When I perform at private parties such as birthdays and wedding showers, I like to bring my own sound system. Recently I purchased the Harman Kardon Go + Play High-Performance Portable Loudspeaker System with Dock for iPod (Newest Model) for such occasions and tried it out a couple weeks ago. Success! I already knew from using it at home that the sound quality was excellent, but this is why it worked so well for a small-space performance:
1) It has a remote! I was able to start my music and adjust the volume before I even entered the room. You don't need line-of-sight for this remote. It's small enough that next time I might construct a little pouch in my costume to have it ready in case I need to adjust the volume during my performance. Oh, and the remote is stored in a handy little pocket in the back of the system itself.
2) You can use batteries to power this system. This is such a great feature for those times when there isn't an outlet in the immediate performance area or when the element of surprise is part of the event and fussing over a cord would be a hindrance.
3) If needed, you can plug in a CD player. While this system is built for use with an iPod or other MP3 player, you could use this with an auxiliary CD player if necessary.
4) The sound quality is excellent! The speakers really deliver, even at top volume.
5) At the time of posting this, the price is only $209. This really is reasonable for such a quality piece of equipment. A few months ago it was almost $400. I managed to snatch one up when the price dipped to $150.
Any drawbacks? The only thing I've noticed so far is that sometimes the positioning of the iPod itself is a bit touchy. If using it in a stationary setting, such as an exercise class or at home, it shouldn't be a problem. Since I was transporting it and handing it over to someone to put in place for me, I wedged a little slip of cardboard in to better secure the iPod, just in case.
I'm looking forward to using this for the classes I'm planning to teach (very soon!) I have heard great comments from others who use this system for their belly dance classes.
I've found a way to combine my love for teaching, dance, and fitness into one area - SharQui™! I have both SharQui™ and AFAA (group fitness) certifications and love providing bellydance workouts to the Fredericksburg area. SharQui™ uses bellydance movements to deliver a low-impact fitness routine. It is a great introduction to bellydance, but can also help the experienced dancer become more fit and improve stamina. And I think it's fun! Come back to my site for updates on where I'll be teaching SharQui™ (or sign up for my newsletter).
Editing to add: Read about how SharQui™ has helped a woman on her quest to regain mobility.
If you go to a bellydance workshop, you will find women and men in various workout clothing such as yoga pants, tank tops, t-shirts, etc. What makes it obvious that they are learning bellydance is that almost all of them will be wearing some sort of hipscarf. Yes, it can make dancing more fun, but the main reason for tying something around your hips is to make your hip movements more obvious and visible. You are helping your teacher or audience see what you've been working so hard to learn. If you are practicing in front of a mirror, you receive the visual benefits, too.
Fringe? Coins? Fun, but not necessary. Some teachers actually discourage wearing coin hipscarves due to the noise level and because they often "shed" coins when you get your hips moving. (So be prepared with an alternative when taking a class or workshop from a teacher that is new to you.)
Where do you find hipscarves? There are many lovely scarves in retail stores that will do the job - they often have a little fringe, too. You can also make your own (details to follow on a future blog post). There are several online vendors who carry scarves with coins, are crocheted with beads, or glimmer with paillettes. One of my favorite places for such scarves is Scheherezade Imports. Click on "Hip Sashes" on the left.
Scheherezade Imports also has a great "Finger Cymbals, Veil & Hip Sash Getting Started Set."
If you are looking for a simple dance outfit that is perfect for beginners, check out the Student and Troupe offer from L Rose Designs.
Ask five bellydancers what they wear on their feet for practice and performance and you will get five different answers. Barefoot, ballet slippers, jazz shoes, lyrical sandals, hermes sandals, ballroom heels, and the list goes on! Part of the decision is based on personal preference and part on what is recommended by dance instructors.
What do I recommend for a SharQui™ class or a regular bellydance class? I tell students they can go barefoot or wear dance slippers. Socks will work if you are adverse to barefoot and don't yet have dance slippers, however they may not "stick" as well. Why barefoot? If you are able to trust the floor, which should be the case in a fitness or dance class setting, bare feet allow your toes to properly spread for optimal balance. If you have preexisting foot issues, I recommend reading the section on feet in Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain. An in-between option is the half-sole or lyrical sandal, pictured with this article. It gives full coverage for the ball of your foot, but allows your toes to spread properly. A more recent addition to dance footwear that I have not yet tried, but am curious about is Capezio Women's Full Body Footundeez Lyrical/Modern Shoe.
Performance footwear is another matter. Again, if I can trust the floor, I prefer barefoot, but unless you are on a theater stage, that is rarely the case. For restaurant shows, I usually wear Very Fine Ballroom Dance shoes, but sometimes opt for a Split Sole Canvas Ballet Slipper, depending on the look I want for my costume. Different shoes affect how your turns, spins, and shimmies feel, so it's important to regularly practice in the shoes that you choose for performance.
How to choose? Read recommendations and visit a dance supply store, if possible. In the Fredericksburg, VA area, Dancer's Wardrobe has a great supply of slippers, jazz shoes, half-soles, and Foot Undeez. Visit them to see what feels best for you.
Looking for some last-minute holiday gift ideas for your belly dancing girlfriend, wife, or friend? Kiyaana to the rescue! (Men can do this dance, too, but my suggestions are geared more towards the ladies.)
Easy to order in advance:
Sparkly, Noiseless Hip Scarf - How many hipscarves does a bellydancer need? One more! Search for "square sequins" and you'll find several colors from which to choose.
Bellydance Magnets - These are so cute! If you're up to the challenge, you can make your own.
Raqs Cuisine (Bellydance Cookbook) - Recipes are from dancers, custom artwork is by Nikki J.
Silk Veil by Fairy Cove - Veils are very common props or costume accessories in bellydance. Pick her favorite color or a color combo.
The Way of the Belly - Fun book by the Bellytwins, includes a DVD, order through Amazon or Hay House (the publisher)
With at least a week to go:
Scheherezade Imports gift certificate - Lucy (Scheherezade) carries a wide variety of CDs, DVDs, hipscarves, costume patterns, and more.
Bellydance DVDs, CDs, and books from Amazon.com - This link will take you to a short list of recommendations. If at all possible, check her existing collection so you don't chose something she already has.
LAST MINUTE (night before!!!!):
Amazon gift card - Send her to BellydanceDownloads.com to find music recommendations or direct her to the list I linked above.
eMusic subscription - She will get 25 free downloads to start, then a set number per month. Here's a bellydance-specific list to get her started.
Sephora eCertificate - All of that performance make-up has to come from somewhere. :) (Note: eCertificates may only work when ordering on the site. If you have a store nearby, stop in to pick up a regular gift card.)
BellydanceStore.com gift certificate - Unless your dancer ONLY does Tribal style, I'm sure she can find something here. (But the Tribal girls may prove me wrong.)
A night out to see a bellydance show - You'll need to be a little creative with this one. Make a certificate for a night out and tuck it in a special card. If you live near a major city, you probably have several Middle Eastern restaurants that regularly feature bellydance, at least on the weekends. She may already have one picked out that she'd like to visit. Is she a Bellydance Superstars fan? Check their schedule and buy advance tickets. You get the idea.
Note: If you really want to get her a costume, resist the urge to pick out one yourself. (Sizing and styles can be tricky.) Instead, get her a gift certificate for her favorite belly dance costume store or website. If she doesn't have a favorite (as far as you know, anyway) make your own "Costume Gift Certificate" on the computer and put it in a lovely card. Believe me, I am thrilled with a gift of costume cash. :)
Happy shopping! If you are reading this, that's already a good sign that you care and will pick out something your dancer will love.