7 Tips to Make Your Veil Your Friend

Seven Tips to Making Friends with Your Veil – and Getting It to Do What You Want!

Belly dancing with a veil helps make our dance much more interesting and exciting. Veil dancing is one of the most important aspects of learning belly dance (Oriental dance). Your “dance of veils” – if done right – can enrapture your audience. Veils help make your belly dance costumes more beautiful, complete, and satisfying.

Alay'nya with veil
Veil dancing: Alay’nya shows how a belly dancing veil can frame us and give greater expressiveness.

Not all belly dance lessons include veil technique. This blog post introduces tips to improve your veil dance, and give you links to some good belly dance DVD and YouTube resources. It will help you learn belly dance online with useful free resources. With some practice, you can do a “veil belly dance” that will add to your repertoire and let you be more artistically creative and emotionally expressive.

Nothing – absolutely nothing – increases our “glamour-factor” more than dancing with a good veil. It’s not just that our veils immediately give us more “presence” on stage. They also frame us (naturally, in the best color possible). They also extend our “reach” – allowing even the most petite of dancers to command the stage more readily.

Swirling, “big-scale” veil dynamics provide an exciting counterpoint to the often more delicate, understated, or precise vocabulary of undulations and pelvic techniques. For this alone, they are a valuable part of a dancer’s “expressive vocabulary.”

Veils give us an opportunity to build up the dramatic tension – the excitement, the anticipation – as we slowly unveil ourselves during certain dances. Also, they give us the most dramatic options for entrances and finales, especially when we are “circling the stage.”

In short, nothing enhances our expressiveness, our excitement, and our emotional range more than a good veil.

Some of us, though, feel that our veil is more of an enemy than a friend.

How do we “tame” our veil? How can we make it an extension of ourselves, so that we seem to naturally, gracefully, and effortlessly control the stage, command the veil, and compel our audience’s rapt attention?

This blog will present: Seven Tips to Make Your Veil Your Friend

Briefly, these are:

  1. Make Sure Your Veil is the Right Length and Color for You
  2. Make Sure Your Veil is the Right Material and Weight for Yourself
  3. Three-Point Control
  4. Learn How to “Frame Yourself” with Your Veil
  5. Put Enough “Oomph” Into Your Veil Moves
  6. Move Your Body When You Move Your Veil
  7. The Power of Nuance – It’s All in the Wrist!

Tip #1: Your Veil is an Important Part of Your Belly Dance Costume: Make Sure It is the Right Color and Length for You

While 2 1/2 yards was the “standard” length for years, many of us now use at least 3 yards. Over the years, I’ve moved away from shorter to progressively longer veils.

The most important length factor relates how long the veil is – when you are holding it – to how much length there is from the tips of your fingers to the floor.

My favorite veil – the one with the best length, color, weight, and “lift” – is 3 yards long. When I hold it in “basic veil” position – across my neck and shoulders, and down at each side, the each side of the veil is just 6 inches off the floor. This is a very good and workable length. I have about 18 1/2 inches of veil “trailing” from each of my fingertips. This is enough to be dramatic on stage.

Less veil (2 1/2 yards), and I lose stage drama. Too much veil, and it gets unwieldy; it’s harder to put enough “oomph” into it to keep the edges from getting fouled, and there’s increased risk of stepping on the veil.

To sum the length suggestion: About 6 inches from veil edge to floor, while you hold the veil centered on the back of your neck, is about right. For me at 5 feet, 4 inches, this means a 3-yard veil. If you are much taller – say 5′ 10″ or more – you could seriously think about a longer veil; up to 3 1/2 yards.

I’ve worked with long veils – 4 yards and more. They require more proficiency, and also more stamina. Longer veils mean more effort to keep them “floating,” so it helps to be in good shape and to have good technique before progressing to a really long veil.

Color is also important. If you haven’t had a professional color analysis done, use online resources to help you figure out your best colors. Your veil will reflect onto your face and body, so you want a color that will make you look your best.

For more on how to select your veil, you may wish to read Chapter 4: “Playtime for Grown-Up Girls,” in Unveiling: The Inner Journey.

 

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Tip #2: Make Sure Your Belly Dance Veil is the Right Material and Weight for Yourself

Silk is infinitely preferable to any man-made fiber. Silk “floats” better, drapes better, and is more responsive. Katia teaches some wonderful moves for dancing with a silk veil in this Katia Silk Veil Dancing YouTube clip, based on her longer instructional DVD (see below). While sometimes silk chiffon can float beautifully, I prefer a heavier weight china silk – heavier than that used for linings. However, silk crepe is too heavy, and won’t give you the right “loft” in your moves.

Some dancers use rayon veils or polyester chiffon veils with lurex-stripes (mostly popular with beginning dancers). Aziza dances with a silk veil in Aziza’s veil dance YouTube clip. In this same clip, though, she also discusses rayon veils, as well as the issue of “trim” on your veil.

Some dancers prefer polyester – Petite Jamila (of Bellydance Superstars fame) works with two rather large and heavy half-circle polyester veils. But these are SO not for beginners! The simple weight of these makes for an upper-body and arms workout that would exhaust many weight-lifters.

See the link to Katia’s and Aziza’s instructional veil belly dance DVDs below; between these two, you can’t go wrong for good instructional basics, with some advanced techniques thrown in.

Two Good Veil Belly Dance DVDs

Katia and Aziza both have excellent introductory belly dance veil instructional DVDs.

 

DVD

DVD

 

Tip #3: Three-Point Control to Improve Your Veil Dance

When you take up your veil, and hold it behind you, you should “connect” with your veil at three points: in each hand (one point for each), and the back of your neck. That “back of the neck” connection is what gives you control. (This tip is courtesy of Anahid Sofian, who is one of the “great masters” of veil dancing.)

Tip #4: Learn How to “Frame Yourself” During Your Veil Dancing

Anahid Sofian, Master Teacher of Oriental Dance
Anahid Sofian, Master Teacher of Oriental Dance with impeccable veil technique and interesting veil choreographies

In the previous blog, I gave links to Two YouTube Veil Dance Resources featuring Anahid Sofian and her protégé Eva Cernik, who is now a master dance teacher and performer in her own right.

These two teachers, along with those given in this post, will give you a great sense of how to frame yourself when you hold your veil. For more hints, you can (again) read Chapter 4: “Every Woman Needs a Veil,” from Unveiling: The Inner Journey.

Tip #5: Put Enough “Oomph” Into Your “Dance of Veils”

Evalina Papazova - veil dance
Evalina Papazova in an exciting and dynamic veil dance

Veil dancing can be – and should behighly dynamic.

Evalina Papazova does some beautiful – and very dynamic and demanding – veil dancing in this YouTube clip.

Evalina’s dance is particularly interesting – she commands a large stage in a solo dance with a combination of veil spins and turns, coupled with good movement patterns across the floor. Her dance shows very well, even on a large stage – this is difficult even for experienced dancers!

Alay'nya with veil. Photo courtesy Crystal Barnes.
Alay’nya with veil. Photo courtesy Crystal Barnes.

Even if you’re new to veil belly dance, you can learn not only from online belly dance lessons and belly dance DVDs, but also from your own body.

From Unveiling: The Inner Journey, Chapter 4: “Playtime for Grown-Up Girls”:

“Now that you have your veil, play with it! First, find a “safe” time and a “safe” place. A safe time is when no one else is around. This time is for you … You need to get your feedback directly from yourself; from how your body feels, and what emotions you are feeling.” [p. 47, Unveiling: The Inner Journey]

Tip #6: Move Your Body When You Move Your Veil

Not many teachers include veil technique in their belly dance lessons. Even fewer teach students to use their whole bodies when they move their veils. All too often, dancers wind up using their arms alone.

Sira - dancer from New York
Sira, a belly dancer from NYC, demonstrates beautiful veil work.

Sira was featured in Anahid Sofian’s 2011 Atelier, showcasing some of NYC’s finest dancers. In this veil belly dance YouTube clip Sira’s beautiful vintage-style dance shows excellent and fluid veil work, including lots of spins and turns.

In this “vintage style” dance, I particularly like the hypnotic quality of Sira’s sustained spins; she demonstrates the important reminder that we need to stay with a technique long enough to give the audience the full impact of what we are doing – something that might seem “too long” for us will be just incredibly right for our audience!

Sira’s dance also included an equally hypnotic floorwork (taqsim) section, with exceptional hands and arms. It concluded with an exotic and exciting Za’ar (trance dance) finale; probably the best Za’ar that I’ve ever seen!


 
Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus
You are the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus.
Become the Jewel!

You study and perform belly dance (Oriental dance) because it brings forth a special aspect of who you are – the full range of your emotional expressiveness; both the sensual and sacred aspects of your being.

Join me – get the latest on how to become the jewel (a fully expressive you) in the heart of the lotus (your life, and all that surrounds you)!






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Aziza
Aziza – showing beautiful veil dance technique!

Aziza is another dancer who has excellent veil techniques.

Aziza has a lovely veil DVD. However, you can learn good veil belly dance techniques online simply by studying Aziza’s veil dance YouTube clip.

The DVDs given earlier in this post provide good starting belly dance veil instruction. In future posts, I’ll provide my own YouTube links so that you can learn belly dance online, especially belly dance with veil.

Tip #7: The Power of Nuance – It’s All in the Wrist!

Kaeshi teaches belly dance veil technique online
Kaeshi helps you learn belly dance veil technique online in this YouTube clip

Study Kaeshi (of Bellydance Superstars fame). In this Online Veil Belly Dance Instruction YouTube with Kaeshi, you’ll see her demonstrate some very expressive and powerful veil techniques. Although it’s difficult to see her wrist action in this YouTube clip, you’ll find that you really need to work your wrists (and your whole body) to get the same effect when you practice veil dancing at home.

Kaeshi also has a performance YouTube clip, featuring beautiful veil dancing.

For “extra credit”: Study the vintage clip of Elena Lentini. Can you see how Elena has influenced Kaeshi’s style? One of fascinating study in learning belly dance online is to trace the influence of major dancers on some of today’s most well-known and rising stars! Kaeshi has been with Bellydance Superstars, and has a strong following in her own right. However, I’ve seen her for years in New York belly dance workshops with Elena Lentini and others, and have observed how she’s integrated important aspects of their styles and made them her own.


Many belly dance veil techniques require good wrist action – rotating your wrist and moving it in a “figure-eight” pattern – in order to control the far edge of your veil and to give it a good “swirl” in the air as it moves.

See Petite Jamilla’s DVD for good examples; her basic veil techniques often require good wrist work to be effective, so this is a good training DVD.

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Belly Dancing with Veil: Summary

Veil belly dancing requires more strength, stamina, fine-tuned coordination, and movement than does “regular” belly dance. However, as you develop your veil repertoire, you’ll gain confidence and exceptional stage presence, along with a much more expressive “artistic vocabulary” for your dance. This is a challenging study, but so worth the effort!


Alay'nya - author of "Unveiling: The Inner Journey"
Alay’nya – author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey

Very best wishes as you make your dances more dramatic, interesting, and exciting by including a veil!

Yours in dance –

Alay’nya
Author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey
You are the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus. Become the Jewel!

Founder and Artistic Director, The Alay’nya Studio
Bellydance a courtesan would envy!

Check out Alay’nya’s YouTube Channel
Connect with Alay’nya on Facebook
Follow Unveiling: The Inner Journey on Facebook


From Morocco’s Amazon review of “Unveiling: The Inner Journey”: “Unveiling – the Inner Journey” by Alay’nya (Alianna J. Maren, PhD.) is an important book that I wish had been written much sooner. It’s not just for dancers, but a book that mothers and aunts should give to the young women in their families before they go forth to forge their own lives and one I recommend others read to determine how close they are to “getting it.”


P.S. – Have you read Morocco’s book, You Asked Aunt Rocky: Answers & Advice About Raqs Sharqi and Raqs Shaabi? Should be on every serious dancer’s bookshelf!

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Copyright (c) 2013, Alay’nya. All rights reserved.

Related Posts: Veil Dancing

Dancing with Your Veil – YouTube Resources

Veil Dances: YouTube Resources Featuring Acclaimed Dancers

As part of the Study Resources for the Spring: The Season of Air (Veils and Swords), this Post introduces some good YouTube clips that form great study resources for veil dancing, especially for “moving across the floor” and “creating veil patterns in space,” two of our Spring Season themes.

