ENTER LIKE YOU MEAN IT
Even if you don't yet feel confident enter like a star. Enter boldly. Claim your dance space. Pause. Greet your audience. Allow them time to appreciate you. You have one chance to make a first impression. It will take approximately 30 seconds for your audience to make up their minds about you. Inexperienced performers often inadvertently send out the message that they don't feel entitled to be on stage. They sidle on stage looking worried and taking up as little space as possible. Just as nervous or inexperienced speakers gabble or mumble their words in an effort to deliver their speech as quickly and inconspicuously as possible, uncertain dancers will rush their music and steps and make themselves appear to shrink in front of their audience by cutting off the movements, and looking tense and self absorbed. Rushing breaks the energy and the dancer and music are no longer one entity. Relax back into the music and allow it to carry you. Allow a little languidness into your movements.
CELEBRATE YOUR BODY
So often we learn to make our bodies as inconspicuous as possible, to take up as little space as possible, to not attract attention. While one may start dancing feeling awkward, shy, and self conscious, it does not take long for the dance to awaken and connect a woman with her own strength. The body is the dancer's instrument. Celebrate that you have ears that hear the music clearly and a brain that translates it into movement. Rejoice in hips that can execute a crisp snap or a languid circle, a soft tummy that can show a belly roll clearly, boobs that show a chest lift clearly, and thighs that shimmy spectacularly. Celebrate the architecture of your skeleton, the amazing complexity of your nervous system, the strength, flexibility and coordination of your muscles. The body that you inhabit is to precious not to love.
LISTEN TO ARABIC, MIDDLE EASTERN, NORTH AFRICAN, TURKISH MUSIC CONSTANTLY
There is no better way to learn song structure. If you want to dance to this music, it is imperative that you learn about the structure of the music, which is very different from western style song structure. You must immerse yourself in the music you want to dance to. Learn every little nuance and phrase. Read about music. Invest in some of the great resources that teach dancers about music.
KEEP YOUR EYES AND FACE ALIVE
Have a little story line running in your head. "Hello, welcome, I'm so glad you came!" works much better than "I should be smiling". "I have a secret! Can you guess it?" can add a nice twinkle to your eyes.
Use your eyes and head to direct the audiences gaze to the part of the body you want them to pay attention to. Nothing says beginner dancer like 'zombie deer in the headlight' rigor mortis of the neck which locks you into gazing fearfully straight ahead at the audience the whole time.
USE YOUR PERFORMANCE SPACE FULLY
Often we get rooted to a spot on stage, because it feels like a safe and comfortable place. Be bold. Explore the stage. Own it. Think in spatial terms- moving across the stage circumference, as well as going backwards and forwards, on diagonals, and in circles. Use level changes in your movement as well- letting your body go from high to low or vice-versa.
REPEAT MOVEMENTS FOR CONTINUITY
Allow yourself to become bored with a movement. Repeat movements. Use movements within the same family to create unity. Pick a couple of key movements and aim to explore them fully. Sometimes during improvisation, we might tend to jump from step to step, never repeating any movement out of fear we will bore the audience... but nothing says "nervous dancer" like a series of frantically paced, jumbled steps. Try to relax into the music. Repetition can be a way of unifying what you are doing technique-wise.
Onstage time will pass differently for you than it does for the audience. I call it treacle time. You may think you are appearing boring or repetitive, but it takes at least eight counts for the audience's eye to fully absorb almost any movement you are performing. You can stay on the same movement, but vary its appearance by level changes, turning slowly, or traveling with it, or layering a shimmy on top of it. Try turning your back to the audience and repeating the sam move - it will look totally different. Different arm positions or attitude of the head will add variety to your movements. Your body looks different from every angle and sight line, so your movements will, too.
Mind gone blank? Have a back up plan. Have a couple of sets of safety moves. Make good use of the combinations that you have drilled extensively in class or put together yourself. Using combinations makes a dance look polished and adds flow through fluid transitions. You may also want to use a combination for a chorus or certain musical phrase and then use spontaneous moves for the rest of your piece.
BLOCK OUT YOUR SONG
To allow room for improv, "block out" sections of your song instead of choreographing the entire piece. Decide when and how you will do certain movements or combinations, and then improvise the rest. For example, you may have a series of movements you like to do for the opening of your piece, or during a bridge or the chorus. Keep these "locked in", but experiment with what you will do with the rest of the song.