Shiny Happy People - Five Ways to Improve your Haflah Performance


By Sara Shrapnell.



1. Smile

It's the easiest thing to say and yet the hardest thing to do.  Please smile when you are dancing.  Remember this is a Haflah and the whole idea is FUN - when we are having fun we smile, not just with our mouth, but our eyes and whole face.  Of course the main problem is that often the performer is not having fun but suffering their worst fears as their mind struggles with the choreography, a room full of people and the wave of realization that everyone is looking.  Yes everyone is looking, but everyone is admiring you.  Do not fear your audience, they are there to enjoy the evening.  Your audience at a Haflah will be made up of a mix of people:


   *Pro dancers and Teachers, who will appreciate your hard work and want to see you enjoy yourself.

   *Students and other dancers who will know how difficult it is to get up there and will admire you for doing so.

   *Students who have never performed who think you are brave as anything to be up there dancing.

   *The general public, and dance supporters who have no idea what you are doing, but have come to see the fun.


All of these people will enjoy your dance more if you smile!


Practice smiling whenever you dance, even when just at home on your own.  Learn what your natural smile looks like so you don't have a "forced" look on your face - look at it in the mirror, smile and relax.  Learn your choreography inside out so that you can add smiling as an extra level - if you can trust your feet, hips and arms to do what is expected then you have time to focus on your smile and face.  And finally, make sure you really do enjoy it!



2. Posture


It's the first thing we learn and yet so often it disappears as soon as we step on to the dance floor.


    *Keep your posture perfect as much of the time as you can.  If you spend all day everyday with good, strong posture it will soon become second nature (not to mention get you noticed, make you feel good, help your clothes hang nicely and make you walk like a goddess).  If you find good posture a struggle, please keep it up for the whole time you are in costume.

    *Many a good performance has been let down by the way the dancer slouches onto the stage or strides off.  Personally I am prone to the "scuttle", once the music is over - how much nicer would it look to glide off, head held high?  Be proud of yourself.



3. Interact


A Haflah is the perfect chance for you to practice your interaction skills and really take your performance to your audience.  When you are up on a stage its hard to get a reaction, but a Haflah setting gives you eye contact, the chance to exchange smiles and get the whole room involved.


    *Don't be afraid to leave the dance area in move into the room (although don't stay out of sight for too long…).  Some dancers can pick on one person, while others like to dance to each table in turn.  You can use simple gestures to get them to stand up to dance with you, clap along or just wink and make them smile.

    * Pick out your friends and classmates and get them to encourage you, or flirt with the children (not the teenagers, they will "just die").



4. Costume


There are so many things that can be said about costume but many of them are not worth worrying about for a Haflah (remember - FUN).  But there are a couple of golden rules that should not be broken.


    * The first is to make sure your costume covers everything that it should - it sounds obvious but many people flash in their Haflah costumes.  There is nothing so off putting for an audience than to accidentally see what they wish they couldn't and nothing so bad as a performer than to see that look in your audience's eye.  Try on your costume and stand in front of a very strong light, if there is a chance it might be see through, its easy enough to add an extra skirt.

    *Check your costume can do your choreography - the classic mistake is a top that can't keep up with multiple spins and ends up on back to front.

    *Pants are a hot topic in dance circles - some dresses are impossible to wear without VPL so you have to go commando.  This is a personal decision, but make sure you don't have a split that will ride up or a skirt that flairs when you spin and please no floor work!  Sometimes it is better to put on a huge pair of pants and live with VPL than have the "did she, didn't she" debate the hot topic of the evening.

    *Finally make sure your costume fits.  Many off the peg Bedlah are designed to fit all with some minor adjustments.  Don't think you can just put it on and dance in it.  Belts need to sit on the hips and tilt in towards the waist which needs some careful adjustments, pinning and sewing - most come in two pieces so that the angle they connect at can be set to fit each individual.  Bra tops need to be so tight that you can breathe normally, but only just.  It takes a while to get used to wearing your costume this tight, but it does make a difference.  Mark the back with pins and fit clips a centimeter or so apart to take into account slight variations in your size from day to day -then ask someone to put you in it as tight as it will go.  The shoulder straps should again be as tight as you can bear - remember it's only for a short time.  The fashion in bellydance is for very high, round and false looking boobs, this may mean you end up with a tiny bit of an overspill, but that seems to be more acceptable than loose shoulder straps.  A super tight bra also feels safer when you dance.  If you are worried you might "Pop" then add a big fat nappy pin on the inside just before you go on.



5. Be Prepared


Of course you need to know your choreography, but it's also worth thinking through some other ideas.


    *It's a good skill to be able to free dance with confidence.  It's not unknown for the wrong music to come on and then you are stuck with two choices, stomp off or keep dancing.  If you can adlib with confidence and in character then you can keep the flow of the evening going and let someone else sort out the problem.

    *Be ready to join in with whatever comes your way - sometimes there are games at a Haflah, a lucky dip of music or moves or you might get the chance to show off a number you did last year/at a workshop/made up one Saturday night.

    *If there are live musicians you need to take advantage of the opportunity and be prepared to get up and dance - you can learn a great deal from interacting with a drummer.  All of this is part of the fun; so don't be afraid to join in.



The recipe for a fantastic Haflah performance? - A relaxed and natural smile, topping off a frame of perfect posture.  Wrap in a well fitting and tasteful costume.  Prepare well in advance for all possibilities and then share with all those gathered.  You may notice that there is nothing here about moves.  I'm afraid that, although we spend hours perfecting our moves, its one of the least important factors in a Haflah performance.  I've seen the best technical dancers bomb at a Haflah because of their lack of performance skills - it's the Star with the big smile who walks round the room in time to the music that manages to wow at a Haflah.  It's not fair, but it's true so focus on both aspects of your dance and you are sure to be a hit.




This First Appeared in Taqasim Magazine :