Thursday, June 26, 2014


Photo by Maharet Hughes, GraphicVibeLA   Costumeby  Hallah Moustafa


 Know your music inside and out, down to the smallest sounds. By memorizing your music fully, a composition which once seemed complex and foreign will still be all of that, but it will also become ingrained in your psyche, and you will feel more confident in your own personal interpretation and emotional reactions to the piece onstage.

During home practice, use your mirror for more than checking your bodylines and angles, “dancing” with nothing more than your own facial expressions. There are a few ways to do this. Stand close to the mirror, put your music on, and observe your own emotional reactions to the musical piece you’ve selected.  Alternately, you could set up a camera or make a video on your phone.  Though this exercise might seem unnatural or forced at first, it will truly help you connect to the music emotionally, which will help you to become a compelling and poignant performer to your audience.

The eyes are the windows to the soul, and there is no better way to connect with your audience than using your eyes to communicate with them! In a smaller performance space, making eye contact is much easier because the audience is in very close proximity.

On a larger stage, where the crowd is farther away, you can fake eye contact by selecting certain spots in the crow to beam in, simulating direct eye contact. Though this may not seem genuine to you, it will to the audience!

 While choreographing your performance piece or just practicing at home or in the studio, take cues from the music itself, stopping and posing or just briefly pausing for a moment when the music does.

Before you begin your performance (even in practice) remind yourself to move slowly. Being onstage gives everyone and adrenalin rush, and beginners –or those who are amped up before a show tend to rip around the stage very quickly. Once you learn to control your nervous energy and reign in a little, you’ll look relaxed and effortless, as though everything you are doing comes naturally for you. This ease is usually learned…so drill yourself on the concept of moving slowly, finishing each movement completely, pausing and posing, and letting your emotions shine through your performance.  

This encompasses  your emotions, gestures, make up and costuming!

First of all, as you  plan your piece, start planning your costume as well, and make sure it looks good under the lighting situation  where you will be performing. Obviously, your costume will fit and flatter you- if it doesn’t, start thinking about ways to make it work…or using, making or buying  a different  one.  Check with your show’s producer to see what the backdrop will be like; you don’t want to wear a burgundy costume against a burgundy backdrop!  Once you know the color, select a costume that will pop against your performance environment.

Use enough make up! You’ve heard me carry on about this in the past, but it is imperative…otherwise, the audience won’t be able to see-much less feel – the emotions you are portraying on stage.

 As you mark your choreography or your improvised dance, allot some quality time  during your rehearsals to  set dramatic, comedic or show-stopping gestures and expressions for your dance.

Nope, this isn’t “cheating” it’s called entertaining. You’re setting up everything your body does, so why would you stint on your emotions and facial expression? They are both crucial to building a beautiful, professional-looking, polished performance.

Sounds crazy, but many of us hold our breath when we are concentrating, and dancing involves a lot of concentration! Before you take the stage, remind yourself to breathe- it will send oxygen to your entire body and give you stamina. Breathing into your movements- for example, inhaling while lifting your arms, and exhaling as you bring them down - will also give an airy, buoyant look to your dancing, as well as make your physical gestures much more profound and emotional.

 Last but not least, sometimes  the context of a  performance, just stopping to take a breath can be very profound.

Above all, savor your piece when you are dancing. Feel the connection to the music, and let the music pour through you, body and soul. When you are dancing and truly letting the move you emotionally, your performance will move the audience will, too!


  Get an autographed copy of  The Belly Dance Handbook here:

Photo and Graphics by Maharet Hughes

1 comment:

  1. Princess, I learn so much from you!!! You Rak! Thanks for your blog and your book(s) and Videos! My teacher is moving and can't access her studio and is using one of your videos to practice with! We ALL LOVE YOU!!!♥