Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nail Product Reviews, Part 2

As promised, this week's post is about drying your nails in a hurry! I can't be the only one who saves doing my nails for the very last minute before a gig. After all, I don't want to risk chipping them while getting ready, but then they're still wet when I leave the house and I smudge them in the car! So let's look at one actual project marketed for drying nails and two tips from Pinterest. There's ice water, canola oil spray, and Drying Drops from Nicole by OPI. All were applied over Zuza nail polish by Zoya (one of my favorite brands!).
 First, I plunged two of my fingertips into a cup of icy water for two-ish minutes. This is supposed to make the nail polish dry hard and fast and also make it easy to remove the excess bits on the finger. Guess what it actually did? It HURT, that's what! Look at how red my poor finger is. And did it work? No. As you can see, my nail smudged badly while I was drying it off. And hours later, after showering, most of that excess polish is still there. If this was the MythBusters, this would get a big fat "BUSTED" stamp over it.
 Next I sprayed all the nails on one hand with canola oil. The instructions on Pinterest said to wait until they were dry and then wipe the excess off. How am I supposed to tell if my nail polish is dry if there's oil all over it? So I waited a few minutes while my other hand was in the ice water and dried them off at the same time. Look. It also smudged. And my fingers were oily. Also it seems to have given the polish a weird texture on a couple of nails. So no, this one doesn't work either.
Lastly, the product that was actually designed for this. The instructions said to apply the drops 60 seconds after the polish, then it should be dry to the touch after 1 minute and completely dry after 5. I used it on the first three nails of the icy hand. It was easy to apply and seems to have done the job. After one minute, they were dry. After about five minutes, I was able to scratch/dent the polish forcefully with another nail, but it didn't smudge from normal wear.

Over all, as a dancer I feel like if I'm in a hurry, it's probably going to be best to stick with a quick-dry polish or a quick buffing for my bare nails. However, if the color that you HAVE to have to match your costume isn't quick-dry, you should be safe with the drops. It seems like many of the nail polish brands on the market have their own version, so you may want to shop around and see which has the best value, but I imagine they probably all have the same active ingredient and work the same.

As for the polish? Definitely a fan. I tend to be drawn to the unusual colors that Zoya produces (I have a couple gorgeous muddy olive green hues from them), and this one doesn't disappoint. It's a nice teal green shimmer with a smooth finish. Would be great with a mermaid-themed costume!

By the way, if there's a makeup tip or product that you've seen floating around the internets and haven't felt like trying it yourself, let me know in the comments! I'll look into it for a future column... as long as it doesn't involve putting any part of my body in ice water! Brrr!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rotten Day

I'm at least a third-generation believer in Retail Therapy, so I tried to make myself feel better by buying a pillow with a beetle on it. What does that have to do with anything? Nothing. But blog posts need pictures.

Today has been a rotten day. Really, things have been varyingly rotten since I received bad news on Saturday (please read this post on my other blog to learn about the loss of a dear friend. I don't want to rehash it here), but today was one of those stupid, annoying days where nothing went right.

First I tried making some jewelry, but I didn't really have many ideas and the ones I tried didn't work. I ended up with one small item and a mess on my desk.

Then I decided that I was going to be a grown-up responsible adult and do the laundry. Well, that's when I learned that our pipe was full of tree roots again, as the water draining out of the washing machine had no place to go so it came back up from under the toilet. GROSS! Luckily since this had happened before we knew exactly what was happening, and the plumber came out and fixed it quickly, but it cost some cashola.

Plus, you know how whenever you have a service person over, as soon as you think "Ok, well he seems to be doing his own thing, I'll go get some little job done now" that's always when they suddenly need you for something? Yep, that was an hour of my day that I got nothing done.

Oh, and I tore one of my favorite little yoga jacket thingies while moving something that was blocking the access point to the pipe, so dammit. I really liked that jacket.

So then I was like, well, I'd better salvage this day with some dance, let's sit down and pick out a fan veil song for Open Stage! An HOUR LATER I decided that I hated all of my music, old and new. Albums that I had purchased because I loved the music at the time suddenly sounded awful. Note to self: you hate everything when you're in a bad mood. Next time just drill.

Then we went to Target where we couldn't find some things we needed, but at least I got a beetle pillow, because that is clearly what I need in life. I wish the coordinating comforter also had beetles on it instead of just a floral jungle-y print. I would love to have my bed covered in beetles.

I almost didn't go to class and practice tonight because of my bad mood, but I like to save my skipping for when I get sick. And you know what? I'm glad I went. My bad mood melted away. I've been enjoying the hell out of classes lately. I don't know if they've been especially fun or if I've been especially receptive, but it's just been a great level of challenge and accomplishment and new material and good music and good friends.

So the day wasn't all rotten, but it sure did try. I hope tomorrow will be better. I've got a massage scheduled, and I need to work on Friday's cosmetics review and definitely get a lot of practice no matter how much I hate my music.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dance and Body Image

You never realize how white you are until you accidentally stand under a brighter light than the rest of the troupe. Fire & Gold Bellydance, photo by Pedro Romano (I think).

From time to time I see surveys about how belly dance has affected a woman's self esteem or body image. For me, the answers vary from day to day. Sometimes dance builds me up and I feel like the most beautiful, wonderful person in the world. Other times it tears me down and I feel like a failure who should definitely wear a bag over her head.

Dance also changes what I love and hate about myself. On a normal day, I'm not too fond of my belly fat, and often I hate how it looks in photographs of me dancing. But when I do a big Egyptian shimmy and it jiggles all over and makes the movement look like an earthquake? Then I kind of love it. On a normal day, I am happy being fair-skinned, but on a day when everyone else I'm dancing with has a tan, I feel really out of place and awkward... especially when my spot in the formation puts me under a light that shouts "HEY LOOK HER BELLY IS SO WHITE!"

Some things never change, of course. I always love my hair (long! red! just thick enough!), and I always hate my teeth (overbite! yellowness! ugh!). And I always feel just a little too tall even if most of the troupe is the same height as me (I'm not tall, just limb-y), and like I am going to take someone out with my fingernails during a spin.

Body image was much on my mind yesterday as I looked at proofs from out photo shoot and mused about what I loved and hated about my body, and how I looked compared to other members of my troupe (ladies, I think you're all more gorgeous than me, so no worrying that I told myself "Well at least I look better than XXX." I would never think that about you). Then my family came over and our conversation took an interesting turn.

True fact: As a young man entering the Air Force, my dad was 6'2 and 107 pounds. That is not a typo. One hundred and seven. At six foot two. As a full grown adult. I expressed amazement. I knew my Dad had been skinny, but I didn't know how little he had weighed back then. And let's be honest with ourselves here: I'm 5'6"ish and I don't think I've weighed 107 or less as an adult.

So my Dad started telling a string of one-liners about how skinny he was, finishing with "I've heard them all, and told most of them about myself." And it made me think about being a skinny teenager (back before I developed the curves that ensure I will never be 107), and how no one ever said any of those jokes about me. No, all skinny teenage girls get is well-meaning adults (usually older women) telling you to eat more. I got told I didn't eat enough to sustain a bird, which was pretty ridiculous because I ate until I didn't feel hungry any more, and then I ran around and biked and was a generally active girl, so obviously I was fueling myself well.

For teenage girls and adult women, the general expectation or goal is skinniness. Especially for teens, when we haven't finished developing. Our peers find other things to tease us about (for me, it was my teeth, no wonder I hate them). It's not until we become adults that skinny suddenly becomes a sin. The media holds up airbrushed images and stick-thin models, sure, but your Facebook friends constantly post memes declaring that "real women have curves" and "it wouldn't be fair to the other women if I was this awesome and skinny." They build themselves up while tearing others down. I feel like I've talked about this before, though.

I have never been more aware of my body than I have been since I became a dancer. Sometimes it's a wonderful awareness, the soreness of abs well-worked in class, the admiration of arms that creative beautiful lines. And other times it's looking at a picture of myself at the bottom of an undulation and going "great. I look pregnant. I hope no one in my family gets the wrong idea." And it's painful sometimes, that constant worry of whether I'll be able to make progress as a pro while I have braces, the question of whether I need to make serious diet changes or just run more, the possibility that weight loss will mean smaller breasts and suddenly I need to remake all my tribal bras.

I feel like this will always be a complicated relationship, this threesome between my body, dance and I. It will only get worse as I age, and my knees get creakier and my face gets lined. It's something I just have to accept, and just remember not to let the struggle ruin the things that I love about dance.          

Friday, February 22, 2013

Nail product reviews, part 1

 In a perfect world, all dancers would have the time and money to maintain perfect professional mani-pedis at all times. In reality, we usually hide our chipped toe nails in some sort of dance shoe and quickly slap some polish on our nails right before a gig and hope it doesn't smudge in the car. So let's look at a few nail products. This will be a recurring series because I really love nail polish.

First, a buffing block! I bought mine at The Body Shop but you can get them at other places, too. It has four different surfaces that you can use for sprucing up your nails. It only takes a few minutes and when done correctly your nails will be smooth and shiny. You can even skip polish and just have a clean, natural look if it's appropriate for your costume.

Next, Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream. I like this product because it is waxy and comes in a tin and feels easier to use and transport than a bottle of cuticle oil. I keep it at my desk and occasionally rub it into my cuticles while chatting on-line or waiting for something to load. It has a pleasant lemony scent. I wouldn't put it on right before doing your nails, though, as it might interfere with the polish sticking to your nails.

Lastly, new nail polish! This is Plume from the Sally Hansen "lustre shine" line. The display had a picture of a peacock feather, so you know it's for belly dancers. This is a yummy coppery gold and in the bottle it shows flashes of green and blue, just like a peacock feather.
When worn, it's very smooth and shiny and metallic, but doesn't seem to quite have the color-shifting properties that the bottle led me to expect. In some lights, at some angles, the color changes, but I want it to shift in front of my eyes whenever I move my hands, because I am easily distracted by shiny objects. I find this a little disappointing because it's pretty expensive for a Sally Hansen product (I think I paid $8 at Target). It is a nice flashy color so I will probably wear it again, but it's not what it appeared to be and I probably won't go buy the other colors from this line, even though there's one called Scarab, in a clear attempt to market directly at me (ha ha). This application was two coats without a base or topcoat. I may experiment to see if adding those does anything to improve the iridescence.

Edited to add: I'm getting more iridescence in rooms other than my office, so it appears to be affected by the quality of light.

The dancer's perspective? I think this would be a great one for cab dancers, it's so shiny! Fusion performers who prefer a flashy look will like it, too. It is not a quick-dry polish, however, so either use it when you have time to wait for it to dry, or check in next week when I'll try several methods of quick-drying nail polish.

One more thing: This is my 500th post on this blog! FIVE HUNDRED! Thank you all for reading, I hope you'll stick around for the next 500, and maybe tell your friends!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Busy week

Unless something crops up at the last minute, the party on the 8th was my last gig this month -- three performances in the space of a week and then none for the rest of the month, not an unusual turn of events. But the lack of gigs doesn't mean a lack of work. There's always something going on behind the scenes! Here's what I've been working on lately:

1. Classes and troupe practice! We're back to a regular schedule which means I am in class 4-5 hours a week. Troupe practice got moved to Weds nights and it feels really weird to have my Mondays free! Will I fill them with something else? Time will tell.

2. Getting ready for TRIBAL FEST!!!! I bought my plane ticket to SFO. I can't wait! I'll be rooming with my friend Fonda, who is excited to be with me for my first ever TF. It's going to be so awesome to take so many workshops, see so many friends, make new friends, shop, and dance dance dance.

3. Furthering my career. I just had a great private lesson with Jolie where we worked on some of my goals. She always gives such insightful, useful feedback.

4. Preparing for future performances. I may not have anything else this month, but March's Open Stage is right around the corner and I have a few other shows I'm looking forward to.

5. Getting into shape. Now that the weather is warming up (well, it was, until it decided to SNOW all day yesterday), my husband and I have started jogging again. I want to get a lot of jogs in now before it gets too hot in the Summer! Plus classes this week have been pretty hard and heavy, so I am feeling it in my muscles and I like the way it feels.

6. Making jewelry. Part of my Tribal Fest funding strategy involves sharing a booth with my brother at Wild Wild West Con next month. My steampunk jewelry selection is looking pretty skimpy, so I've been making new things right and left.

7. Blogging! Ok, not as much as I normally blog, but I'm trying. Check back tomorrow for another cosmetics review!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What I did today

This morning was the photo shoot for Skirt Full of Fire and Fire & Gold Bellydance! There are not many things that will get me out of bed at 7am on a Saturday, but this was one of them! I had to be fully made-up, coiffed, dressed and over to the venue by 9am. Luckily I live 5 minutes from downtown.

There's a lot more photos coming but Liora K is a super busy lady, so she just posted one as a preview for us... the whole group snuggled up on some couches. Super cute! The whole shoot was this fun. Liora's great to work with, and of course I love all my troupemates and "big sisters" so it made for a good time. And while it was rough getting up and ready so early, it was nice to be done early, too. This was the first time I've had my Saturday afternoon and evening free in a long time.

Keep your eye out for more pictures soon!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Urban Decay Theodora Palette Review

 I wasn't going to buy this palette, really I wasn't. I already have two large UD palettes, two small ones, and a collection of their single shadows. And that's not even getting into what I own from other brands. Also, while I probably will eventually go see that Oz movie, I'm not so excited about it that I feel the need to buy promotional tie-in items. Above all else, I am trying to cut down on frivolous purchases to save up for Tribal Fest. But then I saw the early previews of the product and I really had to have it!

