Saturday, March 26, 2016

Get More Wear Out of Your ATS Costuming!

One of the oddest metamorphoses in myself since I began dancing (besides feeling better, both physically and emotionally, meeting some of the best friends I've ever met, and suddenly having a stacked social calendar) has been how my ATS costuming has worked its way into my daily life, and not just the jewelry.  A week doesn't go past where I'm not wearing something from my costume closet at the store or going to work.  I haven't even majorly overhauled my aesthetic... I haven't gone from a super-sharp Ann Taylor Modern American Woman to a super bohemian flower child.  The ATS was always there, I suppose... I just needed to pull it out!

Choli:  Cholis are perfect for adding more coverage under a medium-sheer top or dress. I also like to add a choli underneath when I'm not sure if my bra will show or when I could use some more warmth under a dress. It's also a great way to add sleeves to a spring or summer dress in the winter!

Pantaloons:  I adore wearing pantaloons all day, every day.  I put them under simple dresses and tunics, or pair them with tank tops.  Plus, with their flowy, drapey shape, I think they're more comfortable than yoga pants and look much more polished for a day bumming around town or going to work.  Plus, in cold weather, you can layer leggings and leg-warmers (or a full pair of jeans) underneath and nobody's the wiser.

Skirts:  I don't often wear a full 25 yard skirt out and about... especially if I'm driving.  It's a LOT of fabric, after all.  But, I am guilty of wearing a wrap skirt over leggings or tights in my daily routine.

Ghawazee Coats:  I love a ghawazee coat over a tank and skinny jeans/leggings.

Hip Scarves:  Great way to add texture over a maxi dress, or get away with a pair of pants that's giving you camel toe.

Coin Bras/Belts:  Honestly, I haven't yet found an application for these in a day to day wear situation.

Accessories:  Probably the easiest way to add a little ATS into your day to day... a scarf over the hair, a flower pinned behind the ear, a little black dress dressed up with a chunky tribal necklace... my recommendation is to add one ATS accessory into your repertoire at a time until you get comfortable in it.  In experimenting with your look, on stage as well as in life, confidence is always key.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Year Of Dance

Since I just closed out my second year of ATS, I thought I'd go ahead and do one of these!  This might be a good exercise for me, in reflecting and looking back on other dances.

1. What did you do in the past year that you had never done before?

So many things!!  I went to my first Tribal Revolution (and performed in it!), I was invited to join Cassia, the student troupe of Eastern Fire Belly Dance, I started sword classes, I started spinning... OMG so much!

2. Did you keep your belly dance new year resolution, and will you have one this year?

I didn't have a resolution for this past year.  But for Year 3 K.D. (Katrina Dancing), my resolution is to master the sword and begin to get ready for ATS General Skills.

3. Did you introduce anyone to belly dance?

I'm still working on my life partner to get him into drumming.

4. What travels did you take, and did you involve belly dance with them?

I didn't end up traveling at all. I don't have any travels lined up next year, but I hope to bring dance with me wherever I go.

5. What would you like to have this year that you lacked last year?

Money!  My job situation wasn't very stable in Year 2 K.D., but hopefully that's evened out some. I hope to have enough to not have to choose between the water bill and dance in Year 3!

6. Which date from the past year will remain etched in your memory and why?

June 25.  That was Cassia's debut on the stage of Tribal Revolution.

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Definitely dancing at Tribal Rev.

8. What was your biggest failure?

Being laid off twice in the span of six months.  Ouch.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?

No, fortunately.

10. What was the best thing you bought or made for dance?

MY SWORD.  I'm still coming up with a name for her.

11. What did you get really excited about?

Sword, spinning, Tribal Rev!

12. What did you wish you'd done more of?

I wish I'd been able to take more classes at Tribal Rev and networked with my other dancers more.

13. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Lamenting my circumstances.

14. What seemed to get in the way of dance?

The cash flow issue, definitely.

15. What was your favorite music from this year?

We reclaimed Radha at one of our Belly Dance Wednesdays, and now I jam to it.

16. What did you do on your birthday?

Not a super happy birthday, and it didn't involve dance.

17. What would have made your year immeasurable more satisfying?

I really can't imagine anything. It's been a pretty good year dancewise.

18. How would you describe your belly dance style in the past year?

Strictly come ATS.

19. What were the major influences on your belly dance in the past year?

The fantastic Grace, of course, and Cassia. In my first class with them I just felt like I belonged, we have such great chemistry.

20. Best thing about being a dancer in the past year?

Getting to dance with my Cassia family. Ride or die!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Two Year Danciversary!

Two years.

Two years ago, if you told me that I'd be A) showing my midriff in public, B) dancing for them C) without jitters and D) loving every minute of it, I'd quietly call the police to have you held in a mental facility on a 5150.

That just wasn't me. I was the chick whose ass was firmly planted in her chair at weddings during Dancing Time. I was the girl who'd go to the club and "hold the table". I was the woman that called herself "too Jewish to dance". I was the girl that rolled her eyes at that "I Hope You Dance" song. Okay, that last bit, I still do. Tooooo schmaltzy.

What changed in me, two years ago?

I have met several amazing women that belly dance for fun, for fitness, for performing, for work... Gorgeous women with bright spirits and calm confidence in their bodies. So, one day I decided, what the hell, give it a shot, if I hate it, we need never speak of this again.

So I signed up for what I call "those three awkward Egyptian cabaret lessons".

This is not an ATS dancer hating on Egyptian, by any means. I think Egyptian cabaret is a gorgeous style, suitable for so many bodies and moods and dance stories.  I'm not even hating on the studio or the teacher... the studio is doing a lot of work to elevate belly dance as an art form, and the teacher clearly loved her dance and her work.  It just didn't mesh well with me, and that was what made things awkward.

It was a lot of stuff thrown into a small period of time, a choreography, veil work, the basic moves, and a warmup and cooldown. Throw in a featureless dance room (big long room with dance floors and mirrors) and both instructors using mics, and my crappy hearing just couldn't catch everything.  There was a lot of sound bouncing around the room, which made it hard for me to understand, and mics make it hard to lipread. So there's poor me, with no idea what is going on in class, and I just didn't end up enjoying myself. 

But I still wanted to learn.

So, I searched out other classes when that session was over, and found Eastern Fire. I liked Grace and her teaching style, which was much slower and broke things down a lot more, and the mechanics of the studio made it easy to understand her. So, I figured I'd keep going.

About nine months after that, I had my dance debut. About nine months after THAT, I was asked to join Cassia, and then we were selected to perform at Tribal Revolution.

There were so many points along the way that I couldn't believe I passed... I thought I'd never be able to master the taxim, or the dreaded 3/4 shimmy, or the body wave. I thought I'd never be able to zill and would have to fake it. I thought I'd never perform, and I'd certainly never bare my midriff in public. I thought I'd never be a member of the student troupe, and I didn't even imagine being a part of the larger dance community.  I was just too uncoordinated, fat, pasty, ugly, and weird to want to share this.

What the hell was I thinking? I'm beautiful.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Officially Kind Of A Big Deal

It's been announced!  Cassia is officially performing at Tribal Revolution! I'M SO EXCITED and scared BUT EXCITED fucking terrified GONNA BE AWESOME oh god oh god 20% COOLER twelve percent worse SHUT UP AMAZING!

We're dancing to a beautiful version of the Game of Thrones theme, four cellos and some kind of drum backing it. All about formation changes and looking like a bunch of Dothraki special forces and slaying all the dragons!

We've also had three performances this March, and I think there was one in February that I can't recall.  The first was at a random bridal expo as a favor to one of Grace's friends. The "stage" we were to dance upon was the size of three postage stamps, and right at eye level with us was a bigass chandeliery sconce. But we made it through a ten minute set without falling off the stage, breaking anything, or getting caught in the fucking sconce! And then we got to have cake samples.

Second performance was at the Martini Room in Elgin.  There were screwups, sure, but all in all we had a great performance, and I ended up in a few pictures that I simply adore. I look beautiful, elegant, happy, and free. I will totally be posting them soon. I was also majorly pissed off during the entire performance, so the fact that it didn't wind up on my face was a huge bonus.

Third performance was another Belly Dance Wednesday. There was a major snafu in the middle of it, but we recovered and nobody died, and then most of my sisters went out onto the floor during All Tribes and rocked it. I declined this time due to just having eaten... didn't want to barf on someone while Tamarind (yeah, they were back, and amazing) were making me spin. But we had a lovely time in all.

Now we have to buckle down and study up on our choreo. Scaaaaarrryyyy!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cassia, here I come!

About a week ago, I mentioned to the fabulous Grace that I was interested in joining Cassia somewhere down the line (which is the dance troupe of Eastern Fire Belly Dance), and if she could recommend additional homework I could do pursuant to evolving more as a dancer.

I expected some links or video recommendations.

I ended up being invited to officially join.

And I haven't stopped queening out since.

I should be a little more nervous, since Grace is hoping to score a spot at Tribal Revolution, performing in front of professionals and super big super huge serious belly dancers. I have only been dancing for a year and a half... I should be a lot more scared, especially since so many of these girls have been dancing together for so long. But... I have been welcomed with open arms into their ranks, and I am going to honor the gift they gave me.

Friday, January 16, 2015

How Not To Get Burned!

This one is not about sunscreen or cooking safety.  Today, I want to talk about buying belly dance gear as securely as possible.

As an avid online shopper, I'm fairly tolerant of shopping risks, but I understand that not everyone is as comfortable as I am buying things sight unseen without trying anything on or touching it to make sure it's quality.  And I understand that there are plenty of people that aren't, so I'm not here to convert you necessarily, so here are some tips and tricks for buying in multiple venues.

1)  Conventions!  Big dance gatherings!  Haflas!

These are probably the best places to pick up dance gear. However, there are some things to keep in mind when you're surrounded by dancers and surrounded by merchandise.  Remember that you are paying convention prices. They're probably inflated, due to the cost of transportation, shipping, booths, and advertising. You will be paying more than you would online or secondhand, and you need to accept that.  If there's something fairly basic or mass-produced (i.e. skirts, cholis) you can always take a business card from the seller and check them out after the show. If you're buying something a little more special, make sure to try it on first. Returns with a con vendor can be a nightmare, especially if you get home from the show and realize that it doesn't fit.  Stress-test the jewelry and belts... you don't have to take it out to your car and run it over, but give a little tug on the sewn seams and near the jump rings. If they start to give, decided how comfortable you are repairing.

2)  Online shopping with an established vendor!

They'll likely be less expensive than at a show, but now is when your research comes in. Talk to your teacher or more experienced students with cool gear, and find out where they find stuff they like.  Eastern Fire Belly Dance is a big fan of Magical Fashions, Sirik Tribal, and Flying Skirts. I personally also had success with Tribe Nawaar and We3.  I am not a paid endorser of any of these links, I'm just telling you what I heard.  Before you order, make sure you get comfortable with a measuring tape. Check the measurements and dimensions of the item you're looking at.  Some people get very upset when they buy something that's very zoomed-in on a website, but is only listed as being 2" long.  I personally had an experience where I bought an XXL Turkish vest and failed to account for it being much bigger than my ribcage... I had to alter that one myself.  Also, check out any complaints on or ask around with your dance sisters if you see a site that has gorgeous merch but you're hesitant about buying from them.  For example, we3 has a fair amount of complaints, but I've had good experiences with them overall.

3)  eBay, Etsy, and DIY sites

This is where things can get a little risky, as you're not necessarily buying from businesses... you could be buying from scammers, weirdoes, or fly-by-night organizations.  So now is the time to research!  Check feedback religiously, and if the feedback comes up as positive, make a test purchase and use PayPal. By using PayPal, you're entitled to buyer protection in case a sale doesn't come through. Also, please remember that you are likely going to be working with an international buyer. Shipping can take a long. ass. time. I had a particular headpiece ordered from some outfit in China that took a month and a half to get to me. It was cheap enough that I didn't mind the length of time for shipping, but it was still annoying, especially since it didn't come in time for a performance.  International shipping can take its sweet time, no matter what you're buying.  However, patience and luck paid off, and I now have a source for 25-yard cotton skirts for between 30 and 40 dollars a pop.

