Sunday, February 23, 2014


 We dancers certainly spend a lot of time in front of the mirror.  Heaven only knows how many hours of pre-performance mirror time we rack up slappin’ on our stage faces and getting glittered up.  But the main place we fix our gaze upon our reflections is in the dance studio.

 The mirror is an amazing tool, and there are plenty of good reasons to use it.  In class, the studio mirrors allow us to see our teachers from the back and the front, and for this reason, many instructional DVDs are shot into the mirror- it gives the home viewer the same view they experience in class.

In rehearsals or during home practice, the mirror never lies. It provides us with an instantaneous and unbiased evaluation of our work. Using a mirror aids dancers by letting them make an immediate assessment of movements and for self-correcting technique, bodylines, and spatial relation to classmates or troupe members. It allows for any adjustments to be made in the now, as opposed to waiting for critique from an instructor, or getting notes from a troupe leader or show director. Because of this, mirrors have become integral to the growth of dancers as artists.

 But sometimes, the mirror can become a crutch.

 Relying too much on mirrors can actually hinder a dancer’s development by blocking proprioception. Proprioception is the innate sense of fully inhabiting the body and being conscious of exactly where  and when movements initiate, as well as an awareness of where your physical being is in time and space…especially in relation to  our own performances and in  proximity to other dancers!

Though it’s a big fancy word, proprioception is actually an instinct that we all possess…although some people may have more access to it than others.  The way most dancers "inhabit" their bodies is evidence of a heightened sense of proprioception. 

A great example of our collective human capacity for proprioception is indicated by many of the  field sobriety tests that law enforcement officers conduct on drivers whom they assume to be “under the influence”.  Aside from having you say the alphabet backwards (which most people probably couldn’t even do sober!) most of the tests focus on motor skills and proprioception. Walk a straight line by setting one foot in front of the other? Proprioception. Stand on one foot with your eyes closed and touch your nose? Yup, that’s your proprioception at work.

 If a dancer becomes overly dependent on the mirror, she risks losing connection to her sense of proprioception. It’s advantageous for any dancer, at any level to practice facing away from the mirror, or with covered mirrors to ensure that all movements are instinctual as well as ingrained into the muscle memory, and not thought of only in a visual sense. By relying only on your mirror image, you will not be nurturing   your proprioception, which is absolutely crucial for dancers. And we all know that once we’re on stage, the only thing we’ll be seeing in a larger venue is darkness, or the audience all up close and personal in a smaller club or restaurant- so constant use of mirrors provides a false sense of security in that it doesn’t replicate our performance environments.

 At the beginning of my career, I worked often in a club that had a row of large mirrors, which directly faced the stage. They were mounted on the wall over the booths in the back, and served to make the venue look larger, by reflecting the stage.  Many dancers   who performed there regularly had an uneasy relationship with those mirrors, because they were so tempting to look at!  One dancer in particular was so entranced with her own reflection; she became a minor legend among the club’s wait staff and the other performers. Seriously, every time this dancer set foot on the stage, she practically made love to her mirror image, posing, preening, and checking herself out. It was as though she was performing only for herself, and the audience didn’t exist…at all… and everyone in the crowd sensed it!

 So, whether your practicing at home, rehearsing with a group for a show or teaching a class, give the mirror a break, especially before full cast dress rehearsals, and let your body take over. Your inner dancer needs to come out and play!


 Princess Farhana’s “The Belly Dance Handbook: A Companion For The Serious Dancer”  is available on,  or you can get a signed copy of the book here:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


"The Belly Dance Handbook" release party at Studio Iqaat, Los Angeles. Photo by Graphic Vibe/LA

 Dreams really do come true…

And setting goals and working hard makes a dream become a reality.

Live stream viewer Alice Dee sent this picture  
This past Friday, February 7th, 2014 I had proof of that at the launch party for my “Belly Dance Handbook”. The party, held at Studio Iqaat in Los Angeles was fabulous. Some of my favorite LA dancers performed Egyptian, American Cabaret and Tribal Fusion, and my favorite drummers Issam Houshan and Donavon Lerman, who owns the venue, played. The party was streaming live on the internet, and people from all over  the world "attended"!

Writing the book was a dream of mine for years. Combining my two favorite things- dancing and writing- seemed to be a no-brainer, but it was also years of hard work. It was work that I enjoyed immensely, and did with love, but still, it was A Process.

