Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Is the public (and the jury) having a good time, are they happy and enthousiastic, awe-inspired or moved to tears? Or are they bored stiff? Most people have an attention span of approximately one minute so you will have to find ways to keep the attention going. With too much is going on and no breathing space the audience will get exhausted and lose interest. Lack of variation causes boredom. Put too much 'wow' at the start and the rest of the piece will disappoint. Part of the performance requires sound thinking but leave out the emotions and your performance becomes sterile. You can put in all kind of trics and jokes and surprises and smile from ear to ear, but if your performance is fake people will notice. Your audience needs to resonate with your personality to make the connection. It doesn't matter what your style or personality is. A very exhuberant piece can score as highly as an introverted intimate picture. At the end of the day the big questions is: was the public moved by your performance? There are no real trics to accomplish this. It certainly helps to be thoroughly prepared and know your dance by heart so you feel confident on the stage. Another good starting point is to be clear in your intentions: do you want to make the people laugh? Well, good for you! You want to make them cry? Go for it! And last of all: be authentic. Don't restrict yourself to series of techniques or movements or a narrow vision of what a bellydancer should be and look like. An authentic bellydancer is always a pleasure to behold.
Your performance starts while you are waiting in the wings and ends when you have left the stage. As soon as you enter the room the jury starts judging you and your entrance is the very first impression it gets, so make sure to make it count.
A beautiful image starts with a 'wow'-entrance and a gorgeous outfit. Your costume should have a perfect fit, enhance your beauty and personality and be appropriate for your dance style. Hair is often undervalued but a good hair style and accessories make all the difference between looking slightly amateurish and highly polished. As for jewelry: there is no such thing as too much glitter and glam. Make-up is the finishing touch. A stage make-up requires a different approach than your every day look, for stage light tends to make your face look 'flat'. Be generous in your application of color, accentuate your eyes and lips, 'sculpt' your cheek bones and avoid brownish colors for they will look 'muddy'. You may want to invest in a few tutorials to master this art which is also great fun.
A confident demeanor adds to your attraction. Belly dancers have a reputation for being expressive and extroverted, projecting their energy and liveliness toward the public, but an introverted dancer who draws our interest by her enigmatic smile and showing us occasional glimpses of her inner life can be just as intriguing. As long as introverted does not become shy and extroverted fake and 'in the face'. Your most precious asset is your own personality and if it radiates through your dance in an authentic and natural manner, you will certainly grip your audience, whatever your temperament.. The image you want to project will also depends on your style: a mysterious veil dance or a cheeky melaya leff require different attitudes, to say the least. Immerse yourself in the the mood you want to portray, the energy you want to project, the story you want to tell: than make sure that every detail fits the total picture.
Composition is the way your choreography is structured in time and space. Composing the spatial elements of a dance is like drawing a plan for a building. What does the facade look like, and the sides and the back of your house? Does your building consist of horizontal and vertical lines or are there also diagonals or even curved lines. Be precise in your undulations and accents and remember to present different sides of your beautiful self to the public: frontally, in profile or with your back. Body-alignment makes all the difference between sloppiness and elegance: your head and arms should make well defined and visually appealing angles with your torso.
And what about the space you're using. Even small buildings can be quite impressive and so should be the personal space you are occupying. Are you making yourself small like a shy little bird or are you soaring like an eagle with attitude? It pays off to give the floor-plan of your house the same attention as the facade. Can you draw interesting lines and curves on the floor and translate them into patterns of movement that add interest and intrigue to your performance. Which brings us to our next aspect: the structuring of your dance through time.
Like the piece of music that you are dancing to, your performance should have structure and internal logic. Chaos in your dance is confusing and exhausting to look at. Repetition can be used to add structure to your dance and variation to add interest. Variations in speed, levels, orientation and direction can be employed to spice up your performance and give it that certain je ne sais quoi, Most dances start relatively calm and build up momentum toward the grand finale which gives you ample opportunity to get to know your public and to save the most juicy, the most attractive, the most spectacular moves until just the right time, when public and judges are most likely to fall for your grace and charm.
If you are dancing a duet or in a group the possibilities are sheer endless. Please don't fall into the trap of trying to synchronize each and every move, which may be attractive in a chorus line or river dance but quickly becomes dull, obvious and uninspiring in a belly dance duet. Don't make it look like two persons are accidentally dancing the same solo, but really try to complement each other, interact with your partner and your public and let your unique personalities shine through. This is even more true for group performances. Groups offer excellent opportunities to play with formations, floor patterns and all sorts of repetitions and variations. You are not only building houses on stage, you are building a whole bustling city.
The members of the jury will cast a very critical eye on that particular aspect of your dance that's called 'technique' and they do expect a flawless execution. One way to improve your technique is to videotape yourself and watch yourself objectively (without beating yourself over the head). Are your snake arms flowing, are your hip kicks sharp and crisp, are you stomping around on the stage or placing your feet elegantly? You may want to brush up on your basic shimmies and isolations, which is always a good thing, even for the most seasoned and professional dancer.
Attention to detail will earn you these precious extra points and give you that certain edge over your competitors. It pays off to be aware of the characteristics of your particular style: posture, arm placement and foot work are slightly different for - lets say - an American Tribal Style and an Oriental dancer. Be aware of the singularities of your chosen style and use them to your advantage. This is even more important when dancing in a fusion style. In that case the jury will judge both styles. In other words: when combining e.g. Spanish floreos with Oriental undulations, make sure to execute both movements flawlessly . And last but not least: if you mix two syles, don't throw in bits and pieces of style A into style B, but blend them together into your own unique performance. After all you don't want to present a drab and confusing picture to the audience, but a genuine, exciting and original piece of art.