours – I always recommend that the girls go with the colour that suits them best…. and that which catches their eye first – trust your immediate intuition for colour. You can always add to what you buy as your base, at a later stage! My standards – we are renowned for being stylish, so I insist that the bra and belt must match to ensure the same standard throughout the studio. The mixing of bra and belt colours can look great, but it does lend itself to more of a tribal/gypsy look and feel, with an expectation that the dancer is going to perform such. This usually does not reflect positively when mixed with the girls wearing the single colour outfits who specialise in the modern cabaret style of the dance. The couturier designers in the Middle East seem to keep a costume to one main colour, with the sequins and beading mixing slightly to add a bit more glitz and colour.
- Fringing – although popular as it helps to accentuate the dancer’s moves, it is not necessary. The more modern and accomplished dancers in the world do not use fringing. They have perfected the very difficult art of articulating and accentuating the moves without the help of fringing.
- Harem pants – yes – the loose “bloomer” type – full-length loose pants. If you are wearing them in place of a skirt they should not be transparent – this would give the audience the wrong impression. Jewels were not allowed to bare all like this, so we usually use solid fabric or if we really have to, MATCHING footless tights underneath. If you choose to wear them underneath the skirts, then they can be more transparent. I think it looks really classy and lovely when you match the veil and harem pants!
- Jewellery: arms bands, ankle bands, foot jewels and coverings, headbands, waist chains, hand jewellery…. The list is as long and as creative as you would like to get and adapt it to suit the style of costume and style of dance!
- Belly Dance Shoes: Traditionally, bellydancing is performed bare feet. But to add some extra elegance (and to protect our feet), I introduced what I named “Jewels’ Slippers” I specially had these shoes made for my students, and today they’re almost the industry standard. (Greek slipper converted to gold and silver)
- Variations – How many outfits do I own? Well, that’s my secret…. Now you will just have to see a performance or ten to see them all!
In the end, being brutally honest with yourself (or ask an experienced dressmaker with a good reputation for suitable suggestions), is serious stuff… if a fitted outfit does not suit your body shape or personality, DON’T wear it. If heavy fringing covers your best parts or accentuates body heaviness, DON’T wear heavy fringing… go for lighter or none. Remember, what looks good on a 20 year old body may not suit a 40 year old, and visa versa!
Accentuate the positive and delicately cover that which is not your best.