Thursday, June 27, 2013


  I just received an email  from a well-known dancer who is about to do a photo session with an well-known photographer.  Her email  had an emergency feel to it because apparently, the photographer instructed her to  show up for the shoot with “light make up, no eyeliner and no glitter”. 

  The tone of  her email was urgent and she sounded stressed to the max about this- it was a belly dance shoot, after all! She was after my opinion regarding his decree.

 So  I answered her email right away…  after diplomatically inquiring  as to whether the photographer in question was smoking crack!

Before I hit “send”,  I re-read my answer,  and  realized that I should  share it with you, dear readers, so here goes:

As dancers, it is  absolutely necessary for us to have an exotic, compelling look- we are not going after  a fresh-faced portrait, we are entertainers, and we need to look the part!

 I’m valiantly hoping that the  “no eyeliner” comment  was because some people do an extremely think black line on the bottom lide,  hoping it will look natural in the pictures…but it actually tends to look harsh.

As for the  glitter: I agree with the photographer-do not use it during  your photo shoots unless it’s for a extreme close up.

 If you know me ( whether in real life or on social media!) then you  know I'm all about the glitter... just  not  for photo sessions.


Glitter looks amazing in motion-  such as in  any sort of live performance, or  on film or video, but in  still photos, it can look downright weird… sort of sandy and grainy, or it  can  appear to be small white specks. For photos,  I only put glitter on at the very end of the shoot and  then  knock off a  quick bunch of  extreme  close up shots.

 I have a pretty specific formula I stick to for my “generic” dance  photo sessions- dark eyes,  soft looking skin and a  lighter  glossy mouth. Unless I’m  going after an unusual or  fantasy look, I use this formula  and it has never failed me.

 Peruse these pictures – all taken at different times, in a range of lighting situations by  a variety of photographers, and  you can see that  formula in action in every shot.

 So here’s what else  I do:


 In still photos I  use foundation only. I always try to avoid powder, because I favor a  very dewy 
 ( hence, younger!)  look. Powder is terrific for the stage,  but in  photos it  can accumulate and actually accent  creases or wrinkes- or even the small, fine barely-there lines around the eyes!  And while a matte finish  looks marvelous on a twenty year old with flawless skin, I  prefer  my own skin to look  glowing and  pearly… so I save the powder for live performances, where it will also keep my sweat  under control!

 Fresh looking, dewy skin means  foundation only, no powder. I always  mix a dab of MAC’s Strobe Cream into my foundation to get a really lustrous and glowing-from-within look.


 I use coral or true  rosy pink  blush on the  apples of the cheeks only.  Using blush on the apples will give you an instant "facelift"  and make you look gorgeous and healthy. If you  are darker skinned,  for your blush  colors  go with   brick tones,  true reds, deep mauves or  even burgundy… but really try avoiding anything that looks too muddy- by that I mean too dark, or colors with gray under-tones. For blush in photo shoots, stay away from anything pearly, because it will reflect light and look too theatrical- and presumably  you  want to look  pretty, not  shiny and weird, right?

Contouring is a must for the stage and in my opinion, necessary for photos, too. However,  make sure you place the contour color ( a soft  taupe is good for almost any skin tone) just under your natural cheek bone, and blend it well. Again, you do not want to use a shiny or pearly color for this; a matte finish powder is best  for the job because you’re creating the illusion of a shadow. Blend, blend, blend…. you don't want those   definite  1980's style lines...I’ll say it again: blend!

  Use a soft  white, eggshell or  beige-toned  pearly highlighter ( powder or cream, your choice) on the tops of cheekbones and up  to the temples, into  the hairline. This type of highlighting is an optical illusion  that  will draw the planes of your cheek bones forward,  and make your bone structure look insane.  It will also make your visage  look luminous, as though natural light is hitting  you in a very flattering way.


