Sunday, 23 November 2014

Time for a Revamp?

I appear to be averaging about 3 months between posts on here, which is not great. 

I think part of the problem (aside from inherent laziness) is that I don't necessarily have that much to say on belly dance sometimes. I'm not a professional, nor ever likely to be one. Now I'm earning more, I'm able to buy in some of my stuff rather than relying on making everything from scratch. Conversely, I'm a lot shorter of the time needed to make costumes, and what time I do have needs to be spread out across all my interests, not just the sparkly ones.

When I first set this blog up it was with the intention of sharing dance updates, but also recipes that caught my eye, other craft projects, the odd book review. I think I need to return to that format and reignite my interest in blogging!

I'm not abandoning dance-based posts entirely though - below is a shot of my latest project, a purple velvet mermaid skirt for a performance with my teacher's troupe. 
The initial brief was for a straight sided tube skirt, but to say that is an unflattering look on me would be missing the chance to use expressions like 'sack of potatoes' 'waistless wonder' and 'when is it due?'

I used two way stretch velvet from  the Rag Market in Brum, and instructions from Dutch dancer Kyria (link goes to pdf), adjusting the pattern on the hop to add a front split, and doubling the godet in the back for extra flounce.

Like an idiot, I made the skirt a good six inches too short, and had to add on a band at the top. This turned out to be a really good idea (albeit unplanned) as the old waistline now sits mid-bottom, and gives me the illusion of an actual derriere. Win all round really.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Gothla Redux

Four weeks on, my bag is still not fully unpacked, my toes are still sporting red nail varnish and I'm still finding flecks of glitter in my undies. It can only be the post-Gothla comedown.

This year was a very social one for me. I'm getting to know a lot more people in the dance scene now, and there are lots of familiar faces (still can't remember anyone's names though!). A lot of people recognised me because of the buzzcut, and I got a lot of pettings over the weekend.

Friday night's showcase was a mixed bag. I loved some of the performers, and was left cold by others (not literally, it was hotter than balls in the theatre). Highlights for me were probably Ian Southwood's drummers, doing a Zaar-like piece that almost dragged me into a trance; Ida Mahin's creepy-as-fuck Dying Swan, and Sabrina's Ghawazee piece.

Deadbeats and their dancers (photo by Sue Hutton)

Dying Swan - a fusion of belly dance, ballet and just plain scary (photo by Sue Hutton)

Saturday was also a mixed bag. I loved my morning workshop with Elin K√•ven, whose Pep Dance workshop was fortunately nothing to do with high school cheerleaders, and everything to do with rediscovering joy and healing in dance. I came out of it really inspired for the rest of the weekend. My afternoon workshop was not so positive. It was meltingly hot in the studio, and I felt like we spent a very long time warming up and talking, and not much time dancing. I was very excited about learning with the teacher concerned, but it felt like a lot of style and not much substance.

Things picked up later on though as C and I transformed ourselves into a pair of post-apocalyptic swamp witches, prior to hitting the Open Stage. We had so. much. fun.
Photo by Dark Soul Photography, battling some dreadful lighting!
We closed the first act, which was pretty much the perfect spot to be, and we got a gratifyingly loud reception. It's nice to be liked! C and her husband saw the night out, and had good things to say about a lot of the other performers. I bowed out after the second act, staying just long enough to see Steffi Darkdancer and her awesome take on Marie Laveau.

I was in bed and asleep by midnight, and reaped the benefits by being disgustingly bright eyed and bushy-tailed on Sunday morning when the rest of the world was hungover and miserable.

This did not stop me from getting my arse comprehensively kicked by the heat in Sabrina's Ghoulish Ghawazee, to the extent that I sat out a lot of it and took notes. It was still awesome with knobs on though. Loads of cultural references and historical info as well as a choreography to learn. Sabrina is also an damn good saleswoman, as evidenced by the fact that C and I not only bought her CD so we could play with the choreography at home, but also went away with these beauties...

I'm living on beans on toast for a month now (genuine assuit is not cheap), but it's a great reminder of a great weekend!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Costume Evolution Part 2

Now we're post Gothla I can actually show pictures of the finished costume without getting my knuckles rapped by C!

