Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Lisa Zahiya is one hot ticket!

An incredibly versatile and strong dancer, Lisa travels nationally to perform and teach traditional and contemporary belly dance ( incorporating many different styles!) as well as Bollywood, Bhangara, and hip hop. Based in Asheville, she also owns Studio Zahiya, and is on the faculty at the University Of North Carolina, where she teaches-you guessed it- dance.

I first met her at Onca O'Leary's ABSFEST 2007, and the next year was sitting on the judging panel at Belly Dance Of The Universe when she won the fusion competition, with a hawt Fosse-inspired number. Since then, she's won many more competitions and is getting lots of recognition for her fabulous work.

March 3 & 4, 2012 She will be teaching and performing in Pittsburgh, PA, and March 16 & 17 Lisa will be in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Here, in her own words, is how she prepares for her shows:

"When I put on my makeup I listen to a playlist called "songs I love" either at home or wherever I'm getting ready. I imagine that is the transformation from Lisa Newton (my legal name) to Lisa Zahiya. I use that time to put aside whatever is happening in my life and focus on what I'd like to do in the performance.

Right before I go on I take 5 deep breaths with my eyes closed and try to remove myself and my ego from my performance, I say thank you as gratitude for being able to perform and devote my life to this and then say "please allow me to do whatever this audience needs today." This makes me try to focus on who I am performing for and not myself..."


Monday, February 27, 2012


Once you start using false eyelashes on a regular basis as part of your stage make up, you’ll never look back! If there’s one product I couldn’t live without for stage shows, hands-down it’s false eyelashes. They make even the smallest eyes look huge, expressive, and super-sexy, and they lend an exotic, lovely doe-eyed look to anyone- of any age- who wears them.

I’m so addicted to my faux lashes, that every time I take them off after a show, I get a sad little hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach…and then when I put them on again for my next show, I heave a sigh of heartfelt relief and think to myself,

“ Now…there’s the face I know and love!”

There’s only one thing that’s better than wearing a great set of false eyelashes…and that’s stacking your lashes…wearing two sets at a time!

Stacking your lashes creates a really gorgeous look, and also appears a bit more dimensional and alluring than just one set of thick lashes, because the lashes have a bit more texture from the stacking, with all the individual hairs appearing very slightly uneven...and spectacular!

Stacking eyelashes can be done in many combinations, for a variety of different looks. You can easily stack two pairs of lashes that are the same size and thickness; use two short-ish pairs of lashes for a pumped up “natural” look (yeah, right!) Or use two longer, thicker pairs to recreate a really incredible late 1960’s-early 1970’s look, very “Valley Of The Dolls” and vixen-ish.

You can also stack a set of thicker and shorter lashes with a set of longer, wispier lashes, for an exotic effect. In this case, I’d stack the lashes with the longer lashes underneath the shorter pair, so you get the depth, lushness around the eye while the longer lashes flutter up delicately towards your eyebrow every time you bat those peepers!

If you are using fantasy lashes, such as any sort of the popular colored lashes that are available today, or those made from metallic Mylar, you may want to stack your lashes with a black or dark brown set beneath the fantasy lash, so that you get the crazy pop of color but still have a luxurious, dark frame of lashes around the eye itself.

Still another option is to just stack a portion of your lashes, using one full-band false eyelash for each eye, and then use a half or quarter of another lash, stacked only at the outside corner, for a cat-like flare or wing. Or, you can place just a few longer lashes directly in the middle of the eye, where the iris is when you look straight ahead. For these looks, I save the trimmings from every set of eyelashes I cut apart… and if you are an eyelash newbie and don’t know what I mean by this, keep on reading- it’ll be clear in a minute!

To stack your lashes, the first thing you will need to do is get two sets of eyelashes, and make sure to have a couple of extra pairs on hand also, in case you don’t get the hang of stacking right away.

Next, have a look at your lashes, and determine which are for the left eye, and which are for the right. Yes, eyelashes are made differently, with the smaller, shorter hairs meant for the inside corner of the eye. Next, trim each lash (at the outside or longer end) to fit your eyes. Some of us have narrow, almond-shaped eyes; others have eyes that are slightly rounder or extremely round in shape. False lashes are meant for everyone, so most are too long (on purpose) length-wise.

