Okay, this may come as a surprise to those to whom I have lectured the exacting requirements of belly dance, its history, culture etc etc - but for a Hens Night I'm an entertainer - not a dancer (or a dance historian). I wear a cheesy costume. I play up to misconceptions (to a point). Depending on the party I might get quite ribald. Basically at a Hens Night you are not a teacher or a cultural ambassador but there to give everyone a laugh and good memories.
My normal program is a very short performance; a duet with the bride to be; a short lesson with a choreography; and then some hair down follow-me dancing. I am careful to limit the lesson to safe and authentic moves (no undulations or vertical hip movements for the first and no head slides or snake arms for the second). I avoid props. I do bring cheesy hip wraps.
I have two different approaches to hen parties. How long the sessions are depends on the organizers and what they would like me to include.
If my entrance is in the evening I give a small performance, some quick instructions and then some dance along giving them a good time.
Around here, most of the hen parties start during day time in the weekends and people do various activities together. During daytime I usually don't perform. I have a philosophy of giving the party a good time, a taste of belly dance and putting the bride-to-be in the spotlight (after all it is her hen party). I arrive in my nicest practice outfit, bring cheesy hip scarves and a costume for the bride-to-be. Then I dress her up, hand out the hip scarves and give them all a crash course with some dance-along at the end. I don't allow anyone filming or taking photos during this session, but arrange a photo session afterwards arranging the group in different positions, pointing out how to hold their arms, adjusting posture and hands etc.
In the beginning of my career, I mostly did Hen parties during the evening. The last years, I've mostly done the daytime version. And as I'm not really that fond of performing anymore, I prefer the daytime version.
Well I did it and survived! Thanks for your responses and advice.
The hen party was in a spa hotel, and I was their 'mystery guest' who would appear at the Mad Hatter's themed afternoon Tea Party. The bride to be had seen me perform before, so the plan was to arrive whilst she was having a treatment, since one sight of me would spoil the surprise. The organiser allowed me into the venue room, which was good thinking, but I entered to find it filled with other members of the hen party decorating it with playing-card bunting, fairy lights, teapots and inflatable phalluses. Most of them didn't know who I was, so whilst I pretended to be the driver for another member of the party - hence my presence and the numerous bags and boxes I was carrying - I was regaled with the gossip that the mystery guest was a 'Butler in the Buff' or some sort of strip-o-gram, and how they laughed because they'd made the mistake of thinking that it would be me!
I had a quick scout around the room (and re-considered some of my performance plans), and asked where I would be changing. Surprisingly there was a real, proper hotel bedroom I could use (yippee! - no changing in the toilets or broom cupboard for me!! - or a loading bay open on one side to a public carpark, as I'd once been offered at one gig I did). But the room I was going to use wasn't yet available. So I was bundled into the lift and up to the room of my co-conspirator until my room was ready. But by then the bride to be had finished her treatment and was loose in the hotel!! And the room I was currently in was opposite the room she was booked into!!! So mobile phone relays had to be used to make sure she was being detained before we could sneak along the hotel corridors carrying my costume and bags, amidst furtive glances and tentative creeping around corners, rushing past the lift in case it suddenly opened with you-know-who standing inside, and finally reaching the room only to realise we hadn't collected the key from reception! Luckily there was a cleaner who let us into the room (which makes me wonder about hotel security...).
Once in the room and unpacked, costume checked and music double checked, I was then told I wasn't needed for a couple of hours!! I'd got there at 12.30pm, and the tea party started at 3pm, and I wouldn't be on until 3.45pm. I guess the planner was fixated on me getting there when the bride to be was absolutely guaranteed to be busy having her massage session, and hadn't thought beyond that. It wasn't a big deal, but I didn't want to be sitting in the hotel room working my nerves up. Further relayed messages confirmed the bride to be was in the hotel pool having a swim, so I was able to leave the building and find somewhere to have a drink (non alcoholic) and a bite to eat (not much). At 3pm the Tea Party started, so it was safe to re-enter the hotel and get my kit on, having been told that someone would come and escort me down when it was time for me to appear.
Eventually there was a knock on the door and I welcomed a woman into the room wearing a bizarre hat covered in butterflies, playing cards, feathers and buttons. Apparently, part of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party involved a craft table where everyone decorated a hat with materials provided. It looked good fun, but the woman confessed that she had felt conspicuous walking through the foyer wearing her hat. I should note here that due to the Mad Hatter theme of the gig, I had adapted my costume accordingly and was dressed as the Mad March Hare. So I was stood in front of her in a pair of very wide harem pants, a velvet hip scarf with gold coins, a very brightly coloured striped shirt with a flouncy cravate, a be-jewelled waistcoat, a Sandringham hat adorned with a pair of tall furry brown ears, and a large fluffy tail attached to by backside. I also had a plate containing heart shaped tarts, and a Gladstone briefcase decorated with red roses and filled with hip scarves. And she was the one worried about looking conspicuous in the foyer!!
Well, the journey to the foyer was met with some surprised looks from our fellow lift occupants, and a number of "Its okay, I'm with a Hen Party" reassurances. Jingling across the foyer produced some furrowed brows from the paper reading and tea drinking loungers (it was a rather posh hotel), and a few cries of 'Its a rabbit!!' from excitedly pointing children. No one seemed to notice my friend's hat!
Approaching the Tea Party room we were met by a flustered hen saying 'Get back, get back, she's gone to the lou!!', so darting round a corner whilst I waited for the all clear again, I found that I'd hidden in the hotel restaurant bar, and was attracting some attention from the younger occupants. I felt sorry that I hadn't a bunch of balloons to give out, but was equally glad it wasn't Easter where I might have been responsible for a number of disappointed encounters with children expecting chocolate eggs.
I was soon informed the bride to be was back in her allotted space at the Tea Party table, and finally the music was on and the mystery guest was announced. The doors were opened, and in I went!
Apologies for rambling on, but now I've started the account I'd best finish it...
I had been told to expect about twenty women in the room, but had been warned that maybe only nine or ten would actually join in with any dancing, either due to physical limitations or prudery, and that some might be uncomfortable if I got too close (you know, that embarrassment factor - but Hey! Its a Hen Party!! what did they expect? Yes okay, you remember - a Butler in the Buff! Gulp! Surely I should be the nervous one?). The organiser also wanted me to not only perform, but give a short talk on bellydance and do some teaching, and some veil work, and show some hand moves, and involve the bride to be in some special way... So not much expectation there then!
So my first piece involved me carrying a plate of heart shaped tarts, which I offered around the room as I danced, allowing 'legitimate' closer contact with the each member of the audience without scaring them off. Then, having thus introduced myself, I discarded the plate and my second dance allowed them a more relaxed observation of what I was doing. I then gave a brief talk on the tradition of belly-dance at weddings, and some of its supposed origins and benefits (making a distinction between what was known and what was speculation). After that, I opened my rose festooned Gladstone briefcase and announced that I needed some volunteers to help celebrate the upcoming wedding, and distributed hip scarves amongst those who approached. Looking around I realised that due to the furniture and lay-out, and the fact that every single one of the twenty women there had stood up to put on a scarf and was getting prepared to join in, there was nowhere for me to stand so that everyone could see me. The only solution (and note - do not follow my example as I do not advise this as a safe practise) I climbed on a chair and proceeded to run through some hip, hand, chest and shoulder moves (relating them to everyday activities), and then led them in a routine. I do not recommend dancing a whole routine whilst standing on a chair and wearing rather top heavy headgear, but they all enjoyed 'slamming the car door', 'sitting on a bar stool' and using 'Nutella hands'.
I then got off the chair and announced that as it was the bride to be's party, the next dance was to be just for her and me, so I took her to one end of the room and led a follow the leader routine, in which half way through I unravelled part of my costume and revealed that it was a large scarf decorated with playing cards and teapots, which I proceeded to use as a prop to help interaction between us, and ended the dance by presenting it to her as a gift.
Next up was a Caucus race, involving everyone following me around the room using the moves I'd previously showed them. Emphasising the principles of the Caucus Race in Alice in Wonderland I told them that everyone was a winner, so not to worry about following exactly what anyone else was doing, but relax and do whatever they felt like. This also allowed me time to rest and stop dancing, since I could stand in one corner and direct the traffic as they passed!
