Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Good-bye, 2013!

Blowing 2013 a good-bye kiss!

Good bye, 2013! You've been a pretty good year for me, and I'm sure I'll look back at you with general fondness. We had some great times together. Sure, there were a few bumps in the road but over all, I think you did right by me. I hope that 2014 takes a page from your book and treats me right.

Some highlights of the year:

-I went to Tribal Fest and the Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive for the first time.
-Vegas was also my first time performing out-of-state!
-This was also the first year for the Beat the Heat Retreat down in Bisbee, which was so much fun.
-Tons of great performances with my troupe and as a soloist.
-Lots of new costumes in my wardrobe!
-New dance friends, and good times with old friends too.
-I took over co-hosting Open Stage.
-I started Beauty Blogging for Bellydancers.
-I wrote some blog posts that got people talking.
-That spiked bracelet in the picture above. I've wanted one for so long!
-Finished my tattoo!
-Added fan veils to my repertoire. I may have started working with them at the end of 2012, but I don't think I performed with them until 2013.
-Started taking ballet classes.

Some good non-dance life stuff, too:

-I attended two great weddings!
-When my cat got sick in September I was super worried but it turned out to be something easy to manage.
-My husband is doing great in school.
-I read so many good books. Tons of books! Geez.
-I did some beadwork that I'm pretty proud of.

But let's face it, it was mostly all about the dance and 2014 is going to be even more of that.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Beauty Blogging for Bellydancers Year-End Top Ten!

 Since I started Beauty Blogging for Bellydancers in January 2013, it seems only fitting that the last Friday of the year should be a retrospective of a few of my favorite products, ending with a couple that I haven't reviewed yet! Now, I'm not really good at ranking the things I love, so don't think of this as a "Top 10 Best Products" but more of a "the first ten things I thought of that I love and happen to have pictures of."

#1. Urban Decay Build-your-Own Palettes. While it's true that the colors in the palette I featured above had a "meh" pay-off, I really like the 6-pan build your own palette box they came in, and I also love my 4-pan with "Rock" in it. I also like that more and more companies are developing their own build-your own, because anything that makes it easier for me to take all my favorite colors in one easy package is OK with me.
 #2. BLAST FLIPSTICK! It is possible that I included these just because I love the name, but honestly, I do get a ton of use out of the berry-hued one.
#3. Lip Tar by Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics. I can't get enough of this stuff and I recommend it to everyone, I've even got my mom and my mother-in-law wearing it.
#4. Shiny, iridescent, color-shifting nail polish colors. This one is part of Maybelline's Color Show line but I like other brands, too.
#5. THE WONDER PENCIL! Another product where I love the name, but this unassuming, affordable product really does come in handy and I use it all the time. 
#6. Spellbinding Eyeshadow Book. I haven't used this as much as I would like but I am really in love with the colors.
#7. Imperialis Facial Moisturizer by Lush Cosmetics. I LOVE this stuff. It makes my face smell like orange blossoms. It's a light, creamy moisturizer which keeps my skin from drying out in the desert air.
#8 and #9. Zoya brand nail polish and Jamberry nail wraps. I love Zoya for their unusual colors which tend to hold up well. Here I'm wearing Seraphina with a Black Friday exclusive Winter Morning nail wrap for a lovely, wintery nail look. Jamberry lets me have the fancy nail designs I'd never be able to master myself, without having to carve out time to go to the salon.
#10. e.l.f Lashes. They're affordable. They're available in a variety of styles. They're easy to buy at Target. And while I've been told the glue isn't great, it is latex-free. I honestly don't know why I've never reviewed these, as they're definitely perfect for bellydancers. I mean, at this price, you can even occasionally wear them for date-night or a party and not feel guilty.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Practicing vs. Performing

A photo from my Vegas performance, by Lee Corkett

As I was on the way to the show I was performing at on Friday, I was hoping that I wouldn't screw anything up, thinking about the things I did wrong during troupe practice, and wondering how it is that I always manage to pull it together for a performance. I mean, that's not to say that I never mess up on stage (in fact, I messed up on Friday), it's that I usually recover well and put on a great face and give an overall pleasing performance with a flub or two in between.

But at practice, one flub can suddenly snowball into half a dozen flubs! Taking the wrong step at the start of a choreo can mean feeling slightly "off" for the entire dance and thinking that I am screwing everything up.

So what is the difference?

I think when I'm in class, at troupe practice, or practicing choreography at home, I'm in thinking mode. There's a little track running in the back of my mind, reminding me of the things that I specifically need to work on, the things the entire group has been told to watch out for, etc etc. Then if I make a mistake, I'm now thinking "Wait, what did I just do? What was I supposed to do instead? Oh crap, while I was thinking about that, I just missed that other step and now I'm off by two counts and I am making a weird face and and and and..." Add to that an element of tiredness if I'm at the end of an hour of troupe practice after an hour of class and a busy day leading up to that, and I'm going to look and feel like a hot mess.

When I'm at a show, on the other hand, I am in performing mode. I know that at this point, there's nothing to be gained by worrying about what I'm about to do, because I've practiced as much as I can, and I'm as good as I'm going to be for the moment. I'm all dressed up, I've got my makeup on, and now it's time to give it my all. If I mess up, there's no time to think about what I did wrong, I need to be on top of what I'm supposed to do next so the audience doesn't catch on. Even if they realize at that moment that I screwed up, if I recover well I can probably make them forget about it by doing an awesome job for the rest of the song, giving them an over-all good impression of the piece in question.

