▶ How do I work towards performing? I don’t feel quite ready yet.
I recommend learning the basics with a teacher – either locally or online.
What are the basic belly dance moves you should know? They are isolations of the hips, torso, chest. These are lifts and drops, slides, shimmies, twists, circles, figure 8s, and undulations – of both the upper and lower body. See Shemiran Ibrahim’s 7 Core Movements of Belly Dance for more explanation of basic belly dance moves.
Helen Santa Maria, another UK-based teacher, has an online belly dance studio with monthly subscriptions.
A final online suggestion is Datura Online belly dance studio from Rachel Brice in the USA, with monthly subscriptions or individual video rentals, such as the Egyptian Technique video series (Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3).
▶ Do I have to perform?
Performing is completely optional if you attend a course or workshop.
▶ Where can I find music to dance to?
Try YouTube or Spotify for inspiration. Search “belly dance music” or “Egyptian music” or “music for oriental dance”. Amazon UK or Amazon USA will have many of these songs available for digital purchase (a drm-free MP3 download).
Shira’s online belly dance website has a comprehensive section about belly dance music, including articles on music theory and song lyric translations.
▶ How can I improve my musicality?
Understanding the rhythms underlying oriental dance music will improve your musical ear. Web resource on Middle Eastern Rhythms (Baba Yaga Music).
Want to improvise in your dance performances, but don’t know how to start? Try Nadira Jamal’s Improvisation Toolkit Volumes 1 and 2, available as DVDs or digital downloads
JWAAD Belly Dance Training offer ‘Understanding Music’ and ‘History & Culture’ courses in the UK. They are accredited to Level 3, equivalent to an A Level.
▶ Am I too old/overweight/unfit to belly dance?
No! You are never too old, overweight, or unfit to belly dance. Belly dance is a low impact form of exercise which is generally easy on the joints. People of all ages, shapes, and sizes are successful belly dancers.
▶ I have an injury. Can I still belly dance?
It depends. Generally your injury should be well healed and you should have the ok from your GP to begin exercising before you try belly dance. Belly dance uses a lot of lower body and torso articulations, so knee, hip, and back injuries may be especially problematic. You should discuss your injury with your GP and dance teacher to assess suitability before the first class.
▶ Do I have to show my belly?
No! Most students wear a comfortable t-shirt or tank top and exercise bottoms or leggings to class. There are a variety of costume options – some that show the belly and others that don’t.
▶ Is belly dance ‘too sexy’?
No! Belly dance originates as a social dance in the Middle East. Like any form of dance – it expresses emotion through movement. Belly dances can be happy or sad, serious or funny, and any emotion in between. Belly dance movement, such as articulations of the torso and hip, may be perceived as “too sexy” because of biases and stereotypes audience members have projected onto dancers. However, belly dance is at its core a fun and social dance performed by men, women, and children of all ages.
▶ Can men belly dance?
Yes! Men are welcome in my belly dance classes. In the Middle East where belly dance originates, belly dance is a social dance that men and women, children and adults do to express emotion through movement at social gatherings. Most professional belly dancers who perform at restaurants and night clubs are women, but there are some men such as Ozgen (Turkey) and Khaled Mahmoud (Egypt). In the west, belly dance is generally learned and performed by women, but again there are men such as Zorba (USA) and Horatio (Germany).