When Is A Belly Dance Prop a Crutch?
“It seems like so many dancers are racing to be the first to perform with the next new exciting prop. Since when did plain old good dancing become not enough anymore?” Amanda, a dancer from Utah brings up a good point with her comments. Have props become a crutch for a dancer to lean upon instead of an enhancement to her show?
Dancers today use a wide variety of props, including cane, sword, veil, double veil, candle trays, goblets, fan veils, wings of Isis, live snakes, and many, many others. In the hands of a skilled dancer, a well-handled prop adds another layer of interest to her performance.
Kendra Ray from 7 North believes, “Whenever a prop is used, i.e. fire tray, veil, sword, it should only act as, lets say a "seasoning" to your performance. If the dance isn't a stand alone piece without the prop, I would consider dropping the prop for a moment, and strengthening the foundation for the piece. Don't lose the core movements and acknowledgement!”
Dancers have many opinions on the subject, but there is one recurring thought: if an audience remembers how many times you spun in a circle or the sword on your head as opposed to your shimmy or your hip isolations, you may have crossed the line between prop and crutch. No matter your skill level, incorporate the prop into your dance, but don’t let it overwhelm your performance.
Noora Amar from Troupe D'Aliah and Kumuda Tribal states that “Moderation is the key with any prop I suppose. I have seen so new dancers get out there and use a prop, and they instantly lose posture, and the grace is gone because they are trying so hard to make the prop the dance. Just yourself on the dance floor should be all you need to be a beautiful dancer.”
MiaNaja al Sephira, Director of the award-winning MiaNaja Oriental Danse Ensemble says, “I think a prop is a crutch if the dancer without the prop shows a lack of dance technique, musicality and flow. If the dancer is unable to interact with the audience, the prop has been a buffer to prevent opening up and relating to the audience. When a dancer is continually using props and you never see her freestyle or dance without a prop. A good dancer should be able to dance and entertain with nothing but herself.”
Props should not be used as a trick or gimmick, no matter the dancer’s skill level, but as a tool to add flavor, much like the spices used when cooking. The challenge is finding the balance so the audience will see your dancing, not just the prop. As Kendra Ray states, “After all, this is belly dance!”