Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cross-training: Ballet

I needed a ballet picture for this post so I went to The Commons on Flickr and found this. Wow!

Valentina Blinova in L'Oiseau de feu [The Firebird], Ballets Russes, Sydney, 1936-1937 / Max Dupain


I went to my first ever ballet class yesterday. I've been meaning to go for months and months. It's something that my teacher Jolie has been encouraging me to do to improve my belly dance. But as I've confessed before on this blog, I am very nervous about doing new things. So every week I'd say "I should go to Beginner Adult Ballet on Thursday" and when Thursday rolled around, I'd make an excuse not to... too tired, not feeling well, want to laze around the house with my husband because he's had a stressful week at work. Well, now there's Beginner/Intermediate Ballet on Mondays, so I made myself go. I found out about it yesterday, so I had no time to make excuses.


Being in ballet class was totally different from being in bellydance class. Most of the class was spent doing exercises at the barre. The teacher Christy would explain what we were going to do and then watch us do it, rather than leading, which meant I spent a lot of time putting my ITS peripheral vision to use to "follow" the students who seemed to know what the heck they were doing. On the other hand, since Christy wasn't leading, she was walking around the room giving corrections, and she was very nice and encouraging about it.


I probably should have gone to a straight-up beginner class rather than a beg/int one, because there seemed to be a definite expectation that the students already knew basic ballet terms and had some familiarity with what they were supposed to be doing. This meant that some things that we already do in bellydance class made sense to me, and others I just kind of stumbled along and hoped no one was looking at me. There was also a bit of material that is pretty difficult for a newbie, such as pirouettes (which we do sometimes in bellydance but I still suck at) and some fast jumping.


That said, since Monday at 4:30 is a pretty convenient time for me to go to class, and since I like a challenge, I think I might keep throwing myself into the deep end. Besides, we did exercises to Star Wars music, so my inner nerd was pleased even while my inner dance critic was crying "we're so BAD AT THIS!!!"


By the way, speaking of my inner dance critic, I have a message for it: Of course we're bad at ballet. We're new to it. We were bad at ITS when we started, and we were bad at Tribal Fusion when we started. Everything has a learning curve, so just shut up and be patient.

EDIT: I have no idea what Blogger has done to this post. What a mess.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fire & Gold Performances

Lately I've been posting a lot about my solo performances, so I wanted to take a moment and let you know that of course I'm still dancing with these beautiful ladies! You have at least two upcoming opportunities to watch us perform:

First, this Thursday is Open Stage at Sky Bar. Not only is this an awesome event, but we will be debuting our latest choreography which has been in the works for quite some time.

Second is August 31st, when we will be dancing at Plaza de Anaya for the gala show as part of the Fall Intensive. This will be a big F&G/SFOF collaboration number, and there will be a lot of other great dancers performing, including the workshop instructors, WildCard.

If that seems like not a lot of performances, well, August is usually a pretty dead month in AZ! It's unbearably hot still, but everybody is getting back to school, so there's just not a lot of energy to go around for dancing. I think things are going to pick up significantly in the Fall! Remember to keep an eye on the Upcoming Performances sidebar on this blog!

Friday, July 26, 2013

I bought nail polish on Etsy!

Somehow, although I love nail polish and I love shopping on Etsy, I hadn't yet combined those two things. I guess it was because there was so much nail polish that I could buy in the store, without paying shipping, so I went for instant gratification. I bookmarked a few shops but hadn't gotten around to ordering any yet... until Literary Lacquers released their Anne of Green Gables line, and I saw that it included a yummy emerald green holographic glitter, which was exactly what I needed in my life.

I really love the concept behind Literary Lacquers, which is nail polish inspired by favorite books. Oddly enough, I've never actually read any of the books that inspire her collections, but I'm sure eventually she'll have to have a Lord of the Rings or American Gods collection, right?

I bought Green Gables and I took the time last night to give myself a really good manicure. I buffed my nails, did a base coat, let it dry between every coat, and finished it with a top coat. The result is a really smooth, really shiny and sparkly nail.

So far I'm really impressed with the quality. The color went on smoothly and so far has held up to numerous hand-washings and chores and even bathing all of my makeup brushes and my manicure still looks pristine. The color is a little sheer, it took three coats for me to get a mostly-opaque application, but it looked good at two coats too, just not as intense as I wanted.