4)  Swaps and Sells through Dance Studios

You get to finger the merch and look at it in person, however, come forearmed with knowledge!  A seller that wants too much for that skirt, vest, top, etc, is going to be ANNOYING and hard to work with.  Get comfortable knowing going rates for things. Also, check on stuff... check for stains, rips, smells, failing seams, and evidence of customization. Know your comfort zone... if you're okay with a modesty panel taken out of a skirt, or trims added, or are comfortable changing these things yourself, that's not so much of a red flag unless you aren't comfortable with those things.  Also, there are some things I'd never buy secondhand... anything that fits tight to the chest, groin, or feet. Some things are just too personal, after all. Also, returns here are basically impossible.

Special Places I Buy Things:

To get my latest pair of Saroyan Professional Zils, I did a LOT of research before buying them via Saroyan's Amazon presence.  I'd seen different pairs, heard different pairs in person, and also availed myself of their website's listen-before-you-buy feature. I'm totally happy with the Professionals... they sound like really loud, tinkly, ringy bells.

I'm not afraid of Forever 21 and Claire's jewelry, because I'm well aware that I'm getting what I pay for.

I make my own hair flowers, accessories and extensions, so I don't have a good resource for them, besides CONTACT ME AND I CAN MAKE YOU SOME.

Some things you can't just buy from a picture, however... I won't buy dance shoes from an online seller. I found a local dance shop that special-orders ghillies, and I always try on before I buy. Dance shoe companies work off a completely different size chart than regular shoes. No matter what, though, if my feet don't fit comfortably in the shoes, the shoes come off and I ask for another. My local tiny dance shop probably thinks I'm a crazy diva, but I do buy and I do plenty of word-of-mouth for them.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tamarind Tribal!!!

So, tonight at Belly Dance Wednesdays, the lovely and ridiculously talented ladies of Tamarind Tribal stopped by!  They drove to Bolingbrook from Milwaukee, just to hang out and dance with us. They opened the show, and WOW. Much talented. Such beautiful. They are gorgeous dancers and we were all blown away that some real life ATS celebrities graced us with their presence.

Of course, they joined in at All Tribes, and the Eastern Fire and Amaranth dancers were all bursting out on stage to have the opportunity to dance with them.  And then me.

I hadn't necessarily meant to dance with them... since they are like SERIOUS PROFESSIONAL DANCERS and I'm still working out what to do with my zills, I was kind of like, "Okay, maybe I'll go out like once for All Tribes, I am performing later too, the other girls are super excited about them, don't want to step on anyone's thunder..."

But fate was not with me. Still keyed up from a performance that ended with Grace tearing up and giving me a special hug, I noticed that the amazing Ashley from Cassia was heading up. I figured, what's the harm, let's go, I've got my half wrap on and everything.


Yeah. Whoa.

I'm surprised I was able to keep up with them. For awhile, I was feeling okay. I've only been dancing for a year and a half, so I'm nowhere near their level, but it was going okay. I recognized most of the cues they were throwing down, so that's a huge plus.

And then they started spinning.

We've talked about spinning a little, we've tried some, I've been drilling at home. But I'm not yet ready to start whirling around in front of people, and I dont' want to risk torquing a knee or falling on my skirt.

What's a baby dancer to do?

Hopefully said baby dancer is in quartet (Tymora was smiling upon me), so once the grownups start spinning, she can quietly and seamlessly slink off into the quartet and pretend like she was there the whole time.

Yep, I ran out of there like I stole something.  Nobody seemed to mind, and even Grace said I disappeared well.  So ladies, if your teacher is cool with you bailing when famous people are dancing, then you made a good life choice.

A brief primer in Bailing Like A Boss:

Wait until you're in quartet. Then take a few steps backwards, glance to the chorus leader, and begin doing what she's doing, Smile the whole time. Above all, move with purpose. And remember, you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.