Sabrina shows how smart belly dancers are!
I’m not sure if you readers realize that I actually started this blog in 2009 to force myself to write the book!  The idea had been floating around in my head for ages before I started working to make it a reality. I wrote at home with kitties sitting on my lap batting at the keyboard, and on the road in foreign hotel rooms at 3:00 am when I couldn’t sleep. Then I edited each and every thing I wrote mercilessly. Though writing came easily, other things did not. I’m a huge techno-tard, and I pushed myself to learn how to do things that were difficult for me, yet simple for others, like upload pictures and format a blog…and I’m still learning!  
Alli Ruth of Finland performing at the party
Before putting out the book myself, I sent it to a number of agents and publishers, who all told me that my book wouldn’t work because “there are already books on belly dancing”. So I realized I had to pull up my big girl panties and do it myself. This was great cause it meant that I could do the book the way I wanted to, but it was also kinda scary because I knew the staggering amount of work it would mean! Teaming up with graphic designer/ photographer Maharet Hughes (who is also a belly dancer, of course) made my vision come true. She understood what I needed and wanted the book to be, and we worked on it together for
Maharet Hughes, The book's designer
almost two years, through five re-writes, technical glitches, problems with photos and formatting. If I’m the mother of “The Belly Dance Handbook”, she’s my Baby Daddy!  When we first got the proofs of the book, we looked through them jumping up and down with glee, then started taking tons of pictures of them like crazy people, because the book was finally finite.  But then reality set in when we realized we’d have to correct the proof, and do everything all over again…which we did three more times!

  And giving credit where credit is due, I’m giving a huge shout-out to all you readers for your years of support!  Your comments, questions and wonderful emails have kept this blog- and the book- going!



Get a signed copy of  “The Belly Dance Handbook: A Companion For The Serious Dancer” here:


Purchase  “The Belly Dance Handbook” on Amazon:

Find out about wholesale rates for dance studios, book clubs, teachers and troupes by emailing here:

Cover Design and photo by Maharet Hughes/ Graphic Vibe LA

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


 Over the years, I’ve come to realize that for many dancers, the most anxiety-filled performances they’ll ever have  are those that are done in front of their teachers. Whether in class or on stage, the thought of performing in front of an instructor that is looked up to is often met with dread.

Oh, how clearly I remember the nauseating waves of pure horror that would engulf me when I spotted one of my teachers in the audience… or even when I was getting coached in a private lesson!  It took me a long while to realize that I wasn’t alone in this experience.  Many years later, after numerous conversations with professional dancers, I discovered that many of my peers- and even those who had instructed me- felt exactly the same. 

 For years, I’ve seen this neurotic –but extremely common- behavior rearing it’s head in my own classes…even though I do everything possible to make my students feel comfortable. But students still sometimes feel  nervous and uncomfortable when the teacher observes them.

During one workshop, the paranoia was so widespread among my students that as a last resort, I taught the rest of the class wearing a pair of sunglasses ... so none of the students would be able to tell who I was looking at!

In my classes I strive to provide a supportive atmosphere and make learning dance fun… and I’m not alone. Of course, there are as many teaching styles as there are teachers; some instructors are a little tougher or more blunt than others. And unfortunately, there are definitely a few crazies in our profession. But for the most part, pretty much all of the of the teachers I know – or have had the pleasure of learning from- feel the same way as I do about teaching!

 So I’m going to tell you a few things about the way we teachers view our students, and hope it will put your mind at ease next time you get nervous about having one of your instructors watch you during class or in performance.  Here goes:

 None of us were born great dancers, we all had to work for it- and work hard- for years, same as you! 
We really appreciate all of your hard work in class, during your extracurricular practice at home, and when you’re on stage.  We want you to succeed and become the best dancer you can possibly be!

 When we correct your technique in class or rehearsal, it’s not to make you feel bad, it’s for a particular reason.
Sometimes we want to make sure that you are dancing in a safe manner so you don’t hurt yourself.  Other times, we want to see that you’re getting the right feel down, finishing every movement, and performing to the best of your ability. As teachers, we want you to learn, and almost nothing is better for us than to see you understand and execute whatever we are teaching.

 There’s a reason the terms  Baby Dancer  and Dance Mamma  came into  use. 
Basically, we teachers see our students as our kids. Handing down our knowledge of the dance is like  continuing a family bloodline- we want  our family  to be healthy and strong in future generations!
We see  many of you “at birth”, we see you taking your first tentative steps- or shimmies, as the case may be! We teach you how to “talk” ( string single movements together into combinations)  and we “diaper” you by  giving you costuming hints!  Sometimes, we even deal with "teenage rebellion"- but that doesn't mean we don't still love you. We  just wanna raise you right!

  When we watch you in performance, we are not judging you.
 Even if we don’t know you very well, most of us can tell right away what level you’re at, and what you’re capable of at this specific moment in your dance training. And though it might surprise you, a lot of us can also see what you’ll be capable of in the future. We love to watch you grow and change, and we respect what you are doing- at any level. Remember that whatever you’re going through before or during a performance, be it pre-show jitters or dealing with onstage mishaps; we’ve all been there! Every one of us has had bad performances, and whether some of us will admit it or not, many of us have failed spectacularly onstage…and we don’t want that for you! We’re with you. We want you to shine.