I guess the point is, I'm allowed to fail in class or practice, so sometimes I do. I learn from those failures, and learn how to train my body, brain and face to respond to failures. But when I'm on stage, failure is not an option! So that might mean that when I'm at home, practicing a new solo, I might try some crazy method of getting down to the floor which results in me tripping, or some new fan veil trick that results in silk strangling my neck. Those failures show me that those ideas need some more work, so when I get on stage I stick with the safe stuff. I know not to try that crazy drop because I don't want to face-plant in front of the audience!

So if you mess up in class or practice, don't let it get you down. You have to screw up behind the scenes in order to know what works on stage! You'll be fine. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sally Hansen + Jamberry = LOVE

 Today I'm performing at a holiday party, wearing a bright green skirt and a black bra/belt set. I wanted my nails to be festive but not Christmas-y, because I'm not a Christmas-y person, so I felt like green nails with black accents would be pretty slick. I combined Sally Hansen Insta-Dri in "In Record Lime" and a Jamberry wrap in Belle du Jour from my friend Kiss My Tips.
I love this combination! The Belle du Jour wrap adds a touch of elegance to my choice of almost obnoxious pea green. My nails are exciting without being too distracting, and the damask-like pattern will be the perfect compliment to the floral appliques on my bra and belt.
As for the nail polish, I am pretty impressed by the Insta-Dri line. Look at that brush! Why doesn't every nail polish have a brush with a rounded tip like that? It gets down perfectly into my cuticle without making a mess everywhere. Seriously, the smoothest application ever. In a $5 drug store nail polish! And I got that intense color from just one coat. Of course, I can't find "In Record Lime" on Sally Hansen's website so it must have been a limited edition, but there are plenty of other awesome colors to try, with or without a cool clear patterned Jamberry wrap layered over them (I vote for with).

I'm really excited about my nails right now and I can't wait to take them from gigs to socializing to dance class all weekend long.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Social Media?

If you spend a lot of time on-line, you've probably seen/heard/read a lot about the recent changes to Facebook fan pages which has been resulting in much lower page views as FB apparently is trying to push fan pages to pay for advertising instead of getting it for free.

Normally I ignore the panic around these sorts of announcements because usually people scream "the sky is falling" but nothing really changes. However, I admin several FB pages and I have definitely noticed a steep decrease in views on posts, even when people are liking and commenting on them. It reached the point where it wasn't even worth posting jewelry listings on my jewelry page, because they were getting less than 20 views each.

I can't even entirely blame FB, as there are a lot of businesses using it as a platform for free advertising, taking advantage of the system to run contests where likes, shares and comments give you a chance to win a prize. But on the other hand, not all fan pages are to promote a business. For instance, I'm not dancing professionally yet, so there's no point in paying for an ad for my Sophia Ravenna fan page, but I'd still like my friends and fans to be able to see my blog posts, performance photos and such. And Fire & Gold is an amateur troupe with no advertising budget, but it would be nice for people to know when we're performing or see that we're hosting Open Stage.

So I guess the time has come for me to look into different avenues for promotion next year. I'm just not sure what to do. Instagram? I see a lot of dancers using it so maybe I should too. Tumblr? I have to admit, I don't even understand Tumblr, it makes me feel old. Should I be promoting myself more on Pinterest? Should I give in and join G+? Is there some other untapped market I'm forgetting about?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Last Troupe Practice of the Year.

Tableau of bellydancers from our Tucson Meet Yourself set.

Tonight is our last troupe practice of 2013, since Christmas falls on a Wednesday -- what the heck? And then New Years Day is ALSO a Wednesday, so we have two weeks off of practice. Man, holidays are just so inconvenient sometimes.

It's also our last practice with Jolie as a director. When we meet back up in 2014 we will be a self-governing collective. It's going to be weird! We've already been discussing who is going to handle what, and some vague ideas for future choreographies.

We've poured a lot of love and work into this student troupe, from going to classes and rehearsals, to practicing hard at home, to putting literal blood, sweat and tears into our handmade costumes. I think we've got a good foundation to build on! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Looking forward...

Staring off into the future...

2013 is working its way towards a close and I'm already thinking ahead to 2014. I've seen some dancers posting their goals for next year and while I'm not ready to do that yet, I am already making plans in my head. Since Open Stage is Jan 2nd, I have to start preparing for that. And I purchased a new dayplanner weeks ago so I could write down all of the events I was already committed to.

2014 is going to be a crazy year for me. This is the year where I dance full-time, throwing my all into my dance career. It's the year where I don't have a bellydance teacher (at least to start with, who knows what the future will bring). It's the year where I'll have to really govern myself to make sure I don't give in to my natural tendencies towards laziness and self-sabotage.

I'm excited and nervous and honestly, a little impatient. I always feel like the end of the year is a waiting game, just biding time until the holidays are over and I can be truly productive again. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Fan Veils Forever!

Photo by the ever-talented Liora K Photography!

I tend to go through phases with props, where I'll want to work with one specific prop for a month or two, then a different one, then none at all. Right now I'm in the "crazy for fan veils" stage again. I've really been enjoying working with them lately because they're a beautiful prop with a lot of possibilities. Use them open, use them closed, use them like a fan, a veil, a poi...

Usually I perform with a pair of fan veils, but later this week I'll be dancing at a party in a small room and I felt like two fan veils might be a little overwhelming, so I decided to try working with just one. Wow! With one hand free and one hand holding a prop, there's a lot of new options of what to do, especially once I realized that just because it's a "right-handed" prop doesn't mean it has to spend the entire song in my right hand. I'm having a lot of fun experimenting with ways to manipulate the prop with both hands, and pass it from right to left and back again. I think it makes for an even more dynamic performance.

