Category Archives: The bellydancer’s life: advice, tips and help

Quaking in your boots about performing in public? Here are 23 reassuring tips

Belly Queen 2015


 Presenting SMBA student, Sammi, with her Bronze Award certificate. Congratulations to all the students who recently received their Awards!

There’s a strange trajectory that happens to us bellydance students.

1. We witness bellydancing and get curious to know what it would be like learn for ourselves.

2. We consider attending a class and do a little research on local classes (plus hunt down some youtube clips).

3. We think about the possibility of joining a class.

4. After weeks, months or even years of thinking about it we join a class (and think “why didn’t I do this years ago?”)

5. We love the classes and get wind of end of term shows and public performances that the class are doing.

6. Then think “crickey, I’ve not even told my workmates I’m taking classes, how can I possibly perform in public?”

7. Next, we decide that we quite like the idea of joining in with the performance … except we feel super nervous and worry about screwing it up.


This is exactly the point where you need a crew of wonderfully warm and caring cheerleaders who’ve been in exactly the same place. What would somebody who’s been through the same thing wish she’d known before? What could go wrong?


So for this week’s blog, I called on the wisest, most lovely, caring ladies I know to help us out: Santa Maria Bellydance Academy students!

Here are the top 24 pearls of wisdom you need to call on when you’re nervous about the prospect of performing:

  • “Be comfortable with your choreography and know it inside out so you don’t need to worry about “forgetting” the steps. Practise, practise, practise and remember that you are doing it for the joy of dancing, keep that smile, no matter what!!!”  Sandy
  • “Practice in your outfit several times to make sure bits don’t fall off, come undone or are too loose.” Vicky Lumby
  • “Know the music, and breathe!” Trish Champion
  • “Enjoy yourself.” Freya
  • “Remember that everyone in the audience is rooting for you. Everyone wants you to succeed! And like I tell my students – if you are worried about making mistakes learn how to ” fall with style” – practice fixing mistakes and come up with some nifty troubleshooting moves that you can fall back on should a veil get stuck etc. Everyone makes mistakes, its how you handle them that makes you a star!!!” Louise Brooks
  • “Practice smiling as well as your choreography! It’s important that you know your steps, but your performance will look so much better if you look like you’re enjoying performing.” Cari Weston
  • “Two things that work for me: practice the choreography till you can do it without thinking; once on stage, lose yourself in the music. If you are 100% absorbed in the emotion of the moment there will be no brain space left for nerves.” Katerina
  •  “Before I undertook my first performance, I wish I’d known …that one of my students was going to be in the front row.” Rhi Smith
  • “Make sure you wear something you are comfortable dancing in. And if your outfit isn’t comfortable, wear it around the house until it becomes comfortable (but don’t forget to change again before doing the school run)!” Gwen Berry
  • “Before I undertook my first performance I wish I’d known… How quickly it flashes by! Enjoy every second!!” Natasha Bradley
  • “Before I undertook my first performance I wish I’d know how much fun it is!” Rossella Kench
  • “SMILE!!” Emily Ingram
  • “First – relax – remember to breathe – smile and have fun. (knowing that you have checked in advance that your costume has been FULLY fastened up properly)! then enjoy your performance and the audience appreciation at the end.” Tifanie Wentzell
  • “Before I undertook my first performance, I wish I’d known that glamour rocks and invested in a good costume.” Feyza
  • “Don’t worry what everyone else is thinking – they will be thinking you are brilliant just for having a go and it matters not a jot if you go a bit wrong.” Mandy Ryland-Langley
  • “Learn the music inside out, keep smiling even if you make a mistake because your smile will be what everyone remembered. Also, I wish I had known to pin my belt on when I did my very first solo, oops.”” Rosina Boden
  • “Before I undertook my first performance, I wish I’d known how much fun it would be and how much I’d love it so I’d have taken the plunge to perform much sooner than I did! And for someone undertaking their first bellydance performance my advice would be:
    (1) wear what you feel comfortable in and what makes you feel good,
    (2) it’s ok to make mistakes so don’t worry if you do – it’s all a learning experience,

    (3) bring a friend to cheer you along – a friendly face that you recognise in the audience can really help to relax you and
    (4) remember it’s all about having fun so just enjoy it!
    ” Ayten
  • “No matter how you think you look, or how you feel, everyone watching thinks you’re amazing .” Katie Lugg
  • “Make sure you love the first 30 seconds and know it backwards – that is how long it takes my brain to register that there is an audience. And remember, it takes longer to drink a cup of tea.” Gail Wilkinson
  • “Smile and enjoy the dance.” Carol Gey Van Pittius
  • “LOVE the music you choose.” Nita Grant
  •  “Look at the lights rather than the audience. Looking at the lights doesn’t panic you, you can’t see the people and then the muscle memory of your performance will just take over.” Katherine Williams
  • I was told to smile, sparkle, enjoy it and not to worry if I went wrong. It worked!” Mary Wilson
  • And one final bonus tip: “Make sure your hair piece, should you choose to wear one, is securely fastened to your head. A flying ponytail makes a fun anecdote but I can assure you it’s somewhat mortifying at the time.” Helen Santa Maria


If you’re nervous about undertaking your first public bellydance performance, take heart from those who have made this journey before you. You CAN be bold, step up and dance in front of an audience just like we all did.

I’d love to know: what inspired you to take the plunge and embark on a public bellydance performance? Did you get inspired by other students? Did your teacher gently nudge you? Leave us a message in the comments below!

Thanks for reading, see you next time 🙂

Hugs and shimmies,

Helen x

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How to land your first pro gig – 3 mistakes to avoid



Turning pro is just about as exciting as it can get for any bellydancer. But exactly how do you break into professional work without dropping a clanger and ruining your chances?

How do you avoid making schoolgirl,  embarrassing mistakes when dipping your tassels into the pro bellydance water?

Here are 3 valuable pro tips plus 3 BIG no nos to help get you started on the right track.

Pro tip  1:  be a geek and do your research

Who do you already know that’s absolutely rockin’ it on the scene? Go and watch their live gigs and learn by watching how they behave as well as talking to them. (I’m talking notepad and pen in hand) If they don’t have time to chat on the night, ask if you can set up a short phone call or skype chat.

Ask about how they got started. How long did they work two jobs? How did they know when to quit the day job? Did they quit the day job? (not all pros do) Mostly you’ll find they are flattered that you’d ask and will be happy to chat about their beginnings.

You may think that you can’t bring yourself to do that and you’re too shy. But here’s the thing, if you can’t muster the courage to speak to real live human beings already on the scene at this point, how are you going to deal with it when you’re pro? This is good practice for the proactive and tenacious attitude you’re going to need to forge a successful, lasting pro career.

And I know I don’t need to tell you to thank them and ask if there’s anything that you can do for them 😉

Pro tip 2: neutralize the competition by giving before you take

Take a look at who is already on the pro scene in your area  (if you haven’t already, where’ve you been?!). What you want to do is think about how you can positively impact the pro dance world and help other dancers – even before helping yourself.

These dancers have probably brokered deals, negotiated decent pay, carved out resident spots as well as educated a regular audience with quality dance. In many ways they have paved the way for you.

Contact them to introduce yourself and ask if they would be willing to consider you as sick cover, backup or an extra dancer. You’ll likely need to send a showreel or YouTube videos.

And always offer to refer gigs that you’re unavailable for (and actually do it).

You see, other pro dancers aren’t you’re competition, they are your community. Share any useful information and knowledge that might help them and you’ll be well on your way to making respectful, lasting relationships.

A rising tide floats all ships, when one dancer is doing well it generally elevates the chances of work for everyone. (This goes for teachers and students too)

Pro tip 3: don’t be too proud to hustle

You’ve psyched yourself up to hit the ‘publish’ button on your first website expecting to be busy fielding the queries about your classes and performances. You’ve hung out your shingle for all the world to see, things are going to get crazy, right?

And so the metaphorical tumbleweed starts rolling on by…

The thing is, it’s not up to people to find you, you’ve got to find them. You must put yourself out there constantly, not just when you first start but again and again and again.

Thinking that folks will eventually cotton on to your brilliance and you won’t have to lower yourself to marketing your services is not the way to go. So it’s time to get in the right mindset and think about all the ways you’re going to tell the world about your goodies. (if you don’t know how to do this then it’s time to educate yourself and learn).

Start with your mum, dad and cat to get started and ease yourself in. Then move on to friends and the world!

It’s not up to the world to discover you. You will always have the responsibility of keeping your pipeline of work full.

Oh, and those 3 mega mistakes?
  • Don’t  get your dad, boyfriend, mum etc. to hustle for your gigs
  • Don’t walk up to the resident dancer at the end of the gig and announce you’d like to have a residency there also
  • Don’t show up to a restaurant and try to ‘out dance’ the resident dancer in your day clothes (not the most dignified)
  • BONUS MISTAKE – don’t try to undercut the existing dancer to land a gig. It will make you and them feel yucky.


Did you find this post useful? Do you know somebody who might dig this content? I’d be so grateful if you were to share it!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below – did this post bust any myths about turning pro for you? How did it change your thoughts, fears and dreams about becoming a pro bellydancer? Be sure to tell us by posting a comment!

Thank you so much for reading.

Love and shimmies,

Helen xx

Subscribe for blog updates with bellydance tips to get on track and stay inspired. Plus receive my free online class!