There is a relationship between how we look and how we feel. That’s no secret and there are industries making billions out of our insecurities and the pursuit of feeling like a million dollars. When it comes to dancing and particularly when performing for an audience, that relationship extends into how we dance. We need a good dance costume.
How does a dance costume affect our performance?
If you’re wearing something that is ill-fitting or borrowed or a less-than-flattering colour you feel awkward and less confident. Your costume may even be a distraction for you and the audience (will she/won’t she stay in that top…)!
Obviously a costume needs to achieve the basic requirements of clothing and look suitably fabulous but it also needs to make the dancer feel special, awesome even, and this will then raise her performance. A great costume can therefore be part of the performance, a mask or suit of armour that allows the dancer to become someone else for the next three minutes.
Ah, the elusive costume that makes you feel good.
The problems of finding a good dance costume
Belly dance is a prime example of a style of dance where having the right costume can be pivotal to a performance. It is synonymous with bare midriffs and spangly bras but dancing a style as potentially – or at least perceptually – sensuous as belly dance can leave the dancer emotionally exposed as well. When you can’t even find a costume in your size you’re already emotionally on the back foot.
We’ve all witnessed the odd costume-malfunction on strictly and maybe witnessed first-hand when a costume goes wrong (had a costume fail on you during a performance? Tell me your story in the comments below).
I started making belly dance costumes because a good costume is hard to come by if you are not size 8-10 and a B-cup (and even then) especially if you don’t have a lot to spend. Trying to buy a costume in your size online can be disheartening: discovering that dress size 14 is “plus size”, costuming trends that are too revealing for the average hobby dancer or reading they do ‘Large’ bra cup sizes only to discover they mean a D cup and you’re a GG…
But if belly dance is so empowering, why are costumes so important?
Why are dance costumes so important?
Sequins and coins and sparkle are part of the belly dance culture. It’s part of our identity. Belly dance is a dance by women for women and that empowerment means we want to adorn our beautiful bodies in one great big shiny, ‘dancey’ celebration.
Every genre has their style: the circle skirts and quiffs of rock ‘n roll; trainers and a hoodie of street or ladies in ostrich feathers (or humane alternatives) and gents in tails from classic ballroom.
So we want to fit in and feel good. But still be ourselves. Hmm…
What’s is the solution?
It is the opinion of this dancer that the dancer wears the costume and not the other way around. Dance teachers need to ensure that there shouldn’t be any additional performance anxiety among their students because of the costume for the new troupe dance: one size or style or price does not fit all and troupe costumes often compromise the individual on one or more of these factors. And shame on the dance judge who’s most constructive criticism is “I don’t like your costume”…
My advice? There are no rules to what you have to wear and ignore anyone who tells you otherwise!
Professional dancers, such as belly dancers, have it hard as looking the part is probably a more important factor for a potential client than how many hours the dancer has spent drilling technique. For the rest of us, dance is an expression of who we are, of freedom and rebellion and throwing caution to the wind (hey, you’re on stage dancing in front of any audience, aren’t you?)
A costume is always secondary to the dancer who’s wearing it. If a costume makes you feel good, it doesn’t matter if it’s unconventional or what other people think – you’re the one who’s got to dance in it!