Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Injuries and rehabilitation

So in my last post I talked about picking up an injury at the shaabi class I did. Sadly, it's still lingering, and it now seems I may have actually torn the oblique, so it's taking much longer to heal and needs a lot of babying.

We're really lucky in our dance community to have a lot of very experienced dancers with a really solid understanding of anatomy and physical therapies. I have picked the brains of all our local ladies, and have benefited from heaps of advice and support.

The last two intensive workshops I've done with my own teacher Dawn have been very focused on therapeutic work, treating existing injuries and working on strength and flexibility to help prevent future damage.

We've played with all sorts of props and toys, including pilates rollers, spiky massage balls and the Rumble Roller, which I hate, but must concede works absolute wonders on knotted up and tight muscles, even if using it on ones glutes and thighs is an exercise in masochism of the worst kind.

The most frustrating part of being injured is not being able to dance for long. I made the mistake the other week of planning a troupe rehearsal right before class, and ended up sitting out almost the entire hour of class because I'd 'used up' my allocation of pain-free hip work for the day. Not great when your class is learning Soheir Zaki style chonks and you're dying to get up and drill.

I'm aiming to be recovered enough to perform at the next 'big' hafla in the area, which is in mid November. And to help speed my recovery, I'm working on a new costume for it...

Sunday, 23 September 2012


Oh my, has it really been over a month since I last posted?

Work has been crazy recently, and although I've had time to dance, I haven't had time to write about dancing.

Soooo, where were we?

Well, the shaabi workshop was fantastic. Very high energy and very technical- Shafeek threw us right in at the deep end, and did a lot of work with us trying to capture the right attitude for the dance. It must be a thankless task trying to get twenty odd English women to show some emotion, especially the sort of sassy, come get a slice of this attitude of the piece we were learning, but I think most of us got there in the end.

The one downside was that I got injured. Shafeek had us doing a move where we dropped our hip then bounced round 180 degrees and dropped again. It was done at warp speed and we were making such a meal of it that eventually he changed the move to something simpler. I didn't realise at the time, but I wrenched my right oblique trying to make the turn in time, and this was exacerbated by the fact we didn't do any cool-down or stretching when the class ended.

I'm still dealing with pain and stiffness in my right hip, so I guess this has taught me a stern lesson. No matter what you're doing or what the teacher is doing, you ALWAYS cool down and stretch after a class!

Costume-wise I am still plugging along very slowly with the silver bedlah, and thinking how much easier and cheaper costuming must be for ladies who can use a B cup bra as more than just a pastie.

A few hundred sequins in. A few hundred thousand to go.
This week I also picked up a pretty sari off a fellow dancer, so was able to start on a project I've been craving for a while- a khaleegi thobe. It's a truly global garment this- Indian sari, made in Japan (or so the label says), turned into an Arabian dress, using a pattern from New Zealand.

Next comes the fun bit- decorating. I've just learnt how to do chain stitch (I know, I know, most people learn that in kindergarten) so I feel the need for some glitzy crochet thread.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Tribal AND Oriental? Never!

Ugh, the internets have been particularly ...internetty recently. I am so sick of the tribal vs oriental, bellydance vs oriental dance, real dance vs fusion bullshit, and even sicker of those who seem to spend their entire days hunched over the keyboard just looking for an opportunity to start another wankfest.

As regular readers will know, I have my size 5s firmly plunked either side of the fence, but with regular cabaret classes on hold for the holidays, it has been all about the tribal fusion for the last month or two.

I ventured out a couple of weeks ago for a punishing Drills and Thrills workshop with guest teacher Bex. I then spent the next four days practically crippled. Even holding a pen hurt. I don't know quite what the queen of spooky did to my pectoral muscles (hell, until I started these workshops I didn't even know I had pecs!) but suffice to say it was effective!

As ever, our usual teacher Dawn filmed us practising what we'd been taught, so there are loads of videos of us on Facebook drilling travelling undulations, oblique undulations and grapevine step. And as ever, I am the one at the back with the bright red face, half a beat behind and going the wrong way :D

Yes, that would be me. Artwork by the incredibly awesome Rozey
This weekend sees the afore-mentioned Bex hosting Carpe Somnium in Wolverhampton. I wasn't initially able to go, but it now looks like I may be able to squeak in for the evening performance. Particularly exciting as the compère is none other than my troupe mate and partner in crime Charlotte. Looking forward to it!

