Thursday, August 30, 2012


In December 2011, I made a list of my favorite beauty products, from cosmetics and stage make up to hair, nail and hygiene items. Many of you have been requesting a similar list for this year… so I made a new list of some recent faves of mine, all with mini-reviews.

I absolutely love all the products listed below, and in most cases, also included links so you can either purchase them for yourself, or read what others have to say about them!

Here ya go:

MAC Lipstick in CB96

I’ve been in love with this color for years; I’ve been through countless tubes of it. If you want to try the fad for coral lipstick but keep finding shades that are too “grandma”- looking or too chalky, give this shade a whirl. Apply it lightly, blot and finish with a clear gloss, and you’ll have a pleasing, coral-esque lip color, flattering for a range of complexions from very fair to pretty dark.

If you’re looking for a really zingy stage lip, this product delivers! It gives a rich, dimensional, two-toned color (golden apricot/ deep burnt orange) with a hyper-pearlized effect. Out line it with a deep red lip pencil, and it won’t even look orange, it just shapes your lips in a magic way, shimmering where your lips should be plump. Can’t say enough about how great this shade is!

e.l.f. Studio Make Up Remover Pen

This little corrector pen is an indispensable- and really portable- tool for fixing make up glitches one the go- whether you’re creating a face backstage, or just touching up on a date! It is a neat and precise way to fix things like powder shadows migrating to the under-eye area, or wiggly, meandering eyeliner jobs, without swabbing the whole area and starting from scratch. Amazing!

Ben Nye Lumiere Grande Color Eye Shadows

These eye shadows are the secret weapon behind my outrageously colorful stage make up. Silky and luminescent, pearly and gorgeous, they go on wet or dry and blend well to look like a hyper-pigmented watercolor painting on your eyes. Apply them dry for a smoky look, or apply them wet (use a damp brush with water) for a bold stage eye that stays put throughout multiple shows-and-sweat during the course of an evening. You can also use them as liner- they’re that versatile. Lumiere Grande shadows are available singly, or in palettes of six or twelve. They’re more expensive than drugstore shadows, but way cheaper than some higher-end shadows that don’t perform nearly as well… and they are worth every cent you spend on them! I own these in every color they make, and have used them for the past fifteen or so years.

Lumiere Grande Colour ben nye Ice

Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum

I’m no spring chicken, but this stuff makes my skin look dewy and feel as soft as a baby’s behind! I adore this serum- it’s full of amino peptides and vitamin B3, it’s fragrance free, and absorbs quickly. After the short amount of time it takes to sink into the skin, it also acts as a great primer for foundation, to keep it from creasing. Let’s put it this way: I can’t live without this stuff! You can get this at almost any drugstore-anywhwere!

Body Fantasies Fragrance by Parfums De Coeur in Cotton Candy Fantasy

Everyone always tells me how yummy I smell when I come on or off stage, and ask what my sweet, light fragrance is… because it smells like cotton candy.

I always tell them “Aw… it’s just my stripper spray!”

I call it that because this stuff is about $3.99 for a big bottle. Actually, I think it’s probably aimed at tweens and pre-tens, but I can’t live without it. This spray is light, non-oily, and the fragrance is sweet but not cloying or over-powering. It feels fresh when it’s on, and the scent doesn’t even bother my hyper-scent-sensitive boyfriend…. plus you can buy it at any drug store. I get travel-sized misters and fill them from the large bottle, then pop one in every dance or gig bag I own, so I can always keep smelling like (pick your analogy) a 1980’s stripper or Tinkerbelle! Body Fantasies Body Spray for Women, Cotton Candy Fantasy Fragrance, 8 Ounce

Sonia Kashuk Core Tools, Brush Sets and Retractable Tools

Sonia Kashuk makes fantastic make up brushes- everything from domed blush brushes to tiny, bent (for accuracy) eyeliner brushes. They are durable and comparable to much more expensive brushes, plus they’re available at Target! Her brush sets are fabulous too- she has a purse-sized set, various travel collections, and a set made just for the eyes. Can’t beat these brushes unless you’re planning on spending a lot more!

Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm

Oh…. these are genius! Not only are they all natural, and will feel silky and wonderful on your parched lips, they come in a variety of beautiful colors, with a slight pearly sheen. They’re slick but not gooey, and they taste fresh and pepper-minty. My fave shades are (in no particular order) Rose, Champagne, and Watermelon. Wear them to repair chapped lips while looking lovely. Then you can line your lips with…

Wet ‘N’Wild Icon Lipliner Pencil in Brandywine 666

This might be the only time 666 stand for anything non-Satanic!

For years, this shade has been the ne plus ultra of natural-look lip-liners. Whether you line your lips just on the inside or slightly over the outside, this shade makes your mouth look plump and naturally gorgeous- it makes you look as though you’ve had “work” done… but not in a trout-pout way. The pencil is the perfect texture- not too waxy, not too hard, and glides on well, and the color works for just about everybody. This color is almost ALWAYS sold out at drugstores, so you can order it online here: Wet 'n' Wild Creme Lipliner Pencil, Brandy Wine 666

Rom Deussen Glitter Raks Cosmetic Glitter

Dancer and Glitter Mistress Rom Deussen has a line of dancer-designed cosmetic glitter, the proceeds of which all go to benefit various charities! You may already be familiar with her extremely popular Eye Kandy Glitter, but these are custom mixes which look amazing on stage, and the money they make all goes to a worthy cause! My own mix , Psychedelic Sunset, benefits Voice Of Roma, which is a world-wide foundation for the Rom or Gypsy people, Rachel Brice, Asharah and Tempest have all designed colors, too.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Professional dancers often take stage names, but it’s a personal choice, definitely not a necessity.

Some belly dancers like the idea of adopting an Arabic stage name just for fun, or because they believe it helps them-and their audience- really get into their exotic dance persona. Burlesque dancers typically pick out retro-sounding names, or monikers that are sexy and sassy or uber-elegant. Roller Derby gals and drag queens often seem to go for puns. A name is part of the illusion a performer creates... which do you prefer, Norma Jean Baker, or Marilyn Monroe?

Many dancers opt for using a stage name it because they feel it’s better for maintaining their privacy-it helps keep their real life and their performing life separated.

If you’re toying with the idea of taking a stage name, do some research the same way expectant parents do when picking out names for their babies. You could use the name ( or a variation of it ) of a family member, or look for a word that has some significance to you. Names of saints, gods, goddesses legends or fables are always popular- and evocative- in many cultures, too. There are zillions of websites devoted to names from every language and culture imaginable, so cruise through the sites looking for definitions, meanings, and that speak to you.

Many dancers literally invent their stage names, either by using an exotic variation on their given name (like Jillina) making up an an anagram, or just by putting together a string of syllables that sound pleasing. If you’re inventing a name in this way, make sure it doesn’t have an odd meaning in another language. One belly dancer I know ( who shall remain nameless here) was getting odd looks and even snickers from the audience every time she was announced. For a few months, she had no idea why…until she discovered that her moniker meant “frog” in Arabic! Luckily, the addition of a vowel changed the meaning of her stage name.

Sometimes dance teachers name their students or protégés, and once in a while, students select a first name, and then take on their teacher’s last name as a tribute to their mentor. Club owners have been known to give names to dancers, too. Legendary dancer Morocco, whose real name is Carolina Varga Dinicu, got her stage name in this way.

Once In a while a stage name just sort of…happens, like mine did.

Originally, I wasn’t going to use a stage name, since my given name, Pleasant, is so unusual. Nobody ever thought it was my real name, so I thought it would suffice as a stage name. But since Pleasant routinely got mispronounced at the Arabic clubs and restaurants where I worked, my boss at a Tunisian restaurant started calling me Farhana, which roughly translates to “happy girl” or“ pleasant girl” in Arabic.

The title of “Princess” was bestowed upon me by Tonya Chianis, because I wore crowns and tiaras frequently- and also because there was another local dancer who already was using the name Farhana. In order to differentiate the two of us, Tonya and Atlantis listed me on a flyer as “Princess Farhana Of Hollywood”. Shortly after that show, I did a show and DVD shoot with IAMED, and without even asking me, I was listed on their poster the same way! Both monikers stuck, and before I even had any say in the matter, everyone was calling me Princess Farhana…or, of course, “Your Majesty’!