 If you’re  taking  dance shots,  you need to look dramatic and stunning. Period, end of sentence! Heavily lined dark eyes- think  smoky eyes  in  blacks, grays or browns   with  big  lush  faux lashes- are absolute classics for  almost any  type of dance you can think of…ballet, samba, jazz, hip hop, or whatever- and  this super-smoldering look   is , of course, always  right-on for any sort of belly dance or burlesque photo!

I like to go crazy with the eyeliner, it’s practically my trademark- but you might not be into such an extreme look… let your own taste dictate! A nice look that is finished and  defined without being extreme would be to line your top lids, and on the bottom lid, just  use  a dark powder shadow, blended well to look soft. 

 I've said this before and I'll say it again: please don't believe the stuff you hear about black eyeliner making your eyes look small!

Look at my eyes in these pictures  and you will see.  In real life, my eyes are very small and almond shaped. With black eyeliner  that s extended  from the outside corners, you can see how large my eyes look. Again, it's an  illusion...and when you're wearing an incredible  costume and lots of bling,  your  eyes need to be accented  enough to match the sheer volume of your outfit!

  Use  a lighter color on the brows than you would onstage. In performance, you have to accentuate your brows and make them darker so that they’re visible under the hot lights or in a dark club,  but for photos you  need a  much softer look. I usually use  dark brown brow  powder  for photographs, whereas onstage, I  use black pencil!  Redheads- be ware of using a brow color that's too red or russet- it will look strange. A light brown ought to suffice.  And blonde ladies-  if you're not a bootle blonde, believe me, you need brow color!  Use a  bare whisper of taupe for brows that are "there" but not cartoon-like.

Unless you’re going for a period-specific look, like a  classic  pin up  with thicker ‘50’s style brows-think Liz Taylor  or Audrey Hepburn-  or a 1920’s feel, with a pin-thin  brow, follow the natural shape of your brows and  then fill them in with light, feathery strokes.


For pictures, personally I’m all about  having  a  natural lip.

 Ha-  bet you never thought I’d utter the word “natural” while referring to my  make up,  didja?!  

I have been known to rock an amazing frosty teal shade of lipstick- but that was for a character promo  pictures.

 For my own  "regular" promo photos, I  prefer the focus to be on my eyes, so  for my lip color I go  with light peaches to corals- but not too orangey or chalky and matte. I also like  pinks  in various shades or beige skin tones.  This is because in close ups and portraits,  deep colors can   often  make the mouth look smaller and the lips almost too thin-  no matter what size they really are-which also  ages your face significantly, or merely accentuate your age! 

 For stage or pictures, I line my lower lip  around the outside of the lip-line to create a plump and luxuriant effect. I put my lip color on first, and then  I use the pencil- it looks  way less harsh this way.

I use a lot of lip gloss in photographs too, because it looks luscious and  seriously yummy. On stage, it’s a no-no  because it  just won’t stay put and will also  attract anything from  your own hair to errant feathers or sequins!   But for photos? Hell yeah!

 Don’t be afraid to experiment with your make up for photo shoots- but make sure you do an ample amount of test-runs  well before the shoot itself.

And even if the photographer tells you not to use should still make sure to give  photo credit whenever you can!

 Photo Credits:
 First and last shots by Lapis
Second  and fourth photo  by Dusti Cunningham
Third photo by Celeste Hines

Friday, June 21, 2013


 It’s hard to believe that one of the most well-known  dark fusion  belly dance performers in the entire  world  grew up in sunny Orange County, California…the home of Disneyland! But that’s Sashi: she’s a symphony of contradictions.  She’s funny and smart, a  terrific dancer, and a nurturing, giving instructor.

 Founder of Ascend Tribal, Sashi's  roots are many and varied. She began studying  West African and Afro-Haitian when she was a university student in San Francisco, which soon lead her to Middle Eastern dance, including Egyptian and Lebanese cabaret, and many folkloric styles such as Nubian,  Debke and Saidi. 

