Fan Veils

Yesterday I took Mahtaab’s workshop on dancing with fan veils. I’ve done no veil work of any type before — when Irkosily Veil (the studio’s beginner veil choreography) was taught recently, I couldn’t take it because of scheduling. So this was my first experience with any kind of veil/fabric work in bellydance.

If you don’t know what a fan veil is, do you remember those folding “Chinese” fans? They have a bunch of skinny bamboo blades all fastened together, and there’s a wide strip of paper cut in an arc that covers the blade. Open it up, and use it to fan yourself when it’s hot. In the South they are often referred to as “parlor fans.” Imagine that, but instead of paper, there is a layer of thin silk fabric covering each side of the bamboo blades, and one of the two layers extends out as a rectangle beyond the end of the blades. The standard fan veil length is 1.5 meters, apparently, though you can also get 3 meter long ones (which I can’t even imagine maneuvering).

Fan Veil
Fan Veil

We first learned how to open and close them effectively. You hold it gently in your hand and SNAP your wrist to get it to open. Closing them is just pushing the sides together. We spent some time just getting used to the movements and learning how to get the air underneath the veil so it would float beautifully. You can make big sweeping arclike moves with your arms that the fan veils will follow, or you can make little short movements that ripple the veils quickly. Part of the trick is to make sure that you are moving them gently but vigorously to get the most “float” out of them.

Once we practiced waves and arcs and ripples and fountains, Mahtaab had put together a little combination for us to practice with. It wasn’t long, just about a minute or so, but you could really get the feel of how the fan veil worked in combination with your dance movement.

This is a prop that I want to play with more. I can see using it in cabaret-style dancing more than I would use a regular veil, perhaps.

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