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.