Yes, yes, it's wonky. But so are my boobs.
 So, finished top first. This was an amalgamam of a crocheted tankini top and two cheap vests, the brown layer being added when the dress rehearsal showed up a worrying tendency for my boobs to try and make a break for it out of the bottom of the original top. All hand embellished and beaded with bits of the bling from the last post. 

C, who likes her costuming effortless, bought a top off eBay and cut the hem off. Smart girl.

Next step? Hair. This was a little more complicated than originally thought, as I shaved mine off back in June for Macmillan, and am still rather follicularly challenged. I bought a a cheap wig, cut it, styled it, plaited it, put a headband on it, covered it in bling and generally spent about 6 hours working on it.

The face of a woman who's just been hit in the face by a cowry fall.
The day before Gothla we decided it didn't go with the rest of the costume and I was sticking with my buzz cut. Humph! Still, it made a nice contrast to C's epic dreadlocks, and at least one of us escaped the misery of brushing out half a can of hairspray the morning after the night before.

You can see the finished costumes (and the new haircut) below. We always aim for a cohesive look, but not neccessarily a matchy matchy one, especially as we have different body types and colouring.

The post-apocalyptic wasteland that is my back garden

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Costume Evolution Part 1

I'm well ahead with my costuming for Gothla, which is unusual for me, so it seemed like an opportune moment to have a muse about the costuming process, and how I get from the first doodles to the finished (for a given value of finished) product.

Most of my costumes start off as a series of doodles, which appear all over my desk at work, on the back of sticky notes and in the margins of minutes. Sometimes the music I'm working on sparks ideas, other times I get hooked on someone else's visual, and have an urge to rework it. Once I have concreted my ideas (and in the case of troupe costumes, everyone else's ideas too), I break out my favourite drawing pad (yes, it's cheesy, but it's exactly what I need) and start a concept sketch.

With the current piece, we wanted an earthy, organic feel, with a sprinkle of voodoo imagery. We also wanted to wear something that wasn't black! 
Next comes the process of transferring ideas from the concept into something that meets the following criteria:
a: easily made or 
b: cheaply purchased
c: suits two very different bodyshapes, neither of which are size 6 and 7ft tall
d: stands a chance in hell of being finished before being needed 

In this case, C scratched the hi-lo skirt hems as being unflattering, and found some suitable broomstick skirts on eBay. I ruled out the turkish vests as I suck at tailoring, and the tatty hems for being way too time-consuming.

Next step? Amassing stash. Oh man, I am so good at this. I hoovered up vaguely boho skirts and jewellery from every charity shop I stepped in. A lot of it bypassed the costume pile and went straight into my wardrobe instead!

Out of shot - Irish setter with sequin stuck to nose
This lot was culled almost wholly from charity shops and the discount section of Claires (like the awesome animal rings lurking at the back). Not shown, three more dismantled necklaces, a packet of feathers, two belts, seven gypsy skirts, two plain vest tops and a brown crochet tankini.

C and I compared amassed bling at each rehearsal, and eventually reached a point where it was time to start putting things together...

Friday, 27 June 2014

Gothla Preparations

It's that time of year again already, and Women of Mass Distraction are elbows deep in preparation for the dance highlight of our year, Gothla!

I'm particularly excited about my workshop with Michelle Manx. I really love her fusion of pin-up style and vintage glamour, as I am a dancer who likes a bit of cheek in her shimmy. And really, who wouldn't want to take a class with someone who dresses like this?

At the very least I intend to reap some costume inspiration!

The highlight for us at Gothla is performing at the open stage on Saturday night, and this year is no exception. It's just C and I, as R is thoroughly tied up with her baby twins (rumours that she is already training them to play zills and doumbek respectively are wholly unfounded) and will be a spectator this year.

The choreography we've put together is, though I says it as shouldn't, flipping awesome. The chosen track is sleazy, steamy, Southern style rock with a supernatural twist, and we have had a whole lot of fun making the moves match.

