Hello dear all,
In today’s blog post I would like to share a few (or well, many!) of my favorite tips for dancing with a silk veil.
Proper Care and Storage
1. Iron. Your. Veil
I think this is the most important (really!) piece of advice on dancing with silk I have ever received (it was a tip from Aziza of Canada!) So.. Just do it.
Grab your veil. Iron it.
Even if you don’t have the time.
- It looks a million (no, gazillion!) times better, especially on stage, but also in natural light.
- It smooths out the fabric, gives the colors a gorgeous ‘sheen‘, plus it helps it to catch more air as it moves.
- The veil (and thus, also you!) will move more effortlessly as you dance, and the veil will linger longer in the air.
- It will help to prevent static clinging of the veil (yet still be careful how you store it though, as some bags tend to staticify any fabric, plus there might not be any saving you if your costume happens to have velvet in it – ask me how I know!)
- Very much like you would iron any other natural fabric (I have my iron set to 2 dots)
- If I have to be very quick, and my veil has been ironed before and just needs a touch-up, I loosely fold it over once and iron only the creased bits in the center (this saves me 50% of the time) and then the corners (not the folds)
- When in a time crunch, I fold it twice (double the time save!) and I take super extra special care not to iron on any of the folds.
2. Transporting and Storing Smartly
If you are carrying your veil, and/or have to travel with it, try the following tricks to not undo all your ironing effort of tip #1:
- Fold it very loosely (not too tightly, or it will crease!) and store it ‘fluffily’
- Roll it (again, loosely!) around a kitchen roll cardboard roll and store it ‘fluffily’
- Place the veil, loosely folded/rolled, in a big zip-lock bag (I do this for travel) that you can put on top of your other things
- Hang it out to de-wrinkle as soon as you arrive – it can be on the same hanger as your costume or a separate one
Bonus tip: You can ‘ghetto steam’ your veil (or fan veils) to smooth out the travel creases a bit by vigorously wafting it around in a steamed-up bathroom (this has saved me once!) Just be sure it does not get stuck on the walls!
Practice and Preparation
3. Holding your Veil
- There are a few different ‘veil grips’ that work very well most movements . Pinching between the thumb and index or middle finger, pinching between index and middle finger, a light ‘finger wrap’.. I always advise my students to experiment with multiple grips, and then switch between them as you dance. Some grips work better for certain movements than others, so doing this will help you become more resilient/versatile with your veil work.
- That being said, no matter which ‘grip’ you prefer, do your best to always use the least amount of fingers possible at all times! Even as a beginner dancer. For silk, a light ‘pinch’ is usually really enough to hold your veil securely. It will free up the rest of your hands and fingers for more beautiful positions and/or extra veil effects.
4. Preparing your Body
- Warm up your upper body, shoulders, arms and wrists/hands well, it will make everything else easier.
- Develop a little warm up routine that you can do anytime, any place. And then make yourself do it.
- Work on your range of motion of the torso as well as shoulders/hips to have more movement options, using joint rotations, stretches, trigger point release, anything that helps you.
- Be sure to stay hydrated in practice/performance circumstances (it makes a difference in flexibility as well as mental abilities, as hydration translates to the mind/body as a form of stress!)
- Let your breathing flow as freely as possible as you move, it will help you to open up even more movement in your upper body and arms, and it will immediately give your transitions more ‘flow’.
4. Preparing your Mind
- As said in the previous tip, keep breathing naturally and freely (i.e. make sure you don’t hold your breath!), and give yourself some time to practice deep breathing/awareness exercises (like this one!) beforehand, especially if you tend to get a bit nervous for performances. It will help you to stay centered/focused, which is a skill for life.
- Have a plan, but be willing to let go of it. Veils can be fickle beasts. It helps to know your music well, to dance and move with your veil at home so you get to know it’s favorite pathways, but – like with a dance partner – there might be plenty of unexpected happenings while you dance. Practice staying calm and going with the flow, no matter what happens.
- You can actually practice and prepare yourself at home for any veil ’emergencies’ (e.g. dropping one side of the veil – or both! while you dance, – and finding ways to recover elegantly without losing touch with the music) – this may not cover everything that could happen, but it will give you at least some options to play with, plus it will help you with confidence, which is key to get out of any situation that may occur as best you can.