But is it good for bellydancers? Oh yes. It would be perfect to match a sparkly cab costume made with holographic fabric or adorned with holographic sequins (check her shop for other shades of holographic glitter if you're not a green girl like me). For those of us who are more tribal-inclined, it obviously won't go with darker costumes or a more traditional ATS-inspired costume, but it would be great with a bright green costume and especially fun if you're performing at a faerie festival or other fantasy event. I just held it up against my green Flip'N Tribal belt and it looks great with the green-dyed lace.

My apologies for the poorly-lit picture, by the way. I was going to go take a nice one out in the sunshine so you could fully appreciate the holographic glitter effect, but then a monsoon blew in. Such is life in Tucson!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wait, that's not my music!


I mentioned briefly on Monday that there were some sound system problems at Saturday's show. This glitch led to a couple of dancers swapping songs, and another dancer having to provide her back-up copy. It left me thinking about what a dancer should do when she steps on stage and the wrong music starts.

1. Keep calm! No matter what sort of music problem you have (wrong music, sound system goes out mid-performance, CD starts skipping), put on your professional face and deal with it in the best way possible.

2. You can dance to whatever is playing, but there can be a couple of pitfalls in this. Obviously, if you're now performing to someone else's music, that means she then has to decide whether to dance to your music (which she might not like), or whether she wants to dance to her song and risk the audience being bored. Also, you might find yourself dancing to something that totally doesn't work with your costume, your prop, or your dance style.

3. Be flexible! In a perfect world, when there's a music problem you'll have a backup and everything will be fine. But maybe you forgot your backup, or the sound system doesn't want to play it. When that happens, be willing to dance to something else. This is why it's good to build strong improv skills!

4. That said, it's OK to insist on dancing to your song if it's at all possible. Whether you do improv or choreography, chances are that in the weeks leading up to the show you've been practicing this piece very hard. You've chosen your costume to match the mood of the music. You did your hair and makeup to fit the personality you want to express. Maybe you're using a prop and there's moments in the music where you can show off the really cool new tricks you've been working on. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do what you had planned to do, and you shouldn't feel bad about saying "No thank you, I don't want to dance to this other song, please try to play my back-up copy."

And now, a few ways to avoid musical pitfalls:
  • Did I mention that you should always have a backup? Maybe two? I try to remember to bring my iPod to every gig, and sometimes I'll also have an extra CD copy. Or two.
  • Remember to check your music before you leave for the gig. Double-check that the CD burned properly. Edited to add: A clever reader pointed out that you should not just test it in your computer, but in the least-reliable CD player you have access to, because if it will play in that, it will play at the show.
  • Always pay attention to the music requirements for a gig. I know we'd all prefer to just be able to send in an mp3 and be done with it, but some gigs want the music on CD, and may even want a CD with that song and that song only on it.
  • When sending digital music, make sure that it's in a format they can actually play. You don't want to accidentally send a song that can only be played on your iTunes, for instance.
  •  Always. Have. A. Backup. But maybe also have a backup plan. For instance, if someone else is dancing to your song, have a different song you can perform to instead.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A couple of exciting performance announcements!

Thank you Sam for taking this great shot of my performance in Bisbee!

If you've already looked at my Upcoming Performances sidebar since I updated it yesterday than these announcements are not a surprise to you. For that matter, I've also already announced them both on Facebook. But I wanted to make sure to keep shouting them from the rooftops.

First, for my local people you have the chance to come see me perform at Petra Mediterranean Grill and Hookah Lounge here in Tucson. This event will be held on August 10th at 7pm. The headliner is current USA Belly Dance Queen Samantha, but the show will also feature several excellent dancers from the Tucson and Phoenix area. There's no cover charge but if you come please support Petra by having a delicious dinner while you're there!

Second, my very first out-of-state performance! I will be dancing on the festival stage at the Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive on September 5th. My time slot is 6:03 but the show could be running late or early so if you really want to see me, I'd say you'd be best off getting your seat at around 5:30.

I'm excited about both of these opportunities and I hope I'll see some of you there. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Beat The Heat Retreat Was Neat!

