Belly Dance

Interview with Brenna Crowley, Giselle and Sarah Skinner

Brenna Crowley
Dialogue from an interview with Brenna Crowley.

“To me what makes a really good theatrical belly dance performance is actually to put the theatrics in it, just not  to make it a regular belly dance routine. I like seeing really extravagant costuming; I like seeing them play with the lighting and staging; to have, you know, use whatever they have available to them to make it a really creative atmosphere surrounding their dance, to help them with whatever the story it is that they are telling with that performance.”

I always like seeing a story being played out. I like seeing the character being shown through their movements, which is not necessarily and does not always have to be strictly belly dance throughout – I like seeing theatrical belly dance performances that have movement influences from other dance styles that cater to the character that they are trying to portray, but still is rooted in belly dance. And also especially with the costuming, I think they really need to invest a significant amount of thought and time into what they are wearing, for a theatrical belly dance performance. I don’t just want to see a regular outfit. I want to see something that’s going to be a  – wow! That looks amazing or that really exemplifies the character that they are trying to do or the story they are trying to tell. Then it sets them apart from anything that’s just kind of more of a mainstream type of performance. So, definitely I like seeing a story, I like seeing the costuming, I like seeing the use of atmosphere whether it’s to do with lighting, or they bring props with them or something. So something to really make it much more dramatic and much bigger than something which is just considered to be a mainstream performance.”

Male dancer

Male belly dance in Cairo.


– “To me, to make a very good theatrical belly dance performance, I think the dancer has to invest a significant amount of time in creating the character. She needs to think about how the character’s going to behave in her story-line, as she creates her story line. Think about the movements. Don’t just generate a regular hip roll but how would the character develop this hip roll and how would this character own the hip roll? Or the chest lift or the chest circle, or whatever our movements are as we deliver them in the commercial performance, but make them as a character.”

“Of course they have to have a beginning, middle and end, a climax and a storyline, but I really feel that for a belly dance performance to become theatrical, the dancer really has to put a significant amount of thought behind the character and the storyline.”

Sarah Skinner

Sarah Skinner online – “I absolutely love doing theatrical shows. It is something that is completely different than my money making shows. In my money making shows I am entertaining, I’m having fun and you are usually dancing in a very small space and you are usually filling a particular role. When it’s a theatrical performance, I get to decide and I get to own the entire stage. We have this entire platform, to create a whole new environment and do whatever I please.”

“It can be a huge long story, or something sweet and romantic. You create the entire environment! From the lighting, the music, the costumes. All these things you get to craft, design and set. You are in complete control and bringing your audience through a joyous journey with you. So it’s so exciting to have that kind of control and with that amazing opportunity that you get to be on stage, take full advantage. You have an entire stage. You are not confined to a little spot in a restaurant – you have a stage. Own it! When you are planning out the choreography, you get to use that entire space. Really chew it up and have an enjoyment of the whole thing”

“You get to design a costume that perfectly fits that mood. I always spend more time crafting my theatrical costumes, rather than my show ones. My show ones are very commercial, you know that everybody in going to be will be pleased with it, but a theatrical costume had 3D  C-beaded daisies all over my costume, it can be so much fun and whimsical or some elaborate multi-layered piece that you would never bother dragging to a (commercial) show and putting on all of the different bits necessarily. So, I love being able to design the costumes, then you get to have the lighting”

“A key component with everything (in these shows) is great music! Something that is going to really bring the mood into the performance. If you have a great lighting designer then even better, you can have great lights. Every little element to a theater production you get to control and deliver to your audience. It’s so much fun. If you ever have the opportunity. Do it!”

Sarah Skinner has also made many very useful belly dance instructional DVDs, you can click here to see a list of Sarah Skinner’s DVDs

I own the one about veils and I have found it very useful, I have learnt a lot from it. I find Sarah a very good teacher, very clear and very passionate about her subject. Her style is very graceful and harmonious.

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Valeria is a dance researcher completing a PhD in dance and heritage. Valeria also teaches and performs as a belly dance but also enjoys learning ballet, jazz dance and other dance genres.

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