Dear Student,

So this is the delayed part 2 of my “Dear Teacher” blog post from much earlier this year. I have been teaching dance since about 2010 – beginners classes at first (I LOVE teaching beginners!) and now I occasionally teach our intermediate and advanced classes. In this time, I’ve learned a lot about being a good student and being a good teacher. It takes more than just knowing the material to be either. I can obviously write an entire long list on how to be a better student, but I think that would come out as a bit condescending and maybe a bit mean – so I think this is a gentler approach.




Dear Students,

I love having you in my class! Thank you for coming and being a part of my little dance world!

First, I just want to say that having you in my class is a big deal for me, so when you don’t come it really is frustrating. I totally understand work commitments (sometimes I can’t make class either and need to get a substitute teacher in), sometimes it’s impossible to find a babysitter and other issues come up that prevent you from coming to class. I have had students come to class who work shifts and can only be there every second week, so I am flexible when it comes to missing class. However, missing class because “it’s cold” feels like a lack of commitment. Trust me, when it’s raining and storming outside, I don’t want to leave my house either! :) And on that note…

I can only put you in a choreography if you attend class. I know you pick things up quickly – and that’s awesome for you! – but that doesn’t mean you don’t need practice. Working as a unit takes time and it is very obvious when a student doesn’t come regularly and tries to slot into a choreography.

There are soooo many reasons for being chosen for a choreography. I would love to put everybody in, every single time, but it’s not always possible. Sometimes we have to pay to perform and our studio happily carries that cost, but we can’t carry the cost every time for 15 students to be in a dance, sometimes we need to work on stage space and sometimes it’s just about aesthetics! But often times it comes down to: Who attends class, who has the costuming, who is doing the dance well, who is doing it ON TIME with the music, and (for me at least) it’s also about giving equal opportunity to perform. You may have been dancing for years and are really good, but if I am always putting you in every dance, it means one less spot for somebody who may also be really good, but with less experience. Everybody needs performance opportunities and sometimes it means cutting the more experienced dancers out of a dance to give less experienced dancers a chance to perform. :) (If you are unsure how your teacher chooses people for choreography – just ask! :) )

Want to dance more? Do a solo or choose a dance sister to do a duet with! I am thrilled if students want to do their own thing! You are an individual dancer as well as a group dancer, nurture your individuality by dancing alone! I am happy to help you with a choreography/solo/duet piece if you’d like help or want feedback. Dancers doing choreography without me makes me proud!

Please listen when I talk in class. Goodness knows I do a lot of talking, but it’s because I have so much information to share that everything I say is useful. If you can’t use it, discard it and keep dancing. On top of that, listening in class means you don’t miss important information – about performances, payment info, holiday breaks, etc. I really do say it all in class!

Ask me to repeat myself – I love getting feedback like that! I can easily barrel right through an entire exercise in a few minutes, but it doesn’t help I speed things along if you’re not getting the first part of the exercise, so just ask. (please!)

I know that sometimes it’s been a particularly shitty week and you’re not absorbing anything in class, so don’t worry – I do understand! Even with teaching, I sometimes have days where I need to check my notes 20 million times in a lesson to check that I know what I’m doing! (I am sure all my students can attest to that!) You’re allowed an “off” day – what’s more important is that on these “off” days, you’re still in class!

Turn your cellphones off/on silent and don’t check them during water breaks. It’s a huge distraction for you (I don’t really get bothered) when your phone is always going off. You’re always wondering who is on the other end and it just keeps your mind off the dancing.

Lastly, be on time! It’s such a simple one, but often overlooked. If class starts at 18:30, don’t be there at 18:29. Aim to be there 10 minutes before class starts, that way if you do run late or get stuck in traffic, you’re at least not late for class. Arriving early means you can have a chat, say hello to your classmates, settle your account with the teacher and generally just settle in. If you are late, just warm up at the back and join in as soon as you’re warmed up.


I love having all of my students in class, I love their input, I love their dedication and their crazy ideas. I want to keep up that level of closeness, but I need help sometimes to make class awesome. :)

Keep on dancing and keep on being inspired!


Your overly-enthusiastic teacher.

Dear Teacher,

In the last year I have been trying to take as many classes in different exercises as I can afford, and 2015 is the year for even more of this, including as many workshops as I can get.

I have been doing hooping, yoga, fire dancing/poi and of course belly dancing over the course of 2014 and being a newbie student again has helped me a lot in my teaching, so I thought I’d do a quick little letter to teachers everywhere, from a student’s perspective.

Top R: Me in September Bottom R: Me in December I still suck at it, but small improvements are still improvements!

