Dancing for a belly dance contest is different from dancing for a restaurant audience, a theater event, or for yourself. When you are dancing for a judge, you are dancing for points. You need to meet the criteria that you are being judged upon. If you don’t do that, you won’t score highly no matter how lovely your dance is. So lets look at how a prospective contestant might better prepare.
The first thing you are going to want to do is look at the judging criteria. Study it. Know it. When you are deciding what music to use, make careful note of whether your music will allow you to do what you must to hit the elements you are being judged upon. Will it allow you to do technically difficult moves without over -dancing the music? Does it allow you to show off your artistry? Does it have a range of feelings? Since it’s always best to do only what the music gives you, no more and no less, a well chosen piece of music is crucial to your success.
If the music you love has no entrance, you can add a 30- 45 second entrance piece or do something creative. One of the troupes that competed in the East Coast Classic did a choreography that started on stage, so they chanted while walking to the stage creating a gutsy entrance. Another troupe walked to the stage and into their entrance pose with their drummer leading and drumming all the way.
If you are being judged on how you exit, you don’t necessarily have to have an “exit piece”, but you do need to plan how you are going to get off stage. A good exit doesn’t necessarily mean, “wham, bam!” Exiting gracefully really just has to do with not losing your professional dance persona until you are out of view of the audience. Easy points!
If you have to put several pieces of music together to be able to do all the things you want to do, make sure that the music is fused seamlessly. Be sure that there is an underlying element that keeps it all together. Abrupt cuts and unrelated themes in music are disruptive and destroy the artistry and polish of a performance. This can cost big points!
Another common mistake has to do with congruence. This means how well does everything agree with everything else? You may have great elements, such as music, costuming, and moves, but if they do not blend together in a way that makes sense, it’s mish mash. A big picture example of this would be: a beledi dress + Saidi music + Turkish style dancing = incongruence. A small picture example of this would be: a fabulous cabaret outfit + matching heels + a tribal belt = incongruence.
While “facial expression” isn’t usually mentioned specifically in the judging criteria, it is definitely a part of artistry. I saw a variety of expressions at The East Coast Classic that probably weren’t intentional. They conveyed things varying from nervousness, to nonchalance, to pain. Whatever the emotion, it wasn’t pleasant. One of the first things I was taught as a dancer was, “Whatever is on your face, the audience will feel,” so be careful. Those strange facial expressions are felt by others and can lower your score.
Belly dance contests are packed with well prepared women who are serious about dancing. They are artists who can move the audience with a single raised eye brow, but awards are not given based upon what a judge likes. Contests are games with rules. When you learn how to play by the rules, you increase your chances of winning the game. So, if you want to compete, create a vision that is uniquely you that also fits the rules of the contest and you will get those points while maintaining the part of the dance that motivated you to dance in the first place.