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