New video

So here is a video, of me in studio last night. I love this song by Beats Antique and I finally decided to just try a bit of improv!

I obviously see a lot of mistakes and things I can do better in. I like improv though and I’d like to try and get better at it. I am actively working on dancing more and doing yoga more often, so I want to document any progress I might make.

Seeing yourself on video is a double-edged sword. It’s cool that I can see what I’ve improved on, but at the same time it shows me what I still need to do.

I’m trying to see that in a positive light – that I have never learned it all and that there is always so much for me to do! It’s a never-ending journey! 🙂

My Makeup Transitions & Some Tips

I have said before that I know next to nothing about make up. I was always hopelessly lost when I needed to buy new things for dance and I ended up just going with items that clearly showcased my lack of knowledge. I’m almost embarrassed to post this, but I do want to show you how far I’ve come in my make up choices!

I’ve also said before that I grew up with a mom who didn’t wear a lot of makeup – which I’m totally grateful for now. Because as nice as it is to know how to apply makeup properly, it’s even nicer to have a mom who taught me that appearances aren’t everything. After all, make up is a skill you can learn if you practice enough.

Since I started working, I realized how important it is for me to wear a bit of makeup. I find that I look too young (and in people’s minds, therefore inexperienced) and makeup helped me age a bit. Every month or two I’ve bought at least one new makeup product. Nothing over R100 (+-$10) but just enough to play around with.

So if you’re not experienced with makeup, or can’t afford the high-end products, don’t worry. You can learn how to apply makeup and you can do perfectly fine with cheaper/drugstore products.

I started out with using incredibly cheap products. Pretty much whatever I could get at any R5 Shop or Mr Chen Superstore was the kind of thing I would go for. After all, I started dancing and performing when I was 16, so R8 for a bunch of eyeshadows really was the only thing that was affordable for me.

My first performance ever (in 2007), in which the eye makeup was inspired by makeup that could be found in the Sims 2.

Below you can see one of the looks I would go for at the start of my Tribal Fusion career, typically:

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Mainly a liquid eyeliner. Actually… only a liquid eyeliner. I was messy with it and didn’t really know what I was doing.

I did get better years later at the eyeliner, but also started experimenting with eye shadows. I also started watching YouTube tutorials to learn a bit more about makeup. Since I didn’t know what I was looking for, I watched random videos and picked up a few hints from them. One of them being the use of sticky-tape to create a solid winged line by your eye. I did this for a really long time, and I actually want to try it again sometime, using my newer knowledge of makeup application.

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Not being used to make up, you can see in a lot of these images that I was too light handed with my shadow and I should’ve been piling it on a lot heavier. If you’re not used to makeup, any makeup is a lot to wear!

I am lucky in that my studio occasionally has a “dress up” class where we get to wear new costumes to test out, or try new hair/makeup tricks. I used a lot of these classes for experimenting with makeup and I’m very grateful for that – otherwise I might still be doing the liquid liner…

I also started to use concealer (very recently actually – only about a year ago) for performances because I have quite bad under eye circles and it became more noticeable when I had darker shadows on my eyes.

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Here are a few things I’ve learned that you might find helpful too:

  • NO LIQUID EYELINER!! That deserved both of those exclamation marks. Use the liquid eyeliner to… *gasp* line your eyes, don’t do the entire thing in plain ol’ black eyeliner. Yucky.
  • Blend Blend Blend! Swiping your eye shadow over your eyes and walking out the house never looks nice. Take time to blend your eye shadows out so that it gently fades rather than abruptly stops.
  • Using JUST a kohl/pencil liner on your bottom lid doesn’t make for very pretty eyes. It tends to make the bottom lid look heavy and very harsh. Either tight line (upper water line) your eye or blend it out so it’s not a hard line.
  • Using cheap products will NOT take you a long way. You don’t need to buy ridiculously expensive products either – just be an informed consumer by reading reviews before buying.
  • False eyelashes. Wear them. You don’t need to buy the super expensive ones like Ardell (which go for between R50 – R90 here). If you want to test falsies out, buy the cheapies at the China shops for about R10, but definitely buy quality glue! The stuff that comes with the cheapies is mostly useless.
  • Mascara is your friend.
  • Filling in your brows is something that people seem to not talk about very often. Ever seen Zoe Jakes without makeup? Nearly no eyebrows. On stage? Super amazing eyebrows. That girl knows her brows. Honestly though, it’s important to fill in your brows if you’re performing. Having thin brows makes them disappear on stage and it can look a bit strange. (also, really thin/non-existent brows is NEVER flattering!) If you ARE going to fill in your brows, use a powder to do so. Loads of brands stock an “eyebrow kit” for doing exactly that. *
  • Don’t go for a lipstick that is too dark. It can often look black and black lipstick is never flattering. EDIT: As Rasha Nour pointed out in the comments – don’t wear a lipstick that is too light/natural either or it can fade away. I think your best bet is to go for a vibrant red or bright colour.
  • Use YouTube. There are plenty of YouTube gurus who can help you out with ideas and tips for the perfect look for you.
  • Make sure your foundation matches to your skin. Nothing is weirder than seeing somebody’s face is shades lighter/darker than the rest of them.

