6 Belly Dance Costuming Tips for Zill Performance by Sahira

6 belly dance costuming tips for zill performance with sahira


Got a zill performance coming up?


How do YOU decide which costume to wear for your zill performance?


Have you even thought about pairing a costume to your zills?


Today we’re in for a treat. 🙂


We have a special guest, Sahira, at Sparkly Belly today! 😀


If you’ve seen her performance, I think you’ll know what I mean. I consider her the queen of zills.


She transforms zills from a cute prop to a serious musical instrument and dance partner. (She even dances with zills only…. NO MUSIC!!!)


So how does someone who loves performing with zill choose costumes?


Below Sahira will reveal her secrets. Enjoy!



Sahira zill performanceFirst of all, let me just get this out in the open: I love zills!


No really… I border on obsessed with finger cymbals!


I have an ever-growing collection that currently stands at about 15 pairs (it would be more but my entire previous collection was stolen out of my car about six years ago!)


And I don’t just like to collect them… I like to play them too!


Correction: I LOVE to play them.


In fact, I don’t believe I ever go out on stage without them! (OK… I can think of a couple of times this is happened – but it is definitely the exception and not the rule.)


I use zills for cabaret style and for tribal, with live music, recorded music and no music at all. In fact, making my own music with my zills is probably my most favorite thing of all!


While many dancers may be content with just one pair of finger cymbals I think that owning just one pair is like owning just one belly dance costume! How could you possibly express yourself and everything you want to say through your art with just one costume? Do you get where I’m coming from?


So when I am getting ready for an upcoming performance I think carefully about my costume and my zills!


In general, when I am performing with recorded music just about any set of cymbals that I own will work. Although I will admit I almost never play my smaller zills anymore… They just don’t have the power and hutzpah that I am looking for!


I will often match my finger cymbals to my costume – choosing silver zills to wear with a costume with silver accents or brass zills to wear with gold for example.



 Then I think about the tone of the performance.


If it is live music or a particularly loud venue I love to use my Saroyan Afghanis in brass or silver or my Saroyan Pros in silver… those things are really loud!


If I am dancing to recorded music in a restaurant setting I will choose slightly less boisterous cymbals. At the moment I am really loving my Grecians in silver and my Ghawazees in bronze.


When I am dancing a folkloric or tribal improv style performance I almost always use my Afghanis or Ghawazees. These have a deeper, earthier tone that seems to blend perfectly with the dance style and music I use in these settings. And big cymbals really fit the look of the tribal costumes more as they match with all that delicious chunky jewelry.



 The most exciting of all choices comes when I decide to perform acappella using only my zills for music.


Here the sky is the limit and the possibilities are endless! I have performed acapella with just one set of zills. In this case I have typically used my Afghanis because I love the size, feel and the easy ability to switch between various sounds with these cymbals.


But sometimes I like to mix it up – playing more than one set of zills for mixed sounds. I even recently dove headfirst into the deep end and played five zills on stage at the same time! What was magical about this was the melodic possibilities that it unlocked for my performance.


Choosing zills and costumes for an cappella performance is really fun because you are limited by nothing. You can really listen to the notes that your cymbals play and pick notes that mix well together. (Yet another reason to own more than one pair!)


What totally suprised me when I did this last performance with five zills was that the tonality of the cymbals completely dictated the feel and style of the performance that I was going to give. I had already planned in my head to wear my super sparkly turquoise and burgundy Aida Style costume for this performance as it is one of my favorites!


Sahira turquoise costume with zills


But when I began working with the tones of the zills I realized the melody they created sounded like a soothing wind chime and made me visualize spritely nymphs in a forest! (I kid you not!)


So the costume needed to change. I ended up choosing a super soft and feminine bra and belt sets with a diaphanous circle skirt in muted earth tones… green, brown and dusty pink. It was just the feel I needed for the piece!



 So as you can see, choosing to dance with zills opens up a world of opportunity in your performance! If I could give you some advice and choosing zills and costumes that will enhance your performance and make you shine on stage it would be the following.


  1. DO consider your venue first. Smaller venues and softer music call for a lighter sound with your finger cymbals.
  2. DON’T use really loud zills in a small restaurant setting unless the music is really loud. Sometimes they make babies cry!
  3. DO use larger, louder zills when performing with live music or on a big stage.
  4. DO have fun matching your cymbals to your costume. If you are playing just one set of cymbals choose the costume that works best for your dance and then pick zills to match the color or style of your costume.
  5. DO consider using tan colored elastic in your zills to make them less noticeable on your fingers so they blend more seamlessly with your costume.
  6. When performing an acappella zill piece DO experiment with using two different sets of zills and allow the tone that they produce to drive your dance and the costume you choose.


When performing with finger cymbals there are very little rules that dictate which you should do! The most important thing is just that you choose to use them! Happy dancing!



Was it an amazing post or what? 🙂


You can go ahead and check her out at:

Sahira’s website:

Sahira’s online studio:

Sahira’s favorite zills in the world:

Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube) @SahiraBellyDances


DID YOU KNOW that both Sahira and I are part of this year’s Bellydance Bundle?


That means, you can get both Sahira’s and my courses plus 20 more programs at a fraction of the price!


If you fell in love with Sahira in this post (or if you’ve always loved her!), try her course inside this year’s Bellydance Bundle!


In fact, this year’s Bellydance Bundle instructors are quite AMAZING –> Have a look here!
Hope you enjoyed this guest post by Sahira, share love and share this post with your dancer friends! 🙂


And if you’re interested in getting more belly dance costuming tips and DIY ideas / how-to tutorials, sign up for my newsletter & get access to my free email course, Belly Dance Costume Making 101 below:


Click here to sign up for my FREE email course Belly Dance Costume Making 101!


Thanks for reading, and keep sparkling!



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