Sunday, November 22, 2015


Charlton Heston in the 1956 version of The Ten Commandments

1. Dance Is The Lord Your God, The Dressing Room Your Temple
 We worship at the altar of dance; we live  and breathe for it. Seriously, to a dancer, dance is spiritual; it’s a religion. That means preparing for a show is an act of devotion. The places we usually “worship” in aren’t made of alabaster pillars and draped in brocade, filled with priceless relics. They’re often up or down steep flights of well-worn stairs, the  walls covered in graffiti, full of lamps with missing light bulbs. They’re stuffy and musty or too drafty, and no matter how spacious they are, they’re always too small. But just like an  ancient temple, what happens inside a dressing room is pure magic.

 2. Thou Shalt Not Hog Mirror and Counter Space
 It’s always a good idea to get into the dressing room early so you can claim a prime spot for getting ready. But just cause you arrived at the venue on time doesn’t mean that you’re allowed spread out over half the backstage territory. Hang your costumes up if there’s a rack and stow your gig bag- with your street clothes in it -under your make up station or in a corner, not on a couch or chair that someone might want to sit on.  Keep your cosmetics contained to an area that’s roughly the width of your shoulders- the room’s going to get crowded soon and mirror space will be at a premium. If you’re done with your stage make up and there’s somewhere else you can go, it’s courteous and professional to offer your mirror space to another performer, especially one who came in from out of town and didn't have the leisure of getting ready at home. If you’ll need your spot back later- like to put on a wig, do a make up change, or costume change, just say so.

3. Thou Shalt Cleanse Thine Dressing Area Continuously
 If you’ve blown through five make up wipes and half a package of Q-Tips while getting you’re Stage Face on, if you've just wolfed down a power bar, used a bunch of double-sided tape, opened a new package of hose, unwrapped a gift, or finished a bottle of water, throw that stuff away pronto! There’s limited space in any dressing room- no matter how large it is – and that’s before a bunch of dancers start cramming into it. Quarters are always tight and space is at a premium, so it’s seriously doubtful that other cast members would be super-enthused about preparing for the stage amidst your trash.

4. Thou Shalt Not Run Thine Number Within The Sacred Inner Sanctum Of The Dressing Room
 Some dancers pop in their ear buds and quietly listen to their music while they’re getting ready. Others practice in the hallway, on the stage after tech rehearsal is over, or   go outside the venue to run their numbers a few last times. However, many soloists, and even troupes somehow think it’s ok to crank up their music and rehearse right there in the dressing room, amidst the suitcases, cosmetic bags, garment racks, and all the other dancers, many of whom are trying valiantly to get dressed while dodging somebody else’s elbow during a quick turn sequence. We’ve all seen this, cause it happens constantly!

 Dancing in the dressing room is a really big no-no.  It’s extremely discourteous to other cast members, on many levels.  Consider the following ideas and you’ll get the picture.  Many dancers don’t want to hear your music, they’d rather hear their own…and that’s precisely why they brought their ear buds.  Others desire a peaceful environment so they can get in character, or into The Zone for their performance. Several performers of all levels of experience have serious stage fright, and a boisterous rehearsal in a tiny space will work their last nerves. And nobody wants to have his or her costumes knocked off the rack or get a black eye cause you wanted to rehearse!

There’s a reason it’s called a dressing room, not a rehearsal hall or dance studio.  Please respect that.

If you truly need to run your number and the only place to do it is inside the dressing room, at least give everyone fair warning before you start, and limit running the number to one time, ok?

5. Thou Shalt Only Use Thine Inside Voice Within Thine Dressing Room
 It’s always terrific to have some serious backstage bonding.  The dressing room is often the single place many of us get to catch up with close friends we only see a few times a year. We joke, we crack each other up until we’re crying, and we gossip and swap dancer war stories. We compare costumes and trade make up hints, some of us enjoy a glass  (or more likely, a plastic cup) of wine together before or after the show.   A lively group of dancers who’re stoked to see each other and all  amped  up on performance  adrenalin can make for a really fun ‘n’ rowdy time. Although we dancers know that the “real” show often takes place backstage, it’s important to remember that there’s an actual show going on, and the performers onstage –as well as the audience- really don't need to hear us shrieking about the latest rumors or the adorable pair of boots someone just got on sale.

Also, many backstage areas have notoriously bad cell reception, so please remember not to scream into your phone, and that it needs to be put on vibrate or shut off just before the curtain goes up. Oh yeah, and if there’s a toilet in your dressing room, don't flush it until intermission!

6. Thou Shalt Switch Off Or Unplug All Appliances When Not In Use
 Do this for safety’s sake! How many times have you seen a red hot curling iron left plugged in on a dressing room counter top, when the owner is nowhere in sight… and there are highly flammable costumes nearby? Can you count that high?  I can’t. Once I was in a green room where some idiot had left a flat iron plugged into a wall socket, sitting in a puddle of water in the sink! 

Turn off or better yet unplug everything with a cord after you use it, including but not limited to hot rollers, electric kettles, flat irons, electric shavers, blow dryers and curling irons. And don’t forget the vanity lights on the mirrors when you’re done with your make up- if no one else is using them, they don’t need to be on, because they’re so damn hot they can turn a crowded dressing room into a sauna in no time at all!

 7. Thou Shalt Not Leave Food Or Drink In Close Proximity Near Thy Neighbor’s Personal Belongings
 Sure, you  need that miso soup, latte, burrito or  sports drink to keep your energy up before you go on… and there are many dancers who simply can’t live without chocolate or red wine backstage- but please do not leave any of this sustenance sitting out next to someone else’s make up and costumes!

8. Thou Shalt Respect Thy Neighbor’s Costumes, Make Up And Props
 While it goes without saying that you’ll probably covet thy neighbor’s costumes (who doesn’t?) please don’t touch anyone else’s stuff without their permission. Period. End of Story.  And do not move someone else’s things- no matter what it us-for any reason, unless you ask first.  Somebody could need a specific prop, accessory, wig or cosmetic product for a quick change; your dressing roommate might’ve placed it there specifically so they could access it immediately. If you absolutely must move something when the owner isn’t there, let them know about it the second you see them. If you’re about to go onstage and have just moved an item, ask someone else to inform its owner that it’s been moved.

9. Thou Shalt Issue Forth A Spritz Alert Before Spraying Thine Products
 Before you douse yourself in hair spray or your favorite fragrance, please announce to everyone that you’re about to use self-tanner, perfume or Aquanet, or whatever, and make sure it’s ok… someone might be severely allergic to the product(s) you’re about to use.

10. Thou Shalt Leave Thine Dressing Room In Better Condition Than Though Hath Found It
 Some productions have a volunteer crew to tidy up the dressing rooms, or assign small backstage cleaning tasks to each dancer, but many do not. Also, many venues actually charge show producers   cleaning fees for dressing rooms that were left looking like a tornado hit them. No matter what condition the dressing room was in when you first entered, it’s just plain old good karma to leave it spotless!


Come say hi to me on the Inter-Webs !

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Khalil Gibran wasn't ever a dancer... but apparently he knew all about trolls!

 Every profession has its pitfalls, and the world of dance is no different. But the arts and the entertainment industry -dance in particular-definitely has it’s own set of rules. There have always more performers than jobs, and it’s probably been that way since cave people built the very first prehistoric stage.  Every community built around  a certain profession has its stars… and it’s problems, but with dance, there are always critics ready to pounce, or an underling whose just waiting for their own personal All About Eve moment. In the world of  dance, perhaps more than any other profession except maybe acting or modeling, there will always be someone stepping forward to judge you on everything from your technique to your looks.  There are  those who’ll delight in taking you down a few pegs…or taking your place. Unlike other artistic  communities, where the naysaying and unwanted reviews often come from   an outside source,  for dancers,our worst critics are usually our peers, colleagues, students or a disgruntled friend.

The undermining, snide comments and offhand compliments are meant to sting, and outright hate can take many forms: face-to-face, behind your back, and more often for the past few years, online. Perhaps the online trolling and bullshit – yes, I said that- is probably the worst, because even though many social media sites have an anti-bullying policy and options for blocking  “hate speech”, often it’s still pretty damn hard to get those ugly comments taken down.

 Usually, when anyone- even a sister dancer- acts like this, it’s because they’re operating from a base of fear. Often they have self-esteem issues and feel bad about themselves…so they take it out on you, hoping to ease their own pain. These hate campaigns can be outright and overt or very subtle, but they still do the damage they’re intended to do!

And sometimes online, the people-or should I say subhumans masquerading as people- lurking can actually be dangerous and need to be reported.

 Here are examples of a few of these bullies and their hurtful, trolling behaviors- and some tips on what to do about them if you’re the target.

 We all know about the concept of frenemies- the dance pals who’re all tight with you… until the green-eyed monster of jealously strikes. They believe you’re getting the opportunities that they deserve, or you’re more getting more attention than they are.  In reality, they could be envious of anything: an unintentional slight you made, that expensive costume that looks great on you, or maybe you got an audition they wanted. It could even something you have no control over whatsoever- like the fact that your spouse or partner is supportive of your dance career and theirs isn’t.  No matter what the reason, suddenly they turn on you.

