Many dance traditions include props in their performances. Props are especially effective tools when dancing a ballet or contemporary piece set in a foreign country. In addition to the sets, costumes, and music, consider the impact the right prop can have on your dance performance. Props can indicate the culture you are evoking while allowing you to be more creative with the choreography. Dancing with props can enhance your choreography and help in character development and storytelling. The correctly chosen prop can add an otherworldy or avant-garde element to a contemporary or experimental dance piece.
Sword dancing is a common element of cabaret belly-dance performances. You can also add this prop for Middle Eastern character to the Arabian Coffee role from the Nutcracker ballet. Integrate swords into a jazz fusion number to an Arabic pop song. Folkloric dance forms from North Africa also include balancing a pot, a candelabra or a tea set on the head. Look to these styles for inspiration for your own dance pieces. Remember that dancers use swords specifically made as props for belly dance, so do not attempt to dance with a regular sword.
Evoke a Spanish or Japanese flavor with a fan. Act out the character while manipulating the fan to add a cultural flair to your performance even if the choreography is not completely "authentic." The fan is an important prop for Kitri's character in the ballet version of the Spanish classic literary work "Don Quixote." The actresses in the film "Memoirs of a Geisha" demonstrate impressive movements with their fans as part of the Japanese classical dance form. Dance with one fan or with a fan in each hand to further impress your audience.
Contemporary, classical and folk dance forms around the globe incorporate fabric as a prop in their performances. Large veils are often used in contemporary belly dance routines to evoke an air of mystery. Folkloric forms from Mexico use the skirt as a prop. The deliberate swirls of the movement of the skirt become part of the dance. Ribbon dancers from China hold a long ribbon attached to a stick, which they use to make graceful shapes in the air in accompaniment to their movements. Modern dance pioneer Loie Fuller created memorable works by dancing with large pieces of fabric held to mimic the look of wings. Experiment and let your creativity show.
Pamela Ann Ludwig has lived, worked and studied on five continents. Her articles can be seen online at various websites. She holds a Master of Arts degree in history from San Francisco State University and has experience teaching different dance disciplines as well as English to speakers of other languages.