Do you know what season it is? RuPaul season! Yes. We are officially into the third week of RuPaul’s Drag race and the new queens are bringing it. Those of you who know me already understand my obsession with and appreciation for these performers. I’ve learned so much from them since I started watching RuPaul’s acclaimed show where drag queens compete for the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar. While you may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with a dance blog?”, I will answer back everything.
As a bellydancer and dance performer I’ve found that there is so much crossover (no pun intended) in what I do every week with the art of drag. Costuming, stage make-up, stage presence and self-promotion are a few shared elements but perhaps the most important element is knowing how to SERVE. Any man who has the cajones to put on a dress and high heels is going to own it. While drag performers differ in their own niches and talents, they all execute a walk that can be learned from. Queens have mastered how to command attention and express themselves doing even the simplest steps that we learned how to do as toddlers. Dancers take note! Walking is the basis for more intricate movement and can be translated into choreography. Being able to walk with authority and control will only aide your confidence and make you a stronger performer.
From watching queens, teaching different styles of dance, and performing every weekend I’ve had fun exploring the many sides of “dance walking.” Delve into my article sharing tips and tricks of the trade so you can execute the “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent” that RuPaul encourages out of his superstars.
Strut Your Stuff: Dance Walking
While we walk everyday, it’s not often we consider how to walk for an audience or how to “dance walk” to a piece of music. Dancers, models, and performers have practiced movement technique to make their struts more noticeable, strong, and even desired. Whether you’re planning an upcoming show entrance, choreographing a strut filled dance, or just trying to make some heads turn, you might be wondering how to sexify your stride. Read below for my tips and tricks on mastering your saunter and owning your walk.
Keep Your Head Held High
Beam confidence and heads will turn! Performers will often keep their gaze just over the heads of audience members as a trick to keep their focus and energy up. Think thoughts of self pride and your... Read full article HERE.
Like any good dance fan, I’ve spent endless hours watching dance videos on YouTube, drooling over choreography and inspired by everything from tutting to ballet to bellydance. With the conveniences of the Internet, thousands of dance videos are readily available with just the click of a mouse. With the large amount of high-level quality dancers performing today and the easy accessibility of dance videos, the dance world can be competitive in winning over its viewers and keeping their attention. Some videos keep us glued to the screen while others loose our attention after just a few seconds. Of course dance videos don’t do their actual live performances justice, but even when seen in person, some choreographies just shine above the rest.
So what’s the secret to keeping an audience captivated? There are a variety of factors that can make a choreography entertaining and watch worthy, but there is one factor that is essential to making a dance excellent. Keeping it clean! There’s a big difference between watching a dance that’s performed sloppily and watching a dance that’s well prepared, thought out and executed.
Teaching weekly at Bella Ballroom dance studio in Costa Mesa has given me the opportunity to write dance blogs and explore dance topics as such in depth. This week I explored tips and tricks for cleaning choreography that can be used for any style of dance performance. Take a look…
Creating Clean Dance Chreography
Choreographies that stand out have undoubtedly been well thought out and practiced prior to their debuts. Often times a choreography’s success doesn't’ depend on it being technically impressive as much as it depends on being executed cleanly. While knowing how to perform a dance with strength and clarity takes experience, I can offer some helpful hints to consider when preparing to nail your next dance.... READ MORE FOR ALL THE TIPS
Get Asked to Dance
When I moved to Orange County to pursue growing as a bellydance performer and International Dance artist, one of the things I was most excited to explore was Southern California’s dance world at large. When my bellydance gigs take me into LA County, I take advantage of being dolled up and out and about at club prime time and head out dancing after my bellydance shows. I’ve enjoyed checking out the salsa dance scene from Malibu to Newport Beach.
As a new face in the Los Angeles and Orange County dance scenes, established social dancers do not know me. Being an unknown dancer can make it harder for a follow to get asked to dance in a developed dance community. Personally, I like to leave it up to the leads to invite me to dance instead of the other way around. Call me old fashioned, but really I’m just shy, and to some extent I haven’t needed to do the asking. Just like dancing, there is some technique involved in getting invited to dance. Read on as I share a five fantastic strategies to get and keep you on that social dance floor!
1. Have a Good Waiting Strategy
The key to getting asked to dance is to create the least path of resistance for inquirers. Place yourself close to the dance floor, preferably in a higher traffic area where potential dance partners will be walking by. Standing up and grooving to the music while waiting will make you appear more approachable and like you want to dance. Make eye contact and smile with other dancers. Avoid sitting down, burying your head in a smart phone, or... FULL ARTICLE
All About That Risk... No Trouble!