Society has conditioned us all to be nice and not to make waves…so frenemies try to “kill you with kindness”, meaning they’ll use an indirect-and seemingly innocent- way of ruining your self worth.   Don’t be fooled: this is straight up passive/aggressive behavior.  If someone says something to you that seems patronizing, makes you feel inferior about anything, or just doesn’t sit right, you’re dealing with a frenemy. The comment could possibly be unintentional, so let the first time slide. But if this behavior continues, it’ll only escalate.  Trust your gut instinct: if your stomach knots up when someone says something- even if they wonder why you’re making “a big deal about it”, you have a few choices:

 Let it roll off: for whatever reason, your very existence is alarming to your frenemy. You make her feel small and unimportant.  Look at your frenemy with empathy and compassion, and just let the comment go.  Take the high road and be the bigger person!

Detach and refuse to engage: She’s throwin’ some shade out like a fishing line, hoping you’ll bite- so don’t join in and try to one-up her, cause that’ll only spread more toxic vibes. Your reputation is waaay more important than getting back at someone, whether you're a professional performer, an instructor, or just in the same dance class.

Try speaking with the frenemy privately:  Again, be as compassionate as possible, but don’t be a damn doormat.  Be open, honest and don’t blame, cause that will put your frenemy on the defensive. Use   “I” language, such as “I felt hurt” or “I have been wondering why…” At best, this will open up a dialogue, and it can also be healing.  But you might have to…

Disengage:  If any of the tactics above didn’t work, you may ultimately have to cut this person out of your life, or at least be around them as little as you possibly can.  You don’t need someone that negative around you… especially if they’re making you feel like crap about something you love- dancing! 

 Say BUH-BYE! 

  But make sure to say it silently, inside your own head…and don’t ever even consider diminishing your own success- or even ceasing to lightly brag about your accomplishments!  You worked damn hard for what you’ve got- celebrate what you’ve achieved. If your frenemy put as much effort into her dance practice as she did with trying to make you feel insignificant, she’d be probably celebrating, too.

 Underminers have many faces, and they’ll use similar tactics as frenemies, but the difference is, often the people who are undermining you are also in a position to help you, so you need to be very savvy about the way you treat them!

  A professional underminer can be an instructor, a show or event producer, or even a dancer you don’t know very well, who is a bit   “above” you career-wise.  These underminers are often well-respected dance community members, but again, for some reason (like your frenemy peers) they feel threatened by you.  The reasons are many- and often crazy.  Could be that they’re feeling their age and are jealous of your youth -and the entire lifetime of opportunities you have in front of you.  Perhaps they’re offended by something non-dance oriented, something that’s ridiculous and commonplace…  like the blue streaks in your hair or your tattoos.  More likely, your talent, technique and skills- intimidate them and they see you as an “upstart”.  In order to put you in your place, an underminer will make damaging remarks to you or to people your know, verbally or in print on the internet, that could potentially tarnish your reputation- or interfere with your entire career!

The underminer M.O is a bit different than the tactics a frenemy uses.  Sometimes they’ll make catty comments   to you, with no constructive value whatsoever. But even worse, under the guise of  “professionalism”, an underminer will be nice- and often extremely flattering- to your face, but will gossip to others about you behind your back OR show their dissatisfaction by denying you opportunities.

There are two   basic ways to deal with underminers.  They’ll both involve eating a little crow, but once you know   that you’re making a wise career decision, you’ll be able to swallow that crow up and ask for seconds! 

 The first tactic is to have a private conversation, exactly the same way I suggested   for frenemies.    Do this in person or write a heartfelt email- or even a handwritten note- and begin that note with a few sincere sentences bout how much you respect the underminer, and admire their accomplishments. Only then can you bring up the fact that you’re wondering what    you did to upset them.

 The second idea- and the one that’s usually way more effective- is to seek that person out, look them straight in the eye, and ask for their advice.  Even if you don’t want or need it, think up something- anything- to ask them about. Psychologically, this immediately puts the underminer in a position of authority, which is exactly what they need to feel good about them, especially where you are concerned.  It also implies that you respect them and hold their opinion in high esteem, which’ll give them oodles of warm fuzzies towards you. Everyone wants to feel needed and admired!  It’ll even make some underminers feel protective over you.   At the very worst, they’ll feel all puffed up and proud, and might back off a little. And at best, who knows?   Maybe   you’ll actually become friends, or get a for-reals mentor.

