My dance troupe performed in their annual show recently and I used the occasion to dance a solo with veil-fans. I chose the bigger sized fan-veils because we dance at twilight for a large crowd, and the fans show up well in that setting. As usual, I learned a lot from it, which I will now share with you!
Choosing appropriate music was challenging. I wanted something flowing and slow, but accessible for a general audience, with musical variations. I finally settled on a piece with waltz tempo that I had danced to in the past, which meant I already knew the music. Lucky choice! I could spend all my time learning how to control and use the fans.
I had taken a veil class in the past, so I had been exposed to a set of movements. The trick is always to make it your own and make it natural. I was lucky enough to coax the teacher, who is local, over to practice with them, which was well worth the wine and cheese! She quickly picked up on the moves I had blocked out and suggested ways to add movements and variations to them. I had been worried about not having enough coordination to manage both veils, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought. Also, I found that using a wide band of elastic to hold my thumbs to the main blades REALLY HELPED- I couldn’t drop the fans. This took a load of worry off!
So now that I’ve danced it and watched the video, here’s what I’ve learned.
1) Keep the fans moving smoothly. If they aren’t being deliberately held out of sight, they need to move continuously to look pretty. If they were regular fans, you could strike a pretty pose holding them still, but having the veil lie limp from the fan looks kinda silly. So keep them moving, although it takes some getting used to.
2) Watch the fan veil level- it looks better when it’s higher. However, holding them high is a strain on the forearms and shoulders- your arms are up and you are fanning. The variety in the music can be a good excuse to periodically lower your arms and save your strength, so look for opportunities where arm level changes are natural.
3) Snapping the fans open and closed is effective and easy if you’ve got them strapped to your thumbs with elastic. It adds drama and you can sometimes here the snap! However, the blades need to be straight, not warped, to fold smoothly. I had to rebend one blade to get it to work right. Watch how you store them so they dont warp.
4) Barrel rolls and big vertical veil waves are real crowd pleasers since they’re really showy.
5) Learning to dance with them well-integrated with your arm movements is gonna take a while to get right.
So I’ll be listening for more pieces of music that lend themselves to the fan veil movements and try to dance more with them in the future. It IS a good upper body workout, tho the smaller size is probably friendlier. Try them- the fan-veils can add excitement and freshness to your belly dance!