5. Remembering to Dance!
- Staying aware of your body lines and movements at all times, and paying extra attention to your posture and arms if you are dancing with your veil makes an incredible difference. Your veil will expand and even exaggerate all your body movements, and it will show even the tiniest changes in posture, in a good AND not-so-good way 🙂
- One fun and very effective way to practice body awareness is to ‘un-veil’ your veil dance. What this means is: I practice my movements and/or steps AS IF I am holding a veil, but I – for this particular practice method – do not yet hold the veil. It feels different than dancing with the veil, so I will add it later on, but it gives me more information about what I am doing, as it forces me to check, feel, see, be aware of, and eventually improve the way my body moves.
- Veil dancing should still look like some kind of dancing when you remove the veil. In fact, I have in the past created veil dances by taking a full (no props!) dance that I was working on, but did not quite like yet, adding a veil, and only changing some details. Presto! It’s as if all that was missing from the dance was the veil (the same happened to me with double veils once by the way – I almost didn’t use the music because the choreographic process frustrated me. Then, while I was practicing, the doorbell rang and I got these 2 veils in the mail. I tucked them into my costume just for fun, and suddenly the dance made sense. It’s now still one of my favorite performances)
- Another way to improve your posture, upper body awareness and arm carriage in SECONDS, is to use wrist weights for (unveiled) veil practice. Simply put the wrist weights on, dance like that for a few seconds/minutes, then take them off, and repeat the same movements. Try it out, and let me know if this works for you (it does for me!)
5. Making it ‘you’
- Less could be more. Sometimes we get anxious that a veil dance (or any dance!) is not ‘interesting’ enough, and it can cause us to unnecessarily complicate things, and add on more and more. And yet, the simple movements are very often the most beautiful ones. Allowing yourself to dance slowly, and giving yourself a few moments of ‘pause‘ and breath can create some magic in your dance that you (and your audience!) would miss out on if you were to keep on moving continuously.
- I discovered this when deciding to use veil work as a cool down for my beginner belly dance classes. Forcing myself to simplify and slow down – and seeing the effects of this on other dancers – showed me how beautiful even the simplest movements can be. Seeing my students move and enjoy and ‘flow’ with easy veil work has helped me to fall in love with silk veil dancing all over again. It changed the way I view veil work.
- Improvise! Veil work can be incredibly fun to express yourself with in dance, and once you start feeling more comfortable you will find new ways to move with a veil that are uniquely ‘you’. One way to start feeling more comfortable naturally with veil work is to simply do it. Put on a piece of music that you like (doesn’t need to be oriental), grab your veil, bust some moves. Just like that.
Bonus Tips – Making Magic
1. Pass on the Knowledge
- To learn, teach. Trying to convey how to do a movement (be it with veil or without) to someone else will immediately help YOU to understand the movements better, too. I learned a ton about veil dance and transitions while teaching this short veil combination to my amazing husband, Mr E 🙂
- Next to that, it helps to enlist a practice (and/or creation) buddy. Find a friend, share this blog post with them for motivation, and make a pact to get going with veil practice and/or even making a dance! (social distance version: simply set a date, and make a pact to show each other your work via video that day.) After the first date/social distance video call, immediately set a new date and vow to continue the work, or even better – create something new. You’ll inspire each other to get to work and learn even more!)
2. Remember the Joy
- ENJOY. This is perhaps the most important thing to remember (next to ironing your veil!) We dance because we love it, and because it brings us joy. Practicing technique is incredibly important, as will give you more options to express yourself. And next to that, improving your skills over time is what will give you more and more inspiration and motivation to keep going. But it doesn’t end there.
- You don’t have to wait until your veil movements feel or look amazing before allowing yourself to start. Enjoy it now, and go make more dances.
3. Take solid Action
- DO IT. So.. as said above: don’t wait. Use what ever skills you may have, and get going right away. Start with where you are right now, and simply keep learning along the way. Allow yourself to refine your techniques and transitions as you go. You will learn so much more by taking action. This is something I’ve learned through training Martial Arts.
- Enjoy the process of learning itself. The simple joy of movement + YOU + your ever growing skills and life experience will be what makes the veil magic happen.
Enjoy! And feel free to share!
PS: If you’re a silk veil (or props dance in general!) lover, 2023 will be the year for you!
In my upcoming online Strength – Flexibility – Dance BOOST Program, I will share my best tips and exercises with you for creating beautiful and fluid dances and movements with silk veil (and with wings, balancing props, sword, and fan veils!)
Does that sound good to you?
BOOST 2023 ‘Props Edition’ starts on Monday 23rd of January 2023 – Spots are limited, all levels are welcome!
Sign up now and BOOST your dance skills forever!