Sunday, April 30, 2017

IF ONLY THEY KNEW: A BELLY DANCER'S INTERNAL DIALOG DURING A SHOW

 On-duty  at my regular restaurant gig


 Restaurant gigs  are one of the primary jobs for many belly dancers. They can be very  lucrative, and they’re usually  lots of fun because the dancer gets to interact with the customers  up close and personal.

However, while we sometimes are completely in the moment and being transported by the music, there’s also a litany of “dancer problems” that go hand-in-hand with these  intimate shows, which are often done in very small spaces, with no stage, dancing among the tables.

I’ve been dancing at restaurants for  twenty-seven years…and that pretty much  qualifies me as having seen (and heard) it all… or at least  pretty close to it!

 While the general public is getting a beautiful floor show, the scenario in the performer’s mind- masked by a dazzling stage smile- is often quite different  than what the audience is experiencing.

 Here are some of the thoughts running through my head  at various times during restaurant sets.

 Can you relate?


1. Please don’t even entertain the notion of tipping me with your greasy hummus fingers!

2. Humiliating the birthday boy or girl is not in my job description.

3. Holy crap, this song’s almost over- how the hell did that happen?

4.Yeah, uptight-lady-hanging-on-tightly- to-your man, it’s sad but true:  the only  real reason I’m dancing here is because I want to seduce your  fat, balding husband… who by the way, has zero table manners.

 5.Please God, don’t let me get my period.

6.Why does  this veil feel so heavy tonight? It’s just a piece of silk!

 7. If that waiter crosses in front of me one more time to refill water glasses, I’m gonna  cut a bitch!

8. Sorry dude,  but your business card doesn’t count as a tip. 

 9. Surprise! I speak English- and even though you seem to be  an authority on this  insane theory you’re espousing  so loudly, I didn’t get any ribs removed to be able to  dance this way.

10. Not taking my top off. It just ain’t gonna happen.

11. I saw a zero on that bill- please let it be a fifty-oh please, oh please, oh please.

 12. I hope the audience can’t tell that my foot is bleeding like a stuck pig from that glass I just stepped on.

 13. While I appreciate your concern, would you please quit yelling about-and pointing to-the dollar that fell on the floor?
This isn’t an isolated incident… it’s happened….oh, a couple of times before.

14. Can you keep your  toddlers under control?

 15. Can you keep your pubescent son and his testosterone-infused teenage pals under control?

16. Can you keep your absolutely  shit-faced  party guests under control?

I7. I you try to offer me a tip that’s held in your teeth, I will pat you on the head like a dog. I might even go “woof woof” to see if you respond in kind.

 18. I got you up to dance cause it seemed like it would be fun…for a minute or so! Do you think you could possibly manage to sit down before my shift is over?
No? Well then how about before I retire from my dance career?

19. Please God, don’t let me sneeze into these nice people’s dinner.

 20. You aren’t “offending" me by offering a tip. If you knew how much this costume cost you’d probably puke up your baba ganoush  right on the table!

21. Contrary to popular belief, a one dollar bill from a party of fifteen-plus diners is not a  great tip. Save it for the valet- he’ll be only slightly less horrified than I am.

 22. Oh no… I think my right eyelash is about to fall off!

 23. Where in the actual fuck did you get the idea that “most belly dancers are fat and have mustaches”?

 24. Do. Not. Try. To. Poke. My. Belly. Button. 

25. I hope  still  I  have some Chardonnay left  at home…


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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

WINTER HEALTH AND BEAUTY FOR DANCERS

 
Winter beauty and health for dancers

 Is that a shimmy or are you just  shivering?

 Winter has hit in LA, and I’m freezing! I’m  also reasonably sure that all you dancers in colder climates are laughing hysterically at me, but it really is  winter here in Hollywood.  We’ve had cold  storms  non-stop the past month, and more rain than in the past six years of drought!

 But no matter where you live, there are  some things about our dance practice and presentation that  really  need to change when the seasons do.  And if you  haven’t addressed any of this yet, there’s  still plenty of time to!  So here’s some  winter beauty tips for you...no matter what climate  you're dancing in...

SKIN
During the winter, our skin gets dry from  the cold and wind and also from indoor heating.  The extremes of temperature make our skin flakey and dull…and trust me, nobody wants to see that on stage.