Since they and I were pretty puffed out by then, I announced that I would do a final solo and had to leave, only to be met with pleas of "You can't go, not everyone was here!" Apparently two members of the party had treatments booked at the time of my performance. One of them was the mother-in-law to be, and there was a unanimous demand that I do it all again just for her!! So I made the quick decision that after this solo, I would do a couple more pieces once the two missing members reappeared.
General chit chat and drinking ensued, and, still in role as the Mad March Hare, and with nothing much else to do, I insisted that everyone move around one place at the table, just as they did in the real Mad Hatter's Tea Party (apparently no one had yet thought to do that). After this minor chaos had been resettled (and before I could think about how to reinact stuffing the dormouse into the teapot - although that inflatable phallus looked quite tempting!) the two awaited women appeared, and with cries of delight they were tied into hip scarves and I went through another solo routine, this time focused on the future mother-in-law. She had the reputation of being rather naive and prudish, but she enjoyed it a lot more than she wanted to let on, and even got up to join in, much to everyone's pleasure.
I then did an impromptu request to get the future bride and her bridesmaids up to run through a follow the butt routine. I made the moves relate to things involved with making a cup of tea (snake arms = steam from the kettle; sideways hip pushes = looking like a teapot; chest lifts = lumps of sugar; etc). Then another free for all dance session, and a final solo with the announcement that I had a date with the White Rabbit, and everyone please return their hip scarves to the Red Rose briefcase. A couple of the participants had to be encouraged to part with the said scarves, but I insisted that they were the property of Wonderland, by order of the Red Queen. So "Off with their heads!" if they didn't hurry up and comply.
I then left them to the rest of their party, bowing out and grabbing a cream cake off the table as I departed!
All in all a lot of fun. The organiser wanted about an hour, but I ran over. It might be classed as breaking professional boundaries, but since it was my first hen party and I felt I was gaining experience, plus I was enjoying myself just as much as the hens, I don't think that mattered, and I know they didn't mind at all! Reading back through this account, I did an awful lot and I can't believe I packed so much in! And I still left them wanting more. I had no costume malfunctions (apart from getting my ears caught in some fairy lights) and I don't think I mumbled or hid at anytime. The only thing I wonder at is whether I got 'stuck' in certain moves. Maybe the layout of the room encouraged that limitation in me, but I'll have to look at the photos/film to see. But the feedback so far has been positive, and I've already had requests for further bookings.
So for me, my one and only hen party was a positive experience. It's all about entertaining as Kashmir said, but I still think you can do that without crossing any boundaries of mis-representing the dance tradition (in how you dance and in how you talk about it). Okay - a man dressed as a March Hare dancing on a chair surrounded by slightly inebriated women wearing Mad Hatter hats all pretending to be teapots isn't exactly a tradition I've heard of either, but I hope you know what I mean!
Great thread and congrats on a performance well done. You'very done us all a favor by creating a template for future hen party dancers. Thanks for taking the time to detail it. Not that I'd have the nerve to ever do one... Jim
“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Good on you, Duvet! Thanks for the story.
Each week, we all go out for dinner after class. It's 8:00 p.m., not many people in the place except the other Wednesday night regulars, and no one really thinks about attire. Recently, a local business owner asked my students to dance in front of her store during a community-sponsored art walk. They'd have done it just for fun and because she's an ex-student herself, but she gave everyone henna tattoos in return. The walk was over about 6:00 and we all decided to head to Our Place for dinner. I looked at my dear little group as it trooped up to the door and realized just how blasé we have become about our attire. I was the most conservatively dressed: I had on a floor length plum caftan embroidered in gold metallic thread, outrageous earrings, and sported fresh henna on my right arm from wrist to elbow. :lol:
Oh, I remember my bachelorette party! It was beautiful! My wife and I had two bachelorette parties, but we ended up meeting and continuing to celebrate everything together. I had a surprise for her. The program was perfect, firstly, we went on our hen parties and celebrated them in clubs and karaoke, But then she got a message that I was already home I feel bad and I'm waiting for her. She rushed home, and then everything was ready, pa hire surrey organized a musical design, lighting design and our bachelorette party continued in the form of a fabulous ball that smoothly turned into disco! The light was wonderful and the music was perfect!