Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I moved my blog!

Blowing a good-bye kiss to Blogger
Last week I saw someone post about how you could easily migrate all of your old Blogger posts to your WordPress site, so I made that one of my goals for this week... And today, while drinking my second cup of tea, I did it. I did it all by myself, too. I figured out how to migrate it, how to change the author name, how to make it show up on my website, everything. You can go see it HERE.

Blogger has served me well for the few years I've used it, but I have had some problems from time to time. But mostly, when I started this blog I was an amateur dancer who just wanted to share her progress when she challenged herself to dance every day for a year. Now that I have my eyes on a professional career, it makes more sense to have my blog rolled into my website (which I didn't have when I set up this blog).

I'll be leaving this blog up, as I know people have linked to some of my old posts in the past and I want those links to remain active. But from now on you can find new material AND all of my old posts (complete with comments!) over at sophiadances.com. I hope I'll see you all over there :)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Steps towards Body Love

I get weird, squishy creases when I bend this way and that's OK.
Side note, it's really weird to see my right hip without a tattoo.

When I shared last week's post about pizza 'n' bikinis, I got a lot of interesting responses, but what made me sad were the ladies who said they didn't love their bodies. It got me to thinking about my own progress in loving myself, so I thought I would share it.

Note: I realize that I speak from a place of privilege here. I'm white, medium sized, cisgender, and aside from my teeth, probably conventionally pretty. So I started from an easier point than others do. Still, maybe my advice will give you something to think about, and set you on a path to look for advice from people who have a similar experience to you.

For me, the first step to body love was finding individual parts of my body to love. For one thing, I love my hair. Even before I decided to dye it with henna making it a color that I adore, I loved its length, thickness, and gentle waves. I loved how I could put it in a bun and anchor a bunch of hairsticks, flowers, and other accessories in it.I loved wearing it down my back, or in braids, or in a bouncy ponytail.

Next, I learned to love my eyes. I never thought much about them, other than the fact that they tended to change color from time to time, but my husband loves them, and because he loves them, I love them. If your lover thinks that a part of your body is especially beautiful, ask him or her to tell you why, in detail. It will make you feel all ooey-gooey inside and help you see yourself as your lover sees you.

Somewhere along the way, I decided I also loved my legs. Sure, other people think they're too pale, and they are attached to my excessively tight hips, but I love how long they are, and I love their shape, and I love how elegant I feel in an arabesque with my leg stretched out behind me.

Once I came to love a few body parts, it was easier to be pretty happy with my body in general, and learn to love most of the things that I didn't like, or at least accept them.

Another way to love your body, if you can't bring yourself to be happy with your looks (or if you're already cool with your looks but unhappy about an illness or injury that keeps you down), is to love what your body DOES. The human body in and of itself is a pretty amazing thing, and each of us has probably achieved some cool thing with our body. I love my body because it's pretty good at dancing and that makes me incredibly happy. Maybe you love your body because it grew a baby, or because you can bench press an insane amount of weight, or you ran a 5k, or your body carried you up to some beautiful place where you got the most breathtaking view of your life.

One last thought: Body love and self-improvement are not mutually exclusive. I love my body, yes, but I also dye my hair, I'd like to lose 5-10 pounds, and I'm always working on improving my strength and flexibility. Loving your body doesn't mean you wouldn't change anything about it! I think of it this way: you can love your house, but still want to remodel the kitchen and paint the bathroom. The important thing is to have a healthy attitude about the changes you're making! Love the body you're in, but also love the progress you make with it and the different body you'll have down the road. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

That time I ate pizza in a bikini

Best pizza party EVER!

Last week I went over to Liora K's house to participate in a little photo shoot to promote the Body Love Conference. The theme? Eating pizza in our bikinis. I was totally down with that idea, even when a cold wind blew in and it started raining! Luckily the weather cleared up just in time for us to lounge around the pool. And lounge we did. This is just the start... a lot more beautiful women showed up lately and one of them brought cookies and brownies. I can't wait to see the rest of the photos!

All of this was to provide images for this article on the Body Love Conference in The Tucson Weekly. Apparently there are three full-page images in the print version! I need to go pick one up today, and if you're local I recommend you do, too. I also recommend attending the BLC if you can, because we all need to learn to be more loving of our bodies.

Body love has been on my mind a lot lately, not just because of this photo shoot and the fact that the BLC is just around the corner, but the fact that once your eyes are opened to a concept, you see it all around you. Earlier this week I got an e-mail from Sephora offering me a gift of 5 summer must-haves. What were they? Five self-tanning products! Well, I don't tan. It's not in my nature. I burn and I freckle, and I'm OK with that. I used to dislike my freckles because I didn't want to be "cute" but I have embraced the fact that I can be cute AND sexy. I love my long white legs, and I'm not going to tan them or my white belly and back to fit some arbitrary sense of beauty. I think I'm beautiful the way I am, pale skin, squishy belly, freckles and all.

Aside from the body love aspect, my favorite part of this photo shoot was Liora's neighbor's dog. He was a HUGE weimereiner, and he kept putting his feet and head on top of the brick wall and just watching us. No barking, growling, or anything else, just watching. I'm pretty sure he wanted pizza and ear scritches. He was absolutely adorable!

Oh, and while I was writing this, Liora sent me MORE PICTURES! YES!

 No big deal, this is just how we eat pizza. In our bikinis.
Look at those beautiful, happy faces!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why I Don't Teach