Then on Sunday Charlotte and I are off to a Shaabi workshop with Shafeek. We've been interested in trying Shaabi for a while, so when this one came up we were on it right away. I'm pretty sure that the purists out there will need a few years to readjust their worldview to allow for the horror of fusion dancers actually studying and enjoying oriental dance, but fuck 'em. We'll be having fun!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Gothla 2012

This is a well over-due review of the weekend, but then, I think one needs a week (or three) to recover before any real insight can be achieved! 

I had a relatively quiet Gothla this year as I was too skint to book any workshops, but everything I have heard suggests that they were well worth the money, and I missed out on any number of terpsichorean treats.
Black Veil Tribe - photo* by Jan Clark

Gothla as a whole is a fabulous, crazy weekend, but the Showcase on a Friday night is the place to see the absolute crème de la crème of gothic and fusion dance, and also identify the up and coming trends for the next year or two. This year was no exception, and we had a real mixed bag.

Insomnia: an insanely talented duo from Spain - photo by Jan Clark

Probably the most obvious trend was for shamanic themes, which mainly manifested themselves through lots of skulls and feathers. Dud Muurmand was by far the most successful performer- her piece was literally invocative, and there were a lot of prickling necks in the auditorium as we got the sense that what was on stage was by no means all human.

Dud Muurmand - photo by Jan Clark
Legendary Gothla regular Morgana of Excalibur Dance gave what was probably the final word on doll-themed performances. This is a horse that has pretty much been beaten to death by fusion dancers, so I was a bit disappointed when it was announced. I should have known better, as Morgana's athletic skills made for a believably loose-limbed ragdoll. 

Other star names for this year were the charming Mavi, and Belladonna, who rocked a light-up bedlah that had many of the more cyber goths drooling into their New Rocks with envy. And, of course, the fabulous Ozgen, who is frankly about as Goth as a packet of Smarties, but had us all speechless with envy as he showed off his flawless body undulations and shimmies.

Belladonna lights up the stage - photo by Jan Clark
Home-grown talent included West Midlands favourites Alexis Southall, Bex, Dawn O'Brien (whose self-cannibalising zombie was both clever and quease-making), Fulya's gorgeous take on Mata Hari and Gwen Booth as an adorable abinsthe fairy, but probably the most exciting piece for me was the opening act, which was by Tribe of the Honeybadgers, and featured not only Dawn, Alexis and the marvellously mental Gothla co-organiser Akasha, but also my troupemate Ruth.

They performed a cool, cheeky piece inspired by the Moto GP, and clearly had a lot of fun doing it (they also had a lot of fun making the costumes the previous Thursday, although Dawn almost glued herself to Ruth's bum at one point). Clearly, I am very biased, but don't they look awesome?
Honeybadgers heading into the first corner - photo by Dark Soul Photography
*photos by kind permission of fellow dancer and infinitely superior photographer Jan Clark, and one from the talented James at Dark Soul Photography

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Choreo woes and cake

I had an amazing idea for a fusion choreography the other day, and have been playing with it on and off, trying to do justice to the music and the visions in my head.

There's a point in every choreography, I find, where it suddenly stops being fun and exciting, and suddenly all the moves seem helplessly clunky and awkward, and the transitions are strained and slapped together rather than flowing and seamless.

Suffice to say that I've reached the point with this choreography!

So the choreography is shelved for a few days until I get my enthusiasm back, and instead I've been doing some drilling.

It's hotter than Satan's conservatory here at the moment, and seeing as I'm already a hot sweaty mess, I might as well make the most of it and get in some energetic shimmy drill.

My choo shimmies and loose, juicy shimmies are already looking better, so next will be tightening up the loose shimmy and playing with vibrations. I was super impressed by Ozgens precision shimmies, and while I don't aspire to that level of perfection, more control would be good. And I can certainly manage flicking sweat around with every hip accent (it was apparently very hot on stage at Gothla!)

And finally, has just turned 15, so I went looking for an appropriate cake picture. I'd love to know who made this!

Saturday, 21 July 2012


The gold bedlah is now officially retired, pending a full strip down and rebuild.

Why? Well, for starters it's pissing gold beads everywhere, and no one likes a carpet-bomber. It's also got no lining, so it hurts to wear, the bra fringe is hopelessly tangled, and some of the accent beads are hanging off.

Look at it, the trashed, tit-flashing traitor

But the main reason it's in disgrace is because it no longer wishes to stay put. This evening, while dancing in front of about 100 people at a local Charity Hafla, it decided it wanted to part company from my left boob, and cosy up with my chin instead. Not to the extent of flashing a nipple, but there's a time and a place for underboob, and in front of half the local dance scene plus OZGEN is emphatically not it. 

