In a number of posts I will investigate a variety of belly dance props. Props are a wonderful way to add something special to your dancing, designed to dazzled and awe your audience. Aside from that they will force you to try out new ways of enhancing your dance. Different props have different effects and might require a different sort of dancing, a faster or slower rhythm or different costumes. In these posts I will explore where the to-be-described props originate from, how they are used and where they are used most commonly.
This entry is about veils.
Another lovely prop to use is going to be a veil I think. I’ve already enjoyed a workshop about using veils and have had some lessons with them so I’ve had a little bit of a taste about the weight, length, possibilities and sheer beauty of using a veil.
Usually veils are used whilst dancing on slower music. Drum-solos or folkloric music just doesn’t suit. The veil moves with the speed of your own movement so you have to be careful not to take a piece of music that’s too fast or too much staccato. Any sort of music will do. Movie score soundtracks sound good (check out James Dooley or Globus; both names create movie score soundtracks that have yet to be used in movies. Extremely epic. Can you imagine yourself dancing to this?) and bands like Nightwish, Epica and Within Temptation might provide you with excellent tunes.. Personally I think I’m going to be using music from Emancipator for the first time I integrate the veil into a dance. This music sounds so mystical and beautiful, without becoming a “chore” if you catch my drift. Lots going on will invite me to do lots with the veil. For an idea of what I’m thinking of follow this link. I especially recommend the song “Ares” which in my opinion is just hauntingly beautiful.. Sounds good, right?
So where does Veil dancing come from?
Interested as ever in why things come about and how things develop as being a “thing” to do, I’ve had a bit of a look into where veil dancing originates from. And this is what I found:
The use of veil in belly dancing was made popular by Samya Gamal (one of the bellydance legends during the first half of the XX century) who used the veil to improve her arms carriage. Since then, more and more belly dancers started using a veil as a prop. However, nowadays, in Egyptian belly dance style the veil is only used briefly at the start of the performance during the entrance. American dancers instead, have made an art of the veil as a prop. In American cabaret style the veil is used in a lot of different ways. Dancers usually enter on stage with the veil wrapped around their costume, which is then unwrapped and made to spin with dexterity. American belly dancers have also invented the use of two or multiple veils at the same time. (courtesy of worldbellydance.com)
So plenty of styles and techniques to look into. And over a wide spectrum of cultures too, which is always wonderful. The intro for a dance was already studied briefly during the workshop I followed. Depending on the effect you’d like to establish, you may start out with the veil being folded over your arms and face as if you were wearing a transparent burka. But there are also ways in which you make your veil to drape around you in a Greek-style dress over your shoulder, which you can then unwrap graciously during a subtle turning around. You can tuck the veil under your belt so it looks like just another addition to your skirt initially and suddenly; bam. Wings appear on both sides and there you are, ready to dazzle and stun your audience with your chin held high.
I’ve looked at many videos with gorgeous veil performances and these are some of my favorites:
- Petite Jamilla Performance
- Oriental Dance Petite Jamila (Jamila too; notice how she uses the two veils together. I want that!)
- Mirage – Bellydance with Veil (Group dance with veils is stunning. Nice!)
Veil types and materials
There are various shapes, sizes and materials to choose from when you go buy yourself a veil. Depending on what you want to dance like or what you want to do, you should pick a different veil. The length of a veil is usually chosen according to the dancer’s height. Sometimes when the dancer is specifically trained to use veils he or she can use the extra long ones but more veil is more to handle so -I- not going to delve into that just yet. Maybe in a couple of years.
Veils can be rectangular which makes them more versatile in usage or semicircular which makes them a bit easier to use.
There are veils with sequined and plain hedges. I looked into that too and the difference is (plain logically to be honest) that the ones with sequined hedges don’t float so well. These veils are used in Egyptian cabaret style and are dropped after the first minutes of the performance. So not fit for spinning then.
Materials vary between silk, rayon chiffon, polyester chiffon or georgette. The cloth should be light enough to float gently in the air but they become more difficult to handle as they grow lighter so I’m going to have to make sure I know which cloth is a better beginners’ cloth. Silk is the most expensive type of of those but also the one that floats nicest. And of course the veil should be transparent enough to give the audience a glimpse of the gorgeous lady behind it.. To raise expectations to that which is about to appear.
That’s the entry about veils! It’ll be fun to practice with them. Next entry about props will be released soon but for now that’s enough studying in one day.