Photo by Santa Joe.
Maybe about once a month or so, I come across someone who thinks I should be teaching belly dance. I always smile and say something like "Oh, maybe some day, but not right now" which you think would be enough, but sometimes they come back with "Oh, why not?" or "You really should" or "I think you'd be great." So let me spell out a few reasons why I, and probably a lot of other dancers like me, do not teach yet.
1. Let's just get this out of the way. I am not as good of a dancer as you think I am! No, I'm not being excessively humble or tearing myself down. I think I am a good dancer, but I'm not yet a great dancer. More importantly, when you see me perform, you see the best of me. I only break out the moves that I am good at, the props that I am proficient with, the sort of music I'm comfortable with. You don't see all the elements of a well-rounded dance knowledge that I am still struggling with.
2. I am not even dancing professionally yet. This isn't to say that I think a teacher has to also be a professional performer. Maybe a teacher might have another job or family commitments that makes it hard for her to be out performing at night. But I think a teacher should be good enough that she (or he) could be performing professionally.
3. Knowing how to dance is not the same as knowing how to teach dance. I know how something works and feels in my body -- that doesn't mean that I know how it works and feels in your body. Or what might be making it not work in your body. Or how you can safely do that move if you have a knee injury. Before I teach belly dance, I want to make sure to get some formal training in anatomy and physiology, because I would hate to cause an injury to a student due to a lack of knowledge of body mechanics.
4. Tucson doesn't need yet another teacher offering beginning belly dance classes, and currently, that's all I'd be able to teach. There are other, more experienced, more qualified teachers already offering classes in my city, why would I compete with them?
5. Hanging your shingle as a teacher before you're ready can be really damaging to your reputation as a dancer. I don't want to overstep my bounds of where I am as a dancer and burn bridges with people who I might want to work with in the future. I'm in dance for the long haul and I want to foster good, healthy relationships rather than trying to shove myself into the void left by my own teacher moving away and making a quick buck or two before people realize that I'm in over my head.
So yes, I do appreciate the vote of confidence and I'm glad that I put forth an image of being professional, skilled, and knowledgeable but no, I am not ready to teach. Yet. Talk to me again in a couple more years! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tucson Festival of Books Recap

Photo by CR Reardon with Ashley Grove's camera

On Saturday, Fire & Gold Belly Dance performed at the Tucson Festival of Books, which is a HUGE event hosted at the University of Arizona featuring local and national (perhaps international?) authors, performing arts, vending, food, science education and a whole lot more.

Even though I LOVE books I'd never made it to this event, due to the fact that it always seemed to conflict with other scheduled events this time of year. So I have to admit that when I heard we were going to perform at it, my first thought was "Cool" but my second thought was "What does belly dance have to do with books?" When I actually got to the event and saw that we were next to a circus (!) and followed by Colombian dancers, it made a lot more sense. It may be the Festival of Books, but there's a whole lot of general "festival" atmosphere to go along with the books. This is actually a smart move because it probably makes it easier for bookworms to get their less-bookish friends and family to come along with them, and gives some exciting diversions for little ones who might have a short attention span.

A word about outdoor events in Arizona: you never know what you're going to get when it comes to weather. Friday was windy, cloudy, and even cold at times, so I was pretty worried about Saturday. Sure enough, although it was warm and clear, Saturday was SO WINDY! In the picture above you can actually see the back wall of our stage blowing in. This made prop work a little difficult, and there was grass and cotton candy blowing in the wind, too. But despite this weather we managed to draw a sizable and enthusiastic crowd, including a bunch of little girls who were excited about the idea of belly dance lessons.

My original plan was to wander the festival for a few hours after performing, but the wind made that a less-than-attractive prospect, so instead a few of us found a restaurant for a bite to eat. I did get to see some of the booths on the way back to the car and I was really impressed by the variety! It seemed like every genre under the sun was represented. There were self-publishing authors, local book stores, large publishers, artists, local organizations and so much more! I hope that next year the weather will be more cooperative and I can really browse and find some new reading material. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

e.l.f. Makeup Remover Pen

This handy little pen is quickly becoming my favorite quick-fix tool for makeup mistakes. Previously I used those little q-tips with the makeup remover in them, but they had the problem of not being very precise and sometimes smudging things instead of neatly removing them. But I've used the e.l.f. Makeup Remover Pen on eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick/lip tar with great results!
 Let's pretend my hand is my eye, and I'm just adding this black gel eye liner to this neon green eye shadow and OOPS! I sneezed! Now there's an annoying dash of eye liner going down my face. Uuuugh, I don't want to clean that off and start over.
Makeup Remover Pen to the rescue! Just a couple seconds of swiping and cleaning up the edges, and it's good as new! Depending on how gentle my hand is and how stubborn the product being removed is, I might even be deft enough to not remove the makeup underneath the offending stain. It's especially handy for cleaning up lip lines, as the point is fine enough that you can tidy up the edges without smearing it around. I also like it for mascara drops on the lower lash line, as I can easily get in under my lashes for a quick fix.

At only $3, this is a great investment. In fact, you might want to have one for home and one for your gig bag at that price!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My website!

This is how I felt when I realized my website was missing.

Recently I've had to include my website on a couple of performance applications, and that reminded me that I hadn't really done anything with my website in a while, so I figured maybe I should go in, add a couple new photos, update a few things, that sort of thing. Imagine my dismay when I went to my site and found that it was a blank white page. Imagine my further dismay when I realized that since I never go to my own website, it could have been that way for MONTHS!

So, what went from "Oh, I'll spend maybe 15-30 minutes sprucing up the site and then go practice" turned into spending my entire afternoon trying to remember passwords, calling tech support, deleting and reinstalling WordPress (because the admin screen was ALSO a blank white page!) and then rebuilding my website from scratch. On the bright side, my site looks better than it did before. On the not-so-bright side, I still have a lot of work to do on it.

It's going to be a work in progress for the next week or so, but feel free to pop over to www.sophiadances.com and let me know if you come across any problems or have ideas for improvement. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Skirt Work

Fire & Gold Belly Dance is hoping to add a skirt choreography to our repertoire soon, so I felt like it was time to dust off my skills. As such, I took a solo I'd done in the past and added some skirt work to it. It's fun, it's sassy, and it makes for such pretty pictures!

I think 25 yard skirts are one of the most fun "props" out there. There's something about spinning around and swishing your skirt that brings back memories of being a little girl, playing dress up, and dancing around in floofy dresses. This is the grown-up version of that. I'm really looking forward to seeing what my troupe does with them!

Monday, March 10, 2014

In Defense of the Selfie

I posted this "selfie" on Thursday night as I was about to head out the door to Open Stage. Why? Well, I was feeling pretty happy about my freshly-hennaed hair and how I was wearing it down, and how cute my magenta glitter lipstick looked, and I wanted to share it with the world. I think it's fun when dancers post a little "On my way to the show" picture too, as it builds the excitement.

Then today, I read this article titled "The Age of the Selfie" which suggested that I should not, in fact, be inflicting pictures of my face upon my friends. How dare I be so vain as to suggest that I might be a little pretty and that maybe people would like to see me? Well obviously I have a couple of problems with the anti-selfie sentiments that float around on the internet!