The entrance to the school where the retreat was held

I am back from Bisbee! I had a wonderful weekend down there. Aside from all the dancing stuff that I'll get to in a minute, Bisbee itself is a cute town, the weather was perfect, and I had fun exploring, shopping, and eating at local restaurants. While a normal person might buy a t-shirts as a souvenir, or perhaps even spring for some Bisbee turquoise, I came home with tea and a vintage dragon bracelet. But enough about that, let's talk about the retreat itself!

Location: Bisbee is not only cute, but the downtown area is very compact, so everything was within walking distance. We parked on Friday and didn't get in our car again until it was time to leave. Very convenient! The school was just around the corner from Hotel San Ramon where I was staying. It's a pretty neat building, although our "classroom" was kind of more of a hallway and didn't have much by way of mirrors. The show was also held here, in an adorable little theater. There was a huge pile of cushions to make the hard wooden chairs comfy.

Workshops: At only $5 for each 1 hour workshop, this was a really affordable event. I took Dawn's shimmy workshop, where we went over some basic shimmies, learned a quick drum solo just for fun, and did walking shimmy drills. Later, I took Mahin's bellydance anatomy workshop, where I learned some great new-to-me stretches. On Sunday morning, I attended Rajani's face and hands lecture, which was held during the mimosa breakfast. I learned some good tips on emoting, and also which hand gestures might be offensive depending on the culture of your audience.

Shopping: There was a small selection of vendors from across AZ. Just enough to provide a nice selection, but few enough that I didn't break the budget shopping. There were costumes, props, jewelry, accessories, soap, costuming supplies and more. Because the vendors were located in the main lobby, it was really easy to shop during the break between workshops.

Show: A great variety of performers! Things ran pretty much on time despite a major problem with the sound system which lead to difficulties making sure that everyone performed to the right music. A couple of dancers ended up performing improv to each other's music before things got straightened out. Because it was a small event with a casual atmosphere, the performers were allowed to be in the audience when they weren't on stage, so I was able to enjoy the entire show -- a rare treat! I really enjoyed the chance to see some old and new favorite dancers on stage.

Food: Lunch on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday were provided for all attendees (and there was enough food that we could even bring spouses along). I was concerned that lunch might be puny sandwiches or something, but it turned out to be fresh-baked pita, home-made hummus in two flavors, and a mini salad bar. Top it all off with fruit waters and home-made cookies. YUM! Breakfast was a dessert bar and mimosa fixings.

Over all: For a first year event organized by two people in two different towns, this went really smoothly. The whole thing had a really fun, relaxed vibe, like we were all just hanging out but there happened to be workshops, vending and a show going on, too. There's already talk of having it again next year, with a few changes, and I'm looking forward to going back.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Under the Weather

This picture really makes me giggle.
Why are you seeing a picture of a dancing dryad instead of a cosmetics review? Well, this week has been a bit of a rollercoaster emotionally and physically, and has ended with me fighting off a minor health issue. So while I have a ton of new products waiting to be reviewed, I am not feeling particularly presentable at the moment.
I have a performance Saturday night down in Bisbee, so let's hope that next week's Beauty Blogging for Bellydancers isn't titled "Products to cover up your sick-face and make you look remotely human for the stage."
Speaking of Bisbee, check back here on Monday for my review/recap of the Beat the Heat Bellydance Retreat. I'm looking forward to a weekend of dance, fun, friends, and even a little time with my husband. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Do It Yourself

Purty close-up of one of my first bra projects
When I was first thinking of trying bellydance back in the late 90s, I remember that my Mom found a website called "Learn to Dance, Learn to Sew." As far as I can tell, it doesn't exist anymore, but that catchy and accurate title has stuck in my head for all these years. The two really do go hand-in-hand.
Of course, you don't have to sew as a dancer. I know plenty of dancers who buy all of their costumes, either off-the-rack or paying a designer to make it for them. But there's a certain satisfaction that comes from making something yourself. The bra above is very distinctly "me", from the brown and green color scheme to the trim that I bought on vacation in NY to the coins given to me by my first dance teacher. The Swarovski sequins on the trim? I added those myself. I bought the sequins at my gem show job. The green stone dangles? From a necklace I cut apart.
Doing it yourself is not without its hazards, however. For instance, I poke myself with needles and pins quite a bit. And while before, I just hoarded beads and jewelry making supplies, now I'm amassing piles of fabric, saris, trim, appliques, Turkoman buttons and whatever else I think I can work into a costume. I have a backlog of costuming projects that will keep me busy for the rest of the year, and only one of them is a troupe project, the rest is just stuff that I want to make.

