Now that is the question!
I myself am a fan of using props, appropriately, in a bellydance show. I tend to gravitate to veil, 4 yard veil, double veils, fan veils, or fabric in general for the way it moves, glides, and extends the moment and the tension of the song. I also think that as an architect (by day), it is in my nature to want to solve a puzzle and figure out how that prop can best be detailed. How far can I “stretch” the material? How does it work when adjacent to this move? What is the context for this prop? What is the symbolic meaning and metaphor of the form represented by the prop in question?
I do believe there is a danger though to overusing props. When a dancer is no longer dancing, ignoring technique, and only wielding said prop, something intrinsic to bellydance is lost. In this case, I believe the prop is now more of a crutch, a security blanket, to hide you from the eyes of the audience. (As a personal side note, perhaps I need to choreograph a piece for my security blanket, I shall call it the woobie dance!)
So the question is, how do we avoid the “prop as crutch” trap? One suggestion, brought to my attention by Lisa Zahiya, is to practice the piece without your prop. Pay attention to your posture, your hands and arms, your feet, and your technique. Is the piece enough without the prop? If you answered yes, then you are on your way to a proptastic performance!
Another answer, brought to my attention in an early morning private lesson with Sherena of Ohio, as we were working with double veils, is to make sure it isn’t all about one move, i.e. spinning. Intrigue is added to any performance by slowly introducing the prop in hand, not immediately jumping into the spins. Introduce stops and dramatic pauses. Introduce stillness in your routine when the audience has time to reflect on the fact that what you are doing is really difficult and “whew, now we have a second to breathe!”
Now, I am interested in your thoughts on the matter? Are you a prop lover or hater? How do you use your props and when?