We're mid-costuming at the moment, and my house is full of fabric in tones of mud and swamp, cowries, disassembled jewellery and Jack Daniels miniatures. Fortunately no chicken feet. Those are C's problem!

I'm also richer to the tune of one wig, bought for about as much as it's worth (ie not much) and dubbed Cousin It because of how much it freaks out the dog. It's in need of a lot of work before it can hit the stage!
Apparently it looks like I stole it from Tina Turner's dressing room...

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Happy New Year?

Oh man, where has this year gone?

I went from no real bellydance news at all to dancing so much that I haven't had time to blog!

So, a brief catch up:- 

I finally found a new class within a sensible distance from my house. It's Oriental, which makes a nice change as the last couple of years have been very heavy on the tribal, and I'm a girl who likes her glitter.

My teacher Tahirah is a very light, balletic dancer, which makes for some tricky times when you're more like the hippo out of Fantasia, but the challenge is fun. It's an intermediate class, and I'm really enjoying the feeling of being stretched in my dancing, tackling more complex choreographies and performing as a troupe.

And in other news, this happened...

No, I haven't taken Britney Spears for a style guide. This was to raise cash for Macmillan, and it succeeded to the tune of over £1000, which is almost enough to console me for the fact I won't be doing any khaleegy for a long while.

I don't actually like it, regardless of how many people have told me it 'really suits you', I could never carry it off', 'you're so brave' and 'maybe it will grow back curly'. 

I've become an expert in head scarves and hair wraps - this style is my favourite as it's idiot-proof. I have had a lot of colleagues asking me if I do tarot readings!

I also appear to have forgotten how to smile in photos. May have to relearn that before I perform again!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

A Sense of Community

Another quiet patch for me at the moment. I'm not back in regular classes until January, and a series of diary clashes have meant I've also missed out on monthly intensives with my fusion teacher.

We did get out and perform at the after party for Infusion Emporium (Rachel MF Brice is teaching there next year. There may be bloodshed when the workshop places are released...) and for added excitement, we were officially dancing as a quintet!

Why? Well, turns out my troupemate, seen in the middle there, is expecting twins in March. Given she's expanding at frankly exponential rates, and I've lost two stone since we first performed the piece, it's a damn good job we went for stretchy velvet dresses!

Photo by the talented DarkSoulPhotography

Our last performance of the year was over in Coventry for Bellydance and Surprises. It was one of those rare haflas in that it felt very relaxed and informal, but there were some fantastic performers. Add to that a chance to catch up with lots of old friends, and it was a lovely way to almost round off the year.

I say almost, because the belly dance year here in the UK ended on a very different note for many, with the news that the bellydance teacher Shafeek Ibrahim was convicted on multiple counts of rape and sexual abuse of female dancers.

My heart goes out to the very brave and honourable women, including Charlotte Desorgher and Tara Lee Oakley, who brought this case to court and helped ensure justice was done. I cannot imagine what these women have experienced, and my heart goes out to them. I am so very full of pride for all my dance sisters, and I hope they can move on and find strength and hope now that this man is behind bars.

Sunday, 20 October 2013


A couple of weeks back I had the excitement of going to workshops with the lovely Sayuri

These were initially booked (and paid for) back in January, but frankly horrific weather on the part of the West Midlands meant that they had to be rescheduled. Which was kind of nice actually, because they felt almost like a freebie.

The workshops were organised by Lisa McKain, who has been hosting a series of dancers under the title 'Best of British'. Lisa is an amazing organiser; she even laid on a lunch for us all between the workshops, which was most welcome, although it did make for some queasy faces when we tackled spinning later in the afternoon!

We kicked off with a fun and energetic Saidi Stick piece. I'm not always a fan of choreography based workshop, but this was a great introduction to stick. It's a prop I've avoided in the past due to wrist injuries, but Sayuri was light on the drilling of individual moves, and heavy on the different ways of stringing them together, so I got to enjoy the feel of Saidi without ending up disabled by too much stick twirling. We also had a quick breakdown of different Arabic rhythms, which was very enlightening,

The veil workshop in the afternoon focused more on differing techniques and tricks than on a pure choreography. I've done a fair bit of veil work, but there were some new ideas here that I liked trying out. Only downside was that we were dancing to Yearning, which I do not love. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Not Dead, Just Lazy

Very little to report in the land of Lilith at the moment. 

I managed to sprain my ankle just prior to a weekend intensive with Kajira Djoumanha (and by just prior I mean as I was getting into the car that morning). Not unnaturally, this put a bit of a kink in my dancing activities for a while. It's difficult to write a good blog about sitting at the back watching everyone else have fun!

I was hoping to get back into tribal classes in Walsall this autumn, but the start of classes coincided with a bit of a dip in my mental health, and I decided that getting home at 11pm on a work night could best be described as a bad idea.

By the time my spoons were back in order most teachers were well launched into the term, so it looks like it will be early November before I am back in a regular class.

I'd like to say I have used the time to do extra practice and drills but this would be what is commonly known as a lie. 

Getting back to class is going to hurt!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Gothla 2013 - Workshops and the Open Stage

Picking up where we left off, I woke up bright and early on the Saturday morning of Gothla, and took myself out onto the mean streets of Leicester in search of a fry up.

I ended up at Cafe Brazilia, which was the original home of Gothla when it first started. The breakfast was enormous, and aside from the soggy tinned mushrooms (urgh) just what I needed for a long day ahead.

Workshop 1 was Hecate's Cauldron with Paige Lawrence. I didn't realise until about two weeks beforehand that Paige is actually a bloke, and due to my complete failure to do any research on him at all, had no idea what to expect!

Fortunately for Miss 'failure to plan in advance' it was a cracking workshop. Paige is funny, friendly and extremely approachable, and is the sort of guy you would be happy to spend an evening with down the pub! The workshop focused on looking at different elements of ritual, and how to incorporate these into our dance. We had a thorough warmup and stretch, and then got to really let loose, playing with different moves and expression to evoke different feelings. We got a sneak peek at some of Jamila Salimpour's writings on ritual imagery, and how Bal Anat used this in their famous dance of the magic of birth.
Paige with Gothla organiser Bridie (photo by Sue Hutton)
The workshop ended with free dance to different clips of music, each evoking different elements of ritual feeling. The penultimate one was ecstasy, and I ended up dancing guedra style, feeling lots of positive energy. I was sky high by the end of it!

My second workshop was much more relaxed - Beauty and the Beast makeup workshop with Dawn O'Brien. Dawn is my teacher, and I have long envied her makeup skills, so it was great to get some inside tips, plus (cos it's Gothla, and we're all about the spooky) ;earning how to make some gory special effects. Still can't put on fake eyelashes though!
which is fast becoming a Gothla tradition - the place was full of dancers.

Then it was a quick stop in the hotel room to wrestle with costumes and makeup before hitting the open stage.

Did we rock it?  There was certainly a lot of whooping and hollering from the crowd as we danced, but if you dance to a rock classic (AC/DC Back in Black) to a rock crowd, it's always going to go down well. And as you can see from the photo, we had a lot of fun!

Sunday was a definite 'morning after the night before' sort of day. I sensibly decided not to do any more workshops, and instead spent the morning hanging out in the souk, buying a few things, and chatting to the other hungover and tired dancers (there was also a male 'fashion show' on Sunday, but I'm not sure the internet needs to see that!).

Julie and Lynne Chapman of Kookie Kaftan - showing how much better you look when you don't party til 3am! (photo by Sue Hutton)
There were far too many acts to name them all, but these are some of my highlights. All photos are by kind permission of Dark Soul Photography unless otherwise stated.

Resurrecting Zombies!

This cabaret dancer also had some covetable feather fans

Lapis Lazuli's crazed nurses were both hilarious and extremely well choreographed!

A Weeping Angel from Dr Who - she was besieged with photo requests

Boomshanka's incredible 'thorns around the castle' piece from Sleeping Beauty

There were some very flexible dancers this year!

Fusion troupe Lunatique getting their cannibal on.