Nothing makes us happier than seeing our students succeed!  
When we see our students run into the dressing room elated after their first performance, we feel the excitement. Later on, when you kill it onstage, win contests,  get gig offers, terrific reviews,  or start teaching  your own classes, it fills our hearts to a bursting point in a way that absolutely cannot be described to someone that hasn’t started teaching yet. Many of us get teary eyed and emotional.
 It’s a huge deal for us to see you do well; it means we that we did our job and did it well. Lots of of us have taught students that became our peers, or even surpassed us. Seriously, there is nothing better for a teacher than to know she’s had a hand in shaping the career of a phenomenal dancer.

 Feel a little better now?


    My  brand new book, “The Belly Dance Handbook” is out!  Get a signed copy here:

  If you live outside of Los Angeles, you can still “attend” my book release party  and see all the performances  on Friday, Feb. 27, 2013- IT’S STREAMING LIVE  at 7:30 PM Pacific Standard Time at

 If you happen to be in LA, you’re invited to this free event.
  Fri. Feb. 7, 2014, 7:30pm  at Studio Iqaat, 3515 Eagle Rock Blvd, LA CA 90039

Monday, February 3, 2014


 One of my favorite things to do is re-use and repurpose, and I love coming up with inexpensive ways to keep my dance stuff organized and ready to use. Hence,  I’ve often been called   “The Martha Stewart Of Dancers” which tickles me to no end! Here are some tips and tricks for  cleaning and storing all your necessary tools and accessories, so you can focus on dancing, not hunting stuff down!

 Keep a travel-sized spray bottle of rubbing alcohol in your make up kit or gig bag for cleaning your beauty tools. Each time you apply concealer, eyeliner or any blush or shadow, spritz your brushes and wipe them off gently, in the direction of the bristles, on a tissue to remove pigments and get rid of   bacteria.  Every so often, take a cotton ball and spritz it to wipe down the inside of your brush roll or the inside of your cosmetic bag to keep it fresh and germ-free. You can also spray your combs and hairbrushes so you’re not spreading oils or old product through your hair as you brush or style it.

Type out a “generic” show introduction in an easy-to-read font, and keep a few in a pocket of your gig bag.  Slip it in with your CDs when you hand them over to the deejay or emcee, and you’ll never have to look for a pen or scramble to come up with an intro at the last minute.

Keep rhinestones and crystals in a pillbox, and pop it into your make up bag. To store bindis, cut a small sheet of wax paper or plastic, stick the bindis  to it and keep it in a business card case, or inside a small container like a  recycled cough drop or breath mint tin. When you’re ready to use the little decorations again, just peel them off, apply a dot of eyelash glue and stick them where the sun does shine.

Use ice cube trays to organize your jewelry.  Chains and pendants, earrings and rings all fit into the individual rectangles, and the trays can be stacked in a drawer, making everything easy to find.

A great way to store necklaces, bracelets and heavy pendants is on those inexpensive wall-mounted paper towel racks, available almost everywhere.  They can be spray-painted or used “as is”, and you’ll be able to see all your accessories.

Over-the-door shoe bags are a fantastic way to store your dance class tools and accessories, too!  The pockets can be used for your dance slippers, of course, but also for leggings, leg warmers, hip scarves, resistance bands, your iPod and cords, finger cymbals, neatly rolled veils, feather boas – whatever fits!  When you’re ready to go to class, reach in, get whatever you need, throw them in your dance bag and off you go.

I use a large fishing tackle box to keep all my crafting supplies in, most have  slide-out trays with separate sections that  make organization easy. They’re great for storing all sorts of small notions that are frequently used, like  thimbles, jump-rings for jewelry, pliers, crystals,  super glue, glue-gun sticks…whatever! A tackle box is also great for  storing your make up, and usually much less expensive  and way more durable  than the cosmetic storage boxes that are designed the exact same way!  Spend your money on the  beauty products, not the container you keep them in!

 Get a few large safety or diaper pins and slip your hooks and eyes (in matched pairs) onto it. Do the same with buttons needle-threaders- this way; they’ll be easy to find in your sewing box.

Keep feather plumes in small mailing tubes, available at office supply stores. They’ll stay pretty, fluffy and un-rumpled, and’ll be ready  to use when you need them.

Recycle prescription pill bottles and store your glitter in them. The lids are tight and prevent spills, and you’ll be able to see the colors easily.

 Many of you know that vodka can be used to freshen up costumes and get rid of odors- make 50/50 water and vodka mixture in a spray bottle, and keep it on hand to mist your costume.  Hang your costume up, spray the mixture from about a foot away- and let it dry- it takes a matter of minutes, neutralizes smells on your cossie, and won’t harm sequins, beads or crystals.

You can also use vodka to kill bacteria on your lipsticks! Fill a shot glass half way up, and dip the waxy part of the lipstick into the vodka for a few seconds. The alcohol will evaporate almost instantly, and it won’t affect the product’s color at all.

 To keep powder shadows and blushes clean, mist the surface from about six- twelve inches away with straight vodka. Like the lipstick, it’ll dry immediately, and keep your products clean and free of any sebaceous oils or germs.


If you liked these tips and want to read more,  my new book, “The Belly Dance Handbook: A Companion For The Serious Dancer” is available here: