Sharif's Take On Belly Dance


Male belly dance - my perspective

Many male dancers have long lists of no-no's for male dancing (never do hand flourishes; don't hold your arms above shoulder height; never look anything but totally confident and strong; no seductive see-through or peek-a-boo stuff for customing; no exposed midriff; etc.). These rules differ between dancers, and the dancers sometimes contradict each other as well. If you would put all these rules together, you could do practically nothing as a male dancer, and it would be very boring! So I don't totally ignore these rules, but I flout them on a regular basis and test if they make sense to me.

I am not aiming to create a "masculine" performance per se. I want to do something that is attractive and entertaining to anyone who sees it, that makes me look good and gives me an opportunity to be creative and express myself. Whatever moves are needed and useful for that I will use. Of course, I would like women in the audience to find me at least likeable (thoroughly sexy is not a problem either!) For the men I hope they will at least watch it with an open mind and enjoy the contrast and similarities with the performances of the ladies. Both parts of the audience hopefully experience me as an artful and capable male performer - that is all the "masculine" I want to be. The worst would be to be rejected by most of the audience for being too effeminate and hailed by some of the men who think I am gay... that creates just too much confusion! Obviously, there will always be plenty of rednecks that will call me a sissy however my performance looks, and I will just have to ignore them. I wasn't planning on performing for the Hell's Angels biker club anyway...

My teacher SeSe seems to favor "strong" moves with me - I will definitely use those because they work for me, but not exclusively. I try to be fair in determining what is good for me and what is not. At first I did not take to veilwork at all because I found most of the things we did in class did not work well on me. E.g. the "envelope" thing with a slow reveal just wasn't my thing. Still, in class I will do it as well as I can, and if I find at some point that it starts to look good I will use it. But I found that other stuff with veils works well for me, and that includes slower moves and poses, not just the "let's jerk it around real fast and impress people with that". I think that strong moves can overpower the dance. I don't want to turn my dance into some kind of acrobatics or a Mister Universe display (like I could pull that one off...). It has to flow with the music and interpret it. I could go for the androgynous thing, but I really don't want to cross-dress for a performance. I am very pleased with my own gender, thank you very much!


Belly dance advice

Some advice I would give to other student dancers (without trying to be snobbish; I know these things because I just recently experienced them myself, and I am probably still struggling with them!).


  1. Practice at home. Don't solely rely on classes to get your belly dance education. Practice the moves you learned in class at home, and perhaps work with one of the many DVDs available to expand your skills. Get into a routine where you spend some time every week on your private practice. Daily is better...
  2. Aim to watch yourself in the mirror during class or private practice. You will make quick progress once you see and correct the most obvious errors you make. Get yourself a big mirror for private practice.
  3. Practice with a smile! Try to avoid looking stern or tortured, even if you are having a hard time following the exercise. Just forcing a smile on your face will make you feel better! You will have a much better time immediately, and it will pay off once you start performing because it becomes automatic. No one likes to see an unhappy or unconfident performer.
  4. Once you have a move pretty much going, pay attention to your execution:
  5. Practice your moves in different ways. Can you do them faster or slower (on the beat, of course)? Can you make them larger, or smaller? How large and small can you make them? Are you aware of any body parts that are involuntarily moving at the same time? Are you still smiling?
  6. Keep your legs close together for best results of hip moves; you will get more leverage.


First performance

  1. Make an inventory of all the moves you have learnt. Start preparing for a performance once you have some 20 moves down. That's earlier than you think! You will find that working towards a performance really makes you get ahead quicker than ever. It's good to set a goal for yourself!
  2. Find some music you really like and that you can find some good moves to while improvising your dance. Build your choreography from improvisation, that is the most natural way.
  3. Pick the music apart (counting bars, and noting chorus/refrain or instruments) and write it down. Then add descriptions of the moves you want to do to each part.
  4. Practice your choreography until you can hardly stand it anymore. Practicing multiple times a day is better than a single longer session. You want to drill down the moves in your brain so you don't have to think about them.
  5. If you can, use a video camera to record and analyze your dance. At least use a mirror.
  6. Find a place to perform. Here in the Santa Cruz / Monterey area we are blessed to have some really nice supportive and low-pressure venues. You can also use a private birthday party to show off your routine.
  7. Perform in public a couple of times. You will find that after the first couple of performances (that can be nerve-wracking) it becomes much more fun. Everyone has to get over that hump, so why not do it quickly?


Good luck, and enjoy the ride!