Irritatingly, were it not for the costume malfunction it would have ranked as one of my favourite performances yet. I felt really confident, managed to blend the improv with the choreographed sections without ending up repeating myself ad infinitum, and earned gatrifiying applause and compliments at the end. I even got complimented on my lovely (traitorousm untrustworthy) costume!

Impromptu striptease aside, it was a cracking evening, and I felt really privileged to be on the same bill as the other acts. All the troupes, student and otherwise, were well rehearsed, smiling and clearly happy to be there. Such a refreshing change from some others I've seen! It's difficult to pick out highlights as all the acts were engaging and enjoyable.

Tahira's troupe 'Dhalal Banat' were lovely - there were about 16 of them performing a very clever choreography that saw them split into four corners and work every side of the stage (great when there are audience members on three sides).

Fulya and her sister Julie did a duet - this was the first time I've seen Julie dancing as she is usually stall sitting while Fulya solos. Lovely to watch and would like to see more of the other Ms Chapman please!

Organiser Emma Wheate duetted with a fellow dancer to do an Isis Wings piece. I hate Isis wings with a passion, but this actually made me wish I owned a pair. Very cleverly done, and lots of actual dancing rather than just stick waving.

Belly Fusion performed a raucous, Victorian flavoured circus act that went down a storm. I know I've seen them before, and loved them- this was no exception. The characterisation was spot-on, the tribal style moves were perfectly synched, I just loved it.

The night finished off with the afore-mentioned Ozgen. I saw him perform at Gothla last week, and was pretty impressed then (despite the fact that he is about as Goth as a daisy) by his skills, but smaller, more intimate shows are where he clearly comes into his own. His performance was like a whirlwind tour through bellydance, from arrogant Roma struts to incredibly technical belly isolations, audience teasing and pleasing, and even a spot of Zar when the music demanded it. So, so impressed, and what a fabulous way to end a good night.

Despite the booby.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Breaking through the barriers

There are certain moves that are real 'blockers' for me, even after five years of having them taught over and over again. A decent undulation, a nice juicy standard shimmy, a downwards belly roll... there are probably more, but I'd like to maintain the illusion that I'm a half decent dancer.

I don't know whether other dancers get this as well, but good Gods is it frustrating. I see progress in every other area of my dancing, but then the same old bugbears crop up. We're learning a drum choreography in class at the mo, and if I say so myself, I'm not too shabby at some of the more technical stuff, but it takes the shine right off my choo shimmy when it's followed up by a lurching zombie (on a more proficient dancer, you'd call it a camel).

Breaking through one of these barriers, then, is big news, and today I smashed not one but two of them! The setting- Drills and Thrills, a monthly 3 hour workshop run by my awesome teacher.

First down was the undulation. We've been working a lot with Intuflow (caution, autostart music and a lot of woo- youtube is a better bet), gently expanding our range of movement and trying to use every joint to its full range. My main problem with my 'camel' undulation is that my ribs and shoulders act as one big unit, so I spent a lot of time drilling an intuflow move that helps free up the ribcage articulation, and at the end of it, I could do a (very little) undulation with no interfering shoulders!

Next up the juicy shimmy. For years I've suffered from shrinking shimmies, that get tighter and tighter until there's just a little vibration and a whole lot of cramp. I have no idea what has changed since, but today Dawn asked us to do a big old bum wobbling, flab jiggling (my words not hers) shimmy, and for once my body obliged. So much so, in fact, that the dancer next to me turned to watch! 

We finished the session with the now traditional dip in the sport's centre's brine pool. This usually involves a lot of handstands, swimming under water racing, handstands, mermaid imitations and me in a silly hat. However, I can;t underrate the value of it after a hardcore workout. Since we moved to this new venue, I've been much less sore and stiff the day after classes. Plus, you know, mermaids!

Friday, 22 June 2012

The Silver Lining

It's been pouring down for about three weeks now, and the local dancers are all thoroughly sick of the rain. This is the boom time of year for dancers, with fètes, workshops, haflas and showcases pretty much every weekend.

Tomorrow I'll be performing at a fète north of Birmingham, which is a staple booking for my teacher and her students. According to one of the old hands, it has rained solidly on this event every June for the last ten years. I suspect that tomorrow will not see a change in this tradition.

We're booked in for a full half hour set, with all dancers remaining 'on stage' (actually an open air arena) for the full course of the show. I am frantically searching through my costumes to find something that is warm and waterproof, or at least won't show up the stain when my hairdye starts to run!

With galeforce misery outside, it's tempting to stay indoors rather than brave the elements, especially as I am well launched into a new project.

I think a silver bedlah is like the 'LBD' of belly dance costumes, goes with anything, can be dressed up or down, and never goes out of style. Unfortunately, they're not as findable in my size (and budget) as their streetwear equivalent, so a silver bra and belt has become my new project.

I'm aiming for a vintage, slightly Turkish feel, with very heavy embellishment and hardly any visible fabric. I therefore felt justified in buying some seriously cheap and nasty satin to cover the bra and belt, and instead splurged on some super tough buckram with which to reinforce everything. I may have overdone the reinforcing, in fact, as sewing on the large acrylic crystals involved a thimble and a pair of pliers!

The rhinestones will be outlined in seed beads and sequins, as seen on Shushanna's site, with rope beading along the top edge of the bra. I'll add rope beading along the edge of the bra, clumps of coin fringe on each boob, and non-coined fringe between the cups. I'm undecided how to decorate the rest of the bra- I have a big batch of silver paillettes in the post, or I could buy more rhinestone fringe and extend the pattern along the bra straps.

Or I could combine the two- the more bling the better!

Monday, 11 June 2012

An evening with Hilde Cannoodt amd Chaos Carousel

Saturday morning saw me up at the ungodly time of 8am to head over to the deepest darkest depths of the Black Country. It takes a lot to get me out of bed that early on a weekend, but I was expecting good things from this trip.

The glorious Alexis Southall, who is not only a very talented dancer, but hilariously good company, organised a weekend of workshops with Hilde Cannoodt and live band Chaos Carousel, culminating in an evening performance on the Saturday.

The workshops, however, very nearly didn't happen!

I got to the studio at 9.30 (for a 10am start) to find it all shut up, and Alexis, Hilde and associated bag carriers just arriving. Minutes ticked by, people started to look concerned, the building remained closed, the business phone unanswered, the mobile switched off. Eventually we rang the Zumba teacher advertised in the front window, who had a home number for the owner and very kindly got in touch for us.

The owner arrived at gone 10.15, and rather than grovel profusely for such a cock-up, immediately told Alexis that it was her own fault for not confirming the booking, refused to believe Alexis had paid a deposit in person, and generally treated the whole passel of us as if we were so much shit on her shoe.

Which is ironic, because the studio itself was the filthiest, mankiest hole I've seen in years. It was freezing cold, every surface was ingrained with grime, the windows were opaque with dust, the toilets were full of broken furniture and the roof was leaking. Even worse, the sprung wooden floor was pitted and worn through, and full of splinters., if you're wondering. Do not recommend, unless filth and appalling customer service is a kink for you,

Once we finally got in and got set up, matters improved. Hilde is one of the most charismatic teachers I've ever met. She's like a little dynamo, full of energy and excitement, and it's very contagious. The workshop was on dance expression, and we got it in spades! It was a perfect mix, Hilde led us through various ideas, including a lot of information on the dynamics of movement, but there was also room for us to play with those ideas ourselves. I was disappointed when the class ended!

I couldn't stay for the second workshop, which involved skirt dancing with a live band, but my troupemate C was there, and assures me that I missed out on an absolute treat!

I did make it to the evening show though, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Hilde and Chaos Carousel performed for the whole of the first half, leaving me marvelling at their stamina dna creativity. Early on in the show, Hilde was calling dancers up to join her, and being unable to resist a spot of improv, I was straight up there, looking a bit incongruous in my fifties tea dress! We ended up staying on stage for the entire act, and just standing there clapping was enough to leave me hot and sticky- can't imagine how Hilde and the band must have felt.

The second half saw other performers, including Alexis herself. Leccy has just blossomed as a dancer since I first saw her perform. Her technical skills are astounding, and this time she showed a lot of connection with the audience too, which was great- sometimes tribal fusion dancers can seem to be 'in their own little world'. It was a surprisingly traditional second half with at least four ATS groups, including Pedralta, Ashima Tribal, and my own troupemates from Khalgani. Unfortunately, this did serve to highlight the difference between some of the more experienced groups, and those who were just beginning on their tribal journey, and there were a couple of acts that did not benefit from the comparison.

Les Dames du Serpent were astounding- their fusion of contemporary dance really works. Bedouin Shiver were also amazing, we loved their strong, Rom-themed movements and dramatic hands, and will keep an eye out for them in the future. Hilde closed the show with a simply adorable Charleston piece. I love this style anyway, and it really suited her personality- she gave it an almost clownish feel. The only downside, and this was an issue throughout the show, was that the lighting director was being 'artistic' so a lot of the dancing was done in shadow while he played blue and orange lights across the audience. Not good, and several people were complaining about it afterwards.

