Kiyaana's Blog

Dancing With Veils! Bellydance Class Info

We're two weeks into our special veil session at Strictly Ballroom and have been swishing and swirling around!  Here's some info for you regarding where to find more info about using veils with bellydance, where to purchase veils,  and links to inspiring veil performances.

History of the Veil in Bellydance:
"The Veil and Oriental Dance" by Elizabeth Artemis Mourat. As Shira explains at the top of the page, this is an excerpt from a longer manuscript. Definitely worth reading!!!!

Article by Najia El Mouzayen, scroll down to "Part 2 - The American Veil Dance". Najia briefly explains the role of the veil in a Vintage Oriental type routine and give a list of tips for handling the veil.

Purchasing Veils:
Habotai silk, poly-chiffon, organza (try to avoid the organza), and other fabrics can all be utilized in dancing with veils. When you are first learning, something medium-weight, like a poly-chiffon, is usually best. Once you have the basics down, you can branch out with other materials. 

I still have my first veil - really nice, lightweight chiffon from G-Street Fabrics. (It's in this photo.) I hemmed the cut edges and left the selvage edges alone.  Three yards of 45" fabric is all you need!  If you don't sew, you can apply Fray-Check to the cut edges to keep them from unraveling.  Most fabric stores will likely have a light chiffon for $3-$5 per yard, so a practice veil can be very affordable. 

For the gold-trimmed veils (half-circle or rectangular), try GaneshaBazaar.com. They have them in solid colors, two-tone, or multi-color with silver or gold.

So far I have purchased all of my silk veils and have not yet dyed any of my own.  If you are just starting to work with silk, go for an 8 mm weight. I have two veils from a USA vendor who sold through eBay that I really like, but I can't locate her at this time.  Another dancer recommended Nahari Silk Veils to me. (They are 4mm or 5mm, which is very light.) I have been happy with my 5mm solid color veils from Fairy Cove Silks.  You can also purchase your own un-dyed silk by the yard from a company such as Dharma Trading Co.

Inspiring Veil Performances:
Dancing with a veil can be a quick 30-second "prance around the stage and toss" to start a performance, an integral part of a Vintage Oriental routine, or a stand-alone performance piece.

One of many clips of the multi-talented Aziza, demonstrating classic Vintage Oriental veil styling to "Jemileh".

Mariyah of NYC with live music. Gorgeous use of a chiffon veil, nice contrast with slow & fast movements. She really knows how to work with that veil. Note how she's able to do SO much in such a small space!

Marya shows about two minutes of really nice veil incorporation at the beginning of an entrance song.

Azad Kaan, demonstrating a very energetic entrance piece with a little over a minute of veilwork at the beginning.

Nagwa Fouad in a movie from the late 60's/early 70's, not really dancing with the veil, more like draping the veil on the head, holding onto it, and dancing.  :)

Ooh La La bellydance troupe (bellydance showgirl style!) from San Francisco expertly use veils to frame movements and illustrate the music.  


What Should I Wear?

Ah, the age-old question asked by women (and some men) for special events or even a night out with friends.  We want to dress appropriately for the occasion, feel comfortable, and look our best.  The same is true for bellydance, whether it's your weekly class, a casual hafla, or a full stage performance.

What to Wear to Bellydance Class
In general, wear comfortable, but not too loose, clothing.  Yoga pants or leggings paired with a close-fitting t-shirt or tank top is perfect.  You teacher needs to see the outline of your body to observe proper alignment and movement execution.  Many teachers have hipscarves for new students to borrow, otherwise look for a triangular shawl with fringe that can be tied around your hips. If you want something more bellydance-specific, there are so many options!  First ask your teacher if coin scarves are allowed in class (sometimes they are too noisy).  Then head to Bellydance.com and click on "hipscarves" on the left.  If you want something very lightweight, quiet, and SPARKLY, search for "square sequins". (For those in the Fredericksburg, VA area, head downtown to Dancer's Wardrobe on William St. to check out their products.)

What to Wear to a Hafla (as a performer)
A student hafla (party) is usually a casual event, geared towards providing a fun & friendly atmosphere for students to showcase their newly acquired skills. You don't have to spend a lot of money to look great!  In fact, black yoga pants paired with a nice hipscarf and coordinating tie-top can be perfect.  Add some gold bangles, large earrings, and possibly a necklace to finish the look.  If you are anxious to take your costuming a step further, beware of the Halloween or boudoir-type costumes that are in abundance on eBay, Amazon.com, and elsewhere (even on the previously mentioned Bellydance.com).  Ask your instructor for recommendations since she/he might have something specific in mind for students to purchase for group performances. Otherwise, check out the "Student and Troupe Offer" from LRoseDesigns.com or even pick your own style of skirt and top from their catalog.  There's nothing like having pieces made to your size and fabric choices! A velvet trumpet skirt and half or tie top are the start to a very flattering and put-together look.  Dahlal.com has a variety of skirt & top options under "accessories" and SharifWear.com designs are popular with dancers for casual looks.