My first problem is the suggestion that there's something wrong with feeling that you are pretty or cute or that your new haircut is awesome. I don't have the best self-esteem but there are still days when I look in the mirror and think to myself "Self, you're so darned cute today, look at that outfit and that makeup, you're rockin' it!" And while I don't share all of those moments with the internet, sometimes I feel so good about myself that I do want to share, and then yes, I definitely enjoy the validating comments that I get from my friends.

It's no secret that girls and women suffer from a lot of image-based insecurity. Whether it comes from what we see in the media, or how we were treated when we were kids, or rude comments in the street, or a complicated combination of all that and more, it's a hard problem to combat. But it seems like there are segments of the population who feel like we're supposed to feel bad about ourselves, and that feeling good about how we look is horrible vanity. Oh, we should care about how we look, we should primp and preen and dress to impress, but as soon as we acknowledge that we did a good job making ourselves presentable, we're being narcissistic.

My second problem is that I think a lot of people who are against selfies have a deep misunderstanding of the nature of internet friendships. Sure, I have friends on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that I see in person regularly, but I also have friends who I rarely if ever see face-to-face. Some of them are friends who I've only known on-line, others are people who I met in person but they've since moved away. I LIKE seeing selfies of my long-distance friends. I like knowing what they've done with their hair, what kind of clothes they're wearing these days, what they're out doing in the city they live in now. And a lot of my friends LIKE seeing selfies of me. Especially now that I bellydance, they always want to see pictures of my new costumes, what sort of makeup looks I'm experimenting with, and of course, videos of me dancing.

My third and final problem with all this anti-selfie raging is that it is the smallest, stupidest of problems to worry about. Sick of seeing a friend's selfies? Just scroll past them. No big deal. If they post them constantly, you can even adjust your newsfeed on Facebook to not show their pictures. Honestly, what is it harming anybody if people like to post lots of pictures of themselves having fun, looking pretty, being bored, soliciting opinions on their new hair color, or anything like that? They're not spreading hateful opinions or damaging misinformation or overplayed memes. They're saying "Here's what I'd look like if you were here with me right now" and there's nothing wrong with that.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Neutrals from NYX

 Of course after last week's rant about the over-abundance of neutrals, I would have to review a neutral-hued product! I've actually had this mini-palette for quite a while and have been meaning to give it a good look. It's from NYX's Love in Paris collection and is called "Parisian Chic." I chose this particular one because it had a nice combination of shimmery and sparkly golden colors with some nice taupes, too. I figured it would be a good one for me to use to do a neutral smoky eye, like so:
I used four colors from the palette to create this look, and topped it off with a little Urban Decay 24/7 liner in West. I applied the colors dry over a base of Urban Decay's shadow primer and then spritzed myself with some makeup setting spray and headed over to troupe practice. After an hour of building up a good sweat, I came home and found that I had a little color loss. I had also noticed this after wearing it all day on a non-dance day last week.

So far I'm not really convinced that this eye shadow can stand up to hardcore dancing. However, I do really like to use it for daily wear when I want to look nice. A quick swipe of a couple colors from this palette gives me a slightly glamorous neutral eye look that is great for daytime meetings with clients or fellow dancers. I also think this might be a good choice for the student dancer who is only going to be dancing for a few minutes at the recital and wants something she can make use of outside of her dance life, too. The packaging is compact, sturdy, and closes securely, so it should travel well. NYX offers 10 different Love in Paris palettes that are each only $10 for 9 colors, so they're worth a try, especially since they are Cruelty Free.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why I Love White Belly Dancers (and dancers of all other colors)

Belly dancers come in all colors, shapes, sizes and ages!

I can't bring myself to read that article that all the belly dancers are mad about, you know, the one where the author doesn't like white belly dancers and thinks we're engaging in some harmful cultural appropriation. But what I can do is write something pleasant about diversity in dance.

One of the things that I love the most about this dance form is how inclusive it is. I've known dancers of various races, sizes, shapes, ages, genders and sexual orientation and while there may be the occasional other dancer who isn't as accepting as we would like, the community as a whole is cool about everyone being welcome. We're also welcoming of different religions, political groups, professions and more.

I love belly dance for introducing me to all sorts of people I never would have met otherwise. I've made friends with whom I had a zillion things in common, and friends from very different walks of life from me. It's really broadened my horizons and made me better at relating to people with whom I only have one thing in common.

I'm not saying that there's never any cultural appropriation in dance. I've seen and heard about things that could be considered culturally insensitive and inappropriate. But I've also known people whiter than me (yes, it is possible) who have dedicated themselves to presenting a culturally accurate and respectful version of Egyptian Raqs Sharqi. I know people who study and perform authentic cultural dances from the Middle East to authentic music in authentic costumes. I know people who travel overseas to learn more about the dance, who study Arabic, etc. And for those of us who perform Americanized styles such as my beloved "tribal fusion", many of us still make the effort to learn about the roots of our dance, familiarize ourselves with the greats in traditional styles, study with Egyptian-style teachers, and educate our general-public audiences about the difference between what we're doing and what they're used to seeing at the Lebanese restaurant across town.

No matter what, I know that some people are still going to be offended by non-Middle-Eastern dancers doing belly dance, and there's nothing I can do about that. But there's lots of other things I do in my life that might offend people (my way of dressing isn't modest enough for some religions, I have a tattoo, I say naughty words, I eat meat, I post pictures of insects on FB even though I know I have friends who are afraid of them, I'm just a bundle of offenses). I'm going to keep dancing, because I love it, and I'm going to keep being white, because I have no choice in the matter, and I'm going to keep loving the diverse community that I am a part of. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Busy Season!

Dancing at Sky Bar, one of the many places you'll see me performing this Spring
We have two busy seasons here in Arizona: Spring and Fall. Bookending our harsh Summer, each of these seasons is about a month and a half to two months long, and organizers cram in as many events as possible to take advantage of the beautiful days when people actually want to be outside. This leads to a lot of schedule juggling for belly dancers and other entertainers, as we try to balance the events that we're scheduled to perform at and the events we'd like to attend as spectators.

I've just updated my upcoming performances side bar, and you can see that in addition to our regular appearances at Sky Bar, Fire & Gold Belly Dance will be dancing at the Festival of Books and the Pima County Fair. That's awesome! But what you don't see is the list of events that I'll be attending as an audience member... I've got Wild Wild West Con this weekend, a couple of trips out to Ren Faire with different people, The Body Love Conference, maybe a little get-away with my husband, and a whole stack of events that I've had to turn down due to scheduling conflicts. Seriously, I've turned down 4 events in Tucson this weekend due to already having tickets for WWWC.