These days, with social media rockin’ everyone’s world 24/7, it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter an Internet troll… they’re all over the place!  These are the killjoys-often total strangers- who post negative comments on Facebook or Twitter feed, or write stupid, mean stuff  (usually misspelled!)  on your YouTube channel.   If it’s only a comment or two, just delete it… that person is probably sitting in their office cubicle at a boring job – or in their mom’s basement- feeling small and insignificant and gets their jollies by posting crap about people who are actually having fun and being productive.
But if the comments continue and/or grow aggressive, block and report that person!  And do not in any way, shape or form take to heart anything that idiot said, OK?

 These are people that you don’t know at all, or maybe you barely know them- but they simply adore you.  In fact, they’re probably living through you!  These are true fans, and often about as nerdy as it gets. They’ll post effusive, positive comments on your social media sites, and if you see them in real life, they’ll often talk your ear off, sometimes even bring you a little gift or flowers.  These people are truly well-meaning- they really are true fans- but they can also get to be a little much.

Be nice to these people if you see them - do say hi at shows, but keep a little distance.  Chat for a moment but excuse yourself quickly- tell them you need to get backstage and get ready, or pack up your stuff.  On the internet, you can occasionally “like” their comments or type a brief answer back, but don’t do it too often, or they’ll barrage you with comments non-stop.

 Notice I used the word “needy”, and not obsessive.  If someone is obsessed with you, the situation can quickly turn dangerous, which leads us to…

  Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with a stalker; I speak from my own experience- stalkers can be really scary, and   many of them are also potentially violent. Several dancers have had a stalker at some point in their lives- I know one person whose had a stalker for over twenty years. He’s really annoying but relatively harmless; however, her situation is probably an anomaly.  Stalkers can be male or female… but if they’re crazy, and prone to violence, the stalker’s sex doesn’t really matter that much- anyone can own a gun!

 Do not mess around with a stalker; do not engage in any way, shape or form, even if it’s an ex of yours.  Go directly to the authorities; make a police report, and get a restraining order. Once you have one, make copies and always keep a copy with you. Keep a log of any incidents with the date, place and time, and also note if there were any witnesses.

 Make sure you are accompanied at all times, change the locks on your doors if you need to and secure your house.  Vary the patterns of your day-to-day routine.  Change your phone number if you need to, and use a Google Voice number or something similar on your business cards and promotional material.

 Of course, we all know it’s not smart to post the address of your residence on the Internet or anywhere public; but we dancers often post the addresses of our studios, or the places we perform… and that are where your stalker will be waiting!  Make sure you leave these places with a large group always- and with a male accompanying you whenever possible.  If you sense-or know- that someone is following you on foot or by car do not go home!  If you’re driving, go directly to a police station; if you’re walking, hotfoot it to a well lit, public place as fast as you can, and in either situation, dial 911, or whatever the emergency code is in your country.

I know the past few paragraphs about stalkers are somewhat unnerving…in fact, it makes your frenemies look like angels!  But no matter what-or who- you’re dealing with, the whole point is to keep yourself as physically, mentally and emotionally protected as possible… so you can concentrate on doing what you love, to the best of your ability.


   I’m touring the UK and Paris for the next couple of weeks, here’s the dates:

  OCT. 24 , 25  2015  MAIDENHEAD, UK
 Workshop:  Performance Master Class
“Sheikh It” belly dance show  Norden Theater Centre For The Arts

 OCT. 25 , 2015 MAIDENHEAD, UK
 Dance Workshops:  “Abs-olutely Fabulous  Abdominal Technique”
  Golden Age/ Retro Choreography

 OCT. 26, 2015  BRISTOL, UK
 Burlesque Workshop:  “Shake It” Belly Dance Technique for Burlesque Artists
Pink Kitten Dance School
Old Malthouse, Little Ann St., Old Market, Bristol

 OCT. 31- NOV. 1, 2015,  PARIS, FRANCE
 Burlesque Moulin presents workshops w/ Princess Farhana
Oct. 31:  Workshops: Classic American Burlesque ,
 Performance Dynamics  & “Strike A Pose: How To Make The Camera Love You”
Photo-posing workshop & mini photo sessions w/ personal coaching
 (photo sessions with Stacy Reeves Photography)

Nov 1: Workshops “Shake It: Belly Dance Technique For Burlesque Artists;
“I’m With The Brand: Promotion & Marketing For Performers”
Cocktail Hour Q & A

