belly dance

OMG it’s 2017

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I haven’t written a blog post in such a long time! Partly from feeling uninspired, personal life got busy and maintaining a dance studio, as well as my photography full time does mean that there is little time for the things I used to do for enjoyment only. Now, most of my activities are twofold – for work as well as play.

Part of re-evaluating my dance goals for 2017 was to re-evaluate this blog. I started it in 2008/9 as a way to document my progress as a new dancer and put thoughts out onto the internet. It was a great source of learning not only about belly dancing, but also about myself. God, that sounds cheesy. But I learned a lot about how I think about things, how I evaluate topics and come to my own conclusions. It’s been a great learning curve.
I did briefly consider taking the blog down, but I get thousands of views a month (sorry for never posting loyal readers!) and I know it’s frustrating when a blog you’ve been following suddenly disappears, never to be referenced again! So I think, instead of totally tanking the blog, I’ll try revive it with new blog posts! At least one a month will be a good starting point. Oh look – I’m already late for January! (what’s new?!) I do think that some of my posts also contain some of my out dated ideas, so I might like to revisit some of that.

I thought I’d like to make this first blog post about what I’ve been up to dance-wise in the last… 2-3 years. Has it really been that long?

To start, our dance studio (Maya Belly Dance Troupe) flourished and then flailed badly. In 2011, we had a huge 3-night show – and it was a great success. It was held in a forest, surrounded by trees and dirt and it was wonderful. In 2015, we started out the year with over 20 regular students. (For our small studio, that’s quite a feat!) We put on another 3-night show at the same lovely venue and this was less successful. We lost money, attendance wasn’t great, and worst of all, I was tired. I loved the performing, but the organising, spending what seemed like endless amounts of money, managing people and students – it was all a bit much. When we put on our show in 2011, we were 3 teachers and could manage the stress a bit better. In 2015, there were only 2 of us. The tide has changed much since 2011.

The overall quality of the 2015 show was amazing, and I do look back on it fondly! But the aftermath of the show was tough. A lot of students left the studio – for various reasons, both good and bad – and that left us with essentially 6 regular students. We had gone from teaching  4 classes a week – all fully attended! – down to 2, barely having enough students for one class. We lost our best dancer directly after the show. It was a tough blow. The other teacher and I had to find inspiration from essentially nothing, and carry on teaching the students that were there.

I am forever grateful to the few dancers who did stick it out – they are the heart and soul of our studio now, and their commitment to the studio and their passion for dance is not unnoticed.

I am also comforted in the knowledge that we are not alone in our studio flourishing and then flailing. I have heard from dance friends all over the world that their studios went through a similar thing recently, and it’s been a difficult hole to get out of. I know that trends come and go, and when Shakira was at her most popular (Hips Don’t Lie got me into class 10 years ago!) the studios were full, busy and thriving. The trend has shifted a few times in the last 10 years, from  belly dance to burlesque to pole dancing, so I know it’s not just us.

The fact that our studio has been going for 10 years is a huge achievement all on its own. In our area alone, we’ve had 4 or 5 different studios start up and then stop in those 10 years.

Despite knowing that we are not totally at fault for students leaving us, I have found it difficult not to take their leave personally. On the rare occasion that you hear why a student has left your studio, you can’t help but wonder “could I have done this differently?” And most of the time, the answer is no. Especially in the last year, I have had to remind myself that I can’t make everybody happy, and as long as I try and have their best interests at heart, I can’t fault myself.

SO… 2017 is the year of the student for me. I am trying very hard to listen to my students wishes and take their ideas and thoughts into consideration. We are having weekly goal setting meetings with our advanced students at the moment and we have put some effort into putting on a small 10 year dance celebration in July, which will not only celebrate the past 10 years, but also the future of the studio – our students!

That just about sums up 2015! It was a hard year, and I think we barely made it through, to be completely honest. In the spirit of keeping things jovial, I will say that 2016 seemed to be the rise of the amazing students – we had a bunch of great beginners at the start of the year, that have since become even better intermediate students. Our advanced class is working incredibly hard this year and we have some of the most dedicated students we’ve ever had, with amazing visions for their future dance.

I’m excited to see what 2017 brings. J

If I have any advice for studios that are struggling: Hold onto your dedicated students, work hard with them and don’t ever forget that they were there week after week. Go and give them a hug, or a chocolate. They deserve it! 😉

 

As part of my 2017 blogging goals, I’d also like to revisit some old blog posts. Any in particular you’d like to see me tackle again?

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Reasons you’re not coming to dance class, and why they’re crap

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1.

I don’t have time/ I am too busy to attend class

You’re busy, it’s a hectic time of year and you can’t find extra time to tie your shoelaces – never mind attend a dance class!

why it’s crap – The thing is… and this is a hard truth… you need to make time for class. If you want to attend class, you need to say “On Monday evenings, from 7-8pm I have dance” for you to ever come. People want to meet up on a Monday? “No, I’m sorry. I have class.” My mom always told me that if I had said yes to something, I was going to do it, even if something better came along. And in reality, that “something better” very rarely turned out to be better.

If you let every distraction take you away from dance class, you’ll never attend.

2.

It’s too hot

Geez. These Cape Town summers can be absolutely brutal, especially if you don’t have an air-conditioned studio.

why it’s crap – There’s going to be weather whether you like it or not. Not attending class because of weather is a bit… well, it’s a bit weird. It is hot 6 months of the year, so if it’s too hot to attend class, you’re missing out on half a year’s worth of classes! The teacher is also very, VERY aware of how hot it is, and she won’t push you unnecessarily and she’ll provide enough water breaks.

3.

It’s too cold

Cape Town winter can be as cold as the summers are hot, with snow on our mountains, it brings a horrible chill to the air! No wonder you want to stay at home, with a warm cup of tea and a blanket!

why it’s crap – What are you, Goldilocks? “It’s too hot, it’s too cold!” Well with that attitude, it’ll never be just right. We always warm up before class, and once you get moving you’re plenty warm and forget all about being cold.

4.

My muscles hurt!

Ouch! You’ve been at the gym, eh? It can be rough the day after exercise – even walking hurts!

why it’s crap – Everybody knows that the best cure for sore muscles is to exercise them even more. Once you get moving you’ll totally forget about that hectic gym session – and the next day it’ll feel way, way better.

5.

I have period pains! L

The lady time of the month totally sucks! Pain, discomfort and so much more to contend with. Sometimes, I’d also rather stay home, curled up in a ball and eating ice cream.

why it’s crap – Okay, so we covered this in the 4th point – muscle pain is made better by exercise. I have found 9 times out of 10 that after exercise, my period cramps are a lot less! Warming the muscles up and moving them around is good for you! Also, it tends to make you forget about the pains, and focus on something else.

6.

My friends aren’t going tonight

Whoo! Friends are awesome to dance with, and going to class with somebody just makes the awesome class even more awesome! But when they don’t go, it’s not really worth going because it’s just not going to be as much fun…

why it’s crap – it’s awesome to have friends to go to class with, especially when you’re just starting out. But it also means that you’re less likely to come to class if your friend doesn’t come.  Your friend can’t be there for everything you do, and if you’re an adult, you should be doing plenty of things on your own. Use it as an opportunity to make new friends, and then you’ll change your mindset to “whoo! All my friends will be there!”

7.

I have exams

Exams are really brutal and you need to study as much and as hard as possible for the exam to be a success!

why it’s crap – Your brain needs a break. You absolutely cannot study and cram for hours upon hours without a break. Dance is an awesome break! It’s 60-90 minutes (so a long break!) that forces you to think about something other than your work. Moving your body, not looking at a screen, shifting your mind to something else – all healthy ways to take a break!

  1. I don’t have my shoes/belt/dance pants with me, I shouldn’t even bother

Urgh. You’re having an off day. You’ve left your shoes/pants/belts at home and now are inappropriately dressed for class. You may as well go home.

why it’s crap – You’re looking for an excuse. Your dance gear doesn’t make you dance any better. Sure, it’s a bit annoying if you forget your veil at home and we’re doing veil work. But you can still follow along. It’s never a waste of time to come to class. Even if you need to do the exercises slightly differently, you can still learn something.

  1. I’m tired

Bad day. Long week. Irritating coworkers. All you want to do is go home and rest. So very tired.

why it’s crap –  You will have off days, and it’s important to keep dancing even though you’re not feeling 100%. If you only ever dance when you’re happy, you’ll miss out on so much. Often I find classes can give you energy again, and really help make you feel better. Come to class.

 

10.

I don’t enjoy classes

You’re not having fun anymore, it’s a chore to go to class and you don’t like your classmates.

why it’s crap –  it’s not. If you’re not enjoying classes anymore, stop doing them. Sometimes you need to re-evaluate why you come to class and if you’re still getting what you want from it. On the other hand, sometimes we need to push through times of “ergh. I don’t feel like it” and you’ll come out on the other side feeling much better. It happens to all of us, but it’s up to you to determine whether it’s a passing feeling or something deeper.

 

ONE REASON NOT TO COME TO CLASS:

I don’t have money. Please, please stay away. You are not helping anybody by attending class and not being able to afford it. If you can’t pay on time, discuss it with your teacher. If you are unsure whether you can pay at all, it’s better not to come.

 

If any of these apply to you, you may be making excuses. If you find yourself making these excuses week after week, it might be time to put the belt down and have a serious think whether this is for you or not. There is no shame in stopping if you feel you have outgrown the studio, outgrown belly dance or found another hobby. If you are wanting to come to dance again, there is always a place for you.

 

 

Thank you to Jeanne and Samantha for their input on this one! 😉 

 

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.

————-

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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!

Love,

Your overly-enthusiastic teacher.

Racism in Belly Dance

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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: http://www.salon.com/2014/03/04/why_i_cant_stand_white_belly_dancers/ *

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)

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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”?)

 

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.

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.

Dancing in the tent

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.

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