I'm working on a gorgeous olivine bra and belt set now... I'll post some in-progress pictures soon!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Where to shop for makeup?

It's been too hot lately to want to do up my face if I don't have a gig, so I figured that this week I'd talk about where I shop for makeup. Consider it a bit of a continuation of yesterday's theme on dressing like a pro. Once you've got great clothes for your body, you need good makeup for your face.

Ulta was the first place that I started buying makeup. I like that it's like a department store for cosmetics and hair, that there's one in the mall I frequent most often (in fact, when I first started buying makeup there was a Borders bookstore next door, which meant I spent a lot of lazy Saturday afternoons shopping for books and makeup), and that they carry upscale brands and drugstore brands. They also frequently have sales and coupons. Unfortunately, those coupons are rarely good on "prestige" brands like Urban Decay (my addiction).

Sephora is my current favorite. It's across town, which saves me from making too many visits, and they don't carry drugstore brands, so I usually spend more money there. I tend to get great service at my local Sephora and I like that they'll put pretty much anything on my face, and that if I don't like it when I get it home, I can return it. They seem to rotate things pretty often, which means there's always something new and exciting, but also that sometimes they just stop carrying stuff that you like. They do coupons and sales less often than Ulta, but their sales are less restrictive.

The MAC Counter. I haven't let myself go into an actual MAC store, but the counter at Dillards is pretty nice. Because MAC is a little more expensive and it's not really a browsing sort of place, I usually only go when I need something specific. That said, my favorite gel liner and dark neutral eyeshadow are from MAC, and I always get great service. I like that if I just want one thing, they find me that thing and don't try to sell me anything else.

Target. Yeah, I buy stuff at Target, because sometimes you just want a Blast Flipstick (hehehehe) or some e.l.f. lashes or some Sally Hansen nail polish. Of course the problem with Target is that you can't try anything on, and there's no trained employees to advise you, so you just have to hope for the best. But they have a pretty big selection, they put stuff on sale, and it's convenient.

On-line. I don't buy on-line very often, mainly only if there's a sale or what I want is sold out locally. Occasionally I'll take a chance on some handmade stuff from Etsy. But in general I prefer to try my makeup on, and of course when it's 100+ degrees out, things would just melt and get gross.

Do you shop someplace that I didn't cover here? Tell me about it in the comments!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dress For The Job You Want

They say dress for the job you want, not the job you have, so I dress like a faerie whenever I can.

I think one of the hardest parts of transitioning from amateur to pro is investing in good, professional costuming. Although it's more important to be a highly skilled dancer with great performance skills, audiences and clients are still going to expect you to look the part as well, and that means retiring your student recital clothes and dressing up a bit more.

It's especially hard for a Tribal Fusion dancer to know what to buy. The internet has plenty of advice for Egyptian-style dancers looking to start restaurant gigs -- buy a silver or gold bedlah and a couple different colored skirts, then as you make more money buy a second bedlah, now you have tons of mix and match options -- but Tribal costuming is a little less straight-forward. You have to find something that fits your style of dance, your personality, and your budget.

This costume by Anaya Tribal is a pretty good example of a good investment for a pro just starting out. I can wear the bra/belt set and skirt together, or I can pair the set with a green skirt or pants, put them over a 25 yard skirt to go old school, wear them with a bustle for steampunk, or throw on those wings and be a faerie. Likewise, since the skirt is a nice neutral brown, I could wear it with various green tops, or something in ivory or turquoise.

So here's my hard-earned tips, from one budding pro to those who come after me:

1. Quality over quantity. I have piles and piles of cheap bangles and huge earrings. If I had saved that money instead, I could invest in some gorgeous Taureg jewelry. Once you decide to go pro, stop buying the cheap stuff and set your dollars aside to buy something nice at the next festival.

2. But you don't have to buy the most expensive thing. One of the things that I wanted when I went to Tribal Fest was a spiky bracelet that actually fit. There were gorgeous antique real-silver ones for hundreds and hundreds of dollars... and a cheap white metal one that fit perfectly and was only $30something. Guess what? Most people in the audience won't know the difference. Someday when I'm a big shot I'll invest in the real thing, but this one will serve me well for now.

3. Before you buy something, think of what it will go with. Do you already have something at home that it will match? Does it fit in with the mental image of the next costume you want to make? It doesn't matter how awesome a pair of dance pants is if you have nothing to wear them with (I'm hoping this one will sink in for me eventually).

4. Make whatever you can. I already know how to make bras and belts and I'm learning to sew with an actual machine now, too. Doing your own sewing will save you some money and also allow you to have more customization in your look.

5. Look for luxurious and awesome materials. Velvet and lace are elegant. Metallics are hot right now. Vintage pieces and things that look vintage automatically make you look fancier. Put out the word that you want peoples' old costume jewelry. You'll got a lot of junk but also a lot of nifty stuff that can be repurposed. Necklaces can easily become belly-drapes. Brooches can be pinned onto a bra or belt. Cut things up for their beads. Speaking of cutting things up, you can cut up tacky old dresses and use the beaded fabric for decorating your bras. Go forth and hit the thrift stores.

6. Buy versatile basics. While we may not be able to fall back on a metallic bedleh and colorful chiffon skirts, we can buy good basics that can be accessorized for different looks. For instance, I bought a pair of velvet and lace pants in teal and emerald. Depending on how I accessorize them, they can either be plain ol' Tribal Fusion-y, faeriesque or mermaidish. A basic black skirt could go vampy, Victorian Goth, elegant and modern, or serve as the base for bright colors.

7. Get a second opinion. Sometimes it's good to consult with your teacher/mentor, or a dance friend, or a random person who's in the booth with you. They can give you an idea of how flattering, practical, or awesome something is before you buy.

8. Watch out for dated looks. Fringe belts and yarn dreads are mostly out. Almost no one performs in Melos and a crop-top anymore. Like all fashion, bellydance styles come and go, and while an audience of the General Public might not know the difference, the audience at a bellydance festival will.

Do you have any other tips you'd like to share for building a good Tribal Fusion wardrobe? Share it in the comments!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Three Eyeliner Pencils

 If you've ever wondered what I look like after dancing four numbers at Open Stage and then dancing to awesome live music on a night that happens to be over 100 degrees, well, here you go. I have got to remember to take my makeup pictures before my gigs. That look on my face says "What? Do I really have to take a picture before I wash my face and go to bed? And why did I take my false lashes off first?"

 Anyway, last night's look involved three different eyeliner pencils. I really like buying pencils, I think it's because they remind me so much of colored pencils and crayons. I loved to color when I was a kid! Plus eyeliner pencils are a really easy way to add a little more color to an eye look that's just not quite popping for you.

Here are the three pencils I used:
1. Sephora Flashy Liner Waterproof in Flashy Blue. I think they discontinued these so this review doesn't do you much good. Sorry!
2. Kat Von D Waterproof Autograph Pencil in Black Metal Love.
3. Sephora Nano in Pure White which is currently out of stock. I am just striking out today!

Haaaaaaaand swaaaaaaatch! The picture probably doesn't show it well but the Flashy Blue is nicely metallic. I like it a lot and wish I had more than two colors from this line (the other is a green, surprise I know) and the Black Metal Love has lots of silver glitter (which is why I bought it, because I have more plain black pencils than I can ever use, thanks for that UD). The white is a plain ol' white. My thoughts on each one:

1. This is a great accent color. Held up well under my eye all night. Most of it came off easily when I removed my makeup but there was one spot under each eye where I had some blue staining.

2. Applied really smoothly, held up well, came off easily at the end of the night. $10 is a bit much for such a small pencil but I might buy more colors especially if I have a coupon.

