A good belly dancer will take the stage commanding the presence of those in her audience. She can play the fine line between sensual and sexual, maintaining an assured, strong presence. Although she needs to possess skill in her movements, her attitude tells the audience that she knows what she’s doing.
Walk the Belly Dance Walk
When a dancer first comes on stage, she can’t grab the audience with a hip or shoulder shimmy. She comes on stage, proclaiming herself as the very thing everyone should pay attention to. Even if a dancer possesses a generally quiet persona in her everyday life, in dance she has to transform herself into a goddess or queen.
Stand up and allow your shoulders to slouch. Drop your eyes and stare at the ground. Think about how absolutely, positively exhausted you are. Now, walk across the room. Do you feel like people would become caught by your aura of authority? Or, would people looking in your direction walk into you by accident?
Roll your shoulders back and stand straight with your pelvis tucked. Look straight ahead and think ‘I am the queen.’ Imagine your subjects pausing in their actions as you walk by, your confidence commanding them to see nothing but you. Walk across the room.
Which dancer would transfix her audience? Which dancer do you want to be? Practice just walking across the room while holding onto a different attitude from flirty to sexy, goddess-like to fairy innocence. Then, try different dance moves, from snake arms to horizontal hip circles while holding onto various attitudes. Later, work your way up to an entire dance.
The Eyes of the Belly Dancer
Part of conveying different attitudes is not just in the way you walk but in the way you gaze at your audience. Look in a mirror and put on your best haughty expression. Think, ‘you don’t know what you are saying or doing,’ and see how that attitude comes across your face. Next, think, ‘I am so happy to see you; I’ve been looking forward to getting together for ages.’ How does your face change?
Practice gazing into the mirror with looks ranging from ‘stay away’ to open-hearted to ‘I desire you.’ Your facial muscles make dozens, perhaps hundreds of small adjustments to convey those thoughts. When you are polishing a performance, consider that you are doing more than just moving your body but that you are also conveying your attitude with your eyes.
Body Language and Belly Dance
You can make audience members feel as if they are a welcome part of your dance (even if they seated and are just watching) and you can manipulate the audience into believing they are almost voyeurs watching you from a distance without you realizing they can see you. That doesn’t mean you’re doing anything inappropriate like running your hands over your body; it does mean that you are conveying a story with your dance movements that keep the audience at a distance.
Open your arms wide and you are welcoming your audience. Hold your hands over your heart and you are shielding yourself from interaction. A hip lift is happy; a hip drop is grounded and serious – imagine a hand dropping onto a drum.
Practice the different ways you can convey emotion and attitude in your dance to bring more depth to your performance presence.