Student Tips - Dancing With & Looking After Your

 I base my articles on my own experiences as a previous belly dance student, A current community belly dance leader and a professional performer. The articles are meant as a guide to help belly dancing students , Semi pro's and performers. Take from them what you will and enjoy. - Copyrighted please ask permission to use.

- Treat your prop as a dance partner.
When we dance with props whether it be a cane, Sword,Fan veils or a silk veil always remember to treat it as a dance partner. Anyone can pick up a prop and throw it around but a trained dancer with flow gracefully with it.
 The prop is not supposed to take centre stage.

2- Treat a prop as an extension of your body. Imagine it is a limb that is attached to you working together in unison complimenting the rest of your body.

3- When working with a silk or chiffon veil  Imagine you are wearing a metal suit of armour. When flipping the veil around the body this technique reminds us to use our arms to their full potential and it also helps us avoid the dreaded costume matter how hard a dancer tries its hard to get out of the veil on costume snag gracefully. Instead why not incorporate this tip in order to have a more polished dance.

4- Balancing Props -  Sword, Cane, Pot or tray of candles can somtimes just do their own thing from time to time. This is because of gravity as well as the fact that we are working with natural material shaped into a heavy and a little uneven symetrical object. Even though these props balance they will never be a perfect shape weight or balance therefore we must work with them not against them.
Always make sure your posture and balance is correct and if you feel the slip remove the prop from your head. 

 It's best not to chance dancing with a tray with live fire balanced on your head. You definatly shouldnt be performing for the public with live fire if you lack in experience.  

Bad hair days- your hair can play a big part in your prop Balancing. For instance if your posture, technique, balance and weight distribution is correct and you can dance whikst balancing a book with a textured cover but you have fine curly hair, really fine, Soft, Shiny or straight soft hair, oily hair and skin, Fly away hair or hair that needs a lot of product chances are you will have problems with keeping your smooth metal prop on your head. Lucky dancers with lovely thick straight normal hair or thick dry curly or affro hair may never experience the problems us problemed haired beauties do. 
You can add texture by lightly marking some groves at the balance point on the underside of your sword. Use a sharp knife. Don't worry.... You will be able to feel slight ridges but you will not be able to see them ( see images) This tip is similar to that of dance shoe concept. Adding a different texture to the sole such as soft sued to ensure movements, Steps and balance go smoothly and avoiding the feet gripping or sticking to the floor...only its the other way around...adding texture to your sword so it works with your hair type instead of against it. It works by catching a slight slip preventing it from slipping completely off.  If you have fine straight hair, Hair spray is an alternative to marking your sword. If you have a curly hair type hair spray will only cause major frizz. 
For trays that are a slight uneven you can apply a small amount of PVA glue to the underside. Again apply then scrape a few line shapes into the glue so it looks textured. Let it dry. Then practice with it. You can peel away the glue when ever you want to. I have tried rubbing beeswax and candle wax on my sword by it only makes the slippage worse for my hair type. You can try and see if it works for you. Rub it again on the balance point at the underside of the sword.
When I buy certain Belly Dance items, I buy them to keep and train with them so they are mine. I don't believe in disposables where art is concerned therefore I mark my swords to fit me. However if you don't mind reinventing your sword-drobe you may not want to mark it if you want to sell it on in the future. Remember theres no such thing as cheating where prop balancing is concerned. No amount of  sword marking, glue, false Balancing (beaded hats or turbans) hairspray or beeswax can substitute good technique, weight distribution, Balance or posture. If all technique is incorrect all of the tips mentioned will not help in prop Balancing.

Balancing a Cane on your head - A cane is different again because it is rounded so it will roll, and once it starts rolling chances are it won't stop. If this happens either lift it off and above your head and, camel,  turn or travel. If it rolls off a drops try to catch it, Catch it and make it look like its a trick that was meant to be part of your routine.

5-When twirling a cane its very easy for it to slip out of our hand and end up over the opposite side of the room or heaven forbid on someone's plate. To avoid unessessary embarressment damage or injury of audience members, fellow students or yourself try tying an elastic band around the end of the cane. This add a good way to add grip and avoid mortal combat mishaps.

Close up

2 of my swords with slight grooves

With marked grooves

Close up

My sword with slight marked grooves 

6-Look after your props. 

This is very important. There's nothing worse than a over creased silk veil or a dance cane the dog has chewed the end of. Or to find your sword is bent and out of balance or your tray has been used as an ash tray. Props are expensive and some such as swords are hard to come by especially with all of the high security at airports. Most won't allow strange shaped parcels through customs. So if you have props look after them as if you would your costumes and shoes. I hang my sword on a couple of hooks in my wardrobe, My Canes hung on the clothing pole next to my costumes, My trays on a shelf in my wardrobe and my veils and Isis Wings in a vacume pack at the bottom of my wardrobe. In fact this wardrobe is dedicated to my belly dance gear. It cost me £30 brand new from ikea, Its nothing special to look at but when you open it and look inside, Its better than narnia.
So there you have it. Respect and look after your props and you will find your props will look after you.