Monday, 19 December 2011

I Ate'nt Dead

Holy Smoke, has it really been going on for a month since I last posted? It doesn't seem that long, but I guess a lot of things have happened since then.

Namely, I got sick. In the head. I've suffered depression before (and it was one of the things that led me to belly dance as a way of making myself feel good), but this latest crisis has been a particularly bad one, and my recovery is going to be a slow one. For a week or two, dance fell off my radar, but it's something that brings me a lot of joy, so I've been working hard to stay connected.

That paid off last night, when I got back onstage. I danced a lovely veil piece with my teacher's student troupe, and it felt great to be up there and dancing again. I was wondering if stage fright was going to be an issue, but all I felt was joy and excitement at performing!

I think that will be the last outing for this costume in its current form though- straight, skinny belts are just not a good look on apple-bodied chicks, and the bra is now a good two sizes too big and I've lost my chicken fillets!

Anyway, that was the last hafla before Christmas, so now it's back to present wrapping, packing to visit family, and deciding which abandoned sewing project needs reviving.

I hope everyone out there in the blogosphere has a very merry festivity of choice!

Monday, 21 November 2011


So you know how I was being all self-congratulatory and shit in my last post about finally being up on stage with my teacher's tribal (my brain insists on typing that as tribble, btw) troupe?

Well, this weekend, the Tribble Dictator wants us to repeat this piece. With zills.

Yeah. About that.

I have chronic RSI in both wrists, a sense of rhythm comparable to that of an epileptic one-legged wombat, and a lack of coordination that makes said wombat look like a prima ballerina. This is not going to go well.

Of course, I could always say no, but where would be the fun in that? Besides, this performance is by way of being a spot of one-upmanship, as another local tribal group (with whom I used to study) recently performed with zills but didn't actually play them. If I don't join in and pull it off, we don't get the sense of smug holier than thou-ness which is an integral part of the sisterhood of dance :)

So this last week I have been drilling the ever-loving shit out of my zills, at home with mufflers on, on the wasteland outside the office without mufflers (and scaring every pigeon in South Birmingham) and driving my husband mad in bed (not in a good way) by singing baladi rhythm whilst mentally rehearsing the piece.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Tribal Debut

I think I've mentioned before my difficulties in memorising tribal combos, and this difficulty became considerably more pressing when my teacher asked if I wanted to join her troupe on stage for Infusion Emporium last weekend.

To help you put this in perspective, four years ago I remember sitting in the audience at my first ever hafla, watching Khalgani dancing, and thinking how much I wanted to dance like them. To end up performing with them and their sister troupe, Prana, was literally a dream come true... or a nightmare, if I couldn't get my brain and my hips in the same gear.

I also needed a costume in a hurry. My first attempt at a tribal bra ended in ignominious disaster and a lot of safety pins, so I was determined to do better this time!
As you would expect for an inveterate hoarder, I had a whole world of fun collecting bits and bobs to sew onto it, including keys from an old necklace, a pentacle, a little silver spider (to ward off stage fright), and about 50 old coins, which an obliging colleague identified as a mix of Pakistani, Indian, Irani and Afghan, and the oldest being from 1948. Probably my favourite pieces though are the turquoise roundels, which started life as earrings from Primark (50p a pair!)

Spiders or no, I had epic stage fright on the night; fortunately we were on int he first half, so I didn't get to brick it for too long before we were up. As far as i can recall, I didn't balls up too much, although there are a few embarrassing photos of me with my arms in completely different positions to the rest of the troupe!
As you see, my arms definitely need some work, and I'm wearing far too few clothes to be able to pass as a proper tribal dancer, but I'm definitely on my way! 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Happy Halloween!

Teacher is on holiday this week, so my dancing has been pretty much limited to a few glute drills and this 'work of art' created during my Girl Guide group's annual pumpkin carving and chocolate fest.

I kind of wish I'd left out the eyes, as 'ninja belly dance mexican wrestler assassins' was NOT the look I was aiming for, but I had fun carving it, and I liked it enough that I signed the back!

Happy Halloween, Samhain, All Hallows Eve, and Sweetie Fest to all those that celebrate it, and my most profound sympathies on those who don't and are missing out on my favourite time of year!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Still kicking

I'm not dead, just dead tired!

By mutual agreement, my dance troupe are taking a break from performing together; we've all got a lot going on at the moment (one getting married in two weeks and the other two of us are her matrons d'honneur) and practising and performing was becoming a chore rather than a joy.

Technically this should mean I have much more time to dedicate to my own personal dance journey. Real life, however, has other ideas, and although I'm managing my three classes a week, time and energy for private practice has gone for a burton.

In my Tribal advanced class, I'm finally getting to grips with the group's combos. My teacher does a hybrid of various ATS styles, so moves get borrowed, plundered or straight up invented from all sorts of sources (I even have faint hopes that one of mine may one day make the repertoire. The Air-Hostess turn, you saw it here first!)

My learning style is intensely word based, so it's not enough for me to drill complicated sequences of moves (especially when, being improv, they have no musical phrase attached to jog my brain) into my muscle memory. It's taken a while for my teacher to understand that I need to sit out and write the move down while watching others dance it if I'm to have any hope of remembering it. I think she got the point after she and I spent a whole half hour drilling a two person move, only for me to have forgotten it again by the end of class!