Top L: Me in September
Bottom L: Me in December
I still suck at it, but small improvements are still improvements!

Dear Teachers,

I love your teaching, or I wouldn’t be in your classes, so please don’t get mad when I tell you what has been bothering me. Sometimes I just don’t like what we’re doing and it doesn’t gel with me (physically or otherwise!) Don’t take this personally.

Please explain a new sequence to me in different ways. Everybody learns differently (a blog post on this soon!) – sometimes I am not sure which learning method will work for me at the time, so try them all!

No, we are not even a little bored of you repeating yourself. Please keep doing that so that I can finally get that incredibly tough sequence into my head! I know you’re bored because you’ve learnt it and now have to repeat it over and over, but we’ll let you know when we’re bored too.

Ask me if I am doing alright! I’d love to give you feedback or ask you a question, but sometimes I’m too shy to ask in case my question comes across as a stupid one.

It’s so easy for me to forget all the important things I need to be doing with my posture and my feet, hands, hips, waist, chest, head, neck, shoulders, knees and thighs that sometimes one of them will slip my mind. A gentle reminder of where I need to be helps wonders and it keeps me focussed on what I am doing. I don’t mind being singled out.

Occasionally I have an off day and nothing wants to stick. Please just ignore me when that happens – I’ll be better the next time!

I’d love to chat to you about setting goals for myself. Telling myself I want to learn X is one thing (and easy to ignore!) but telling my teacher is a whole new world and means I might actually have to commit to it!

And finally, thank you for all the hard work that you put into your classes. I love it!


Your dedicated but mostly useless student.


The Bellydance Blog comes to YouTube!

I have been thinking about doing this for quite a while, and I’d like to do more YouTube videos on common topics that keep coming up in the belly dance world. I’d perhaps even like to revisit some of my old posts in video format.

Let me know what you think and if you’d be interested in seeing more videos! :)

It’s terrifying putting yourself online like this – so be nice! :)


Racism in Belly Dance



*warning: this post contains my opinion. If you don’t like it, stop reading and go and look at photos of puppies and kittens* This is also a wordy post with no photos.

*If you would like to get riled up; read this: *

Wait, what?! This blog is supposed to be about all the light and fluffy stuff, right? And RACISM in BELLY DANCE?! How on Earth do those two go together? (This is what I imagine you all to be thinking, when in reality I’m sure you’re just a bit nosey ;) )


So a few weeks ago, one of the top belly dancers in South Africa was tagged in a video on Facebook of her dancing at a workshop, alongside a drummer. A comment was made on this video that said: “How about giving other cultures a chance too.” Followed by this, when asked to elaborate:  “There are many unique lovely cultures here but belly dancing belongs to easterners and westerners. We don’t dance with our bums out instead of in. Brutal but true.”  (Spelling errors fixed, but otherwise copied-and-pasted)

(in pink is our problem lady)Untitled-1

The dancer in the video was a black woman. Now, why didn’t I mention it at the start of the story? Well, because it simply. doesn’t. matter.

The statement made by the dancer shocked everybody in South Africa, to the point of her being banned from performing at some events all over the country. Dancers all over rose to offer words of support to the dancer who was attacked and it does make me quite proud of our community – to see that we are not tolerating those who think like that. Not only are there incredibly inaccuracies in the statement/insult, but it’s just plain racist.

But this whole incident got me thinking about who is “allowed” to belly dance and who isn’t. What makes it more acceptable for one person, and not another? Mere skin tone? Because if that is the case, as a pale white African, there is probably a lot I shouldn’t be doing! (Like calling myself African? ;) )

Cultural Appropriation

So cultural appropriation is a topic allll on its own, and if I were to go into a lot of detail here, I think I’d end up with pages and pages of info. Basically, cultural appropriation is when one culture adopts elements of another culture. I believe that this isn’t inherently bad, but it can be a slippery slope. This has been done (especially in art) for thousands of years.

How does this tie into belly dance? Well, there is a school of thought that belly dance should only be performed by those of Middle Eastern blood. Now this will exclude a lot of people in the world (there are 1.3 billion people in China who “aren’t allowed” to belly dance by that logic) and quite frankly I think it’s a bit ridiculous. Belly dance has a notoriously dodgy history and I have never read a single article that can pinpoint its exact country of origin. There are assumptions, yes, but there is no proof.

This whole thought of belly dance not having a specific country of origin (Turkey? Egypt? Morocco? *insert country here*?) has an appeal to it, in that it is a dance form that allows for everybody. We often hear “anybody can belly dance” preached from the rooftops by dance teachers as well as statements like “belly dance at any age!” and “size and weight irrelevant!” and I think that is part of the appeal for a lot of people.