Over than that though, cracking night out, and I can;t wait for the next one in October.

Branding, Baby!

I'd put aside a large chunk of yesterday for working on new costume projects, but was thwarted by the fact that none of the stuff I'd ordered had turned up yet*

So instead, I decided to try a slightly different slant on costuming, and work on an idea I had a while back, right around the time that 'Unmata' branded tops started sprouting like mushrooms in other dancers' practice wardrobes.

As regular readers (do I have any?) will know, I dance in a troupe called 'Women of Mass Distraction', who specialise in belly dance with a bit of a rock and metal twist. And like all dancers, we never have enough practice wear, or bags to carry it in.

Thus, with the assistance of two pots of fabric paint, a cereal box and a craft knife. WMD branded clothing was conceived!

The lettering is a free font off t'interweb, traced from the computer screen (life would be so much easier if I had a printer) onto some card. The silhouette is traced from a google image search; I enlarged the hips, belly and boobs to make her look a little more like an average dancer rather than a supermodel, and simplified the costume because my cutting skills are limited!

Not bad for an afternoon's work, methinks.

*Everything I was waiting for fell through the letterbox as I was typing this. Serendipity, huh?

Monday, 4 June 2012

Long May She Rain

You may not have heard, what with us Brits being notoriously reticent and reserved types, but this weekend has seen us celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of a certain lady who has some spectacular headwear, the sort that even Princess Farhana would aspire to!
All the celebrations meant it seemed the perfect time to kickstart my rather flagging performance career, so I set off with the husband, the mother-in-law and Thomas the crazy Irish setter to spend a slightly soggy Saturday at a fête in Kidderminster being held by the Irish Retriever Rescue
This being the UK, and it being June, and a bank holiday, it has pissed down for pretty much the whole weekend! You may imagine what happened to all the street parties and garden fêtes people had planned.... you'd be wrong. We're Brits, we put up another umbrella and poured another Pimms! Unfortunately I don't drink and had no intention of doing an umbrella/assaya fusion, so it was a bit of a trial putting together a Jubilee themed outfit that would be both visible to a crowd, and warm enough that my shimmies would not turn into shivers!

The pearl bedlah has been well documented on here, and is rapidly becoming a staple as it goes with everything. The red chiffon skirt was an eBay purchase- I love it dearly but it is completely see-through so always needs an underskirt. The blue satin pantaloons were borrowed from my teacher for a tribal performance about 11 months ago- I still haven't given them back. Very glad I had them though, as they meant I could wear leggings underneath!

Tiara was a whopping £2.50 from Claire's and stayed put throughout the day, despite best efforts of wind, weather and exuberant dogs.

The terrain was awful- a huge ring of lumpy meadow grass that had been walked on and weed on by dozens of dogs. I nearly sprained my ankle trying to do an Egyptian shimmy. My (short and sweet) set went down very well though, and it was a good experience dancing in such a different setting, and to a completely non-BD crowd.

I wasn't alone out there in the weather, as you can see from the picture below. From left to right, we have the inimitable and indomitable Rozie Hadley, who danced a cracking fusion piece to Crazy Horses (complete with tail), my troupe mate Ruth, who was in very patriotic tribal gear, my good self, quite cold by this point, and Maureen Theresa, who danced a zill tribal piece with Ruth.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Finding first gear

My belly dance life seems to be in neutral at the moment!

I still haven't finished the beading on my baladi dress- I can only manage about seven strands before my attention wanders and I realise the last two strands were seven and fortyseven beads long, respectively. Not a good look.

Shamefully, I haven't even begun work on the silver bedlah, despite having all the ingredients on hand.

I'm behind on my practice too. I was away in Scotland for a well-earned holiday, and dancing went by the wayside in favour of long walks on the beach, birdwatching and obscene quantities of shortbread.

I was due to go to a dance intensive on Sunday, but I slipped on a sea cliff last week while hunting puffins (with binoculars) and twisted my knee. It was totally worth it because I saw loads of them, but it does mean I am woefully out of practice.

My troupe mate C has kindly kept me informed of what I've missed in class while I was away, so my usual practice list (arms, tucked pelvis, camels) has now had 'walking sideways rib circles', walking in full relevé and the 'Intuflow' routine my teacher has begun incorporating into the the warm up.