About once or twice a week, I use  a scrub to exfoliate my face. There are tons of products you can buy, but an easy   and totally inexpensive home made scrub will do the trick, without causing irritation.  Here’s  all you need to do:

 In a bowl, combine  1 tablespoon of dry oatmeal with ¼ teaspoon of table salt- any kind will do. Add a teaspoon of water , or if your skin is very dry,  use olive oil instead. Rub it into your skin carefully and gently with your fingers in circular motions, going upwards. Make sure not to drag or pull your skin. Then let the  paste sit on your face for about ten minutes, and rinse it off with tepid water.

  After this scrub, I apply  natural coconut oil  to my face.  You can purchase a large bottle of coconut oil at any health food store- it’s great for cooking too. But when used on the skin, it  acts as a humectant, drawing  moisture to you and sealing  it in, without leaving you feeling greasy and gross…plus it smells nice. I slather it all over my poor beat up feet at night, then slip on a pair of thick socks and I the morning, my feet look…well… almost presentable!  It’s also terrific as a natural make up remover.

Moisturizing is necessary, even more than  it is in warmer months. As for facial moisturizers, I love Boots Protect And Perfect Intense Serum-  I use it at night, it seeps right in and my skin feels so soft every morning. For daytime, I use Olay  Total Effects 7 In One Daily Moisturizer, which is really creamy but not oily…it feels light  and is great under make up.  There are tons of products you can buy, but an easy     ( and cheap!) home made scrub will do the trick, too.

  COSMETICS
As for winter make up, one of the problems most of us have is that our summer tans are fading. Check the foundation you’ve been using  to be sure that the shade still matches your skin tone. You might want to mix two colors together, so you can lighten or darken the current  color you are using to match your “new”  seasonal skin tone. For pale  or fair gals, bronzer might be in order…and you can find great, inexpensive ones at the drug store! E.L.F  Studio Contouring Blush And Bronze is only about four bucks and comes in a wide variety of shades.  If you want to go a little higher-end, MAC Bronzing Powder is the bomb. For bronzers, make sure to use them sparingly, since you are no loner tan; take a large fluffy brush , and lightly go over the outside contours of your face: cheek bones, temples, jaw line, then  fluff some across the bridge of your nose. This will give you a healthy and subtle sun-kissed glow, and extend  the remnants of your summer color.

 If your hair is looking dull and dirty, but it’s too damn cold to wash it as much as you do when it’s warmer, try a dry shampoo. Aveeno Pure Renewal Dry Shampoo works like a charm and is available at places like target, Walmart, CVS, etc. for under ten bucks. Also, in the winter, static electricity is a problem for any type of hair, so think about using  a silicone smoother to prevent fly-aways. I really like  the John Frieda Collection  Frizz-Ease Hair Serum  but be forewarned- a little dab’ll do ya!


 BODY
During the cooler months, be really careful about making sure your body is fully warmed up before you dance. You should be doing this anyway, but in the winter, it’s absolutely imperative, because   dancing with cold muscles is basically a way of begging for an injury! 

Be sure to dress for class or  rehearsals in “classic dancer layers”- including a   substantial sweater or sweatshirt, leg warmers,  closed dance shoes with socks, that sort of thing.

 Make sure  the  your bedroom is warm enough at night. If it's chilly  where we   sleep, that could lead to curling up int weird positions... which   will directly lead to stuff muscles and sore joints! 

During the winter, gals have to be really on top of our vitamin D intake.  Adequate amounts of vitamin D will help your body to perform to it’s fullest-  it’s great for our bones and it boosts the immune system…and of course, we need that for dancing!  Vitamin D also keeps our mood up, and increases  morale.  

During the spring and summer,  get a lot of vitamin D naturally from sunlight,  but  during the winter, because  of the longer nights and lesser amount of daylight hours, it’s a safe bet our D levels are decreased. 

 If you’re not already taking vitamin D supplements,  make sure to ask your doctor  which dose  is best for you



  Stay warm and cozy, dancers!

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

TEN HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL DANCERS




How many times have you shared a dressing room or studio space with a dancer who was a total train wreck?  Every other dancer in the place just sort of backs up and watches in horror as the crazy person -who, of course has shown up late- digs frantically in a suitcase scattering it’s contents all over,  yells loudly on a cell phone, or has a complete meltdown. 

We’ve all witnessed that, right?

 Baby dancers can be excused (ok, once or twice) because they haven’t learned the ropes yet and don’t have the experience -or guidance to know exactly what’s up. But ironically, it’s all too common that the disorganized, noisy  and entitled nutcase is a seasoned pro…and sometimes it’s even the featured artist!

