Performing for Plus Size Belly Dancers
As I said in my post about costuming for mature dancers, it would be great if we plus-size dancers didn't have to think about our bulges when choosing a costume - why can't we wear the same as everyone else? For some people, that might work - but personally, every time I think that way, I regret it later when I'm looking at the photographs. . .
If you're dancing solo, you can choose to wear a more covering beledi dress - but it's rare for a belly dancer to go straight from being a student to being a solo performer. It's far more likely you'll do an apprenticeship performing in a troupe, and that's where things can get awkward for the plus size belly dancer. Not surprisingly, the school will require everyone in the troupe to be dressed the same.
Once upon a time, if you were belly dancing you wore a bedlah (belt and bra), regardless of the dance you were doing. These days, teachers are making more of an effort to match the costume to the style of dance, and baladi dresses are becoming more common for troupes (like the group in the clip below) - which is a relief if you prefer not to have everything on show!
However, many schools stick to the traditional bare midriff. There are plenty of plus size cabaret costumes available, but many of us are uncomfortable with showing our middle, even with a body stocking. I found a great discussion about how to solve those challenges on Charni's website, it's worth reading - here it is.
Here's my own tip - if you think a soft, flowing chiffon skirt is more flattering than a tight lycra one, get someone to take photos of you dancing (not standing still), in a good light, from all angles. When a chiffon skirt is hanging in folds, it can look fairly covering - but as you dance, there will be places where you have only one layer of chiffon between you and the audience. I recently cringed in embarrassment for one of my friends. She looked great standing still in a gorgeous purple bedlah and heavy chiffon skirt. But when she started moving, the audience got frequent glimpses of her beige granny pants and cottage cheese thighs. Her dancing was lovely but I know she wouldn't have wanted her nether regions on display!
Perhaps that's why I see so many plus size women making the switch to ...
Tribal Belly Dance
Tribal belly dance costumes are more covering than cabaret outfits, especially the upper arms and back, and Tribal skirts are full rather than skintight and clinging. So if you're attracted to belly dance because of the chance to perform, tribal belly dance gives you a chance to get up on stage without having to bare it all!
Of course, everything has its pros and cons - and the snag with Tribal is that many tribal belly dance teachers use yoga as a warm-up. Yoga is one of those exercises which plus size women can struggle with, because extra flesh has an annoying habit of getting in the way.
Do be careful when choosing your yoga DVD - too many instructors seem to confuse being overweight with being old. Just because you're carrying a few extra pounds doesn't mean you're an old age pensioner! You don't want a "gentle exercise" routine - you want to learn how to work around your limitations so you can do regular yoga with everyone else.
I like Megan Garcia's Mega Yoga, available new and used from Amazon.
Tribal belly dancer photo by Alaskan Dude.