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.