NOV. 3 & 4, 2015 ROTHERHAM, UK
Nov 3:  Event An evening of Tarot readings with Princess Farhana
Nov. 4: Master Class  Intermediate-Advanced Burlesque

NOV. 6-9, 2015  FAREHAM,  UK
 Belly dance & burlesque workshops & Saturday evening show
Nov. 6:   Evening Workshop Classic American Burlesque
Nov 7: Morning/Afternoon Workshops Performance Dynamics ,  Stage Make Up
Evening show  at Ashcroft Arts Center
Nov 8:   Afternoon  Workshops Taxim and abdominal Technique;
 “I’m With The Brand: Promotion & Marketing For Performers”
 Workshops & show at  Ashcroft Arts Center, Osborn Rd. Fareham, Hants

Monday, September 21, 2015


The fringe I'm wearing here is the kind that gives the illusion of  lengthening the torso. Photo: Maharet Hughes
 As performers, our job is to create a gorgeous illusion onstage by transporting the audience out of their everyday life and into another world.  Aside from dance technique and dramatic skills, you’ll also need to look larger than life. Terrific theatrical costuming and stage make up often involves a lot of playing around with optical illusions.  The idea is to trick the audience’s eyes so that you appear as the best possible version of you…or the character you are portraying.

In real life, we have less leeway with creating illusions because people see us “up close and personal”, but on stage there’s a plethora of tweaks we can get away with because we’re much farther away from those discerning eyes.

Here are some smoke and mirror tricks that’ll help you look your best on stage:


Fringe Elements
We dancers love all the blingy bells and whistles that accent our costumes, and we loooove us some fringe! It sparkles like crazy under the hot lights swishing and swinging, accenting even the smallest of movements. But in order for fringe to really work onstage, the placement has to be pinpointed for optimal effect- or it can do a lot of collateral damage.

  Always make sure your fringe is proportionate.

For example, extra long fringe can make a short dancer look way smaller than she actually is; it can even   make her appear squatty by literally “eating” her body. 

A good rule of thumb is: shorter dancer, shorter fringe.

Heavy fringe all over the cups of a bra can also overwhelm a busty dancer and make her look really a little too top-heavy.  For a streamlining, there are a couple of pretty trick-the-eye effects that even out body proportions by lengthening the torso.

The first would be to leave fringe off the cups entirely and just have the fringe as an accent, hanging in the middle, right at the cleavage. Another way would be to use one row of short fringe along the top of the cups, pointing down in a “V” shape, also towards the cleavage, because this will make the cups look smaller and the torso longer and more lithe.

Many belly dance costumes come with fringe hanging straight or in loops all the way around the bra band, and this too can make a dancer (of any body type) look like they have a shorter-and stockier- midriff.   I usually remove the fringe from every place along the bra band except for the center; sometimes I let the fringe under the cups remain as well. On most Egyptian and Turkish costumes, the fringe is easy to remove, because it is pre-strung and knotted between the strands, which means it can be cut without losing any of the beading.

 To remove fringe, turn the costume wrong side out, and you’ll often see the fringe hand-stitched straight onto the bra band. Sometimes it’s tucked in between the costume base and the lining, open the seam, and you’ll see it. 

If you want to be extra careful, before you cut the fringe, take some clear nail polish, dab it at the place you’re going to cut, and let it dry before you slice into it. Cut the fringe all or partially away, and tack the ends down. Sew the lining- if there is one- back up.

 A bonus to this fringectomy is that you can always sew it right back on if you don't like it…ad if you do, you’ll have some extra left over fringe in case some of the remaining fringe wears out.  Fringe is always the first thing to go on a costume, because it gets so much wear and tear so this, as Martha Stewart would say, is A Good Thing.

 Many belly dance and burlesque  costumes have a hip belt, and often it’s hung with fringe.  The shape of that belt can alter your shape! Belts that  are thick  or vertically “tall” or those that are cut straight across tend to make your torso look shorter; if they’re hung with long fringe of a uniform length, they can also make your legs look shorter!  Belts that are cut with a dip or “V” shape in the front lengthen the torso. To make a flat derriere look bigger and rounder, opt for a  belt  that’s narrower in the front but graduates into  a  butt-hugging “U” shape in the back.

If you make your own costumes,  keep these ideas in mind when you’re crafting.

Stripes, Animal Prints And Other Patterns
 The same rules regarding stripes that apply to every day clothes go double for dance costumes: vertical stripes will make you look taller, horizontal stripes will make you appear wider, diagonal stripes look great on almost anyone, they flatter many body types.