Inside the box of the Urban Decay Theodora Palette you will find the following items: the palette tin itself (containing 6 shadow pans and a liner), a lipstick pencil, and an instruction card detailing how to copy Mila Kunis's look from the movie. The funny thing is that her look does not use the eye colors I am most excited about! But it is a pretty nice brown smoky look which could be used for a night out, or dressed up with a little glitter to match a brown costume for a performance.

One of the big selling points for me is that this palette comes in a build-your-own box, so you can take the shadows out, put others in, transfer them into the smaller 4-pan build your own, and replace them with something else if you run out. The colors are (clockwise, starting from the upper left), Broken, Beware, Bewitch, West, Spell (duo shadow black glitter/gold glitter) and Jealous (due shade medium green/light green). These are all NEW colors and these Oz palettes are the first time UD has used duo-color shadows like this. It also comes with the new, exclusive super saturated lip pencil in Theodora (quickly becoming one of my favorite things ever) and a 24/7 liner pencil in Zero, aka the color that UD puts in everything when they can't think of a different color, I guess. I mean, if this is your first palette it's great to get a black eye pencil with it, but I must have 4 of these pencils now.

ARM SWATCHES! Thank you, Dawn Sehar, for explaining to me why beauty bloggers like arm swatches. This one shows the liner, the lip pencil (I drew a heart for you all because I did this on Valentine's Day), and then the shadow colors in the order I listed them above. As you can see, Broken is almost the same color as my skin, the browns all show up nicely, and the glitters and greens did not show up too well. This was done without any sort of primer, by the way. I'm running low and didn't want to use it all on my arm.
And how does it look on my face? Well, I didn't think I could fit ALL THE COLORS on my eyes without looking insane, so I focused on the four colors not used in Mila Kunis's look (so both shades of Spell and Jealous). I put the darker Jealous all over my lid and applied the lighter one up towards my brow bone, making a nice green gradient that looks really good with my fair skin, hazel eyes and red hair. I did a bit of dark Spell in the outer corner of my eye, and the light Spell in the inner corner and under my lash line. I wasn't too thrilled with the darker version of spell... it didn't really deliver much punch. But the golden one looked really nice, especially with the greens. I lined it with the Zero pencil, added some Super Curl mascara from a different UD palette, and colored my brows in with my UD brow box. Oh yes, and this was applied over Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion, because I love that stuff.

And then there's the lips! OK, this pencil is the number one reason why I bought this palette. I was planning a vintage pin-up inspired look for the party last week, and I saw this color and I knew it was just right for my lips. It did not disappoint! This candy-apple red with a hint of sparkle just looks so good on me -- and I say that as a girl who started out her make-up wearing like sure that she would never enjoy wearing red lipstick. This color really minimizes the yellow in my teeth. I don't know if it actually makes them look less yellow, or if it's so in-your-face bright that my teeth just fade into the background, shamed by the awesomeness that surrounds them.

Am I saying that a lip pencil is worth spending about $50 on a palette? No. But I am saying that if, like me, you were teetering on the edge of indecision, it might be what pushes you over.

But wait... this is a cosmetics review by a dancer, for dancers! So how does all this hold up for dancing? Well, I have worn the lip pencil for two gigs and have been pretty happy with how it's held up all night. It doesn't wear off easily and it doesn't come off on your teeth and it's not too sticky. As for the eyeshadows and liner, I did not test this particular look with a gig, but I almost always wear Urban Decay shadows and 24/7 Liner and I am happy with how they hold up, as long as they're applied over a primer.

I am admittedly a little disappointed by the lack of color intensity in the two due-color pans. I think that if I was going to use Jealous for a performance I might have to add another, darker color. The black Spell seems to be a total wash, though it may prove itself after further experimentation. The gold Spell does seem pretty nice, and despite complaints on-line I didn't really notice too much glitter fall-out... but then again, I just wore it to dinner and Target, I wasn't working it too hard.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Things they don't tell you about henna...

Remember this? This is from right after I hennaed my hair the first time. I was so in love with that red color, and I still am!

The last time I was touching up my roots, I was thinking about all the things I've learned about dying my hair with henna that weren't covered in the information provided by the seller, and I thought maybe I should blog about it. Here you go:

1. I think the seller actually said this, but I will restate it just in case. It is a LOT easier to henna your hair with help, especially if you have long hair. I tend to miss spots when I do it myself.