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Dancing at the wedding in Huntington Beach was equally fun and fulfilling. I got to be a surprise for the guests. Unfortunately and ironically, the MC announced me as performing “Middle Eastern Dance.” I cringed backstage wearing a black feather boa and pinstriped fedora hat preparing to dance to American Pop music. There was nothing Middle Eastern about the show and I feared for any unknowing associations that would be made by viewers after the performance. Sometimes when you dance outside the box, people just don’t know where to put you. (Which in turn describes my biggest marketing challenge! How can I promote a multifaceted dance performance and teaching service that’s not categorized? Comment your thoughts below!)
I highly recommend all dancers or anyone looking to improve their craft read on as I share what I’ve learned along the way about staying committed to practice.
Plan, Practice, and Prosper
Improve Your Dance
By Ziva Emtiyaz
It’s always a little amusing to me when students come in for their next lesson and they give me that look like they have a confessional. You know the look; similar to a puppy’s gaze after they’ve gotten into the trash. They don’t even need to say it… I already know. They didn’t practice... FULL ARTICLE HERE
You Spin Me Round, Right Round...
Turning Tips & Tricks
By Ziva Emtiyaz
One of the reasons why dance is so fun to do and so exciting to watch is because of its multidirectional quality. Spins and turns make up some of the foundational elements of dancing. They can be used artistically to visually accent a change in the music, to evoke a mood, or even to inspire the feeling of flight. They can also be used... FULL ARTICLE HERE.
The 411 on Social Dance Etiquette
Social Dance Etiquette 101
By Ziva Emtiyaz
In any social setting we have to be considerate of others. Those in the social dance scene should know that the dance floor has it’s own set of rules and considerations. Being respectful and aware will make people enjoy accepting a dance with you instead of avoiding you, fearing a potentially unpleasant experience. Read on to get your dose of social dance etiquette 101... FULL ARTICLE HERE
Suelto! - Solo in Salsa Dance
Suelto! – Soloing in Salsa
By Ziva Emtiyaz
We all know salsa as a form of social dance involving two participants who engage in a spontaneous call and response of movement. Usually their hands or a closed frame position will connect them, creating a conversation of push and pull. So what happens when the dancing duo separates? READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE...
Ooh la la... Costumes!
1. The feeling you get when you're filled with inspiration or full of excitement and energy
2. To be interesting, exciting, or sexually appealing
3. A phrase or expression used when a particularly attractive person is seen
As Arabic Dancers, I ask myself, what makes us go “Va Va Voom”? What excites us and upon sight makes us shout, “Ooh la la!”? After reflection, I’m overwhelmed with a plethora of answers. While I believe there are several inspiring, energizing, sensual, and interesting elements of the dance, let us pause in April to reflect on the Arabic Dance costume.
The “bedlah” is used to describe the sequined bra and belt set that we traditionally see on classic cabaret performers and dancers today. In Arabic, “bedlah” means suit or outfit.
Before the bedlah, dancers were accustomed to performing in their everyday dress. Classic dancers such as Suhair Zaki preferred the figure-hugging baladi dress, which covered the body from shoulders to toes. What’s fascinating is that the cabaret costume featuring the decorated bra, skirt with side slits, and belt developed from the influence of the Western world in the 1920s. Hollywood’s film industry was booming and developed costumes projecting an Oriental fantasy drawing inspiration from the female allure that was associated with the vamp. Dancers in Egypt we’re not even allowed to show their bellybuttons as the Western world’s costume depicted. Arab dancers adopted the costume, but covered their mid-drift by adding a long strip of material running vertically between the center of the bra and the skirt.
From this birth of the bedlah, the cabaret costume has evolved. Through the years we have seen a variety of costume fads, from Negwa Fouad’s long fringe in 1978 to Dina’s short skirts in the 1980s. Today we see prints, asymmetrical cups, clear straps, feathers and more trending fashions. Cairo’s dancers now also wear stylish and classy dresses similar to the party clothing of Arab people, only with more sequins and beads. Ironically, this mimics the pre-bedlah dresses that Arabic dancers were wearing before the cabaret costume developed!
