Tag Archives: bellydance

Other Bellydance Stuff I Hate

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Just so you don’t think I’m picking on Zills…

Here’s another list of my hates. I know a lot of other people feel the same way.

 

The 10+ minute long show solo.

Oh yea. I went there.

Fine in a restaurant, but on stage it tends to drag. Did you know the average attention span of someone in a captive audience is roughly 3min or less? Also, that 10 minutes could have fit 2 or 3 people into the time slot giving others a chance to perform.

Now, there are some exceptions to the rule…but you’d better be show stopping AMAZING. We’re talking Indigo or Unmata fabulous here.

There are other venues where this is the norm, like the larger dance fests or if you are the guest/spotlight performer/teacher, then go for it. You’re local shows/haflas? not so much.

 

No pants under gypsy skirts.

MY BIGGEST HATE. Even more than ZIlls. I hate when dancers don’t wear pants under their damn gypsy skirts. It’s a well known HIGHLY DOCUMENTED fact that when you spin in a circle skirt, the skirt lifts up and flows around you. Guess what ladies! That means the audience is going to see what’s under your skirt. If you’re on a stage it’s even worse, they’re going to see your underwear…or ass and vajango…depending on how much you were or weren’t thinking when you put your costume on.

PLEASE wear pants? Please? Show the audience some pretty fabric harem pants under there, or some sassy flares. The extra layer of fabric as dept and color to your costume. DO IT.

And if you’re thinking “Oh, but our skirts don’t come up that much…we’re fine.” NO YOU ARE NOT. Do you KNOW what we can see as an audience sitting on a floor? Or even worse, if you’re on a stage you’re elevated, which means if your skirt even lifts to your calves, we can see your ass. COVER IT UP.

 

No underwear under cabaret costumes.

Under any costumes really, but I’m talking here about the slit-skirts.

I understand it must be hard to find something to wear under a skirt hat is slit to your thigh, but seriously? They make costuming breifs for this reason. INVEST IN A PAIR. Nothing makes an audience member gasp faster than when a cab dancer spins and we see her bush. It’s tasteless and helps propagate the negative image people have on us.

This sort of thing…right here…is what gives people the idea that we’re trashy and easy.

I pick on the cab dancers because they’re the highest offenders of the no panties issue that I’ve seen. Tribal girls aren’t completely guilt free here, but the costume mechanics are very different and bottoms are usually covered up. I’ve even seen a gypsy dancer with no panties on…but I clump that one into the pants section above.

 

Broken beads on the stage.

If your costume goes fubar on stage, and you end up dropping beads/crystals/coins/shells on the stage ALERT SOMEONE RUNNING THE SHOW THE MINUTE YOU GET OFF STAGE.

Often times someone can run across the stage with a broom and clean up your mess. It takes about a minute. I promise no one is going to get angry, and other dancers will thank you.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve danced on broken little beads. It hurts. A LOT. And it’s dangerous. Other dancers can slip or cut themselves.

 

Props left on stage.

You are not the queen of the world, and you should not expect someone to retrieve your props for you. This is not the responsibility of the people performing after you, nor should they come out on a stage and wonder what they should do with your fan/veil/cups/zills/chair/cover up/sword/anything you danced with.

Either choreo it so you remove it with yourself, or have a “stage ninja” who comes out after you and removes the prop for you after you’ve exited.

 

Divas* who feel entitled for XYZ reason.

I don’t care who you are, you don’t deserve special treatment. Sometimes it’s alright to ask for an accommodation. Like if you have a food allergy, it’s alright to ask if there’s gluten in something at a hafla. Or if you’re a breast feeding mother, it’s alright to ask if there’s a private place you can go to pump/nurse. It’s also alright to kindly request the show line up if you’re dancing more than once.

It’s not alright to demand two solo spots in a show, more show tickets, a private changing room, a special intro, special seating, classes be rearranged, the show to be rearrange, etc. etc. etc.

Please show some respect to people putting on the show.

*not limited to women. not limited to dancers.

 

People who rip vendors off.

Seriously. Just don’t do it.

The fastest way to bring yourself down and destroy your dance career is to not pay someone for something, being it bouncing a check or screwing over someone who gave you something in good faith that you’d pay.

Everyone is going to hear about it sooner or later, and you don’t want that branding.

 

Fire dancers who don’t follow safety regulations.

This is everything from letting people smoke around open fuel to not being aware of your personal space when dancing.

The simple fact is, you’re playing with something that can not only harm you, but KILL you. Look at the bigger picture around you as well. You’ve an audience. You could harm or kill them too.

Wick off, cover cans up, pull your hair up, be aware of the audience and other dancers, have a safety, and for the love of Gods make sure there’s some form of crowd control.

 

Sky High Musicians

I know many an instance where the band might have been a wee bit not grounded. This happens all too often in drum circles. Musicians can be hard to deal with on their own, let alone when they’re high or otherwise intoxicated.

 

MC’s who don’t even try

I know some of our names are impossible to pronounce…but at least try.