I think the key to doing it correctly is honouring and understanding the cultures it comes from. Although I believe there is no clear indicator as to which is the country of origin, we do have a general idea of where it comes from. And let’s face it – if you’re performing Egyptian style belly dance, then you should understand and appreciate the culture of Egypt. Even more so if you are performing folkloric styles that feed entirely off the cultures they come from.

This ties into race because a lot of people believe that it shouldn’t be performed by people who simply aren’t of Middle Eastern descent. They also tend to view it as an insult when non-middle easterners perform belly dance. (we are “stealing their cultural heritage”) I totally disagree with that.

I think belly dance has made the shift from being a cultural dance (originally) to being art. I think that this changes how it should be viewed. Women in the USA performing cabaret belly dance are not doing the “cultural” side of it, but I think rather the “art” side of it. So I think it’s evolved past the point where it is just for one culture or country.

I think that people who believe that it is insulting for a non-Middle Easterner to belly dance are trying to hold onto the art form and essentially not allow it to grow. Art is something that grows, changes and shifts into different directions. Wanting to keep it “pure” just holds it back and I think actually hurts the art form far more than it helps.

I don’t think that just because somebody else is doing it, that it takes away from what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you allow it to bother you that somebody out there is doing something that you love to do and that you associate with “you” or “your culture” or “your family” – I believe there are deeper problems than just “That’s mine! You’re not allowed to do that!”

In essence, belly dance is a SOCIAL dance and from all the history we’ve seen, it’s always been that way. I have never heard of it being a spiritual dance (historically, that is) and I was always told that it was performed in social settings.

I don’t see why this can’t transcend cultures and be a “world dance” rather than belonging to X or Y or Z.

What we get out of dance is universal.

We get body acceptance, a sisterhood, a feeling of unity, fitness, confidence, focus, memory, creativity and coordination. These are things that transcend race and culture.

Belly dance is a universal dance form that belongs to all of us. I think as long as we treat it with respect, don’t go out of our way to insult the cultures it comes from, it will continue to grow and belong to us all.


*warning again: this post contains my opinion. If you didn’t like it, go and look at photos of puppies and kittens* :)


(as a side note: is it “bellydance” or “belly dance”?)


Henna: My hair dying experience

As a child, I was one of those kids with the bleach-blonde hair and blue eyes. As I got older, my eyes darkened, as did my hair. I started to be more conscious about tanning and skin damage and all that jazz, so I stopped spending as much time outside in the sun. As a result, the blonde in my hair faded and went to this dull mousey brown/ash blonde colour. My hair itself was very shiney and healthy, but the colour just wasn’t very exciting.

I then spent some time browsing the internet, hitting forums, Google Images, Pinterest in search of advice about dying hair with henna.
I posted on my Facebook status that I was thinking about dying my hair with henna. Wow! What a blow up that turned out to be! I got a bunch of people all commenting and telling me how bad henna was and that I would regret dying my hair. A few people warned me that this was permanent and irreversible if I didn’t like it.
Between all these negative comments were one or two people saying that they never had any issues with henna and actually loved it.

I was initially quite discouraged at this reaction. Not nice wanting to do something & have everybody tell you what a bad idea it is!
After getting over the initial discouragement I set about to do even more research about henna. I found this incredibly helpful blog post about henna: Click here

I recommend reading that link as it talks about real henna vs other things that are dangerous and bad for your hair.

I had dyed my hair previous in 2010, and the colour faded and just generally looked “blah” after 2 months, so henna sounded like a good option.

One of my friends, Roxanne, helped me with doing my hair (she helped with the initial 2010 experiment, too). Roxanne and I have been friends for the last 10 years, and when I told her I wanted to dye my hair with henna & asked if she could help, she winced and then said ok, she’d help. A great friend – she knows telling me “no” would just make me more determined. ;) (I found out later she just winced because she had no idea how to use henna)

As no post from me is complete without photos, here are they:

Before hair. This was taken months ago. Around May 2013.

These photos were from a shoot I did with a good friend & fellow photographer, Adele Kloppers for use on my website. She also curled my hair like this! (I’d have her curl it every day if I could…)


Had my hair cut at Neil James salon. (nicest hair cut I’ve ever had!)


Random back yard shot taken the week before dying my hair.


VERY IMPORTANT: I did a test strand first! I took a tiny bit of hair & dyed it with the henna to see how it would react & to see what colour it would go. This was the result:

It’s important to do this incase your hair reacts badly with the henna. You never know and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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I don’t have any photos of what the henna looked like in the pot, but mine came out quite brown instead of the green colour that many other’s reported.

