Preparing for your first performance
You’ve done it! You’ve finally agreed to perform your very first solo. Whether it’s at a student recital or your local hafla let’s talk about tips that will help you before your first belly dance gig.
1. Picking a song.
This can be very daunting when starting out! Where do you start? What do you search for? Where do you search? I recommend first reaching out to your instructor. They will be able to provide a few suggestions, and as an added bonus will know your dance level and individual style. Still unable to find something? Turn to the internet! Even if your search starts with “belly dance music” you’re heading in the right direction. Places like iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, Google, and Pandora all will have selections that will help expand your dance library, as well as give you some options to perform with. One of my favorite things to do is look for a song on YouTube and follow the “related videos” rabbit hole. However, do be wary! If you pick something in a different language or something with lyrics that are not easy to understand you could accidentally offend someone. This practice is also good for your performance in the future. Though a song might sound upbeat, the actual content might say otherwise. The habit of finding translations and lyrics to your songs is necessary and essential when continuing on in your dance career. When you finally are looking, pick something simple. Pick an easy beat that is repetitive. Nerves and adrenaline run strong during your first performance so give your self something easy! Even if you forget your choreography it will be simple and easy to catch up. Remember, keep it short.
2. To choreograph or not to choreograph?
This is going to be up to your personal preference and how long you’ve been dancing. If you feel more comfortable with improv, great! You’re ahead of the game. If not, take some time to listen to your song. Have a notebook by your side and spend time choreographing the “islands”. An “island” are high points in the song like the chorus. From there you can fill in the rest of your performance. By knowing the 5 to 6 high points in your song you can always fall back to them if a choreography is forgotten. Having trouble with your choreography and don’t know where to go next? Reach out to your instructor. They will be able to help with advice or schedule a private lesson to work on your choreography. They will have the experience and know-how to put together something that works for you!
3. Picking a costume.
Don’t feel the need to be over complicated. This is your first performance and should not be a professional paid one. Being a student, you are allowed (and trust me, there isn’t a belly dance costume police) to get away with simple, less expensive costuming. A simple choli, skirt, and coin belt work great and are flattering to most. Whatever style you choose is fine, but keep in mind that you are performing in front of an audience. Practice before hand in your costume! This is a great way to become aware of any possible costume slipping or accidental exposures. Is your skirt long? Will you trip on it when performing? Does your top lift when you raise your arms? These are things you are going to want to know before you flash your audience. Know where you are performing. Is it a raised stage? A skirt with nothing but undies is not a good look. Are you performing with bright stage lights? See-through or thin fabric might not be the best choice without the correct undergarments. Also, pins are your friends. Use them liberally and even if you think you don’t need them. Trust me, you do.
4. Practice your makeup ahead of time.
You wouldn’t experiment with makeup on your wedding day, would you? Spend some time a few days before your performance practicing your look. Experiment with false eyelashes (if you haven’t worn them before, keep checking back for a tutorial coming soon!), and test with bold eye looks. There is never “too much” when it comes to makeup for performance! Once you’ve perfected your look, practice with it on. Does it melt away when you sweat? Do your false eyelashes fall off? Your makeup is part of your costume, and just like that it should be tested before hand.
5. Know your song and practice with it…a lot.
It’ll happen, I guarantee it! You’ll get on stage and with all your adrenaline you’ll forget a small chunk of your choreography. It happens to the best of us. By knowing the song like the back of your hand you’ll be able to catch up or improv the rest of the song. Muscle memory can save you when your brain starts to wander. Listen to the song whenever you get the chance. In the car, working out, doing chores, and everywhere in between!
6. Be prepared.
This isn’t just for the boy scouts. Pack a dance bag the night before you perform. Pack your costume carefully. Make sure it won’t snag on any other pieces. Pack pins, bobby pins, deodorant, hair ties, and pump hair spray. Bring a thick veil or cover up to put over your costume after your performance. Pack extra undies, in fact pack real matching colored underwear. If it slips above your costume a similar color would be less noticeable. Make sure to have a pair of easy to wear slip on shoes or sandals. Though you may not perform in shoes your going to want something comfy to keep your feet warm. Pack your make up bag and make sure you have everything from lipstick to eyelashes! Is your car ready to roll? Does it have plenty of gas and is reliable for the trip? Nothing is worse than car trouble, and specifically when you’ve promised to be somewhere. Do you have your performance songs on multiple platforms? On a cd, mp3 player, or have it emailed before hand to the producer? Bad things can happen. Having your music on multi platforms will prevent you from being unable to perform because of a bad cd burn.
Do you have any suggestions to add? Comment below!