I now have a sheaf of scruffy notes, which are slowly being transferred into a notebook full of neatly written out combos. I have been spending quiet periods at work adding in descriptive diagrams and arm positions (and have discovered my utter inability to draw profiles. All the side-facing dancers in my notebook look like Neanderthals!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Burlesque Starlet

Today saw me tottering off (not literally, because I don't do heels) to the darkest depths of Leicestershire for the second Showgirl School run by the lovely ladies at Kookie Kaftan. It was, as ever, fantastic fun, and left me feeling like a true glamour puss!

We started off with a fabulously saucy strip tease choreography, during which we learnt the intricacies of removing button-up tops and long skirts, and also managed to throw bits of lingerie all over the hall. As usual, there was no actual nudity involved, but I think I'd feel less silly if there was- something about wearing frilly knickers over leggings makes me feel like a complete plum.

Then came afternoon tea, with an array of goodies that have absolutely no place on Slimming World (I figured the two hours of dancing cancelled them out), and then the bit I was really looking forward to- the fascinator workshop.
I had a lot of fun, as you can probably tell from the picture above. Our teacher for the day, Lynne, had brought an abundance of random haberdashery for us, and we had a positive orgy of hotfixing, glue gunning and generally indulging our girly sides. I'm totally hooked on hat making, ad will definitely be trying it again.

Finally we had a lesson on vintage hairstyles. I've already tried my hand at a couple, but it was really useful to get tips in person, especially as Lynne, like me, has quite long hair, and most of the tutorials online are aimed at people with shoulder length hair. I spent most of the session wrangling with the pompadour, or false fringe, which is a look I've always coveted but didn't have the first clue how to achieve. I ended up rolling it around a mascara brush to get the shape right, but once it was up there it stayed in place for nearly nine hours (I found 12 kirby grips in it when I took it out).

It was a fabulous day, and I left brimming with new ideas and feeling totally inspired to dance and create. Which, frankly, is a great way to end any workshop!

During the day I also picked up a copy of a new BD magazine - Majency, which looks pretty awesome. It includes submissions from several dancers I know, including Lynne herself, and appears to cover the whole spectrum of belly dance in the UK without prejudice- cabaret, folkloric, tribal and fusion all get covered. Can't wait until I get a quiet moment to read it myself!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

New Project!

I had no intention of starting a new project. I have two finished costumes still in need of alterations and repairs, a peacock bra that's been on hold for months, a tribal bra that needs reworking, and a new troupe choreography to write, learn, costume and perform by early October.


I guess no one told the universe this, because this sparkly blue evening gown was lurking on the rack of my favourite charity shop, just waiting for someone to see past the torn lining and mumsy neckline and discover the baladi-tastic beauty beneath.

I hate mumsy necklines. Can you tell? Also for some reason the only costume bra I could find was leopardprint!

This will be my first shot at a dress, as the glitterdot monstrosity has been borrowed by about half the local dance community and I daren't take a pair of scissors to it until the hafla season is over.

Current plans involve adding some cap sleeves (made from the scraps I cut out of the bust) to try and balance out the silhouette, then throwing a load of hotfix crystals, sequins and beads at it, and seeing what sticks. Sadly there are not enough scraps to cover a bra, so I'm thinking turquoise satin and lots of dark blue trimmings, to pick up the glittery streaks in the dress.

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Comedown

This weekend was absolutely crammed with dancing, starting with a duet on Friday evening at a hafla organised by BAMBA, then another duet and a solo performance on Saturday at a hafla planned and executed with military precision by my good friend and troupemate C, then a two hour intensive class.

I had little or no sleep all weekend, too much pop (soda) and not enough food, bought a frightening amount of stuff, worked muscles I didn't know I had, and achieved some seriously startling hairstyles (protoype below, I don't have any pictures from the weekend yet)

All in all, it was a fabulous, decadent weekend, in which everything else got subsumed by sparkles, sweat and the sheer joy of spending time doing something I love.

It came as a bit of a blow this morning then to realise that I had to unwind the victory rolls, take off the red nail varnish and put Lilith back in her box in favour of my much less interesting (but far more fiscally sound) persona, whose name is that on my birth certificate. Back to typing up reports, unjamming the photocopier, emptying the dishwasher and taking out the bins. Booring.

Sunday, 28 August 2011


Finally finished the flapper costume, and am tolerably pleased with it.

Bra still needs stuffing and I have to make a headband to match, but it's definitely wearable. I've got a gold overskirt to wear with it if i feel I need a little more coverage (the skirt is very clinging and I'm worried about VPL), and a gold stole to wave around dramatically before dumping it mid shimmy.

Both choreographies appear to be locked in my head, but of course I'll practise a few more times before I perform on Friday and Saturday.

I don't know about other dancers, but I often do 'meditation rehearsals', normally during quiet periods at work, where I put on the music and mentally dance along. This backfired on me in a big way last week, I put my music on and closed my eyes to better envisage the moves, then opened them again to find my MP3 player two songs further on and my colleague sniggering at me!