I’ve gotten into the habit of writing my name down phonetically for shows, and it’s saved me about 70% of being annoyed and having to correct people later. I suggest trying it next time you’re in a show, it really works and I’ve been thanked a few times by MCs and band members for it.

But sometimes…there’s that one MC that someone had to bribe and beg to be the MC, and they just don’t care. They seriously annoy me.

 

DJs who don’t listen to instructions

Nothing like a DJ who can’t follow instructions on when to start and stop music, or when and how to announce a performer.

Even better are the DJs who work and announce at strip clubs that get part time gigs elsewhere. THAT was a fun show. Every act sounded like a stripper. Fantastic.

 

Awkward Prop Solos

When people perform with out having used a prop enough in practice and it’s constantly dropped or tangled. Just because your sword arrived in the mail the day before the show DOES NOT MEAN it needs to be danced with tomorrow.

 

So there I go…pissing off the world again.

I know I’m very much NOT alone in these peeves. I’ve had many dancers voice their annoyance or horrified-ness about the above offends.

 

 

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Confessions of a Zill Snob

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I have a shameful bellydance secret.

I hate zills.

I mean I hate them. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE THEM.

I know a lot of people are going to gasp and be offended by this. I’m going to post it anyways. Those of you who are real friends and shimmy sisters won’t hate me for my opinion, or take offense. It takes many to make the world go round, and there’s lots of people who love zills, so keep rockin’ them. This is just MY opinion.

I’m hoping to open people’s eyes a little bit about the Zilling problems in dance. There are many.,,and to those few very trusted dancers I’ve expressed my Zill-pinion too, they’ve agreed with me about these problems. I’m happy to know I’m not the only dancer in the world who dislikes zills…I’ve even talked to a few dancers who use them only because their restaurant managers wanted them to.

So here we go, the reasons I hate zills.

1. They are LOUD and OBNOXIOUS.

Even more so when they’re being played by 20 ATS dancers. I mean, ow. Yes, I’m impressed you’re all keeping RLR-LRL rhythm while moving, it’s a very cool skill that I don’t posses myself…but OW. I have sensitive ears, I don’t like high pitched noises or deep bass tones, and the ringing of zills in groups of more than about 3 just kills me.

At festivals, it’s pretty annoying when you’re watching another act perform and suddenly you hear zills ringing out from clear across the enter event. This has happened more than once. I understand the dance troupes aren’t trying to be distracting, but lets face facts. It’s VERY distracting, and sort of rude to the other performers. People can’t help but go “What’s that?” And yes, that’s the point, it draws attention, but it’s pretty obnoxious to others performing.

2. No one remembers their mufflers.

Whomever invets Zill-muffs should get a metal. I swear. The problem is the majority of people never remember them, or don’t know about them at all.

What are Zill Muffs? These… http://www.etsy.com/listing/23369436/zill-mufflers (I hope this random person on etsy enjoys the random plug!)

Zill muffs muffle the sound of your zills are are usually crocheted but can often just be fabric baggies. Either way, they’re ideal for studying zilling. I believe anyone who takes zill workshops should have them…even more so in a DANCE ZILL workshop where you will be moving and zilling. This is where I believe they’re needed most. It’s impossible to hear cues from a teacher over all that damn ringing and clanking…and lets face it, nearly NO ONE learning new combos is getting that rhythm right. It ends up being a ton of noise.

3. They make learning impossible.

Not only can you never hear the instructor, but no one ever stops clanking and chiming them.

I can’t tell you how obnoxious this is. STOP MOVING YOUR HANDS. Seriously. No need for that. I understand you like your new toy, but show some restraint please, others are trying to listen.

I AM BEGGING ZILL TEACHERS…please…PLEASE start telling people to knock off the in-between zilling while you’re talking. It’s RUDE. You have the right as the teacher to ask people to stop while you’re speaking, don’t let them walk all over you like that, you’re not being mean in asking them to quiet their fingers.

4. Too many people don’t know what to do with them.

I see so many dancers who get zills and go “WOOO!!!! LRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLR” and nothing else. There’s a whole world of wonderful rhythms out there to explore…and guess what!! You can play along with drummers using those rhythms! WHO KNEW?!?!?*

*Disclaimer, some people know. Mostly musicians, but some dancers I have found who are “of a certain age” or what I like to call “vintage” also know this.

My point is, not enough people want to spend time learning to zill along with middle eastern rhythms. Not enough dancers want to learn how to play along with a song rather than just act as an accent…which brings me to my next point.

Zills should accompany music, not distract from it…which brings me to…

5. Random Zilling.

I. Hate. This. Most. Of. All.

I’m sure this is where I’m going to make people the most angry…mostly because every dancer that’s ever attempted to perform with zills has more than likely started right here. The problem is when people never move on from this.

