What does the belly dancer do on her day off? Here are some tips for using your time effectively between bookings and during down-time. Some of the advice below is also relevant for the keen amateur belly dancer.
1. Repair, Replace, Re-Stock
Now is an ideal time to check all your costuming, props and make-up to make sure everything is in good condition for your next show and carry out essential maintenance that you normally don’t have time for.
If there are any belly dance costumes hiding in the back of the wardrobe which need alterations, now is the time to get them done. Also check your regular gig costumes to see if there is any damage that needs to be repaired, such as replacing missing stones, tightening fastenings, or cutting any loose threads so they don’t snag. Try all of your costumes on and consider selling and replacing the ones that no longer fit well.
Clear out your make-up bag and throw away out-of-date make-up and smashed up powder and eye shadow compacts and wash all your make-up brushes. This can be done with warm water and a little baby shampoo. Gently reshape the bristles afterwards.
If you use hair extension or wigs check if they need replacing completely or whether they just need a wash or re-style. They can develop a slight unwashed hair smell if you are wearing them a lot and sweating in them. Synthetic hair requires a specialist shampoo available at shops that sell hair extensions, wigs and weaves.
FInally, check if you are running low on any make-up items and stock up so that when you get that next show, you are ready to go and not running to Superdrug to buy some more false lashes.
2. Learn or try something new
The hour before a gig is not the best time to learn how to put in contact lenses, put on false eyelashes or try out a new make-up technique. Use your down-time to experiment and try new things out without being under pressure.
As well as make-up techniques, the same reasoning applies to dance techniques. A lengthy break is an ideal time to work on some new belly dance techniques, learn a new style, or to incorporate a new prop into your routine. Consider adding some new songs to your routine and updating your track list to reflect what is popular right now. If you have time, try and book yourself into some haflas so that you can try out new material, props and ideas in front of a supportive audience and have a dry run.
3. Look after yourself
It’s easy to get run down from lack of sleep and a poor diet. Working in the evenings means late nights and eating at strange hours. It’s important to allow yourself some proper time for rest and relaxation and just lazing around doing nothing. A lot of belly dancers have to combine their dancing with other work in the daytime, so this is doubly important in that situation as you don’t really have any free time! Your friends and family may also need to be reminded what you look like occasionally and you may need to make up for times when you had to cancel plans due to a short notice booking.
Dancing professionally can be quite demanding psychologically, particularly if you have had some negative experiences, so it is good to spend time with friends outside the belly dance community and pursue other interests outside of belly dance and remind yourself that dance is not everything.
4. Plan for the future
Finally, you can utilise your spare time to make plans for the future and developing your dance career or hobby. Set goals for your future. Danced at all your local haflas? Why not make a weekend trip to a hafla or festival in another town or city and see some fresh faces and ideas. This is a great way to make new friends and build your dance network. Perhaps you will see a dancer you would like to invite to teach in your local area or you yourself may get noticed and invited. Alternatively, you could consider entering a competition or performing at an international festival. There are now a huge number of festivals across Europe and in Egypt itself where you can see very high professional standards of dance.
How do you want to develop your dance in the future? Is there a particular area you would like to work on such as improvisation, dancing to live music, or learning a new style? Start to research and book ahead for workshops and festivals that cater for these needs. Whilst its great to study different topics, in reality funds and time are limited and you cannot attend everything that is available. As your career develops, you need to think more carefully about which teachers you train with and what topics you study so that you are maximising what you get for your time and money. Private coaching is another option to help you attain your goals. It is expensive but it will be totally focused on you and your needs. A great belly dance teacher will help you in attaining any goals that you set yourself. In fact, private coaching or mentoring really becomes a must when you reach a certain stage.
If you are working professionally as belly dancer, you also need to develop your business as well as your technique and performance skills. This could involve building a website, or overhauling and updating an existing one. You could also spend time trying to find new clients, perhaps by approaching a newly opened venue and seeing if they are interested in having a belly dancer.
Follow these tips and never waste your down-time again!