Kiyaana's Blog

Shamadan: Essential Equipment

University of Mary Washington Arab FestivalI love Raks El Shamadan! The drama of a dancer with fire balanced on her head is fun for everyone. It's a traditional dance in Egypt for leading the bride and groom from the ceremony to the reception (even if that's just through a hotel lobby), but can also be performed on stage. 

Learn more about the dance itself from Sahra Saeeda (sign up & receive her Zeffat al 'Arusah primer). UK dancer Candi has excellent information on her website, too.

Whether for a wedding or a stage performance, one thing is certain, you need your equipment to be in excellent working order. Here are some tips and tricks, learned from Candi, troupemates, and my own trial-and-error.

1. The shamadan. Buy it in person, if at all possible. Ask around in your bellydance community if anyone has one for sale, but try it on, first. I recommend this because there's only so much adjusting and padding you can do to make it fit properly. The head frame on my first shamadan was way too big; I tried to find a local metalworker to adjust it, but with no luck. I ended up selling it and starting over. Lucky for me, Scheherezade Imports is only an hour away, so I was able to try on my current shamadan. If this is not an option, ask for measurements before you order. Measure the circumference of your head (above your eyebrows) and from between your eyebrows to the corresponding location on the back of your head. You DO want the shamadan frame to be larger than these measurements to allow for padding (for comfort and stability), but anything more than 2" larger may be challenging to fit correctly. 

USA vendors who sell shamadans: - My current shamadan, purchased from Scheherezade Imports, is this style and works well for me, but test the arms to make sure they will stay put. - I love the look of these, but don't have personal experience with them.

Almanar Shamadan (Germany) - Again, I don't have personal experience with these, but have heard good reviews and like how adjustable the headbands are.

molefoam for shamadan2. Make it fit. I removed the built-in foam padding that came with my shamadan. I cut strips of molefoam padding and applied them inside the frame to fill the gaps between the frame and my head. In some areas, I applied 2-3 layers. Don't forget the space at the top of your head. Depending on the shamadan style, there may be a bolt and nut here and you don't want that pressing into your scalp. 

3. The candles. Real or fake? Real is obviously more dramatic, but some situations/venues won't allow live flames. Be prepared with both. 

REAL candles - Go for tapers that are 6 inches or shorter. You can break off taller candles, if necessary. Do NOT use real tealights. I have been really happy with these 6 inch candles. From the movement of the shamadan, the wax does fall down the sides, but seems to catch itself and stay with the candle. Trader Joe's sells boxes of 10" "dripless, self-extinguishing" candles in white or cream. There are 8 per box. (Break these to make them shorter; 10 inches is too tall for most shamadan styles.)

FAKE candles - Battery type will dramatically affect the overall weight of the shamadan and your ability to balance it. If possible, use candles that have "button" batteries (or watch batteries). I have tried three different fake candles.

6.25" wax-dipped, using AA batteries
 (not included) - I like the look of these, but they are heavy at 2.5 oz. each. Nine candles = 22.5 oz., which is close to 1.5 pounds.

5.5", using button batteries
(included) - The flame part is not as large, but flickers like the 6.25" version. I really like that they turn on/off by pushing in the flame. Also, they weigh only .9 oz. each, so your total for nine candles is barely over 7 oz., almost a whole pound less than the AA battery style. This style has a stake at the bottom, so plan to cut off at least the tip to make it fit into the shamadan candle holder.

Virginia Belly Dancers Saffron Dance 2014 Fellahi CompanyFlameless tea light candles, button batteries included
- These will not give you the impact of the taper candles, however, they will work well for performing with a group. They are much more economical when you need at least nine for each dancer and they still provide a nice flicker effect. Because we used these on a stage, we opted for the brighter, whiter light.

4. Fix the candles to the shamadan. Nobody wants to see your candles topple over, and you certainly don't want wax raining down on you! Troupemate Sama bought a block of Eletrical Conduit or Duct Sealant for the whole troupe to use and it worked really well. It's SUPER sticky, have some baby wipes ready for your fingers, but that's a good thing. At my local Home Depot, I bought a block for less than $4. You can also try Candle Fitter, Blu-Tack, or even melting wax into the holder, then sticking the candle in. Whatever you use, practice with it extensively before taking it public.

Now, do your homework regarding music, movements, costuming, etc. If you're going to invest money and time into dancing with a shamadan, do it right! Once you are confident with it, it can be so much fun, plus an asset for marketing yourself for wedding gigs.

Suggested music: The Wedding, The Arabian Wedding, Zaffa, Raks El Shamadan

Start with this excellent article by Lucy "Scheherezade" and Gamila El Masri.

