Ask a belly dancer what she most likes about her dance passion and you’ll get a variety of answers but somewhere in that list there will be ‘buying sparklies’. Yes, shopping is one of a belly dancer’s favourite things. At most dance events, from haflas to 3-day weekends, there are great shopping opportunities – the organisers usually try to get a number of vendors on site to offer a range of costumes and props to purchase. I sell at a few events and it’s tremendous fun, but it’s also hard work (just ask my valued assistants!) but it is lovely to see clients try on outfits and get to see what costumes work on which dancer.
Festival souks are good places to experiment – to try on stuff to see what suits you. You might think you look best in black, but scour the rails and try on some colours or styles you might normally avoid. You might be surprised!
Sometimes the purchase of a new costume is more than just about the dress or the belt. Sometimes a new costume sends you down a completely new and unexpected dance path. You may find yourself becoming obsessed with You Tube videos of Golden Age dancers, or discovering new Musicians in your search for a suitable sha’abi song to go with that funky hip belt. Sometimes a new costume means you have to develop a new choreography, study a new style of dance or get to grips with a new piece of music.
Sometimes it’s a new prop that opens up whole new dance avenue. You might buy a set of zills or sagat just to try them out, but find yourself fascinated by them and are soon checking into You Tube for new rhythms and new arm movements to best show them off. Wings, canes, shamadan, water jugs, shisha pipes or light-up sticks all impact on your dance.
You never know what you’ll find at a souk. It might just be a new hip belt, but then again it might just be the key to your next solo.
Visiting the Souk
Souk etiquette: Even if you’re not buying that day, DO remark on what you like – it helps stall holder know what’s good. If you can’t afford it, mention that, it may suggest the stall holder has to review pricing. If you are drawn to a product but it’s not quite right, speak to the stall holder – they may have more stock tucked away as they can’t always fit everything on the 6-foot table. Ask to try stuff on, it’s usually always okay!
However, please don’t go to a stall in the souk, finger the goods and then remark ‘I could make this half the price’ or turn garments inside out to see how the crafting stall-holders have made their stock. Also, don’t muddle all the hip belts and leave them in a tangle for the next person to view. And please don’t riffle and view coin belts when a performer is dancing – she doesn’t need a coin descant spoiling her music.
So, next time you are at an event with a souk, however large or small, DO go and investigate, experiment with new styles or new props. have fun and don’t forget to make friends with the stall holders. We like customers, we like friends.