Photo shoots

When I first started belly dancing performing was the LAST thing I had in mind. All I wanted were exercises that loosened up my hip that’s all!

Somehow along the way I got sucked in and after 5 months of classes, I shimmied my way through my first performance in the back of the group. Having spent my early adulthood climbing mountains and being the nongirly girl, I can’t imagine how I ever allowed myself to put on that costume and be “that” girl I tried so hard not to be.

After my first performance our troupe got together and did a photo shoot. I was so ready to be done after the performance and the last thing I wanted was to spend more time in that costume. But for those of us that belly dance already know, belly dance isn’t just about the dancing it about the relationships, friends and the camaraderie that comes from struggling through learning choreography and rehearsing many hours together. So there I was smiling my way through my first photo shoot despite the painful perma-smile plastered on my face.

After groups shots some girls did their own solo shots and I remember being asked if I wanted to do any and I recall phoo-phooing the idea, thinking “why would I ever want photos of me”, “who would ever want to see them” and “what would I do with them anyway”?

I laugh at this mentality now. It was so typical of me back then. I really didn’t grasp what all belly dance could be. It’s more than just dance it’s visual and performance art. It opened up a part of me that I had pushed so far back in my mind by years of self defeating negative thoughts that it took a while for me to accept who I was and be comfortable sharing my creativity without fear of being made fun of.

Now that the floodgates have been opened, new ideas are always floating in my mind. I love the process of putting together a mood, a location, costuming and styling it all together to create a tangible image of what I have in my mind. However, the downside of performance art is that it’s temporal. If you’re not there to see it or photograph it, it’s lost. So, I’ve come to embrace the photo shoots now because I no longer see it as an exercise of sitting around with a plasti-smile on.

It’s now become an enjoyable process of working creatively with another person, the photographer. It’s immensely gratifying to see what two people who share a common vision can create. It’s about taking risks in allowing yourself to be shot in ways that may not seem flattering to you, but can result in a striking image that can serve to inspire you.

Photo shoots I’ve come to learn aren’t for anyone else except you. I use them as creative canvases to help in coming up with new characters that I use as inspiration for when I piece together a dance performance. There are lots of articles out there written about how to get the most out of a photo shoot, and many of them are spot on. Have a plan, practice some poses, etc (links below)…. But more importantly, think about yourself and how you can be your own best source of inspiration.

Grab a friend with a camera, put together a look, find a place that inspires you and be that princess, gypsy or glamazon in your imagination and don’t worry about any self perceived visual flaws in your photos, we all have them so let them go. Instead look at the overall picture and see yourself as you imagine yourself to be when you dance and let that be your inspiration.

Dancer blogs with good photo tips:

  • Princess Farhana blogs about photo shoots throughout her posts, so check out a few in the past. She also actually has a DVD on photo shoot tips!

  • Some of the basics laid out nicely in this blog:

  • Amarita has several posts on photoshoots as well, my favorite tip however is "watch America's Next Top Model". I was addicted to that show for a couple of seasons and it is fun to watch!

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