When deciding what costume to wear, there are many things to consider. Does it match the piece of music? Does it fit right? Will it stay on and endure heavy shimmying, pops, locks and rolls? Is it appropriate for the venue? Does it accentuate the dance or inhibit it? The list goes on. Perhaps one of the most important questions to ask yourself ladies is, “Does this costume make me feel Va-va-voom?” Rock something that suits you, and that makes you feel completely gorgeous daaaa’ling. Don’t worry about looking like anyone else or fitting someone else’s ideal. Life is just too short not to feel absolutely stunning.
“Costume Porn… The latest trends in Egyptian Belly Dance Wear”
Buonaventura, W. (2010). Serpent of the Nile. Northampton, MA: Interlink.
Dictionary: Va va voom. (2012, November 28). Retrieved March 27, 2013, from
Varga Dinicu, M. C. (2011). You asked Aunt Rocky: Answers and Advice about Raqs
Sharqi and Raqs Shaabi. Virfinia Beach, VI: RDI.
You may have already heard of the term “SMART goal”. A SMART goal is meant to help you conquer objectives successfully. As you construct your dance goals, make sure they are specific, measurable, action-based, realistic and timely.
Specific: A specific goal has a much better chance of being accomplished than a general goal. Your goal should be well defined with clear actions that will be taken. Write down the details of how and when you will accomplish each specific behavior. Also identify any requirements or constraints.
Measurable: A good goal should be measurable. This can be challenging for dance goals due to the artistic nature of dance. Consider crafting your goals so that they answer the questions, “How much?”, “How many?”, and “How will I know that it is accomplished?”
Action-based: Your goals should be things that you will actually do. For example, a general goal such as “Become a better dancer” is an outcome, not an action. A specific action-based goal would be, “Attend Arabic Dance class at Hipline 3 times a week and review new moves 5 evenings a week after work.”
Realistic: Your goal must be possible to achieve. Consider your time and the resources available to you. Make sure that your goal is attainable and that you are willing to work towards it.
Time-constrained: Goals must have a deadline. With no set time frame, there is no sense of urgency. Time bound goals will help you stay on track and give you a solid time reference.
Using the SMART goal guideline, let us delve deeper into the elements of becoming a stronger DANCER:
Drilling: Strong technique is the backbone to a dancer’s movement. Where will you train and how will you make the time to practice? Consider specific movement goals. “I want to be able to layer a ¾ shimmy with a chest circle. I want to maintain a consistent shimmy five minutes.”
Artistic: How can you further your art and tap into your creative side? What do you want to say with your dance? What is your message? How can you express yourself on a deeper level? Go to spaces where you feel most comfortable and that don’t have any distractions. Allow yourself reflective and imaginative time.
New: Keep things fresh and stay inspired. Pay close attention to what stimulates you. What mediums can you use to see the latest performances and learn upcoming techniques? Take workshops from Master instructors whenever possible. Use YouTube to see dancers from all over the globe.
Culture: Research the traditions and background behind Arabic Dance. Understand “herstory” and get to know the classic Raqs al Shaqui stars. Grasp the foundations of Middle Eastern musicality and implement them into your dance. Arabic Dance is a rich art form representing a variety of Middle Eastern cultures. It is our duty to be aware of and respect the dance’s cultural background. Create a list of trustworthy resources and use them. Plan to visit your local library, travel abroad, take workshops, and ask your instructor meaningful questions.
Exposure: Plan to perform! Getting ready for a performance is one of the best ways to better your dance. A show will give you a deadline and an audience. We all know that the best way to become a better performer is to perform. Challenge yourself to incorporate different dynamics and elements of dance into your show. Stay tuned as Hipline’s Arabic Dance Program will offer several performance opportunities in 2013.
Reason: At the end of the day, we dance because it fulfills us in some way. Remember why you dance and let that inspire your goals and future dance aspirations. Write down your reasons for dancing and tuck them away. Pull them out when you need a friendly reminder.
Once you have your goals, write them down and refer to them often. Put them somewhere you can see them and consider sharing your quest with a friend. Good luck ladies, and happy goal conquering!
Hipline Arabic Dance Program Director
Ziva is a goal driven, die-hard dance advocate. She loves teaching Shimmy Pop, Shimmy Pop Toning, and Arabic Dance weekly at Hipline. To learn more about Ziva visit www.zivadancer.com .
ACSM'S Resources for the Personal Trainer (3rd ed.). (2010). Baltimore, MD:
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Ziva Emtiyaz is an award winning International Dance Artist excited to share her knowledge and life experiences about the big world of dance!