Incidentally, I can highly recommend that for dancers wanting a gentle way to improve their flexibility and joint mobility. It's worked wonders on my crunchy shoulder, and as soon as the swelling has gone down I shall get back to it to try and strengthen my poor knee.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Onto the next one...

It seems that no sooner have I completed a costume than I'm bored with it and want to move on to the next project.

The blue velvet baladi dress is not actually completed- the bra needs lining and the fringing on the dress comes to an abrupt halt under my left buttock. I think it may also need a dollop of fringe between the bra cups, but that will depend heavily on whether I can be arsed to make it. Making fringe is boooring!

For my next costume I was debating between making a very retro style bedlah and fluffy skirt, or a sleek egyptian skirt and bra, with a decorated leg to match. Then I bought this....

Yes, that's over a foot long. Clearly, I am destined to make a fringe monster!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Sparkle Sale

So the idea of today's hafla was to meet up with dancers, enjoy some performances and sell off all our unwanted dance gear.

I managed two out of the three, and came back with much more stuff than I managed to sell! I sometimes think I should save myself the effort and just direct-debit my wages straight into my teacher's bank account, as that's where it all ends up anyway. This time I ended up with a big bag of silver icicle fringe, plus a grey lace shawl from a troupemate, and a tribal dangly thing. Net cost? £10. My total sales for the day? £7 :(

The event was very well attended, and there was a real mix of acts. The organisers had clearly put a lot of work into it, and one of them was even dressed WI style in a pinny and spent the afetrnoon serving teas to thirsty shopprs! Could really have done with a compere though, as I didn't recognise all the dancers who performed.

The opening act was a troupe that I didn't recognise, performing a piece with veil fans. They were beautifully costume-coordinated, and danced beautifully. It was a real shame that some of them didn't smile though, as they looked far too professional to be affected by nerves!
They were followed by cabaret performances by Barbara Street (one of my class mates, who is always glam and fun to watch),  Ozlem (a Turkish dancer who performs in the most vertiginous heels!) and belly dance royalty Lorraine, who was one of the first teachers here in the West Midlands. We had crazy cyber fusion from my teacher Dawn, and a lovely gypsy piece from Maureen Pemberton. Great entertainment to be had from watching people trying to clap along to 9/8 rhythm!

The first act was rounded out by a very young group of ladies and their teacher, performing a contemporary dance piece. Sadly, these girls could have done with rehearsing their manners as well as their performance, as they spent most of the first act taking the mick out of other performers. Poor form, and I hope their teacher tells them so!

I was a last minute addition to the act, and performed an improv piece to 'Egyptian Ella'. Not the most successful dance I've ever done, due to a baladi dress that would. not. stay. put. but fun and well received (or if it wasn't, then the audience were being super polite!)

The second act saw a duo that I didn't recognise performing a very sweet piece that made great use of their wrist drapes without turning them into a gimmick. Local troupe Salmacis also performed as a duet, this time doing a pretty veil piece. As usual they had great eye contact and engagement with the audience. Another duet (there appears to be a trend here) performed a hula fusion piece. I've seen them perform before, and while the dance is lovely, the costumes are getting more and more 'thought-provoking'. I'd love to see them dance in a more traditional costume rather than hipscarfs and no skirt. A local teacher then performed a solo piece. We were chatting prior to the show, and she expressed concern that there were men at the hafla! Le shock! I don't know whether the offending gentlemen were shooed out for her set. If they were, then they missed out on seeing some of the most unrestrained and exaggerated chest lifts and boob shimmies I have ever seen in a belly dance performance. My F cups were aching in sympathy!

My cabaret class did a veil/stick piece, which is always fun to dance, although I was stuffing it up horribly at the back as usual. Me and spins do not mix, and it was notable that there weren't any during my solo piece.

I missed the last few acts due to changing and stall minding, and have been told i missed out on a gorgeous Isis wings piece :( I made it back into the hall in time for the last performance of the day though- my ATS group performing the zill piece that was driving me mad all last year. They were fabulous and clearly having fun, I was in the corner with the camera twitching with remembered trauma!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Blue velvet baladi dress

Blue velvet baladi dress by Lilith Noor

It lives! It is still sadly lacking in fringe, needs the shoulderstraps pinning to the dress, and some serious boob jiggles, but it's finally wearable! Now I need to decide what colour veil I want to go with it. Can't decide whether to go matchy matchy with a turquoise one, or off the wall with lime green, pink or red! All I know is I want a solid colour veil, as the swirly ones will detract from my handiwork.

Also please note brand new hair cut and colour, which is by no means set off to advantage by the 'three hours on a bus trying to get home' expression.

