How to Belly Dance With a Cold

Previously, I wrote about “how to belly dance in the cold“. Though, if you perform enough in the cold, your weakened immune system might catch a cold or even worse, a flu!

A big smile helps to conceal how terrible I feel at this show.

 Find a substitute

Whether it is for a restaurant belly dance show or an Arabian Nights private party, everyone will be much happier if you can find a healthy substitute to take your place. Most restaurant owners or event hosts will be glad you made the smart decision to stay home and not spread your germs at the show.

If you are performing professionally, you need a list of professional dancers whom you trust will do a great job in emergency situations where you can’t perform.

If you do not have any professional contacts, get some! Providing a client with a great substitute in an emergency situation will make you look so much more professional than cancelling on them without any referrals.

No subs! What next?

Every once in a while, you run down the substitute list and come up empty handed. Now what? At this point you have two options: dance sick or cancel the show. Think carefully and use good judgement.

If you have highly contagious strep throat and are scheduled to perform at a baby shower, the pregnant mother will not be pleased if she finds out you infected her with strep throat right before her delivery day. Likewise, infecting a bride with a terrible flu at her belly dance bachelorette party will leave her cursing you if she is sick on her wedding day.

Image of a cold virus.


Most colds and flues give warning signs like sniffling, fever, fatigue, aches and pains. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that you can be contagious up to 5-7 days after the symptoms begin and recommends you stay home at least for 24 hours after your fever breaks (except to get medical attention). If you think it is unsafe for you to perform, communicate with the event planner and let them know the potential infection risks to others as well as the health risk to yourself. Most likely, they will appreciate your concern for their health and safety.

Sick, but not “that” sick

Edward R. Laskowski, MD, a Mayo Clinic physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, says mild to moderate physical activity is fine as long as the symptoms are “above the neck”. Attempts to exercise if you have chest congestion, fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches can result in serious injury or illness complications.

In a Ball State University study, exercise physiologist Dr. Leonard Kaminsky studied the effects of a cold on athletes. Surprisingly, his research showed that neither lung function nor overall exercise performance were decreased in subjects infected for two days with a cold virus (when symptoms were at their worst).

Additionally, there was no difference in symptoms or time to recovery between the control group and a group that exercised 40 minutes every other day at 70% of their max heart rate. Again, it was warned that subjects should not exercise when experiencing fever or chest congestion.

So you have had a cold for a few days and need to perform at a birthday party or restaurant show. You feel terrible, but no one can cover for you and the show must go on. Here are some tips to ease the pain of dancing with a cold.

Before the show

  • Rest as much as you can and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take nasal decongestants and/or expectorants well before the show time to clear out nasal passages and chest congestion.  Do not take these medications right before your performance. Ick! The nasal decongestant will also help dry out a runny nose. Anti-histamines also have this drying effect, but can make you drowsy.
  • Moisturize the skin under your nose if it is very dry.
  • Try your best to call in favors and have someone drive you to the performance so you can continue resting in the car.
  • Put on all your makeup except for concealer under your nose. It will just come off anyway if you blow your nose and further irritate your skin to keep putting it on and wiping it off. Wait till you get to the venue to dab on concealer.
  • Take a cough suppressant if you are coughing a lot.
  • Wash your hands.

At the show

  • Act normal. Don’t complain. No one wants to know that you are icky. Even if you feel terrible, put on a big smile. You will not receive brownie points or pity for dancing while sick; people will just think you are icky.
  • Minimize interaction with guests before and after the show.
  • Find a “hidden” area to stash water (or tea with honey) and tissues hidden under the props you will use. If there is a problem during the performance, you can duck behind the wall/door to fix a leaky nose or tearing eye. Don’t wipe your nose with your hand or veil or costume! Eww!
  • Wash your hands.

bellydance spinning

Centrifugal force pulls loose material away from the center (skirt, hair, etc.). This is why spins should be avoided with a runny nose. Eww!

During the show

  • Avoid spins, turns, or sharp head movements. Being sick or taking cold medication can alter your balance. Also a leaky nose plus quick spinning is a gross disaster waiting to happen!
  • Turn your music up a bit louder than normal to mask sniffling or a suppressed cough.
  • Do not lean your head forward or look down. Keep your head held high to keep a runny nose at bay.
  • Visit your tissue stash between songs or as needed. Drink some water or tea if your throat is itchy.
  • Don’t overexert yourself! Dial back a little bit so you can last through the show without collapsing.
  • Limit audience participation and speak sparingly. Show them how to do the movements, don’t voice instructions. The less you talk, the more convincing you’ll be that you are just fine.

Between shows

  • Rest!
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take care of expelling sick “ick”.
  • Nasal spray to dry out a leaky nose so you can breathe again.
  • Reapply makeup; especially under the nose if you are using a lot of tissues.
  • Wash your hands.