If you decide to use a stage name, make sure you’re not duplicating the name of any other established dancers in your area. You’ll also want to see that your name is spelled in a fairly straightforward manner, or you’ll spend the rest of your career getting annoyed when your name is mispronounced during introductions!

Pick out something with a great ring to it that has a comfy fit. You want to choose a name you can see yourself living with for years.

Once you start getting established, it will be pretty difficult to change your name because people will already be used to calling you by that name. Basically, you'll be spending a lot of time explaining why you changed your name, or letting people know that you are now being called something else. Unless your name-change comes at the very beginning of your career, before you are known, it's not sound business practice to re-name yourself because it’s confusing to everyone, from the people who hire you to your fans.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Key Words are the words or phrases people type into search engines that directs them to various websites. Aside from the obvious ones (“belly dance”, “costumes”, “Egyptian Style”, etc.) I always get a huge kick at the random, downright ridiculous, and often totally surreal things people from all over the world search for… that somehow directs them to my blog!

Here are a few choice recent keyword entries, copied exactly as they were typed in… Enjoy!













Saturday, August 18, 2012


One thing that always separates the amateurs from the professionals is their attitude.

True professionals are competent, calm, and collected. They are courteous to other performers, to the producer, and to the venue staff. They’re punctual for shows, rehearsals and classes, and in the (odd)event that they are running late, they call or text.

A pro thinks ahead and is prepared for anything that might go wrong... and if it does, they handle it with poise. They know how to negotiate for gigs firmly but politely. They return emails and telephone calls promptly and don’t leave anyone hanging.

If a producer has asked for promotional materials, a professional dancer sends them in immediately. Professionals don’t make scenes or hog space in the dressing room, perform longer than their allotted time, or drop out of group choreography the day before a show. Professionals are kind and polite to the wait staff, technicians, stagehands and volunteers working at the venues where they perform…because without these people, there would be no show!

A true pro can take direction or constructive criticism well, and can distinguish between critique and a personal attack. Critique is beneficial to you, but when it’s unsolicited, uncalled for, mean spirited, or comes disguised as a backhanded compliment, it’s not critique, it’s designed to make you feel bad. Don’t let it! Act professionally...but don't let some idiot make you feel unworthy, either.

As a performer, you’ll constantly be subjected to scrutiny. Deal with it, learn from it, take the good with the bad, and don’t let “haters” get you down. Professionals know how to deal with rejection- because they have to. If you’re passed over at an audition, lose a competition, or aren’t invited to perform on a show, there’s always a reason why. Often, it might not have anything remotely to do with you or your dancing. You could be too short, too tall, too blonde, not blonde enough, too young, too old, or whatever! Maybe you’ve been doing a lot of local gigs, or a particular show was only open to dancers from a certain studio. Rejection comes with the territory, don’t take it personally.

Remember, any time you get a gig, someone else will be disappointed that they weren’t picked!

A professional dancer needs to strive to prevent injuries of any kind. Your body is literally your moneymaker, so protect your health. Curtail any activities that might hurt you, including exhausting yourself by over practicing-before important gigs…. and they’re all important. Get enough sleep, eat clean and healthy and maintain your weight, but don’t fall prey to eating disorders.

If you need to cancel a gig for a good reason, do it without waiting until the last minute- unless it's an absolute emergency- and offer to find a replacement. A good reason is that you have a serious injury, a death in your family or a communicable disease ( like the flu) that might make those around you fall ill.

Having your period is not a reason to cancel a gig. Can you imagine this scenario playing out in any major ballet company, among the Rockettes, on "Dancing With The Stars" or "So You Think You can Dance"? I thought not! Our dance world is roughly 95% female...and menstruation happens to everyone once a month. Take some Midol, and get a grip!

Professionals know how much to charge for performances, classes or workshops. Different types of gigs demand different pricing, but no matter what, you need to know what other dancers in your area are charging for their services. This is called “the going rate”. While well-known dancers may charge more than the going rate for their shows, you have to realize that when you charge less than the going rate, you are undercutting.

Other dancers do not take undercutting the regional minimum for performances lightly, because in the end, it hurts everyone – especially those who make their sole income from dancing...and that's what you're trying to do, right? If you are unsure of what to charge, ask your instructor or other professionals in the area. Believe me, they’ll be glad to discuss money and minimum rates with you as a professional courtesy.

This being said, sometimes it’s wise to take unpaid gigs. While you should never undercut other dancers, and it’s a no-brainer to turn down a “regular” gig that only pays in tips, it can be very beneficial to take legitimate unpaid gigs. I'm not talking about those annoying situations where a venue or private party is trying to wheedle a free show out of you... so before your get your panties in a bunch, please hear me out.

If you use your discretion and pick wisely, you’ll be able gain experience and get exposure, build up your resume, give back to your community, be seen and make contacts at unpaid gigs. Often, the perks of doing select unpaid gigs are worth way more than cash! I’m talking about dancing at haflas, neighborhood festivals, fund-raising benefits or charity events, dance festivals, in student or indie films or music videos, and for certain situations when an event producer you have worked with is putting on a great show with a limited budget.

You could also decide to take a gig where no cash is exchanged, but get paid via the barter system, such as with an ad in the program, free admission to a workshop, or something like that, which will enhance and compliment what you are striving for in your career. Before accepting or declining an offer to work for "free", weigh the options and figure out if this specific opportunity will be worth something to you, by helping to further your career.

A professional doesn't fall prey to gossiping and "high school" style games and power plays... They rise above that pettiness, knowing that at any moment, for any reason, in person or online, they could be the next "victim". Unfortunately, this is all too common in our industry, so try not to get involved. "Be Switzerland", ie. take a neutral position. You'll be glad when you did.

Conversely, if you are the victim of bad-mouthing or gossip based upon assumptions, take the high road and keep quiet about it until it blows over- because it will. The people that participate in this behavior are always looking for the next big scandal to gossip about. If you know anything about my own history as a "public figure" you may know that a few years back, I was gossiped about and defamed online incessantly over a period of time. There are also a number of other constantly working - and respected- professionals that this has happened to in the near past. This happens in every line of work, from the arts to the corporate world. If someone is targeting you, it's usually because they are jealous. That doesn't make it hurt any less when it's happening, but don't let it get you down...

The people who are participating in this bullying are usually not the dancers who are working constantly, touring the world, organizing festivals, producing shows, and making DVDs.

A professional shows up with her music, cosmetics, and every piece of costuming and props in good working order. Nothing is forgotten at home. Make a checklist, keep it on your computer, and refer to it as you pack for every gig.

A pro is specific in all forms of communication: emails, voicemails and texts. Never assume someone knows what gig you are referring to, never assume that someone has your contact information. List it at the end of emails and texts, or say it slowly and clearly at the beginning- and at the end- of every voicemail you leave.

Act like a professional and you will be treated like one!

Sunday, August 12, 2012


This is Part Three in a series of articles I'm doing on becoming a professional dancer. Today's post deals with professional appearance, both on and off stage.

