Friday, November 29, 2013


 The Holidays...they're heeeere!

For many dancers, the holiday season is a usually huge moneymaker. There are oodles of private gigs for Christmas, Hanukah and New Year’s Eve parties. There are also many  year-end corporate gigs, office parties, and charity events going on. Clubs and restaurants are crowded and want more live entertainment than during other times of the year, and patrons customarily tip more generously. The standard rate for New Year’s Eve gigs used to be triple what you’d normally receive, but with money being tight everywhere, this sadly isn’t the case so much anymore. Though there is certainly an opportunity to make bank during the holidays, it may also be an idea to think of what you are forfeiting by doing those shows.

  Since we perform so often on holidays no matter what time of year, they usually don’t seem like a day off for dancers.

 To begin with, because of gigs, you are spending your holiday away from loved ones. You dance at other people’s holiday celebrations (not to mention birthday parties, weddings, graduation ceremonies, etc.) year-round, but don’t celebrate those occasions yourself, because you are working. During Christmastime through New Year’s Eve, in order to work, you’re braving not only the weather, but also bumper-to-bumper traffic, long lines at police sobriety checkpoints, and even if you don’t imbibe at all you’re risking the potential hazards of others who are driving while under the influence.

 I have always had a steadfast rule about my holiday gigs- especially New Year’s Eve:  Just Say No. It doesn’t mean that I don’t accept holiday gigs- I do, frequently. It’s just that I am ultra-choosy about which ones I accept, as well as how I schedule them.

 Though it might seem crazy, throughout the years, the Just Say No policy has served me well. Unless I am absolutely certain I can get to and from a show (or multiple shows) on time and get paid what I am worth, I’d rather stay home. That means I won’t be spending the New Years Countdown stuck in traffic, stressing cause I’m late for a show; or shivering in a drafty backstage or lonely hallway waiting through endless techno renditions of “Auld Lang Syne” and lengthy toasts to perform a set for a bunch of revelers who are only focused on where their next glass of champers is coming from! Choose your holiday gigs wisely, and decide for yourself it it’s worth the sacrifices you will inevitably make.

 Another thing to think about is your own safety- and I don’t mean the common-sense rules that usually apply, like bringing an escort to a private gig or making sure you get a deposit in advance. Holiday gigs present a variety of “hazards” that may not be present at other times of the year. Specifically, I’m talking about things like open flames from candles, spiky evergreen boughs, breakable glass ornaments, and clusters of snaking extension cords for holiday lighting. While these all make a home or restaurant pretty and enticing, they could be dangerous for you…so scope your performance space out carefully, don’t get too close to anything that could break and cut you or snag your costume – or set it on fire! And while you’re performing in a smaller space, really try to get a bead on the drunks in the audience (they’re always there, but even more so at this time of year!) and practice your crowd-control skills…because you’ll need them!

 One last thought:  give yourself a holiday gift. As dancers we spend most of the year giving: we give our time and energy all year round to our audiences and  students. We are always “on”, whether we are actually onstage or not. Though we may try to rest and prepare for this, we always seem to put ourselves last on the list of recipients. It’s a wonderful thing to do, that whole external out-pouring of energy… but by the end of the year, you may develop a deficit that can sap you emotionally and mentally as well as physically.

During this fun but oh-so-hectic season, make sure to take some much-needed “quality time” to recharge your batteries and give back to yourself… even if it’s just  spending time with your family, friends and beloved pets, or stealing a few moments of quiet each day! A massage or a nice hot bath with Epsom salts are great year-round, but a necessity at this time of year, so treat yourself to some quiet relaxation, because you’ll need it!


 In honor of the holidays, I’m having a Black Friday-through-Cyber Monday  sale… many of my DVD’s and my new book “Showgirl Confidential” are on sale here:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


It’s the end of November: do you know where the year has  gone?