I looked this up & figured out that henna can go stale & can turn brown as it gets old. Since mine had the right texture and smell, didn’t burn my hair off, I figured it was alright.

Henna goes the lovely texture of mud when you start to put it on. This makes it incredibly messy and difficult to apply. Get a friend to help out.


I wrapped my head in the towel & cling film for 4 hours. We watched series, spoke crap and ate a lot of food. (I went to the shop in this towel… :/ ) I also smeared Vaseline all over my hairline to stop my head from dying. I checked on it every now and then to make sure it was ok.


I then removed the towel & we washed my hair while kneeling in the shower. Not very glamourous. Roxanne then dried my hair with a hair dryer.

And ta-da! (there’s Roxanne in the background!)


Still slightly wet, in the sun immediately after: It was MUCH MUCH more orange than this. It was scary orange at first. However, henna does take a few days to “settle” and come to it’s true colour.

IMG01812-20140110-1750 IMG01813-20140110-1750

The next day:


And now, the truer colour: It is actually darker than this in person, but it’s SO difficult to get the colour right on camera compared to what my eyes see.


Check out that shine!!


A quick pros and cons list of using henna:


* No chemicals! True henna doesn’t have any chemicals or additives.

* You can use it repeatedly. Because there are no chemicals, you can use it a lot more often than conventional dyes.

* Makes your hair healthier & shinier. Also strengthens hair.

* It doesn’t make your hair darker/lighter, it just changes the colour of the hair by adding red/orange.

* Cheap compared to conventional dyes.

* Leaves hair feeling thicker & full of body


* Permanent colour. This is both a pro and a con because it means you have to wait for your hair to grow out. I have heard you can dye over henna, but I can’t vouch for that.

* Difficult to apply & very messy.

* Time consuming. I had to sit for 4 hours with the henna on my head, but I didn’t really mind.

* Can loosen natural curls (no idea why, I don’t have curls, but I have read that this happens.)

So there you go! For the people that told me not to do it… oopsy! Looks like I didn’t listen ;)

I love the way my hair looks now, and when I decide not to continue with the henna, I will just let my hair grow out. I’m not fussed about that.

Have any henna experiences? Let me know below!

Here’s the pin-able photo: (Or click here to repin my pin)


Bellydance Bra: A How To Tutorial

First post of 2014! One I promised to do nearly 5 months ago… oopsy!

Life got in the way a bit in 2013, but I’ve promised myself that I’ll write blog posts more often. I need to get into it for my photography site as well, so it’ll be a year of blogging!

So this post is a bit of a tutorial on how to make a bellydance bra. I don’t promise that this is perfect or the only way to do it. If you do something differently to the way I do – let me know in the comments below so I can try out your methods! As they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (ew.)

First, you need to find a bra to work on. This means doing a bit of shopping. Try on different shaped bras to see what suits you best. I find that this “sweetheart” styled bra fits me quite well and makes me feel very secure, which is really important since you’re going to be (hopefully) flinging yourself around in it.


Check that the back of the bra isn’t riding up. That is a sure sign that it doesn’t fit properly! A good bra should sit relatively low in the back (as this lifts the girls up in the front), the straps shouldn’t dig into you & you should be able to do the “arm test” (scroll down to see that)


When I try on bras, I do this silly looking test that I call the “arm test”. I lift my arms in front of me (as illustrated below) and I see if the bra gapes. If the bra gapes, then I usually don’t buy it. Simply because if I am in the middle of a choreography and want to lift my arms in front of me, I won’t be able to do so without flashing the audience. (Not sexy)


Like I said, silly looking. :)



I encourage you to always buy bras that are “multi way”. This is because if you want to make halter straps, the bra is already designed to be able to move that way. If you buy a bra that doesn’t have the multi-way function, and you make a halter neck, it will distort the bra and make it gape.


I recently bought bra cups at our fabric shop. I still want to try them, but stuck with what I knew for this tutorial.


What you will need:

* Fabric of choice

* Scissors

*Thread (in the same colour as the fabric, unlike me. Don’t do as I do…)




And optional: A sewing machine.
This was the first bra I have ever sewed using my machine. I just used it for the straps, as other parts of the bra are too thick to sew through and I didn’t have the right needles.

It just means it goes faster and is slightly neater.


Not optional: Delicious snacks to get you through the process.


* Interfacing

Below I have a photo of a bunch of different types of interfacing. From top to bottom:

* A reasonably thick vilene. Doesn’t bend when it’s folded & is not the iron-on stuff.

* Buckram. Very hard & difficult to sew through. Best used for reinforcement.

* A thin vilene. Thin like tissue paper. Not ideal for building straps.