After you’ve trimmed the lashes, apply a thin band of glue to the base of the first set of lashes you’re using, and let it sit for at least 30 seconds – sometimes it might even be more like a full minute - until glue is tacky. The brand of the glue, the amount you put on the lash itself, or even the climate you’re in will determine how quickly the glue dries. I still remember one time when I was performing in Miami, and it was so humid, even in my air conditioned dressing room, that I thought the glue was never going to dry… and I was horrified to think I’d have to go on stage wearing only mascara!

One of the main reasons most gals have a problem with applying false eyelashes is that they try to stick the lashes on when they are too wet, which can result in slippage, or worse- actually gluing your eyelids together! This won’t hurt you or injure your eyes, it’ll just be a huge mess to clean up- you’ll probably have to clean everything off and start over. The other reason is that your false lashes may be too long for your eye-bed, so make sure to trim the lashes, and save the part you cut for future stacking.

As far as glue goes, I recommend using "DUO" glue in clear/white, it’s my favorite because it holds well and is the least irritating of any brand I've used. I also believe that using clear glue is better, because it dries invisibly…but many people prefer the dark-toned glue. If you use the dark-toned glue, it can make mistakes look very obvious, whereas the clear glue dries invisibly.

But no matter which type or color of glue you use, let the glue sit on the faux lashes and get pretty tacky, otherwise you may have a messy mishap! In fact, I think that the reason most women think falsies are difficult to apply is simply because they don’t let the glue set long enough!

When you are ready to apply your first set of lashes, sit them one at a time on your upper eyelids, just above your natural lash-line. Press down lightly in the middle first, and then tap the lash down lightly towards inner and outer corners. I do this with my fingers, but many make up artists use soft orangewood sticks -like the type you’d use to push back your cuticles- or even the (clean) end of a make up brush. After the lash is firmly in place, keep your eye closed for a moment, to let the glue take hold.

Now, it’s time to apply the second set of lashes. Whether you are using a full banded lash or just a portion of a lash at the outer edge, simply place your second set of lashes directly on top of the first pair- it’s that easy!

Some people prefer to stack the lashes first, and then apply the stacked set to the eyes, but I’ve found that I can get an easier and more accurate placement by stacking the lashes directly onto my eye.

When you want to remove the lashes, nine times out of ten, they will come off together, as one unit. Clean them by removing the dried glue, by picking it off with your finger, and then swabbing the lash with a Q-tip soaked in a bit of alcohol. Lay them in their case, and you’ll have a flirty stacked set all ready to use the next time you want to put them on…which I can assure you, will probably be for your very next event!

For detailed instruction on applying false eyelashes and creating a number of beautiful, exotic looks, check out my new DVD "Bombshell: Dramatic Make Up For The Stage, Photos And Glamourous Occasions With Princess Farhana & Devilla.

To see the "Bombshell" promo trailer, go to:

To order "Bomsbshell", go to:

Photo by Dusti Cunningham

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I just returned from San Francisco, where I spent the weekend performing with my dance troupe The Dangerous Beauties, for our debut show at The Darkroom Theater.

Our show was sold out, which in itself was fabulous, but for me, the real highlight was meeting my troupe members! If that sounds odd, it is…. But because The Dangerous Beauties are a brand new “virtual “ belly dance troupe, I had only met some of the other company members on-line!

Calling the Beauties “virtual” makes it seem like kind of like some crazy Internet fantasy community, like “Second Life” but in fact, The Dangerous Beauties are very real. It’s just that all the members of this extraordinary experimental dance company live in different cities…and this is a project that never would be possible if not for the Internet!

The brainchild of Surreyya Hada (Pinole, CA) and Nyla Crystal (Sacramento, CA), Dangerous Beauties is a theatrical belly dance company, combining traditional and contemporary belly dance, fusion, fantasy and wild imagination. Sureyya and Nyla wanted to create a free-floating dance company, with performers who are open to experimentation and all of whom have have strong points in many different areas. Oh, and of course, everyone had to be easy to get along with-a must for any troupe, virtual or not!

Our show has a narrative thread running through the performances, tying the entire thing together (the first theme was Femme Fatale) but other than that, every dancer’s creativity was given free reign, and all ideas and concepts were considered and discussed via the internet. For months, we’ve been coordinating ideas, planning our roles, discussing costumes, and organizing dance numbers in an on-line group. It has been a glorious process and we have just discovered- live onstage, that our forward thinking creative gamble actually works!