I’ll be writing another post soon about some of my favourite YouTube gurus and makeup videos – if you’re interested!

Here are some of my more recent make up looks, and I think I have improved dramatically!

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And my most recent, taken just a month ago at International Bellydance Day!

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I hope some of this was helpful to you, and if not, I hope you had a giggle at my earlier makeup. It’s a bit cringe worthy, but hey – what was your makeup like when you were 16? 😉

I didn’t want to talk about buying things too much in this post, because I believe that there are plenty of makeup blogs that cater specifically to that, and I also don’t believe that expensive products mean better results. It’s often about how you apply the products, and there are plenty of cheaper brands out there that are perfect for dancing.

To finish this post off – I do think that knowing how to do your makeup is a very important skill to have if you’re a performer of any sort. With the internet and YouTube tutorials, there’s no reason you can’t learn!

Until next time! *waves*

*I have a bit of a thing about eyebrows.

Casablanca Nights & Oriental Dreams

It’s already March, and I’ve failed to post these photos and videos from November last year. Oopsy! I kept meaning to, but thought that perhaps I should write something interesting instead of just posting videos and photos.

I have since failed to think of anything interesting to write, and while there are a few vague ideas for blog posts in my head, most of them are rubbish and I get sick of thinking about them for a while.

So instead, I’m going to post tons of photos and videos from the 2 performances in November. I’ll start with Casablanca Nights.

Casablanca Nights was a dance showcase hosted by Anita from Moondance Studios. Anita asked our troupe to perform 3 pieces at the showcase, and of course we were happy to do so! Anita is really a wonderful woman and I always enjoy spending time chatting to her. Our troupe performed 3 pieces, 2 of which we have on video. The third piece we performed was our choreography from the Oriental Festival, which you can see in my previous post.

I performed a solo piece, and I must say, I’m getting quite into performing solos. They may not always be as interesting to watch as group choreographies, but I find such a creative freedom when I perform solo – mostly because if I mess up, nobody knows! This choreography was a piece I created a while ago, and I posted a video of me performing it for the first time. Since then, I’ve forgotten the choreography and now mostly improvise with a few set moves thrown in for stability.

Anyway, here it is, and a SUPER HUGE thank you to Paula for taking the video and to Kash and George for the photos! ❤

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Behold my abs! Seriously though, I’m super proud of my stomach for coming to the table and showing everybody what I’ve got. Yay abs!

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The troupe also performed our 2012 creation, Lunar. Every year we try and learn a very difficult choreography from a dancer. This year we chose to learn from Sera Solstice, and did her choreography from her DVD, Lunar. Sera doesn’t teach the choreography on her DVD, but does all the combos on the DVD and then a performance at the end, so there are some changes that we made to suit us, but roughly followed the choreography.

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Later in November, Leoni (Firefly) and I performed at Layla’s Oriental Nights Hafla. We had a really great time there, and I performed a new dance that unfortunately didn’t get recorded. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll be doing it again, so I’ll have something to show you. 🙂 But there are photos!

Firefly performed a fire dance with her poi and the crowd really enjoyed it – it’s definitely something different and adds an element of danger to the performance!

Crappy cellphone photo before the show!

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And I think that concludes my looong blog post. I hope you enjoyed the photos and video – I’d love to hear your thoughts. Hopefully a better blog post soon. 🙂

x

The Oriental Dance Festival 2012

What a crazy time the last few months have been! Just when I think I can catch my breath, there are a million and one other things to do! I guess this is life for most people, eh? It makes me all the more amazed that you all still find time for kids, partners, family, friends, dance, work and other activities! I sometimes wonder if there are enough hours in the day…

At the end of last year (can you believe 2012 is over?!) Maya Troupe performed quite a few times, and we also did a photo shoot with the photography company I’m working for! I’m hoping to post all of that in the next few days, starting with the videos and photos of performances.

In October, as per usual, we performed at the International Oriental Dance Festival. I got the chance to meet some lovely ladies who had flown down from Joburg to perform at the festival and gala evening. What a treat to meet such wonderful women! They were so friendly, and I hope they found Cape Town as welcoming and as warm as they were towards me.

The festival consists of 3 performance days – the Thursday is usually the gala evening. I’ve never been to a gala evening, but I’m hoping to go this year. On the Saturday and Sunday , the Fringe Program runs all day. Belly dancers are constantly performing in the tent all day, from 9am – 5pm. They have short breaks and alternate between the huge tent they set up and the amphitheatre.

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Dancing in the tent – thanks to Tarryn for the photo!

Frieda (our studio owner and troupe leader) made these wings herself! Many threats were made and much cursing happened during the making of these wings. I think the results are totally worth it. They’re super original, beautiful and I love that when she opened them up you could hear the crowd say ‘ooh’!

