Last week’s challenge had to do with one belly dance “prop,” zills. This week’s challenge is also going to deal with another prop!
First of all, let me say this: too many dancers become prop queens. They know how to use every prop in the book (and then some), but can’t ever seem to actually dance. So, what I am NOT suggesting here is to learn props in order to “prop up” your dance. Some props are just expected to be in the repertoire of a professional dancer, so there is almost no getting around learning some of them. But still DANCE, just with the prop.
Beginner: Veil is not always the easiest prop for a beginner to learn. But, there are still lovely things you can do with a veil without having to seemingly have 4 arms and no bones in them. In a lot of traditional dance, the veil is only used as the “lovely piece of fabric” that is dropped about 30 seconds into the song. Try this first. Learn how to hold a veil (ask your teacher or find a video…there’s lots) and then just practice walking with it trailing behind you (arms up or down, both can be pretty), do a swish, and then drop it. Then continue dancing to your song. Get used to holding the veil, what the weight is, how it feels. Every veil is different, whether it’s silk or chiffon, light or heavy, rectangular or half-circle. All you are doing this week is getting used to idea of having a piece of fabric in your hands, and what you can do with it.
Intermediate: Find a good veil video and start learning the “moves.” There are tons of videos on the Internet and on DVD, so I’m not going to go over all the moves here. But this is your chance to learn them and get good at them. Right now, you aren’t yet “dancing” with the veil; you are merely getting the movements into your muscle memory. This is an important step; without it, you cannot dance WITH the veil. But, pick one veil move, and start thinking about what you can do with the veil while dancing. Can you do a turn with the veil move? Can you do an arabesque? It might not work, or it might look weird, but try it out. Your challenge is two-fold: learn the “moves” and start figuring out what you can do to dance with just one of those moves.
Advanced: Admittedly, I did not start learning any prop until this level. I’ve had to work extra hard to bring my prop skills up to par, so if you can start learning before this point, you should. By this level, you should pretty much know the “moves” for veil and be comfortable with them. But instead of dancing…and then doing a veil move…and then dancing…and then doing a veil move (or worse yet, standing in one place while only moving the veil around), try incorporating the veil with the dance. Try an arabesque with a veil toss (either clap your hands together overhead or toss one side of the veil over your shoulder). Try “doing the laundry” (a Delilah move) while turning. Here’s a video for inspiration (yes, she’s actually using voi, but the same method applies). Notice that there are some moves where she does stop dancing in order to do the lovely veil move, but it fits with the piece. And then she dances with the veil, while also doing “moves.” Your challenge is to learn to use the veil as a dance partner, not as a prop.
Also try out different veil types. I hated veil until I bought my first silk one, because the chiffon was just too heavy for me to heave around and look graceful. Others may hate silk because it’s too floaty and gets everywhere and would much prefer the control of chiffon. Another important note: many veils have sequins or beading around the edges. These are not suitable for anything other than “lovely pieces of fabric.” Sequins and beads hurt when they hit you in the face.