The other Beauties are scattered across the West Coast, and include Elizabeth Strong, Rose Harden and Terry Del Giorno (all located in San Francisco, CA) Dusty Paik (Oakland, CA) Farasha (Las Vegas, NV) Sabrina (San Diego, CA) and Katherine Summer O’Neal, from Crockett, California. Everyone in the group has vastly different performance dance backgrounds, in varying combinations of the following ATS, Egyptian raqs sharqi, ballet, modern dance, jazz, circus, stage acting , hip hop, folkloric belly dance, vaudeville/burlesque-you name it- and all of these skills are brought to the table, either in their original forms or fused together. There is a fairly wide range of ages, and everyone is at slightly different points in their careers, which instead of being a cause for concern, is a huge asset.

For our first show, we also had guest stars, which included Bay Area dancers Tatseena and Jodi Waseca, live music from Arabic/ Turkish/ Contemporary fusion band Native Brew, erotic novelist Claudia Long, who read from “Josephina’s Sin” in between dance pieces, and even a dancer who did our lights, the incredibly talented Paige Lawrence.

Aside from some obvious historical figures like Salome, Cleopatra, and Mata Hari, some of the other Femme Fatales portrayed onstage in San Francisco included Slavic witch Baba Yaga, legendary for eating children, Elizabeth Bathory, who is said to have bathed in the blood of virgins, and “forgotten” American journalist Emily Hahn, whose bold writing about Shanghai in the 1920’s was informed by her intense love of opium.

I literally stepped off a plane and into a crazy-crowded backstage at The Darkroom Theater, which was humming with activity… Dusty fastening on her Baba Yaga horn headdress while Nyla set her John The Baptist head on a brass tray; Jodi wriggling into a tight vintage Chinese cheongsam while trying not to step on Surreyya’s swords, Rose wrapping vintage Assuit around her hips which Paige tried to set everyone’s lighting cues above the din of everyone’s “nice to finally meet you” chatter.

We are planning cross-country mini-tours with shows and workshops, and the line-up for The Beauties will continuously morph and change according to who is available on any given date. Currently, confirmed Beauties show dates and workshops are set for the Floralia Festival in New Mexico on May 5 & 6, 2012, and at Zulu Lounge in Los Angeles on June 29th… but there will be more!

Get Dangerous here:

( or click on the "Dangerous Beatuties" live link on the right side of the page )

PHOTOS: Surreyya Hada by Janus Ananaya, Princess Farhana by Zemira, Dusty as Babe Yaga by Princess Farhana

Monday, February 13, 2012


Valentine’s Day… just the thought of it makes me queasy.

I’ve had so many weird, surreal and downright hellish Valentine’s Days, I often entertain the fantasy of going into hibernation on February 13, and then just popping out emotionally unscathed in the wee hours of February 15...kind of like the Groundhog, to shoot a lingering glance at my own shadow. Come to think of it, my shadow has probably been the most stable and enduring relationship I’ve ever had!

Don’t get me wrong- I’ve actually been very lucky in love and love gettin’ lucky, but in my regards to the day itself-and my surviving it- it’s a wonder I haven’t been a recipient of the Purple Heart for sheer bravery, valor and life-threatening battle wounds. In fact, the military-slogan-bearing T-shirts stretched across the buff chests of our country’s off-duty armed forces can best sum up my personal Valentine’s Day experiences:


Or better yet:


I remember one sad Valentine’s Day when the only item in my mailbox that even remotely resembled a heart was a red notice from a utility company! As if that wasn’t bad enough in itself, my evening was packed with shows that only served to rub my single status in my face. Every damn place I danced was so full of cooing couples, I felt like I was performing on Noah’s Ark!

Then there was the February 14 back in the early Eighties, the date I myself had picked, as a hopeless twenty-year-old romantic, to be my Wedding Day. My groom and I, in our sole nod to tradition, arrived separately (and not too hung over) at the hall where our ceremony, which had been booked for the better part of a year, was to be held.

I was a a beautiful bride, a vision in an ivory Fifties strapless organza gown, with an over-lay of French lace embroidered with seed pearls. My hair, bleached ( or should I say “fried”!?) to a popular ‘80’s color known as White Minx, was in a fetching Marilyn Monroe bob, and under my Goodwill Juliet bridal veil, I sported my customary Revlon Cherries In The Snow lipstick. As I daintily stepped out of the car, gathering my train, I was astounded to see dozens of buckets of formerly white carnations, which had been dyed an unnatural psychedelic shade of baby blue.

As I wondered who’d Dumpster-dived the Flower District in honor of my wedding, I spotted legions of Cholos and Low Riders, uniformly bedecked in powder blue Polyester double-knit tuxes…tattooed tears and pompadours covered by homeboy hairnets abounded. The four hundred or so bridesmaids were a symphony in ruffled dresses so tight and shiny they looked like they were auditioning to be the Shark’s molls in a special baby blue colorized version of Westside Story.

