Thursday, January 31, 2013

Glitter Liner/Mascara Review

 Welcome to my first cosmetics review! I find that traditional beauty blogs just don't answer all the questions belly dancers have about our makeup, so I'm here to provide opinions by a dancer, for a dancer. As such, it seems appropriate that I start with GLITTER! Specifically, the Sephora Collection Glitter Eyeliner and Mascara.

I was inspired to try this product after seeing Brandye in Skirt Full of Fire rock some glitter mascara. The brand she was wearing is only available at Wal-Mart (or at a significant mark-up on Amazon), so I decided to give Sephora's version a try. I like the fact that theirs doubles as a liner. I chose the Sunset Copper which is a nice brassy golden color.
 You can see that this product has an unusual brush that is part mascara roller and part fine eyeliner brush. This means you have to be careful when applying it as a mascara, or you'll get streaks of liner on your face. I learned this the hard way! But both parts of the brush serve their intended purpose well.
Here's the obligatory beauty blogger hand swatch. Why do bloggers swatch everything on their hand? I'm not going to wear it on my hand, I'm going to wear it on my face. I feel like if a company is send you cosmetics for free, the least you can do is show me how it looks when worn as intended. Now, I spent my own $13 on this product, but I'm still going to show you how it looks on:
Too bad that the poor lighting in my bathroom means you can't actually TELL how it looks! If I'm going to be a beauty blogger, I need to buy some nicer lights. Sheesh. So let me give you my impression of how it wore... The liner is nice and bright! I applied it under some winged-out black for a nice POP, which compliments the gold shadow I'm wearing under my brow-bone. I also applied the gold mascara to my false lashes. It's a subtle effect. I feel like Brandye's Wal-Mart brand gave more glitter, but maybe she applied it heavier or chose a better color. I'm going to experiment some more. Either way, I don't think the mascara shows up well in pics. I wouldn't recommend it for photos or for a big stage. This is definitely one for when you're going to be close enough for the audience to really appreciate your lashes! Great for restaurants and parties where you're mingling with the crowd.

I wore this all night, and while I admittedly didn't get too sweaty because it was a COLD night, it held up well. I didn't get much glitter fall-out and the liner didn't run or smudge. Removal was pretty easy, but I found that it lingered on the false lashes. If you're going to apply it over falsies, either use a cheap pair that you don't mind throwing out, or plan to always wear this shade of glitter with them.

Over all, I'd say this is a good buy at $13 and could be a good staple for a dancer of any style. The pretty wide variety of colors means there's something for everyone (though I am of course highly disappointed by the lack of a true green). And let's face it, we're all always looking for new ways to add glitter to our faces.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Costume!

Another picture by Sam Supowit! So glad he was there to photograph our Mijana's showcase!

Lest you start to think this blog is going to be all opinions, all the time, here's a lighter-hearted post about my NEW COSTUME! In order to match better with Skirt Full of Fire, Fire & Gold now has a pretty black sparkly costume set. To make this, I had to learn how to make a belt, which was surprisingly not awful. You can't really see it in this picture, but that's OK. It needs more embellishments before it's done! The bra probably needs a little more, too... a belly dangle and I'm thinking Swarovski sequins for sure!

For my set I chose some fabric I already had, a beautiful black-on-black embroidered taffeta-y cloth. I added some pre-made appliques with a kind of Art Nouveau floral style to them, because that's totally what I'm in to right now and they look good with my tattoo. The bra has drapes of gunmetal chain. The belt will too, eventually, but I might need to pick up more chain at the gem show next week. Oh, and there's a vintage faceted black glass button at the center of the bra, because I have to justify my collection of glass buttons by using them occasionally.

I like this costume because each member of F&G has a little something different, but because they're all black and sparkly we look great together! Plus we have palazzo pants and a hip scarf as our bottom half, which is sooooo much less bulky than pantaloons and a 25 yard skirt and a hip scarf! It makes for a very sharp tribal fusion look.   

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Audiences and Narcissism

I am totally vain about my hair, so this seems like an appropriate pic for a post about narcissism. Photo by Sam Supowit.