For years, people who want to enter the corporate world have been advised to dress for the job they want, not the job they have. The same concept applies to the performing arts. If you’re going after professional dance gigs, you need to look the part, so now's the time to get with the program!
Costuming, Make Up And Hair
You’ll definitely need to invest in a few professional costumes. Whether you buy your costumes or make them, they need to be showstoppers- and they have to fit you well and flatter your shape and coloring. You’re creating an illusion for the audience when you're on stage, so you can’t look “average”. That also means you can’t expect to work in glorified class wearing a haphazardly embellished bra with a hip scarf tied on over a street skirt, the way you might at a hafla!
A tried and true idea for rookies is to get in a good quality gold or silver bra and belt set ( decorated with fringe or coins, it doesn't matter) and make it appear versatile by changing up the look with different skirts, veils and accessories.
Additionally, you'll also have to shell out a couple of pro-level full costumes. You will need more than one costume, especially if you'll be working at a restaurant or a nightclub. Many places require costume changes for multiple sets a night, and if the place has a regular clientele, they expect different shows, in different music and different costumes each time you dance.
If you can’t afford brand new stage wear, then “gently used” costumes will be your best friend. Typically, they’re in good condition and being sold because a dancer wants to rotate her stage wardrobe or they no longer fit, not because they are ruined. “Clothes make the man” and costumes make the dancer- at least, when she is on stage. Often, you’ll be working up-close and personal with your clients, so your costumes must fit well. If you don’t sew, have the alterations done by a seamstress.
True professionals are capable of doing their own faces. If you’re at a loss about stage make up, you need to get a clue- pronto. The natural look just won’t fly onstage, even if you’re working at an outdoor event. Your audiences expect a certain exotic image;it's imperative to look the part. There are numerous tutorials for beautiful make up on; watch them and follow along. Study photos of famous dancers and really examine the way they do their faces. Look at everything: ballet dancers, Vegas showgirls, Broadway dancers, and the Rockettes- even vintage movie star photos! Look for beautiful, expressive performer’s faces. On a large stage, “fresh faced” usually means foundation and powder, red lipstick, pink cheeks, penciled brows and false eyelashes. At a smaller venue, you won’t need quite as much.
Your hair is an important part of your professional appearance, too. Some of us are blessed with great hair...others, well, not so much. Even if you happen to have a gorgeous head of hair, it may not look that way after sweating through multiple shows, so this is where wigs and hairpieces come in. Here's a link to an article I wrote in 2011 about faux hair for dancing:

Image And Appearance Offstage
Remember that you are the product you’re selling, so think about the packaging! Even when you aren’t onstage, when you’re at gigs, in class or at a belly dance event, you must look flawless. It’s the image your students, clients and fans expect of you- don’t destroy the illusion!
The general public wants to experience a diva, not some average woman who just happens to dance. Think of your dance jobs as an acting exercise and maintain your “role” as a belly dancer.
Arrive at your gigs with your hair and make up done, wearing something pretty. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Something you’d wear on a casual date, like a little dress or a nice top with jeans or leggings is fine.
Wear a cover up between shows, so you don’t ruin the impact of your costume. Sorry to say, but a veil or a coat you’d wear on the street might be fine for a studio party, but it just won’t cut the mustard for a professional gig. There are plenty of beautiful, washable, inexpensive caftans on eBay…and one of them has your name on it!
Dress nicely for class, especially if you’re teaching. You don’t need anything too fancy to wear; there are tons of cute and affordable workout clothes, so there are many options. You probably already have an extensive class wear wardrobe. A light touch of make up won't hurt, either. Remember once again that you are now marketing yourself as a professional; and that you are not only interacting with the general public, but you’re also a role model for your students, a few of whom will turn professional at some point, so set a good example.
Making an effort look good when you go to dance festivals and workshop weekends is now a requirement too, even if you’ll be sweating away in the classes. You never know who you’ll run into at one of these events; you might come away with a gig or an invitation to teach somewhere… and of course everyone always takes pictures!
Your physical appearance needs to be maintained if you’re interested in professional work. Good grooming is essential; you now have an image to uphold- and at many gigs you’ll be in very close proximity to your audience. This means that no matter what your personal aesthetic is, you’ll need to conform to mainstream beauty standards, so shave, polish, spray, exfoliate, deodorize and coif yourself carefully with this in mind.

