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Not for Cinderella:
The Glass Dance

by Tasha Banat

Dancing on glasses is not to be taken so lightly as what I have read online by some—whose credibility I question!  I am not saying that I am right and everyone else is wrong, or that I am the end all to end all when it comes to dancing on glasses; however, I have seen some articles where advice has been given that is not only stupid, but dangerous.

We tend to simplify dancing with certain props like swords and fire—and believe me—those of you who read and responded to my "Dumb and Restless" series in the past know all too well the price I paid for taking certain props (including snakes) too lightly.   Working with special props is serious stuff and dancing on glasses for more than 40 years gives me a bit of a sharp edge on the subject; so, please read my article and then do what you think is right for your feet. 

The Glass Dance: What is it all about, and why do it?
There are probably a dozen or more dancers who have attempted and succeeded with dancing on glasses, but no one has performed this longer and more successfully than I; therefore, I am convinced that, after 40 plus years of performing the Glass Dance, I know more about what to look for in glass than just about anyone else in the Belly dance world today! 

The reason I am bringing this up is because I have been reading some recent articles I have come across.  They are good articles, and although I admire the dancers who have perfected the glass dance for themselves, there was not much discussion of what to look for in the glass itself, such as stress points. Therefore, I thought I would put my experience on line and share some important points about glass and about dancing on it.

Never dance on glass without a carpet under that glass or a safe prop—no matter what surface it is on which you are performing! 

There are 2 extremely practical reasons for this rule:

  • If the glass breaks on any other surface, floor, tray, wood, or anything else, it will shatter and probably leave a shard of glass that is almost guaranteed by Murphy’s Law to cut the foot of the next dancer who performs on that stage, especially if she performs barefoot.  Dancers have enough accidents from glass beads, pieces of whatever, etc. without adding to the damage someone could encounter if your glass breaks and the pieces are not on a carpet to be carried away safely.  If a glass breaks on a carpet, it breaks--but does not shatter.  Without that soft barrier between the glass and the floor, the glass dancer has not only endangered herself, but the next dancer after her. 

That brings me to the second point:

  • Carpeting provides a cushion between your feet and the floor beneath you.  That cushion is called “give”.    Most surfaces I have danced on that are not carpeted (usually nightclub stages) have surfaces that have no “give”.   Believe me; if you go home with sore feet after a lot of shows in the same club, it is most likely that you are dancing on something that is thin with concrete under it.  The most common stages I have encountered are actually made of concrete, lurking under some type of thin, cheap linoleum, or laminate flooring. 

Now, let’s talk about the glass itself:  There are many types of glass out there.  Some performers use bell-shaped drinking glasses.  Some use goblets (the most common) because they are sturdy.  I use stemmed water glasses, and I believe there are a few dancers out there who use various bar glasses.

The glasses above are the most common type of glass to dance on.  They all have one thing in common:  If you turn them upside down as in my picture, they are all wider at the bottom, which is imperative if you are going to dance on them. 

That is simply a law of physics.  However, if you were as bad at math as I was, I will give you examples of glasses upon which you should not dance. 

Each of the glasses above is not great candidates for obvious reasons.  All of them either turn inward at the bottom when you turn theme upside down, or they are straight up and down—which may work for a while, but need to explain the “Brittle” factor. 

As it ages, all glass loses it liquidity over the years and becomes brittle, increasing its chances of breaking.  You must know the history of your glass: What type of glass is used? How much lead is in it?

Here’s one truth that you may not have considered:  Glass expands when heated and contracts when cold.  Therefore, a big question you must ask yourself is how often have those glasses been processed in a dishwasher?

That fact alone made it very difficult to use glasses from those clubs in which I danced.  I could never trust how often the glass had expanded and contracted causing the “Brittle” effect.  Brittle glass, like old bones, breaks!  

Use new glasses whenever possible, and never put them in the dishwasher!

 Now let me see if I can explain stress points in glass.  My favorite stemmed water glass- is shown at right-
 The most common stress points are at the point  at which the stem meets the two round parts of the glass. 
If you hold the glass up to light, then you will see small bubbles in the glass or actual splits.  Those are stress points.

The older the glass, the larger those stress points become.  My recommendation for keeping your glasses safe between your performances is to take those heavy long socks (like baseball or athletic socks) and tuck the glasses in them when you are not using them.

The most dangerous time for glass breakage is climbing on or off them or forgetting that they are not only a prop, but a test of balance and concentration as well. 

Dancers who have not cut their feet, or have not fallen off the glasses (yet) have time and statistics working against them; therefore, never become so sure of your set of glasses that you forget that they are dangerous when used in this manner and have the ability to cut you badly.  Also watch out for the rim (bottom) because it, too, can be sharp and have a sliver missing.  That will make your feet bleed, and please believe me: a dancer’s blood on her costume is not pretty!


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