I've also enjoyed seeing how differently I dance with the fan to different songs. There's just so much room for expression with fan veil, depending on the emotion and speed of the song. I'm really excited about the possibilities and I want to keep practicing and practicing until I've really mastered this beautiful prop.

In fact, enough blogging, it's dancing time!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pop Beauty Palette

 A few months ago I saw this palette from Pop Beauty at Ulta and was impressed by how pigmented the colors seemed to be, so I decided to wait until I had a coupon and pick it up. This "Bright Delight" set would add some much needed vibrancy to an eye shadow collection that is largely dominated by darker, more subdued colors.
The packaging makes it seem a little cheap, almost like a kids or teens brand, even though Ulta keeps it in the prestige cosmetics section of the store (which meant I had to wait for the rare coupon that wasn't limited to drug store brands). This palette especially reminds me of those cheap water color sets you'd always get as a kid. On the other hand, the big round pans really show the colors well and are quite generous. The brights are really pleasing to the eye.
 I started doing a green look for Open Stage last week and while I was impressed by the level of pigment and I really liked the colors, I realized this was going to be too light for the dimly-lit Sky Bar so I covered it in glitter instead. These greens could serve as good accent colors for a more intense green, or use them for a daytime performance where you want a brighter, friendlier look. I used the lighter yellow on my brow bone and it makes for a nice neutral there.
Last night I decided to give the palette another try and stress-test it at class. I was really impressed by the intense teal. This was a dry application, so the color must be insane when it's applied wet! I added the pewter color to make it a smoky look, then topped it off with some glitter liner because I felt like it. 2 hours of dance class including a cardio warm-up and it held well. I had a little color loss in the crease which is typical for me, but otherwise it looked pretty good at the end of the night.

At only $24 for a generous palette with a decent double-ended brush, this is a really good deal. The colors give good pay-off and have a really nice texture, going on smoothly. The case latches really securely, so you can throw it in your makeup bag and know it's going to hold up, making it ideal for travel. For the beginning dancer especially, this is a reasonable way to add some good, vibrant colors to your existing makeup collection as you learn how to do performance makeup. I'm happy with my purchase and look forward to making good use of this palette.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thoughts about Makeup

Still love this shot of my makeup from Liora K!
I blog a lot about makeup, for a few reasons. One is that I think good makeup is such an important part of a dancer's image. Another is that reviewing cosmetics gives me a good excuse to buy new things. And buying new things forces me to try new things and thus keep developing my skills, instead of getting stuck in a rut. Plus I think things would get boring around here if all I blogged about was Open Stage and my inflexible hips. That said, here's a few random things I wanted to say about makeup.
1. Remember when I was going to do 30 days of makeup? Yeaahhhh. Never decide to do a daily makeup challenge while in the midst of a medication change, it was breakout city. Things seem to be back to normal with my complexion though, so I think I need to give it another try.
2. I am still really bad at daytime makeup. When I went to my brother-in-law's wedding, I think I might have been the only person wearing colored eyeshadow. So, my question is, who IS wearing all this colorful eyeshadow and liner that's on the market? It seems like everyone is doing neutrals all the time. Although, my mother-in-law did wear teal mascara to match her teal mother-of-the-groom dress. Way to go!
3. I now spend a lot of time studying the makeup worn by the female characters in TV shows. Again, lots of neutrals, maybe a smoky eye and red lips if the character is trying to be sexy. I also try to guess how much contouring is going on. Makeup for film fascinates me, because I know it has to be heavy-duty to stand up to the light, but even in closeups on my HDTV I can't actually SEE the makeup. I'm guessing they use airbrushes?
4. Makeup is teaching me to appreciate the color pink, as I now own some pink lipsticks/lip tars and I picked up a rosy gold palette, which I think will be next week's review. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In Black and White

No serious, thought-provoking topics or updates on the status of my dance career today, I just wanted to share this nice picture that Ashley Grove posted of me yesterday, from Open Stage a few months back. I really like how I look in black and white for some reason. It's an especially good look for Open Stage photos, because sometimes the lighting there gets a little wacky (I don't even bother trying to take photos there anymore, you need a real camera with proper light settings, not an iPhone).

Monday, December 9, 2013

Open Stage was a success!

Photo by Daniel Stolte

Look at all of those dancers! And that's not even everyone, Ashley was still behind the microphone and a couple of other dancers didn't make it into the photo. We had a great crowd of performers and audience members for Open Stage. I mean, the place was PACKED!

Jolie wasn't able to make it at the last minute, so Ashley and I had to run things by ourselves, but once we figured the soundboard out things went great. Ashley did a wonderful job as the emcee, so we agreed that going forward, I will handle the playlist and she'll handle the microphone. It seems like a good division of labor that gives us both a job we're well-suited for.

I'm pretty sure this event also marked one year of Open Stage being held at Sky Bar and hosted by SFOF. It's been a great year of dancing and I am glad that we're going to be able to continue to host it. I'm already looking forward to January! 

Friday, December 6, 2013


If this post seems a little short on pictures, it's because the whole point of this product is that you don't see it working. This is the Line & Define Lip Primer from Bite Beauty. I picked it up at Sephora earlier this week on the advice of my makeup shopping buddy Liora, who was also buying it. I used it last night for Open Stage and I was pleased with the results!
So, what does this attractively sleek pencil do? It not only lines and primes your lips, but you can use it to clean up the edges of your lips after the fact. This is especially handy for me as sometimes I slip when doing my Lip Tar and if I try to remove it with a swab, it just smears all over the place and then I have to cover it with concealer... This has happened more times than I'd really like to admit.

