How to Belly Dance in the Cold

Winter is coming and outdoor shows can provide interesting challenges for performing belly dancers. While it never gets too far below freezing here for Bay Area belly dancers, dancing during a northern California winter does require special consideration. Outdoor performances are popular for holiday parties and usually allow for the most space so everyone can see the belly dance show.

1. Always warm up
You should be warming up before shows anyway, but when the temperature drops, it is even more important to get your muscles warm before performing. If you are a surprise performer hired for a birthday party, make sure to let your host know that you will arrive a little early to spend some extra time warming up. Jumping jacks, shimmies, running in place, and some dynamic stretching are all great ways to warm up. If your are a surprise performer, make sure to put your belt on last if if has coins or tie your veil around the coins to dampen the sound. You don’t want guests outside wondering what that “jingling” noise is! For ideas on dynamic stretching, check this video out:

2. Dress for warmth

Coordinate a bolero top with your costume.

Even with your stomach exposed, you can dress warmly for an outdoor belly dance performance.

  • Wear layers of harem pants with multiple skirts to keep your legs warm. If you harem pants are opaque, you can even wear tights or long johns under them!
  • Wear shoes! Dancing on cold concrete is terrible for your foot muscles. Wearing shoes will keep your toes nice and warm, allowing for better balance.
  • Wear your hair down. Long hair has its advantage in the winter by keeping heat on your back. Have short hair? Wear a wig or tie a scarf around your head, letting the tails hang down your back for warmth.
  • Wear long arm bands. Stretch velvet is very warm. Better yet, a bolero type top you can wear over your bra is another great way to keep your back, shoulders, and arms warm.
  • Wear a body stocking or stomach cover. Mostly made of sheer stretch material, they keep a little heat on your bellyCoordinate a bolero top with your costume.
  • Wear a baladi dress for even more warmth. Opt for stretch velvet over thin spandex.   
    Special tip: Avoid wearing costumes with coin drapes on your bare stomach. The metal coins keep very cold and will be constantly on your skin. brrrr!

3. Use zills with caution
Have you ever played finger cymbals with cold, numb fingers? Loss of finger control leads to off tempo and terrible zill playing. If you plan to play zills, make sure to use them within the first one two songs while your hands are still warm. Bring a hand warmer pack (sold at many outdoor stores) to super heat your hands right before starting your show.

cold belly dancer
Brrrrr! It is cold out here!

4. Re-think your props
Swords will be very cold to touch. Make sure you are at least aware of that before doing a balance trick on your stomach or hip! Maybe tossing around a thick veil isn’t such a great idea in the cold as it stirs up more cold air to remove the heated air layer around your body.  Consider your audience too. They might be in coats, but might not appreciate being fanned by your veil. Tone down your veil use or at least direct your air disturbances away from yourself and the audience.
Special tip: Some outdoor performances will have tall space heaters in the way. Make sure to not let your veil touch one of the lanterns or you will soon be warmed by your flaming veil.

5. Know your limits
Keep your sets short. Breathing cold air is hard on the lungs and keeping your muscles warm will tire you out more quickly. Your audience will also appreciate not having to stand motionless in the cold for long periods of time. Instead of admiring your dance skills, they may start to wonder just how blue you are going to turn!

Have you had a cold belly dance performance experience? What did you learn? Share it below in the comment box!

• 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.

19 comments… add one

  • Hi Nyla, I definitely think wearing velvet is really good for winter performances. I have a heavy velvet Saiidi dress that works great for this. I also always have a pair of legwarmers in my dance bag – great for keeping the heat in when I’m backstage and doing little jumps and shimmies to warm up – I just have to try to remember to take them off before I do on! xx

    • Leg warmers are great to keep in the gig bag and thanks for reminding us to take them off before performing. Pre-performance nerves do funny things to our minds! I’ve seen dancers go out on stage still in flip flops or wearing beanies.

  • One of the toughest thing in the world is to perform at a live stage show. There is no place for a single mistake because a single mistake ruins everything. I really admire every stage performers from the bottom of my heart. :)

  • May be leg warmers or dance socks or may be leggings helps a lot for any dance in cold. Because i think these are the best option to keep your body warm to dance.

  • Hi Nyla,
    I like your warm up video. I do fitness and that is the warm up I always do.
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  • I additionally dependably have a couple of legwarmers in my move sack – awesome for keeping the high temperature in when I’m backstage and doing little hops and shimmies to warm up!

  • Wow, I can’t imagine having to belly dance on those outfits during winter! I think it will also help if the backstage is equipped with some portable space heaters to help warm the place a bit. And it is also useful to have some reusable jelly hand warmers, too!

  • Way to go on this post man. Really killer stuff. I’ll be back to read your other posts

  • Lovely post sharing and the dancing style of the bally ..i like most …

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