* Thin buckram. Flimsy & soft. Not ideal for building straps, but useful for extra reinforcement.

* Denim (not pictured) I used this for AGES for building my bras & belts. Soft, long lasting & easy to work with.


I cover my bra. I usually take a corner of the fabric and try pinning it in different ways before cutting it. Cutting is very final. Buy extra fabric if you’re worried about it.

I first pin the top and then the bottom. The top will always be pinned the same way, but at the bottom you can either use a dart (folds sewn into the fabric to give it a 3-dimensional shape) or ruching (gathers of fabric used to form ruffles.)

I spent a good 2 hours pinning my bra. I wanted to show you how a dart would look, as well as ruching (which is what I went with in the end)

Pinned at the top:



A very messy dart:


Ruching Pinned: (lots of pins!)


Ruching sewn.

With ruching, I just sew at the bottom of it. I don’t sew further up the cup because I don’t want stitching on the cup as it will be visible. I don’t know if this is the correct way to do it, but it is the way I do it.



Cut out straps. I used the first Vilene mentioned above to make my straps. I had a pattern from straps already lying around that I had cut out of the thin buckram.


Placed the pattern on the Vilene. I folded it to end sooner because I wouldn’t be making straps that connect in the back. This is up to you. I

I folded my vilene in half and drew one pattern. I then cut through the 2 layers so that they would be perfectly equal. It also saves time.


I used this handy little pen to draw on my vilene. It fades in 48 hours or so, so it’s perfect for mapping out your pattern on fabric.


I place my strap onto my bra to see if it fits. I made a mark with the pen to show where I would need to cut it.


Before making a commitment to making the straps, I check out my stash of loops & rings that I’ll be using for the straps.

With this, you want to make sure that your loops aren’t much bigger that your straps. If they are, they tend to move around and can end up not fitting quite right.


I added grosgrain ribbon to my straps for extra reinforcement. This is a new thing I am testing out. Seems to work well!


Now, take a break and eat one of your snacks. Hmmmm. Chocolate.


This is the bra with the straps covered & one of them pinned onto the bra. Covering the straps is as simple as putting the fabric over it, pinning & sewing. Nothing fancy or difficult there.

Note that the original bra straps are still on.


The backs of my bras are always insanely messy. I have started lining my bras (you will see why in a bit) but that can only be done once it is totally decorated.


One half of the bra has a top decoration on it. This is just a silver lace I bought, and folded over the top of this bra.


The inside again.


I used my loops on the back straps of the bra, and pin in place. I hand sewed this because my machine can’t get close enough to the loops. (I tried & broke a needle in the process)

At this point, you can cut off your side straps. You can see in the picture above where I cut mine off. Usually where there is a bit of boning in the strap.


Next, make your top straps. Using vilene (or your base of choice) and grosgrain ribbon, sew them together & cover them in your fabric. Pin to the bra & sew in place. (Again, I did this by hand)


Ta-da! You now have straps!


Adding the loops to the top straps & sewing in place.

Then go outside and take some photos in your fabulous new bra!


Below you can see the reason why lining is so important. the tiny bits of fabric will sneak out of the bottom of your bra and show. (I have no idea how to line stuff – I just make it up as I go along!)

Harem Pants & Necklace: Also by me! ;)


Back of the bra:

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You can see that it is still very rough, but I am fine with that, as I will be covering all those seams.

I know some of you like to pin my stuff, so I’ve done this picture below that you can use as the pinned picture:


If you cant seem to pin it, find my pin here (click click) and feel free to share! :)

If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know in the comments below! I love to hear from you!


New Costume

In the last week, I decided to make a new dance bra. My older ones don’t fit as well as they should and I felt like they weren’t very adjustable. We have a performance coming up in October and I wanted something that I at least felt comfortable in.

So I went to the fabric shop, saw awesome fabric and bought it. I then realised I needed faux suede to go with my new fabric and bought some the next day. I spent my evenings making and embellishing this bra, and finished it in a couple of days!

Here is the bra I have been working on:

BRA! CostumingSept13

This is also the first time I’ve ever lined a bra!


I realised half-way through that my last bra “how-to” got pinned on Pinterest a couple of times and it had brought lots of people to my blog. Since I was half way through and hadn’t taken any photos of said bra, I decided once the work craziness has died down a bit (October-ish) I will do a tutorial for my blog. With prettier pictures and proper step-by-step instructions. (After all, prettier pictures means getting Pinned more often!)

In this upcoming tutorial, what would you like to see discussed? 

I also have some cool ideas for blog posts, so hopefully after the tutorial and work-craziness I’ll be able to post some more. :)