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!