(I am second row on the R. 🙂 )

For the first time, we performed at the amphitheatre this year! It wasn’t as nice as I was hoping, and the ground was incredibly hot, so we ended up wearing our shoes. I hate dancing with shoes, but luckily this dance didn’t have much travelling. Both days went really well, and there were no serious mishaps, except some of the troupe being a bit late on the Sunday, which caused a bit of stress amongst those who were there early.

It was an incredibly hot day, and I am fair skinned, so I tried to stay out of the sun. It resulted in me wearing a scarf over my head and Leoni and Nadine calling me a vampire. (Thanks guys!)

As usual, the weekend was really fun, and I had a good time trying out the new makeup I had bought.

I can’t think of much more to say except that the performances went smoothly and we’re looking forward to performing again in 2013.

Datura Online: A review!

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Today’s blog post is going to be something a bit different to what I usually do, instead of talking about myself and what I’ve been up to, I just want to share with you a review I wrote about Datura Online.

If you are an avid Internet user, and browse sites like YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, you’ll have heard of Datura Online. If not, I’ll tell you a bit about it. Datura Online is a website that offers online belly dance classes, yoga and pilates conditioning and covers anything from drills to choreographies. The site and studio is run by Rachel Brice and Sol Crawford. You can see the short promotional video for it below:

I do want to be completely honest with you and tell you that I was approached to write this review, and was given a month’s subscription and full access to the site in order to write a comprehensive review. I was told that if I decided not to write the review, I was welcome to just enjoy the month’s subscription and I was under no obligation to write anything. Of course, I’m incredibly keen to write a review, because I think more people should know about Datura Online and they should be aware of what options they have available to them.

In this review I will discuss my first impressions, the site usability, payment options, content, site features and my overall star rating.

First Impressions:

The very first thing I thought when I logged onto the site was; “wow! What a lot of content!” There are so many things to choose from, and I didn’t know where to begin. My advice would be to go onto the site with an idea of a class or subject you would like to learn about and take it from there.

I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to websites. If I can’t find a website easily, and can’t find what I’m looking for easily, I don’t want to be a client or create traffic for that website. It’s the 21st century and websites have now taken the place of that all important first meeting. Websites ARE your first impression.  I also studied graphic design and if a website has bad design, I run far away. I am pleased to tell you that Datura Online didn’t bother me at all. The site was user-friendly, designed beautifully with ease of access in mind and you won’t spend ages on it trying to figure out where to click.

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 Site Usability:

I did mention under “first impressions” that the site was beautifully designed and easy to use. I asked my mom to access the site and see what she thought about the layout and how easy it was to use. She was happy to see lots of information in the “about” tab, because she’s the kind of woman who loves to read the manual before operating the machine. 🙂 She said that it was easy to use and it had an intuitive layout that even she could use.

There are 6 different tabs at the top of the site that allow you to choose what kind of class you would like to take. You have teachers, style, level, topics, duration and class type. This helps narrow down your search for the perfect video MUCH easier. Only have 15minutes? No problem, just hover over duration and choose the 11-15min option. I find this especially helpful because we all know that a lot of dancers work 9-5, have kids and a husband/wife, attend classes, make costumes, etc. The list just goes on. It’s a really helpful feature to have when you’re pressed for time but still want to get a little something in.

Something that I quite liked was that when you hover your mouse over a video of a class, it came up with a description for that class. This means that you actually don’t waste time when searching for a class, it’s all right there.

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The site was well thought out and beautifully made to make it easy to use.

Payment Options:

My subscription was activated for me, so I didn’t actually purchase anything, but I can tell you how it works. You can either pay $35 per month for unlimited access to the site for 30 days, which means if you wanted to watch the same drill video every day for those 30 days, you could. You could even watch a new video every day for 30 days for $35. $35 translates into ±R300. Class fees in South Africa are around R250 – R350 a month (from what I’ve seen) and R300 a month for classes when you want them is a really reasonable amount to ask. If you aren’t interested in paying R300 a month, but would rather pay for the classes you take, there is of course an option to do that. You can rent one video at a time, and it is available for a subscription period. (Click here to subscribe)

Payment can be done through PayPal, and between you and me, I think Rachel Brice is trustworthy, so don’t hesitate to do classes, even if you’re scared of paying for stuff online. 😉

I was also told that in 2013, Datura Online would be introducing new ways to pay and enjoy classes. They will be offering limited subscriptions for a lower price. (Seriously, this is sounding like a bargain!)

Content:

So.Much.Content! And they just keep adding more. Datura Online offers several teachers, which I found great because even through a video, you have to connect to your teacher. I did one or two lessons with Ashley Lopez, and although I think her dancing is to die for, I didn’t like the way she taught – it just didn’t “speak” to me. I far preferred the classes from Rachel Brice, but I’m glad that she isn’t doing all the classes, because I know quite a few people who don’t like her style of dance or teaching. You get a chance to learn from some of the best teachers on offer and it’s great that you can pick and choose who you can do classes with.

