The Dance Doc’s Tips for First-time Performers.

I jotted these notes down after attending several bellydance festivals which included many first-time performers. They are common problems and may or may not apply to all circumstances, but I hope they are useful.

1. If you are a first-time choreographer, keep it simple and appropriate to your technical level; don’t attempt to fuse two styles of dance if you aren’t accomplished in either one of them; and don’t tackle props before you know how to use them.
2. Work on your arms. Beginners tend to be focused on footwork, but if your arms and hands (and face and head) look beautiful, everything else will too.
3. Learn to use your peripheral vision. You must pay attention to the other performers in your group, but it is distracting if you turn your head to look. Practicing without a mirror will help you develop your peripheral vision and learn to feel the group’s timing.
4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. If you are performing at a ticketed event, remember that people paid to see you. Show them that you are adequately prepared to perform in public.
5. Beta-test your choreography, if possible. Let a more experienced dancer watch you perform and provide constructive comments. They will be able to tell you when your formations are ragged, if you are off tempo, or recommend stylistic changes. You will learn something about choreography and your piece will look better.
6. Once you’re out there, commit to your movement. Even if you’re on the left and everyone else is on the right, just carry on and correct as graciously as possible. If you really screw up, laugh and improvise. But don’t be discouraged: even long-time performers make mistakes.
7. Please don’t spend more on your costumes than you do on your lessons. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned but I’d rather see good dancing than swanky costumes.
8. Have fun. Whether you are rehearsing, preparing costumes, or performing, try to enjoy all the work. After all, if you’re not having fun, what’s the point?

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