Very thin stripes will not show up well on a larger stage, they’ll sort of melt into each other; a costume with thin black and white stripes can actually look gray to the audience.
Thick stripes can look jarring or comical -and unless that’s the look your after, it’s better to forgo them. For the best and most flattering effect, look for stripes that are about one to two inches wide.

Patterned fabric may or may not work onstage, it all depends on the size of the pattern itself, the colors being used, and the type of material it’s printed on.  Florals are always beautiful and feminine, but onstage, unless the audience is extremely close to you, an all-over print of tiny daisies is not going to look nearly as stunning as, say, fabric printed with larger sunflowers.  Most brightly colored, medium-to-large sized floral prints look gorgeous and luxurious, and will prettify dancers of all shapes and sizes.

 If you’re going with an animal print costume, check that the print is large enough to register onstage. An itty-bitty leopard or cheetah print will appear brown or rusty to the audience instead of wild and safari-like, so look for spots that are about and inch and a half in diameter. It goes for any reptile print -or any kind of mermaid costume. Make sure the squares or “scales” are significantly sized so that it reads reptilian or aquatic!

Black Costumes
 In real life, we all adore wearing black- it s slimming, expensive-looking and elegant. Soignee and somewhat mysterious, black also has a rock’n’roll or Goth, witchy edge to it. While black is awesome for real life, be careful when you wear  black costumes!

Wearing black onstage is not impossible, but it can be difficult.

  First of all, you need to know that black can wash almost any performer out, so you’ll need more stage make up than usual… and many of us still don’t wear enough to begin with.  Black costumes need strong eyes, lips, and, unless you want to look like Morticia Addams (and some of us do!) tons of bright blush.

 This next thing I’m about to tell you are super-important to know about black costumes.
If the background of the performance area is black, a black costume can cause the performer’s skin -which is always lighter than the costume, no matter what your race is- to produce an unpleasant optical illusion. The black costume pieces will appear to recede and the performer’s lighter skin will appear to jump forward, causing the dancer to look oddly heavy. This effect is doubled if the performer has dark hair, which will also recede into the background, effectively making the performer look bald…or like she has a floating face!

If you are going to wear a black costume onstage- and I’m pretty sure 99% of us own a black costume- make sure that it has any or all of the following, and you should be ok:

* Choose fabric that has a black-on-black pattern, a metallic sheen, and/or has sheer or lace panels that will allow your skin to show through

* Look for lots of metal or rhinestone decorations

* A black costume that has bright accents or design elements-even if they’re small- in tones such as red, orange, gold, silver, white or any loud, rich color will still read “black” but won’t look dull and drab

 Know Your Venue
 Costumes that look terrific on a large stage and costumes appropriate for a smaller venue are totally different animals. These two types of costumes can be extremely different in color, decorations and construction, cause it’s all about the audience’s perception.

 If you’re working on a larger stage or on film, you can pretty much wear anything-as long as it’s sparkly- and it will look great! Seriously, you would not believe what some stage or film costumes look like up close. Cheap fabrics, plastic rhinestones, faded sequins, pieces of broken jewelry and chunks of missing fringe… all held together with safety pins.  Basically, the costume can be a jumble of trash, and look horrific up close. But under bright lighting, as seen from the audience, these cheap-o thrown-together monstrosities always look spectacular!

  Seriously, some of the absolute crap I’ve worn on stage or in videos and movies is so outrageously bad up close it’s almost a joke, but as long as it’s seen from far away and the lighting is strong, it looks amazing. I was just telling a pal the other day that one of my most iconic Mata Hari costumes is awful up close. For real, it was constructed so slap-dash (over night, for a video shoot) that it’s one step away from having bits of macaroni on it- it looks like a summer camp arts and crafts project!

 However, if you’re working in a smaller, more intimate venue, you must understand that there are no way you can get away with wearing what I like to call “garbage costumes”. When you’re doing shows where the audience will be very close by, always opt for costumes made of quality materials that are in good repair…the best costume you can afford! And of course, they need to fit well, because needless to say, you will not be using safety pins as closures!

Use Your Illusion
Fishnet hose comes in many colors, but the best for stage use are nude (many shades are available to match different skin tones) and black. Because of the open net pattern, black will create an optical illusion and make your legs look more curvy; nude or flesh tones will make your legs appear longer. Though The Radio City Rockettes and Las Vegas showgirls are already long-stemmed, they almost always wear skin-toned fishnets with neutral high-heeled shoes precisely because this combo makes the legs look like they go on for miles.

