How to Belly Dance With a Sword

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      First you have to pick the right sword. If you thought you could just waltz in a weapons store and pick up a sword for belly dancing, think again. While they are made to replicate dangerous weapons, our swords only look dangerous. They are specially-designed to be balanced, and they're dulled so they won't cut you. They also come in many designs and weights. The best sword for beginners will be one that is rather heavy and has a rougher, rather than smooth, surface. Heavier swords with rougher edges will be easier to balance since the weight will prevent the sword from being overly-affected by your movements while the rough surface will make it less likely to slide.

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      Next, you need to prime your sword for dancing. While it is possible to balance a sword on any part of your body without any "tricks" or aids, most dancers prefer getting some extra security by using wax. Before you dance, apply a thin coat of wax to the blade by rubbing the wax back and forth. Some dancers use inexpensive votive candles to apply the wax; I prefer to use surf board wax. Surf wax is thicker and stickier and lasts longer.

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      Chin up; sword-dancing isn't that difficult.

      Now that you've prepped the sword, it's time to practice balancing. You can balance a sword virtually anywhere on your body: head, chin, wrist, shoulder, hip, stomach, thigh---the possibilities are only limited by how adventurous (and flexible) you are. In an open practice environment, try balancing the sword on every part of your body that you're willing to try. First practice the balancing without moving. Once you feel comfortable that your sword isn't going anywhere, start to move with the sword on a particular body part. The head is really a good place to start. In my opinion, the head is the easiest place to balance a sword since most swords are curved slightly; they're practically made to be balanced on your head. Move slowly at first and notice how your movements affect the sword.

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      Shira balances a sword on her hip.

      Always practice a sword choreography in your actual performance costume. Costumes---whether it's your headband, belt, or the fringe on your bra---often interfere with your ability to balance the sword. So you definitely want to have a couple practice runs in your full regalia to anticipate any costume-induced mishaps and learn how to recover from them. And don't neglect your footwear in these dress rehearsals: if you know you'll be dancing on carpet in high heels for your actual performance, recreate these conditions in your practice area. You'll thank yourself later during the real thing when your heel accidentally gets stuck on a wayward Persian rug.

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      Princess Farhana strikes a powerful pose

      By the time you perform with a sword in public, you'll probably feel pretty zen about the whole thing. But remember that your audience doesn't know how easy it actually is. So even though you can put your sword on your head in T-minus 3 seconds and start going into a backbend, you don't actually want to do this for your performance. Build some suspense for your audience by entering and posing with your sword. Make slow, sharp movements and mimic a warrior---a really graceful warrior. Drag out the posing, and make your audience wonder how you're going to handle this weapon. When it comes time to put that sword on your head, do this slowly as well. Take your time to make it look difficult, and then once the sword is squarely in place, pause for a moment and look satisfied with yourself. Sword-dancing can really mesmerize audiences if you do it well. Take your time to make it look difficult, and they will respond with great appreciation (and hopefully greater tips as well).

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