Picture this… the music plays. It’s a drum solo…(or the other big offender is the modern drum/vocal Arabic/Moroccan/Egyptian song, which I hate worse btw. The random is super noticeable in modern music.). The dancer comes out, zills strapped to fingers…and she dances…and dances…and dances…and she’s still not zilling…then suddenly…Cling cling. Cling. Cling cling…and dances some more. Cling cling cling. Dances some more…cling. Does a spin…ching ching…spins the other way…ching ching. Back to no zilling. CHING.

Zilling with no rhyme or reason makes me more annoyed than 50 ATS dancers at a festival any day. It’s completely unprofessional. It does nothing for your performance except show you have no ear for music. As a dancer you don’t want that. Either learn to zill rhythms or just put them down.

I’m going to be a bitch here and say this… If you’re a random ziller, you’re annoying more people than you think. They just won’t admit it.

6. Clanking.

I know, I know, some cultures it’s actually correct to clap or clunk your zills. Good for you, I don’t care for the clank/clack/clunk sound myself. I feel it’s like a dead note…like the poor little note curled up and died a painful death under someone’s foot. Much like a spider.

There are exceptions to my clanking reasoning, sometimes they do have a place in music.

7. Instructors who tell me my holding technique is wrong.

This annoys me, but I smile and deal with it anyways because it’s their personal technique. Not mine.

The simple fact is, I was taught to play zills originally by a musician, not a dancer. The way I hold my zills is to achieve optimal ‘Ching’ and ‘Ring’ from them. It gives for a more clear note.

I should also mention here, I only ever take Zill-dance workshops when they’re a packaged deal somewhere…because I don’t intend to actually ever play them in a performance, save for any ATS I may study in the future…in which case…I’ll have mufflers.

I think I’ve covered my personal Seven Sins of Zilling.

Now, I do own Zills myself. Two pair. One small and one “dinner plate” sized for drum circles.

I like going o drum circles with my zills, I feel like they make a nice accent, and although I couldn’t rattle off every name of every middle eastern drum rhythm, I can play along with every single one. I vastly enjoy sitting around and zilling with the band much more than zilling on my feet dancing.

Kudos to all those dancers who’s zilling has never made me angry. There are a handful of you that I do admire for your skills and talents. I know you’ve studied hard, and have come a long way from your early random zill days. The biggest part of any talent is learning and growing from your mistakes, thank you for not being forever stuck in the random zill stage.

Alright, rant over. I somehow feel better getting that off my chest! It’s been sitting there for years!

Why I Shame

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So, I realized that sometimes my blog posts can come off as mean…or as a whistle blower…or vindictive.

 

I’m not trying to be any of the above.

I do what I do to in hopes of helping people open their eyes to the wrongs that can happen in not only the dance scene, but in life as well.

When new dancers come into a studio, and get wind of others being put down, they don’t know this isn’t the norm. Suddenly they start to question themselves, and think “You know, maybe I do need to take off a few pounds…” or “Maybe I should dye my hair…” “Maybe I’m not tone enough…” This is not the way to be thinking when under taking a new passion. I wonder how many women run from this art because of belly-shaming.

I want everyone to know acting in less than supportive ways is NOT okay.

Yes, we’re women and get catty. That’s fine, but do it outside of the dance scene. Complain to your husband or very trusted troupe member. ALWAYS be nice to your fellow dancer, even if you hate them. Even if you think you have nothing in common, the simple fact is you do. You both have a passion for the same art. Respect that in each other.

A friend of mine texted me, asking if it was the best idea that I had posted my last blog post. She was right, hate does breed hate. I wasn’t trying to be hateful, just wanted to shine light on a terrible situation and let people know that it is NOT okay.

I want people to know that if you’re in a shitty situation, it’s alright to remove yourself and seek greener pastures to dance in.

Belly-Shaming

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I know, it’s been ages since I’ve posted. Since moving and getting re-settled I’ve felt very uninspired to be honest. No job means no money for classes means unhappy dancer. I recently drove down to Tampa to visit my “shimmy soul mate” and work on a project we have coming up in Sept. A conversation with a dancer we’re taking into our troupe had me flat out angry! And I felt I must blog about this!!

Our new member took classes with a woman we’ll call Joe. Joe runs a studio. Joe would have a really fantastic story about cancer survival and leaving your job to do what you love and are passionate about if Joe hadn’t turned into a complete bitch.

Joe is skinny, and if you’re not the same size as Joe you shouldn’t be bellydancing. Joe doesn’t let overweight girls perform, and she talks badly about them behind their backs to her other students, keeps putting them down, and thinks they have no place in bellydance…but she’ll sure as hell take your money for classes. You can forget about performing though.

Joe puts girls down SO much that some of her students get weight-loss injections.

What really got to me, was Joe being in charge of the BDSS show in her local area.

Now, I need to say, our new member isn’t fat. She’s a normal sized woman, there’s nothing wrong with her…and whoo boy! You should see her ab muscles when she dances! She’s a very talented dancer, and this story was just…outrageous.

When the BDSS came to town, our new member was told to apply for the show. She met the requirements. Local Dancer, Professional, Performs often… Well she met the requirements set by the BDSS…

She received a letter back from her former teacher stating the following:

-She wasn’t taking enough classes at the studio Joe ran.

