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What's a good product for beginners?
Smaller is better when starting out. Giant props are show stopping; however, they are generally more difficult to wield and you run the risk of getting tangled. Shorter fans (40-50”) in standard stave size, three yard standard veils, shorter weighted veils, and standard streamers are all fabulous choices.
What's the difference between a weighted and unweighted veils?
The straightforward answer to this would be that an unweighted veil is a lightweight piece of silk and a weighted veil has weight sewn into one of the corners. The two move quite differently through space.
An unweighted veil lends itself well to soft, and symmetrical movements. The lack of weight and gossamer material allows for loft and “hang time” in the air. A final consideration is that unweighted veils have been a staple prop for belly dancers for 70 years, meaning there is a wealth of information (much of it free) for you to learn from - which is why I would suggest unweighted veils for beginners.
Weighted veils are dynamic, linear, and surprising! The added weight makes for faster movements. Weighted are fun to dance with and can add an extra punch to performances.
Caring for silk
Dyes are heat set and should bleed MINIMALLY when washed; however be wary of deep and light colors touching when wet (for example red and white) as there may be some transfer. Hand wash in cold water. I’ve used Dawn in the past the remove dirt stains with great results. Be aware that lightweight silks are loosely woven, so do not rub aggressively or wring out. To remove excess moisture scrunch and roll in dry towel. Hang to dry.
Silk wrinkles, but wrinkles are easy to remove. I prefer to iron my silks. The downside to this is it may create static. If this is the case I love Static Guard spray!
Steaming is another method. Travel steamers are cheap, easily accessible, and make you very popular backstage. Some silk dancers will even hang their silks on a hanger in the bathroom while showering. The excess steam can help remove wrinkles.
Lamé and poly silk can be steamed, but do not iron. With some lamés I’d suggest embracing the wrinkles. The holographic lamés in particular end up looking like crystalline formations - just rock it!
Wear and Tear
All materials will eventually wear out over time. If possible it is best to avoid touching the material directly to prolong the lifetime of your prop. Flags, for instance, have a cotton grip for this reason.