Princess Farhana's shamadan article

More Candelabra advice

Fundraiser Hafla for Safe Harbor

Join us for the fourth annual fundraiser hafla in Fredericksburg! We'll be raising funds to benefit Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center. Enjoy lovely performances, fun raffle prizes, and yummy food! There's a Shimmy-Off, too!!!

Saturday, May 9, 2015
2:30 - 4:30
Aladin Restaurant, 27 S Gateway Dr, Ste 125, Fredericksburg, VA 22406 (exit 133B)

Directions to Bodyworks in Downtown Fredericksburg

Bodyworks Athletic Club is in historic downtown Fredericksburg. The address of Bodyworks is 1027 Caroline St, but the entrance is actually in the back, from the parking lot, which is the corner of Amelia St. and Sophia St. For GPS directions, use 1017 Sophia St, Fredericksburg, VA 22401This is actually the address of The Happy Clam, which is across the street from the Bodyworks parking lot.

The entrance:
Bodyworks Entrance

The Happy Clam is the bright blue building, across the street. (Also a public parking lot.)

From exit 126A and exit 130A:
Your GPS will likely have you use exit 126A (onto Rte 1) or 130A (onto Rte 3). Follow directions into downtown Fredericksburg. When you are on William St. (one-way towards the river), make sure you are in the left lane when you reach Princess Anne St.

Drive through the Caroline St. intersection, then turn LEFT onto Sophia St, staying in the left lane. The Bodyworks lot and entrance will be on your left.

From exit 133A:
Your directions will likely lead you to use River Rd or Chatham Heights Rd, so you will use this bridge to drive over the Rappahannock River.

At the end of the bridge, turn right onto Sophia St. and get into the left lane. The Bodyworks parking lot will be on your left.

There *should* be room for you in the parking lot. However, if the lot is full, be aware that most of the nearby street parking has a 2-hour limit during the day. The lot across the street, next to The Happy Clam, is a public lot. There are more public parking lots and a parking garage within four blocks of Bodyworks, all off of Sophia Street. See the "P" marks on the image below (taken from here):

Parking in Downtown Fredericksburg, VA

Workshop with Faten "Dancing to the Classics"

"Dancing to the Classics" Workshop with Faten

Join us on Saturday, April 18, 2015 in Fredericksburg, VA for an oriental master class with world-renowned native Egyptian instructor and choreographer, Faten. Dance to the classics with someone who can guide you far beyond combinations and counting. Faten will help you dig into the roots of the music, explain the mood of the song, convey the meaning of the lyrics, and give you cultural context like few other instructors can.  
(At least one year of dance experience is recommended for this workshop.)

Time: 1-4:30 pm  (30 min. break)   Location: Bodyworks, Fredericksburg, VA    Cost: $75        
Egyptian Instructor Faten teaching folkloric and oriental bellydance







Selected at age 11 for the national folk troupe of Egypt dance school for children, Faten was one of the original dancers in Egypt’s National Folk Troupe. Her vast knowledge of folklore styles and their influence on oriental dance enriches her classic, yet innovative, approach to our dance. After dancing with Faten, you’ll be hooked on her joyful style and enthusiasm!

One spot left! Now $75, payable through PayPal. Or send a check/money order to me with this form.

Our workshop location is Bodyworks in downtown Fredericksburg, VA, appros. 10 minutes from exit 130A off of I-95. Find more details here about driving and parkingPark in the lot behind Bodyworks, off of Sophia (one-way street) and Amelia (also a one-way). **Use the parking lot entrance to get inside.** OR park in one of the visitor lots off of Sophia St. or the downtown parking garage (and walk several blocks to Bodyworks).

More about Faten:
Faten performs orientalAn electrifying performer, a generous teacher and authentic choreographer, Faten began dancing in Cairo at age 11 when she was selected to attend a dance school for children run by Egypt's first-ever National Folkloric Troupe (“Kowmeya”). While dancing full time and performing for heads of state, ambassadors, and royalty across the globe, she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in French Literature. With her husband, Shawki Naim, at the time the top soloist in Egypt and the National Troupe choreographer, they created their own troupe, which traveled and performed around the world, which continues to serve as the National Folkloric Troupe of Egypt. 

Now based in Arlington, Virginia, Faten teaches weekly classes at Saffron Dance and is highly sought-after to teach Egyptian dance workshops worldwide.  Faten keeps her choreographies and love of folklore alive with her dedicated students as director of two dance companies at Saffron Dance School and with her original group, Al Massraweya: