A Day With a Belly Dancer

A sneak peek into a belly dancer’s day-to-day life.

toronto belly dace

A Day With a Belly Dancer

Sunday. Morning. Glass of water, light breakfast, training clothes…. There is nothing better than starting the day with dancing.  I know that later I will be caught by emails, classes, performances, or other errands... But mornings are my special dance time when I can focus on polishing my own technique. I like the feeling of improving, becoming a little bit better than I was yesterday.

Training outfit by Polina Design

A few hours of dancing are followed by a dance class. Today is an online class via my Powhow studio with students from different countries. I love exploring how technology can bring people from all over the world together on their passion for Oriental dance. This time the topic of the class is Turkish Roma dance. 

One fascinating discovery I had after starting belly dance was that Middle-Eastern dance culture is so much more than just belly dance. Usually Western audiences are not familiar with any of those styles and don’t even realize that they are missing such spectacular and entertaining shows: Egyptian Saidi, Iraqi Kawleya, Persian Baba Karam, Turkish Roma, and so many more. Each style has its own mood, movement vocabulary and, of course, gorgeous traditional outfits. As much as I try to avoid wearing jewelry for dance training, whenever I have a themed folklore class I like to bring some traditional elements to my outfits as well. Today it is a little flower as hair decoration and Turkish pants with hip scarf, typical of this dance style

Hair flower: Ardene
Top: Bellydance Lace Gypsy Top by Sharifwear via BellyUp

Ok, class is done.  Now a little bit of “boring” stuff. As a full-time belly dancer I’m my own manager, agent, promoter, graphic designer, and so on - at least until I grow a bit more to afford having a whole team of people working for me ;) So let’s see what emails I have today: send music to a DJ in advance for my gig next weekend; check my availability for a wedding performance in October. Here is a funny one: someone asks if I need a place to change before my performance, or if I will arrive already in costume. Hmm… let me see how I can go outside in a belly dance outfit. Maybe I should invent a new fashion trend in Toronto? This kind of question always makes me laugh a bit, although it is surprisingly common!

Dress by EstiloK

Time flies in front of the computer. Three hours before today’s gig…. I go through my performance checklist: music, costumes, hair, make-up. That’s the time for experiments. Depending on the event and music choice, the first thing is to select costumes, which give me ideas about hair styling and make-up. Today I’m dancing in two costumes, each one evoking opposite moods. I decided on neutral straight hair, and black tones in make-up, just enough to emphasize my eyes. As usual, I use red pencil for lips during performances. As I explained in one of episodes of “Practical Tips for Belly Dancer” I want my lips to look good by the end of the show, an not end up with lipstick all over my face and stuck to my hair ;)

It’s time to leave. I need to wear something appropriate for a banquet hall. It is unbearably hot in Toronto, so I decided to go with a semi-casual look with oriental notes. Also, I always wear huge sunglasses even if it’s dark already. I don’t want to scare pedestrians with my eye-catching belly dance make-up. Although sunglasses at night-time can bring as much attention as extravagant make-up. :) 

Show time! Performing tonight at an Egyptian wedding. I always get a bit nervous before performing to an Egyptian audience. Their trust and love to my dancing is a big honor for me. It’s a special vibe to dance for Egyptians. During my first set they are already dancing right on their sits. Once I come out for the second set, the crowd just floods the dance area. It’s a good sign for me. It means I chose the right music. In the best Egyptian tradition, I find myself surrounded by a tight circle of wedding guests joined by the bride and groom as well! That’s the time when you forget about whatever was planned, and just go with the flow, sharing the joy with your audience.

Sunday. Night time. Coming back home. I am tired but happy. I get caught up in thoughts on  how my belly dance journey started more than ten years ago. Quitting a prospective career in finance and becoming a full-time belly dancer didn’t sound like a reasonable idea when I took the jump 5 years ago. However, I know it was my best life-decision so far. There are ups and downs in every job, and dance is not an exception. Dealing with society’s stereotypes, financial insecurity and physical exhaustion would make anyone question from time to time why they didn’t choose another more “traditional” path. These thoughts come and go, and I know they will appear again. But I also know that the joy and peace that belly dance brings to my mind and soul overwrites all sad or boring moments, because tomorrow I will wake up to dance again :)

Author and model: Iana Komarnytska

Photographer: Pedro Bonatto

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