Something I LOVED – and just want to stress so much – is that there are classes from several different teachers in DIFFERENT STYLES! You might be inclined to think that just because it is run by Rachel Brice, it’s all Tribal Fusion. But it’s definitely not. Datura Online boasts (and they’re allowed to boast!) classes in American Cabaret, Tribal Fusion, ITS, American Tribal Style®,Classical Egyptian and more.

They also have guest teachers, like Amy Sigil from Unmata and are slowly adding more teachers that we can learn from.

Overall opinion & my experience:

Reading this review, I know it seems like I’m just gushing about the website, and don’t have a single negative thing to say. There are reasons for this.  The first one is plain and simple: I am very impressed with this website. It’s something that I think the dance community has needed for a long time and I do want to encourage others to use it.

I haven’t taken as many classes as I would’ve liked, which really sucks, but we’ve hit summer very suddenly and it’s almost too hot to move, never mind do anything else. I did try and take classes that I wouldn’t normally take, as well as some classes that did interest me. A word of warning though: to those thinking that a 30min class can’t get THAT tough – you’re wrong. Very wrong! I specifically chose my first warm up to be a short one – only 11 minutes. I was definitely warmed up after that! These classes aren’t designed to be easy or to make you feel bored. They’re relatively easy to keep up with but a little bit challenging too.

I do have grievances with the site, the first one being that I do wish that during the warm ups, the teacher would do a demonstration first, then go into the move. Sometimes you’re lying on the ground, or have your head facing down or away from the computer/tv screen and it’s very difficult to see from that position. It would make it just a little bit easier to follow.

My big problem with the site was also the video player. It automatically selects a video quality that matches your internet speed and doesn’t seem to “load” like a YouTube video. So even if I paused the video and went away for an hour, it would still only load as it plays. This is a problem for me because I live in South Africa and my internet connection is a bit slow. I don’t have unlimited data or a super fast connection and I prefer a super high quality video, even if I have to wait for it. The fact that I couldn’t find an option to select the quality was a low point in my experience.

I also had an issue with the video player with one of my classes where it got stuck and had to load in the middle of the class about 10 times. It made it very frustrating and difficult to keep up with the class that kept being interrupted.

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What I would like to see from Datura Online:

Growth is the biggest thing I want to see from Datura, and they can only do that if we take classes. I would like to see even more content added to the ever-growing library of classes they currently have going.

Something I’d really like to see in the library are more lecture videos. Something I always enjoy when I purchase a DVD is the little bit of extra info they sometimes put in it, like a quick music theory lesson, a lesson in anatomy or something about the history of belly dance. I think that there are loads of people with so much information to share and it would be incredibly valuable to be able to learn a bit more from them.

I would personally love something along the lines of music theory, because I can dance to belly dance music and Arabic rhythms, but I can’t explain it to anybody else because I have no theory to explain it.

Another thing that might be useful to have would be costuming tips. There are lots of things out there on the web (as you saw from my costuming post a while back) but I’m sure there is so much more to learn. Some people might not want videos like that, but I think it’s valuable to have information out there online that we can potentially send students to look at and learn from.

FINAL WORD!

So, the (very long) review is at an end. I would just like to thank Sol for giving me the opportunity to write this and be honest in my review. I think that this is wonderful website and the entire world is very lucky to be given an opportunity to be able to learn from the very best in our industry.

To my readers: this will make an excellent study buddy. I DON’T think it should replace your actual classes (because nothing can replace learning from a teacher in real-time)  but this would be great for that week when you can’t get to class or during the long summer holidays when most dance studios are closed.

This would also make an amazing present, and Datura has made it possible for you to gift a subscription for somebody else. Presents are great for any time of the year – even if there isn’t a birthday, Christmas, Hanukah or any other gift-giving celebration.

I hope you found this review helpful, if you have any questions about it, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below.

Have a blessed and safe holiday season!

How to: A belly dance bra

Here’s my list of excuses: I haven’t felt inspired, I’ve been really busy at my new job (yay!) and I’m lazy.

At the end of July I was offered a position at a photography studio in Somerset West – Digital Moment – and I accepted! I have a good friend who has been working there since the beginning of the year and I must say, since I started, I haven’t stopped! There are photo shoots almost every weekend, events to cover, and tons and tons of editing work to do afterwards!

A couple of weeks ago, a fellow troupe member ( Hello, Cheri! 🙂 ) asked me about constructing a proper dance costume and although I don’t think I know a lot about it, I ended up rambling and realized how much info I do know. I’m no expert on the subject and I have had many failed projects that I quietly unstitch and throw away, never to be spoken of again. Although I get irritated at the waste of money, I have learned a lot from it and I think that I’m qualified in telling people what NOT to do! Enough so, that this is what this blog post is all about.