 On these oh-so-long  autumn and winter nights, I tend to feel somewhat disoriented. Though my clock says it’s 6:30, because it gets dark so quickly, I feel like it’s already 10:00pm! I feel all paranoid, like I’m gonna get into full-on hibernation mode, and just eat and sleep my nights away. To avoid that, I start looking for “year end” tasks to tackle.

Usually, these are little things I’ve let slide during the past months, and haven’t been able to get to during the commotion-and constant travel- of spring and summer Dance Festival Season. Things like finally unpacking and cleaning out all my gig bags, organizing a CD shelf, throwing away outdated  make-up, sewing hooks and making alterations on costumes, and getting a jump on sorting my tax receipts. Feeling a mild sense of accomplishment, I then move onto lists… holiday card lists, lists of presents, and lists of things I want to accomplish in the next year.

Though it may sound a little overly sentimental, since Thanksgiving is approaching, I made a Dance List of everything I am thankful for.

Dancing literally changed my life. On top of the “usual” benefits, like giving me a strong, toned, flexible body, the emotional and spiritual impact dancing has had upon me is so significant, I can hardly put it into words. In my writing, I am usually a confirmed abuser of the exclamation point, but the amount of punctuation I would need to apply in this case is boundless, so I will spare you.

From the age of three, I wanted to dance, but for many reasons (the foremost being a ballet teacher who rejected me at an early age because my feet were flat ) dancing wasn’t in the cards for me until  well after I had already reached adulthood.

Maybe I had a karmic debt to pay, maybe my life just unfolded the way it was supposed to, but I came to belly dancing fairly late in life, after the age of thirty. Though I still sometimes wish I had been able to study dance since childhood, I no longer feel robbed, or the regret I used to experience about not having been a life-long dancer; now I am just thrilled with the way things turned out!

Mere months after I began belly dancing-almost as a lark- my life did a full 360 degree turn-around. Instead of picking my body (and all the individual parts) to pieces by visually and physically comparing myself to unrealistic and “ideal” images in the media, I began to love my body for the way it looked while I was dancing. Soon, that sentiment morphed into simply loving my body. As I developed more skill, I began to be grateful for what my body could do.

Dancing also helped me quit some very self-destructive behaviors I had for decades: substance abuse and an eating disorder. A hardcore bulimic for years, my love of dancing helped me cultivate a healthy relationship with food…and need I tell you that it’s impossible to dance for hours with a hangover or while high? Suddenly, I had a choice to make and I picked dancing over controlled substances and being unhealthy.

Dancing helped me get through-and over- a painful divorce. The feminine energy and sisterhood I felt with other dancers was healing and gave me hope. I see this theme repeated with many other dancers, and I hope I can pass this feeling on to others.

Belly dancing also lead me to other forms of dance, and  for that, I am eternally grateful. It’s what directly lead to my career in burlesque, not to mention studying and performing other types of dance as well, like jazz, ballet, Bollywood, samba, contemporary, hip-hop and many other genres. Whenever my schedule ( or my creaky ole body) allows, I take dance classes.

Dancing has also allowed me to meet thousands of incredible, beautiful, intelligent and talented women the world over… that I may never have met normally during the course of my everyday life. Through dancing, I have made life-long friends with many strong women of all ages, shapes and sizes who are veritable super-heroines; they are giving, driven,  talented, and usually very witty to boot.

I’ve met dancers who are emergency room nurses, teachers, criminal attorneys, children’s advocates, speech therapists, accountants, trauma counselors, ranchers, authors, film festival curators, architects, coal miners, political activists, rock stars, explosives technicians, police women, sitcom actors, college professors with PhD’s… not to mention mothers, grandmothers and even great-grandmothers…and all of them are serious dancers!

I am thankful that I live in a country where women are free to dress as they please, to dance for joy-or professionally if they choose- and where dancing is considered an art-form.

Every day I give thanks that dancing, something I have always done only for love is also what I do for work, and how I make a living. I never take this for granted, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure my life is real. When I walked into my first belly dancing class, if anyone would have told me that within a fairly short time I was going to turn professional-not to mention have a career  over twenty years later- I would’ve laughed so uproariously, the walls of the studio would’ve blown apart!