Friday, 19 August 2011


Popped round to my wounded friend C's house this evening and had a quick run through of the duet. It's a Gothic fusion piece, done to a Siouxsie and the Banshees track- Cities in Dust.

There was, naturally, a good deal of confusion as C tried to dance the other half of the duet with me without actually doing any dancing, whilst reading out instructions for me. Much bumping of elbows and smacking of light fittings ensued, and her cats hid under the sofa.

This is only the second time I've rehearsed this dance with another human being, and by hell it showed. There's a sequence at the end that I am clearly going to have to rehearse daily if I'm ever to remember it, and I haven't got many days left- we perform on 2nd September.

The costume is also causing headaches- we're wearing ruched overskirts that must have looked divine on slender R and hourglass C, but look heinous stretched over my wobbly belly. Still pondering a solution to that one.

Fortunately my own solo is going a little more smoothly. The costume should be finished tomorrow, and I'll post up on-body pics. The choreo is beginning to flow nicely, though I still have blank spots in the middle. Again, need to drill it daily, and i'm running out of days.

Also I have been offered the chance to dance on the same night in my teacher's student cabaret troupe, and also the ITS troupe. Naturally I said no. Even if I could hold four choreos in my head and scare up a tribal costume in two weeks, no audience needs to see me four times in one evening!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Where has the year gone?

It can't possibly be half way through August already, can it? This year seems to have flown by, even though I have been cramming as much dancing into it as possible. I've taken more workshops this year than in the first three years of my dance career put together!

I'm still cracking on with the summer intensive held by my teacher. Although the level of the class is pitched a little high for me in terms of fitness, I'm still getting a lot out of it, but I'm always the first to crack during drills or strenuous warmups. It gets me down sometimes, and I have to remind myself that the rest of the participants are not carrying around an extra six stone of Lilith!

I caught up with the rest of my troupe, Women of Mass Distraction, last week, and discovered that one of them is off dancing altogether at the moemnt due to a seriously crocked back. As a result, I'm standing in for her at the next hafla, doing a duet with our third member.

Gods only know how this is going to work out. Mashallah I already know the music, but those two planned this piece basically on their own, and I have only a sheet of paper to work off as the other troupe member is on holiday.
I also have to make a costume for it, as I won't fit in the invalid's costume bra and skirt :( Disaster looms like a iceberg!

In between panicking over duets and aching from class, I'm also trying to get my solo ready for early September. The piece is choreographed, but I'm short on space to practise it. Suspect I may end uop over the park with my headphones on, and to hell with the funny looks I get. Fortunately the costume is all but finished- pictures to come when I get more than ten minutes to myself!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Summer Workshops are run by Sadists

This, FYI, is the face and body of a broken woman!

I signed up for my teacher's tribal fusion course this summer, as our cabaret and ITS classes stop over the school holidays. I expected a certain degree of pain from a two hour workshop, but this practically had me weeping on the floor.

Dawn began by asking each of us what we wanted to get out of the course, and making notes. The committed fusionistas had a long list of specifics, magpies like myself were more general. I knew I wanted to hone my technique, expand my range of movement and gain tighter control over muscles.

Having got all that down, she then took us through a gruelling warmup, culminating in about 20 years of arm rotations (this is only a slight exaggeration) and a further six months of Planking (yoga, not internet meme).

We worked the upper body, and we drilled it on the most basic level, opening out the muscles and sticking to the simplest of moves, but trying to perfect them. For added impetus, Dawn filmed us, so we could watch ourselves later and spot any mistakes. I'm not a fan of seeing myself on film, but it worked- I can see just how much I'm holding back on moves (eg rib slides) when I should be pushing them to their full extent.

We finished up with belly rolls and today it hurts to laugh. I drilled that forward roll (my bugbear) solid for ten minutes, and I'm feeling the effects, but i also have a nice smooth roll, and an intimate knowledge of every (screaming, agonised) muscle involved. We also did a little work on isolating the muscles on either side of the belly button, which is awesome because sideways belly rolls are freaky things, and I'm all about the weird.

We all got personalised homework at the end after the cooldown, so this week i will mostly be rib sliding and circling in front of a mirror, trying to break through that invisible barrier and get some range!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


This week I have mostly been preserving every single fruit or vegetable that isn't fast enough to get out of my way, and have therefore had rather less time for costuming than I would like. What free time I have had has been somewhat complicated by the near permanent spattering of fruit pulp* over my person, which makes working on a cream costume a very bad idea.

That said, last night I did manage to wash off the raspberry juice, and finished up the belt base for my twenties costume. No pics yet, because boring strip of satin is boring, but the bra is looking something like this...

I have since finished the beading on the left boob, but still need to add the pearl drapes. There will undoubtedly be a post about that as I'm not sure where to put them, and asking my husband about the placement of pearl necklaces is a one way ticket to Facepalm.

I don't know about the rest of the blogosphere, but my bellydance diary is filling up fast, I have Sunday workshops over the summer concentrating on tribal fusion, which is my teacher's speciality but not my usual style. Come September i have two haflas and a workshop, then we're into October and another three haflas and a henparty. I've never had so much of a social life!