A lot of the things I’ve learned when it comes to costuming are things I picked up from reading many, many blogs about it. At the bottom of this post is a list of useful links and blogs to help you make a costume successfully! (And all of those ladies are far more accomplished seamstresses than me!)

Anyway! Back on topic.

I lay in bed last night thinking of all the bits and pieces I have to talk about, so I’m going to cut this blog post into two pieces – one about bras and one about belts. So here is all the info I have on bras!

Selecting a bra for a costume

My first advice is to know what size bra you are! I’ve never been measured, because in South Africa our lingerie selection is rather poor and I have previously bought 2 bras that were exactly the same size on the label and the same make, same colour, same bra, same everything! When I got home they fit me completely differently! I am a 32D and I struggle to get bras that fit me properly, so what I do is I will try on a 34C, 32D and 34D just to see what fits me best. You’re going to have to do this too.

  • Try on a bunch of different bras – you never know what might look flattering on you! Remember, don’t go for a specific colour, you’re going to cover it up anyway. I personally find that Ackermans’ Mosaic Range sells a lovely shaped bra, that I find suits me quite well. It’s their generic bra section, just a plain white bra. All of these bras are the same base, bought from Ackermans:

  • Make sure the bra cups are STIFF. If they are too soft, they will collapse the minute to try to embellish them! There are ways of reinforcing a bra if you’re going to do a lot of embellishing/heavy embellishing on them. I’ve never needed to do that, but Shushanna (link below) has a section on that if you want to learn how to do it! To test the stiffness of her bra cups, Shushanna has this great trick of placing a small ceramic bowl on top of her bras, and if they don’t collapse under that weight – she carries on! 🙂
  • When choosing your bra, try and choose one that has changeable straps. In other words, one of those bras where the straps can criss-cross at the back or be removed entirely. The reason for this is so that if you decide to do a halter-neck style bra or even a criss-crossed back like my blue costume in this post, the bra cups won’t move around! If you take a regular bra and make a faux-halter neck, you’ll find that the bra cups gape and it looks quite ugly. The same thing will happen if you take a regular bra and give it a halter neck or criss-cross back.
  • This next one is a personal preference, but perhaps something you haven’t thought of before. If you are small chested – follow the diagram below. Buy a bra that fits you! Small chested woman tend to wear bras that cover their nipples – because they don’t have much chest muscle/boob to cover up. All big-boobed girls can tell you that your boobs start on the sides of your chest! Not in the middle! If a large chested woman were to wear a bra that only covered the nipple, she’d end up with side-boob leakage. Same applies to small chested woman! Wearing a bra that covers your nipple but not much else also makes your shoulders and chest look INCREDIBLY big. Small chested woman have a huge advantage in that they can easily make a halter top without a worry of falling out of it. (I’d love to have one, but this is a huge fear for me!)

Check out my drawing-in-a-hurry skills!

  • If you struggle to find a bra that fits you around your chest (ie. The number part of a bra – 32D) try on bras that fit your boobs, but perhaps are too big (or small) around your chest. The reason for this is that you should make new straps, so the size of the straps doesn’t really matter. And seamlessly (heh) onto my next point…
  • Cut all of your straps off your bra! I usually keep the straps on until the last minute, just incase something goes wrong. I also make my straps with denim fabric. It’s cheap, I have a lot of it and it goes a really long way! I know of other people using buckram and grosgrain ribbon, but I’m not sure we get that at our fabric stores. I never cut the straps off at the bra base either. Most bras have that tiny vertical line on the straps, close to the bra base. Sometimes it has a small piece of wire in it, other times it’s just folded fabric. I cut it off on the outside of that strap, so that I can get the angle right when adding side straps. Here is my “pattern” for side straps, if you’re interested:
  • Always, always, ALWAYS cover your bra! There is no excuse for this, except laziness! Your bra shouldn’t look like lingerie. It should look like a costume bra, part of a bedlah, whatever. Just not like something you wear under your clothes. My suggestion would be not to use stretchy fabric, but cotton or something similar. For a first-time costumer, I wouldn’t use a chiffon or “slippery” fabric. I wouldn’t use anything too shiny either, because shiny fabric tends to slip a lot. It can be very frustrating! Another useful tip when costuming is don’t be afraid to layer fabrics! This is something I still don’t do enough, but when done correctly it can look amazing and really unique!  (Ozma does this beautifully!)
  • When you’ve cut off your straps, added new straps and covered your bra, you’re ready to begin embellishing your costume! This is probably the most fun part for me, because I feel like I can be really creative from this point on. It’s also exciting because I can cover up any mistakes or ugly sewing I did! Hehe! My first piece of advice is to throw the glue gun away! Yes, yes, glue is quick and easy. But it’s not so quick and easy when you make a mistake or want to change something. Learn to sew sequins and beads onto fabrics – start with a square of scrap denim and try out some patterns on there and see what works and what doesn’t.
  • Try on your bra every step of the way! Don’t assume that it fits well! Sometimes small alterations have to be done, and it’s best to catch it every time you finish a step, rather than realising it at the end when it’s all done!