Every time there's a conversation about audiences, whether it's yesterday's topic of community support, or a "question of the day" about whether you prefer a big theater audience vs. a small restaurant crowd, or dancing for fellow dancers vs. the general public, there's always at least one person who has to mention how they don't need an audience, they dance for themselves. Maybe I'm a little defensive (I often am), but it always comes across as so condemning of the rest of us. Oh, look at the narcissistic dancers who need someone to watch them dance!

I have a couple of things to say about this. First, in all areas of our lives we need to stop tearing others down to build ourselves up. Just because someone likes something, doesn't mean they need it. Just because you don't need or want something that others seem to want doesn't mean that you're somehow a better, more pure person. We're all pretty much okay, unless we're not, and if we're not, our lack of okayness is going to manifest in hurting people, not in wanting someone to watch us dance.

No, I don't need an audience. In fact, for the first few years that I danced, I thought I'd never want to perform. It seemed like too much stress, too much hassle, and shy early-20s me sure wasn't comfortable with being in the spotlight! Obviously I eventually got bit by the performance bug and I never looked back. But I still love to practice choreographies in class, and I love to put on music and jam around the house in my PJs. I don't need someone to watch me when I'm dancing, and in fact, oftentimes I need to be unobserved, so I can experiment without being self-conscious.

But do I want an audience? Oh goodness yes! If I spend hours and hours over a course of weeks or months practicing a troupe choreography or a structured improv solo, if I've stabbed myself a hundred times sewing a new costume, if I've primped and preened and made myself up, if I've given up yet another weekend night at home with my husband and pets, then YES, I want to have an audience. And I don't feel bad saying so. Anyone who performs wants an audience. Without an audience, live theaters shut down, bands can't go on tour, movies fail to get sequels and TV shows get canceled. As soon as you decide to make that switch from hobbyist to performer, you are putting yourself in the position to rely on audiences to a certain degree.

Dancers want audiences, and audiences want dancers. If none of us ever said "Ok, I want to perform now" then no one would ever witness our art. Performing is not simply an act of vanity, it's also an outreach. We're taking our art to people who have never seen it before, or to people who have never done it this way. As a tribal fusion bellydancer, I love the reactions from audiences who have previously only seen Egyptian bellydance in restaurants before. I like opening their eyes to the diversity of bellydance. I love to answer their questions, and tell them where they can go in town to see even more styles of dance.

So if you don't need an audience, that's fine. That's a valid approach to take towards dance. Not everyone needs or wants to perform, for some it is a hobby or a fun social activity, and I fully support that. I just ask that you, in return, fully support me and my fellow dancers who thrive in the spotlight (even if it's a little bitty spotlight).

Monday, January 28, 2013

Supporting your fellow dancers

Above, a picture of my troupemates and I watching Skirt Full of Fire at a recent fundraiser. Not sure who the photographer is.

Being a supportive community member, and being supported by the community, is much on my mind lately. It stems partially from the shows I've attended lately (both as a performer and as an audience member), and partially from some discussions on FB started by Faizeh (who always has the best thought-provoking FB posts).

It's no secret that I love bellydance. I don't just enjoy performing, I also enjoy being in the audience. Watching a dancer leaves me with a silly grin plastered on my face, or wiping tears from my eyes. There are few things that have such an emotional impact on me. As such, I try to make sure that I attend shows that I am not dancing in, so that I can focus on just soaking in the performances without worrying about my own performance in the back of my mind.

With that in mind, it really surprises me sometimes to go to an event and see very few dancers in the audience. Now, I get it. It's hard to make every event, especially if you have to pay to get in, or it's on a work/school night, or it's in the next city over. But when I consistently see the same people in the audience, and never see others at any shows, even the free ones on weekends and holidays, I have to wonder.

Oh, people always have a whole host of excuses as to why they couldn't come to the show, and I'm sure many of them are valid reasons. But it's suspicious when someone can always clear their calendar to come out and perform, but never clear it to support others! If dance is really a passion for you, then doesn't watching others feed that passion at least as much as performing does?

I think all of us who perform, and those of us who are "just" students as well need to make more of an effort to go out and support our fellow dancers. There are so many ways to support the community:

-Treat yourself to tickets to the next Bellydance Superstars event.

