Whether you come dancing in with your veil and discard it early on, as is popular among Egyptian Style dancers or have it tucked and then dance it off in the first slow song, as is popular among Turkish/Arabic Style dancers, veils add a luster to our dance performance.
Are veils new to you or perhaps you find that you struggle with them? Does that sheer or semi-sheer piece of fabric that probably doesn't weigh more than 8 ounces end up feeling like you are trying to move 8 pounds of fabric? A simple arm exercise that strengthens the muscles you use for veil work will help you ease into veil work. Wrist Pulls at Shoulder Height - Standing with your arms out to your sides at shoulder height and your palms facing forward, pull your hands together in front of you as if you are moving through honey. Watch the elbows! do not let them dip down. Now push your hands back out again as if you are being resisted. Four to six sets of this exercise every other day will enable you to hold your arms up and out comfortable while dancing with or without a veil in four to six weeks. Will increasing the number of reps or doing this exercise every day make things work faster or better? No, not in my experience. Remember that this is supposed to be fun. If you over do exercises or dance steps and you have problems functioning the next day you are not likely to keep belly dancing.
The standard size of a rectangular veil is three yards long and a width of 45 to 56 inches. I recommend a sheer chiffon or georgette to start with. Your local fabric store will carry one or both of these fabrics in a variety of colors. 44 to 45 inches is the standard width available. You can hem the ends by hand using a short hem stitch or on a sewing machine. I find that a veil with a narrow trim sewn all around the edges helps with both finding the edge while dancing with your veil and adding a bit of stabilization to the edge, allowing the veil to flow better! Single row sequin is inexpensive and adds a nice touch. You can use a narrow woven or braided trim as well but stay away from stiff, beaded or heavy weight trims. And fringe catches on things terribly!
A nice veil-up that doesn't hide the dancer or the dance moves during the first fast track of music is the Sail Veil-Up. Check out the step-by-step pictures below! Start by holding the veil behind you with the top edge of the veil taut in your hands at shoulder height, approximately a hand width wider than your shoulders on both sides. Tuck the veil into the top of your shoulder straps of your bra top so that you have a three inch wide section of veil tucked in on each shoulder that, when tucking from out by the shoulder joint in toward your neck, you have about two inches laying on your shoulders pointing toward your neck, Now reach down and pick up the two points on the lower edge of the veil, one on the right and one on the left, and tuck these points into the hip band of your harem pants or skirt directly on the sides of your body. The two points of the top edge will hang free. This veil-up frames the body nicely and flows well as you spin and move about your dance space. To dance the veil off once the slow track has begun, reach up and pull the shoulder tucks out. Right side with the right hand and left with the left. Holding the top edge of the veil about the head and spinning will pull the veil out behind you like the sail on a boat as it catches the ocean breezes! The lower edge tucks should remain tucked in. If they pull out easily you may need to tighten the elastic or drawstring in your costume piece. You will find that a veil that is short will pull out as there is not enough fabric length. Bring the edge forward over your head by 12 inches or so and dance inside the tent you have just created! Slow isolations like snakes or figure 8's go well here. Carefully flip the veil forward over your head to the front, trying not to catch the veil on your head nor pull the side tucks out. Use the veil to frame your rib slides, stomach rolls or head slides! Now slowly pull the veil over you head, you will be drawing the veil over your hair, so practice this with whatever hear style and head dresses you will be performing with so as not to catch or pull off scarves, barrettes or hair pieces! As the arms pull the veil back and down you will end with the edge of the veil in front below your chin by some inches depending on the width of your veil. Reach forward and lift the front edge up (this is actually the bottom edge that has the two points tucked into the side of your hips) and go into either a spin or a slow turn and stretch your arms forward and out, this will untuck the hip tucks and free your veil for dancing.
This veil-up will not work with your circular veils. Watch for more posts concerning 1/2 and 3/4 circle veils!