-She wasn’t skinny enough.

1. It’s not a per-studio show. It’s supposed to showcase LOCAL TALENT.

2. HOW DARE SHE.

It would have been one thing for Joe to nicely say she didn’t think her former student was ready, but to call her fat? Saying she needed to focus on her body? Hell no. I asked if the email still existed. It did. I then suggested the BDSS be contacted and made aware of this situation because…

1. She’s restricting the Gala show to only people in her studio. This is NOT a variety of local talent. Unfair treatment is being given to those in her studio and the rest of the community is being shut out.

2. The BDSS need to be made aware that the person representing them puts others down and makes women feel bad about themselves. This is not what bellydance is about.

What also pissed me off was a little story she told me about an event.

My new shimmy-sister attended a workshop where there was a photographer…who followed her to her car and would not leave her alone. THIS IS NOT OKAY. When she contacted Joe about the situation, Joe defended the cameraman, said he wouldn’t do something like that, and she must have been flirting with him earlier to make him think he could follow her out.

THIS IS WHAT WE CALL RAPE-CULTURE. THIS IS NOT OKAY!!

Even if she had talked to the man and flirted, he should NOT have followed her to her car, and he should NOT have continued advances when she said she was not interested.

This is the “You were clearly asking for it” mindset. The thing girls are told when they are raped…this is seriously not okay to tell someone!

To add insult to this, when Joe gave her reply, she made my shimmy-sister feel worse about herself. The attitude on which Joe approached this was “Oh. He’d never do that because he’d never hit on you when he could hit on someone skinny like me. You must have done something to make him think he was going to get to sleep with you.”

My reply to this story was rather nasty…I do believe I tossed around the word bitch…and made a couple comments that I only reserve for women who put others down.

I am so…so angry about this.

I’ve heard from more than one dancer about this woman, and how she makes bigger dancers feel out of place, like they’re her “Fat back up dancers”. How she has an elitist attitude, and even if you join her improv-dance classes, you’ll never perform with her troupe…maybe 7 years down the line or so. Maybe.

This is NOT what bellydance is about. This is not what we build when we start a dance community…although there seem to be so many dancers in that area of FL, it seems the true community is very lacking. I’m sad no one stands up for each other, no one has told this woman what she’s doing is wrong, and that makes me very sad. :(

What a…

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What a completely offensive bitch….oops. I was being judgmental…just like her. My bad.

http://lisanewlin.com/2013/04/whats-the-proper-etiquette-for-a-belly-dancer-at-dinner/#comment-721

 

Came across this blog post through another dancer…

This blogger, Lisa, claims to be “sarcastic”. She’s not sarcastic….she’s mean. She’s very offensive, suggesting bellydancers are uneducated “beauty school drop outs” and “wanna be strippers”. I feel like if she honestly wanted to know and felt uncomfortable, she could have asked nicely, or done some research herself. She turned it into a chance to be mean, insulting, and pick on women…

 

Read it for yourself and weigh in. Even Zoe Jake’s attention was nabbed by it. She of course, was super sweet in her reply to help educate this woman.

The lovely Shina posted a reply on Lisa Newlin’s face book page as follows and I couldn’t have answered better myself:

(Head here for Shina’s site. http://shira.net/about/media-stereotypes.htm )

“Hi Lisa! Since seeing someone post a link to your blog about belly dancing earlier today, I’ve been meaning to write a note of my own to you.

First, I would like to apologize for the angry comments you have received from belly dancers all over the world. I’ve been belly dancing since 1981 and I’m quite passionate about it, but in reading your blog I saw three things that have affected the way I personally want to respond to you: 1) I believe you honestly weren’t sure where to look when watching the belly dancer, and decided to write about it; 2) I think you believe some misconceptions about belly dancing that have been perpetrated by the mass media for over 100 years; 3) I think you were trying to use insult-the-belly-dancers humor to entertain your readers; 4) I suspect you had no idea how offensive the types of things you wrote would come across to us, nor did you realize that (intentionally or not) you managed to voice many of the tired old stereotypes that we’ve been battling for half a century.

Little did you know that thousands of people all over the world would take exception to what you wrote. In my response, I’d like to help you see why so many of us did.

Taking my above 3 points in order….

#1. Not Knowing Where to Look.

I see from other comments posted on this page that other people have already sent you a link to the article I wrote titled “How to Be an Appreciative Audience Member”, so I won’t repeat the link here. As I read your blog, I found myself thinking, “I need to go back to that article and add a section advising audience members on where to look.” As I reflect on my many restaurant performances over the years, I remember many people behaving as if that were exactly their issue.

Anyway, make eye contact as we approach and smile. If we’re using a prop such as a large piece of fabric or a sword, you can always gaze at the prop. It’s okay to allow your glance to rest on our hips for whatever length of time fits within your comfort level, and then let your eyes follow what our arms are doing. It’s ok to take your eyes off of us and return to conversation with your dinner companion.