So last night I lined my lips with this product, and I sort of primed them, but I feel like the fine tip of the pencil makes this a little time-consuming so I'll probably stick with a different product for priming. As I was applying my Lip Tar, it felt like I was hitting a tiny, sticky barrier around my lips that would halt the product. Perfect! There was one little spot on my lower lip where I messed up, and I used this pencil and it cleaned right up. I suspect that it will also help keep creamy lipsticks from feathering out over the course of the night.

This product also has some mint in it to plump your lips, so it has a pleasant tingle. Other featured include that you can twist for more product, and there's a tiny sharpener that pops out of the end, which I did not know until I looked it up on the website. Handy!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Meat on our Bones

Jes The Militant Baker is on a crusade against nasty autocomplete messages in Google. Read her original post here. Although she started out with fat shaming, she branched out into skinny shaming too, because all shaming is bad. She opened up submissions to her readers and FB fans, and I decided to do the above image.

I'm not very good at graphic design and image stuff (as you all know from my beautiful "gettin' opinionated" image that I make constant use of), so I didn't put an autocomplete drop-down in mine. Instead I took my inspiration from the yucky quote "Bones are for dogs, real men want meat." How disgusting. Not only is it skinny-shaming, but it reduces curvy women to a commodity, comparing them to a big, meaty steak. Don't get me wrong, I love steak, but I don't love it in the same way that a living, breathing, thinking human being deserves to be loved. And I also love bones, because without them, I'd be a floppy pile of skin and muscles and organs, and wouldn't that be gross?

I chose the image I did because, well, I still really like how my shoulders look, but also the composition was perfect, there was enough open space over the fan veil to put my text and make it legible. Plus I knew Liora would be into the idea of her photo being used for a body-positive message!

Speaking of body positivity, if you're into it and you're in or will be in Tucson in April, you should totally come to the Body Love Conference (also organized by Jes). I already have my ticket and I am really excited to be part of the current movement away from shaming and towards healthier attitudes.

You should also check out the ever-growing album of posters made for this autocomplete campaign, because there's some really good ones!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Open Stage is Around the Corner!

Open Stage is this week and it's a very special one for a couple of reasons! It's going to be Rachel of Skirt Full of Fire's last Open Stage for sure, and probably Jolie's (there's a chance she might be able to make some in the future, but no guarantees). And it's my first time helping to run the show! I'm compiling the set list, which means I get to listen to everyone's music and try to arrange it nicely. It also meant that I got to stress out for a bit when no one had sent their music yet, but things are rolling in and I am pretty excited!

I think this will be good practice for me, as someday within the foreseeable future I would love to host a variety show. Helping with Open Stage will let me cut my teeth on a show with an established format, time, and audience so that I can learn the nitty-gritty of set lists and coordinating performers and running the sound and emceeing and such. Then when I decide to run something of my own, I can focus on learning how to promote something new and secure a venue and all that fun stuff.

I hope that if you're in Tucson and free on Thursday night that you will come to Open Stage, to help us say "good bye" to Rachel and Jolie, and to support the remaining members of the troupe as we learn the ropes!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Be Thankful for your Body

Thanks for being pretty awesome, body!

When it comes to body love, I often talk the talk without walking the walk. I'll post empowering articles and I'll encourage other ladies, but then I look at my own body and I'm like "Teeth, why you gotta be so sticky-outy? Belly, why you gotta be so fat?* Hips, why are you so TIGHT?"

So I have to be honest, I haven't been dancing this week. Part of it is natural laziness, and we don't have bellydance class this week, but it was easy to make excuses because my right hip was so. damn. sore. And it has been for about a week. I don't know what I did to it, but I am guessing at some point I stretched too far, or forced a stretch when I wasn't warm enough, and I messed things up. I mean, it's not unusual for me to have a little pain in my right hip after a really hard class, but this was a lot of pain and in different areas of my hip, and it sucked. And I honestly think I made it worse by using the pain as an excuse to not go do some ballet or what-have-you, because then I sat home and didn't get warm and spent too much time sitting on the couch with 20+ lbs of dog pinning my hip into position. I'd think to myself "I should warm up and stretch this bad girl out while I watch this DVD" but then I'd sit down and someone would get into my lap and that would be it.

This was a good reminder to be kinder to my body, in my actions and my words. To honor my limits from day to day, to have patience with the sloooow progress of stretching and not try to force my hips to be more like other dancers' hips. And besides, my body gets a lot of other things right. It's given me long, flowing hair, strong fingernails, elegant limbs, pretty eyes, and skin that takes ink well. I don't have any major health problems, I don't have to wear glasses, and I don't have allergies. Good job, body! You're pretty awesome.

Take a moment and thank your own body for the stuff it gets right. After all, it's the only body you're going to get, until we perfect either cloning technology or android bodies.

*Ok, that's my own damn fault. I eat cookies every day. Cookies are amazing. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shop Onyx Friday!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled dance opinion and cosmetics reviews for a shameless plug! I am participating in Onyx Friday which is an awesome on-line "Black Friday" sale featuring handmade items from small businesses! Not only will I have more than 15 items of one of a kind jewelry in this sale, but there's also a lot of other great items from other sellers! This is an especially great sale to shop for gifts for the bellydancers in your life, as there's some gorgeous Taureg jewelry, awesome yoga pants, and beautiful henna-inspired artwork among other things. But there's also plenty for the non-dancers too, like sandblasted pint glasses in all sorts of designs, beaded jewelry, and lovely scarves.

