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We Love You, Keep Dancing!

Raqs sharqi, as dance forms go, is extremely involved with the audience. As opposed to many Western dance forms (like ballet and modern dance), the dancer is not trapped behind the invisible "fourth wall" of the stage. Usually bellydance performances are most successful when dancer is connecting with the audience.

If you are part of the audience for a bellydance performance, and you want to contribute to the success of the performance, you should react to the connection the dancer makes with you. Here are a few ideas on how you can do this:

Tipping. If the performance is in a restaurant setting, it's generally appropriate to tip the dancer. First, pay attention to whether there is a basket or jar designated for tips; if so, then the establishment would prefer you didn't tip the dancer directly. If not, then the dancer may be accepting body tips. When the dancer is near your table, hold the bill up in the air. If she is accepting body tips, the dancer may offer you her shoulder or hip, or possibly the gauntlet or arm band she is wearing. In the first case, tuck the bill under her shoulder strap; in the second, tuck it into the side of her belt. For a gauntlet or arm band, just slip the money under the edge. If you feel a little shy about sticking your fingers into her belt or strap, fold the bill over your fingers, slide the bill in, and pull your fingers away -- the money will stay there, and you never came in contact with her skin. Never push money into a part of the costume that hasn't been "offered" to you. If you have held the bill in the air but the dancer has simply danced by, she may not be taking body tips, and she may come back with a basket later to collect your contribution. Another possibility is to give the dancer a money shower. As the dancer dances at your table, throw the bill up into the air, like confetti over the dancer's head. (Dancers usually have an assistant to pick up these tips.) Money showers are quite spectacular if you collect all the tips from your table, stand up next to the dancer, and scatter the bills over her. You will get your own applause from the other diners!

Clapping. At any point while the dancer is performing, if you see a move that really impresses you, feel free to break into applause. (This is not a symphony orchestra situation!) If the dancer's music becomes very rhythmic, clap along to it, particularly if the dancer herself begins to clap to the rhythm. And of course, please clap at the end of the song if you enjoyed the dance!

Encouragement in foreign languages. If you'd like to call something out that's a traditional encouragement to a dancer, try one of these:

If you would prefer to stick with more familiar phrases, "bravo!" "beautiful!" and "yes!" are fine.

Other sounds. You may hear an audience member hissing during a slow section. This is sometimes used to mean "slower, snakier." But since this convention is not used everywhere, and hissing often has a negative connotation, you might want to skip that one. Another sound you might hear is the zaghareet, the tongue trill. This sound can be produced by moving the tongue rapidly, as if saying "la la la la" very quickly, but at the same time producing a high-pitched "eee" sound. In bellydance circles it's generally produced by women... and I recommend practicing it in private the first few times you make it.

Whooping it up. Whooping, yelling, yipping... any wordless appreciative sound you've made at a rock concert or sports event is probably usable. (Don't use calls associated with strip clubs. The dancer is not going to respond well to "Go baby" or "Take it off." "Freebird!" and "Kill the ref" won't do too well either.)

The whole idea is to tell the dancer, "We love you, keep dancing!" Your enthusiasm will feed her more energy to dance with, and everybody will end up having a great time.