#2. Misconceptions and Stereotypes

For over 100 years, the American mass media have misrepresented belly dancing, portraying it as a dance of seduction. Why? Well, for the media, sex sells. It serves their agenda to portray belly dance in this way. If you’d like to read an article I’ve written about this, see my web site at http://shira.net/about/media-stereotypes.htm . I’ve also developed a lecture on this subject called “Hares in the Harem and Fantasies of Seduction”, showing how even children’s cartoons have painted a picture of belly dancing as being all about seducing men.

From my years of studying this dance and researching its history, it has become clear to me that in the cultures Oriental dance (its correct name) comes from, this dance is something people use for entertainment at parties. Just as, in our own culture, we might enjoy doing ballroom dance ourselves with our favorite partners but also watching Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers do an amped-up version in the movies, so it is with belly dance in the Middle East.

I’ve been a guest in Egyptian homes and at Egyptian weddings, and I’ve seen the dance used in the context of its culture. People will get up and belly dance with each other at wedding receptions, with the women on one side of the room dancing with each other, and with the men on the other side of the room, dancing with each other. It’s what people do for fun – a dance of joy. It’s also a performing art – those same weddings with social dancing on the dance floor will also often bring in a professional dancer to do a performance, as entertainment.

Here in America, belly dancing is also actually PRIMARILY a dance that women do for fun, in front of an audience of other women. Surprised? There’s a huge subculture of belly dance “insider” events at which dancers organize parties and take turns performing for each other. These are generally not marketed to the general public, so the audience members consist and dancers, their friends, and their families. Usually, there are very few men at these events because any man with a belly dancer in his life quickly gets bored at being dragged to these things. Belly dancing in our own culture is the ultimate female bonding experience – bringing potluck snacks, having sewing parties, dressing up in cool costumes, etc.

Anyway, because of the mass media, we belly dancers are really, really tired of the whole comparison with stripping. Belly dancing has nothing to do with stripping, and it’s offensive to us when someone makes the types of comments you made. We’ve been fighting this stereotype for many decades, and it damages us when people like you drag it into a discussion of belly dancing. How does it damage us, you ask? It makes churches hesitate to let us rent out their fellowship halls for teaching classes or hosting our events. It makes cities hesitate to let us have a spot performing at their city festivals. My in-laws’ nursing home refused to let my mother-in-law arrange for me to perform there because “somebody might be offended” – when she told her friends that’s why I wasn’t going to perform, they got together a petition demanding that the place allow it. They did, and it was so immensely popular that they had to move it to the biggest room they had to ensure everybody who wanted to watch would fit. So, this stupid stripper stereotype really irritates us, and every time someone references it in connection with belly dancing, it keeps the stereotype alive. And that played a big role in your getting the hostile reaction you did from so many angry belly dancers.

Two more articles on my web site I’d like to recommend for further reading:

Oriental Dance: A Dance for the Whole Family at http://shira.net/whole-family.htm

and

“Isn’t That Like Stripping?” at http://shira.net/likestrip.htm

Another stereotype that we belly dancers have heard a lot and, quite frankly, are very tired of, is the one suggesting that we must not be very bright or well educated. And unfortunately, by dragging THAT stereotype into your article, you pushed another button that enraged a lot of belly dancers.

Although there are dancers whose sole income comes from belly dancing, many of us have a different “primary” profession. For example, I work for a very large technology company in sales and marketing (a career I’ve been in for over 30 years), and I hold a Master’s degree in Business Administration. If you ever see me dancing at a restaurant, there’ll be no need to hand me a brochure for a technical school, because I’ve already got a highly successful technology career.

Surely you aren’t very happy about it when people believe all the obnoxious stereotypes about lawyers, believing you all to be ambulance chasers and soulless sharks. Well, we don’t like it when people believe the stereotypes about us, either.

#3. Using Insults as Humor

Okay, I “get” that you were trying to use over-the-top humor. I didn’t seriously believe you were screaming at the dancer over the music, for example.

But, did you really *have* to choose humor that would be openly insulting to belly dancers? Did you have to imply that we’re stupid and uneducated (wanting to give the dancer a college brochure)? Did you have to liken us to strippers? Here’s a hint: repeating the same old stereotypes people have been repeating for half a century isn’t clever, it’s trite.

Insults aren’t the only flavor of humor, you know. You could have made playful observations about being blinded by the glittery sequins on her costume, or you could have talked about being afraid she’d get you up to dance and make you look foolish. You could have wondered whether she had a camel waiting for her in the parking lot, or mused about how many hours it would take her to remove her eye makeup once she got home.

#4. The Hostile Reactions

I’m truly sorry that you’ve been bombarded with hostile reactions. I’ve already explained that part of the hostility is due to the fact that you dragged damaging stereotypes into a conversation about belly dancing – stereotypes that REALLY DO harm us, and are not true. When people do that, we feel defamed. We worry that you’ve added yet another voice to influencing the public to believe something that harms us and leads to opportunities being denied us.

