I just loved her costume…

Imagine this:  A budding violinist with a lot of potential but not a lot of training decides that she really, really wants a Stradavarius.  So, she goes and purchases one for herself (remember, this is a hypothetical situation).  But, no matter how lovely or exquisite that instrument is, it’s not going to make her a better player.   It won’t improve her sight-reading or her bow-work.  Only years of training and practicing and studying will make her a better player.  An instrument of that caliber in the hands of an expert will sound magnificent, but in the hands of a novice… it will still sound like a novice is playing.

So, if this is the case, why do we see similar things happening in belly dance so often?

Let’s replace the hypothetical situation above with a dancer and a top-of-the-line costume.  Just as the instrument does not make the musician, the costume does not make the dancer.  No matter how well a dancer costumes herself, a costume will not make up for a lack of training, strength, conditioning, flexibility, emotional expression, choreography, or technique.  A costume can not hide the absence of these essentials, and without these elements, the dance can easily become a fashion show.

Of course, a dancer’s costume must match her performance in theme and style.  It must fit her well and be made of good quality materials; it must allow her to move and express herself without restraining or distracting her.  As dancers we must look good on stage.  Dance is a visual art, and the costume is an essential part of the performance, whether it’s a classic beaded bedlah for oriental style, or coin bra and tassel belt for American Tribal Style, or a unique creation sewn by the dancer herself.  The costume is part of the experience, especially for theatrical performances.

But… if we spend more time worrying about costuming ourselves than we do actually in the studio or our dance rooms training, we hold back our beloved art.  No matter how good we look on stage, if we don’t have the movement to back it up, then the performance will fall short.  The costume is only one part of a complete performance.  There’s a reason that if someone says, “Well, she had a great costume”, it’s often because her performance was lackluster and her costume was the only thing that stood out.  A dancer’s costume shouldn’t upstage the dancer herself, and we should be spending more time and money on our training and the development of our choreographies than we do on our costuming.

Another way of putting this is: You can buy the best paint brushes, the finest oils, and the top-of-the-line canvas, but unless you practice your brushstrokes and actually learn how to use your materials, you won’t become a better painter.

If you take away your costume, can your choreography speak for itself, or are you relying on your costume to speak for you instead?


Comments: 7

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To be fair, this isn’t unique to belly dance- last year, the kids in the ballet class I take were terribly distracted from practicing recital choreography with dreams of tutus and wrap skirts :)

I think you’d like this post from Dance Advantage: http://danceadvantage.net/2011/10/12/costume-blackout/




I have experienced this in the beginning of my dance path. I focused more on how I looked rather than how I felt. Maturing in years has made me put things into prespective. I focus more on the work rather than what fancy/ expensive costume I like. I am at a place where I want to speak my message through dance and not have a costume do all the talking for me. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the glitteratti and glitz. After reviewing some of my previous performances I wished I would’ve taken more time to develop the choreo. I wasn’t very pleased and knew I could do so much better. What if we lost our jobs or money, we would really go hard with technique, practice and conditioning because we want our message to come across, “I dont have a fancy costume, but Im dancing from my heart and this is what hard work and dedication looks like.” We would want the audience to forget about what we had on or didnt have on for that matter. We’d want them to observe what we poured our time and energy into. Afterall, we are if we are our souls then we are “wearing” our bodies. I will share my favorite inspirational clip by Will Smith.





And that’s also why I’ve not been making many costumes for myself for a while: I need that time to practice my art. Depending on what the costume is, it can be quite time consuming so my motto for this is: I’d rather be dancing! And I love sewing! 😉

I’ve heard countless dancers say that, due to their costume making, they weren’t sure if they were ready for a performance b/c they hadn’t danced enough. This is a bad idea, people. :(




Now I don’t feel so bad for eschewing costuming time in favor of more dance rehearsal. This past weekend, I travelled to visit my extended family, and put on a little performance for them. I didn’t bring any props or a proper costume- I wasn’t sure if there would be time for it. All I had was my black pants that I practice in, a plain midriff top, and one of those jingly hip scarves. I felt like my appearance was a little shabby, but they LOVED it, and even liked my ‘costume.’ It reminded me that people are watching the dance, more than anything.




I absolutely agree with you that the costume does not make the dancer and that you can’t cover up bad technique by blinding people with rhinestones. On the other hand, I think some dancers feel more confident with a high-end costume and perform better than if they were wearing a low-end costume.




I agree completely. I enjoy making costumes, actually I’m working on one right now and a belly dancer paper doll, so I’m also drawing them, I’m don’t dance for a living though, selling costumes is my thing, because I’m in love with the belly dancer look. I’m ruthless when I’m wasting my time watching someone who can’t dance! And I don’t care if they looks like a princess! Even if you dress up a monkey in silky robes, it’s still going to look like a monkey!




I also wanted to say Great blog, new follower.



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