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Cardinal Rules of Belly Dancing

It is considered terribly, terribly gauche to be seen in costume when one isn't in the throes of performance. Put on your cover-up.
No dancing on the sidelines when others are performing unless they invite you to join them. Otherwise you're competing for the audience's attention, which is very unsisterly.
Never do a backbend with your crotch toward the audience.
Don't touch yourself lasciviously while you dance.
Try to refrain from pulling faces that look as if you are having a private moment. Not only is this horribly lewd when done correctly, it is incredibly (and unintentionally) amusing when done incorrectly.
Tattoos are iffy. If you are going for ethnic authenticity, stick with the tribal face markings and hennaed hands. If you're going for cabaret glitz, a skull and crossbones on your shoulder might be a wee bit detracting. If you're doing American Tribal style à la Fat Chance or Gypsy Caravan, well, break out the ink, sister, you are in luck.
Ditto navel piercing.
Tips are something else that is up in the air--sometimes literally. Tips are often showered over the dancer's head without any body contact. Some dancers don't mind taking a tip discreetly in a shoulder strap or in the back of the belt. If you want your customers stuffing tips down your bra or the front of your belt, maybe you're in the wrong line of work.
If you have been hired to perform at a reception or other event where food is served, do not hang around and have a plate after you dance. You're there to fulfill a fantasy for the audience--a fantasy that will not withstand the vision of you stuffing your face with greasy Buffalo wings. If the hosts insist (and especially if it's yummy Middle Eastern food--hey, it would be an insult to refuse, right?), ask if they will wrap you up a plate to go. You can fib and say you have another gig.
Do not smoke, drink alcohol, curse, behave lasciviously, or cuddle with sweethearts in public while in costume.
Stay in character for the duration of a gig, especially at Joe Public events. Remember, you're being paid to be a mysterious exotic belly dancer, not Cyndi from the marketing department. Do not flirt, mingle, or reveal your real name or day job. If you must change into civilian clothing, try and do it out of sight of your erstwhile audience and make a quick getaway. This doesn't hold true for "just us" events like student shows or haflas where the attendees are mainly dancers. Feel free to let your hair down, slip into something comfortable, and enjoy the show at these events.
And finally . . .
Shoulder shimmies are called shoulder shimmies for a reason. If we wanted boob shimmies, we would have called them boob shimmies. A word to the wise.
Snake Hips by Anne Thomas Soffee: BellyDancing and How I found True Love, British Cover
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