After the Show

  • Wash your hands.
  • Make a quick exit. Stretch and cool down, but don’t stay to chat with guests.
  • Go straight home.
  • SLEEP!

Although it is not advisable or preferable to dance when sick, sometimes it has to be done. Have you performed when sick? What did you do to ease the discomfort and hide the cold to the audience? Please share your stories and tips below.

• Meet the Author • Nyla Crystal

Dr. Nyla Crystal holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and performs family-friendly shows for weddings, birthday parties, and corporate events in the Silicon Valley portion of the San Francisco Bay Area. She also co-directs the international award-winning Troupe Scimitar and the Dangerous Beauties Belly Dance show. Learn more about Santa Clara belly dancer, Nyla Crystal.

44 comments… add one

  • Okay I’ll start with a “sick” story.
    I was performing at a local restaurant at the end of a cold. Still had some congestion (naughty to perform with congestion, I know!), but felt fine otherwise. A little girl got up to dance and did a really cute, funny dance move. I started to laugh, but with the congestion, it came out like a dog barking sound. It scared the little girl and she ran away from me :(
    Nyla Crystal recently posted..How to Belly Dance With a ColdMy Profile

  • I can’t think of a single thing you forgot to add, actually. Except that a hot toddy is sometimes nice when you have cooties and HAVE to perform. And…Extremely spicy pho with too much sriracha blasts out germies pretty well.

    • Great suggestions. Definitely cut the spinning if you have a hot toddy. I hadn’t thought of spicy food. I usually avoid it, but in cases where you need to breathe it is well worth the effort to eat it!
      Nyla Crystal recently posted..A Casablanca Moroccan Dinner Party in RocklinMy Profile

  • These are some very important tips for belly dancers when they have to dance with cold. Centrifugal force pulls away any loose material so be careful with runny nose :)

  • These are some great tips for pro belly dancers! I hadn’t ever thought of the centrifugal effects of spinning, but you are definately right, things tend to want to go spinning off when fast turns are involved.

    I would also add eye drops. As a wearer of contacts my eyes are dryer than most, especially when sick. Dry eyes tend to burn, and burning eyes want to tear up, and we all know where teary eyes lead…runny noses!
    Sumaya recently posted..Modern American Belly DanceMy Profile

  • The Belly dance is a great thing to enjoy but really a tough thing to do and with cold, it sounds like impossible. You should have a lot of courage to perform belly dance with cold. Thanks a lot for the share.
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  • i like the belly dance

  • great artical love belly dance
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  • So it’s okay to belly dance with a cold?
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  • hey Nyla Crystal
    this belly dance will help me have a great weight loss tips
    thanks for sharing and good luck!
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  • Well, the professionals must know what it means when they are going for it as it may spoil the night. Nice share dear.
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  • The best idea would be to dance with blanket onn.

  • I love belly dance. your moments is really nice.your expiration really it’s too good.nice dressing.totally love it.This is an extremely well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info.really good job!!!
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  • Thank you for sharing excellent information about belly dancer. Your site is so cool. I am impressed by the details that how to belly dance with cold. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject.

  • i love belly dancing really much this article is a great way for many belly dancers it is really aw sum
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  • Wao So amazing and interesting Dance I will try definitely thanks admin
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  • These are very interesting tips for Belly Dance, I like Belly Dance. You are going right on the way. Keep it up
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  • Actually I love bally dance with cold. This is really tough task to do. You have such a nice Information about dace. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us.
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  • you are doing great job,, so nice bally dance,, i love it
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  • Amazing …i love belly dance …

  • I like to watch the dance

  • “Additionally, there was no difference in symptoms or time to recovery between the control group and a group that exercised 40 minutes every other day at 70% of their max heart rate. Again, it was warned that subjects should not exercise when experiencing fever or chest congestion” Wow!!! Very informative.

    I love this article. So wonderful.

  • This is an extremely well written article have enjoyed reading it

  • This article on Belly dancing is really interesting….i think i should try it one day. And to all the dancers out there, keep up the entertainment. Thank you for sharing.

  • Belly dance with cold sounds impossible, but with the tips you have given us it will work out well. Thank you for sharing.

  • A great piece. It is always good to avoid infections or infecting others especially during the cold season.

  • i always loved belly dance and really wanted to more about it. thanks for sharing this.
    Nice Article, Very Educative and informative.keep up the good work that you are doing.

  • too bad for us men we have beer belly which are not used to such movements, otherwise its a well illustrated article, will encourage my daughter to practice belly dancing

  • nice tips indeed i will help mg girl friend with it
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    Thanks for your good suggestion
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  • This is a great suggestion for all who are bally dancer with cold. The tips are very clear to all. Thanks a lot for the valuable message sharing.

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  • Belly dance with cold sounds impossible, but with the tips you have given us it will work out well .Thanks for your good suggestion
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  • very nice site and informative

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  • Amazing belly dance, its cool.


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