Incidentally I am not naturally shaped like a carrot (more like the Very Hungry Caterpillar post 6th day gorge) I do not pose to advantage when tired, especially when the photographer is audibly groaning at my demands of one more shot (ideally this time without the dog, the bucket of car wash kit or the half eaten rawhide chew)

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Craft Crazy

As usual, I am chock-full of costuming ideas, but woefully short of money to buy them or time to work on them.

This is part eased, part compounded by the fact I've booked a stall at the next Sparkle Sale run by local dancers, and as well as offloading some unwanted gear, am hoping to flog some original crochet designs.

I recently moved offices, and now have an hour or so a day on the train, which is prime time for a spot of hooking. So far I've tried my hand at gauntlets, zill bags, the hand flowers seen above, and even a couple of tribal belts!
I've also developed a real passion for cowrie shells. Shame they're so expensive over here!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Belly Dance and Burlesque

It's been a while since I've been out, and even longer since I've seen any burlesque, so you may imagine that I was fairly excited when yesterday evening saw me glamming up in my gladdest rags and heading out to a Bellydance and Burlesque cabaret show.

The audience for these shows  is almost as fabulous as the performers, so troupe mate Ruth and I took the opportunity to break out the red lipstick. I went fifties with a cute heart print dress, which was a whopping £5 in the sale at Tesco (that well-known vintage treasure trove) and a huge petticoat that made sitting down pretty tricky. Hair is in rather wonky victory rolls, one of which got snagged when I put the dress on, and had to be hidden under a black fascinator!

Naturally, we were attended by our respective swains, to reserve our seats, hold our coats and generally attend to our needs, but they weren't dressed up enough to merit a photo!

The show opened with an AmCab solo by Fulya, who is one of my favourite dancers. She has a fabulously flirty, cheeky style, and is a consummate professional, who managed to make the numerous problems with the sound during her set seems like all part of the fun. I was also in love with her costume- a purple bra top and skirt with iridescent sequins. beautiful and unusual, just like the owner!

I have to confess I can't remember the whole running order, but I do know that early on in the first half Ava Bonham-Garter performed an original (and hilarious!) strip-tease based on the Disney villainess Maleficent. We were informed by the compère that this was her first performance, so extra brownie points to her for being so confident and really owning the stage.

Kitty Kohl showed off her fabulously fluid moves in a lovely tribal fusion solo. This was the second time I'd seen her perform, and I was really impressed by how graceful she was.
Then there was a complete change of pace and we were treated to a selection of operatic arias from Sue Hutton. I am not an opera fan in the slightest, so I was not expecting to enjoy this, but I was totally blown away by her voice and stage presence. I am also totally in awe of anyone who can enunciate in three different languages!

The guest of honour for the night, Tjarda van Straten was due on, but more demons in the sound system meant that her track wouldn't play, so after a little twirl to show off her fabulous costuming, she headed off to try and sort out her music, leaving the stage to the tender mercies of my teacher and naughty nurse of the night, Dawn O'Brien.

Dawn's piece, a medical themed strip tease to Bon Jovi's 'Bad Medicine' had the entire audience in stitches, and should earn an award for 'most innovative use of surgical scissors'. I may never look at latex gloves in the same way again.

Musical issues sorted, Tjarda then closed the first half with one of the most exquisite pieces of dance I've ever seen. Her arm movements were just astounding, with the musicality carried through right down to her fingertips. There was a dead hush while she danced, it was that amazing.

There was time for a couple more photos during the interval, then the second half started with a bang as Fulya performed a cute and energetic strip tease, including a glove removal that was completely new to me- one to add to the practice list there!

Kitty Kohl wowed us with another piece of elegant tribal fusion, and then Sue returned for a jazz set. Sadly this bit of the show was somewhat spoiled for us as there was a particularly obnoxious group of females sat behind us who appeared unhappy with the fact that Sue was taking up stage time that could otherwise have been devoted to watching people take off their clothes, and were disruptive and generally vile during her performance. Clearly a little refresher on the meaning of the term cabaret was required, as well as some intensive work on their manners!

The penultimate performance saw Dawn returning to remind the audience of what she does best; a gorgeously technical cyber fusion piece to Korn's 'Get Up'. This had Ruth giggling- apparently some of the floorwork Dawn was demonstrating so flawlessly has had our tribal class in knots for weeks. Kind of glad I missed those classes!