3. Nano liners are a good deal at $5. I tried this on my waterline to brighten my eyes and make them look larger. I think it helped? However, the white pencil picked up the black and blue liner really easily, so next time I should plan ahead and do the white first rather than making up my eye look as I went along. Did not actually look white in waterline, just brightened it, but since it looks white on my hand it will probably look white when used around the eye. Could make for fun accents.

Over all: I'm sorry if this shatters any of your images about bellydancers being glamorous, but I sweated a LOT last night and my eyeliner stayed in place. I wore these for about 6 hours, danced a whole lot, adjusted my fake lashes and my liner still looked fine. So any of these would be good buys for a dancer.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why Open Stage?

I spent MINUTES working on this graphic, you bet I'm going to use it more than once!

Tomorrow is our monthly Open Stage at Sky Bar here in Tucson. Yep, we're having Open Stage even on 4th of July, because we like routine.

It's my opinion that every decent-sized dance community should have a regularly occurring open stage or hafla, whether it's monthly, every other month or quarterly. And let me tell you why: a dancer who has been bitten by the performance bug and has no appropriate performance outlets will start to make questionable decisions. We all know the logic: "I really need more practice performing so I'll go see if the manager at Chateau de Kebab will let me perform for free just for the experience" or "Sure I'll dance at your event, but since I'm just a student you only have to pay me $10."

The truth is, once a dancer has decided that she loves to perform, those once or twice a year student recitals don't cut it, especially for the dancer who wants to be a soloist but isn't given the opportunity to at recitals (because if everyone got to solo the recital would be 5 hours long!). If she hasn't been told about proper behavior and undercutting, she'll naturally start to have these thoughts (I know, because I did), and even if she has been told she might try to rationalize it by saying "Oh, it's OK because they don't normally have dancers so I'm not taking work from anyone..." etc etc etc.

Even if a dancer isn't directly taking work from someone, if she goes out performing on her own before she's ready, she can make a lot of mistake, get taken advantage of, and make the dance look bad. If the audience at Chateau de Kebab doesn't know that they're watching a student, they're going to think that they're watching a pro and they're not going to be impressed. They're not going to want to hire a bellydancer for their next big party.

Open stage and all-level haflas give those eager students an appropriate place to get their dance fix. And when the emcee says "Jill is a student who has been dancing for six months" and "Jane is a professional dancer with ten years of training" the audience can see the difference. They can see that Jill loves what she does but needs more work, and that Jane is a polished performer who would be ideal to dance at their company's New Year's Eve Soiree. Jill gets to dance, Jane gets to advertise, the audience gets to see what the city has to offer by way of dance (because in my perfect world, Open Stage spans the entire community, and tribal, Egyptian, and AmCab dancers perform, maybe with the occasional guest who does hula or tango or hip hop). Everybody wins at Open Stage!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I've been working out

This photo by Liora K makes me feel pretty awesome, because I think it's the first time I've ever been able to see my back and shoulder muscles. I wasn't even aware that they were visible until this shoot, because it's not like I can easily look at my own shoulders.

I'm feeling pretty buffed-out because I just finished a 30 day challenge where I built up to doing 250 squats and 100 push-ups. For the entire month of June I worked out 3 days on, 1 day off, no matter what else I had going on (except for one day when a gig ate my entire day and left no time or energy for workouts, so it ended up actually being a 31 day challenge).

I have mixed feelings about these 30 day challenges. On the one hand, I feel pretty proud of myself (and my husband too! He even kept it up when he went to NJ for a week) for accomplishing them, and I definitely see results in my back, shoulders and thighs. I have better range of motion in my push-ups now, too. On the other hand, I feel like my body probably would have been better served by doing a more varied work-out, and there were days when my thighs and hips were constantly sore and tired (I was very glad we didn't have dance class for the last 10 days of the month because I don't know if I could have handled both). Also, while my push-ups improved, my squats didn't get any better because I had to focus on increasing the quantity I did rather than the quality.

Going forward, I want to keep doing squats and push-ups, because they are good for me, but I want to do less of them and throw in some other things, like crunches or something, so more of my body gets a workout. My main worry is that without a 30 day challenge hanging over my head, I'll be more likely to not do my exercises when I'm too tired or it's too hot.

Oh, and speaking of too hot? It was 100 degrees or over every single day of June. I don't recommend choosing the hottest month of the year to start a new workout routine.