I hope that I’ve covered everything, and if you need to know anything don’t hesitate to comment below or contact me via my Contact page above.

The super useful links are as follows:

Ozma’s Costumes (Facebook Page) – she doesn’t give straight up advice, so you have to browse through her albums and look at her pictures because in the captions she gives a lot of advice.

Naima’s Bellydance Blog: She does excellent step-by-step tutorials and gives a LOT of advice! Her skills are amazing and all of her costumes are excellent! (And she writes about other belly dance related things too – so it’s overall a great blog to follow!)

Shushanna Designs: How to make costumes: She has amazing tips and tricks and her posts are all worth a read!

There are so many more places to get costuming tips, but those are the ones I visit regularly when I need advice! 🙂

xx

Anybody can be a belly dancer!

I was browsing through Shimmies, Sequins & Slippers the other day, hoping a new blog post would magically appear as I was scrolling. *ahem Roxanne, ahem!* Although I wasn’t surprised with a new blog post, I was intrigued by reading some old ones that are very good that I had forgotten about.

One of the posts that caught my eye was the unintentionally mean post. (I would recommend reading it here, before reading my post). In short, it was about a dancer that performed at a festival and was absolutely terrible. Roxanne just chats about whether all dancers should be allowed to perform in public – and she didn’t mean it in a mean way! (Go read it!)

I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and even asked my Facebook friends what they think of the latest phrase to be thrown around: “Anybody can bellydance!”

I’m going to be absolutely frank with you: No, not everybody can belly dance. It’s like telling a child that they can be anything they want to be if they work hard enough. Yes, part of that is true and it’s a wonderful thing to believe. But especially with art, a lot of it needs to be natural talent as well as hard work. Singing works as a brilliant example, just look at the Idols contestants every year. There are always complete opposite degrees of talent that audition for that show – the completely tone deaf that make the “Wooden Mic” reel, the people that can hold a tune, and then those with exceptional voices. I don’t know much about singing, so when I watch Idols auditions and I see those that can hold a tune get voted off, I often wonder why. The reason for this is that they can hold a tune. They can sing, yes, but there is nothing exceptional about them. They may be able to sing along to songs with no problem and maybe even make it into a church choir. But it’s a huge leap from there to being a professional. And in a competitive industry (like dance) you need to be better than good at your craft. You need to be exceptional.

Another example comes from my past – when I was younger I was obsessed with crime novels and investigation shows. I started out by reading Famous Five books, moved onto the Point Crime series, then started getting into Jeffery Deaver when I was 13. I watched shows like Bones and CSI. I even bought a “Forensics for Dummies” book. I was completely convinced that I was going to study forensic science when I left school. I was passionate and interested in it and willing to work hard at it. I ended up getting 40% for science at school, and got a tutor in who helped me get it to 60%. At the end of grade 11, I realized that I didn’t have that natural knack that some people have for science. My brain just wasn’t geared towards thinking that way, and no matter how much I trained it, I would never be as good at it as my tutor was – it was second nature for him. A completely natural way of thinking.

The reason that the “Anybody can bellydance” phrase came around was to show people how it was different from modern dance and ballet. It’s different in that it is a dance form that has no restrictions for learning. You can be any age, shape, colour or nationality to take a belly dance class. Ballet has always been a dance form reserved for the young, and although now we are seeing adult dance classes advertised, it’s still a new thing. Another big difference is that you can start belly dancing at the age of 25 and still go pro, where you can’t do that with ballet.

The unfortunate truth of it is that some people  believe that they can be a pro, because anybody can do it! has been floating around in their heads. And then you end up with a lot of mediocre dancers flooding the market and taking gigs away from seasoned pros. As well as dancers who take to the stage because they believe they are ready – after all, anybody can do it, right?

As dance teachers we need to have the guts to tell our students they’re not ready to advance to the next class or to perform on stage. There are lots of opportunities for students to perform, and if there aren’t then we should create more. Inviting family and friends to come and watch a student recital or small hafla is a great way to get dance exposure if you’re still new to dance and especially if you’re not ready (technically, artistically or mentally) to go pro.

In the end, it’s about being honest with yourself. Being honest about what you want from the classes – are you doing it for me-time, for the social aspect, for fitness, to be a pro dancer or some other reason? It’s also about being honest about your abilities as a dancer and learner. If you’re honest with yourself about your wants and abilities, there should be no problem. I know it’s difficult to admit your weaknesses, but you need to be honest with yourself to get an idea of where you are going and where you want to go.

Passion is a beautiful thing, but we have to be honest and realize that audiences don’t want to see somebody go onto stage and be passionate, but have no technique. Audiences (and other dancers!) want to see something impressive and different. I sometimes feel that a technically great dancer with little passion can go further than one with passion but no technique.