When I first started dancing over twenty years ago, I was a punk rock chick...but I knew without being told that my fried, Krazy-Kolored Calico-striped hair wasn't gonna fly at the Arab clubs that I wanted to hire I grew my hair out and dyed it back to it's original color. I also knew that (back in those days) tattoos and piercings were absolutely taboo for dancers. So, in order to work, I had to keep all of my body art covered in order to get hired! I made sleeves that matched all my costumes, and hid my tattoos. But I didn't consider this a sacrifice, I considered it a career move. I took the phrase "When In Rome..." to heart, and no one was the wiser! Nowadays, I still often get questions about whether or not it's acceptable for dancers to have tats or multiple piercings. Those looks are all popular and accepted by society pretty much everywhere so don’t worry if you have colored hair, piercings or tattoos... because now, pretty much, everyone does. However...
The next thing I'm about to say may be somewhat of a hot button issue-but it's the truth.
While it’s a fact that our dance looks beautiful on women on every age, shape and size, this is not the case with most professional gigs. You don’t have to be a sylph, a few extra pounds are fine, because everyone likes a feminine, curvaceous dancer... but you will need to maintain a “professional” weight in order to be hired. I've also known dancers who were underweight that lost out on jobs. If you are a more mature dancer, know that you may get passed over in favor of a younger performer.
I hear dancers complaining all the time about all of this: "Why did she get hired? She can't even dance, she just looks pretty!"
Well, one of the reasons "she" got hired is cause "she" had the right look.
We dancers judge each other on talent and technique, not appearances. But the general public doesn't see the same things we do- and neither do many show producers, restaurant and night club managers or casting directors.
When you're competing for jobs, looks count almost as much as technique. Remember that song from the old Broadway musical A Chorus Line? "Dance 10, Looks 3/ and I'm still on unemployment/ Dancing for my own enjoyment"...sadly, those lyrics are still true today!
Though all this may seem outright wrong in this day and age of body acceptance and diversity, this is a fact of life in the realm of professional dance. Remember, you are now entering a competetive world- nobody ever said it was going to be fair. Again, it’s our societal standard of beauty at play. What constitutes “acceptable” physical appearance for dance entertainment is subjective... and it’s always up to the people who hire you!
In my first post on becoming a professional dancer, I wrote that you will need to develop a tough skin because there will be a lot of matter who you are, no matter what you look like. This comes with the territory. Be realistic about getting rejected for a job because it happens to everyone. Take it with a grain of salt. Dream as big as possible, keep your goals in mind and work as hard as you can. Looks aren't everything, but they do count.
The bottom line is that if you take great care of yourself and look as good as you can both on and off stage, you’re much more likely to get hired!

Shameless plug: Need some help with your stage make up? Look no further!
"Bombshell: Dramatic Make Up For The Stage, Photos & Glamourous Occasions"
Comprehensive two-disc instructional DVD set for purchase here:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


This is the latest installation in my continuing series on dancers backstage rituals. The featured dancer is Mahin, of "Daily Belly Dance Quickies" fame.

Mahin Sciacca is in perpetual motion, both on and off stage. In her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, Mahin teaches many classes a week, gigs constantly, and produces large-scale dance productions, both on her own as well as for MECDA, the Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association. But she is now known all over the world for her innovative video series, "Daily Belly Dance Quickies" a service she conceived of, stars in and produces, which brings filmed tidbits of knowledge directly into the email inbox of subscribers seven days a week. Her program focuses on a different aspect of belly dance every day, from "Tuesday Technique", "Thrills With Zills" to "Wednesday Watcher", which features beautiful and inspiring clips of belly dancing from around the globe. Though her work for DBQ is done at a non-stop, breakneck speed, she still manages to travel to teach workshops-she's on the road right now, as a matter of fact, and will be teaching in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this weekend on Sunday, August 12, 2012.

I've known Mahin for a few years and watched her work tirelessly to uplift the art of belly dance while she expands her ever growing career: she is truly an innovator...though in truth, I really had no idea until now that Mr. Monkey is really the brains behind her whole operation!

Here in Mahin's own words, is how she preps for her many gigs:

“My pre-show ritual starts about 2 hours before stage time with a light meal - usually hummus and veggies or cheese, crackers and fruit. A good mix of protein, carbs and a little fat fuels me up with some time to digest. I always pack my gig bag (and my Lucky Monkey) and do my makeup while listening NPR - yes, I admitted that on the record! Doing my makeup backstage makes me feel rushed so I really try to do it at home or in my hotel room if I'm travelling. I stay more relaxed that way. If I'm going to listen to my show music, I usually do it in the car on the way to the gig.