Anahid Sofian – Master of Veil Patterns, Spins, & Turns

Anahid Sofian, Master Teacher of Oriental Dance
Anahid Sofian, Master Teacher of Oriental Dance

Anahid Sofian -One of the world’s most renowned Master Teachers of Oriental dance. I reference her substantially in Unveiling: The Inner Journey. See her in:
Anahid Sofian – excerpts of veil movements.

You may wish to read Chapter 26: “Unveiling: Selective Revelation,” in Unveiling: The Inner Journey, describing how I learned a crucial veil secret from Anahid:

“In my dance, I had started the way many dancers start these days; holding my veil behind me, and using it to frame myself as I moved across the floor. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, if the music is very active and dynamic, this can be a great dance opening! However (and this is important), this approach lacks the power of mystery and suggestion.

“In the dance that Anahid showed me, she started by staying in one place, with the veil wrapped around herself. She held the veil edges in such a way that her hands were covered. She held her hands high enough so that, with the veil wrapped around her from behind, it covered her face as well.

“Slowly, hypnotically, she moved her hands in an alternating, graceful up and down pattern. She managed this in such a way that I couldn’t get a glimpse of her face, or any part of her body. She was a mystery. Later, as she “unveiled” herself, she had total control over the timing, the pacing, the very selective revelation that she offered.” [Unveiling: The Inner Journey, pp. 359-360]

 

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Eva Cernik – Veil Patterns: Floats and Spins

Eva Cernik in trademark spinning veil
Eva Cernik in trademark spinning veil

Eva Cernik – Eva, a protégé of the renowned Anahid Sofian, carries on Anahid’s tradition of exquisite veil dancing. See her in:

  • Eva Cernik with veil – in a 2008 performance in 2008 with Rachid Halihal – there is a little veil work at about 3 min, 30 secs, but the most interesting starts at about 5 minutes and continues to the end.

I love Eva’s veil dancing! There are some beautiful improvisational Eva Cernik veil dances in her videos.

Eva is possibly one of the best to study for improvisational work with a veil – even if you have to work with VHS instead of DVD format. She works with single and double veils, and with regular rectangular as well as half-circle veils. Great study!


 
Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus
You are the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus.
Become the Jewel!

You study and perform belly dance (Oriental dance) because it brings forth a special aspect of who you are – the full range of your emotional expressiveness; both the sensual and sacred aspects of your being.

Join me – get the latest on how to become the jewel (a fully expressive you) in the heart of the lotus (your life, and all that surrounds you)!






Be the first to know about upcoming events, valuable online tips and training guides, and all that will help you create yourself as the jewel in the heart of the lotus!

We respect your email privacy

Powered by AWeber Email Marketing Services



Alay'nya - author of "Unveiling: The Inner Journey"
Alay’nya – author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey

Very best wishes as you make your dances more dramatic, interesting, and exciting by including a veil!

Yours in dance –

Alay’nya
Author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey
You are the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus. Become the Jewel!

Founder and Artistic Director, The Alay’nya Studio
Bellydance a courtesan would envy!

Check out Alay’nya’s YouTube Channel
Connect with Alay’nya on Facebook
Follow Unveiling: The Inner Journey on Facebook


Nizana el Rassan, reviewing Unveiling: The Inner Journey for iShimmy.com:

“serious and yet fascinating material … a culmination of all disciplines wise and helpful all in one place, with belly dance woven throughout … Unveiling is a fascinating read with so much wisdom and solid advice, and it’s all about improving balance in your life in a well rounded way.” – iShimmy.com.

Copyright (c) 2013, Alay’nya. All rights reserved.

Related Posts: Veil Dancing

Anahid Sofian Labor Day Weekend Workshop – Beautiful "Patterns in Space"

Anahid Sofian, Master Teacher of Oriental Dance, Hosts Four-Day Intensive Starting Thursday, August 30, in New York City

If you’ve read Unveiling: The Inner Journey, you’ve read about Anahid Sofian. She’s responsible for several of my most significant breakthroughs in Oriental dance – both in the technique and the “psychology” of the dance.

Here’s just a sample:

“… What she had just shown me was not something new. I had not only known it: I had taught it to my students. And here I was, taking my new creation in to my master teacher, and realizing that I’d forgotten the basic lessons.

“What was it that Anahid had, and that I had totally forgotten?

“Simply, it was the power of holding something back.” (Unveiling: The Inner Journey, Chapter 26: “Unveiling: Selective Revelation,” p. 359)

This week, from Thursday, August 30 through Sunday, Sept. 2nd, Anahid will be holding an Intensive Workshop in her studio in NYC. This will be a magical time!

One of the things that Anahid teaches, and which I’ve learned from very few others, is the mystical, elusive art of creating beautiful, flowing patterns in space as you move with your veil. Most veil work that we see today is stationary. Anahid excels at the earlier version of veil art – the kind that is mesmerizing, captivating, and infinately memorable.

 

Alay’nya showing veil techniques that she learned from master dancer teacher Anahid Sofian

Anahid will be teaching her special veil movements this coming Sunday, Sept. 2nd. There’s possibly still room for one or two more to join her class.

On Saturday, Eva Cernik, Anahid’s protege and a master teacher in her own righ, will be teaching, and this is another stellar opportunity. I’ve adored every single thing I’ve learned from Eva, and have watched her videos time and again. (Showing an Eva video, and then trying to capture her “essence,” is a staple part of my class curriculum.)

If you live in the Greater DC Metro Area, or in Baltimore or anyplace up the I-95 corridor, you can get to Anahid’s studio easily using Amtrak. It’s a bit of a long day, but very doable. And totally worth the doing!

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Lineage – in Martial Arts, Yoga, Zen – and Belly Dance!

Our “Master Teachers” in Oriental Dance

Recently, I took a workshop with Anahid Sofian, where the day’s classes were taught by her protege, the internationally-renowned Eva Cernik. Among the attendees was Nourhan Sharif, and others who were remarkable for their intelligence (one had her Ph.D. in biochemistry), devotion to the art (most were long-standing students), and overall high level of knowledge about dance, art, and life.

I overheard Nourhan and another dancer, where the question that one of them posed was: Which other leading dancers do you like – and respect – the most? (The context was with historical figures – the luminaries of films, etc.)

Somehow, the conversation swung around to how we – as students, practitioners, and often teachers – show how we respect our own teachers. And someone (here I’m airbrushing just a bit) commented on one dancer who left a well-known teacher to form her own studio. She had been a teacher in the master dance teacher’s studio, and took the students – who were in class with her – when she left to set up her own “establishment.”

This wasn’t just a burst of ego. It was a show of disrespect, and – in simple business terms – an undercutting.

I had the same thing happen to me, and write about it in Unveiling: The Inner Journey. (see the opening for Chapter 15, “Softening: Beginning to Break Through,” beginning page 199.

I recall a conversation with another leading dancer, one with whom I’ve studied and whom I respect a great deal. I asked her how I could honor her in my work. She said, “Simply recognize me in your bio. Say that you’ve studied with me.”

That seems easy enough. Surprisingly, though, there are dancers – those who want to “establish” themselves – who think that the best way to do this is to disregard (and even disrespect) their connections with their teachers and – when they find them – their “master teachers.”

We in the Oriental dance world seek to claim legitimacy for our art form. We want respect. We demand, and the rigor and beauty of our art form demands, a high level of respect.

But to get respect, we have to give it.

Look at the great traditions in the world; the ones where personal teaching is necessary. Martial artists, the world over, acknowledge their teachers. Lineage is exceptionally important.

Lineage is important in ballet, modern dance, and other dance forms. It is important in all branches of yoga.

In Zen meditation, one of the practices is that the disciples recite the names of their master teachers, going up through their entire lineage, and thanking and acknowledging them.

We have a profoundly beautiful, moving, and exquisite art form. We also have lineage. It’s time for us to respect our “master teachers.”

In Unveiling: The Inner Journey, I identify my “master teachers” – in dance, in martial arts, and in body/mind/psyche/energy integration. If I’ve studied with them, and if there is enough of a relationship so that they can pick me out of a lineup, they’re mentioned. I tell stories about them – the kind of “student/teacher” stories that highlight their role as teachers.

Right now, more and more of us are writing. (Morocco’s book is coming out soon, Nourhan Sharif has one underway.) We put together websites. We have videos. In addition to teaching classes and performing, we have numerous venues available to us – through the web, digital media, and print – in which we can honor our “master teachers.”

We want respect? Let’s start by giving it.