Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Book Review: The Belly Dance Handbook

Given the popularity of belly dance, there have been surprisingly few belly dance books written. However, I suppose that makes sense: dancers are busy dancing rather than glued to a desk writing. And out of the ones that do exist, I have to say I haven't been all that impressed with the selection I've read thus far. That is, until now. I recently finished reading Princess Farhana's The Belly Dance Handbook: A Companion for the Serious Dancer and can easily give it a five zill rating.

Given that Princess Farhana has been a popular blogger for a number of years now, it's no surprise that she was able to couple her finesse at writing with her extensive experience as a dancer to craft a book that is both practical and engaging.

I think that dancers of all levels can find useful information in this book, as it starts out with fairly rudimentary belly dance knowledge and progresses all the way to turning pro and beyond.  After seven years, three teaching gigs, numerous performances, and countless hours of studying, I know that I still picked up on some new nuggets of information. The book comprises twelve chapters that cover fundamentals, belly dance styles, technique, practicing, costuming, props, makeup, performing, turning professional, running a business, teaching, and travel. The tone is friendly, with funny anecdotal stories interspersed throughout.  However, at the same time the author conveys her information in a manner that clearly displays her competency on her subject matter.

One of my favorite sections of the book was the chapter on styles of dance.  This was one of the best breakdowns of the various styles that I've read, with descriptions that were accurate and clearly highlighted both the similarities and differences between the various subgenres that comprise belly dance as we know it. I also appreciated that her book didn't include any statements to the effect that belly dance is an ancient art form or any other such belly dance origin myths. Yes, I know, equating belly dance to an ancient female dance of empowerment or birthing sounds nice to say, but to date there's no evidence or history to back those theories, and thus I cringe a bit every time I hear someone make statements to that effect. Happily, Princess Farhana stuck to the facts in this regard.

I also liked that the book included a lot of great belly dance "hacks" in terms of tips for storing and caring for costumes, as well as ensuring that you arrive at your gigs well-prepared and with all your necessary tools in tow.

I have one criticism of the book, and I almost hate to say it because I liked the rest of the book so much, but here goes: it's very poorly edited. I've never read a book with so many grammatical and proofreading-related errors. It averaged almost one per page. And now that I've said that, I'm sure I'm going to end up publishing this post with an overlooked error. Anyway, that being said, I still enjoyed the rest of the book enough to overlook this.

In short, I think this is a valuable resource for dancers at any step along their belly dance journey. If you don't already own a copy, I encourage you to shimmy on out and buy one today!

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