2. Wear something that you don't mind staining. Sometimes little blobs fall out of your hair and land on your clothes.

3. No matter how carefully you apply Vaseline around your hairline, you will still manage to get some henna stains on your face. I like to use an exfoliating facial scrub to make those stains go away faster. I also like to make sure to touch up my roots a few days before a gig or photo shoot so the stains are gone by then.

4. You will get henna everywhere! On the counter, on the floor, even the wall. If you're worried about the surface staining, put down some paper or a tarp or something. Otherwise keep paper towels or wipes nearby and clean up before it can dry.

5. Henna stains nails, too! You will probably manage to get some on and under your nails during the rinsing process, so just plan on giving yourself a manicure after all is said and done.

6. I like to bring a comb into the shower to help work the mud out of my hair. Actually, I don't know if it helps but it gives me something to do.

7. Seriously, if you have long hair it will take forever to rinse that stuff out. Plan on spending about 45 minutes in the shower. You might want to bring some music or a podcast.

8. If there's any soap scum in your tub, it will now be henna colored. Don't clean your tub before you rinse the henna out, because you'll definitely need to clean it after.

9. Now that you're a fabulous redhead, you'll want to color your brows accordingly. I'm afraid of putting mud on my eyebrows, so I just color them in with a nice red-brown eyeshadow.

10. Again, if you have long hair, all that henna-mud is pretty heavy for the several hours that you need to let it sit. Plan on spending your waiting time doing something pretty relaxing, like reading a book or watching movies. If you move around too much, your Saran Wrap turban might come undone and then the edges will dry and you'll get itchy henna mud patches behind your ears.

This may make henna sound annoying, and to be sure it is a bit of a pain to do and maintain. But on the other hand, you get a vibrant, natural-looking red hair color that is permanent and doesn't harm your hair, so I think it's worth the hassle.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fan veil performance!

Last Friday I had a big pile of firsts happen all at once... My first private party gig, my first time doing a full 10 minute set by myself, my first fan veil solo and my first time getting tips (and thus my first time making money dancing as a soloist. I've done paid/tipped gigs with troupes, but the money has always gone back into troupe expenses). WHEW! Oh, it was also my first time wearing those pants. I've owned them for something like two years and never had the right occasion.

Let me tell you, getting ready for this gig was really nerve-wracking. There's a big difference between being at an open stage, or doing a show with a troupe, and being solely responsible for entertaining people for ten whole minutes (ok, more like 9). Not only that, but I was going for a vintage-inspired look, which meant doing new things with my hair and makeup. Oh yes, and debuting a new-to-me prop. But everything worked out! The attendees of Kate's gem show party were entertained, they were entranced by the fan veils, and my hair stayed in place.

Also performing at this party was my friend and new Fire & Gold troupemate Sandy Tiss, who performs a more traditional Egyptian style bellydance. She wowed the guests with a veil entrance, zill playing, and a wonderfully sparkly turquoise and gold costume. She's a true professional and I was honored to share the "stage" with her. We even joined forces at the end for a little audience participatio.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video of my very first fan veil performance, and look forward to more in the future!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Gem showing!

Just a quick note apologizing for the lack of updates... Since Tuesday I have been working at one of the many gem shows that invades Tucson during February. I'll be working until Sunday. Regular blogging should resume on Monday or Tuesday, depending on how tired I am!

I've managed to squeeze in two great performances during this week, so I look forward to talking about those and reviewing some more makeup and featuring some vendors and all those things I've been wanting to do with my blog.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pretty Picture

The event I performed at this past weekend had a "photo booth" set up with this beautiful backdrop and a professional photographer, Pedro Romano (who also photographs a lot of the local fire dancers). I love it! The curtains and carpet really give it the look of an old timey stage from the early days of bellydance, a little bit of Orientalism. Makes me wish I had more of a vintage look going on with my costume, but I still love this picture. I'm wearing a hi-lo skirt and tie-top over my troupe costume pants and bra... I wanted a little pop of color for my solo, and this was easy enough to switch out between numbers.

I have been dancing a lot lately... Not just performing in a lot of events (I have two more this week), but doing a lot of numbers in each event. For our Mijana's troupe showcase, I was in all the troupe numbers, a duet with my troupemate Elyse, my own solo, and then Elyse asked the rest of us F&G girls to be part of her solo by standing on the sidelines and chasing her back "on stage." It was funny, you should have been there!

I really like it this way... Sometimes it is frustrating to spend 1.5-2 hours getting ready just to dance for three minutes! Even more so if I'm driving to Phoenix (which is why I've really cut down on performances up there). Plus dancing in multiple pieces per show is building up my stamina, and allowing me to really practice switching up the mood.

Oh, and if you like those candy-apple red lips, look forward to them being part of my next makeup review later this week!