Thursday, September 25, 2014

Costuming on a Budget

Carolena Nericcio is such a day-ruiner sometimes.

When she dances, she's dolled up in fabulous textiles, what looks like authentic jewelry, gorgeous flowers... she makes it look so EASY.  There's a bit of "Oh, THIS old thing?" mixed in with "La, just collected these in my journeys and travels of a full and adventurous life, NO BIG" when she takes the stage. She looks effortlessly fantastic.

And I'm learning that it takes a lot of work to look so effortless!  The cost alone... I mean, the only reason I even own Rokedet is because she was part of a going-out-of-business sale, and you'll have to pry that belt out of my cold dead hands. In fact, it's going in the ground with me.

So, this is how I stay costumed and glorious.

1)  eBay, Forever 21, Claires. While it would be lovely to be able to own nothing but authentic Turkomen and Uzbek silver, sometimes, us budget-conscious ladies do have to go for a knockoff.  Though we may have to paint the interior with clear nail polish (it really helps!), a fabulous fake can get you through the first year or two of dancing, until you've solidified your identity as a dancer more and know what you'd like to invest in.

Tips:  Be careful about big solid pieces, where the metal can tarnish or the finish can come off. This doesn't look aged, this just looks cheap. Try something that's got a lot of chain. If it breaks, it's usually a pretty easy fix.

2)  Thrift stores.  If you live in an area with a high immigrant population, go to the thrift stores in the area. I've found full salwar kameez, saris, and my favorite batik sarong there, and for less than what you'd ever pay in a store, online, or from a tailor. If not, just wait for the whole boho trend to wane (it comes up and goes out pretty regularly) or wait until after Coachella/Bonnaroo/Burning Man/festival season.  There will be so many fringe bikini tops and vests. Sooooo many vests.

Tips:  Look for something well made, where the stitching isn't coming apart, free from holes or tears, and NO stains. Make sure it works well for your purposes, and for the love of god, if it's pilly, move on.

3)  DIY. Take a jewelry or accessory making class, or ask your ATS instructor if she'd like to put on a Craft Camp one day. Grace did one for hair flowers/hair falls, and I'm still using what she taught to this day! Also, it was like six months ago, so it wasn't really THAT long.  It's usually a lot cheaper to make a thing yourself, like the braids I just made for Club ATS on October 25, than it is to buy them already done.

Tips:  Practice and go slow!  Start with something achievable! And steer clear of Pinterest. I'm sorry, Pinterest is great, but there is far too much potential for fail. If at all possible, take some kind of class in person where you have a live, present human instructing you, in case things go Terribly Wrong or Off The Rails.

4)  AND MOST IMPORTANTLY:  Recycle!  If you have a necklace with one pretty element and the rest doesn't work, take out what you want and use it in another piece. I have a hair flower that used to be an awkward necklace, but the proportion of it is just right for the hair.  I also have this one headband I adore... it was originally a sheer caftan from Forever 21 that I adored and wore all the time, until it snagged and started to run. So, I made it a headband instead and it lives on!

Tips:  Again... start small, stay achievable, and be reasonable about what you can accomplish. This is not an indictment against any dancer's craft skillz, this is more an admission that I am the Kwisatz Haderach of trying something beyond my ability and making a bigass mess.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dancer Chow

One of my great passions besides dance is food. I love food. Food is my favorite. I like meats, poultry, veggies, fish, breads, grains, fruits... I'll try anything once, and I'm probably inclined to like it. I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to research recipes, I love nutrition and food science... if I could have a cooking show right now, I would.

Here are some of my favorite tips to keeping your food healthy and delicious at the same time, to make sure you get the right nutrition to keep your dance engine humming along!

1)  Creamy recipe?  Use Greek Yogurt!

Replace cream, milk, sour cream, half-and-half, or anything similar with Greek Yogurt.  It's delicious, nutritious, and probiotic.

2)  Ditch the sugar, embrace the honey!

Honey comes in so many delightful varieties... orange honey is a great way to add Vitamin C when using it to replace sugar. Clover honey is like kissing an elf.  Sourwood honey is a great replacement for syrup and butter on pancakes. And just plain honey pairs well with anything... try it in your coffee. I'm serious.  Honey is also a natural antibiotic, so slather it freely on any of your dance blisters or sword-balancing stab wounds. It also has a better Glycemic Index rating than sugar, preventing the dreaded "sugar rush" and "sugar crash", and you tend to use less honey because it's sweeter than table sugar.

3)  Add your own salt!

I buy no- or low-sodium canned vegetables and stocks.  This isn't because Salt is Evil... it's necessary to support life! Also, it makes food delicious!  What I don't like is sneaky salt. I'd rather salt my own recipes to the appropriate level instead of dumping salt on top of more salt.

3)  Put down the frying pan!