All of this AND I'm waiting to hear back about my Tribal Fest performance application! In fact, I should probably be practicing for all of these gigs instead of blogging about them.

Monday, March 3, 2014

First Mondays

I've been participating in First Mondays for a while now, because I believe strongly in supporting artists and small businesses. Usually I use it as an excuse to buy something small from my Etsy favorites, every now and then it's a big splurge (my beautiful peacock-colored fan veils were a First Monday purchase!). Here's a few of my ideas of how bellydancers can incorporate First Mondays into their lives:

1. Buy some new music, preferably directly from the artist via their website.
2. Register for an upcoming workshop or session of classes.
3. Get a ticket to an upcoming bellydance event or other cool performance art to inspire you.
4. Spruce up your look with a new handmade bindi, hair accessory or piece of jewelry.
5. Get a new hand-dyed silk veil.
6. Splurge on a custom costume item.
7. Back a dance-related crowdfunding campaign.
8. Pamper yourself with hand-blended perfumes or cosmetics.
9. Get a print of a beautiful image to hang in your practice area.
10. Buy a handmade card and use it to write a heartfelt note to a favorite teacher, struggling classmate or awesome event promoter.

These ideas can easily start as low as a dollar for a new song, so really, there's no excuse not to do at least a little something every First Monday. I find it gives me something to look forward to at the start of the month, which is usually bogged down by the grown-up necessity of paying bills.

Love this idea? Be sure to spread the word so more people will jump on it!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Naked, Nude, Neutral, Naaaaah

Ok, I'm just going to get this off my chest: I'm really bored and maybe even a little frustrated by the current trend towards neutral and naked makeups. I mean, Urban Decay, a company which was founded to provide high-quality cosmetics in crazy colors, built their whole Spring launch around their Naked line. How boring!

Don't get me wrong, I know that neutral colors have their place. I've even been buying and working with them myself, both for day wear and for the possibility of having a nice, neutral smokey eye to go with some costumes where I want a more sophisticated look. But really, how many beige palettes does one need? How many sheer nude lip glosses can one woman feasibly use? How many does one company need to make when swatches show that they look almost completely identical when worn?

And it's not just Urban Decay. It seems like nearly every company has to have their own answer to the Naked palette, and that's fine if you have a certain sense of brand loyalty or really prefer a certain eye shadow formula or something. But then I see Zoya nail polish do an entire line of pale, neutral pinks instead of the awesome greens and metallics I love to buy from them, and I start to worry. Is this the way of the future? Is the pendulum going to swing back towards a more natural look in cosmetics? Is it going to be difficult for me to find green nail polish and ridiculous sparkly glitter eyeliner and incredibly saturated eye shadow colors? Will I have to carefully hoard my current products?

I'm hoping that this is just a blip as Urban Decay looks to diversify their product line and reach a broader audience and all of their competitors release similar products to try to get a piece of the pie, and that soon they'll go back to focusing on the sort of things I really like... but I might have to go hug my old school purple velvet palette until I feel better.

(Product reviews return next week)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Getting fit

Photo by Liora K Photography, belt and bra by Flip'n Tribal, Body by 30 Day Push-up Challenge

I'm not very fit right now. I don't want to say that I've been lazy, because I have been getting things done, I just haven't been as motivated as I could be. I don't do as much working out at home as I should, and I've been skipping dance cardio classes because they're not my favorite. So my body doesn't look as awesome as it does in this picture by Liora K.

Earlier today I was thinking about my shoulders, because they were sore, and it made me think about how good they looked for that photo shoot, and it made me think that I should do some push-ups, but maybe not today because like I said, soreness (still not 100% recovered from palm flames because I've been using my shoulders for fan veils and dancing and keeping my arms attached to my torso). And then, as I was thinking these warring thoughts about fitness and rest, Liora asked me if I wanted to come over to her place to work out. It was like a sign! So I said yes and oh wow, am I already sore.

We did this Total Body Barre Workout from Fitness Blender and it was great! It only takes 40 minutes and all you need is a yoga mat, a chair to help you balance and optional small handweights. You might also want a friend to encourage you when you feel like you're going to die! I think I might have given up if I'd been alone, but Liora and I had a definite "we're in this together" sort of thing going on, and besides, there was salad waiting for us when we were done (I know, I sound like such a health nut, but it was a really good salad and I'll eat cookies later).

I think I'll do this workout again at home, because I really would like to get back into the habit of not just dancing, but exercising as well. Now if you'll excuse me, my triceps are trying to fall off, I think I need to duct tape them in place.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Workshops with Mahin!

Photo by Lee Corkett, costume by Mahin, beaded jewelry by me!

Yesterday I spent five hours in workshops with Mahin! It was great to be in belly dance workshops again, and I always like working with Mahin because she has a ton of knowledge, a great personality, and a good teaching style. Oh, and good taste in jewelry! I always love seeing pictures of her wearing the custom-made set I beaded to go with her costume.

Anyway, the workshops in question were on anatomy, 3/4 shimmies, and palm flames, so it was a really good range of topics and everything was applicable for all styles of bellydance. I'd taken a much shorter version of the anatomy workshop in Bisbee last year, so I was looking forward to the full two-hour version to cover even more ground, and I'd also purchased palm flame in Bisbee so it was well past time that I started working with them. And as for the 3/4 shimmies, well, mine always need work!

Belly Dance Anatomy and Injury Prevention was definitely my favorite workshop of the day. I really like knowing how my body works and how to take better care of it, and this workshop really gets down into that. Not only does Mahin talk about the different muscles used in dance, but she teaches lots of great stretches and exercises for conditioning your body. She even has a tiny skeleton that she uses to show you where on your body different muscles and tendons connect. I totally geek out on this workshop and will probably continue to take it whenever I get the chance.

Full on with 3/4 Shimmies covered a wide variety of 3/4 variations and how to pair them with foot patterns and upper-body layers. I enjoyed this workshop because Mahin introduced me to some shimmies that I don't often see in tribal fusion and some foot patterns that I never use. It definitely got my brains and muscles working! Plus she has a really smart way of breaking down 3/4 shimmies to help you remember how to do each one and to diagnose the problem if you're not getting it. I highly recommend this one for anyone struggling with the 3/4 shimmy or looking for some new versions to add to their bag of tricks.