When she started  studying tribal style it lead to an experimental love affair with tribal fusion. Combining  this style  with her Goth rock ‘n’roll side, Sashi truly unleashed  her innate creativity- and apparently a few demons as well-to see her  live onstage is to be floored by the sheer intensity she projects.

 Sashi’s collaborated on many pieces with her own troupe as well as other internationally known performers, but her highly original-and often controversial- solo work is really what put her on the map.  She was one of the first   dark fusion dancers to really push the envelope, performing in gas masks and bondage /Anime attire… and of course there was that time she performed at Tribal Fest in 2006- with giant  custom-made aluminum wings that were literally pierced into the flesh of her back!

  This performance, based on the  Malaysian  Thaipusam  devotees who  practice  piercing as a form of devotion the  Hindu  diety Lord Muruga  was taken out of context  (by many who hadn’t even  witnessed it ) providing pages  and  pages of internet  chat forum speculation and  shocked gossip.

One of the founders of  the popular Gothic  belly dance festival  Gothla USA,  in 2013  Sashi  is joining forces  with new partner  Karin Jensen, leader of the highly  theatrical Mandala Danceworks troupe to   re-vamp Gothla . Fittingly enough, this year’s  festival  theme is “The Chrysalis”.   Gothla’s new home is The Cable Airport, in Upland, CA, and takes place from November 8-10, 2013, stretching Halloween  out another week and a half!

For  an artist so  powerful and extreme, Sashi’s  rituals on performance days are surprisingly mundane…but that’s precisely why I like her so much: though she seems like the spawn of  The Underworld, for all intents and purposes, she’s just a good ole gal!

 Here’s her  show preparations, in her own words:

“To prepare for a show, I start off early in the day and lay out my entire costume, jewelry, music and information about the show I am performing in, making sure everything I need is ready, all the way down to my safety pins and panties…I mean who really wants to be rushing around getting ready right before a show and not be able to find the chonies,  right!?

 Once everything is laid out I start leisurely doing my make up and hair. When I’m done with that, I eat a bit before the lipstick is applied then pack up my bag with my make up, jewelry, costume, music and snacks….including my flask and leave for the venue.

 I get there as early as I can so that I have time just in case I end up with a wardrobe malfunction or other unexpected issue and get ready. Once ready and in my cover up, I can wander the venue, check out the stage, visit with my dance pals in the show or meet up with people coming to the show.

As show time grows nearer, I often  pull one of my dancers or dance pals aside and get grounded with them. My particular way of grounding involves standing facing each other, foreheads touching, left hand on each other’s sacrum and right hand on each other’s hearts. We then take a few moments to share the grounding breath before parting. And off to perform we go.

Now, if Princess is backstage with me…well hell, that’s a whole different kind of back stage ritual!"
Gothla US  registration is open now:

To see details on workshops, instructors, performers, lodging  and the festival in general.

Gothla US, Nov. 8-10, 2013
Cable Airport
2009 Porterfield Way
Upland, CA USA

 To find out more about Sashi, please visit:

Sashi in gold: Scotte Belden, Costume by Flippin' Tribal
Pierced Wings: Michael Baxter
Backbend: Brad Dosland, taboo Media
Gasmask: Pixie Vision


Monday, June 17, 2013


  It’s been a while since I’ve made a list of my favorite  beauty products, and Summer Solstice is gonna be here in a couple of days...  

 Boy-oh-boy do I  know what cosmetics  are  going to get me through the  up-coming season- which is always full of sunny days and sweaty gigs!

 Here’s the current crop of goodies:

 1) First off I gotta tell you that my new favorite discovery is  L’OREAL  REVITALIFT MIRACLE BLUR INSTANT SKIN SMOOTHER!
 I saw the ads and was tempted to try this new product, but was wary.  I finally did, and now it’s going straight to the top of my list of  Cosmetcs I Can’t And Won’t Live Without.  Not only does it really do what it promised- filling in lines and fine wrinkles , it gives  your entire face a gorgeously smooth, dewy airbrushed appearance.  You can use this as a primer under your foundation ( for stage or every day) or use it on it’s own. Either way, it works just great. This stuff glides on smooth as silk, and  has a broad spectrum SPF of 30… Seriously, I want to mummify myself in this stuff!  Just get it, you won’t be sorry! 

