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Showy veil work

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In the recent time, the dancers often use a veil, or tarha. Almost each dance performance includes veil work. Arab women themselves rarely make use of it, they hold a veil in their hands and do some simple movements at the beginning of a dance, and then drop it. It can obviously be explained by the fact, that a veil is not a traditional Arabic accessorize but was brought there, according to different versions, from Europe or even from Russia. The variety and complexity of veil work has become the specific feature of Russian bellydance. 

We shall present the most beautiful movements with one or two veils. Please take note of the fact that they are not going to be very complicated. As the word is, genius lies in simplicity!

Having learnt these movements and taking into account the following recommendations, each beginner, and not only a beginner, will look considerable and feel confident in her or his veil work.

Let’s get it started. 

What kind of veils exist?

Mostly a simple uncut veil of a rectangular shape and of approximately 1.10x 2.50-2.70 m is used. It a veil is shorter (sometimes tarhas with a length of 200 to 210 cm go with ready-made costumes), you will not be able to fulfill the most movements completely. If a veil is longer than 2.80 m, you will have more difficulties in performing the movements. Especially if you are not very big, so the veil will snarl.

Tarha is made of some light flying cloth, usually of chiffon or pearl chiffon. Heavier clothes are not recommended to use (crape and similar), neither are too light or “glassy” ones (brocade or organza). The cloth edges are sewn round with beads, which is not recommended because the edge becomes heavy and the veil doesn’t “fly”, with pailettes, manufactured with a sewing machine or just carefully “burn” the edges.

A cut veil is also used rather often. It is also of rectangular shape but cut into two equal parts (it is not fully cut but there is a strip of 2 to 3 cm connecting both of the halves). It is pulled over so that the strip is on the front part of the neck and the sheets are behind the arms like two wings. A cut veil can be imitated by an uncut on when it is thrown on the front part of the neck while its edges are held behind the arms.   


Semicircular veil. A regular semicircle is cut out of the fabric. If the fabric width is 1.10 m, the veil length will be 2.20 m, which is actually sufficient. Two semicircular veils of contrast colours are often used in the dance work.


Any outsize veils. Sometimes for realizing a dance performance idea outsize veils are manufactured, with stripped edges, ribbons, rouches or ruffles, out of two halves of diverse colors, etc. 



As a rule, a dance starts with a walk on the stage. At this time, we are holding the veil behind with straight arms that are held deeply behind the body or lifted rather high so that the veil should fly behind you and not drag on the floor. You can lift your arms up but do not hold them to close to each other. If you walk with hip drops, you can lift up one arm while lowering the other arm by turns. So you will achieve that the veil will fly up now on the right then on the left. You can also use these side moves in place (see picture 1). 




Bringing the veil back and forth

It can be fulfilled in place (even during floor work) or while moving. Hold the veil in front of yourself; bring it back and at the same time start moving forward very fast. Then bring the veil forth and move backwards (picture 2). To prevent the veil from fastening on the head, work with extended arms and step under the veil immediately when it is up.  






"Figures of eight" done with arms

These movements can be performed in different ways. For example, one arm is up and the other is “drawing” a big figure of eight in front of itself (the veil is behind the body). Or bring the veil forward, keep one hand at the shoulder and the other hand shows a big figure of eight. In this case, the amplitude will be much larger and the arm should work intensively (picture 3). 







Hold the veil in front of you. Bring both the hands up and at the moment, when the veil is up, bring both the hands together as though you cover the air with the veil, and abruptly drop the hands (picture 4). 








The veil is behind yourself. Drop your hands and bring swing the arms upward almost closing them above your head and then immediately drop them (or proceed to another movement). The veil ends should fly up like butterfly wings (picture 5).

You can try this movement while walking (you can do the swing and go to demi-pointe at the same time): there are some steps to do: demi-pointe with swing, or during rotation: rotate to the right  - swing, rotate to the right and swing, rotate to the left and swing (at this time we don’t go to demi-pointe, the free leg is put aside and ready for the next rotation).  



Veil rotations 

It is one of the basic movements. Rotations can be done in place and while moving, in a straight line or in a circus.

During rotating you can change the arms position (arms extended sidewards, one arm up, both the arms up, one hand at  the hip, the other above or sidewards etc.), or you can rotate the veil around yourself (pictures 6, 7, 8). 


* working with a veil, you should do the movements rather intensively for the veil to be “on the fly”, on the one hand, but not be in a hurry and not try fulfil as many complicated movements one after another, on the other hand. Remember that this is a dance and not a gym exercise. The top performance produces the impact that the veil is “alive” and is dancing by itself, without any evident efforts made by you. 





* It is highly important to select a veil, its size, shape and fabric according to the movements that are planned in your dance. If you do not have enough experience and you can not decide which veil would suit your dance best, prepare several training veils of different fabrics and shapes and try all the movements in practice. 






The most complicated rotation type is the so called “mill”. During rotation, the leading arm moves down while the other arm moves up, body bending towards the dropped arm can be added. At the end of the rotation the arms position changes to the opposite and the body bends to the other arm. During performing the “mill”, the veil can be held either behind the back or in front of the body, or it can be put on one shoulder (picture 9). All the three positions look lovely.

Please turn your attention to the third veil position, the veil lays crossed on one shoulder. The “changeover” of the veil bringing it from one shoulder to another is of great attractiveness; we drop the veil from the right shoulder and at the same time bring it to the left one. You can combine this movement with rotations. When the veil is on your right shoulder, you turn to the left, then you change the direction of the rotations and at the same time you bring the veil to the left shoulder (you can fulfill 1 or 2 rotations in each direction). To prevent the veil from tangling, you should skim the veil edge some higher and to “provide” your shoulder to the cross-line, the same goes for dropping the veil, you skim the edge and move your shoulder away. 

Rotations with two veils

During the work with two semicircular veils, we can fold them together and fulfill the most movements like working with one veil. However, there are certainly specific movements, typical for two veils work.

For example, it is a combination of rotations: the veils put together are held behind the back, we start to rotate, for example, to the left. The arms are extended sideward. Then without interrupting the rotation, we lower the inner veil with the right hand. Its free end goes forward and we are rotating as if we were “surrounded” by veils. The right arm can be lifted up (picture 10). 


Then the left hand lowers the outer veil (held in the right hand) and go into the “mill” (picture 11). 








After that, we lift up both the arms and we are in a specific “cocoon” (picture 12). During this rotation, you can change the direction of the movement or stay in place with straight arms and a large amplitude (to prevent the veils from falling onto the floor). 

You can also draw large figures of eight on the right and on the left of your body (picture 13). Then you can drop both the veils and only one of them and continue dancing with the left one. 






* The veil work requires an ideal body posture and a rather solid physical condition of the shoulder girdle. Therefore, at the start, the muscles of your arms and back get exhausted and ache. Do not stop practicing. Everything is OK. Your arms will get stronger very soon and you will feel comfortable. Such muscle loading produce a highly positive influence on your arms shape, the arms get strong and stable. 






Another showy rotation is the so called “house”. Fold together two veils and hold them with one hand at the end and with the other hand at the middle and start rotating (picture 14). Then, (if you rotate to the left, the left arm is up, the right arm is extended sideward) with your right arm fulfill an abrupt movement to the left and bring it back to its former position, then turn the direction of the rotation. The veils are turned up with the other side (veils of contrast colors look especially wonderful). So it goes – arm movement (to help the veils to turn around) – change of the direction of the rotation. 






 © "Oriental"  magazine, №3(18), autumn 2009.




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