My dance career – my performing and teaching- has taken me all over the globe and I have loved every moment of it. It was a far-fetched wish, and that wish came true. The only thing I might add here (and believe me, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek!) is the old adage about “being careful what you wish for”. Had I known that my wish was actually going to come true, I probably would’ve added in a clause allowing me to have a luggage valet and a personal massage therapist travel with me!

I am so thankful for all the wonderful women who have sponsored me to teach and perform. Sponsors are super-human, and in addition to paying for my travel, feeding me, housing me, fulfilling my backstage requests, and staying up til the wee hours talking shop, many of them have also gone wa-a-a-ay above and beyond the call of duty. They have taken me sight-seeing, brought me to amazing shows, given me gorgeous gifts, taken me hot-tubbing, booked me massages- even brought me to the emergency room, or dealt with my tearful grief when I was thousands of miles away from home and my beloved kitten disappeared. You ladies know who you are, thank you so very much! In general, my sponsors have gone so far out of their out of their way to make me feel comfortable when I am on the road, I cannot thank them enough; most of them have become life-long friends.

I am very grateful for my teachers and dance-mentors, women  ( and men!) who were dancing professionally long before I even  thought of starting to dance…all of whom were very generous with sharing their knowledge of not only technique, but also practical application, not to mention costuming ideas, crowd-control skills and career- building know-how.

My students, whether on-going pupils or one-time workshop attendees, make me feel such gratitude, I can’t even verbalize it. I learn something new from them every day!  The  drummers  and musicians I’ve worked with  are amazing and  love what they do… and  aside from learning a lot from them,   I love them for  caring, cause our shows have always been fabulous!

I would like to thank "the audience" too- where would any dancer be without you? There is almost nothing more fulfilling than hearing an appreciative audience and seeing smiling faces in a darkened theater, just ask any performer! And of course,  all the behind-the-scenes people, those who never get enough thanks, like the artful  lighting and sound technicians,  all the harried- but unbelievably competent stage managers ( many of whom  are volunteers)  the  talented photographers and graphic artists I’ve worked with….and of course,  my long-suffering  friends and my boyfriend; all patiently waiting  for me to:
  a) get off stage  b) get my bag  packed up  c) stop talking about dancing!

Last but not least, I also gotta say that I am so very grateful for having a job that has the best, most amazing “uniform” EVER- what could be better than a blinged-out costume?

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

 In honor of the Holidays,  and to say  thanks to you,  I’m having a Black Friday-through-Cyber Monday  sale… many of my DVD’s and my new book Showgirl Confidential will be on sale for huge discounts here:

Saturday, November 23, 2013


    BRRR…Winter is here!

 Ok, yes, I live in LA, and I’m  reasonably sure that all you dancers in colder climates are laughing at me, but it really is  winter in Hollywood!  But no matter where you live, there are  some things about our dance practice and presentation that  need to change when the seasons do.

During the winter, our skin gets dry from the cold and wind and also from indoor heating. Moisturizing is necessary, even more than I it is in warmer months.  I’m really into the new Vaseline Spray And Go Body Moisturizer- it’s an amazing product! It goes on smooth and doesn’t leave any residue, so you can spritz it on right outta the shower and then get dressed immediately! Comes in a nice variety of scents too, and they’re subtle, not cloying.

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

About once or twice a week, I use  a scrub to exfoliate my face.  I sometimes joke that glitter is an exfoliant... but I like to make my own facial scrubs. There are tons of products you can buy, but an easy  ( and cheap!) home made scrub will do the trick, without causing irritation. In a bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of dry oatmeal with ¼ teaspoon of table salt- any kind will do. Add a teaspoon of water , or if your skin is very dry,  use olive oil instead. Rub it into your skin carefully with your fingers in circular motions, going upwards. Make sure not to drag or pull your skin. Then let the  paste sit on your face for about ten minutes, and rinse it off with tepid water.