But don't just take my word for it, here's the official description:

Onyx Friday: a black friday alternative

Handpicked Artisans • Easy Online Shopping • Huge Discounts • November 29th • Special Sale on Everything!


Join us for the sale the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 29th, 2013!

Onyx Friday is an incredible, online-only sale comprised of hand picked artisans as an alternative to the traditional "Black Friday". No waiting in lines, no fighting for parking spots, just happy, easy purchasing of beautiful, hand-crafted items from an amazing array of artists who will all have DEEP discounts for Onyx Friday ONLY!!

Sale items will be listed on our Pinterest board here: www.pinterest.com/sirensongevents/onyx-friday-a-black-friday-alternative

And on our Facebook Page here: www.facebook.com/OnyxFriday

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kat Von D Spellbinding Eyeshadow Book

Are you guys ready to meet my new favorite palette? I am so in love with this thing. I love the colors, I love the cover art, I love the concept, I love how big it is and how much eyeshadow there is in it. It's the Kat Von D Spellbinding Eyeshadow Book! It's also sold out on Sephora's website, so I can't link you to it. If you want to get your hands on this gorgeous baby, I suggest you call your local Sephora and see if they've got it in stock, because this is a whole lotta eyeshadow for $55.
 Look at all of those colors! There's a great mix of brights, darks and neutrals, so you can basically get any sort of look you want out of one palette. Notice how they're all paired up? Each pair of colors looks great together, and you can layer them over each other for cool color-shift looks. Of course you can mix and match, too, but I think this is a great concept for helping people who are new to makeup or stuck in a rut and need some inspiration for how to punch up their look. It's also good when you're in a hurry. No more deciding "Which colors do I combine today?" just flip open this bad girl and pick the pair that you're feeling that day.
For Desert Shakedown I combined Bird Cage and Gunner for this beautiful green look. All I added was a bit of ivory shadow under my brows, then some black and green eye liner. It was so easy! For another show, I did Holy Bible and Oddfellow, which looked great with my black troupe costume. Anyway, Gunner is my new favorite eye shadow because it's a lovely true green with lots of glitter. It looks like dragonscales or something equally magical.

So far, the colors have really good pigmentation and are easy to blend and layer, and I didn't get much glitter fallout. However, I did notice that they seemed to have worn off in a couple of spots at the end of the night. Both times that I applied them I was in a bit of a hurry, and I didn't use makeup setting spray, so I'm going to experiment to see if I can make them last longer.

Would you like to see more of the colors from this palette? Comment with which pair you'd like me to try next! I'll do the most popular request next week, and maybe others too if I have the time. I'll even provide hand-swatches, which I forgot to do today.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It's time for another talk about bras

Let's talk about bras, shall we? Over a year ago I wrote this post about my love-hate relationship with bras. But I'm not here today to discuss whether or not bras should remain part of the bellydance costuming wardrobe (I have a feeling they're hear to stay, you can't fight decades of tradition), but instead to talk about how if you're going to do something, you should do it right.

I spend a lot of time on Pinterest and Etsy, and that means I have seen a lot of downright lousy bellydance bras up for sale. I'm willing to forgive a newbie for performing in a crappy-looking bra, because we all had to start somewhere and heavens know my first two tribal bras were nothing to be proud of but at the time I thought they were amazing. But if you're going to try to sell your handiwork, you should take the time and effort to make sure that you're offering up a good product. Here's a list of DOs and DON'Ts:

-DO use a good bra with sturdy, structured cups.

-DON'T use a cheap, floppy bra or a bathing suit top.

-DO replace the existing straps with something attractive, strong and adjustable.

-DON'T leave the original straps in place. Note: If you only have photos of the front of the bra, with the straps tucked inside the cups, I'm going to automatically assume that you're doing this to hide the fact that you used the original straps and didn't cover the back strap.

-DON'T use something flimsy for the straps like thin ribbon, shoe laces or puny elastic.

-DO cover the bra with beautiful fabrics like stretch velvet, embroidered brocades and vintage assuit.

-DON'T cover the bra with t-shirt material or that really cheap, nasty panne velvet from JoAnn's.

-DO drape the fabric nicely or get really professional and actually do it right by cutting out a proper pattern for covering a bra.

-DON'T just drape it every-which way, with weird darts at random places.

-DO embellish it with an exciting variety of real coins, vintage lace, cool charms, textured chains and other awesome finds.

-DON'T use nothing but beads and charms from Michael's. Sure, every now and then you can sneak in a cool piece you found at the craft store, but you've got to have some high-quality things around it.

-DON'T use those cheap Mardi Gras beads. Gross.

-DON'T make embellishments that look like nipples.

-DO provide accurate sizing information.

-DO line it, preferably with something that can be easily removed and replaced when it gets gross.

-DON'T glue everything together. Use a needle and thread like a grown-up seamstress.

-DON'T make the mistake of thinking you can use your sewing machine.

Are there any points you'd like to add to this list? Any exceptions you think should be made?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shakedown Rundown!

Photo courtesy of The Fantom Fotog/Santa Joe.

The title of this post is doubly accurate, because I'm going to give you a rundown of what happened at the Shakedown, but also I am feeling rundown from the Shakedown (seriously, what did I DO to my shoulders? You'd think those fan veils were made of of lead with how sore I am).