Coming Soon - What to Wear for Stage Performances

Songs for Mini Sets

You've been invited to perform at a hafla and the time limit is around five minutes.  If you can't find a singular song that allows you enough variety to showcase your abilities, put together your own mini-set.  With a little editing (Audacity is free to use), you can have your own mini-set.  

Suggested Short Tracks to Combine:

Entrance
Hzzi Ya Nawaem
Ah Ya Zein
Leila (Fast / Mod. Tempo)
Aziza

Veil
The Sensual Chifti
Rumba for veil work


Taqsim
Taksims of slow Chiftis (Violin / Oud / Kanoun)
Oud Solos with Cello & Violin
Zikrayat Al Nay

Drum Solo
Hankish Ya Gadaa (Tabla Solo)
Bellydance - The Art of the Drum Solo (Tabla Solo 1 that comes with the bonus CD)
Tabla Solos / Zils, Tabla, Hel-ah-wah
Half Tech (Drum Solo)
Very Short Belly Dance Drum Solo

Dramatic Veil or Wings Entrance
Unveiled (first 3 min. of this track, the accompanying drum solo is just okay)
Harem

Finale (if you have enough time left for one! Otherwise tack on 10 seconds of your entrance song or even a couple measures of a drum track with a fade in & fade out)
Moderate / Fast Finale Toota

Taqsim Study

Taqsim, Taqasim, Taksim - however you spell it, the meaning is the same.  It is a section of a song where an instrument plays an improvised solo. How do you dance to it? That depends on the setting (recorded or live music) and the instrument.  Listen carefully to what the instrument is expressing. The musician will use certain scales (maqamat) to convey different moods. Ultimately, you are free to "do what you feel" according to how the music moves you, but there are a few things to consider.  

Dancing to a taqsim is more "internal", meaning you are expressing emotion & musical connection in your own little world. (By contrast, you are projecting outward with the entrance section of a song.) If you are performing to live music, the musician is really the focus of the taqsim, as it is his (or her) time to shine and your dancing shouldn't steal the spotlight.

In general,
for wind instruments (nay & kawala) your movements will be more upward, drawn out, and extend into your arms, hands, even fingertips. Plucked string instruments, such as oud and qanoon, will bring out soft shimmies and small, round movements in the hips and chest. For instruments played with a bow, such as a violin, again your movements will be drawn out, but may remain more in the torso due to the tonal range of the instrument.  (These suggestions are very elementary, of course the best way to learn is to work with your instructor and/or find a quality instructional DVD, such as Bellydance Taqasim - Improvisation Skills & Drills by Ranya Renee.)

Suggested tracks to learn more about the instruments (several come from the album: Egyptian Taqasim Vol.1)

Nay by Mohamed Fouda 1

Cry to the Moon - Taqsim Nay

Kawala by Abdallah Helmy 1

Kanoun by Maged Naeem

Oud by Mamdouh El Gebaly 1

Oud Al Semai

Violin by Mohamed Aly 1

Cello by Emad Ashour 1


My taqsim playlist on YouTube.  At this time it features musicians with their instruments, but I will add examples of dancers performing to taqsims, too.



Pink Paillette Retro Bellydance Costume

Inspired by the Women of Selket troupe costumes at their November 2009 show, I was on the look-out for paillette hipscarves to create something similar. Several eBay sellers carry them, but when Andrea of Stellar Advantage received a new shipment while I was at the Sahra Saeeda week-long intensive that Andrea hosted in Florida (June 2010), I jumped on the opportunity and bought three in pink from her.

My design plan changed several times. I started with the idea of quickly covering a bra form with a hipscarf, intending to wear a tie-top with it, and tying a scarf around my hips, perfect for instructional parties, a casual hafla, or a Laziza Ladies Night. However, my thoughts quickly turned to making something more substantial - a sturdy bedlah (bra and belt) with coordinating arm accessories and skirts. In other words, a full-blown costume! While the techniques I'm showing and describing below aren't exactly what I use every time I construct a bedlah, they are very close. (I will try to note optional methods.) Even if you don't want to make a set with hipscarves, my instructions for covering a bra and constructing and covering a belt may interest you. Please let me know if you need further explanation.