*six pots of raspberry curd, five of jam, a bottle of plums, two lots of cherries in brandy and some disastrous redcurrant jelly that hasn't set. The kitchen may never be clean again, but at least I'll never run out of raffle prizes!

Monday, 18 July 2011

A Little Bit of Goth and a Whole Lot of Thinking

I had been looking forward to Gothla 2011 since the end of Gothla 2010, but due to the gross inconvenience of my father-in-law electing to celebrate his 60th birthday, I had only the smallest taste of what is usually a hedonistic and hilarious weekend.

Gothla kicked off on Friday afternoon with a series of three hour masterclasses run by Morgana from Spain, Sera Solstice, and the inimitable, indomitable Sashi of Ascend Tribal fame and that wings performance. Guess who I was learning with?

The class was called 'The Awakening: Captivating Stage Expression', but could just as easily been called 'How the fuck did she make me spend three hours interpreting emotion through dance for the edification of complete strangers and why aren't I curled up in a ball of horror at the memory of it?'

Sashi freely admits to her ability to get people to do 'fucked up things', and in my book, convincing twenty uptight English chicks to throw phantom energy balls to each other, writhe around on the floor, and perform said interpretative dance is far more noteworthy than sticking bits of metal through your shoulders!

The course was light on actual dance content (some warm up shimmies and a short combo over which we had to layer the expressions of emotion), but by the end of the three hours I felt like I'd learned so much my head was going to explode, and moreover, learnt it by thinking and exploring and analysing, rather than having it broken down into bitesize chunks and spoonfed to me.

During the workshop we had to say what we wanted from the class, and then paired up with people who we felt shared a similar goal in dancing. I ended up working with a very talented lady who said she felt attuned to what I'd said about being a bundle of nerves and not being able to enjoy the experience of performance.

You may imagine my surprise when I connected the various bits of info I picked up (her first name, the fact she was teaching that weekend), and realised she was the creative director of a very theatrical troupe whose style I loathe, and whom I've been extremely rude about in the past!

A few lessons learnt then; firstly that this scene is too small for you not to bump into those you've been merrily slagging off; secondly that not all goths have facial piercings and tattoos; thirdly that just because someone likes to dress like Lady Gaga and throw fake blood on stage does not mean they can't dance; and finally it's Gothla, and if there's room for a fat cabaret chick, there's room for everyone else too!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

20s costume, AKA the Teabag Special

You'll have to take my word for it regarding the staying power of Lady Grey teabags, and the blindingly white colour of the original. Suffice it to say that the teabag dye worked beautifully, and I'm now well launched on shaping the bra.

I'm experimenting with a new technique for the sides- leaving the original stretchy straps on, and basting the satin over them so they can still stretch to fit. I'm half a stone into my latest attempt to lose weight, so I want a costume that can accommodate a Lilith of varying sizes.

Decoration on this costume is going to be simple- I have enough half finished beading projects already! I have about ten pearl necklaces to use as drapes and swags on the belt and bra. If you squint at the photo you can see one of the pearl flowers I'm using as focal points. They're actually taken off stretchy bracelets, and I'll be using the loose pearls from the bracelets to edge the bra and provide some textural variation to all that smooth satin.

I'm getting quite excited about this one!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Adventures in Dyeing Part 2

It began with an invitation to a local hafla, which clearly meant a new solo, and a new costume.

I already have a round half dozen unfinished projects on the go, and my sole 'good' costume is in need of some serious attention if I wish to avoid a repeat of the Big Tit Tease of 2011. But rather than work on any of those, having picked my music, I realised I needed a totally new costume to go with it.

The song I'm working on is 'Egyptian Ella'. The costume, as is appropriate for a fat dancer chick from 1930 something, should therefore be elegant, glamorous, softly sepia, draped with pearls and cribbed off something already done much better by Tempest and Mardi Love.eBay purchases were perpetuated, bargain stores were raided and bead boxes were ransacked. The net result was two polyester satin nighties, half a rack of 'pearl' necklaces and an assortment of pearly beads. Tempest, eat your freakishly beautiful heart out :/

Sadly the nighties (look, I'm lazy. Much better to let someone else do the cutting, seaming, hemming and hanging, and let me just cut the straps off to get a bias cut floor length skirt) were not quite as desired, the antique cream being more of a 'fresh white paint' colour. Not quite what I was aiming for, so on went the computer, and oh fukkit went Lilith, as she discovered that polyester is wholly undyeable and she should bin the lot and start again.

But then I figured that if they're unusable as is, there was no harm in experimenting, so having cut one down to a skirt, I left some of the scraps in a mug of stewed tea (sans milk!)overnight. It took nicely, and resisted all attempts the following morning to rinse out the colour. That may count as undyeable in some people's books, being as I didn't give it a boil wash with sulphuric acid (or however they test it), but it works for me.

Thus there is currently a bucket full of Lady Grey tea (husband would have killed me if I'd used his precious builders tea bags) and nightdresses steeping merrily in my kitchen, ready for decanting tomorrow morning.

Occasionally the dog sticks his nose in for a taste- apparently Irish setters like tea?