2) A close second is Boots No. 7 Photo Fix Wrinkle Filler and Primer.
 I didn’t put in screamin’  capitals  only because it doesn’t  feature sun protection, but other than that,  it’s almost as amazing as Miracle Blur. In fact if I hadn’t tried Miracle Blue, this would be on the top of my list!  Apply it and your skin feels creamy and smooth, and your stage make up will definitely  stay put.

3) Mac Cream Sheen Lipstick in Giddy
 This gorgeous cameo color is  soft shiny, but still looks natural, not gooey or gloopy or  Kardashianesque. You could line it  with lip pencil and wear it on the stage for a  “natural” look, or just slick some on and run to the beach.  The color is subdued and pretty and would work for many skin tones, from peaches ‘n’cream to  deep olive, tanned or not.

4)Lumene Vitamin C+ Pure Radiance Beauty Drops
 I discovered Lumene products when I was in Finland in 2011, and a few months later they appeared in the USA- they’re available at target, CVS, Walgreen’s, etc. Their natural formulas are hypo-allergenic, don’t have a cloying perfumed smell, and feel yummy on. Bust open one of these capsules and squeeze it onto your skin, and wake up glowing like a goddess!

5) Ben Nye Lumiere Eye Colors in  Aztec Gold
 I’ve sworn by this  brand  for years cause the colors are hyper-pigmented and pearly, so they can be used wet or dry. Aztec Gold has always been a favorite because it’s glamorous and over-the-top or subtle, depending on how you apply it.

6) L’Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Pro-Perfect Airbrush Mist
As far as “tan-in-a-can” goes, this is the bomb! Get the color without the UV rays. It sprays on evenly and dries quickly,  and doesn’t look orange.

7) For you Goth chicks who accidentally got a few rays but still wanna look lily-white, I recommend Sally Hanson Airbrush Legs in Nude Glow. It’s the exact opposite of the above product! I always use this when I want to look ethereal onstage- it makes your entire body look airbrushed and  pearly. Won’t rub off on your costumes, and comes off easily in the shower.

8) Freeman Feeling Beautiful Apricot Creamy Facial Scrub
 Freeman products are available at most drug stores and  big box stores, and they’re really  inexpensive, but they work great. I adore this scrub cause it doesn’t feel like I gave my face the once-over with sandpaper. My skin is sensitive and gets red easily- this removes the dull look ( especially after having been slathered with sun block all day) and   makes your coutenance feel as soft as a baby’s bum. Yes!

9) Essie Nail Polish in Cab-Ana
 If you want  your summer nails to pop, this is the color for you! It’s a cool  “modern pin up”  shade of light teal, kinda like a cross between  the paint job on a girly 1957 Thunderbird and the waters of the Mediterranean. It’s nice and opaque, so you’ll only need two coats.

10) L’Oreal Infallible Never Fail Eyeliner Pencil in Black
Nope… I’m not sponsored by L’Oreal, they just manufacture great-and affordable- beauty products.
When I was in Turkey this spring,  my friend Hale Sultan ( a great belly dancer, by the way!) always had gorgeous, exotic kohl-rimmed eyes- even when we were  soaking in a steamy  hammam  ( traditional Turkish bath ) together for hours. Her secret was  what she called a “greasy” eye pencil.  Sh Hale swore by Cecile eye-liner pencils, a Turkish brand that went on  soft  but stayed on forever. She  took me to a drug store and I got one. But I also discovered that the  L’Oreal version, available in the West, is just as good. Wear it swimming, wear it gigging, wear it making out…wear it all summer long!

Thursday, June 13, 2013


 The year is half over, and so far I have spent all of 2013  on the road…which is why there hasn’t been a recent blog post!