I think that as a dance community we need to have a definition of what makes a pro. Because – like we learned in school – every right comes with a responsibility. What are the responsibilities of a pro dancer? What are the rights of a pro dancer? As well as deciding what makes a dancer ready for the stage. The difficulty in doing something like this is that belly dancers don’t have a syllabus, so we don’t have a way to ‘measure’ our dancers and how to tell if one is ready for the stage. As Roxanne said in her blog, taking to the stage is an honour and a privilege and if we let everybody onto the stage, I think it loses it’s magic a little bit. Don’t you think? It suddenly becomes attainable and nobody wants to work hard for it.

I believe that anybody can enjoy belly dance, anybody can take classes and anybody can improve dramatically. I believe in student recitals (We used to do it every second term, where all the students would come together, we’d perform for each other and try out new choreographies on each other, and just DANCE together) I also believe in haflas geared towards students and giving students a chance to perform on a stage. I also believe in there being separate shows, bigger events like a showcase for when we bring in an international dancer – those showcases are reserved (in my opinion) for the professionals. I don’t even believe that I am ready for a big show like that (Although I’d love to be given the chance!).

I think the important thing here is to realize your potential, realize what you are capable of. And while it may hurt to be honest with yourself about your abilities, it NEEDS to be done. Some people are meant for the stage. Some people aren’t.

As a side note: I don’t even know if I’m a “real” performer or if I should just stick to smaller things. I love to perform and have a good time on stage, but when I watch the real pros I feel like I’m missing something. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, but maybe I’m just being honest. 😉

A slight rant about costuming

I write this blog post with a fair amount of regret & sadness.

I am regretful that those who know all these things have to hear it again. I’m sad because I have to repeat it for those that still do not know.

I’m talking about costuming and choosing the correct costume and general costume awareness. It’s unfortunate that all of this has to be said time and time again, but I think people forget and I admit – it’s easy to forget – but that’s no excuse for shabby dressing!

So the first thing I want to bring to your attention is something that seems to have slipped many a mind in the last couple of months, because I keep seeing it on reputable dancers! That is, of course, the short skirt. *cue lightning and dramatic music* So I have been seeing quite a few dancers wearing short skirts like this:

While short skirts in theory aren’t awful, it does take something away from belly dancing. Or at least, I think so. If you’re not a dancer, you won’t know that a lot of belly dance moves are powered by the legs. And not in the same way that ballet is powered by the legs, belly dance leg power is a secret affair and I feel that showing so much of your legs can take away from that “wow! How does she do it?!” effect. I remember when I started classes, I was very surprised at how much your legs move.

Another (silly) reason not to wear a short skirt is that very few people have nice looking knees. You’ll very often find that when models pose, they bend their knees in some way, or turn away from the camera. It’s not often that you’ll see a model standing straight on with straight legs. I’ve always thought that knees can look like demented cherub faces.

This next point/peeve kind of overlaps with the short skirt thing, and that is DRESS FOR YOUR VENUE. This also goes for props – because if you’re dancing at a restaurant between tables, dancing with a cane is probably not a good idea.

If you’re dancing at a venue where you have a raised stage, wearing a short skirt is NOT appropriate, not matter who you are. I have been at 2 events in the last while where I saw a lot more than I wanted to. One of them was a short skirt wearer. I don’t want to spend half the dance in a ‘car crash can’t-look-away’ mode, waiting for you to show your panties (or lack thereof). There’s only so much of your thighs I want to see.

The other one was a dancer who was wearing a GORGEOUS costume, but it unfortunately didn’t work with the choreography or the venue. It was a tight, Egyptian style skirt, and it was quite a fashionable style a while back. The problem was that it had a MASSIVE slit right up the middle of the skirt… And the choreography included an Indian style leg-open pose. I was, unfortunately, sitting right in front and could see EVERYTHING. It’s such a gorgeous costume that it deserves to be worn, all the time! I think a simple chiffon skirt underneath could make it more versatile though.

This brings me to my next point: Skirt slits.

This is a bit controversial, as I can name a number of people who disagree with me. J I do believe that you shouldn’t have a skirt slit so high that I’m distracted. Your costume should always enhance your dancing, and never detract from it. Full skirts are a lot more forgiving when it comes to slits, because they tend to fall really nicely around your legs. That being said, I think that skirts should be full, with slits added into them. Not bits of fabric with a giant gap between the front and the back. I’ve seen costumes where the dancer has 2 panels of fabric and the one on her butt barely covered it – it didn’t wrap around to the front fully, it stopped just as it got past her butt. Your lady-bits are also worth more than just a scrap of fabric. Make sure it’s covered and for GOODNESS SAKE – WEAR DANCE SHORTS. Not a g-string or hot-pants. Dance shorts.

Another trend that has come to light recently is see-through skirts. I don’t know WHY this is a trend, perhaps it’s just an unfortunate thing when buying from a cheap vendor or perhaps it’s a shock value thing.