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

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

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

During the cooler months, be really anal about making sure your body is fully warmed up before you dance. You should be doing this any way, but in the winter, it’s absolutely imperative, because   dancing with cold muscles is basically a way of begging for an injury!  Be sure to dress in “classic dancer layers”- including a sweater or sweatshirt, leg warmers, that sort of thing.

During the winter, gals have to be really on top of our vitamin D intake.  Adequate amounts of vitamin D will help your body to perform to it’s fullest-  it’s great for our bones and it boosts the immune system…and of course, we need that for dancing! Vitamin D also keeps our mood up, and increases  morale.  During the spring and summer,  get a lot of vitamin D naturally from sunlight,  but  during the winter, because  of the longer nights and lesser amount of daylight hours, it’s a safe bet our D levels are decreased. 

 If you’re not already taking vitamin D supplements, ask your doctor  which dose  might be right for you. But you can also get  a nice  dose of vitamin  D  for breakfast!   I make a green smoothie every morning that’s bursting with vitamin D, and though it looks kinda scary, it’s really yummy!
Here’s what I throw in a blender:
A big handful  or two each of  raw spinach and raw kale
One  large stalk of celery
Half a small/medium cucumber, cut into chunks
Two or three large broccoli florets
 Half a large apple cut into slices
A banana
A cup and a half of orange juice
Two  or three heaping tablespoons  of plain Greek yoghurt ( I like Fage, but any brand will do as long as there’s no added sugar)

Blend well!

You’ll have enough for about three large drinks, so you can  have some later as a pick-me-up- in fact, I drink a big glass of this before gigging cause it gives me a huge energy boost, but without the jitters that come from caffeine or  “enhanced’ sports drinks like Red Bull. The apples , banana  and orange juice make it  sweet and wonderful. I’ve also used  a dash of coconut milk and frozen pineapple chunks  for a tropical flavor, or added in a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon  and a little more apple and it tastes just like apple pie a la mode! By the way, cinnamon is a natural anti-inflammatory.

   Now that I’ve given you this healthy recipe, drink  a big glass full on Christmas morning! 


  I’d LOVE to connect with you!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013


 Shoes at  The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, April, 2013

 Like most belly dancers, I love the look and feel of dancing barefoot.  It’s traditional for our art form, so it gives us a connection to our foremothers…but since we’re modern chicks in a modern world, we don’t usually get the chance to dance on the gleaming polished marble floors of temples, or the soft earth of our village square! We might be working in a theater where the stage floor is splintered or the backstage area isn’t optimally clean, or in a restaurant where shards of broken glass from wine goblets or even another dancer’s beads can get into our soles, or even at a street festival on the hot pavement… SO WE NEED TO PROTECT OUR FEET!

 Under the umbrella of belly dance, there’s a myriad of performance styles- but luckily, there’s also an abundance of footwear options that will go with any sort of costume you have.  Here are some ideas for shoes that will both preserve your tootsies, as well as look great in performance.

 Ballet Slippers
 Soft and pliable, these shoes come in full sole or split sole, and there are many options and styles to choose from. Made with uppers of soft leather or durable canvas, ballet slippers will mold to your foot, and feel as flexible as though you were barefoot, while keeping your feet clean as well as protecting them from any debris that may be on your performance surface. Some styles have straps attached; some have elastic straps you can sew on yourself.  Ballet slippers have suede sole, which allows for clean, smooth turn while still providing a bit of traction. If you are using ballet slippers for restaurant or club work, you may want to take them to a shoemaker and have a thin layer of  “dance rubber” put on over the suede sole in order to make them a little more durable. This will give the shoe’s sole more traction, and further protect your foot, as well as make the shoe itself last longer. If you get a pair in classic “ballet pink” or beige, the shoes can be dyed to match a particular costume, and they can also be easily embellished with appliqués or rhinestones to jazz them up a bit.  Ballet slippers can be purchased on line, or at any dance store

