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I Hate Sword Balancing

I’m not a fan of sword balancing, but many years ago I had to finally face that it was - very unfortunately - becoming a part of Bellydancing. So after years of resisting, I eventually succumbed to the fact that there was nothing I could do about this awful trend and, despite my distaste for it, started doing sword balancing in my performances (but only when requested by a client: never voluntarily!).

The reason I dislike sword balancing is that I think it looks ridiculous. As far as I’m concerned an elegant Bellydancer with a hunk of metal on her head (or wrist, or hip, or shoulder, but especially the head) loses much of her elegance; the fluidity of the dance is immediately reduced as the movements - by necessity - stiffen from the moment the dancer balances the sword.

Some dancers say they don’t like the sword because it’s not a traditional part of Bellydance. I don’t share that opinion. Props like veils, fan veils, and Isis wings are, like sword balancing, not traditional aspects of Bellydancing either, but I don’t feel the same about them as I do the sword. My dislike of sword balancing has nothing to do with its lack of traditionalism. All dance evolves, and I think it’s okay for dance to change and incorporate new aspects as time goes on. The world (and each individual in it) is in a state of constant change, so why should dance be exempt from this relentless facet of life? For me, my dislike for sword balancing is purely because I think it looks silly and detracts from the elegance of Bellydancing.

While not mindlessly easy, sword balancing is not supremely difficult either. Despite this, it impresses audiences to no end. The “oohs” and “aahs” abound when you stick that hunk of metal on your head. All it takes is a decent sense of balance, some hip flexibility, candle wax, and some hair spray to ensure the sword remains wherever it’s put, so people’s amazement at this not-so-difficult part of the show always amazes me: the intricate hip work and complicated layering during a drum solo takes a much higher level of skill and is infinitely more difficult than plonking a stupid sword on your head. Yet, it’s the part of the show that seems to really wow the masses. And that drives me crazy!

Sigh.

But, in spite of all the above, I still do sword balancing if a client requests it. And I don’t hold it against them. They want what they want, and they’re the ones holding the event so it’s up to them. My aim here is not to disrespect the hand that feeds (or to disrespect the dancers out there who like sword balancing), but simply to voice my opinion on the subject.

So audiences love sword balancing and, depressing as that is to me, there’s nothing I can do about it. Am I a hypocrite for doing sword balancing when I dislike it so much? No. I’m just being realistic: some clients want it, and they’re the ones paying me for my performance. My performance, therefore, is not really mine but theirs and it is for them to dictate the content of the show.

Also, over the years I’ve learnt to pick my battles; and this battle is not only one that I’ll never win but also one not worth winning - there are more important things on this planet to struggle for (see the Animals page on this site to see what I mean). Everyone does things in their job that they don’t like, after all, and I’ve come to accept that this is one of those things for me in my job.

Having established that sword balancing cannot be avoided by a professional Bellydancer, it’s only fair that I give some basic tips to help you along:

  • Practise, practise, practise before balancing a sword during a show. While sword balancing is not supremely difficult, it’s not so easy that one doesn’t need to practice before getting in front of an audience. And swords are heavy, so if it does fall and hit you or someone else, pain and/or injury will follow.

  • Using a permanent marker, put a dot on the balance point of the sword. You will be able to see it during your performance but it’s too small for your audience to see. This makes the job of finding the balance point a little more expedient during a show.

  • Rubbing a candle along the balance point of the sword and putting hair spray on the top of your head (let me be clear: not during the show but beforehand) helps somewhat to keep the sword in place. Note that it only helps a little: you can rub entire candles on your sword and empty entire cans of hair spray on your head and the sword will likely slip if you don’t have the necessary balance and hip flexibility.

The fact is that whether you’re for or against sword balancing, and whether or not you enjoy it, if you’re a professional Bellydancer it’s pretty likely you’ll be asked by hirers to incorporate it into your performances. So embrace it as an unavoidable aspect of your performing life and enjoy the “oohs” and “aahs” of your audience as you balance that accursed piece of metal on your head.

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Quick Mediations For Workaholics
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SAY NO TO PUPPY MILLS! SAY NO TO ANIMALS IN PETSHOPS! SAY NO TO BREEDERS!

Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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