Let me tell you, you’re not Lady Gaga. You are not there to shock people, scare them away or get religious organizations angry with you. Make sure that your costumes aren’t see-through. A good way to test this (if it’s not obvious) is to ask somebody to take a photo of you (at night, preferably) with the camera flash ON. Camera flashes are mean and usually cut through cheaper/lightweight fabric. I’ve had this happen to me, don’t let it happen to you! A way to prevent this is to layer your skirts/costume. Layering 2 or 3 chiffon skirts on top of each other will stop it from being see through.

The last thing I have to rant to you about is how low your skirt/pants sit. This usually requires a general knowledge of how the body looks. I realize that not every body is the same, but you need to find what works for you. Many a time I have seen dancers with very low sitting costumes and I am sure I am going to get a flash of lady-bits at any moment. NOT something you want your audience to be thinking.

I have a very short torso, made all that much shorter-looking by my scar, so I put my pants as low as I can get them to make me look longer. I never make them too low though. I was always told that my costumes should sit 4-fingers below my belly button. I’ve always used this as a rule, and it’s served me well. If you’re not sure – ASK you classmates/teacher. If you have a longer torso, you might need to pull up your pants more than normal because it might look low even if it isn’t that low. Your pants should sit on your hips. NOT your pelvis.

The last, but VERY important one is: ALWAYS wear a cover-up when you are not performing. There is no argument about this, there is no “but” – if you are not physically on stage, dancing, cover yourself up. It’s distracting to an audience to see a non-covered up dancer and it’s just plain rude to do that to a fellow dancer. If you can’t afford a fancy one, just do what I do and take a big coat to wear for when you’re not on stage. No excuses!

I think that’s all the ranting I can muster for this blog post, if there is something I have left out that you feel is worth mentioning, comment below. J

Also, I revamped my blog and now it looks all pretty. What do you think? x

Blue Costume Remake – a blog post of photos

Remember a while ago, I said I’d be remaking my blue costume? If you don’t remember, click here to view that post.

Well, I went to the fabric shop and got a bit carried away, as usual. BUT, I managed to buy some gorgeous fabric to use to remake this costume! And since I had finished my purple costume (A blog post for another day!) I was on a bit of a roll and I just kept going. So instead of writing out a whole long post, here are some photos of all my hard work. 🙂
As a side note, I have never done intricate beading on a costume before, so this was a first for me!

A lovely blue skirt my mom made for me. Yay mom! 😀

I chose this style of costume because of the incredible SUPPORT it gives to my… erm… girls. I’m definitely going to be doing this in future.

Another choice of skirt, I like the purple in this skirt because it brings out the purple/blue fabric in the bra.

 

As a final note: This costume is not done, I still want to add fringing to it – a small amount on the bra and then heavier fringing on the belt.

 

What do you think? 🙂

x

Cabaret VS Tribal

Tribal VS Cabaret – this is a long and involved debate, with purists and experimental types bashing heads over this argument. Since this is my blog, I am going to give my opinion, so prepare yourself!

To start off with, I am a Tribal dancer, so I am obviously inclined to Tribal and Fusion belly dance. However, I do love to do the occasional cabaret piece and of course, watch great cabaret dancers. We can all agree (I hope) that good dancing is in the end exactly that – good dancing. Just because it may be a different style doesn’t mean that it’s not good. I am not a fan of contemporary style dance. At all. But I can appreciate the skill and dedication that the dancers have. I think we should always strive to do that – appreciate a dancer, be polite and clap at the end of their performance even if it’s not our personal style.

Art is like religion (yes, I said it!) it’s a very personal thing and our life experiences and emotions will drive our receptiveness of a piece.

I don’t believe the “versus” argument. I have seen a world of belly dance where, at a Tribal Hafla, a cabaret performer was cheered on and zagareeted to. I have seen a world of belly dance where dancers from all over the country dance together at festivals, regardless of shape, size, age and dance style.

I have (and always will) believe that there is no versus is dance – people create those arguments based on their own insecurities, their need for validation and are fueled by a lack of education in dance and dance history.

I have compiled a few videos that I think illustrate my thoughts on this segregation in the society.

I wanted to start with a clip of Rachel Brice dancing at Cairo Caravan, but it seems that the video has been removed from YouTube. How odd.

Here is one I have always loved, called “It’s All Bellydance” – I love dances where we get a taste of a bit of everything!

The Bellydance Superstars – I think always good at keeping the balance of Tribal and Cabaret dancers. Here they are, each doing the same thing, at the same time but it looks so different because they have stylized it to suit the style they dance. *YIP!*

Last but not least, this is Zoe Jakes and Kami Liddle at Massive Spectacular. They are dressed slightly cabaret, and do a lot of cabaret inspired moves but they still manage to keep it Tribal! 🙂

Let me know your thoughts – I’d love to see a reply post or “proof” that one is better than the other. Go ahead. Try me. 🙂

x