Just as I was starting to realize that this was not the result of my hangover or an LSD flashback and that Ted Turner hadn’t been invited, the Unitarian priest who was to be presiding over my ceremony came rushing out to explain to my groom and I (and three quarters of East LA) that the hall had been double-booked.

Tension ran high for a moment, and finally we all decided that a coin-toss was in order. Disgruntled guests from both camps fumbled for their quarters. I actually heard the Best Man whisper to my groom that he had a full tank of gas, a fifth of Scotch, two hundred bucks… and that The Border was only three hours away.

Before my betrothed had a chance to answer, someone pulled out a coin, we won the flip, and had our ceremony first, amongst the blinding neon blue riot of dyed flowers.

I should’ve taken the scheduling snafu as an omen- that turned out to be just my First Wedding. If there are any photos that somehow survived being cut-up or burned, I can assure you they are predominantly baby blue.

Many years later, also on Valentine’s Day, I foolishly accepted a date with an ex of mine, whom I will call Art Boy, to his first major gallery opening. Why I did it, I’ll never know: I was now in the throws of an obsessive crush on my best friend, the sexually ambiguous Collegiate Art Department Head, whom Art Boy and I had both met in happier times at The Blacklite, an infamous Hollywood dive bar, frequented by trannie hookers.

And, of course there was there was the "minor" fact that Art Boy and I had been kind of broken up (oh, excuse me, I really meant hostile and incommunicado) for months.

But hearing Art Boy’s cajoling, honey/silk voice, I magically seemed to forget all of that… as well as the fact that when Art Boy and I had originally embarked upon our passionate and certifiably insane affair three years previously, on February 14th, it had resulted in the spectacularly gut-wrenching dissolution of my Second Marriage.

But Art Boy poured it on shamelessly. He really missed me, he was dying to see me belly dance again. I caved.

So I went to his gallery opening, dressed for sin in a black velvet cat suit and sky-high red platforms, glittering sequined hearts scattered throughout my ass-length, teased Pricilla Presley hair do. Art Boy was looking mighty handsome… but I hadn’t anticipated the busty redhead that was hanging all over him!

Realizing I’d been used for a free performance, I bit the bullet and decided in the name of Professionalism, to dance anyway since I was already there with my stage make up on, and crossed my fingers for good tips.

Mechanically, I started downing multiple plastic cups of the cheap swill that was barely passing for Merlot. The disinterested gallery owner rudely hustled me to a filthy, closet-sized bathroom, the only place I could change into costume. I didn’t realize that the toilet had over-flowed until my gig bag had been sitting on the floor for quite some time… because there was no light. Foul mouthed drunks banged on the door. While I performed, the hem of my costume got drenched in the puddles of beer that had formed on the cement floor, and someone in the crowd accidentally burned a hole in my veil with their cigarette.

When I finished my show, Art Boy was macking ardently on the new gal. Instantly, drinks and insults were flung from both sides, though I do believe I was the one that started it.

My trusted, oldest friend Bobby, who was visiting from Memphis, quickly escorted me out of the melee like the Gallant Southern Gentleman he always has been. Somehow, we wound up at The Blacklite. Collegiate Art Department Head was already there, much to my delight. Much to my dismay, he was there with a date. But by the end of the night, of course I was infatuated with The Date, who looked like a cross between a gorgeous glam rock fag and a 6’ 6” Hitler Youth, with big blue eyes framed by the longest, blackest eyelashes I had ever seen- and they were real!

When the din of the jukebox died down, I detected a Euro Accent. I was madly drunk and suddenly melting from lust…and apparently, he was too. That Valentine’s Day, we began or affair- and also a five year long merry-go-round of love, lies, hot sex, heartbreak, stalking, drug abuse, violence, and psychological torture, all taking place between Collegiate Art Department Head, Tomorrow Belongs To Him and lil’ ole me. You name it, we experienced it. It was a Love Triangle Of Bermudic Proportions.

Thank God all that Valentine’s Day insanity ended about a decade and a half ago, and I’ve been in a wonderful relationship for the past ten years. I’d like to say I’ve learned from my experiences… but I know better. If I was still young and foolish, I’m sure I’d repeat every mistake, and probably make more that were even worse!

