The Devil's Details,
Show Ethics for Professionals
5 of 5- Beauty
of this article listed at bottom of page
belly dancer is supposed to be larger than life. Traditionally,
she was Marylyn Monroe, Mae West and Ginger
Rogers, all rolled
into one. At the very least, she was sensual and beautiful
to look at. For new dancers, mastering the art of glamour
can be daunting. But take heart, while internal sensuality
requires character work, external beauty is easier to fix.
let your customers see you without makeup or in grungy
cloths. Protect your image and mystique. If you are
unfamiliar with the accoutrements of glamour, go to a specialist
to learn the tricks of the trade. Don't be your own guinea
pig. In my opinion, visits to a makeup artist and stylist
are some of the best career investments you can make. And
don't think you don't need help. Plain-Jane was NEVER part
of the persona. Even the Pharaohs wore eye liner.
legs and arm pits. No one wants to see body hair, particularly
in the Middle East. That is a definite no-no in their culture
that dates back to the pyramids. It was an ideal hiding
place for lice .
groomed eyebrows. Your brows define your facial features.
Have them shaped by a professional esthetician the first
time around. Then you only have to maintain them. Once
upon a time in Persia uni-brows were considered sexy. But
now, it is uncouth to have bushy or invisible eyebrows.
make-up application. Some of Cairo's most well known
dancers spend hours in the makeup chair before they go
on stage. They know that no matter what God gave them at
birth, they can always make it better with pancake, blush
and under-eye cover-up. Make-up can fix the shape of your
eyes, lips and nose, all with highlights and shadow. The
further away the audience, the more liberally you can apply
it, particularly on the eyes. The dark smoky kohl look
is a standard of classic Middle Eastern dancing. Can the
audience see your eyes under the lights? Does your lipstick
fade to nonexistent with red spots? Is your skin too pale,
do you look like a ghost? Have a friend check your makeup
in the beginning when you first start performing. Do you
have a pancake line on your chin or neck? Do you sweat?
There is nothing worse than watching a performer's foundation
or mascara run. Ever see 'owl eyes' on a dancer? It's not
a pretty sight. If you do sweat heavily you will have to
invest in waterproof make-up and a portable package of
tissues for on-stage touch ups.
- Hair. A
thick shiny mane is the trademark of Egypt's belly
dance stars. Most of them either wear wigs or extensions.
Big hair seems to be a norm, with good hair being off the
face. Bangs are not in fashion - they read "foreigner." Longish
hair is also expected in a cabaret setting. If you color
your hair, make sure the roots aren't showing, particularly
if they are gray. It sounds silly to say, but I have seen
dancers with bleached blond hair and black roots two inches
long. Again, it ruins the mystique.
- Nails. Clean,
filed and painted nails are essential, particularly for your
feet if you dance bare foot. The hands are such important
visible parts of the dance that any good performer will ensure
hers are presentable.
cover-ups. Again, you must be objective about
your appearance. A little flesh around the hips is good,
but too much should either be covered or lost. The ideal
body type for a Middle Eastern dancer varies by country,
so check the nationality of most of your potential customers.
Turkish and Lebanese audiences are much less forgiving
about fat than Egyptians. Rolls of flesh are not good for
any of them. Stretch marks should also be covered. Usually
the owner or hiring agent of a restaurant / nightclub will
supervise the dancer selection process. They look for body
types that make their customers happy. Unfortunately, talent
alone is not good enough. You have to look the part.
that fits. Everyone has a different body type and it
is up to the dancer to assess her own figure. The person
selling a costume has a different agenda than the person
buying it. Therefore the vendor might not be the best judge
of whether something fits or not. Choose a costume that
emphasizes good features and hides bad ones. Costumes that
are too tight bunch and create rolls. It is a bad idea
to buy a costume that doesn't fit, even if you plan on
fixing it or losing 10 pounds. Are you sure it will look
good once it's taken in or out? How do you know where those
ten pounds will come from? Will you really lose them? Will
you really have the time to sew? It is better not to buy
something unless you can see exactly how it will look on
you. Even if the costume were a bargain, it would still
be overpriced if you never wore it. Is it too short or
too revealing? Audiences really don't want to see your
underwear. That is information they could do without. Family
friendly is generally the norm in the United States. Will
your new acquisition make anyone uncomfortable? It is best
to err on the safe side, particularly if the purchase price
Middle Eastern popular culture. There is a lot to be
learned from watching MTV style Middle Eastern clips. Think
about their makeup and costuming. How could you adjust
it to accentuate your features and appear more authentic,
i.e. Middle Eastern? Do you know what reads as "classic
belly dance" era beauty? How is it different from the current
article turned out to be much longer than I expected when I
sat down to write it over a year ago! Yet it is just an introduction
to the issues professional dancers face. You will learn the
finer points after you've been hired several times. That is
why a performer's first job is the most important, the one
remembered after the others are long forgotten. Being prepared
for it then is crucial. When you understand the business, it
is easier to enjoy the art - which is, after all, The Point.
No one in her right mind enters this profession unless she
enjoys dancing, not in the Western world at any rate. Respect
yourself and your co-workers. They too, love what they do and
don't want their jobs ruined by an inexperienced newcomer.
Learn the tricks of the trade, become a respected member of
the dance community and contribute to our art form. Knowledge
is power. Use it to turn pleasure into profit. Not just for
yourself, but for all of us in the profession.
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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
The Devil's Details, Show Ethics for Professionals by Yasmin
1- Booking a Party
a dancer looks good, she, or another, will get called back
to perform again. When she looks bad, customers might be
turned off to our lovely art form forever. Therefore, a
bad dancer not only ruins things for herself, but for all
- 8-29-07 Part
2- The Cross Cultural Factor
There is a great deal of passive aggressive face-saving behavior
in this profession. It is not always woman friendly either.
Respect is not a given...
- 10-15-07 Part
3- Separating the Girls from the Women
a performer conducts herself as a professional she is much
more likely to obtain repeat engagements and referrals. No
one wants to be seen knowingly hiring an amateur. It is bad
for business and a customer’s image.
- 12-5-07 Part
4 - What NOT To Do
Show up drunk or stoned. No more needs to be said
Copyright Law for Belly Dancers (or for any Performing Artist by
Hollywood blockbuster movies down to clips on YouTube the law
is the same and it applies to anyone who uses someone else’s
music for their own purposes.
Have All The Cover-ups Gone? by Ashiya and Naajidah
to professionalism? Mystery? Decorum and good taste?
In The Streets; A History of Collective Joy” Authored
by Barbara Ehrenreich, A Book Recommendation by Delilah
book, Barbara Ehrenreich takes one back to the original motivations of dance
along a historic journey of how human impetus to dance, has been repressed by
societal hierarchy, and religious zealots.
with the Reda Troupe by Debbie Smith
the company in performance six times was truly a wonderful experience, because
each time I saw some new detail or subtlety in the movements, the costuming,
the structure of the dances, and in individual performer’s presences on
Streets Come Alive: Baladina Egyptian Dance Theater and
Sharia Mohamed Ali by Erin Crouch photos are by Adrian
13, 2007, Chicago, Illinois. A modern temptress steals a man away from a traditional
woman, who then finds a new man of her own. Perhaps a necessity for a dance company
composed of mostly women, men seemed a hot commodity in the performance.