But it goes farther than that.

For many, many women in our culture, belly dancing is a passion. It opens so many doors for us. It offers us an artistic outlet. It provides an opportunity for us to build a circle of friends with other women. Some incorporate it into their personal spiritual practice. It enables entrepreneurial women to start their own businesses – as performers, as teachers, as costume designers/makers/importers, as event organizers, as retailers of belly dance supplies, and so much more. For me, when I felt lost after moving to a new city, it provided me a way to find my own small-town sense of community within a huge metropolitan area of 7 million people. Students who had experienced violence or incest in their past have confided to me that the physical act of belly dancing helped them heal, psychologically. It helps women with body image issues overcome those and feel GOOD about their bodies. Students who have suffered from long-time physical pain due to past injury or surgery have found relief from it through belly dancing. We dance because we love to dance. Most never perform in public, but they’ll dance at our “insider” gatherings.

And you insulted this thing that is so close to our hearts. Many people’s knee-jerk reaction was to fight back. They felt your attack as being personal because of how important belly dance is to their very souls, and they sought to retaliate. I’m sure you had no idea just how offensive your stereotypes and insult-humor would be. But, I guess you’ve found out.

I ask that you try to keep an open mind – I’m sure the angry reactions are still coming your way. I’ve tried to be gentle in explaining why so many of us were dismayed by certain aspects of your blog, and I hope you’re willing to consider what I’ve said. St. Louis isn’t so far from Iowa City, Iowa where I’m based – if you ever find yourself anywhere close to Iowa City, just give me a call – I’d be happy to sit down with you, have coffee, answer any questions you have about belly dance, and show you just how intelligent a belly dancer can be. <smile> Here’s my contact info: http://www.shira.net/shira/mailphone.htm

Respectfully yours,

Shira”

Bindi Ownership 101

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Video coming soon!

Through my life as a dancer, I noticed something a little odd…

The sheer amount of dancers who have no idea about how to care for and wear bindis.

I’m not talking about the peel and stick sort you purchase at your local Indian grocery store, I’m talking about the large hand crafted works of art savoy crafters make. I suppose the same can apply to the small peel and stick ones as well, however they don’t have the same thickness and fall apart quickly. They’re so inexpensive they’re more of a one time shot sort of thing, but when you’re dishing out ten plus dollars for ONE bindi, well you need to know how to make the most of your money!

The idea for this came to me while I was cleaning and organizing for my big move in May. I realized I had very much neglected my poor collection of bindis and they were in need of some serious TLC. So here we go…Bindi Ownership 101.

1. I want to own a hand crafted bindi. What do I look for?

So you want to own an awesome hand crafted work of art for your forehead? Good for you! Sucking it up and making the investment is a big choice, sometimes it’s hard to suck it up and pay 10-20 dollars for something that sticks between your eye brows.

When purchasing your bindi(s), you need to be sure that it’s going to fit your forehead. If you’re purchasing a large statement piece, you’re going to want to look for a “hinge” as I call it. What I mean by this, is a break in the design usually at the top or bottom that will allow the bindi to bend to the shape of your forehead. This is important, because you want the bindi to lay flat, as opposed to sticking up like an antenna.  Shopping on etsy can be a bit tricky when it comes to this. If you really want a huge bindi, look for one that comes in individual parts until you are familiar with how things lay against the slope of your forehead.

To get the most out of your money for your first purchase, think about buying a neutral color or a solid metal piece. Yes, that bright pink sparkly stone one is quite amazing and you can’t stop looking at it…but how many bright pink costumes do you own? Pick out something that’s going to match your current wardrobe, and then build from there. (Although, I’m guilty of building a costume around a bindi.)

2. I’ve purchased my bindi. Now what?

Now you’re going to need something to stick it to your face with.

You have two options for this. 1- Spirit Gum. 2- Eyelash Glue.

I’ll touch on Lash Glue first… I don’t like it. I know a few dancers who swear by it for one reason or another. “It holds better.” “I’m allergic to spirit gum.” “I couldn’t find spirit gum.” I sometimes tend to think the first reason is a cover up for the last. I personally can’t stand Lash Glue for holding anything to my face. It doesn’t hold up well in humidity, and any oil on your skin is going to cause the bindi to plop right off. Even if you’ve cleaned your skin pre-application you’re still going to be making oils through the day, and your bindi is going to fall off. If this is your only option because of allergies, you need to be sure you let the glue dry until it’s -very- tacky. Put a smear on your skin, then on the bindi and wait until both are tacky and stick them together. This will give you the best shot.

Now, Spirit Gum. Yes, it can be a bit tricky to locate offline if you don’t know where to look for it. It’s inexpensive, running from 1-6 dollars for a small bottle. You can find it at any costume store year round, it’s with the make-up or latex FX parts. One bottle will last your over a year. Many bindi vendors also sell spirit gum.

