A shimmy of the hip, a jingle of the coin belt, and your wedding reception gains the mystique and grace of a Turkish palace. Treat your guests to a colorful belly dancing show. The swirling veils and ornate costumes will make you and your newlywed spouse feel like Oriental royalty from an old Hollywood classic. The energetic music will put your party in a lively mood. Who knows? By the end of the evening, you may even find Aunt Ida getting up to try a few moves.

A Breathtaking Show

Contrary to some misconceptions, belly dance is a wholesome, family-friendly form of entertainment. The dancers remain fully clothed (although their costumes often bare their midriffs) and perform graceful moves that will leave audience members of all ages utterly enchanted. Belly dancing music is usually lively with a strong rhythm that will keep your friends and family tapping their toes. Best yet, belly dance’s surge in popularity in the United States means that you will have plenty of options when deciding which dance troupe to hire.

Some belly dance troupes are equipped to handle more than just dancing. Many dancers can play the zils while they shimmy and sway. These tiny cymbals are worn on dancers’ fingers and can keep time to the music with a bell-like sound. Belly dancers often incorporate colorful veils to enchant audiences, as well. Some belly dancers can even perform incredible balancing acts, keeping their movements so controlled that they can balance pieces of fruit, full goblets, chairs, or even swords upon their shoulders, heads, and chins as they dance.

Ask belly dancers whether they come with their own music. Often, a belly dancing troupe will have pre-recorded music for a choreographed show, which they can give to your DJ at the appropriate time. Some belly dancers arrive with live drummers and other musicians for an even more inspiring performance. Ask what options are available.

Belly dance performances can be interspersed with other exotic entertainment such as fire dancing, sword swallowing, snake dancing, juggling, acrobatics, and even novelty performances such as psychics and magic shows. If you want to make your reception a truly breathtaking spectacle, keep your guests mesmerized with an ever-evolving show. Ask belly dance troupes if there are any other local performers they can recommend.

Styles of Belly Dance

Egyptian belly dance is generally more modest and less exuberant, while Turkish belly dance is more flirty and lively. Many American belly dance troupes incorporate a fusion of styles, including dance moves set to modern electronic music and props such as hula hoops or flaming fans. It’s up to you how traditional or how avant-garde you want your wedding entertainment to be.

Do you want to hire an entire troupe of belly dancers, or do you want to showcase the dancing of a soloist? Hiring a troupe for the evening can be more expensive than hiring a single dancer, but you will also be able to give your guests a steady flow of entertainment since troupe dancers can give solo performances while other dancers are resting. Before you hire any dancers, describe the type of entertainment you’re expecting and the length of your reception. The dancers should be able to work out a performance and price to suit your needs.

Dance Lessons as Wedding Entertainment

Watching a performance is one thing, but being a part of it is another. Don’t want to see an empty dance floor? Get your guests dancing by hiring a belly dance instructor for your reception. Dance lessons are a fantastic way to get your guests involved and active. Even people who claim they “never dance” will have an excuse to get pulled into the action. Dance lessons are designed to integrate with the flow of your event so that guests are up and out of their chairs without feeling pressured or like they’re on display.

Belly dancers can use a variety of popular signature moves. The famous “shimmy” is when a dancer moves her hips (or shoulders) back and forth so rapidly that her body appears to vibrate. When she wears a coin belt, the coins tinkle against each other and create an almost magical sound. The “belly roll” is an undulation where the dancer moves her abdominal muscles so fluidly that it looks like her stomach is rolling like an ocean wave. While these moves take years of practice to master, they can be taught in simple forms. Trying to match the dancers’ moves will keep your wedding guests dancing and laughing for hours.

A good dance instructor won’t single out one audience member (unless it’s been prearranged), and instead will focus her energy on getting groups of people up and moving. She can hand out scarves or coin belts to get people inspired to dance. The general idea to emphasize is that no one expects your guests to turn into professional dancers; the dancing is all in good fun, and the more funny mistakes people make, the more there is to giggle about. Keep the mood light and fun, and your guests will respond.

Belly dancing is an especially good choice for dance lessons because it’s fully accessible to guests of all body types, including older guests and anyone with limited mobility. The great thing about belly dancing is that it’s all about isolating different parts of the body. If a guest can move just her head, just her hips, or even just her hands, she can still be a part of the lesson.

Belly dancing isn’t just for women. Encourage guys to join the fun, too. Male belly dance moves are subtly different than dance moves for women. Male belly dancers generally use slower, more deliberate moves, such as walking solidly rather than the balls of their feet. Male belly dancers often raise their arms in strong, masculine movements and sometimes dance with props like swords or knives. If you want to be sure your entire audience feels included, hire a team of belly dance instructors: one male and one female.

Booking the Perfect Performance

When deciding what belly dancers you’d like to hire, always view sample dancing videos. If possible, attend a live show where they will be dancing so you can see the dancers interact with a real audience. You can usually find a performance to suit any budget by adjusting the number of dancers and musicians you hire, as well as adjusting the length of time for each dance. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions before hiring any wedding performer. After all, a performer should be eager and willing to work with you, or else you don’t want to be working with them on your special day!

Give preference to dancers with a proven track record of professionalism, either through performing at friends’ weddings, or through Internet customer reviews. Be sure to include in your contract a set time for the dancers to arrive (which will give them enough set-up time before the show), and ask whether they will need a designated staging area at your venue. Don’t forget to book your wedding date with plenty of time to ensure the dancers will be available when you want them. Then you’ll be just a hop, a shimmy, and a shake away from the perfect wedding entertainment!

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Sherry | Report Abuse

My sister belly dances and we're going to have her do a song for the reception.

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