When you choose fishnets for the stage, stay away from white, as it will make your legs look chunky.  Also, be sure to get a style that has smaller “windows”- some of the fashionable styles have larger squares, and though that may look cute up close at a party, it isn’t at all flattering to a dancer’s legs when she is onstage. Decide what your costuming needs are and which illusion-longer or curvier- you are after.

 I’m sure we are all aware of the benefits of strategically placed padding…but some of us aren’t sure about the optimal way to pad a bra!  For the most boobaliscious look, open the lining of each cup at the sides- not the bottom- and insert your pads vertically, arranging them so that the bottom of the pad sits under the girls, and the upper portion pushes in from the side to create more cleavage.  Shhhh- doesn’t tell anyone- I often use two sets of pads this way for a fuller look.  If your bra cups are bigger than your actual breast size, but not by too much- you can use three sets of pads. Lay one pad across the bottom of the cup, and slip two into each side.  And a word to the wise: shoulder pads are much less expensive than brassiere pads, and work just as well!


If you want to look younger, fresher or just more healthy onstage- no matter whether you’re sick, hung over or “of a certain age”, this one trick will knock your socks off!
Apply blush to the apples of your cheeks only. Find the apples of your cheeks by smiling, then load a domed blush brush up with powder, blow or tap off the excess product and gently brush the product into the center of the apples, then curve it slightly up, in a “C” shape towards your temples.  For stage there’s almost no such thing as too much blush, but if you feel like you’ve applied a bit too much color, gently blend the blush with a dry cosmetic sponge or tone it down a little with some translucent loose powder.
In these photos of Marilyn Monroe, you can clearly see her over-lined lips... and that the top lip is slightly longer while the bottom lip is much more  rounded
If you’re going with a bright red or pink lipstick onstage- and I know most of us do- always make sure it’s got a blue undertone. Blue-red or blue-pink makes anyone’s teeth truly appear pearly white! As we age, our teeth- no matter what our habits- tend to become a bit more yellow… and some people naturally have teeth that are more ivory than white. This optical lip illusion works wonders, creating a super-snow white smile!

Onstage, I am a nut with lip-liner; I go for the full Joan Crawford Effect by over-lining my lips almost a quarter inch outside their natural parameters.  From the stage, under hot lights, this is another fabulous (and very anti-aging) optical illusion, because as we get older, our lips lose collagen and become thinner and less plump…or maybe you just have a smaller mouth.

When you line your lips, a rounded Cupid’s Bow always looks much more pillowy and kissable than a pointed one. Also, after I have my “full mouth” on, I always go into the bottom corners of the lip and wipe the color out of them.   This makes the top lip appear a little bit wider and the bottom lip look just a tad fuller. I stole this trick from   the legendary Hollywood makeup artist Whitey Snyder, who was such a whiz that Marilyn Monroe wouldn’t let anyone except him touch her face!  In fact, it was Snyder who created Marilyn’s signature bombshell face.  If you look at any of her photos, pay attention to her lips and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Taking this lip treatment a couple of steps further, before you line them in your regular colored liner, draw the top line on first with a pearly white pencil- it will make your lips stand out and look pleasingly puffy on an Angelina Jolie level. After penciling in the white, then over-draw the shape of your mouth in a bright color that matches your lipstick.  And when you’re done with the lipstick, rub a little dot of pearly white eye shadow into the direct center of your bottom lip, an effect that makes it look more luscious, but also gives the illusion of shine.

A super-fab trick for making your eyes look brighter is to use dark blue liner... as opposed to black or brown.  Blue liner plays an optical trick, making the whites of your eyes really alabaster-white.  For stage, I apply the dark blue powder shadow first, and then go over them with a black gel liner, which adds definition while retaining the softer look of the powder.

  Try some or all of these tricks…  seriously, they’re like magic!




Monday, September 7, 2015


Phoenix performing at Art Of The Belly in Maryland, photo by Stereo Vision
I have always said that the  world of dance is chock full of  amazing alpha women… and Phoenix, a Denver, Colorado based belly dancer who teaches workshops and performs nationally, is probably one of the most  dynamic chicks I know! A virtual power house, she’s not only an incredible  performer and instructor- she’s  a dance mamma  to legions of dancers in her hometown and directs  a couple of troupes-  she’s also an event producer , a full-time nurse, a terrific cook, and a doting  kitty mamma.

 I met Phoenix  years ago at  the Tribal Dreams belly dance event in Nebraska, and was blown away by her powerful and artistic performance ( her non-stop spins and work with Isis Wings were both off the hook!) as well as her sweet, fun loving off-stage personality.  It was there that I discovered  that  she the co-sponsor  along with partner  Selayma Anan, of  the long-running annual “Shimmy 2B Free”,  a large-scale belly dance event and theater show  in Denver. The  proceeds going to  various  foundations  assisting with health,  financial and socio-economic issues, and the show and workshops are super well-organized. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching and performing there twice, and the event, in addition to raising funds for worthy causes, always runs like clockwork.