Be sure to do a test patch on your skin to be sure you’re not allergic. It’s not likely you will be, but as I stated above, some people are. I do know a few dancers with very sensitive skin, and they don’t have an issue using Spirit Gum. Even if you don’t have a skin sensitivity, you could still have a nasal sensitivity. For example, my skin takes it fine, but depending on the quality of the gum I can get a headache after wearing a bindi for hours. It’s not bad enough to force me to use Lash Glue.

To use the spirit gum, you’ll need to coat the back of the bindi and set it to dry. While it’s drying, wipe clean the patch of skin on your forehead. You need to apply this to bare skin, no make up and no primer. Once the spirit gum is tacky, press the bindi to your skin, hold for ten seconds, and you should be good to go. Sometimes heavier bindis can take a bit more hold time. For very heavy bindis, you’ll need to apply some spirit gum directly to your skin as well as the back of the bindi (spirit gum bottles usually frown on this). Tap your finger on your skin until it becomes tacky, then stick bindi to skin. Hold for 10 seconds and carefully let go. I have seen some bindis so heavy the dancer needed to lay back while the spirit gum completely dried.

The best time to buy spirit gum is the day after Halloween. Shockingly enough, the bottles bought at Wal-Mart are high quality and don’t let me down! I found prices there as low as 10 cents a bottle post Halloween.

You’ll want to look for a liquid that has the texture of a quality maple syrup. If it’s too runny or too thick it’s not going to work well. It should be an amber to pale gold in color and semi-transparent.

To remove, just peel your bindi off. If in the event it doesn’t easily peel off, pour a rubbing alcohol or an astringent based makeup remover between the bindi and your skin to loosen the adhesive  I’ve only ever seen this happen once, and I stand by the fact the person the bindi was stuck to was just being a baby.

Rub the area where the bindi was with your finger tips to ball up the gum, and then clean your skin as you normally would.

3. Can I reuse this?

The beauty of buying hand made bindis is you can easily reuse them as long as you take good care of them! Cleaning and storage is easy.

4. Bindi Cleaning

Cleaning your bindi(s) is very simple and easy. All you need is a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a couple Q-tips/Cotton Swabs.

Simply saturate the swab with rubbing alcohol and start swabbing the gunk off the back of your bindi.

For super gunked up bindis, you can saturate the back of the bindi with the rubbing alcohol and let it set for a few minutes. I’ve even gone as far as setting one face down in a small pool of rubbing alcohol.

You don’t have to clean your bindi after every use, but it is advised to prevent adhesive build up. If you’re like me and have people bumming bindis off you for loaners, you want to lend out a clean bindi, not one with your skin cells stuck to it…although this might have been a key to making people remember their own bindi and stop asking me for mine. Haha!

After you’ve de-gunked the back of your bindi, just let it air dry.

I’ve tried cleaning bindis with other things…Dish soap, Make-Up Remover, Make-Up Brush Cleaner…Nothing works as well as rubbing alcohol.

5. Bindi Storage

If you’ve only a few bindis, storage is quite simple. Many dancers use old mint containers, which I think is an amazing option. You can even glue a small mirror on the inside of the lid.

Now of you’re like me, and just can’t contain your bindi addiction, you’ll need something a little more hard core. What I’ve found that works really amazingly is bead containers found at craft store, the sort that have rows of “tic-tac” boxes lined up inside. One bindi per box all neatly held in the larger box. It keeps your bindis safe and sound. The best part, is these come in multiple sizes!

Some dancers opt to have a decorated box that sits out on their make-up station. I have both a simple plastic box for my medium bindis, and then a decorated box for my small and large ones that wont fit into a tic-tac box.

6. Things you don’t think about.

-Don’t waste money on spirit gum remover. EVER. A bottle of “Spirit Gum Remover” is just rubbing alcohol. You’ll pay twice as much for something in a teeny tiny little container.

-Emergency Bindi Storage. I find my wallet is the best place for a way-ward bindi. Sometimes you just don’t want to wear it anymore, or despite your best efforts, it falls off, stick it in your wallet so you don’t lose it. In a pinch, sticking it to your boob under your bra will work as well. Avoid the nipple area. The warmth of your body will heat the glue back up, and the bra will hold it in place so it won’t go slipping around or falling out.

-For easier removal, remove any wayward brow hairs you may have. Knock out that uni-brow or risk having all those hair ripped out when you pull your bindi off!

My go to shop for hand made Bindis has always been Big Ass Bindis. She started her company long before anyone else in our area was making bindis. http://www.etsy.com/shop/BigAssBindis

Pat Roman is a BULLY…Why?

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This man…is an asshole. You sir, are a Bully, and a Troll.

http://www.facebook.com/pat.roman.16

I have the pleasure of being part of a large and wonderful dance community. I know some of the most talented and beautiful women Ohio has, not to mention PA, MI, IN, OR, MA, FL, CO, AZ, and who knows where else…we’re hard to keep track of. We work hard, we train, we study, we spend money on costumes and classes, we teach, we build, and we love and support each other.

