Sometimes the lines between self image and public image blur. As entertainers, we often find ourselves at the mercy of pointed comments both good and bad. The inherent responsibility of being on a stage, whether at a professional level or not, is the implication that we are opening ourselves up to anything.
I’ve heard everything from “I like that you’re a real woman!” to “You obviously have to try harder because you aren’t skinny like the other girls” in those crucial breathless moments after exiting the spotlight. You don’t need me to tell you that even a slanted compliment swims around in the mind like Alka-Seltzer tabs.
The ungrateful truth is that appearances are an integral part of being a stage performer. Dancer, actor or singer the result is the same. Your costuming and presentation is the first thing your darling fans will see as you slink onto stage, and the last thing as they are applauding. It’s a daunting thought if you are feeling the pressure of being labeled as “different” for one reason or another.
I’m here to tell you that it isn’t enough to be pretty. In fact, stop worrying about being pretty. Don’t even go for “normal” and stop trying to wear the same costume as the other girls. No one was ever remembered for being the same as everyone else.
When you let go of coloring inside the lines of wearing the same costumes as other dancers you actually open yourself up to wearing whatever you WANT to wear. Isn’t that a novel idea; actually wearing what you want for a change? Your only limits are your imagination and your sewing skills. You are your own character, your own blank canvas, your own creative pet project.
Think about movies you really enjoy. What do your favorite female characters wear? What would those outfits look like if they were for dancers? What if you were an alien? A fantasy creature? What if you were from another time period? What if you hit the lotto tomorrow? What if you were a showgirl? A Drag Queen? What if the apocalypse hit and the only materials left were packing peanuts, duct tape and those cardboard coffee cup sleeves? (OK, that’s an exaggeration but you see my point.)
What I’m trying to impress upon you is that instead of trying to squeeze yourself into the same cookie cutter mold of what a “belly dancer” should look like consider that you can take that template, and take what makes you unique (whether you like it or not), and use it to your advantage. I’ll use myself as an example. I’m not fond of my stomach. I have loose skin on the upper part of my tummy that curves into a shape that looks like a cat’s mouth. A lot of standard two piece costumes merely accentuate this little feature of my anatomy, so instead I come up with awesome stomach covers. Then I throw in heavy doses of regal glamour, headdresses and well coordinated accents. When it’s part of the costume, no one notices that it’s really camouflage. It’s camouflaged camouflage.
What part do you actually like about yourself? They told me being redheaded was bad for business, I told them to do an internet search for Jillina. I wear colors that make my hair stand out such as Emerald. Maybe you have great gams. You could be totally covered from head-to-toe with the most amazingly slinky slit skirt and rhinestone leggings. For everything you “hide,” highlight something you like.
I can tell you from personal experience that I went from feeling like I’d never fit in to being constantly complimented for my costume choices. Take yourself on as a piece of art (because you deserve it) and CREATE. If you wanted to be like everyone else, you wouldn’t be a belly dancer. Right?
Oriana first began dancing in 2007 and has been performing across the Florida Bay Area since 2010. Descibed as “energetic and electric;” Oriana is known for her stage presence and engaging performances.
Originally an award-winning actress and painter, Oriana brings her multifaceted knowledge to dance as a well rounded performer. Well-versed in Classical Egyptian, American Cabaret and fire performing; Oriana also enjoys Fusion, Burlesque, Jazz and Folkloric performances. She takes her inspiration from Drag Queens, Greta Garbo, Jillina, Samia Gamal, mythology, mermaids, Vegas showgirls, and basically anything shiny.
She teaches in Largo and enjoys helping her students not only understand the folkloric underpinnings of belly dance, but also perfecting their stage presence. She began competing nationally as a Middle Eastern Dancer in 2012 and took third place in the Bay Area State Competition in 2014.
Privately, Oriana decorates cakes by day and drinks entirely too much coffee. She chronicles her adventures on her blog: Shake and Bake. Be sure to check out her personal website at orianaredstar.wix.com/