I received this lovely message from a fellow belly dancer this past week: “My teachers have been insisting on me starting to perform at restaurants here and I am completely terrified!!! I feel like I’m not ready and I still have such a long way to go. Do you have any advice?”. This sounds like the classic Fears as a New Bellydancer that we have all gone through.
Not Feeling Ready?
First of all, if you do not feel ready, chances are you are not ready yet. Once of the “regrets” I have had from belly dancing is having been placed on the stage too soon. I literally had a solo in my first show ever, and started dancing at restaurants within 2 years of study which was definitely too soon!
At that point I had no idea what cultural implications this dance carried nor whether the music I chose was appropriate, much less refined or “stage worthy” technique.
If You ARE Ready…But Scared
-Make sure you plan out what your set will be like (i.e. upbeat opener, balance act, taqsim, drum solo, audience).
-Just because your technique and skills are not “perfect” yet does not mean you have nothing to offer. Always remind yourself that this is a journey, and if you can entertain well, then calm your nerves and get out there!
– The more you perform the less shy or scared you will feel. So keep at it.
-Choose music that is appropriate for the crowd. If you are unsure ask the owner what his demographic is like or ask your teacher to guide you on where to find this information (ask a fellow experienced dancer).
-Always have a contract for restaurants (always) and charge accordingly in your area. If you are performing at an event, ensure you give the coordinator all needed show materials and content in a timely manner
-It is normal be to be nervous before you perform, or feel even a little queasy. Say positive things to yourself!
-If you are super nervous, bring a belly dance friend or instructor as a back up the first time your perform. Having them cheer you on will loosen up the initial stress and help you get into that happy, “in the zone” place.
-Do not choreograph the entire show. If this is your first solo show, make sure to leave a chunk open for improvisation where you can relax a bit more, and enjoy the moment.
-Try to keep breathing and make sure to make eye contact and keep the energy and facial expression going at all times.
-Lastly, things will happen. Always prepare for the worse, and make sure your costume fits correctly so that it is the least of your worries.
Performing solo, can be extremely scary in the beginning. You have a general idea of what it is like, but all the details and planning are not second nature yet. If you feel you are not ready, there is no rush. Better to be ready than to start too early and look like a hot mess. Education is key, so make sure to nurture your education and training in this art form FIRST above anything else.