I got there bright and early for the Spanish skirt workshop with Rajani. I was happy to see that even though it was held at 9am, there was a nice crowd and we all had a good time learning a whole ton of moves and some historic/cultural context. My troupemate Melanie was there too, so hopefully there's some skirt work in Fire & Gold's future. Rajani provided us with a really good handout that should help me actually remember what I learned.

After that it was off to lunch with my BFF Jen, and then she let me take over her bathroom to put my face on, and she didn't even steal my new Kat Von D palette, so you know she's a good friend (stay tuned for a review of said palette on Friday, it's a goodie).

For my solo, I performed with my stunningly beautiful fan veils, to "Desert Dance" by Children of Paradise. I think I did a pretty good job, I'll have to wait to get the video to see how well it actually went, but I got a lot of compliments and not all of them were on my costume and fans. I feel like the painted background makes for nice photos, good job on dressing the stage, AZMECDA!

Then it was shopping time! I was finally able to get my hands on a really pretty new 25 yard skirt that I had ordered back at the Bisbee retreat (no big deal on the delay since Yasmina didn't ask for a deposit), and I also bought a cool barrette and some yummy tea. I had to restrain myself from buying more things, but I really should start saving up for the shopping bonanza that is Tribal Fest. Still, it's important to support your local dance vendors!

Soon my troupemates showed up, so we wandered around together, watched some performances, shopped, and got ready to dance. Jolie did a beautiful solo and then we had an 8 minute set with two of our favorite choreos and a mini drum solo from Brandye. The crowd enjoyed it and we got some nice photos. Success!

We finished out our night at Cracker Barrel. In true bellydancer form, we were wearing normal clothes but still had on our sparkly stage makeup, some jewelry and bindis. Probably more glamour than Cracker Barrel is really meant to handle. It was nice to sit down for a meal together, though, to chat and plan for the future and daydream about costumes and workshops.

I'm feeling really inspired by the wonderful dancers I saw at the Shakedown, and I'm looking forward to hitting my training hard this week, even if the first couple days may have to be focused on some yoga for my poor shoulders! 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Formula X: Sephora's New Nail Line

 A few months ago Sephora cleared out all of their Sephora by OPI brand nail polishes, which left me pretty curious about what they were going to replace them with. Well, the answer is here: Formula X for Sephora. The name makes me think of car racing or comic books (I read a lot of X-Men as a teen, OK?), but I guess it's pretty good for nail polish too.

Anyway, because I am such a good and dedicated beauty blogger, I broke my "no new nail polish" rule and picked up "The System" which is a set that includes a nail cleanser, a base coat/primer, your choice of nail color and a top coat. Breaking away from my normal trend of all green nail polish, all the time, I decided to nab "Cosmic" which is an awesome shiny purple (the website describes it as "plum pearl").

At first I was a little disappointed in this polish, because it started wearing away at the tips within a day. However, after that initial wearing I didn't get any chips until almost a week of wear. I feel like if I take a little more care with coating my tips next time, this polish could wear really well. Also, I got a nice, even application with just one coat, although it looked a little thin in sunlight so I might go with two coats next time.

This photo was taken after a week of wear! Not bad, not bad.

 The base coat not only created a good surface to apply the polish to, but it also protected my nails from being stained by the dark polish, so that's a plus. I found this color pretty easy to remove.

A word about the packaging: I think that the rectangular bottles show the color pretty well, and mean they'll nestle together nicely when being stored. The squared caps have to be removed to open the bottle and seem superficial, unless they allow for stacking in storage. I will have to test this idea.

Although this polish is pretty good, I feel like $10.50 a bottle is a bit much, especially since a lot of the colors are well, pretty boring. They do have some amazing options in the Effects lines, but those are $12.50 a bottle. I have a feeling I'll slowly but surely invest in the Effects, but mainly use "The System" with other, more affordable nail polishes sandwiched between the good base and top coats.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Desert Shakedown on Saturday!

Ok, let's take a break from angsting about change and focus on something fun! This weekend I will be performing at the Desert Shakedown in Tempe Arizona! I will be getting onstage at approximately 2:05pm for my solo performance, and I will also be joining Skirt Full of Fire/Fire & Gold for a group performance sometime later in the day (around 5pm I think).

This will be my first time performing at Shakedown as a soloist, and also my first time not vending. I am looking forward to not being tied down to a booth, so I can wander around as much as I want, shop, spend time with my friends and troupemates, leave for food, watch performances, and generally relax when I am not on stage or getting ready to dance.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

So.... what now?

Yeah, this is my thinking face. I always look this fabulous when I am deep in thought.
So even before I found out I was losing my awesome teacher, I was feeling a little frustrated about dance. Not about dancing itself, but about feeling like I had hit a plateau and there was no change in sight. There were small technique victories, but I didn't feel like I was going anywhere. I had recently fallen into a funk and was slacking off on ballet class, home practice, and costuming.
There were two ways I could have gone: I could have taken this sudden change as an excuse to quit dance (or at least take a hiatus), or I could double down. Since I am not a quitter by nature, I am doubling down.
What exactly does that mean? It means that in 2014, I am going to treat dancing like a full-time job. Now obviously, I am not going to dance 8 hours a day, because I am not a teenager anymore and I also didn't start dancing as a kid, so I really just don't have the physical conditioning to even try that. But I am going to spend 3-4 hours a day dancing and working out, and then the rest of my 8 hour work day will be spent on costuming, research, web presence and other things related to my dance.
Jolie's a smart cookie, and she told me to think of 2014 as my cocoon. Instead of stressing about the future (or even about the present), I am going to focus fully on my own development. At the end of the year, I can see how far I've gone and decide what to do next.
The next month and a half is going to be all about getting ready to take that big step. I have to get things in my house in order so that I can easily stay on top of the cleaning while working full-time. I need to decide what I'll be doing for my training. I need to set a schedule for myself. I need to pick out some costuming projects to work on and make sure I have all the supplies I need. I need to have at least one more private lesson with Jolie to get her feedback on things to work on for the first couple months of 2014. I need to organize my calender for 2014 to make sure I'm not double-booked (I've already committed to a lot of workshops and events). And I need to coordinate with my husband to make sure that our schedules mesh well enough that we get to see each other every now and then.
I'm nervous and excited! I'll post more about my plans as I iron them out.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Change is coming. I hate change.

Road trip buddies for life! Me, Jolie, Lecia and Brandye in my car.

I got hit with a bit of a bombshell on Wednesday. My teacher/mentor/troupe director/road trip buddy for life Jolie is moving away. We have a little over a month of classes and troupe practices left before she has to start transitioning into her new life. She'll eventually be landing in San Francisco.

I've mentioned that I hate change, right? I especially hate when my friends move away, although living in AZ I've had to get used to that (AZ: Great Schools, Lousy Job Market. How's that for a catchy state slogan?). I spent Wednesday night in a morass of "everything sucks, what am I going to do, waaaaaaa" but luckily I already had a private lesson scheduled with Jolie on Thursday and she helped me get my head back on straight (see, this is why I need her around).

Really, I can't stay too upset because when Jolie first moved here, she said she was only going to be around for 6 months. I got about 1.5 more years with her than I planned, and I've become a better dancer and even a better person for it. Plus I am really happy for her, she has some great things happening in her life and I think she'll be a lot happier in SF than here. AND I'll get to see her at Tribal Fest, and SF is a place I could feasibly go for a vacation. And we live in the future, so I can get video dance lessons when I feel the need for some brain-breaking layers. So it's not like she's completely vanishing from my life, I just won't get those 3x a week dance classes and fun drives to Phoenix for dance events.

Tomorrow I'll get into what this means for my personal dance journey, but today I'd like to reassure any local friends/fans that the current plan is for SFOF/F&G to continue to perform together (we already have some shows planned for 2014!), and we WILL still be hosting Open Stage at Sky Bar because we all love it and there are at least 3 of us ready and able to run it. We have a lot of work and love put into our troupe and we want to keep it together.

So over all, I'm a bit concerned about this change, but I'm confident that everything is going to be great in the end, I just have to get through this awkward transition period without embarrassing myself by clinging to Jolie's leg and crying "DON'T LEAVE US!" (although if I could convince everyone else in SFOF/F&G to join me, it would make a great photo opp).

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Raging Case of the Wants

I want this vest by Kathleen Crowley, among other things. Lots of other things.

Here's a normal exchange between my husband and I while running errands:
Me: "Anyplace else we should go while we're out?"
Him: "No, there's nothing I really need or want."

I just don't understand that. I mean yeah, my needs are pretty well-met, I have everything necessary to lead a cozy life and all I have to do is go out to replace things as they get used up or worn out. But wants? Man oh man, there's always something I want. Many things that I want, actually.

That vest up there is just one piece of costuming that I want. Never mind that most of my performances are with Fire & Gold Bellydance, so I have to wear my troupe costumes. There's always a new pair of dance pants or a new skirt catching my eye, causing me to daydream about what I would wear it with. Sometimes it wouldn't even go with anything I already have.

And then there's makeup. I can't go into Sephora or Ulta without seeing some new palette or color of lip tar that I want. Even walking by the cosmetics department at Target causes me to hone in on new colors of nail polish, despite the fact that I haven't even worn most of the colors I already have.

Supplies? Well, let's see, I've been doing beadwork for over 15 years. I have a decade and a half worth of indulgences piled up in my collection, beads I HAD to have and still haven't figured out a use for. Before I even started sewing, I'd go out for fabric to cover a bra and buy things for future sewing projects.

Jewelry is a big downfall. If I added up all the money I spent on cheap bangles, rings and earrings in my first couple of years as a dancer, it would definitely be enough to have purchased a couple of high-quality pieces instead. Now most of it goes unworn because it looks tawdry against my more professional costumes.

Lately I've been trying to keep myself under control. No more nail polish until I throw out some of my old stuff. No cheap jewelry unless it's something I'll actually wear in normal life. No beads until gem show in February. No fabric unless I need it for a troupe costume. But that doesn't stop me from wanting. And it doesn't stop me from buying things that aren't on the forbidden list (hello, new eye palettes and sweaters).

I'm not greedy, by the way. My list of wants includes things that I want to buy for other people. I always see things and think "Oh, that would be perfect for so-and-so." I start bookmarking things well in advance of birthdays and holidays, so that when the time comes I can choose between them and then use the rest as recommendations for people who come to me for ideas.

How about you? Are you content with what you have, or do you have an Etsy favorites list a mile long, just waiting for the day you win the lottery?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Already excited for Tribal Fest 14!

Yes, it's time to start talking about Tribal Fest 14! Classes went up for sale on the 1st and I grabbed mine up! There's still plenty of classes left if you want to come, too. Visit the Tribal Fest 14 website to see what is available and make your purchases.

Reasons why I am already excited:

1. I'll be staying at a studio apartment in downtown Sebastopol, within walking distance of the event, Whole Foods, after parties and anything else I need or want. It's all the convenience of the hotel I stayed at last year, but with a full kitchen, more privacy, and less expensive.

2. My best friend Jen is coming to TF for the first time and we're going to be roommates! The only sad part about last year (other than going back home after) was not having a buddy along to share the fun. I'm super excited because not only is Jen an awesome friend, but we've traveled together before and know that we are super compatible as roomies.

3. I am taking workshops from Rose Harden, Alexis Southall, Steven Eggers, Paige Lawrence, Dusty Paik and Brandie Franks. I've only studied with two of these people before, and this year Dusty is teaching dance instead of costuming, so basically there's only one person on that list that I've learned dance stuff from before. I LOVE trying new-to-me teachers!

4. I'm not taking any workshops Saturday or Sunday so I'll have lots of time to watch shows and see any friends who are only coming in for the weekend.

5. This year I'm going to be brave enough to apply to perform!

6. I plan to drive, which means I can pop over to Cotati to visit my friend's beadstore, Out on a Whim! Plus since I'll be in a car, I can buy as much as I want without worrying about getting it on a plane. And given all the wineries and breweries and such in the area, that means boozy souvenirs for my loved ones in AZ ;)

7. The money that I am saving on taking a few less workshops, staying someplace more affordable, and driving means MORE SHOPPING! Aw yeah!

The only thing I'm not excited about is the fact that I have to wait until MAY! *sigh*

Friday, November 1, 2013

More Lip Tar!

 Last night I did some really quick and dirty skeleton makeup for my dance class costume, and since I didn't have the supplies or time to draw teeth over my lips, I instead decided to give myself bloody red lips as if I had just feasted on some mortal flesh. I achieved this gory color with some Black Dahlia lip tar from the new Sephora Exclusive All-Star Mini set of OCC Lip Tars which I picked up in NY.

For a full review of OCC Lip Tar, see this post. Today I'm just going to look at the mini set and also talk about clear lip tar.

 This picture is upside down because Blogger is dumb. Anyway, the set comes in a zipper pouch similar in design to what the full-size tars come in, but with little pockets for each color and a pocket for the brush, which is slightly smaller than the usual brush. I checked and there is enough room in the pouch to squeeze in a full-sized tube as well, so if you want to carry your clear with the colors, you can! You could also put in some extra brushes, or maybe a tiny lip liner pencil. The pouch feels sturdy enough to hold up to a bit of wear and tear, and the tubes themselves should hold enough product to last a while, given how little you use for each application. This would either make a great starter set, a good way to try a few colors, or a good travel set. at $20, it's a great deal, only a little more than one full-size tube!
The included colors are Memento (pink/plum neutral), NSFW (true, balanced red), Anime (vibrant neon pink), and Black Dahlia (blackened red). A pretty good range for a performer to have at hand. You've got your neutral look, your femme fatale red, your playful pink and your gothy wine. So far Black Dahlia is the only one I've worn on my lips, as shown in the skeleton photo. I really like how dark and luscious it is! I did notice some color bleed-out at the edges after dance class, so I think you should definitely line your lips when you wear this one.

As for the clear, I've worn it a couple of times under dark lip tar colors (I recently wore Black Metal Dahlia which is similar to plain ol' Black Dahlia but with the addition of glitter), and it does stop the color from collecting in little nooks and crannies much like a normal primer. It also comes with a brush, which you don't need since you apply it with your finger, so you'll have an extra brush for your colors.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

My costume from 2011
Happy Halloween! I love Halloween because it's an excuse to dress up, which is also one of the reasons why I love to be a bellydancer. Tucson is a pretty casual town so there's not a lot of chance to really dress up. You can go to some of the best restaurants in the city and still find people in shorts and a t-shirt. How boring is that? Give me a chance to wear something other than my usual clothes and I jump at it.
I have dance class tonight, and I'm going to dress as a skeleton. Not very clever, but I already had the bone-print leggings and I felt like I couldn't get away with being some sort of dryad or fairy for the third year in a row. I hope that others show up to class in costume, too!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Urban Decay Black Market Pencil Set

When I saw this new Black Market 24/7 Pencil Set from Urban Decay, I knew I had to have it! I have no lack of eye liners, but this set of mini pencils has some really stylish Autumn colors that would fill some gaps in my collection.

The colors include West (sparkly brown), Desperation (matte grey), Black Market (sparkly black), Riot (sparkly purple), Apathy (sparkly olive) and Ink (sparkly blue). They're the standard UD mini pencil size, which means you can throw all of them into a travel bag easily, or put your favorite in the pencil slot of a palette.
Oh hey, did I mention that I'm in NY and it is COLD out here? So here's my eye look for NYC, using West and Apathy and a few colors from the NYC themed Book of Shadows, plus a warm, fuzzy scarf.
 Eyes closed. Not my best blending job, I only had a few minutes to do my face.
Swatch! Displayed on my arm in the same order they're packaged in. You can see that it's a nice range of dark neutrals and pops of color that will carry you through fall and winter.

I use 24/7 pencils in various colors for dance makeup all the time, and they hold up well. Not quite as bold a line as a good gel liner, but I also don't have to worry about waiting for them to dry, or having the entire pot dry out before I can use it because I live in a desert. Plus they're really portable and it's easy to take a bunch of colors on a trip with you. You can smudge them if you want or leave them as-is. The travel-sized pencils will last you a good long while, I haven't even used up half of my basic black Zero pencil and it's one of my go-to products.