There’s a big difference between bumbling your way hit’n’miss through  gigs and being a true professional. Even though most of us already know (and practice) the points I’m about to mention, they’re worth re-visiting; they’ll  help you to have a long, healthy and prosperous career.

 Here are ten habits of successful dancers:

 Make Health A Priority
 This one seems like a total no-brainer, but many of us blithely ignore it. It’s obvious that we can’t perform to the best of our abilities by running on fumes. Many dancers (self included, by the way) routinely function on insufficient sleep and “meals” that consist of a power bar and a handful of nuts… or by pigging out during post-gig fast food parties. And what about ignoring injuries, preferring to dance while in pain rather than sitting a few shows out? Raise your hand if you’ve been there- we’ve all done it.

Needless to say, we’re only given one body per lifetime. Taking care of yourself is vital if you want a long, healthy career. So rest up, eat clean, take your vitamins, and see a doctor when you need to, and know the world –or your career- won’t end if you miss some time due to an injury.

Be Dependable
  Be impeccable with your word. If you confirmed a gig, you gotta be there…and you need to show up on time. If you’re running late, call or text. If you know in advance can’t make a gig or if a sudden emergency comes up, let the show producer or venue owner know immediately. Suggest a substitute, and share their info or offer to contact the sub yourself.

 Manage Time Wisely
 There’s damn few dancers who have managers, publicists and booking agents, so if you want a successful career, you’re going to have to handle all of this stuff by your lonesome. That means that even if you’d prefer being onstage or in the studio, someone’s gotta do the administrative work…and that someone is you. This includes everything from making lesson plans for your classes to promoting your gigs, from updating your website to booking shows, travel and studio time. There are only so many hours in a day, but it’s crucial to carve out some time to take care of business, it’s necessary. Set aside an hour or two a week just for administrative work, and you’ll probably notice a huge difference in your career.

 Be Organized
 This actually relates to the previous point, because good organizational skills will save you time!  Keep a pre-packed dance bag to bring to class, whether you’re taking or teaching- that way, you won’t be wasting twenty minutes looking for your ballroom shoes, resistance band, or iPod.

 Store your costumes with all the pieces and accessories (jewelry, wigs, shoes) you need for that particular act.

   Decide what supplies you need for any gig.  Create a master checklist if you need to, and refer to it as you pack.

 Focus
 Keep yourself on your toes physically by mentally envisioning what you want to achieve. Be in the moment; no “phoning in” your dancing at rehearsals, and certainly never onstage or at an audition.

Set Goals
 Never stop striving for what you want. Set your goals, and   make a timeline for what you’d like to achieve. Break down the steps you think it’ll take into bite-sized, do-able chunks, finishing each task before starting on the next one.

Stay Grounded
 No matter how talented you are, nobody wants to work with a diva.  Entitlement is an ugly trait in anyone, no matter how famous or in demand they are. This old saying might sound a little brutal and cutthroat but it’ll help you remember to stay humble. There’s always someone younger, prettier, more talented, and easier to work with waiting to take your place.

Practice
 Baby dancers are addicted to practice cause it’s so new and fun. But once we get comfortable and established in our careers, many of us tend ignore home practice, or reviewing the fundamentals by drilling.  World famous ballet dancers do their barre exercises every day, and Olympic medalists train like crazy people, also every day.  No matter what level you’re at, you are no different- your performances will grow by leaps and bounds if you get back to basics.


Don’t Compare Yourself To Other Dancers
 This is much easier said than done, because it’s in our nature to compare and contrast.   It’s one thing to want to perfect a move because you like the way another dancer does it.  But all too often, comparison leads to us beating ourselves up, because we perceive we’re lacking something that another dancer has.
 Once you realize that every dancer is different and each has individual strong points to offer, it’ll be much easier to stop comparing, and feel comfortable and happy in your own right.   

Never Stop Learning
 There’s always something to learn. The more you broaden your horizons, the better dancer you’ll become. Learning is a process; it can be active and intentional- as in taking a class in a style you’ve never studied, or it can be passive, like watching another dance’s performance on You Tube.   If you’re receptive, you can learn things that will improve your own dance technique even by studying unrelated subjects.  Even your beginner students can teach you something relevant. Inspiration and “A-ha moments” can strike at any time. Stay open and be curious.

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