Phoenix’s  unique  belly dance style is  a pastiche of Egyptian and Turkish cabaret, spiritual dance, khaligi,  and  tribal, and she’s also into various types of fusion, with performances ranging from  progressive and transcendent theatrical   and dark Goth pieces to light-hearted comedy acts. She’s a master at Isis Wings, often using custom  wings two at a time. In 2008  she  released her internationally acclaimed  instructional DVD “Isis Wings With Phoenix”.

  She's  also  the  creator and publisher of  "Dancing From Within",  an innovative  deck of  belly dance class cards. This deck , based on her  holistic knowledge and  teaching methods, focuses on physical and emotional development using the chakras, elements, movement and technique, and is a great tool for students, teachers or troupes.

 Phoenix is always s always preternaturally calm  at shows, whether she’s organizing , performing or both… maybe it’s the nurse thing-  she’s used to dealing with  critical situations on an every day basis!

 Walk softly and carry large swords: Phoenix  by Artist Edge Photography

 Here, in her own words, are some of Phoenix’s backstage secrets:

“For me prepping for a great show involves organization and focus.  I am an improvisation dancer most of the time but this still involves some preparation regardless if the music is picked in advance or it is a live band.

Organizing myself prior to a show may be the morning of - or day before if I can swing it.  I consider my audience, music and venue.  If I’m  not dancing to live music, then I do like to have my picked prior to that week and listen to it.  This helps 'set the stage' for what I am planning to present.  Knowing that setting helps me decide on what am I planning to present.  What I mean by that is - is it emotional, fun, flirty, dark or what is the energy or story?  Knowing this helps me easily pick my costume and make up.  Once I have these items planned out then the performance often flows with ease. 

Practicing for the show means listening and dancing to the piece of music or the band.  When I do choreograph a piece, I am working on remembering it but ensuring the choreography is not forced and feels natural.  For most of my performances, I practice dancing to the music to get a feel for the changes and accents.  Knowing the music for an improvisation piece allows me to relax and interact with my audience.

The day of the show, I  like to have a little down time. It might be relaxing with my cats or taking  time with the troupe.  I try to not pack my day if at all possible. Sometimes, that’s  not avoidable so in those cases I do try to have some quiet time while I put on my makeup.  The day of the show, I only allow myself to run a routine one or two times if at all.  Practicing too much the day of the show actually stresses me out.  I often have a much smoother performance if I have a "go with the flow" attitude.

The hour or two before the show, I have my costume, props and cover up ready to pack.  I prefer to get ready at home and show up mostly dressed if possible.  I try to arrive  early as the drive is always the most stressful time for me.  I am always concerned about surprise traffic and such.  So once I am there then I can take a moment to relax.

The moments before my performance, I do a little warm up with shimmies, slides and a few pops.  I can use whatever music is there to do this or might listen to mine in an iPod.  This ensures my muscles are awake and ready to roll.  I do try to have a minute of private focus time by just standing alone and deep breathing to relax my mind and body.  I do often get backstage 4 to 5 numbers prior to mine to ensure my costume is in place and ensure I do not distract from other acts.  I can often watch from the side stage while doing a quiet warm up and focus.  It is hard for me to sit still prior to dancing so I love being earlier in a show rather than later.  This way I get to see more of the show also!

I feel working together backstage is really important for all.  The energy we create impacts each other.  I love being a part of shows where people are excited even if they are nervous.  If there is a drama or turmoil, I avoid it to ensure that I do not absorb negativity. 

As any sponsor will tell you, the ritual and plan for shows where you are the sponsor changes drastically.  The basic ritual is to ensure all are okay and show is starting then be backstage on time.  For these shows, I pick music and props that do not require a ton of prep and often dance to music I have used in the past. 

Experience has shown me that if I need too much prep time, something might happen so 'keep it simple' and 'remember what brought you here'.   I feel if you hit the stage with that attitude and good training - that is what the audience also came to see!”


 Phoenix  is teaching at The Las Vegas Belly Dance Intensive on  this coming Sunday, Sept. 13th, 2015  8:30-10:00am.   Her “Express Yourself” workshop focuses on connecting emotionally to the music.


 Find out more about Phoenix’s classes and shows in Denver as well as her national events ,  her cards and DVD  here:

Visit the Shimmy 2B Free website: