Thursday, 30 December 2010

A Well-Earned Break?

After a Christmas that was fraught with the anticipation of family dramaz (none of which finally occurred, Alhamdulillah!) I have retreated for a week's break with a group of good friends and enough booze to seriously concern the tesco deliveryman.

Costuming has of necessity taken a backseat, because carting a half finished bra and assorted embellishments to a farmhouse in Wales is what is generally referred to as a bad idea, especially after a couple of vodkas and cokes. Instead I am happily engrossed in various crochet projects, including zill mufflers based on Shira's spiderweb pattern.

This is particularly relevant to my interests as I can endure about ten minutes of the clanging chimes of doom before I need to lie down with a cold wet flannel over my eyes. Given one of my troupemates has expressed an interest in choreographing with the blasted things, I need to learn how to play them without sending myself and the rest of the household demented. 2011 will be the year I progress beyond the Gallop!

2011 is also set to be the year I lose 5 stone... or at least a measurable fraction thereof. It has been forcibly brought to my attention that my dancing can only be improved by the removal of at least some of the layers of insulation that swathe my inner Ariellah. I don't please the eye in the same way as my troupe mates, I don't look as good in troupe costumes, and all my hard-learned undulations and super flexible show off moves are muffled by my extra bulk.

It's not just an aesthetic consideration. I run out of puff well before my classmates, and I'm always the first to drop out of drills. I don't really want to be that chick anymore. And think of the money I'd save if I could buy my bras at the supermarket instead of Bravissimo

Such good intentions are likely to be shot to hell before New Year even arrives, as traditionally this week's break involves obscene amounts of eating, drinking, and eating a bit more. I am, though I says it as shouldn't, a bloody good cook, and am usually in charge of the breakfasts (bacon, sausage, fried eggs, black pudding, fried mushrooms, baked beans, fried bread... it's a heart attack on a plate, seven days in a row!).

But but but! We packed the mountain bikes, so I get to see whether Arabesque balancing skills transfer well to muddy singletrack, and the barn in which we're staying has a gym, which i have already visited today (first time on a cross trainer in about 5 years). And, most exciting of all, and the reason I'm even able to talk to you, is that Mr Noor bought me a spanking new shiny laptop for Xmas which has sound(unlike my old desktop), so I have an internet's worth of music, drills and motivation at my fingertips.

And Facebook.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Cabaret Costuming for Cuddly Ladies

Or in other words, how to look good in glitter when your thighs are bigger around than your troupemate's waist!

I'm pretty sure I've griped on here before about the twin trials of being a plus size dancer with a size zero wallet. Most custom made stuff is out of my price range, and the cheaper costuming gear is almost invariably from the far east, and sized accordingly.

Even if us larger ladies can find  reasonably priced clothes in our size, there's no guarantee it's going to look good. Round my neck of the woods, there are two standard 'base level' cabaret costumes. The first should need little explanation; backless tops and 38F breasts are never a good combination, and I have seen more than one beginning dancer expose more than she intended under one of those damn butterfly tops! The second is certainly more decorous, but teamed with a straight panel skirt it's basically covering all my assets whilst being a large flashing advertisement for a big belly with considerable overhang, and despite the name of the dance, that's not really what I want to draw attention to. Besides, if I'm doing cabaret, I want a proper bedlah, and until people start selling them in sizes over a C cup that's going to entail making my own. 

So I have! This is actually the fourth bedlah I've made (the third finished one), but the basic construction is the same. Nice sturdy bra (usually a daily wear one that has been retired due to tattiness) covered with a gorgeous sari (£5 for a whole bag of them off a fellow dancer), then embellished. The straps have been cut off so it loops and ties at the back like a tribal bra, as I haven't quite got the hang of covering straps yet. The belt is made of 4 layers of interfacing, covered in more sari material, and attached by hooks and eyes. Lots of them. I don't enjoy costume malfunctions.

So far so good, but I like a little more coverage than is supplied by the average bedlah. Off the shelf underbust tops are so rare as to be almost non-existent here in the UK, but a brief sojourn on eBay throws up lots and lots of stretchy velvet tops that are just begging to meet my sewing scissors And some of them aren't black- this fluorescent orange monstrosity is actually a pleasant shade of burnt ochre in real life and a perfect match for my beautiful bedlah. 

Even so it's not my best look ever- there's a reason my wardrobe only consists of V-necks and wrap tops. But ten minutes with a seam picker soon gets shot of the dreaded turtleneck. Another twenty minutes with Fritz, my beloved sewing machine, during which I discover that all velvet is not made equal and this stuff is a total PITA to hem, and I have a new addition to my dance wardrobe.

Then there's the skirt. This one is actually home-made, and is a circle and a half of brown chiffon. The material is beautifully tactile and floaty (and utterly transparent- I'm wearing leggings underneath), but it was such an utter ball-ache to make that I have no intentions of doing it again if I can possibly help it. I've since tracked down some good retailers of chiffon skirts on eBay, rather than just the tiny petal skirts beloved of Hong Kong traders. I also made harem pants to go underneath, but these appear to have vanished into the abyss of the fabric pile!

Finally, for added shits and giggles, there's enough velvet left to make two cuffs and a headband, ready to be embellished with left-over flowers, sequins and beads, and (on the cuffs) trimmed with floaty chiffon streamers that will either emphasise my graceful arm movements or disguise my funky chicken impresison, depending on what sort of day it is.

I don't delude myself into thinking this costume is anything close to professional standard, but that's just fine. I'm not a professional, just a hobbyist and occasional fundraiser, with champagne tastes on a cold tea budget. I aim for a hand-made rather than home-made look, and if I've achieved that, I'm happy.

Overall, this costume probably set me back around £60 in materials and 20 hours of labour, I thoroughly enjoy learning new craft techniques, and when I do wear it out I'll have the satisfaction of knowing no one else has a costume quite like it. And I'd need to pay a damn sight more than £60 to ensure that if I bought off the peg!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Weather Stops Play

 The UK has been experiencing some weather recently, which will no doubt reap scorn from hardier souls who are used to measuring their snow fall in feet. As our country is set up to deal with rain and wet leaves rather than the white stuff, life has basically ground to a halt.

I've missed out on a couple of week's classes, and several haflas, and as usual when I have an enforced hiatus from dancing, I start losing my enthusiasm. It's probably not helped by the fact I feel like our last performance fell flat on its arse- under-rehearsed, costume problems, and a polite rather than enthusiastic audience. It's tapped into all my usual insecurities and I don;t fele like I want to go out there and dance.

We have a couple of performances before Christmas, and I'm trying to psych myself up for them. I love the music we're using (Start Wearing Purple by Gogol Bordello), I love the crazy circus feel of the choreography I wrote, and I love the costume.

And yet. I'm not motivated to practise the piece (and by God does it need some polishing), I can't be bothered to finish the costume, I'm not interested in practising with my high heeled boots on to avoid tripping over my trousers again. I can't be arsed to work out my makeup and hair.

I need the BD equivalent of a swift kick up the jacksie. Maybe someone should get the 4am zills brigade to come blockade my house until I cave and start rehearsing.

PS- I should note that the awesome snow-habibti is not of my making- the original is on Tribe

Monday, 22 November 2010


So the weekend before last, I took me and my wallet down to the annual jumble sale run by my old Scout Group, to see what bargains I could find. With women's clothes selling for 30p a piece, it was like a mothball scented slice of recycling heaven.

So far, so eco-chic, but not a lot to do with bellydance. Or so you might think. But you'd be wrong!

Being a lady of traditional build (or, as my housemate used to say, the correct height and weight for someone carrying a fridge), off the shelf costumes do not fit. They just don't. All those cute tribal pants going on eBay for silly cheap? They make ominous snapping noises as I try and ease them over my thighs, and in the unlikely event that I do get them on, they're utterly see-through. And there are some things no one wants to see.

Don't even get me started on cholis- the last one I bought (which I'm actually wearing in my profile pic), I had to slit the sleeves all the way up to the armpit scene, or risk developing gangrene due to lack of circulation. And it took both my troupemates to help me get the bloody thing off.

Therefore, most of my dance wardrobe is either made from scratch, or adapted from 'mufti' clothes. And there's nowhere like the Scouts Bazaar for finding raw material! Sadly, there are no body shots, partly because the items have not yet been 'adjusted' to my needs. and mainly because I'm off sick today, and looking like the antonym of glamorous.

First up is a pair of the most comfortable yoga pants ever to slip into my grasp. They're from Marks and Spencers, and retail new for about £18. The scarf with them is actually from Turkey- my troupe mate brought us back one each.

Second we have a black velvet underbust choli, that started off life as a Debenhams ladies top- the frumpy sort, with a high neck. Ten minutes with scissors and my sewing machine, and it sits nicely below all my bedleh bras (leopardprint fusion bra, also partially thrifted, shown for comparison)

To the right is my new dance bag, which is embroidered with flowers and sequins, and has plenty of space for veils, water, sagat and knee pads (guess who's learning floor work)

And almost out of shot, because it really was too ugly to publish, is a totally see through ankle-length knitted skirt in electric blue. I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do with it. although it's going to involve fusion, but it's totally hideous, and had to come home with me.

