Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I Took My First Class, Now What?

I took my first belly dance class, now what?

In addition to the obvious - that you should sign up for your next class! - here are a few recommendations that I would make to new students looking to continue their exploration of Middle Eastern dance.

Invest in a quality pair of zills.  Zills in Turkish, zagat in Arabic, or finger cymbals in English, a well-rounded belly dancer should learn to play these.  I played on my crappy beginner zills for far too long, and when I finally purchased a nice pair, it was like night and day.  Playing a quality musical instrument with proper tone and balance will help ease the learning curve. I highly recommend Saroyan zills. They do sell student zills which are a bit smaller and lighter, but I say just go ahead and get the normal-sized pro ones now.

Go see a live show. Live shows are great for inspiration and education.  Seeing how the pros do it will not only motivate you to practice harder, but it's a great learning tool for seeing first-hand the different segments of a show, as well as how the dancer interprets the music and interacts with the musicians. One of my favorite places to take in a show is at the monthly House of Tarab House Concert, held in the home of legendary dancer, Delilah, in Fremont. It's an intimate setting, where you are up close and personal with the band and dancers. Every time I've been, the performances have been phenomenal.  Next show is on April 18th and you can find the Facebook invite and details here.  There is also live music and dance starting at 8pm on both Friday and Saturday nights at Harissa Mediterranean Cuisine in Ravenna. On Friday nights, the music is played by George Sadak and friends, and on Saturdays it's the MB Orchestra. I highly recommend either night.

Study up on YouTube.  Can't make it to a live show right now? Then take some time to do the next best thing and watch dancing on YouTube. With so much material posted onto YouTube these days, it can be a very valuable learning tool for comparing and contrasting different styles of the dance, as well as the added treat of being able to see videos of Egyptian stars of former decades.  Not sure where to start? I keep a Pinterest board of some of my favorite YouTube clips.

Pick up a practice DVD. Even if you are signed up for a class, I still recommend this. Most students only have the time and money to take one class per week. But if you really want to make progress, you'll need to practice on your own as well. When you are first starting out, it can be difficult to know what to practice on your own. This is where a DVD can be really helpful. I wrote a blog post about some of my favorite DVDs awhile back in case you'd like to see my recommendations.

Buy a silk veil.  In addition to zills, veil is the other staple prop of belly dance. I whole-heartedly support silk as the way to go. I have seen veils of other materials, including tricot, chiffon, or satin/sateen sold, often coming as part of a set with a matching skirt. But none of these fabrics have the beautiful, lighweight mesmerizing float of a silk veil. Two of my favorite retailers for silk veils are Fairy Cove and Amiras Belly.

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