My advice to the single set on Valentine’s Day? Let me wake you up when it’s over!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Beautiful stage make up is an absolute necessity for dancers, and also for your audience-it's one of the many elements that transports them away from their everyday lives and into your unique realm of fantasy.

That is precisely why I asked DeVilla to write this guest post below. DeVilla is a fabulous professional dancer, but she's also been a professional Hollywood make up artist for over twenty years. You've probably seen her incredible work on many motion pictures and television shows. She is also my co-star on our brand new instructional make up DVD Bombshell: Dramatic Make Up For The Stage, Photos & Glamourous Occasions. As soon as DeVilla left the set of the "Bombshell" DVD, she went to work on a film featuring a certain caped crusader, which will undoubtedly become one of this summer's blockbuster hits; and she recently completed work on the bio-pic Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried and Sarah Jessica Parker.

The "Bombshell" double-disc DVD will be available for the special discounted pre-order price of $19.99 on my own website, here: from this Monday, February 13 to February 29, 2012.

But for right now, see what DeVilla has to say about creating a gorgeous stage face!

Know Your House: How To Make Sure Your Face Matches Your Performance Space

By DeVilla

As dancers, we perform in many different venues, from house parties and restaurants to festivals under unflattering florescent lighting to large stage events with amazing lighting! These varied situations all require different make up techniques. It’s our job as performers to create the illusion of the illusive, mystical, joyous and free spirited dancer. Hair, make up and costuming all come into play.

“Knowing your House,” means to fully understand your performance space and the lighting situation you will be in. Most of us do not get to perform on a large stage with a lighting tech and great lighting very often, so let’s start there.

If you have the luxury of this situation you really need to take yourself out of your make up comfort zone and go for super-dramatic highlight and shading. Don't be afraid! You need to contour your entire face, including eyes, nose, cheekbones and jaw line- even if you don't need to change the shape of your face. You will want to use a grey brown/ taupe shade for contouring. This neutral tone will suck up light and draw the facial plane backward. Place this shade under your jaw line, under your cheekbones and along the sides of your nose. Be sure to blend well.

Use a lighter flesh tone with some yellow or a bit of iridescent pearl or gold to highlight the top of your nose, and the tops of your cheekbones. Bronzer and cheek color can be utilized over top to help blend it all together! If you don’t use highlight and shading the stage lights are so bright that they will completely wash your face out and you will probably not be seen much past the third row.
That would be a bummer considering how much you spent on that costume!

Here is the trick to knowing when you have enough make up on. During your tech rehearsal or before the show have a friend sit in the center of the theater, or, as they say in the theater, your “house”. She should be in the center chair about half way to three quarters up and she’ll be checking your make up from there. Have her video you in the lighting you will be seen in if possible. If, from that vantage point you look as if you still have a face on, GREAT JOB! If not, go for more highlight and shading, and don't be afraid!

For smaller events in dimmer lighting you will want to use less, but you will still want to create that illusion of perfection from head to toe. I always use varying degrees of highlight and shading to define my face even out side in daylight.

Do your homework, play, experiment and remember, " It's only make up!"

One last thing: To look finished, don’t forget to paint your finger and toenails!

PHOTOS: "Bombshell" cover photo by Dusti Cunningham, DeVilla portrait by Amanda Brooks

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Hello dear readers, I'm appealing to all of you dancers and dance fans near and far, to help out a grand dame of the dance.

Living legend Minnesota-based belly dance pioneer Cassandra Shore, is stuck in the wings temporarily due to an injury that is deteriorating, leaving her unable to dance, or live her day-to-day life, without debilitating pain.

Cassandra is suffering from osteoarthritis in her left hip. The cartilage in the hip socket is completely gone, and the bone is eroded and pitted. She cannot walk or sit without pain, let alone dance. The only way to alleviate this condition is a total hip replacement. Without this operation, Cassandra's condition will only worsen, until she is unable to walk.

For decades, Cassandra has been loved and respected by thousands for her talent, teaching skills, and knowledge, but she has not been able to share these unique gifts for much too long. Cassandra has been living with a condition in her left hip which limits her mobility and puts her in constant pain. Because of this worsening condition, she has only been able to teach her regular classes in Minneapolis sporadically over the past year and a half, and currently is unable to teach any dance classes, and she's had to pass up teaching workshops in the United States, Germany, Austria, and Spain.

Her students miss her. Her audiences miss her. On the off-chance that you don't know her or have never seen her, do this just to feel good about yourself, and know you have contributed to the arts!

Please donate whatever you can to the fund for Cassandra's surgery, here: