What is Belly Dancing Legends?

This site is specifically dedicated to the wonderful art of belly dancing.

Belly Dancing Legends will be posting and uploading information on all of the world class workshops that you can attend throughout South Africa which will definitely aid you on your road to becoming a belly dancing legend in your own right.

The allure of a belly dancers tummy

Each workshop that is posted will provide you with the option of downloading the registration form so that you can attend. For each workshop that a member of Belly Dancing Legends attends, there will be a short write up on that workshop so that you can get a feel for how each different studio runs and operates their workshops.

There are so many different belly dancing styles that there is bound to be one which speaks to you and resonates within you.

I encourage you to express yourself through dance and to allow yourself to be free! Belly dancing is the ideal opportunity to do this in the sanctity of a studio where each person is on their own personal journey and can empathize and relate to you.

Please follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our RSS feed to be kept in the loop each time something new and exciting is posted to Belly Dancing Legends!

I promise you will not be disappointed! I look forward to sharing this information and journey with you!

Namaste.

Bernice

The Art and Science of Middle Eastern Dancing

I have had the pleasure of meeting a vast variety of Middle Eastern dancers throughout my dancing career.  Many of whom are technically brilliant yet lacking emotion, while others are captivating in every way. I think what makes this dance form unique in every sense of the word is the uniqueness of each dancer; the uniqueness of each interpretation of the music and of course the delivery of the emotion through the dance. Not one dancer is the same, not one costume is the same; yet we are all “moved” by one powerful aspect: the Music.

In April this year the opportunity presented itself for me to attend some workshops with local extraordinaire, Ava van Aarde, the fabulous internationally acclaimed Turbo Tabla native Egyptian drummer, Karim Nagi and the legendary dancer of ALL dancers, Bozenka.

All three artists have such a passion for what they do and seeing them in action is such an inspiration. I think the most profound ‘lesson’ I took from these memorable experiences was that dancing is not just about the melody but the emotion.  Melody brings about movement and most importantly: Emotion. Certain instruments for example the accordion in a baladi taqsim and certain melodies/rhythms for example the Saba convey a specific emotion.  To dance to a melody and simultaneously portray the emotions of the music to your audience are the key elements that differentiates a good dancer from a great dancer.

The challenge for western dancers like myself is to shift our focus from being mechanically perfect and technically correct but rather to embrace the nuances of expressive imperfection. It is this challenge that makes belly dancing an art form and not a science.

** Therein lies the reason why we keep coming back for more**

Belly dance adventures and Camaraderie

I have wanted to write about this for some time and now finally got to sit down and do it 🙂

I have recently come to the conclusion that real jobs are totally overrated. Given half a chance I would choose my freelance job over any so-called real job. Having said this, I have to also admit that the only downfall to being a freelancer is not being able to say no, even when a prospective show clashes with your real life.

As a freelance belly dancer I have had the privilege of going to weird and wonderful places and meeting some extra ordinary people.  The risk is always there for something to go wrong; I have nearly set myself alight many a time; I have had plates accidently broken on my head and I have seriously ‘stuffed’ up some group choreographies. Apart from some accidental blunders I have agreed to do shows in the middle of nowhere, at the most inconvenient times and had to perform for the worst and the best of audiences….with a smile J.

Let me tell you a little story of a recent show done at Sun City on a Monday night *yes a Monday night*. Candida and I, after having both put in a full day’s real work left for Sun City at 5pm on the hour, dodging traffic, potholes and kudu’s. Thankfully we managed not to get lost nor did we have any close encounters with four legged animals. However, by the time we reached Sun City we were a little high from the paraffin fumes and quietly asked ourselves for the umpteenth time, “why are we putting ourselves through this?” *as we vow to never do this again*.

Picture this: If you have ever been to Sun City; you can visualise the logistical nightmare when your accommodation and dressing  room is booked in the Cabanas and you are to perform on the other end of Sun City. After we met for a quick briefing session with the client we had to rush to our room *still wearing high heels* that is on the other side of the world, this involved catching the shuttle bus, failing to charm the bus driver and finally resulted in bribery to break some rules to get us back to our room. By this time the adrenalin is pumping, you start hyperventilating and you start praying that you did not leave anything important behind. We finally got to our room and got dressed in our pretties, had some emergency sewing to do and had to unplug the fridge to find the one and ONLY plug in the room, so that we can do the most important: our HAIR!!!

From experience I can confirm that almost 80% of all shows are delayed due to the event running behind schedule, however this time the event was running ahead of schedule *the cherry on top of the cake*.

The most unglamorous thing to witness: two fabulous looking belly dancers charging out of the hotel *still wearing high heels* trying very hard to look calm and in control. We arrived at the venue just on time for music, lights and action. The show went well, and with it being a Monday night, the audience appeared a little flat, but the client was happy. Once the show is over you start analysing the good, the bad and the hilarious. You share a good laugh and giggle all the way back to the room, your heart rate returns to normal and you start focusing on the next hurdle: getting up at 4am, to leave at 4:45am and to get to JHB in time to miss the bulk of the peak hour traffic and get to the office on time to start another real job day at 8.

Back to the question posed earlier; why, why do we put ourselves through this? Why do we have the inability to say no? It is quite simple really – it is what makes us tick. Every show is a unique experience and adventure and every show has its own unique story to tell. There is a certain sense of camaraderie amongst dancers that none of our friends necessarily understand. To be dancing on stage and to share that feeling and the overall experience with our fellow dancers truly is priceless.

 

No real job or real life can keep me from saying no, when being offered to dance.

I want to take this opportunity to thank my fellow belly dancers *past and present* for the camaraderie, the fun, the laughter, the experiences shared and for being there to make these stories legendary!


 

Your next function –what’s a belly dancer got to do with it?

Whether it’s a significant birthday celebration, an insignificant birthday celebration, a fundraiser, a company celebration: launch, anniversary, teambuilding, yearend function or networking event, the celebration of a bride-to-be, a mommy-to-be, the celebration of love: engagement or wedding…..it’s a celebration and why not allow a professional belly dancer to be the highlight of your celebration?


We all love a party, we love eating, drinking and being merry :-), we also love to escape to a different reality at times even if for a short while. Of course there are other ways of doing this, but these alternative ways have been proven to ultimately be very bad for your health. Each one of us has been given one body to take care of and therefore we should do exactly that.

I am a professional belly dancer and have made dancing a part of my life some 12 years ago… I have had the privilege of not only allowing this dance form to change my life but also witnessed this art form change and transform hundreds of people who have come in contact with it. The Middle Eastern dance form is magical for those watching it, for those participating in it and for those doing it. It puts a sparkle in the adoring eyes of little girls loving the glamour, the sparkle and the fabulous outfits, it makes the bellies of more mature woman and men want to try it – get up and dance, have some fun in an unfamiliar and safe way!!

The Arabian Nights theme is by far and large a foreign one, mysterious and unknown to the western society. Add a belly dance performance or two and you have the ultimate key ingredient for a winning recipe and the perfect escape to a different reality. So what’s a belly dancer got to do with your next event?  EVERYTHING!!!

The ugly truth of the Industry

Every so often I take a step back and much to my dismay I have to admit that no matter how ‘positive’, enthusiastic, inspiring the belly dance industry as a whole in SA appears to be, when you start looking at the parts you get a very different and ‘ugly’ [for the lack of a better word] picture. Every studio, all teachers and for the most part all students will promote this authentic dance form, their studio and their ‘brand’. In and amongst the industry few will promote other studios, dancers and their capabilities for the ‘love of the dance’.

There is a certain level of co-operation between the different parts that makes this industry a potentially great one, but it would seem that when it comes down to basic accountability and providing a service towards each other, it lacks commitment and integrity.

Some are eager to entice others to support their ideas, initiatives, product and services but there are little to no interest in providing that same inspiration and services once the support was gained and used. Why do these parts within this industry strive to ultimately do everything for their own benefit, when they in fact claim to do everything for the ‘love of the dance’? Why are they incapable of maintaining a consistent, reliable and honest relationship within this role? When in an industry that soo ‘loves the dance’ is as competitive as this local one, I am afraid this will ultimately be to the detriment of the dance. The industry as it is at the moment has a lot of growing up to do, the amateurish way that business is done, service is given, industrial espionage is done is to say the least heartbraking and very sad.

Show me a dancer with a passion that would want to stay in an environment filled with jealousy, unethical behavior and power trips?

As one of the smaller parts within the industry I urge all the other parts to think of the amazing opportunity and prospects we can create by supporting one another in an ethical manner. The main focus must be to build an industry that’s reputation is one to be proud of, our passion for this dance form when put together to a form a synergy can potentially grow and develop a reputation within the South African community that will not only increase the awareness but the substance of this art form.

Let us start to look at the bigger picture – we can all benefit from this.

Belly Dancing : A Privilege

I had the privilege to perform and share the stage with some fantastic dancers this past Friday evening at the Samantha Emanuel Tribal Fusion Showcase held at the Promusica Theatre. It is always so inspiring to see, let alone be part of a relatively small dancing community with such passion for this dance form. What is even more exciting is how each individual dancer takes a piece of music and makes it their own. Every dancer seems to interpret their music differently and can truly express themselves accordingly. By watching each and every dancer it is evident that you can take something good from each performance and there is always so much to learn, not one dancer is the same – and I believe this is the BEST part of it!

Although what I am about to write has not at all anything to do with belly dance it is something that I have pondered about all weekend. It so happens that I had to deliver a package to the MDF on Friday. I agreed to do this before I had to be at the theatre for the show on Fri. eve. Due to poor time management, I ended up going to the theatre first and decided to deliver the package either before the show started or during the break. Long story short I quickly disappeared before the show was to start, to deliver this package (it happened to be just around the corner from the theatre). I met up with a man: Pieter Joubert, the Vice-Chairman of the MDF – Gauteng Branch. What an unbelievably well-spoken man, but a man in a wheelchair.

We got chatting and he asked me why I was all dressed up and what the showcase was all about, I gave him a quick brief and hopped in my little car to get back to the theatre. As I drove off I looked in my review mirror and I had to ‘sluk’ down the tears. Why? Not out of pity or shame, but because here I am in the prime of my life, I am healthy – I can walk, I can run and above all, I can dance!!! On Fri. evening I met with a man who is one of many people suffering from muscular dystrophy disease that has never danced and most likely will never know what it feels like to dance. It broke my heart……

At the same time, I suddenly realised how blessed I am to be able to dance and express myself through this special dance form and the music. This surreal experience has made me want to support this foundation through dancing. I have come to the decision that a portion of the funds I earn through my dancing will be given to the MDF – Gauteng, to help them raise funds to support those who desperately need it and to find a cure for this debilitating disease.

I would also like to announce that I will be planning a fund raise charity dance show to raise funds for the MDF and urge everyone in the dance industry to come together to help me organise this.

Please mail me if you would like to participate and help me with this.

Looking forward to your inputs. Happy dancing everyone!

Belly Dancing helps empower women

When many people hear belly dancing, they automatically think of things like erotic dancers, pole dancers and the like. In reality though, nothing could be further from the truth.

Belly dancing is about expression and celebration of the female form. This is what makes it such a great and powerful art form. The subtle curves and undulations of a woman’s body moving to the mystic beat laid down in the same fashion since time began.

When watching a woman who is truly enjoying her dancing, there is nothing more satisfying as you can see her entire body light up with joy and excitement both on the outside and inside. Her mind is set free and her body interprets the music. Every beat becomes a part in story, the up and down beats capture the passion and flow of an enthralling tale.

The beauty about belly dancing is that woman of all ages can learn to move with the music and adopt a multitude of different belly dancing styles. This is what makes it so empowering for woman. Through the language of dance women can express their true feelings, empower themselves and ultimately help each other through tough times.

There are unfortunately different levels of performing belly dancers. At all times a professional belly dancer who is dancing in public needs to remember one thing, and that is that they are a dancing professional. This means that their dancing needs to be done to the highest and strictest standards and the spirit of why they are dancing and what their dancing stands for needs to be self evident.

Professional belly dancing is a joy and a privilege and should not be dragged through the gutter by being portrayed as smut. The expression of self and the empowerment of woman is what draws so many of us to it.

Belly dancing has truly empowered me since I have been dancing; and I will continue to dance in the most professional way I know how.

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