I like quiet and calm before a show - it helps me to get centered and ready for a good performance. If it's a club or party gig, I take a peek at the audience before selecting a show playlist - I like to look 'em in the eye before I pick their music!. I warm up to whatever is playing at the venue. I always pick something out of my Magic Box to put into the show. My DBQ subscribers will be familiar with this - it's a little box with cards of moves I've seen in videos or learned from other dancers that I'd like to get into my improv vocabulary. I pick one and do it over and over in my warmup - then I make sure I use it my show. I'm not generally a superstitious person, but things just aren't right back stage without Mr. Monkey and my Magic Box.... and I don't let anyone touch my zills or my sword!

When it's time, I take twirl, strike a pose and smile at myself in the mirror to get into "stage mode” and I'm ready to dance! “



Here are links to Mahin’s Daily Belly Dance Quickies:



Mahin's Website:

** Mahin is wearing my Princess Farhana For King Of The Nile "Ghazal" costume in red, which can be ordered here

Thursday, August 2, 2012


This is Part Two in a series of articles I'm posting on becoming a professional dancer; today's post deals with your basic performance skills and dance repertoire:

No matter what, your technique has look polished. If you can perform in many styles with ease then you’ll already be ahead of the pack. You never know what a job may require, and you should never stop learning! Accelerate your dance study now- take as many classes as you can, and if you haven’t taken private lessons yet, now is a great time to start.

As a professional belly dancer, it will behoove you to be comfortable performing to many types of ethnic music, from traditional to modern pop. Build up your music library and become familiar with Arabic song structure and different styles of music. Learn as many of the most-requested classic songs as you can; know them inside and out, especially if you’re working with live musicians. If you’re using recorded music, make sets of various lengths; ten to twenty minutes for restaurants and clubs, twenty to thirty-five minutes for private parties. Structure your shows so that they have variety, with a beginning, middle and ending. For parties, allow an extra song at the end for audience participation.

You should be able to play finger cymbals well, be proficient with veil work, and have the skills to rock a hot drum solo. You also ought to be able to perform at least a couple of the folkloric dances that are typically requested at clubs, restaurants, private parties and weddings, such as raks shamadan, saidi, khaleegy, melaya leff and so on.

Are you good with props? While audiences in the Middle East are content to watch hours of Oriental dance, Western crowds often want a spectacle. They’re really into sword dancing, candle trays, Isis Wings, fan veils, large feather fans, raks shamadan and that sort of thing. Some purists may sniff at a couple of these props because they aren’t traditional, but the general public loves it; so if you don’t already have a specialty, think about learning one. If you use any type of props that require open flames, you may need to carry fire insurance. Check with your venue or local fire marshal regarding local laws.

Great stage presence is crucial. You must be able to win over the crowd and get them on your side the moment you step on stage. Even if a performer is a superlative technician, if she looks expressionless or scared, the audience will feel nervous, not entertained. There has to be a personal connection with the crowd. A dancer who is adequate but has great stage presence will often outshine someone who has incredible chops but is boring to watch! You can’t fake charisma, but emoting during your performances is a skill that can be learned. Consider performance coaching or acting classes, or at the very least, concentrate on allowing your emotions to flow as part of your technique drills. Get translations of the songs you use, so you’ll know what the lyrics are about.

For working in situations where there is no stage, such as many restaurants, hookah bars and private parties, you’ll need great improvisational skills. If you’re working in the round with customers and waiters wandering through your performance area, using set choreographies just won’t cut it. Practice improvising as much as you can; both to songs you know inside and out and to songs you’ve never heard before.

As a pro, whether a rookie or seasoned performer, you should be prepared for anything to happen while you are onstage... cause it always does! I'm talking about wardrobe malfunctions, mishaps with props, the music cutting out, missed lighting cues...and in my own case, once in Kansas, a bat flew onstage while I was dancing! Handle the situation with aplomb, by either completely ignoring it and continuing on with your show, or with a humorous look or gesture. It might seem like a big deal while you're dancing, but in the big picture, it's practically not even a blip on the radar...the more you're onstage, the more potential there is for crazy stuff to happen. Consider it a battle scar; you've just earned your stripes...and know that it will probably make for a great anecdote in the near future.