 Traveling so much always gives  a fantastic overview of what’s going on; not just in the world at large, but also in the global dance scene. This year I’ve seen an increasing trend that is indicative of a really healthy, creative and especially collaborative dance community.  Many instructors  (such as Ansuya and Rania, to name just a couple) are offering on-line classes so that they can now teach students from all over the world, and RaksTV offers the same thing from multiple instructors... but now more than ever before, dancers are reaching out to each other to choreograph pieces and  begin working together in other ways. Due to the internet, the concept of physical distance has been rendered all but obsolete.

 Many of the artistic collaborations are being planned, scripted, rehearsed and polished nationally and internationally via the Internet, with Skype and Youtube.  Then, at a designated time and “brick and mortar” place or event,  they are being performed live.

Some stellar examples were on display at Tribal Fest 13, where a couple of acts that rehearse this way presented really made a splash.  The duo Skella, featuring Belladonna (Washington DC) and Superkate (Brooklyn, NY) did an incredible double dancer/double sword piece, attached to each other like Siamese Twins, with skirts that were conjoined…and almost all of the piece was rehearsed long-distance- even though they couldn't be attached until they were present in the flesh!
 See the Skella video here:

   Skella  photo  by Ken Vegas:  left- Belladonna, right-Superkate

 The all-male tribal Fusion  “super group” Uru Tribe, featuring, among many others, Steven Eggers, Frank Farinaro, Paige Lawrence, and up and comer Leon Mancilla, absolutely flattened the standing room only crowd live and  later wowed with their youtube video. What they did was groundbreaking: an all male belly dance troupe?  HELL YEAH!  But it was also groundbreaking in that they really were super, and had rehearsed "together" mostly by watching videos!

 I myself been working in this Internet milieu for a while, mostly cause of my own inability to “stay put’.  For over almost two years I’ve been part of a collective of dancers from many different USA cities called The Dangerous Beauties.  The idea was conceptualized by SF Bay Area dancer Surreyya Hada, and brought to life by a group of dancers from all over the West Coast. Because of our far-flung locations, we conduct most business via Skype, and then put on live shows in our various locales, with a constantly rotating cast of whomever is available.

  Coincidentally, many members of the Beauties were at Tribal Fest teaching, performing and vending, so in the two days following the event, in Northern California, we did a two-day instructional DVD shoot with most of the members, which I participated in as well as directed. This shoot occurred just as my “ Strike A Pose: How To Make The Camera Love You” was released. That project had also been done mostly via the Internet. It was filmed in   January, when I was in Kansas, with The Eyes Of Bastet, a local troupe, acting as my models.

 See the “Strike A Pose” trailer here: 

 Kathryn Of Eyes Of Bastet and me on the set for  the "Strike A Pose" DVD

 Dancer Nyla Crystal on set  during the Dangerous Beauties shoot At Red Door Studio

 Just before Tribal Fest, I was in Istanbul with Texas-based dancer and HipMix owner Dilara Sultan. Having virtually “met” over the Internet, we discovered that in real life, we got on like gangbusters…so we went to Turkey together, where we went to the Rakkas Istanbul Festival, which (you guessed it) was organized over the Internet. Belgium-based dancer Serkan Tutar  readied the festival with his Istanbul-based partner Burcu, who both selected their instructors –from Greece, Egypt, and Europe, as well as Turkey- on the Internet.  It was through my Facebook friendship with Serkan, that I joined the festival…and I was surprised to see many Southern California based dancers there as well and because I had been out of Los Angeles for such a long time, I had no idea they were coming!

Mid-set during my  vintage orientale fantasy piece at Serkan Tutar's  Rakkas Istanbul Festival 

 The whole idea of a global dance community is really coming alive, and it’s very exciting!  I can’t wait to see what the future brings!

 As a post script, for the next month I will be home in LA…and I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am to bee seeing people I know-in real life-not to mention hanging out with my kitties, who have no idea how to use a computer!