Hot! Hot! Hot! Combos for Palm Flames covered palm flame basics since we were all beginners to working with them (well, I took an 8 week session years ago and haven't practiced since...), then concepts for working with them such as framing, tracing, and negative space, and then combined all of those ideas into a long combination. We also spent some time discussing nice ways to travel and turn with palm flames. It was a really good introduction to the prop. It also reminded me that I have not been working my arms and shoulders enough lately. Yikes! I'm a little sore today.

Over all, my head is full of new knowledge and new ideas, and my body is full of the pleasant aches and pains of a busy day of dancing.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Shimmer Waves

 On a recent trip to The Body Shop I picked up this "Shimmer Waves" in Blush because I thought it might be a nice blush to use with the rose-gold eye looks that are so in right now. Plus I had been looking for a blush that had a range of colors I could swipe through for a more gradated look.

After a few uses, I've decided that while I like this product, it is definitely more of a daytime blush than a stage blush. It adds a light shimmer and flush to my cheeks but isn't noticeable from any sort of distance. It might work better as a highlighter than an actual blush, or for adding a touch of shimmer over a less-sparkly product.

However, I noticed that it also had an eye symbol, so I decided hey, why not try it as an eyeshadow? And I am pretty happy with the results. These colors make nice neutrals for daytime looks or for building a bigger look around. I wore them twice, once just for dinner and a second time for a day of running errands and such. After 12 hours, during which I got a little sweaty, I didn't notice any color loss. And that was with just applying them over primer and not using a setting spray.
Photo taken at the end of the day. Oh boy, I look so glamorous!

For the most part I don't think this product is really well-suited for stage use, but it is nice for when you want a simple, polished look for day-to-day life. And the plastic compact it comes in seems pretty sturdy, so you could definitely throw it into your purse or makeup bag and take it with you for touch-ups.

Edited to add: The wonderful Becka Bomb used to work at The Body Shop and had some additional insights to add on this product "My fav is the bronze although I have these as well but they are more for shimmer than a blush. I am hoping they did not sell them to you as a blush, I like to take this color and use it as a nice shimmery highlight. The one thing I will warn about on this product is that as you work your way into a bare spot from usage they can have breakage. They also are not the best to travel with unless wrapped because they will break. I worked at TBS for years I loved this product when it first came out but over the years the product itself seems to have become more fragile." So with that knowledge, I retract my recommendation to throw it into your purse and take it with you. Thank you Becka, you are the best!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Just what I needed!

Yesterday I was in the mood to do some Datura Online, but I also had a lot of my own stuff to practice so I didn't want to dedicate 2 hours to diving back in to Raq Steady. I decided this was a perfect time to try the new Intermediate Tribal Fusion class from Ashley Lopez. I'm happy to say, it was just what I needed!

This 50 minute video is structured just like a normal bellydance class -- it starts with a nice little warm-up, goes through a series of moves and layers by breaking them down and drilling them, includes some turns and traveling moves, and ends with a short cool-down. If you're starting out cold you may want to warm up a little more than the video does, and you may want to do some extra stretches to target your own problem areas afterwards, but in general it's nicely well-contained and perfect for when you have just an hour to work.

I found that I really enjoyed having Ashley Lopez as my virtual teacher, she had a very friendly personality in the video, explained things clearly, and drilled things just enough that I had time to understand them but not time to get thoroughly bored. Because this is an intermediate-level class, there's not a lot of time wasted on getting into the basics of a move, which was good for me.

For the most part I already knew the moves in this video, but she combined them into layers in a different way than I normally do. That's a big part of why I say it was just what I needed. It let me take things that I could already do, and do them in new and interesting ways. I definitely have a bad habit of falling back on the same moves and layers, so it's good to shake things up. And since I already knew the basics of what we were doing, I didn't waste any time getting frustrated and removing layers to be able to keep up.

I think I'll want to revisit this video a couple of times so I can get the layers into my muscle memory, and it serves as a good drills session since the pace is pretty good. I believe this is going to be a four-class series, so I'm really looking forward to the rest of them, and I may even go back and check out her beginning-level fusion classes to see if they'll give me some new insight into my basic moves.

As a silly aside, like all Datura videos this is filmed so that you can see Ashley from behind and in the mirror, which is really helpful for seeing the move from all angles. This video also has two students following along, and you can see them in the mirror... which lead to a weird moment where my brain was like "OMG why can't I see myself in the mirror?!?" Oh brain. You're so easily broken!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Work, work, work

I don't have a picture to go with this blog post so here's one of my corgis dressed like Frankenweenie
I have to be honest, I haven't done a very good job on dancing full time yet. I start each day off with the best of intentions and then I always manage to sabotage myself with "I just need to do this first, I'll dance later" or "I dunno, I might be coming down with a cold, I should probably take it easy." I'm not very proud of myself, but dwelling on my failure isn't going to help me. Time to move forward.
Yesterday I decided to dispense with the excuses and do some work. I already had an hour of Skype stretching with my bestie Jen planned (having a physical therapist as a best friend is awesome, don't worry, I give her lots of pretty jewelry to make up for taking advantage of her know-how), and an hour of troupe practice too. I figured I should spend the time before my stretch date getting nice and warm with some DANCE! So I practiced two solos I'm working on, some troupe choreos, and some drills. Let me tell you, these long weeks of laziness have taken a toll on me, even after a good warm-up my arms were sore from one song of fan veils. If anything would motivate me to work harder, it was that.
So after dancing, I had a really good stretch with Jen, and a few hours later it was off to troupe practice where we spent the hour drilling choreography to try to get our newest troupemate all caught up. I built up one heckuva sweat! I think it was the hardest we've worked in troupe practice in a while. Not that we tend to slack off, but this is one of our most energetic pieces and we didn't spend a lot of time talking about it, we just kept repeating and repeating, really quickly answering her questions and going again.
Needless to say, I am pretty sore today. My glutes and obliques are being especially loud about their displeasure with me. But it's a good sore. I decided not to dance today to let my muscles recover, but rather than being lazy I've been doing some dance-related reading that I need to have done by the end of this month. Tomorrow it will be back to drills! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Creative Cross-Training

My current beading project
Did you all see the latest Weekly Challenge from Kamrah? If not, go read it before you continue with this post.

