Ask the Professional Belly Dancer

I seen some pretty expereinced belly dancers in Middle Eastern restaurants for special occasions like birthdays and such and men would throw money at them. Where is it appropriate to tuck the money in? Waist of skirt or do we have to hand it to you??

It depends on the dancer. The most traditional way to tip is to stand up and shower bills over her head one by one. Sometimes the dancer will have a basket or tambourine to put tips in. Some dancers accept tips in their costume.
If you wave some bills around and make I-want-to-give-this-to-you gestures, the dancer will usually see you and come over and offer what she wants the bills in. If she’s making the rounds of tables, wait till she comes near. If she just doesn’t see you, it is perfectly appropriate to stand up and wave the money. This problem is pretty rare- dancers LIKE money. Best places to tip are sides of hip and back bra strap (if it’s that kind of costume). If you look confused, she will show or tell you what do do. She may shimmy or keep dancing while you try to put the money in. That’s part of the fun, so play along.
Some dancers do not accept tips while dancing. In that case, you can give it to the owner for her, or give it to her as she leaves after she changes. If you give it to someone else, make sure she knows to ask him for it.
Traditionally, part of the reason for tipping is to show off to your friends how generous you are. Therefore, if you intend to tip and are not independently wealthy, bring ones. The more tips people see her getting, the more tips they will give. Giving her one bill (regardless of denomination) is not as impressive to the crowd as giving her five.

I have several questions.

  1. Do men traditionally belly dance?
  2. If not, are there schools that will teach men?
  3. If so, do their movements differ from what the woman do?

This is a cultural folk dance which people do all the time, for fun. It happens to look nice in a performance setting and it’s exotic to us Westerners but pretty common Over There.
In that it’s cultural, this is how everyone dances there- grannies, dads, teenagers, kids, everyone.
In terms of performance, historically there are two types of male dance- Tahtib and as women. tahtib is an Egyptian dance/martial art done with large sticks. If Tahtib had a quote, it would be “See how badly I could hurt you if I weren’t so cheerful!”.
The dancing as women happened during the times where women were forbidden to dance. Young boys and men would dress as women and dance for money the same way the women danced. There were some very famous court dancers who did this.

That said, now I answer your question :wink:

  1. Yes
  2. Almost any teacher will teach men. Some people have attached a whole Goddess-y angle to the dance which was not part of it historically and will exclude men as not being part of the Sisterhood. IMHO it’s fine to express yourself and your spirituality, and the dance is very freeing, but it’s not okay to say that someone can’t learn when he’s honestly interested.
  3. Ever been to a nightclub? With some goofy-looking exceptions, men dance like men and women dance like women. It’s innate. The problems come when a man is taught by a woman to do certain moves, he tends to unconsciously mimic her style, so many moves come off as girly-goofy unless and until he discovers his own dance. I haven’t noticed this when women are taught by men, which is kind of odd now that I think about it.

There are several famous male dancers. Horacio Cifuentes is one, and Tarik abd-al Malik, and John Compton, and Adam Basma. Some dancers that I know of are Asim al-Talib, Valizan, and Hijara. If you do a Google search you will find several pages on this very topic.

I visited, really excellent source. A lot of great info, thanks for sharing.

ONe think did puzzle me. There were a couple of pics of tribal fusion dancers in their dance costumes, and it appeared to me that a couple of their costumes covered them from collar to ankle, and that none of their limbs were revealed. Well, how do you dance like that in a performance? The audience can barely make out your arms and can’t make out any part of your body except your face and hands. It may well be fun to dance in such a costume, but I don’t know what an audience might get from watching someone dance while dressed like that.

On the contrary. You don’t need to expose skin to show movement; in fact in many cases the costume makes the movement much larger and easier to see. If you look again, you will see fitted cholis or anteri-variants (turkish fitted coats) which outline the chest and torso. The coats have patterns or stripes in the frequently, so they make any twisting or side to side movement stand out more as the pattern shifts. The full skirts go flying if you spin, or you can pick them up and dance with them Turkish/Gypsy style, or just doing any stepping will make the skirts foosh all around your legs, making the step look much more dramatic.
Also, many of the moves are hypnotic and beautiful- but only if you can’t see exactly what’s going on. Case in point- there’s one kind of shimmy which sends waves up and down the body, which vibrates. It’s completely enthralling to watch- unless you can see her legs. Once you watch what her knees do, it’s not particularly interesting because all the mystery is gone.

OK, that’s fair enough. I didn’t mean to imply that you had to show skin – a dancer can be covered from head to toe in a bodysuit, or in capri pants and a sweater, maybe, and still clearly show movement. Ginger Rogers danced in full, flowing evening gowns with Fred Astaire and used the gowns to emphasize movement.

So I get what you are saying. I just was confused about a couple of the pics on the site. They looked kinda bulky and static. But if they are designed so that they can shimmy and wave and emphasize the movements of the dancer wearing them, I can see that they would work for dance.

Dear HennaDancer,

My best friend got me into henna, and now I’d like to try belly dancing, both for the aesthetic quality and the childbirth benefits. I’m considering taking a course during the summer. Any tips on choosing a teacher? What should I be suspicious of? What kind of creditionals should I ask for?

Thanks for any assistance you may provide.


I was watching a belly dance video on one of the sites linked to shira net, and the dancer did this move where she just glided sideways across the floor with her hips waggling a little sideways doing snake moves with her arms. It was incredibly graceful because there was no apparent walking movement of her legs – she just appeared to float acoss the floor. What was that move?