This rather unpromising selection was picked to match my latest bedleh, a fabulous orangey gold piece with asymmetric beading on the cups, yards of spangly gold fringe, and orange crystal flowers scattered over it. When I say fabulous, I am blowing my own trumpet in the worst kind of way, as shop bedlehs come in two sizes - too small, and too expensive (especially for a non-professional chick with limited cabaret experience. This one is handmade, using a Marks & Spencer bra, a glorious gold sari (another jumble sale find!) and most of the contents of the rag market. I hope to wear it for a Christmas hafla, so I've been on the hunt for matching accessories.
The red material behind it is a gorgeous silk veil that cost me 50p. Sadly it's slightly too small for veil work, but would make a lovely entrance piece of the 'twirl, twirl, toss aside' variety, or a stunning overskirt. The colours are beautiful!

The rather bilous maroon thing on the right is actually a stretchy chiffon skirt from Marks & Spencer, and in real life complements the bedleh nicely. It's a little staid and old ladyish at the moment, but will undoubtedly benefit from a slit up to there and some judicious bedazzling (who am I kidding? I don't stop with the shiny until I run out of material!)

And the boring brown dress is a chiffon nightie, which is the same shade as my laboriously handmade panel skirt, and will make a nice body cover for the days when I don't fancy flashing the flesh. Which are, admittedly, rare, but you never know when body insecurity is going to hijack your evening.

All in all, a bit of a haul. Any other dancers out there who are queens of the local rummage sale? Tell me I'm not alone!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Costumes at Last!

It's been somewhat silent on the blogging front for me recently as I've been breaking my neck to get three costumes and accompanying choreographies ready for Women of Mass Distraction's first ever paid gig. That was last night, and whilst there will no doubt be an extended post-mortem, I can finally take some time to think about something other than 'what comes after the earthquake shimmy?'

Official pictures will be some time yet, as our fabulous photographer also moonlights as Ruth Distractions's husband and therefore has many other commitments, and the venue was too dark for everyone else's camera.

I did, however, inveigle my own husbeast into taking a few shots of me in my last costume once we got in. The piece I'd been dancing to was a burlesque fusion, and I'd leaned more towards the burlesque side in the costuming- my husband threatened to tell anyone that asked that he'd hired me for the evening.

Skirt is a double-layer of satin and lace. It's sort of hand made, in that it started off as two size 14s, and ended up as one size 20 and some leftover bits. Top is a black vest sewn with lace rose trim. Future iterations of this costume will definitely involve my underbust corset, as I was really not loving my shape in this, and the dance is easily adjusted to take out the torso isolations.

As I said, we got paid for this night- not a massive amount, but enough to cover expediture on parking, petrol, costume bits and bobs (as you know, I make do and mend, so those are never very much for me) and leave us in pocket. We weren;t expecting to get paid- the event was part of the LGBT arts festival here in Birmingham, so when we were approached by the organiser, being a bi chick myself, I was all for it. Turns out that the organiser had applied for a grant to help fund putting on the event, and this had factored in paying performers.

Frankly, I'm not sure we were worth it. We did three sets of one song each, interpersed with the other act of the evening, an awesome band called Drag. Unfortunately there was no MC, and the sound dude played two tracks before putting on our song each time, so it was kind of tricky for the audience to know when the background music stopped being background and became performance time!

We were also underrehearsed on two of the songs, and it showed. I hadn't practised enough in my heels before wearing them, so I stumbled a few times during the second set, and during the last piece I was out of time as much as I was in. It was a fun learning experience though, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The crowd were politely supportive, if a little confused (did I mention we were also dancing at floor level, not on a stage. It really did look as though three members of the audience had suddenly decided to get down with their bad selves. We also had to evict people from a large squashy sofa at the back of the room before dancing).

As performances go, for me, I'd rate it about 6 out of 10. Really happy with the costumes, moderately happy with the caliber of the perfomance (we've had worse, oh boy, have we had worse. At least this time my knickers stayed up), and learnt a valuable lesson about the need for introductions.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The zombies attack!

...although this time, it was only the profiteroles that were in danger.

*I think the zombie makeup rotted my brain, because I can't get this picture the right way up!
The foundations of this costume were originally intended as a spooktacular bellydance fusion piece involving  burlesque prom queens and fake spiders, but sadly the Halloween hafla was cancelled, and I was all set to put the zombie makeup away for another year. Happily, a fellow dancer threw me a social lifeline in the form of an invite to her own Halloween party, so I dug out some of my old workwear from the dark days of telemarketing, and lurched along as a corporate zombie.

The blood is a mix of golden syrup, red food colouring and washing up liquid. It's quite viscous, so no good for dripping gore, but perfect for someone who's been dead for a while. The makeup is just a combination of the grungiest colours my local shopping centre had to offer, and the suit had an unfortunate encounter with a stanley knife (as did my hand).

All in all, a wicked night was had by all.

I'm spending the actual night of Halloween eating venison stew, showing my husband our latest choreography, and generally just enjoying what is one of my favourite times of year. Happy Halloween and a Spooky Samhain to all those who celebrate it.

xx Lilith

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


Last night saw me over at the home of a fellow Woman of Mass Distraction, attempting to put the finishing touches on a choreography. Its first performance will be 11th November, and we'll also be debuting another piece (that I haven't actually started working on yet), so you can tell we like to live dangerously.

Despite writing the choreography, I still had to get the other two to break certain bits down for me, as they were fitting moves to slightly different rhythms, which I couldn't hear. My brain does not compute anything that is not 4/4 time! They'd also had a mini rehearsal last week while I was enjoying a bout of flu, so I had some new moves to learn as well. 'Sixties Go-Go Girl Arms' being the most notable.

The original piece was themed around zombie prom queens dancing burlesque fusion (I did tell you about the not being a traditionalist bit, didn't I? Just checking), but as the halloween event that was designed for was then cancelled, we started moving away from the horror theme and towards a more 'straight' burlesque (I use the term loosely, 'cos we're actually performing it at an LGBT event, Shout Rocks).

As it happens, the theme for that is Visibility and Invisibility, and my partner in crime Charlotte has suggested a slightly creepy look involving doll style makeup, which, if we can carry it off, will be unspeakably awesome. And, as it happens, totally cribbed from an act we saw at Gothla 2010 but the concept was just too good to pass up.

I'm not wholly sure whether it will pan out though, as we're still waiting to find out how the night will be organised. At present, it seems there are only two acts on the bill, and we are expected to perform a full set of about 15-20 minutes. Leaving aside the fact we don't have a single, cohesive set, but rather three separate songs (with their own costumes and 'feel), I'm also concerned that frankly, people are going to find it boring. Heck, I get slightly twitchy during a long cabaret set, and that's me as a dedicated dancer, watching a professional, rather than Joe Public watching a fat chick gyrating around to Marilyn Manson.

If we can score three smaller performances, that would be ideal. Five minutes is short enough that people won't get too bored, and we can get a costume change in each time. And I am all about the costumes!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Tidying Up

Because I am only a part time belly dancer, and a full-time minute-taker, housekeeper, wife and creator of mess extraordinaire, my costume room is also my crochet room, my sewing room, a spare bedroom, a laundry room, the computer room and a receptacle for stuff that doesn't have a home.

At present, it also contains a farily large chunk of kitchen cupboards and fitments, because I was foolish enough to believe my husband when he told me the refit would only take a few weeks... 12 months ago. The contents of the cupboards ended up on the spare bed, and because I am allergic to the concept of putting stuff away, so did everything else. The George Foreman grill hobnobbed with the silk veils, the skein of cashmere yarn mated with a coin belt, the specially modified black lace choli sneaked off into a corner and caused me hours of panic before my last performance...

Incredibly, this is partway through the cleaning up process. Costume items are slowly accreting on the chair, fabric on the table in front of my beloved sewing machine Fritz. Drying clothes have been evicted to make the most of the sunshine, drying Irish setter is regarding me mournfully, just out of shot (he objected to being forcefully removed from his comfy nest in a 22 yard skirt.

Part of the reason for posting this is in the hope of embarrassing myself enough that I will never let it get this messy again, but it's also to remind me of what I actually want to do with this room once it's clear of crap. It's been years since I (a public-sector-employed devotee of all things stretchy and non-iron) merited more than two hangers in the wardrobe I share with my husband (international business man of mystery), so obviously this needs to actually house my dance wear, and in slightly more elegant form than jute shopping bags and the dreaded 'dump it on a chair' school of hanging up.

Ideally, I want a marriage of this...
Ikea expedit storage unit
and this...
Moroccan boudoir
Scandinavian storage, practicality and price, but with a hint of exoticism. A belly dancer can dream, right?

Saturday, 23 October 2010


Welcome to my sparkly little corner of the internet, dear reader.

I am a very late jumper onto the bandwagon of blogging, having clung on to my beloved livejournal right until the bitter end (the full page ads that spread out over what I was reading were the final straws that broke this belly dancer's back).

This blog is intended to be predominantly about bellydancing, but there will undoubtedly be a smattering of burlesque in there too. And by belly dancing, I mean everything from sequins, beaded fringe, rhinestones and Shik Shak Shok, to dressing up like a dead prom queen and moonwalking to Marilyn Manson.

If that bothers you, this may not be the right place for you. Go visit the inimitable and invaluable Shira instead. In fact, visit her anyway, because no one can know too much about 'traditional' (i.e. not fusion) belly dance, and Shira is the undisputed (web)mistress of bellydance knowledge.

You're staying? Lovely. Yalla habibi, pull up a sequinned cushion and make yourself comfortable.