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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Snake Hips" #bellydance book

At the recommendation of a twitter friend, I picked up Snake Hips: Belly Dancing and How I Found True Love from the library.

Its playful conversational style and personal narrative flow made it a quick, easy read. It's one woman's story following a break-up and how bellydance became a fun, life-changing hobby to pull her out of the heartbreak. She describes adventures in both dating and becoming immersed in the bellydance community.

I was more interested to read about her experiences with bellydance. Anyone who gets into it knows how addictive it is and so then you move to the next phase after classes; performing. Anyone who performs gigs can empathize with her experiences in the dreadful venues; shows getting delayed by hours, little pay, no dressing room area, uninterested audience members, etc. Performing in places ranging from senior centers, random carnivals, bars, concerts and the most unexpected places is always an adventure.

She had a great analogy about how to channel your best performance expression that I wanted to share. In this style of dance, sometimes women feel they have to portray a sultry, sexy facial expression. This is actually the last thing you want to do (as Ava Fleming says, bellydance is sexy by accident, you don't need to make sex face.) So other than just smiling, what kind of expressions should you present?

She determined she enjoyed the dancers whose smile says "I'm up to something and don't you wish you knew what it was!" A smile she remembers from the lovable yet mischievous cartoon characters, Chip and Dale.
"Chip and Dale do not fear rejection. Chip and Dale are not trying to be sexy. Chip and Dale just want to have a good time and maybe get away with something in the process... always smiling, joking, always there to entertain.... They would dance and smile and cajole and frolic and have a grand time doing it whether anyone clapped or not."

So the next time you perform, channel your inner Chip and Dale.
I thought this was an excellent suggestion! Performing is difficult... even seasoned performers get nerves and stage fright... and presenting the right facial expression usually takes a back seat to remembering your routine, listening to the music, making sure costume bits don't fall off... but if you can remember to tap into the reasons you love dancing in the first place and get in touch with your playful side, it can draw the audience in.

It was also interesting to read her account of interactions with other bellydancers in classes, workshops and her experience in a troupe that had many conflicts. The politics, gossip and competitive egotistical nature among some dancers is a less desirable side to this community. At first it can be difficult to find your circle of dance colleagues. Eventually you learn to weed out the pettiness from the truth and surround yourself with like-minded dancers.

She had a couple video and CD suggestions I wrote down - but know that this is not a reference book (though she does include some links in the back of the book). This is just one perspective of a woman's journey in personal transformation through bellydance.

I recommend it to dancers of all levels and even non-dancers curious to know more about the world of bellydance from one entertaining perspective.


  1. Yaaaay, so happy you liked it! I read it some years back when a good friend of mine started dancing. I was looking up books on amazon and came across this one. As an outsider with no knowledge of the art, I came away appreciating the hard work and the beauty of it. I even started watching videos.

    If you liked her voice, she also wrote a memoir called NERD GIRL ROCKS PARADISE CITY about her earlier years trying to become a rock writer at the tail end of the hair band era. Good stuff, too.

  2. I read this book several years ago and remember that some parts made me laugh out loud so hard, I cried. The scene where they are the opening act for a band in a bar was so funny... so true. Been there - done than - unfortunately. Thanks for reminding me of what a good time I had reading it :-)