The show closed with the return of Tjarda and dance partner Nadija Broekhart, performing as 'HipSick Theatre'. Their burlesque piece was ...disturbing. The costumes, a cross between Victorian children's underwear and fifties girdles and pantyhose, were brilliant, and the premise of dolls coming to life is something I've seen done before, but not with such precision and such an aura of creepy. An excellent reminder that burlesque is not just about the strip tease, but also about subversion of cultural norms.

I wasn't sure whether photography would be allowed, and in any case I would be reluctant to plaster artistes' pictures all over the net without their express permission, so there are no photos of the performers. However I do want to share this art work from Kookie Kaftan; the brainchild of Lynne and Julie Chapman, who host Bellydance and Burlesque. I was particularly taken by the way it expresses the ethos of the event- open to all styles and genres, but uniformly gorgeous!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Lazy Lent

I have the L in a big way at the moment. I don't like exercise at the best of times, and having been unwell means I pretty much have a carte blanche to coddle myself without anyone pointing out that I've been sat on my arse solidly for three weeks...

Such sedentism is good for neither my waistline nor my dance ability, so I've decided to give up chocolate for Lent, and take up three lots of exercise a week. This is slightly weird, since I am a dyed in the wool pagan, but I figure since I was too sick at New Year, this as close to a resolution as I'm going to get!

Class last night saw me discovering just how pathetically noodle-like my arms have become, so this evening I hit the swimming baths after work, and felt duly virtuous. The new public baths have only just opened, and they're pretty nice, so it was less of a chore than slogging up and down the old pool. They're also rather controversial, being heated by the crematorium next door. You can decide for yourselves whether this is recycling taken to its logical extreme, or pearl-clutchingly offensive!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

You Might Need Some Body

I still haven't summoned up the balls to tackle the horrific mess that is my sewing room, but I did brave the carnage for long enough to rescue my latest project, the blue baladi dress.

I'd been pondering for a while how I was going to decorate this, as I had a load of turqupise blue satin to play with, and didn't fancy making appliques or cut-outs. Then I was inspired by Shira's glorious burgundy/rose dress, but was a bit stymied by the prospect of trying to sew non-stretch satin onto very, very stretchy velvet.

Clearly the solution was to buy a dress mannequin off eBay for a cost considerably higher than all the costumes I've made so far put together (which admittedly says more about my penchent for recycling and cheapness than the cost of the dummy). I set it up in the living room when it arrived, much to the horror of the dog, who first growled at it, then barked, then tried to pee up it and was summarily ejected into the garden.

I've redraped and ruched the satin since this shot, but it gives some idea of how I wanted to arrange the swirl of fabric. It's actually quite a flattering design for an apple shape like me, as it makes me look like I have a waist (if you look closely you can see how I had to pad the mannequin with a white towel to get it to match my waist measurements!).

The satin is the bottom six inches of a cocktail frock that didn;t fit, and as it was already beaded, has saved me hours of time and effort. I've gathered it up about every seven inches or so, and I'll add some accents of fringe under each gather. The bra is still in progress- I have some of the beaded material left over so I'll gather it in the same way across the top of the cups. I'm not going to go over board with the deco on this outfit as I don't want to swamp it in sparkle. I feel like the material should be the main feature, and any embellishment should just help show it off.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

New Year, New Start

Classes start tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and beginning the arduous process of getting fit and flexible again. I did little or no dancing over the Christmas period, and lost a lot of weight, so I'm weak as a kitten. We're doing veil work this year, so I fully expect to have aching arms and shoulder for a few weeks until I adjust.

I'm dropping my Thursday classes (cabaret and advanced tribal) this term. It's a 70 mile round trip, and I get home well after 10pm, and that's really not conducive to my recovery. I'll miss dancing with the tribal girls, but hopefully come summer term I'll be back with them.

Sewing projects are currently on hold because my beloved husband had a massive clearout over New Year while I was away. The corner of the living room where I kept my 'TV sewing' now looks like this, with a couple of forlorn sequins stuck in the carpet.

My sewing table in my craft room, however, looks like this:

The blue fabric in the middle of the pile is my velvet baladi dress, still with the pins and a needle in it, and screwed up with two delicate lace hipscarves. The yellow bit at the top is the handle of a bag containing 100000000 scraps of fabric for a rags and tatters skirt, but sadly Captain Clever turned the bag upside down so the scraps are everywhere. Underneath all that is two teatowels, a selection of books from the downstairs bookcase, three foil platters, a large box for carrying cupcakes, the dog's old collar, the manual for the food mixer and a bottle of men's aftershave. Somewhere behind all this crap you can just see my poor, put-upon sewing machine Fritz, looking distinctly unimpressed by the mess!