Back in 2005, my then-teacher (who was Iranian/Iraqi) organised a trip through Jordan, Egypt and Turkey for her students. It was a couple of months at Easter time, so I guess the six-year anniversary is coming up - yikes... Anyways, the "highlight" was a series of classes in Cairo with Aida Noor. I was having a nostalgia trip the other night and wound up watching a couple of sketchy videos featuring Aida attempting to teach us choreography. Two things dawned on me:
- I am an infinitely better dancer now than I was then, even though I still suck.
- It is HARD to look consistently great when captured on 'film' (or digi), be it a moving or still image.
Let me be clear about what follows: these women were fantastic dancers. Amazing. And, as these pictures prove, drop-dead gorgeous. Though the crowd behind them may look a bit indifferent, you can take it from me that, in general, these are faces of rapt attention, not abject boredom.
But here are some things to bear in mind the next time someone pulls out the old Polaroid while you're shaking your stuff. First up, lessons from The Yellow Dancer:
Are your breast implants about to make a desperate bid for freedom?
Does the ornamentation on your costume make it look as though your breasts are crying/vomiting?
How's that deodorant working out for you?
When dancing on the table, make sure you keep your balance. (N.B the towering perspex platforms she was wearing are sadly not visible in any of these photos.)
To sum up, even though these photos may not be the most flattering or professional The Yellow Dancer has ever had taken of her, let's learn the lessons: A great costume (with or without nipple pasties), good grooming, excellent posture, honed technique and an easy smile that makes you look like you're having the best time ever will ensure that even the lousiest tourist snap of you will make you look phenomenal. Which she was, and that's why I have more photos of her than the other two dancers. Thank you, Yellow Dancer!
Next up, The Red Dancer. Let's give her a big hand:
That is the smile of a woman happy in her work. Good job! And the Korean guys seemed to have turned to stone which is, uh, unsettling...
Body glitter coming off like a sheen of perspiration? Yeah, but who cares? Not that Korean guy.
Toothache causing an involuntary shoulder hunch? Oh no! It was all going so well!
And now it's time for our final act, The Pink Dancer. Come on, we know you'd rather not but dancers who don't dance don't get paid:
I didn't say anything. Please don't come over here and cut me. Your costume looks lovely, though I'm not much of a one for pink. No, no - don't hit me! I love pink. Honest. Please do keep dancing.
I didn't mean to make you cry, Pink Dancer. I'm sorry I upset you.
For a serious take on how professional photographers feel about photographing belly dancers, please check out the thread on the Pentax Forums and the excellent series of posts on Peter Phun's site. My friend Maëlle recently had some beautiful photos taken of herself dancing, and when I complimented her on them she said, "Yes, there are a lot of photographers who know how to use Photoshop to make you look good, but not many who understand belly dancing well enough to know when you're going to turn, when you're going to do something beautiful with your arms and hold the pose. I've had so many so-called pros give me a series of shots taken just when I look at my most awkward and graceless."
Good tip for those of you looking to pay good money for studio photos, no? And also, if you have some bad photos of yourself dancing, put them to good use by sharing them with the delightful and vanity-free women who set up the very funny Bad Bellydance Pictures page on Facebook.