Most of the time, we have a wonderful relationship with the mundane community around us. And there are times, unfortunately, that someone surfaces and for whatever reason, they don’t like what we do. We understand of course, many people have a bad image of a belly dancer, and it’s not their fault they’re uneducated. We have a deep stigma, we get that. We’re happy to talk to people about what it is that we do, and why it’s not slutty…I get that.

What I don’t get, is men…and yes, it’s 99% of the time men…who bash us, calling us fat, stupid, vain, selfish, or any other word that could insult our appearance, and that includes the personality we convey to our audience. I’m grouping it all in one big lump here. I don’t understand the need to bully people.

Earlier today, with no good reason, a fellow dance sister was attacked. Mariah is well known and very talented Middle Eastern Diva in North Eastern Ohio. Mariah, aka Maria Parasson is well educated, sweet, supportive, and an over all nice person. (Who also gave me permission to blog about this!) She, like many MANY dancers has a Facebook profile… (www.facebook.com/maria.parasson and while we’re at it, here’s her website, http://www.mariaparasson.com) , and like most bellydancers, her profile is filled with new and old pictures, candid shots, professional shoots, stage pictures, pictures of her with other dances, classes, workshops, contests, pageants, and friends and family.

Out of no where, Mr. Pat Roman (Yes, his real name. I’m not protecting him.) started posting comments on one of Maria’s pictures. He called her Vain…then went on to tell her she was vain and should post some “life stuff”.  Maria blocked him, but thanks to Facebook he won’t be able to not-comment for another 36 hours (it’s been about 12 since this all started). From there it escalated to attacks on her body, he started calling her “fat ass” and accusing her of admiring herself and finally asking of all odd things, why she’s not married.

I did some research…this man is married with two teen aged girls aged 13 and 16. It horrifies me to think this man is raising two teen girls. This is the sort of thinking that makes a girl question her self worth…It’s this sort of man who beats a woman’s self image into the ground. It’s THIS sort of man that we as dancers fight against. We spend years fixing what they did. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve run into who have come from a bad place, have come from a place where someone (usually a man) has made them feel bad about their bodies. I think that’s why this angered me so much.

It’s obvious Mr. Roman wants some attention, so I figured I’d give him some by posting this blog. Am I being e better person? No. I’m sure a better person would just leave the man alone…and you know, I almost did…until he started commenting again. NO MAN HAS THE RIGHT TO EVER…..EVER MAKE A WOMAN FEEL BAD ABOUT HERSELF!!! Maria is a strong woman, she knew better than to take this to heart, and she knows Mr. Roman is a sad little man…but the point is…Men like him need to be put into their place.

This is abuse. This is mental abuse.

Here’s my personal response in the thread.

To Pat Roman-

You sir, are a jerk. Lets address your first point, calling Maria vain and claiming she has no friends. First off, Maria is a professional and her profile reflects her profession. She of course has many pictures of herself posted, but if you kept creeping through her albums, you’d clearly see she has many friends and supporters. She’s well loved in our community and the many posts above mine coming to her support should speak clearly. Secondly, your insult calling her a fat ass shows you have a disrespect  for women. Maria is what a healthy woman looks like. She is tall and her body is well toned, what you call fat is muscle. Do you speak to your daughters and wife like this? Do you call -them- fat? It’s comments like yours that beat women with a lower self esteem into the ground. You Sir, a re what’s wrong with this world. Maria is a highly respected entertainer who is well educated and puts hours into her craft, she works to help build up women’s self esteem and self image. What did you really hope to accomplish by insulting her? You’re lucky no one is posting on your wall right now letting the world know what a jerk you are. Go back to killing deer and stay out of culture and the arts.

I’m touched that so many people rallied to Maria’s aide, although she clearly is a strong enough woman and doesn’t need it. I’m so happy that there’s an outrage against the abuse on women’s self esteem. I’m so happy there are women and men who will stick up for each other.

I want women and girls to know (and men too) that you should never hold on to a negative opinion. Don’t let one small minded person change how you see yourself. You’re worth more than what a narrow-minded small person thinks. You are pretty, you are smart, you are worth it. No one has the right to tell you otherwise. Everyone is beautiful, all sizes, all shapes. Rock what you were given and be proud of who you are.

I hope Mr. Roman enjoys his new found fame. He wanted his opinions heard, and now they’re going to be seen over and over again by thousands of people….That’s what happens when you’re an asshole and post on a public forum. I hope he learns his lessons, and I hope his daughters grow up being treated better than he’d treat a stranger.  I hope they both become bellydancers.

Here’s a screen shot of the thread, I’ve blocked out the names of Maria’s friends to protect them. I’ve left myself, Maria, and Mr. Roman’s names alone.

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And before you come and attack me as revenge, Sir….Yes. I am a fat ass. I’ve been fat my ENTIRE life. Yes, I am vain. I’m PROUD of myself. And NO, I’m not married…BECAUSE MY HUSBAND DIED OF CANCER IN MARCH. I think I’ve covered all the bases of your insults….oh wait. Friends. I have tons of those. So bring it, and enjoy your new fame.