-Make sure to see the bellydance troupe(s) that perform at your local Renaissance Faire, and tip them well!

-Attend a student showcase or recital. Don't you remember how hard it was to get on stage those first few times, how nervous you were, and how wonderful it was to see your "big sisters" in dance sitting in the front row and hear their cheers? It's time to pay it forward.

-Take a month off from performing at Open Stage and attend just as an audience member.

-Go out to dinner at a restaurant with dancers. Ask around in the community to see who performs where. Teach the people at the table next to you how to zaghareet.

-Go to a non-bellydance-specific event that a local dancer or troupe is participating in. Whether it's a street fair or fundraiser or art showcase, we do sometimes find ourselves at something other than a hafla, and it's nice for organizers to see that bellydancers can draw a crowd!

-Invite your friends, family, and co-workers to come to a show with you. Help them see why you love bellydance. I think for a new audience member, it's nice to have a dancer who they can pepper with questions (what does that noise mean? what are those things on her fingers? where did she get that costume?). As a bonus, once they see how awesome dance is, they're more likely to come to YOUR events and support YOU.

-If you genuinely don't have the time to attend an event, but you do have the money, why not sponsor someone else? Offer to buy a ticket for a fellow dancer who is struggling financially but would love to see the show.

-Also, just because you can't attend an event doesn't mean that you can't at least promote it on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog. Let your friends know why they should go out and see your fellow dancers.

With so many ways to be supportive, there's no excuse not to be. Get out there in the audience, and remember why you first fell in love with this dance.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Swap Meet (Busiest Weekend Part 3)

I went to Yasmina's Bellydance Swap Meet to try to sell my jewelry. On that count, I was not very successful. I made one sale of three items... to a non-dancer who decided to see what was going on with all those tents at the women's center. But that's OK. It helped me make some definite decisions about what I'm doing with my jewelry this year.

Aside from the whole "sitting there all day not selling jewelry" aspect, the swap meet was great. I took a fan veil workshop from Yasmina and also bought myself a pair of fan veils from her (the nice thing was that she had loaner pairs for people who wanted to try it without investing in the prop, but I knew already that I wanted them). I'm pretty excited about fan veils and am already working to use them to "Crooked Muse" as opposed to the traditional veil I have been using.

I also had a nice time talking with people all day. My booth neighbor was Dawn Z who does silk dying (she made my above-mentioned veil) and is just a really sweet woman. We helped each other set up our pop-up canopies because that is never a one-woman job! I saw a lot of other Phoenix-area dance friends that I hadn't seen in a while, and Jess Walker from here in Tucson was up to teach a workshop and spent some time at my booth chatting with Jolie and I.

Oh, and of course I shopped. I was going to not buy things if my sales didn't go well, but that didn't really last. After being so good at the Desert Shakedown, I couldn't resist finally buying some new costuming! I got a great little overskirt and tie-top from Gail aka Rukshana, and I scored a really sweet pair of never-worn batik-dyed real Melodia pants (not those cheap rip-offs) for a ridiculously low price. They fit me like a dream! People were watching me check them out in the mirror and telling me to buy them from halfway across the event, so of course I had to give in to peer pressure.

I will not be returning to the swap meet as a vendor (unless it's to share a booth with a friend to clean out our dance closets), but I will definitely come back for workshops and shopping! It's a great event to learn new skills, see friends, and pick up costuming.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Assisting (Busiest Weekend Part 2)

One of my jobs as a troupe assistant was to snap a quick backstage photo of Skirt Full of Fire before their second set :)

For the most part, my job was to be chauffeur, go-fer, and holder of things. I was also on hand in case there were any problems with the DJ mid-set, so no one would have to jump off-stage and try to fix a bad music situation, but that didn't happen, thankfully. Being an assistant is not particularly glamorous but it is actually pretty fun. I enjoyed my behind-the-scenes look at being a professional and performing at a medium-sized, non-dance-community event.

I learned a lot about communicating with event organizers and clients, both from watching Jolie during the pre-show tour of the venue and from talking about the gig on the way home Sunday night. I also saw how gigging dancers have to be able to adapt on the fly to an unexpected stage layout or other small hitches in an event.

A lot of blogs and articles recommend ride-alongs like this as part of a would-be-pro dancer's education and I totally see why now. Why stumble your way through the world of professional gigs when you could get some hands-on experience beforehand? Since I didn't have the stress of getting ready and performing, I was able to observe everything from the outside, and then later pick Jolie's brain. It definitely helps to have a mentor who has experience in a lot of different arenas -- performing as a soloist, as part of a troupe, as a troupe director, with live bands, etc etc.

I'm looking forward to doing more assistant work throughout the year. Not only is it great for my dance career, but any chance to spend more time with Jolie, Brandye and Rachel is good in my book! Thanks ladies for letting me work with you this weekend.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Busiest Weekend

Those are sculptures of straight jackets hanging from the ceiling of the restaurant where I was having dinner after Club Bellydance... with the five members of Bellydance Superstars who are part of the tour, along with their road crew, Ava Fleming (who hosted the Phoenix Club Bellydance show), some of the other local performers, and a couple other audience members. And that is one reason why the busiest weekend was also the awesomest weekend.

(Side note: I had to steal this picture from Jolie's FB, because I left my phone in the car and couldn't take my own straight jacket sculpture pictures)

My weekend of busy awesomeness was not originally going to be anything too spectacular. I was going to vend at Yasmina's Bellydance Swap Meet, take a fan veil workshop, maybe have some dinner, and then go home. But a month or so ago Jolie asked if I would like to assist Skirt Full Of Fire at a gig up in Phoenix that night, because I had expressed some interest in doing some ride-alongs to learn more about the business side of dance. Since I was already going to be up there for the swap meet, this was perfect! So my plan became swap meet, workshop, assist at gig, maybe sleep over, then go home.

Then Club Bellydance was going to be in town on the 20th and I was torn on whether to go or not. After all, did I want to spend the entire weekend in Phoenix? But when the local performers were announced, I knew I had to go. Not only was Jolie performing, but so were my former teachers Anaya Tribal, so I really had to go make some noise for the ladies who have shaped my dance career (plus the rest of the line-up was pretty impressive). This meant that my plan was now swap meet, workshop, assist at gig, sleep over, Club Bellydance, maybe a quick late dinner after, go home.

I'll write separate posts about the swap meet and the pro gig, as each needs some things said about it and I don't want this to turn into a disjointed novel, but they were both good experiences for their own reasons, and I had a really good time on Saturday.

If you haven't been to a Club Bellydance show before, it's split into two parts. The first half consists of local performers who auditioned to be part of the show. This time around the judges had chosen a really great mix of soloists and troupes, tribal and cabaret. A really great mix of styles. Since it's pick-your-own-seating, I grabbed front and center, because why not? Besides, Fonda and I sat in the front row at my first Club Bellydance show, so I'd like to make it a tradition. I enjoyed the heck out of the first half of the show and was really glad that I went. It was incredibly inspiring and really a good time.

So during intermission I'm posting on  FB about how great the event is, when Jolie texts me from backstage and asks me if I want to go do dinner after with Sabah and the others. I played it cool in my response with a simple "Love to!" and meanwhile texted my husband going "Omgomgomgomg." I was going to get to hang out with the cool kids!

And that was about when I started thinking about the importance of making good decisions in life. If I hadn't decided to ask Jolie for the opportunity to help out with some pro gigs, and if I hadn't decided to spend the entire weekend up in Phoenix so I could see Club Bellydance, I would not have been in the position to get asked to the post-show dinner. By stepping out of my comfort zone with working to go pro, I had set myself up to go down a path that would lead to hanging out with a lot of dancers who I really admire. I think this is good inspiration to keep pushing myself!

As for the dinner itself, it was a lot of fun. I was between Sabrina and Ava. I spent most of the dinner being my usual shy, quiet self, just soaking up the conversation, but when Sabrina busted out her phone to show pictures of her cat and snakes, I came out of my shell a bit. I can always talk pets with everyone (thank goodness photographs no longer set off my snake phobia!). And I talked restaurants with Ava, who had picked the super-cool AZ88 as a place that could accommodate 17 hungry dancers and dance-related people at 10:30 on a Sunday night.

It was really, really awesome to meet all of the dancers and see how sweet and funny they are off-stage, and it was also nice to be reminded that while superstars may be far better dancers than I am, just like me they miss their pets when they travel.

Oh, and next time Club Bellydance comes through? I'm going to audition. Talk about pushing myself!

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I seem to have lost my momentum somewhere around November and I desperately need to find it again. I have such big plans for 2013 but I have been struggling to carve out time for practice. It doesn't help that this week has been weird... I've been out and about a lot, catching up on errands and getting massages and meeting with people.

Today's meeting was with Jolie. I will be assisting Skirt Full of Fire at Infinity: A Kinky Adventure in Phoenix next weekend. This is my first time doing a ride-along with the pro troupe and I am really excited to get a behind the scenes look at gigging (more than I get at the community shows that we do). Anyway, today's meeting was to discuss the details of that and what will be expected of me, but we also talked a lot about my professional development.

I really enjoy working with Jolie because she gives me the right mixture of praise and constructive criticism. I get a lot of "I've noticed you're getting a lot better at X, so keep practicing that but now let's focus on Y." Today was a lot of what I can do for my image, both from a physical standpoint and in my interactions with people. It's funny that a lot of what she suggested to me (play more with makeup, put more of a positive spin on things) was stuff that I had already put on my list of goals for 2013.

Anyway, all that talk made me want to take more action. I want to be practicing more and working on costumes and playing with my makeup and hair and journaling and having deep thoughts about what I'm doing, instead of goofing off on Facebook. I think I need to try having an actual schedule to adhere to, dividing up the various work that I need to do. Maybe that will help.

Off to brainstorm about how I can squeeze some practice in tomorrow...

Monday, January 7, 2013

It's so BIG!

Tonight was our first troupe practice in the new BreakOut Studios, and WOW! The room is so BIG! And bright! And beautiful! Wooden dance floors, new mirrors, freshly painted walls... And it was warm enough that I danced in a t-shirt. I'm in looooove.

I'm also excited because we have new troupe members! And old members who were busy are coming back! It's a nice big, robust group again. We worked hard on the new choreography that we started before the break, with hopes of having it finished soon so we can start on yet another one. I'm happy to be working on new material for all of our shows that are coming up.

Speaking of shows, Denim Day is coming up on Saturday! It's at Fluxx Studios off of 4th Ave and runs from 7pm-12am. I'm not sure where we are in that, but it's a fundraiser show with artists showing their work and probably other performers, too, so if you can, plan to be there all night :)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Open Stage Again!

Last night's Open Stage was pretty awesome. We had even more dancers than last time, and another great audience. Aside from having to start late due to the UofA basketball game running into overtime, it went pretty flawlessly. And since UofA won, the crowd was in a good mood (college sports are a big deal here, if you are into sports. I am not).

Sky Bar is proving to be a pretty ideal venue. There's a lot of room to dance, which makes it nice for big troupes like ours, or for using props like veil. Since it's not a restaurant, the dancers don't have to vie with dinner for peoples' attention. And after the show, we can all relax with an adult beverage and chat it up. I had a really nice time last night catching up with dancers that I hadn't seen in a long time, and meeting new dancers.

I feel really happy with how my solo performance went last night. I wish I had gotten video of it, as I was emoting like crazy and I really just left it all out there on the dance floor. If I can get my technical skill to match my passion, I think I will be pretty awesome. As it is, I'm still really proud of my progress, I've grown a lot from my previous "SMILE FOR THE AUDIENCE, OMG, DON'T STOP SMILING!" dance persona.

Last night I also hit a new milestone: I wore full-size false eyelashes all night! I was actually pretty disappointed with how small they were. I'm ready to try some great big over the top dramatic lashes. Good thing I am going to Sephora on Sunday!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Goals for 2013

What does a mask have to do with my goals? Well, as soon as my Mom gave me this handmade polymer clay raven mask last night, I knew that I wanted to find the perfect situation to wear it for a dance performance. It's really awesome!

Anyway, now that I am not quite as hyper as yesterday, let's see if I can focus on writing down a few goals.

