Middle Eastern Dance
Candelabra Basics
Below you will find basic information on buying, fitting, and caring for your candelabra.

Buying a Candelabra
Buying a good Shamadan can be difficult.  Some dancers have their's custom made from existing quality candelabras
while others buy the pre constructed for dance versions that are usally made in Egypt.  Most of the dance ready ones
are not so dance ready as they may appear and will need to have some modifications and adjustments made.  You
generally don't need to buy them decorated with extras and adding your own "pretties" to it can be done fairly quickly
and easily and can be made to match specific costumes.  Usually they will come in two standard sizes the smaller
holding 9 candles and the larger holding 13.  The ones that are made for dancing are generally screwed together with
arms and center pieces movable.  This can (and does) make for some very wobbly and in many cases unusable props. 
When your looking for one keep in mind that you can fix the wobblies to some degree but if the center pieces don't line
up to be very straight horizontally then it's not going to work well no matter what.  The center column must line up and
be straight.  Second thing to look for is to make sure the head band is both adjustable (most are nowadays) and oval in
shape.  You will want a snug fit and if the head band is circular as opposed to oval it will never do this (or will require
extensive reshaping).  Most are adjustable by a screw and a series of drilled holes.  So what can you expect these
pieces to cost?  Well if you buy them directly in Egypt you can expect a better price which will depend on your ability
to haggle.  If your buying in the US from a bellydance vendor it will be pricier because of course they have to make a
profit and already had to haggle for the pieces as well as pay shipping, customs, etc... which gets passed on to you the
consumer.  Getting one custom made is probably the most expensive choice.  In Egypt you can probably find them as
low as $40 us dolars, average US retail ranges $100-$150.  There are some very nice German ones on the market but
for state-side buyers this is an expensive and difficult option.  Although the German ones are hand made and made to
fit your specific head measurements (and have pretty designs) they cost close to $400 and take at least 6 months to
have made (not including shipping time).  Usually the best bet is to just buy one of the cheapies knowing you will have
to modify it.

Stabilizing and Fitting You Candelabra
First thing you'll want to do is to clean all your pieces (if it's already assembled disassemble it).  You want to remove
any dirt grime and manufacturing oils from the metal.  You'll want some fine grain sandpaper to sand any sharp edges
you come accross.  There are a few ways you can go about stabilizing the pieces.  1.  If you or someone you know is
handy with a soldering gun and or if you want to hire a professional you can have all pieces soldered or welded
together to create permanently fixed pieces.  This is however somewhat expensive if you have to hire out.  2. Your
second option is to use bonding adhesives for metals.  (preferably for brass and/or aluminum since that's what most
will be made of).  You can put it on as you assemble the pieces and it should give a very strong, long lasting hold. 
These types of bonding adhesives generally have noxious fumes and require a long drying time (some up to 72 hours)
before really handling.  They are also often a little messy to use and may require mixing portions together.  3.  You can
buy several sizes of rubber washers and plumbers tape.  This is a non-permanent option and will loosing with time but
is easy to re-adjust and fix.  You simply wrap plumbers tape around the threads of any screw-on pieces which tightens
it up.  Rubber washers provide a buffer that also tightens up the space (this works especially well on curves because it's
hard to get a tight fit without a flat to flat connection).  You may even find some metal washers are needed.  Once
you've got everything stabilized and sturdy it's time to start fitting the shamadan to your head.  You will want to have
padding inside the headpiece and headband to create a comfortable and snug fit.  Make sure you add (or possibly
replace) a padding  before doing any other adjusting or fitting around your head.  Foam padding can be purchased at
upholstry shops and sewing supply sotres as well as most craft stores.  You will want to cover the foam with a fabric
lining.  Velvets usually work well for this.  You will want to cut the fabric so it cover most of the foam and then glue it
to the foam and then to the inside of the headpiece.  You may need thicker (or thinner) foam along the top to get it to
sit right.  The bottom of the headband should sit just above your eyebrows.  Once you have your foam in place its time
to fit the piece snugly.  You may find that the holes that make it adjustable do not match up so be prepared to drill a
new hole if necessary.  Tighten up the screw in the right place so that the headband fits snugly but not so tight it hurts
your head or will cause a headache.

Candles and Fire
Real candles are of course the most spectacular for use in shamadan but battery operated candles are sometimes
necessary.  When using real candles you need to be aware of fire hazards and hot dripping wax.  Ideally you should use
no-drip smokeless candles (they do smoke and they do drip but it's considerably less than regular candles) and you
should make sure you keep the wicks trimmed.  Candles should have a snug fit but you can also melt a little wax into
the holder and sit the candle in the holder with the melted wax to give it a nice snug fit.  Taller tapers and skinny
votives look best.  Be aware that wax will drip and can (read and does) get on your costumes, hair, and skin.  Be aware
of this when choosing your costuming.  If you prefer or have to use battery opperated candles (whether you have to
follow laws about fire hazards or because you simply don't want to drip wax all over you $1000 Madame Abla orignal)
Try to use medium to tall tapers.  It will look better if you get ones that have "realistic flicker" lights which randomly
flicker to prodice a similar effect to a flame flickering.  They often have choices that look like there are drips coming off
the candle to make them look more realistic too.  Think about the logistics of how they will turn on as well.  Some turn
on by pushing down on the flame, some have a switch on or near the bottom, and a few even have remote controls to
turn them on and off.  You will want to secure the fake candles in the base as well.  You can use some type of putty or a
double sided sticky tape, you could even wrap rubber bands around the base of the candle to snug it up in the base
cup.  Make sure whatever method you use you test it out to make sure the candles stay secure.

Taking Care Of Your Candelabra
After each use make sure you dry it out (the foam and fabric will probably be wet from sweat and should air dry).  You
may also want to spray the lining and foam lightly with a deodorize and/or antibacterial.  Wipe off any moisture or
liquid from the metal and make sure to remove any wax that has dripped on it.  You can rub it down with a soft cloth to
polish it up and clean it.  If you notice any signs of oxidation (rust) you may want to use an appropriate metal cleaner
and if it gets bad you can use a fine sandpaper to remove the rust and you may want to try rubbing a metal oil (look for
sword oil) over the spot that is oxidizing.  Make sure to remove any oil before lighting any candles though.  You may
want to find a box or bag large enough to hold you candelabra in so you can protect it when moving and storing it.
Dancer performing with a Shamadan.
DANSE ORIENTALE - La danse du sabre. chromo. 1880