BWAHAHAHA we got another one! Didn’t you know henna is a gateway drug? :wink:

But seriously…
There are no credentials in this dance form, unfortunately. No standardization, either. I’d call around and chat a bit with the local teachers and see if you click with one of them. Don’t take anyone seriously who says they’ve been dancing for less than three years and are now teaching. In general, the longer the better. I would not start with anything called “American Tribal Style” or really Tribal anything. It’s a perfectly valid dance style but limited in scope.
Many dancers will offer a drop-in rate to check out a class, many will let you watch a class, and many even offer your first class free. Ask.
Your teacher should start with some sort of gentle stretches. She should explain the moves verbally and descriptively as well as showing them to you. If she only demonstrates, she won’t be a useful teacher. Many teachers are not so focused on this, but I feel it’s essential to know the rhythms you are using and various cultural information is nice to put moves in context. Above all, she should be willing to correct a student gently. Being supportive is great but I’ve seen students who were supported into doing some pretty chancy stuff.
Enjoy it!

I don’t do this move myself but I know what you’re talking about. You stand on the balls of your feet and alternate lifting your hips so the weight comes off that hip’s foot. When the weight is off, you move the foot a bit. You take leetle teeny quick steps with each leetle teeny quick hip lift and move that way.

Great thread! I’ve almost decided to go take some lessons. A couple of questions, though.

Is a certain amount of innate grace helpful for this activity? In other words, will a stumbling oaf like me with all the poise and coordination of a drunken water buffalo have a hard time with this?

How long does it take to get the basic moves down? How soon does one start noticing the positive effects, i.e. relief from back pain and just generally feeling better?

Will it make my husband my willing slave, eager to obey my every command? (“Clean the toilet!” shimmy shimmy “Yes, my queen!”) :smiley:

A certain amount of coordination is required to successfully navigate from car to dance studio, but other than that you don’t need to be naturally graceful. In my experience, this dance form will not turn a drunken water buffalo into a flowing fountain, but it will at least cause you to move like a sober water buffalo. Seriously, it does improve balance and body-sense (that thing which tells you where you left your feet so you don’t step on the baby).

That depends on how much you practice. I can usually get the rudiments through in 2-3 weeks to my students. Are they ready to perform then? HECK NO. There’s a difference between being able to do a move and being able to do it on command in isolation with a sword on your head. I find that everyone has a move they were born to do which the rest of the clsss cannot got for a month, and everyone has a move that they can work on 24/7 and still not get right for a year. Most students are reasonably knowledgeable at about a year, enuogh for recital-type performance. I wouldn’t let anyone but a really extrordinarily talented beginner dance solo before two years. Learning the moves and being able to dance them are two separate things.

Well, it didn’d do that to MINE… but read the part about the internal massage in a post above. YMMV :slight_smile:

I have looked into bellydancing in my area ( for toning and naturally, to turn me into a wild sexual beast) and have come up…uh…dry.

So. until this area gets more…hip…I’ll just bide my time. (Hey, we have Yoga within 12 miles of my house.)
I think it is so cool that you do what you love **HennaDancer **. How many people get that opportunity?

Given your ethnic origin and coloring, do you feel more Mid-eastern inside or more Welsh/Irish or is it a happy mixture of both?
My prediction is that Belly Dancing will become the new Yoga and I hope so. I can only see positive things coming from it for everyone involved.


I hate being the last to post…
Please don’t let me kill another thread…
I can’t seem to help myself…


Lemme help you out, Shirley. I can’t answer your questions, but I CAN be the last to post :slight_smile:

I’ve never seen a group dance as an ensemble, though I have seen a couple of individual performances personally and I’ve seen several online videos of individual performances. How does a group performance work generally? Is it a rigidly structured thing where the dancers rehearse and move as a group like a chorus line, or is it the dance more fluidly structured? Are some dancers in the foreground doing special movies while the others dance in the backgorund, or what? Is there a formal patttern to group dances liek there is to individual dances as described on

In my area we have an annual bellydance competition which includes solo, junior, and group categories. Before the competition, the group I belonged to practiced, practiced, practiced to get the arms in sync and the moves in sync. We perform that way in public as well

Whereas I also belong to a group that will do some outdoor performances where we just dance to the music doing our own thing - sometimes we’ll borrow moves from each other.

When I’ve done a Zar dance performance (an egyptian healing/trance dance), the dancers do one choreography and the person taking the role of the person being healed does a complementary choreography.

Inspired by this thread, I decided to sign up for and take lessons. So far, they’ve been fun - and I’m really loving it, of course that could be just the general rush of “hey, this is new” but on the chance that it isn’t, are there any books or videos that you’d recommend?

Good stuff. Another bellydancer- we need lots here so we can trade music suggestions and tips and things.

Have you ever done American Tribal, and what do you think about bellydance purists?

I’ve been doing bellydance for about four years, on and off, doing classical Egyptian Cabaret, with a bit of folklore and things like debke and zaar. I love it, and can’t dance any other way now.

Have you heard of Yasmina Ramzy and Hadia? I’ve taken classes with them, and they’re terrific.

Thank you for your replies Hennadancer. I have another question, thanks to this thread I want to go out and learn to dance; however, I haven’t been able to find any teachers in my area. I looked in the yellow pages under dance instruction and didn’t see anything. Where are some places that I may learn that wouldn’t necessarily be in the yellow pages?