1. I am going to Tribal Fest and I am going to make the most of it! I need to develop some good note-taking habits so I can really get the best out of the workshops I'll be taking. I will also try to be smart about my shopping and buy things that will really round out my costume wardrobe, and not just every awesome green thing I see (note to self: you do not need another green tribal belt).

2. I am going to get back to healthy practice habits. I have been a real slacker lately. If I want to grow as a dancer and be a professional, I need to put the work into it, and not just go to classes and then practice choreos furiously in the days leading up to a show. I need to drill my basics. I need to challenge myself with new things. And I need to work on my strength and flexibility, no matter how much it sucks.

3. I am going to take full advantage of my Datura Online subscription. It will not languish unused like so many of my bellydance DVDs.

4. I am going to play. I tend to get focused on drilling and preparing performances, and I rarely let myself just have fun. My practice needs to include just dancing to music for the heck of it. I need to set aside time to play with my makeup when I'm not rushing to get ready for a gig. I need to work on costumes just because I have an idea, not because I need a bra for a troupe costume.

5. I am going to be nice to myself. Jolie says I am too hard on myself, and even in this post you can see that I am talking about all of the things that I do wrong and need to do better. I am going to remember the things I do well, and tell myself about them, and occasionally tell the world, too.

6. I am going to learn to sew. I keep saying that. I need to actually do it.

7. I am going to be a professional. Even if I am not getting a lot of paid gigs, I will act like a professional. I will be on-time to my gigs. I will wear the best costumes available to me. I will be well-made-up. I will be friendly and courteous with the organizer, the audience, my fellow dancers.

8. I am going to continue to be a good troupe-mate. I will practice my choreographies. I will help my fellow dancers with costuming needs, extra practices, and encouraging words. I will promote the events that we are dancing at, share the videos of us performing, and continue to speak well of all we do, because I am proud of my troupe.

9. I am going to keep a dance journal. I will record my progress and my deep thoughts, I will say nice things about myself and I will occasionally gripe. At the same time, I am going to work to make this blog less about the minutia of my practice, and more about upcoming gigs, performance videos, vendor recommendations, product reviews and other fun things.

10. I am going to cross-train. Yoga. Jogging. Other styles of dance. Whatever I can do to improve my health and my dance instead of staying so focused on bellydance. I will get out there and do it.

2013 is going to be awesome!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What lies ahead?

I couldn't resist posting this silly image! After spending my teenage and early 20 years being relatively skinny, I have really embraced the curves that I developed in adulthood. I don't look quite as good as this vintage lady, though!

So here we are in 2013! To say that I'm excited is an understatement. I mean, after all, this is the year when I finally go to TRIBAL FEST and if all goes well, I'll also pop up to Vegas for a quick visit to the Intensive in September. I'm so happy to finally be able to travel to some of the larger belly dance events, and happy at the thought of all the long-distance friends I'll get to see, new-to-me teachers I'll study with, and oh yes, the shopping! I'm already saving up.

After spending the end of 2012 laying the groundwork for being a semi-professional soloist (setting up a website, ordering business cards, investing in some nicer costumes), I am ready to start seeking a few paying gigs here and there.

This is also the year when I will finally sit down with my sewing machine and learn what is what, and start sewing some costumes! I am already signed up for a costuming workshop with Dusty Paik of Snake Church. It was one of my must-haves for Tribal Fest. If my initial forays into costume construction go well, I may even look into taking some college classes on fashion design and garment construction. We'll see.

I'm really looking forward to classes and troupe practice starting back up at the new studio. It sounds like we'll be getting some new troupe members, and we're working on a new choreography, and there are so many gigs coming up in January alone... I LOVE being part of Fire & Gold Bellydance! We're always working on something awesome.

I feel like 2013 is going to be the best year yet for me as a dancer, which is saying something because 2012 was pretty amazing, too. I've made so many new dance friends, progressed so much in my skills, and had some wonderful performance opportunities. 2012 gave me so much to work with to make the future even brighter.

(This was going to be a post about goals for the new year, but then I got hyper on tea and glurged, so I guess tomorrow will be goals. Happy New Year!)