This was a perfectly timed challenge for me, because I not only have a whole bunch of beautiful new beads that I purchased at the gem/bead shows last week, but I also woke up this morning in the mood to write. Not blog, but actually go back to writing fiction. So this week's challenge for me will be not just getting back into dance practice, but also making sure to give myself time to work on jewelry every day and get back into the in-progress novel that I abandoned a few years ago (yikes!). All that and laundry too!

Not only do I think it's a good idea to stretch my brain in different directions to improve my creativity, but I think that dance really swallowed my life last year and I have not been beading much at all. As I was putting on jewelry to go to work each day*, I found that a lot of what I was wearing was years old, and most of the new stuff had been made right after gem show 2013 when I was feeling excited to use all my new stuff.

Well, now I have more new stuff that I'm excited to work with, but also a lot of stuff leftover from last year. And the year before that. And so on, reaching back to the late 90s. Wow! I need to make good use of these beads!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Lost in Bead-Land

It's that time again! The gem shows have hit Tucson, and I am shopping and working and socializing alllll the time. If you thought that closing my jewelry business would mean an end to my gem show days, you were wrong. I still love beads and making jewelry, and I still love seeing my beading friends. Plus I can find awesome supplies for my costumes, and jewelry to match my costumes.

Today I'm helping set up our booth for the week, and I'll be busy vending until Sunday, when we then have to tear everything back down again and make it fit in the back of the truck. It's always an adventure! Luckily I don't have to figure out how to make things fit, I just have to follow instructions.

Anyway, the blog will be pretty quiet this week, but next week it's going to be nose to the grind stone with DANCE!

Monday, February 3, 2014

So Tribal!

I really like doing a tribal hair garden when I do the traditional ATS-inspired costuming, but I often feel like it leaves the front of my head looking pretty plain. Well, NOT ANYMORE! I purchased this awesome kuchi headpiece from a vendor that was sadly going out of business, and now I have mad tribal style. Or something like that.

Of course, now I need to figure out how to make it stay put. I thought that bobby pins would be enough, but no, halfway through practicing a 3 minute song, that bad boy was down over my eyes and making a break for my nose. I think I need to attach some clips and/or combs to it, and maybe also put on a little hairspray for extra grip. Hopefully I'll be able to make it work in time to wear it for Open Stage this week.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I don't believe in fate

If you have this idea of me as a sophisticated woman of high-brow tastes, you should probably stop reading now because today's blog post was inspired by Dinosaur Comics and Cracked.com. But I promise, I'm going to talk about some deep, serious stuff!

I woke up today and as usual, I read through my web comics, and I thought today's Dinosaur Comics (shown above) was really funny and to the point. Then later I was reading The 5 Most Useless Pieces of Advice Everyone Gives and I was nodding right along with it when I read this really poignant quote near the end: "But as far as I can tell, success is heavily based on luck -- it's just that long hours earn you more chances to get lucky. The more stuff you do, the more people you meet and impress, the more chances for opportunity to come your way."

It's strange when great life advice comes from an internet humor site, but there you have it. So often in artistic fields like dance, writing and music you'll hear people grumbling about how it's all about who you know, or being in the right place at the right time... but here's the thing. Everyone has the chance to meet the right people, or be in the right place. And the harder you work, the more chances you have.

I don't believe in fate. I don't believe that when I am ready to start dancing professionally, the perfect gigs will just land in my lap. I believe that sometimes, things will fall together perfectly, and other times I'll work really hard to chase something only to have it end in disaster, and most of the time, things will fall somewhere in between. Everything that has happened to me so far has lead me to feel that way. A few examples:

-Living in Tucson doesn't afford me as many great dance opportunities as some larger cities with a more vibrant community would have, but I did luck out by having two good years of study with Jolie Roberson right when I was ready to really dig deeper into my dance, and she helped me with a lot of my dance problems and has given me the tools to keep growing as a dancer.
-I've also had the opportunity to dance with a great troupe, which has helped me to learn how to work well with others, how to learn choreography, how to work within costuming guidelines, and so much more. Plus I've made some lovely friends.
-But I've also been in some troupes that didn't work out for me at all, and while some might chalk it up as a "learning experience", sometimes I think it would be nice to have put that time and money into something else. The same can be said of some classes and workshops I've taken.
-I've had people offer me performance opportunities that I had to refer to other dancers because I wasn't ready for them yet.
-I've had performance opportunities that seemed like they were going to be awesome, only to have them completely dry up or turn out to not be very good at all.

So all of this, along with things in my personal life and my general outlook on life, has lead me to feel that things don't happen for a reason, they just happen and we can decide how to react to them and what to do about them.

And so what about the correlation between luck and work? Well, I've already seen that "luck" sometimes brings dance opportunities that your way, whether you're ready for them or not. The harder you work at dance, the more likely you are to be able to say "Yes, I am ready to dance at this high-profile event and serve as an awesome example of my local bellydance community." 

But it's not just about training hard. It's about attending classes, workshops, and shows and making a good impression on the other people there. It's about attending non-bellydance art events around town and forging connections in your local art and entertainment scene. It's about being pleasant and outgoing in your community as a whole, so that when that local business owner finds out you're a bellydancer, they hire you for their big customer appreciation party. It's about networking on-line with your fellow dancers, so that when you decide to go on a cross-country bellydance jaunt, your internet friends invite you to teach and perform in their town. It's about building a good website, blog, Facebook page, what have you so that potential clients can find you with a Google search and see what a professional presence you have on-line.

The more you put yourself out there, the more chances you have to know the right people, or to be in the right place at the right time (keeping in mind that sometimes a "place" isn't a physical location, but a Dance Opportunities FB group or a high ranking on Google). If you just sit back and wait for fate to drop something in your lap, you're probably going to start second-guessing whether the universe wants you to dance. But the universe doesn't care, so don't let it control your life. If you want to be a dancer, or a writer, or a stand-up comedian, or whatever, go out there and do the work!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rarin' to go!

I feel like this picture captures the sense of anticipation as I'm about to launch myself forward
My year of dance has been off to an awkward start. Having a house guest means I haven't danced as much as I would like, due to my schedule being off-kilter and my feeling that it would be rude to just take off with our only car for dance class every night. I have been to a few classes and I've been reading a lot and doing some journaling and obviously blogging, but I am just rarin' to go next week! Especially since I'll only have about a week and a half to dance before I get side-lined again by the gem show.
I'm trying to be patient with myself and with life. After all, I pretty much knew I wasn't going to jump right into doing dance stuff 40 hours a week right off the bat. I just wish I was putting in more hours than I am. I have a lot I want to work on! There's costumes to make and choreography to practice and moves to drill and muscles to tone.
I think mid-February is when I'm going to be able to really hit the full-time mark, but I am looking forward to giving it a good go next week. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Perform less, watch more

One of my favorite performance photos from 2013

You may have noticed that I haven't posted about a lot of upcoming performances lately, and I'm OK with that. After attending a few shows as an audience member at the end of the year, I made a conscious decision to cut back on performing for the first few months of 2014, for a few reasons:

1. I feel like in my rush to reach my goals as a dancer, I got into a habit of chasing after performance opportunities.

2. I'm currently in an inspiration lull, where I'm a bit bored with my music and in need of something new. For a while there I felt like I was constantly coming up with new solos and now I am drained, and I really need to go back and improve the things that I rushed through and then discarded.

3. When I'm focused on developing a new solo, I only work on the specific "new" technique or idea I'm playing with in it, instead of doing well-rounded practice. I feel like a lot of my basic technique has gotten sloppy and I want to spend the first 3-4 months of the year getting myself back into shape, and then moving beyond where I was.

4. I feel like right now I should be putting more energy into troupe stuff, now that we don't have a director to keep us on track, I really need to work on self-managing and making sure I'm not getting lazy about the choreographies we perform.

A nice side effect of not performing all the time is that I get more opportunities to watch dance. Faizeh just wrote a great blog post "Why You Should Watch Bellydancers Live and on YouTube" that I completely agree with. And when I get focused on performing all the time, I never get to watch other dancers. Either I'm dancing that night myself, or I feel like I have to stay home and spend time with my husband because I've danced every night that week, or I've blown my budget on costumes for new shows, so I can't really justify dinner out and a show ticket. It's no wonder I'm starting to feel uninspired, I haven't been out immersing myself in the art I so dearly love!

So while I will still be performing at Open Stage every month with my troupe (and probably as a soloist), I'm looking forward to spending more time in the audience than on the stage. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Productive Weekend

I had a really busy, productive weekend and I am feeling pretty pleased with myself and ready to tackle this week.

On Saturday, I was up in Phoenix for the bellydance swap meet. My friend Jen and I had both decided it was time to clean out our dance closets, so we shared a booth. We had just enough stuff to full up our rack and a couple of tables, and we got to spend the day hanging out (and taking turns going out to shop and socialize). I was worried that I wouldn't sell much, but I think I managed to move about half of what I brought with me, including two of the most expensive items in my booth. And I only bought two (matching) costume pieces and a piece of normal clothes, so in the end I was very successful. Plus I got to see a lot of dance friends that I hadn't seen for a while, yay!

Sunday is usually my day off, but this weekend I made an exception to study with Amanda Rose! I took her Dynamics Toolbox workshop, which is great for making you really think about how you can modify moves to make your performances more, well, dynamic. I was already aware of most of the concepts she spoke of, but had never really taken the time to think of the different ways they could be applied and combined to moves. The great thing was that while Amanda Rose does Egyptian-style bellydance, the workshop is really applicable to all styles of bellydance and only required knowledge of the same basic moves that are used in all styles. I definitely recommend it for the intermediate-level dancer who is looking for ways to really bring more dimensions to your work, especially if you're feeling stuck in a rut. Everything that she discussed was equally applicable to building choreographies or dancing improv, and the concepts could really be useful for making your at-home practices more challenging by adding different elements to your drills. I'm excited to start applying what I learned to my practice and seeing how it comes out in my performances.

Over all I am really happy with what I accomplished over the weekend!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Reading Material

I'm having a hard time getting good dance practice in with a house guest here, but at least I'm getting some dance-related research and learning in! It was perfect timing that the latest issue of Fuse and Princess Farhana's new book "The Belly Dance Handbook" both arrived earlier this week.

I've already torn through Fuse. It was jam-packed with great interviews and articles, with a focus on adornment. I really enjoyed reading about henna and tattoos. There's also some good product reviews. One thing that I like about Fuse is unlike the beading magazines I used to read, it's not jam-packed with advertisements, the ads are worked in with a mind towards not interrupting the flow of the writing, and they're pretty much all for things I would like to buy or events I would like to attend, so I can look at them and daydream. Now I'm waiting for the back issues I ordered to arrive so I can go on a magazine reading binge.

So far, I've only read the first little bit of the Handbook, but it was really hard to put it down! From flipping through, it looks to be jam-packed with information to help you all the way from being a newbie looking for your first teacher to becoming an international workshop instructor and jet-setting superstar. There's sections on caring for your costumes, and avoiding injury, and choosing dance shoes, and all sorts of things. I really love the fact that Princess Farhana is a treasure trove of knowledge and that she shares it with the world instead of hoarding it to herself. I'm really looking forward to diving into this book, reading it cover-to-cover, and bookmarking the best parts so I can return to them time and again. I'll be sure to post a full review when I'm done!

I'm looking to really build up my dance-related library. What are your favorite dance books?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fire & Gold is Back!

We're going to need new pics to reflect our current roster, but I still like this one by Liora K.

Last night was Fire & Gold Bellydance's first practice as a collective. It felt like it had been forever, since we had to take two weeks off for the holidays and then our first get-together of the year was a meeting to make plans and delegate responsibilities and make sure everyone was on the same page.

I have to say, I'm pretty proud of us so far. Being a collective isn't easy, without a director to tell everyone what to do, practices can devolve into chat, and there can be lots of disagreements about what to do. But we're starting off strong with a focus on getting everyone caught up on current choreographies and a proper costume wardrobe. I feel like it helps that we spent almost two years as a student troupe so we have a good foundation of how a practice should be structured, and we have existing material we can work on and keep performing while we figure out what we want to create on our own. It also helps that we have Open Stage to dance at every month, and a big festival performance in the Spring that we want to do really well at.

I'm so happy to be able to keep working with these ladies and I can't wait to see what we accomplish in 2014! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tools for Productivity

This year isn't just about dancing, but about being smarter and more organized about my dance. As such, I've got a few tools to help me out with that.

1. My journal! This is my new dance journal. I am really proud of myself for finally filling up my old journal late last year. My goal is to write in my dance journal every day that I am working on dance stuff, to note what I did, how it made me feel, what I learned, etc etc. The cover says "Never lose sight of your dreams" which is an important reminder that I need every now and then.