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Burlesque Drama, and not all of the fun sort

In the list of things you want to happen to you on the way to a dance class, having the driver in front of you hit a motorcyclist and then drive off, is probably pretty low on most people's lists. Guess what happened to me this morning when I set off to a burlesque event in another city?

The biker got off with bruises and some cosmetic damage to his bike. He was pretty sanguine about it, just thanked us for stopping to help him, and taking down our details in case he needed witness statements. I think I was more shaken up than he was (having lost a friend to a similar accident); by the time I reached my first workshop ( an hour late and after three trips round the city ring road, bloody SatNav), I was apparently looking worse than I felt, because the organiser immediately offered to sit me down and fetch me a cup of tea!

Fortunately, the day took a more positive swing from then on. Although I'd missed half the workshop, I was in time to get to grips with the choreography we were learning. This was a full strip of gloves, dress, knickers and bra, and was the perfect medicine for my emo state. It's hard to feel down and depressed when you've just highkicked your knickers across the hall!

The workshop was followed by a very ladylike afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones, cakes and the promised cup of tea. Matters then got considerably less ladylike as we embarked on a pastie-making lesson. You can see my first attempts above. They're fiddly to make, but great fun, and the gratification is a lot more instant than beading a belly dance costume!  I have plans for a set to match my peacock costume...

Last class of the day was a makeup master class, beginning with a retro day look, at which I failed miserably because I don't own a single neutral eyeshadow. Fortunately we moved swiftly on to stage makeup, and got to layer on endless colours, glosses, glitters and liners under the watchful eye of our teacher, Fulya. We learnt loads of tips, like highlighting the brow bone, contouring the cheeks with blusher, how to stick eyelashes to your face not the table...

I went for what Fulya called the absinthe and alcohol look, very heavy, very dark eye makeup (it's actually royal purple, the camera lies! and adds 20lb), pale cheeks and deep red lips (which wore off on the way home). Then the whole lot got sprinkled with glitter!


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Hair Today

So after seeing this photo of me (taken at Cirque 2011 by viclaurence), I am torn between being very pleased by the way my tribal costume turned out, and fed up with having boring hair.

Recently I've noticed a trend for beginner dancers (well, mainly beginners. I can think of at least two who should know better!) to be dressed like Dina from the neck down, and Tesco cashiers from the neck up. No disrespect to the checkout ladies, but is that really the look you want to be rocking with your sequinned butterfly tops and chiffon harems?

Fake hair is another local obsession. I'm all for adding to what nature gave you, but some people take it to extremes, and nothing looks more daft than three foot of ash blonde ringlets attached to a dark blonde head.

Me, I abide by a rough rule of 'up' for tribal/fusion and 'down' for cabaret, and sprinkle over accessories as appropriate (no fake hair though, red hair is a nightmare to match), but recently I've been feeling like my hair is distinctly blah, and blah hair on dancers is a bad, bad thing.

Problem is, I spend half my life wearing a ponytail, and scraped back hair is just not a good look on someone with a moon face like mine. And too short hair means no khaleegy style tossing or dancefloor moshing.

Why it took me 28 years to come to the conclusion of getting layers cut into my hair beats me, because it's blatantly the best solution. Long enough to pull back, but with dainty floaty bits around the face. Thus yesterday i went to a dingy little salon near me, and spent £20 on a haircut, which if i say so myself, looks awesome.

Or rather it did. A day of gardening, dog walking, sick husband tending and housework means it now looks like a rats nest that's been dropped in a deep fat fryer.

But it has possibilities! (And is a great excuse to buy more hair bling. Claire's Accessories have a 3 for 2 on hair flowers right now)

Friday, 27 May 2011

Body Image

I came home from class on Wednesday night feeling fat, uncoordinated and hopeless. I'd fucked up every move in class, even the simple ones (one leg shimmy, where are you?), eaten everything that stayed still long enough, and generally convinced myself that I was doomed to grow so fat and hopeless that they'd need to break down a wall of my house to remove my bloated corpse when i finally died of malnutrition caused by living on cookies and bacon crisps.

This evening, I signed up for a burlesque workshop that will teach the classic strip, from dress to drawers. 20 other women are going to watch me cavorting around in unflattering clothes with knickers worn over the top (which is slightly scarier, IMO, than being just in knickers. Underwear is sexy. Only superman could pull off the underwear as outerwear look).

I guess what I'm aiming at here are two things. One is that even the ugliest, fattest, spottiest heifer in the county looks and feels better after a cuddle and a good night's sleep. The second is that this is the only body you get, and waiting until it fits into some personal ideal of perfection is a good way to waste your life.

So come the eleventh of June, me and my fat will be slinking around in my little black dress, saucy stockings, sexy lingerie and, er, Primark leggings and vest. Because I might lose my fat in a few months, or it might still be dogging me until the day I die. Either way, I sure as hell don't want to be on my deathbed wishing I'd taken Fulya's workshop!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Popping the Improv Cherry

Yesterday evening saw me performing my first ever improvised solo. Only problem was... it was meant to be choreographed.

I was almost the last dancer on, so I had the entire show to fret myself up good and proper whilst watching an array of unspeakably talented people strutting their stuff.

Then I got onstage and my carefully polished choreo flew out of my head, leaving me 'hedgehog in headlights' in front of a hundred people, doing endless camels and almost at the point of tears. I have never before had such paralysing stagefright, and I never want to experience it again!Then I dropped my veil, which is something I haven't done in years, and something in my head went 'ping!'

I twirled around until I was in a position to casually scoop up the misbehaving prop, and spent the rest of the song just dancing. Don't ask me what, I can't remember. The photo evidence suggests there were a lot of spins. I recall barrel turns, cones, veil changes, champagne flutes, half-flipped turns, and a few more camels. There appears to have been some floorwork, and there's a 'beautiful' photo of me being eaten by my veil, which I guess is just an occcupational hazard when you combine silk and sweat.

I have no idea whether it was any good or not. It felt good, in a sort of 'zaar trance' cathartic sort of way. I smiled occasionally, but it's a sad song, so I get a free pass for the pensive/petrified expression. I got a good audience response, but there had been a lot of beer drunk by then!

All in all, quite the learning experience. Harsher lessons include the discovery that I look really, really silly doing what my teacher refers to as a 'teabag' (see picture). On her, it looks sassy and slightly cheeky. On me, it looks like Caspar the Friendly Ghost.

I also had a costume malfunction that involved my left boob making a slow but determined break for freedom out from under my bra, which a couple of people commented on. (Let it be known, dancers, you should always, always warn each other of such things, even if it's after the show. Costumes get reused, and you can;t fix a fault if you don't know it's there). And after five hours in my bag, my carefully ironed veil looked like a dishrag.

On the plus side I'm delighted to know that I can just 'get up there and dance', and that my natural response to forgetting the moves is to default to a core vocabulary until my brain starts talking to my hips again. I'm really happy that the hours and hours of freedance practice have paid off, and I'm particularly glad that I took the oft repeated advice to KNOW YOUR MUSIC.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Glamming Up and Catching Up

Since I have recently had the good fortune to be pimped by not one but two fabulous fellow bloggers (the The Belly Whisperer and Foxy Roxy), I imagine it really does behove me to put down the sewing for a moment and update, in the hope that the flocks of adoring fans that rush over here (hahaha) will have something to read.

I'm typing very cautiously today, as I've just painted my nails. I'm also leaving a trail of brown dust wherever I go, as my talented troupe mate Ruth practised her henna skills on me last night. The jury is out as to whether mehndi is authentic for dancers (FWIW, I am a huge fan), but given the hafla we're performing at is called Henna and Spice, it seemed appropriate.

As usual, it wouldn't be the day of a hafla if i wasn't still mucking around with my costumes as the hours count down. I particularly wanted to revamp my tribal bra, as the original design (purple ruching to an inch below the nipple line, accentuated with a row of crystal fringe) looked both home made and unflattering. F cup boobs don't need any assistance in looking droopy!

The updated version is below. I added an extra swoop of the purple material to bring the interest back up to the cleavage, and cannibalised a charity shop necklace made of dull metal chain and haematite beads to add interest and movement to the top of the bra and as a belly dangle. Total sewing time, about an hour!

To do list for pre hafla preparation is roughly as follows:

Go to town and check Primark for spandex vests (I have a new purple skirt i want to wear, but no belly cover. I am the queen of last minute costuming!)
Wash previously dyed hair and do thorough check for dye splodges
Put on eyelashes (this is a battle I usually lose)
Eat something (the nerves are not improved by hunger)
Pack each costume separately, ticking off each item as I go
Iron veil
Put batteries in camera

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Busy Bee

I've had no time for blogging recently as I've been far too busy sewing. I've been working away on cabaret belts for my troupe, in an attempt to tempt them over to the sparkly side, and i've also restarted my long-abandoned peacock bedlah by abandoning all the laboriously sewn appliques i made and doing new ones. They look so much better that it's worth the extra effort!

I picked up a copy of Bead & Sequin Embroidery, and have been learning and applying loads of new techniques. I'm also having a torrid love affair with sew on crystals!

This morning I went out for my usual trawl around the local charity shops while my husband was doing something tedious involving banking. My usual approach is to just home in on whatever looks pretty. If it fits, it joins the wardrobe. If it doesn't, it gets examined for costuming potential. You may imagine my delight when I found this dress, which ticked both boxes!

 It's ankle-length gold glitterdot, and fits to a T, and has a drape at the neck (not seen in the pic) that has 'headband' written all over it. Best of all, it was only £5! I'm not sure quite what to do with it yet- finding baladi dresses in my size is a struggle, so I'll definitely keep it as a dress, but I want to add slits up the side, and either lower the neckline or turn it into an underbust.


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Unleashing the Inner Marilyn

Last weekend saw me heading down (well, up, across and then down) to Northampton for two workshops with Gwen Booth, who is not only a noted belly dance teacher and performer but also performs burlesque under the stage name Miss Minnie Cerise.

This was the first time I'd actually tried burlesque other than a brief intro at Gothla last year, so I was a little worried about whether I'd enjoy it or whether I'd stick out like a sore thumb.

I shouldn't have been concerned. There was a wide range of women there, some with no dance experience at all, and Gwen was a very welcoming teacher with an excellent line in praise. We were learning a 'chorus line' style choreography, very much in the Hollywood Golden Age style, and to break the ice she had us all tottering around in a circle pretending to be Marilyn Monroe. We were running to catch an imaginary train whilst wearing imaginary pencil skirts, carrying very heavy imaginary suitcases, and luring an unsuspecting porter over to carry said suitcase!

Needless to say by the end of all that rigmarole all nerves and selfconsciousness had evaporated and the rest of the workshop was a glorious confusion of posturing, posing and generally unleashing our inner silver screen divas. We all got a printed copy of the choreography at the end, which is something I was really pleased about as I'm not good at taking notes in class, and I definitely wanted to mine this workshop for ideas!

The second workshop was all about veil work, concentrating more on overall ambience than any particular tricks. This class was much more rooted in belly dance, and all the women there were intermediate dancers. I was pretty much average, which was a nice feeling, I'm used to being the slow one at the back!

Gwen took us through a series of combinations, all of which had a bit of an art deco feel. Lots of beautiful shapes and graceful transitions, and a bit of a pep talk on how to get to know your individual veil and learn to work with it. She also broke down barrel turns, which I've never had the hang of, and I left feeling if not quite the Art Deco goddes that was intended, at least less inclined to believe that my veil was out to get me.

All in all a very inspiring weekend, and I can't recommend Gwen (or Belly Dance and Burlesque, who organised the weekend) highly enough!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Costume Pile

This is my local crack den, also known as Pat's Sewing Basket, a stall in the (in)famous Birmingham Rag Market. Fortunately for the parlous state of my wallet, I no longer work fifteen minutes away from the myriad temptations hidden in all those boxes.

Less fortunately for my overflowing stash of half-finished and not-yet-started costumes, it means I can't just pop out in my lunch hour and come back with ten quids worth of beads, sequins and random sparkly trim that I didn't really need but couldn't leave behind.

Fortunately, I stocked up before moving to a new office, and my craft room overflowing with haberdashery in all the colours of the rainbow.

Good job too. I have two costumes of my own on the go and am currently incubating plans for a tartan corset belt and a nebulous vintage concept involving pearls and chiffon. I also volunteered to make bedlah for my troupe, in a probably futile attempt to wean them over to the sparkly side (cabaret costumes are fun!).

And somewhere in between all that I'm trying to squeeze in 30 minutes of practice a day. Life is rather full right now!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Of Solos and What Not to Do

So Saturday saw me making my debut solo appearance, albeit under my real name rather than this one, and announced by a compère who sounded as though she'd just found a large turd in her costume bag. Enthusiasm, folks, it ain't just for Turkish dancers!

All in all it went surprisingly well! I hadn't realised how much improv technique i've imbibed over the past two years; there were several sections where I just dumped the choreo and went for something that felt better. I didn't stand on the veil (much), and despite the photo I did not whip it around at warp speed. My head band fell off during the last chorus, and had to be elegantly tossed off stage, and my necklace fell off while I was bowing, but considering some of the costume malfunctions I've had in the past, (stockings falling down, belt falling down, knickers falling down... gravity is not my friend) this was no big deal. And I remembered to smile occasionally- my troupe mates were in the corner, and they had threatened to do the 'hip hop gorilla move' if I didn't keep looking up and out at the audience.

Which reminds me. When did teachers stop telling their students to smile and make eye contact? I was in a troupe Turkish piece as well, and my teacher's last words as we went on stage were 'tits and teeth!'. As you can see, we did at least try to take her advice!
Cheesy, perhaps, but a good reminder, especially for those who default to a look of fierce concentration when dancing. I've seen some lovely soloists perform recently, but what really stood out about their performances was the way they stared fixedly at the floor with a look of utter misery on their faces while the rest of their body performed. Is that really the lasting impression you want to give your audience?

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Note to Self

When designing a fabulous new skirt to wear for a Turkish piece, and bearing in mind your teacher's advice to 'split it up to here', it might be advisable to put said split over the leg without the giant purple scars.

Just saying.

Fortunately, being blessed with junk in my trunk and in my, um, hood? (by which I mean I got a double helping in the stomach department) most of my costumes react well to being turned back to front!

Saturday, 12 February 2011


No, i'm not dead, although recently I've wished i was. Norovirus+IBS=a very unwell Lilith.

This week I was finally back to normal and was back in work (boo) and back in class (yay). My awesome teacher has been working us hard on a new piece in the 'Turkish Cheesecake' style. It's incredibly naff, all coy little level changes and flirtatious smiles, and I love it very hard indeed. It also begins with a very short and sweet veil piece, which makes a vital refresher for me because...

Not only did I bite the bullet and sign up for a solo spot at the next hafla, I decided to go all out and do a veil piece, seeing as i now have a stupendous new orange veil (the dye worked, but it needs an iron before I photograph it).

Unfortunately in order to perform with a veil you need to practise with a veil, and that's where's I've hit a snag, literally. My house is currently being renovated, and every room is full of dust and displaced furniture in roughly equal proportions. Couple that with a dog who thinks all forms of moving draperies are a new chew toy, and my practice opportunities have been seriouly limited.

I've resorted to turning up to class early, and running through the whole thing in the empty hall before the rest of the class arrive, but on Wednesday my teacher caught me and made me do it over again so she could see. Naturally, it was on that run through that I got my foot stuck in my veil and had to hop around ungracefully trying to free it. Of such moments is bellydance comedy made. That aside, it got a good reception and I was pleased with how it felt to be able to use the veil fully and put in the travelling moves I have to leave out at home.

So I'm feeling a little under-rehearsed, but otherwise quite excited. It's been a while since i set foot on stage, and I miss the buzz!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Orange Peril

I have an orange addiction, I acknowledge this. The 'You've been Tangoed' monstrosity seen in my last post is just the latest manifestation of a habit that began with a couple of t-shirts, progressed through a new winter coat and a pair of glasses, and wound up with a 25 yard skirt, a tribal bra and an as yet unfinished cabaret set.

It's got to the stage now where i'm not allowed to suggest costuming themes to my troupe mates, because they're sick of looking like adverts for Easyjet. And yet I still can't stop.

I'm not even sure why I like it so much. Maybe it's because it's a compromise? It's extrovert and eye-catching, but it doesn't have the immediate connotations that red has (and besides, no one who blushes as much as i do can get away with wearing red near their face). It's a warm, feminine colour, but not as stereotypical as pink. I've never been a girly girl, and the only pink I wear is hot, spiced with pvc and leather and worn with dreadlocks. Orange can be deep and grounded, or bright and eye-catching. I can blend it with earthy naturals, or make it pop with vibrant greens and deep blues. The one thing I can't do, though, is buy an orange veil.

So I had to make one.

It started with this ravishing silk veil from one of my favourite sellers, Kookie Kaftan, which was intended to go with my gold/bronze bedlah. Unfortunately the gold turned out to be too yellow for my costume, but having spent fifteen quid on it, I was less than inclined to send it back, especially as it's a dream to dance with, light and airy, and forgiving of my rough handling.

So I dyed it. I used Dylon's 'Goldfish' orange, and spent a happy evening stirring a witches brew of dye, salt, water, veil and and a charity shop top that desperately needed a revamp (white clothes never stay that way for long around me).

I hoicked it out of its mix about half an hour ago, and strung it out over the shower rail to dry. By the way, isn't wet silk a bitch to handle? I thought I was going to rip it to shreds trying to get it to unstick from itself and lie flat.

And now I wait, to see whether I have a new fix for my addiction or new fuel for the rag bag!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

New Year, New Solo?

We're well launched into 2011 now, and already the hafla invitations are coming in, and the year is beginning to fill up
I've been dancing with my troupe for over three years now, and in that period I have attempted a solo precisely once. It was a feather fan fusion piece to a Fall Out Boy song (don't judge me) and was wholly choreographed by my good self, on the basis of two years of belly dancing and, um, viewing some fan videos on Youtube.

It wasn't the exercise in pain and misery that it could have been, and the select and supportive audience were very enthusiastic, however having seen the footage of it (which has mysteriously disappeared off my camera, harddrive and memory stick, Strange...) it's clear that I was by no means ready to go out there on my own. Since then, I think I have quashed the demons of chicken wing arms, mouthing along to the song (do not do this ladies, it looks very very stupid), and forgetting the moves halfway through and spending an eternity on Turkish step until the brain reboots. But I guess I won't really know until I go back out there.

So tell me, when did you start soloing, and when did you actually feel ready to start soloing. And if you aren't ready yet, when will you be? What was your first solo like?

Most importantly, what did you wear? I wore a home-made bedlah that would not be out of place on What Were They Thinking?, which featured, besides the uncovered bra with droopy fabric fringe seen below, a matching
lace-up belt, also covered in sad fringe, a mesh knit tunic with a very conspicuous seam down the front of the belly, a pair of black work trousers and a silver overskirt. Seen at a distance, it's not as bad as it sounds- I even use a (small) picture of it as an avatar, but it looks what it is; home-made. I still love it though- my first foray into tribal!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Happy New Year!

I hope your year is full of sparkles, shimmies and sequins, or cowries, camels and coins according to taste.

We celebrated the New Year by letting off sky lanterns and making wishes and resolutions. I'm not usually one for resolutions as they're usually forgotten by the time the hangover's worn off, but I did make a couple of belly dance resolutions:

At least two completed costumes of professional quality in my wardrobe by the end of the year, complete right down to accessories and props. I'm already almost there with my gold bedleh, but I'd like a really cool tribaret costume too.

Learn to play zills to at least beyond the gallop, and be able to dance with them.

Brush up my veil work and start learning sword.

FIRE DANCE :D (palm candles for now, but one day I will do fire fans. One day!)

Convince my troupe to do a cabaret piece. I crave the shiny!

Do my first (decent) solo. I 've danced solo once before, at a very small hafla. It wasn't disastrous, but i definitely wasn't ready for a wider audience. I think I am now, so i just have to work the nerve.

What about you guys? Any resolutions?