This is a sort of public service announcement.
If I say “Nice costume!” to you, it means I like your costume, I think it’s pretty and you look nice in it. That is all. It doesn’t mean “Your dancing sucked!”, it doesn’t mean “Your technique is awful!”, it doesn’t mean “Never darken the stage again with your appalling presence!”. It is not a calculated insult and I wish people would stop claiming it is, because it just plays into the myth that all belly dancers are catty mean girls. “Nice costume” means your costume is nice, nothing more, nothing less.
I’m a bit worried now that this scene may have played out somewhere:
“Hey, I saw you talking to Emma. What did she say?”
“She said I had a nice costume.”
Ridiculous, isn’t it? I’m slightly afraid to compliment dancers now for fear of accidentally insulting them. Rest assured, all my compliments are genuine and the words used have their accepted dictionary definitions, not a secret mean girl code. I’m fairly sure that’s how most people operate too 🙂