2. Dancer's Day Planner! A page a day to write down my goals for dance, my classes, to-do lists, meal planning, and more. Kind of like a combination of my normal day planner (which I used to keep track of everything that I need to do and make sure I don't double-book myself) and my journal. It's a little big so it's not as portable as either one, but I think it will help keep me on track.

3. My new tablet! This was purchased primarily to replace my old Nook eReader, but because it's a tablet I also put a time tracking app on it so I can see how much time I'm actually putting into dance stuff, and I bought a tiny keyboard for it so I can take notes in workshops, and I can use it to take pictures and videos if I want. It will be nice for when I'm traveling and I don't want to take my laptop with me, but I want to be able to write e-mails and blog posts and things, which is difficult to do from a phone. Plus I can use it to read books on dance and creative living and all that.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ballet Class

Ballet group at West School, courtesy of Flickr Commons

I just got back from ballet class a little bit ago. This year I hope to go 2x a week, and I think I'll see a lot of improvement, especially once I feel like I know things well enough to practice them at home. Right now I still feel pretty awkward in class, but some things are starting to come more easily. Having a nice teacher and friendly classmates definitely helps, and these past several years of bellydance classes have taught me how to be good at accepting corrections.

Now it's time to get back to getting the guest room ready. I'd rather be dancing! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Beauty Blogging Break

Beauty Blogging for Bellydancers is on a short hiatus again! Unless I suddenly find myself with some extra time to test cosmetics, there won't be a new review until January 31st. Regular dance-related blogging will continue during this time, although it may be a bit sporadic. I have a house guest coming and I'm not really sure what my schedule is going to be like.

Thank you for your patience! I have a few products I am really looking forward to reviewing soon.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

New Pants!

I now make sure to nicely point my toes even when taking sloppy pictures at home.

This blog hadn't really been living up to its name lately, so here's a picture of some new dance pants! I actually bought these primarily for costuming my steampunk persona, a saloon girl turned world traveler, but I have a feeling they'll make it into my dance costuming rotation too, even if only for wearing to Ren Faire on a warm day or to a workshop when I feel like being cute. For that matter, they might come with me to Tribal Fest, they'd easily go from workshop to hanging out, especially paired with some over-the-knee socks and a pair of cool boots.

I don't buy dance pants as often as I used to, now that I'm no longer taking weekly classes at Plaza de Anaya, where I was constantly tempted by new arrivals. I do spend a lot of time looking at pants on places like Etsy, and I found these cuties on Dahlal while I was looking for something to go with a troupe costume. Lately I try to only buy something if I need it for a specific performance or if it fills a gaping hole in my wardrobe. In this case, I needed some more things to mix and match for steampunk and these fit my character and were a good price, so I let myself indulge.

And with all the cleaning I've done, I might even be able to fit them in the costume closet!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Maintaining Ties

Photo by Artemis Photography Creations
It can be easy to maintain ties with your friends when your friends are also dancers, as in the case of me and my bestie Jen. While we do have to do a bit of schedule-juggling based on which events we're attending, it's pretty easy for us to be at the same place at the same time, despite living in different cities. But for our non-dance loved ones, it can be difficult to maintain relationships, when dance classes and events have you busy most nights and weekends. I've been brainstorming about this for the past week, and here are some ideas I've used in the past and some that I want to try in the future:
-If a friend or family member is coming to one of your shows, invite them to dinner or drinks afterwards. It's a good way to catch up with them and show that you appreciate them supporting your art. Obviously this isn't always possible as sometimes there's an after-party you need to attend for networking purposes, but for small local shows you should be able to do this.
-Have a stitch and bitch. Sure, we often have these as a troupe activity, but if you have crafty friends, invite them to get together and while you work on a new costume or boring repairs (replacing zill elastic is the worst, isn't it?) they can crochet a baby blanket or bead a necklace.
-Invite your friends to come to a class with you. Sure, your friends who don't bellydance aren't going to come to an advanced drills session with you, but maybe they'd like to come to a dance cardio class or a beginning poi-spinning workshop.
-Do lunch or brunch! I just got done doing brunch with a friend and it was great. Since my scheduled stuff is all evenings and weekends, it's pretty easy for me to arrange my daytime work of practice and blogging around a lunch date, and my flexible schedule makes it possible for me to go meet someone who has a specific lunch break at their day job.
-Go makeup shopping. Non-dance friends who still like cosmetics will probably appreciate your expertise, because anything that holds up to you getting sweaty on stage will hold up to their daily life.
-While we're on the subject of fun girly things, go get a manicure together! You'll have nice, professional-looking nails for your next gig and you'll get to chat with your friend while your nails are being painted.
-Make sure to make time for the things your loved ones are interested in, too. If your friend who is a painter comes to your bellydance show, you should go to her gallery opening. Honestly, this goes for your fellow dancers, too. It's important to go to events where you are not performing to support your community, both the bellydance community and the local art scene as a whole.
-Be willing to occasionally skip things to make time for your loved ones. Obviously you can't blow off a performance you're already committed to, a workshop you pre-registered for months ago or troupe practice for anything less than a family emergency, but you should be willing to occasionally miss a non-required dance class or local event you were thinking of attending. If every time your family tries to plan a birthday party or a friend invites you out to dinner you say "Well, I have classes Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri and I'm performing Saturday and attending a workshop on Sunday", people are going to get frustrated with you fast. You need to learn when it's important to stick to your schedule and when it's OK to say "I'll skip Ballet this week to spend time with you."
-If you're in a relationship, make sure you communicate clearly with your SO what your dance schedule is like and what you need from them, then be willing to listen to what they need from you. Sometimes this means you have to give up on something you'd kind of like to do because there's something you really need to do for your SO. Once again, you'll have to learn where to stand your ground and where to bend a little.
-Don't take people for granted! It's so important to make time for the people in your life and to thank them for being supportive of your dance career. So even if you can't take a friend out to dinner after your show, make sure you find them and thank them for coming out. Thank your SO for putting up with you being at class every night. Thank your family when they plan the big birthday dinner for that one night when they don't have classes. If your parents give you some money to spend at a big dance festival, let them know what you spent it on and how happy you were to be able to buy it. And when you make use of any of the above suggestions to get together with someone, make sure to let them know how happy you are to see them!