As a belly dance beginner, you may be unsure of how much you want to incorporate performances into your practice of belly dance. Perhaps you’re just looking solely to practice the dance on your own or within a troupe. Maybe you’d like to eventually perform at a student or group hafla, a performance that would be within a supportive environment and among fellow dancers. Or maybe you’re excited to perform at a campus event or festival for friends and family and people outside of a troupe. What to do?
An article from The Gilded Serpent touches on this subject. The author discusses the different areas of performance available for belly dancers, including restaurants, parties, haflas and big name theaters. Though the author speaks from an advanced level dancer’s point of view, she brings up information relevant for beginners nonetheless.
As a student dancer, there are a few performance options for you. My professional dance instructor Ouranitsa informed me that student dancers are very much encouraged to perform in student-centric events, like those held on college campuses, and haflas. Haflas can be a party exclusively for belly dancers wherein dancers perform with each other and for each other, or they can be a larger event with a formal stage show that includes non-dancers as audience members. All of these types of events are very communal and encouraging environments for beginner dancers.
Since you’re not a professional, you won’t be able to go to professional gigs, or performances that would provide payment for you. This might seem obvious, but as a belly dancer you must be very careful to maintain the dignity of the dance form. I’ve learned from my instructor that non-professional student dancers who perform for money are actually looked down upon in the belly dance community. This is in part because to do so
would be to give the audience the wrong impression that what you’re doing is what professionals do, and also in part because you would be disrespecting all the professionals who earn their money that way.
I can say from experience that performing at campus events is a fantastic way to get yourself out there as a performer and build a sense of community with a troupe. It’s fun to perform with those dancers you’ve formed a bond with, and you get to show off everything you’ve learned. Additionally, your fellow dancer audience members can clap and zaghareet for you! Trust me, everyone will be impressed.