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.