Weekly Challenge for April 1st!
Hello fellow dancers! It’s Monday, and it’s time for another weekly belly dance challenge! This week is going to be a little different.
Costuming in belly dance can be almost as important as your movements. Different styles of belly dance use different costuming, but it can be jarring to see practice wear on the stage. I’ve seen it. In fact, this post was inspired by a friend’s post on Facebook about “blinged out” practice gear being considered for performances. Yuck.
You see, professional belly dancers are trying very hard to get belly dance to be seen as a legitimate dance form. Belly dance is not easy to master, but a lot of people take a few classes, buy a $60 costume off eBay and start calling themselves professionals. Not cool.
Even if you have no intent of ever being a professional, it’s still a good idea to figure out what style of costuming is appropriate. Hence, this week’s challenge.
Beginner: You probably aren’t ready for performance yet, and that’s okay! But, you may at some point dance at a hafla with a student troupe. Student costuming, necessarily, is quite different from professional costuming. But it still should not be practice wear. A sports bra and a raggedy pair of Melodias is not appropriate for a student costume, even at a student hafla. So what’s the challenge? Don’t worry, it’s not going to break your bank! Think of this as a scavenger hunt! Watch some videos, browse costuming sites like Dahlal, or sites like Etsy. Take a look at what other student troupes in different styles are wearing. For Tribal, choli tops and colorful skirts work really well. For cabaret, previously owned costumes may still be too expensive. Try a half top and skirt from L. Rose instead. Don’t worry about buying them, just take a look at what others are wearing and what’s available. Every day this week spend a few minutes looking at sites, and see what’s out there. Stay away from bra tops that still look like bras (you shouldn’t be able to see the underwire, the thin lingerie straps, or the normal lingerie hooks), and from sports bras with necklaces pinned to them. Can you make a dream costume for under $80?
Intermediate: It’s definitely time for student haflas! If you are in a student troupe, you may already have a troupe costume. Take a look at it. Is it a bra with a necklace draped over it? Did you make it yourself? If you did, that’s great, but is the bra completely covered? Your challenge is going to be similar this week. Look at your own stuff, and look at what other troupes are wearing (remember that this is not a comparison challenge…you aren’t trying to find out if your costumes are better or worse than someone else’s; you are looking just to see what other people are wearing). Take a look at the sites listed above and see if maybe you can put together a good student costume for under $80. Again, don’t worry about buying it, just see what’s out there, and what you should be wearing. Again, stay away from uncovered bras and sets that look like craft-store projects.
Advanced: If you are a professional dancer, you should know better than to go on stage, representing belly dance as an art form, wearing an uncovered bra with some stuff slapped onto it and yoga pants. While not every costume has to be a Bella with half your yearly income worth of rhinestones on it, it should still be appropriate for the style and venue. I’ve seen professionals, at a show that I had to pay to get into, doing a traditional cabaret set in a choli tops and yoga pants. Not cool. Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that your costume is as much a part of the show as your dancing. Why do you think cover-ups are such a big deal (oh, don’t get me started…you DO have a cover-up, right?). If your piece calls for a choli top and yoga pants, then go ahead and wear them. I’ve seen excellent performances in those items, but they fit the piece and the style. Your challenge is to go through your own closet and take a long, hard look at your costumes. Do you have any that are inappropriate (uncovered bras, plastic beading, etc.)? If so, don’t throw them out, just keep in mind that those are more appropriate for practice. If you don’t have any appropriate costumes, see what you can’t find on those websites. A good starter professional costume will only set you back about $150. Get one in silver or gold, and then buy a bunch of different colored skirts, and you have more than one costume that won’t send you into debt! Tribal ladies have the same challenge. Too many Tribal bras are plain black lingerie bras with some coins sewn on. See if you can’t find some that are covered instead.
Let’s all up the standards of belly dance costuming, okay? Believe me, if your costume is too distracting because it’s inappropriate, people will not remember you for your dancing, no matter how good it is. And for those just beginning, early education on appropriate costuming means you won’t be wasting your money later on if you do decide to perform!