Okay, I love fried, crispy, greasy anything. If it's fried, it's awesome. Especially if it's fried in butter... But there are many other ways to get delicious crispy texture while keeping fried food at a minimum.  Saute vegetables in cooking spray, or roll meat in breadcrumbs and bake it.  Roast your vegetables in the broiler or over an open flame, if you have it.

4)  Healthy does NOT mean bland!

Just because something is good for you doesn't mean it has to have a weak flavor.  Add spices, herbs, vinegar, even a dash of alcohol (red wine + literally anything = mmmmm...) to create a rich flavor. In my house, we go through garlic and lemon juice the same way some people go through bread and milk.

5)  Cook to WIN

Yes, you can win at cooking.  Make big batches of whatever you're making, so you have leftovers for another day, or just to bring to work for lunch.  Set yourself up for success so you can keep dancing.

6)  Weight, what?

Don't worry about the number on the scale! There are dancers of all shapes and sizes at all levels in all styles. Some of these tips might help you lose weight, if that's your goal, but the most important thing is to take care of and honor the body you're in. Dancers need fuel, and they need the best fuel they can get to keep it going during practices, drills, warm ups, and performances. The one and only Grace always tells us to dance in the body we are in, and that's wonderful advice... to work on improving, but not to kill yourself trying to imitate someone else. All of these food tips are merely to make the body you have, own, and move as efficient and well-fueled as it can be.

Friday, September 19, 2014

All Tribes Wednesdays! (With an aside on performance anxiety)

Now that summer is over, my awesome teacher Grace has reinstituted Belly Dance Wednesdays at one of the bellydancers' new favorite haunts, Coop's Den. We didn't have a specific performance to start with, but I was determined to at least dance in the chorus and back up the other dancers.

For those not in the know, All Tribes is how my teacher has defined an ATS performance as it was originally intended, pure improv, dancers with the same vocabulary getting together and rocking it folkloric style.  All of the ATS dancers in the area are invited, and anyone can go up during that set to join formation and groove. So there were plenty of dancers I'd never danced with before, and plenty of dancers I hadn't even met.

Of course, at one point the floor clears and nobody goes up, so one of my dance sisters from EFBD heads up there.  In ATS, one of the strong principles is that a dancer is never alone. We have to have our dance sisters' backs. So, in the spirit of participating, I headed up to take the floor with her, because we're always there for each other.

I have to be honest, I was not intending on even dancing that night, and it still happened. Oy vey. But, I was all gussied up, hair done, skirt on, makeup working, and I had a feeling later that if I hadn't danced, I would have regretted it, and I don't want any regrets when it comes to dancing.  But let me tell you... I WAS SO NERVOUS I THOUGHT I'D PEE MY PANTALOONS.

As I headed up into formation, I felt my knees begin to tremble, and my elbows got all wibbly, and I'm sure I looked like I was going to be shot.  And then I realized how funny it was, that I was looking fine as hell in my fancy jewels and freshly colored hair, my new favorite lipstick on, and a look of sheer glazed terror on my face. And then it came to my turn to lead and I went, "oh fuck."

So I went with about eight eight-counts of easy as fuck stuff (Arabic, Arabic Hip Twist, Arabic Hip Twist With Flourish, Egyptian, Egyptian Half-turn/Full-turn combo) and got the hell out of leadership just in time for the song to end.  We hit Level 3 not too long ago, but I'm still getting over my anxiety about performing where people I'm not used to can see.

There are a lot of anxieties I'm working through, through dance and through life in general. I'm kind of a brash, out-there weirdo in real life, and I work in retail management, so I'm totally comfortable just waltzing up to strangers and striking up a conversation. But in a performance context, my fight-or-flight kicks in majorly, and I get really freaked out and shaky. They say that a fear of public speaking/performance anxiety/etc. is at its base a fear of rejection from the community, and that rings true for me... I really crave reassurance afterwards (most of the time, this is directed entirely at my life partner and sous chef), and even if I have eight amazing classes in a row where I feel like I'm getting things and I'm told how awesome I did at X move, I still feel like I know nothing and I'm going to embarrass myself with my lack of coordination.

For example, I can Turkish Shimmy Quarter Turn Fade like a BOSS. I cue it all the time in class, I follow it either way with no problem, I can get out of it, it's amazing and wondrous and TSQTF and I are BFFs. I talk to TSQTF on the phone on my way to work, we get our nails done together... I love it.  But the second that people that I'm not used to dancing with are looking at me, I completely forget about TSQTF. My BFF disappears from my mind and I just... cannot.

However, although I was metaphorically shitting the bed with nervousness, I take Wednesday night as a huge win. There was a time, believe it or not, that I wouldn't have gone out at all. "Oh, no, it's cool, I'm fine just hanging around in my full costume and not doing anything. You go out there. Be young, have fun, drink Pepsi. My foot hurts so I can't dance." I was exhilarated with the fact that, though I may not have danced as beautifully as some, I did dance. Fear takes time to work through, and perhaps a little piece of it was shaken off with my shimmy.