Egyptian Dance Slippers
Similar to ballet slippers, these Egyptian imports are usually constructed along the lines of ballet slippers, but with an elasticized edge that fits around the top of your foot, as opposed to straps that go across your arch or ankle.  They are usually cut low in the vamp and made with a slightly pointier toe than ballet slippers- this makes for a nice visual line. These suede -soled soft shoes are usually available in a range of metallics and colors, and the soles are slightly thicker than ballet slippers- some even having half-inch heels. The uppers are made of leather or man-made materials, and come in a variety of colors; some are beautifully embroidered or beaded.      
Egyptian Dance Slippers

 You can find Egyptian dance slippers carried by vendors at dance festivals, or sometimes on line, available through belly dance costume and supply websites. A word to the wise: most Egyptian dance slippers run a little snug, and are usually sized in standard European sizes (but sometimes marked in Arabic numbers!) so take this into consideration. If you are buying the shoes online, make sure you know what your Euro- size conversion is!

Jazz Shoes
These are similar to ballet slippers, but have a full vamp that usually laces up, like an oxford. Jazz shoes don’t  look too glamorous on stage, but because of their thin soles and very small, flat heel, they offer a lot of support and are great for teaching. There are now many varieties of jazz shoes, including lightweight, pliable jazz boots and sneakers, which are great under long skirts or pants. These offer ankle support, as well. Most standard jazz shoes have prices comparable to ballet slippers.

Popular for use in Irish dancing, Ghillies are also a great option for belly dancers. They are soft, pliable slipper-type shoes made of suede or leather, with a flexible suede sole that resembles a sort of hybrid of ballet slippers and sandals, due to the lacing that begins on the vamp of the shoes and continues up to tie around the ankles. These shoes could look great with a variety of costumes, from Cabaret to Tribal, to Goth. The lacing, usually made of cord or rawhide, could be swapped out for ribbons that match or contrast with your costumes.  Once again, you might want to add dance leather to increase the shoe’s durability and lifespan.

  Hermes or Grecian Sandals
 These sandals have always been a popular choice among belly dancers. Made of thin, pliable neutral or metallic leather with flexible suede sole, Hermes Sandals look like Grecian Goddess or Gladiator-wear.  They are basically a thong sandal fitted with small leather loops around the sides of the sole, and long laces that criss-cross along the top of the foot, wrapping around the ankles - or up the leg as the case may be, similar to the way pointe shoes would be tied. Hermes sandals offer protection to the bottom of your foot, but not a lot of support, and many dancers don’t like the binding feeling of the ties wrapped around the ankle.

Lyrical Shoes
 Sometimes called “sandalettes” lyrical or modern dance shoes are a hybrid of a shoe and sandal, often with an open or partially open soft sole. Usually constructed of ultra-pliable suede or leather, with elastic or elasticized leather or suede straps.  The thing that differentiates them from other dance sandals is that either the ball or heel of the foot- and sometimes both- is left bare, so at least par of the foot has full contact with the stage.

Dance Sneakers
 Unless you’re doing hip hop  or some other kind of athletic fusion, you wouldn’t wanna wear these onstage, but DAYYUM…they’re great for teaching!  They offer full support, and have soft, springy soles that are literally shock absorbers- which is great if you’re going to be on your feet all day in a studio!

Dance Paws/ Footies
 Dance Paws are a soft, snug covering for the ball of the foot. The tops of are usually made of some type of stretchy material, with little openings that fit around each toe, kind of like gloves for the feet. The soles are lightly padded, and can made of be suede or synthetic.  Flesh tone dance paws are nearly invisible on stage, but  they also come in a variety of colors and prints.
Custom Made Character Shoes
 Character Shoes
 These study, closed-toe workhorse shoes go well with almost any style of dance. Within the character shoe category are standard tap shoes, Tango shoes, and T-strap and Mary Jane vintage-look “chorus girl”- type styles that would work well with a range of costumes.  Usually available in flesh-toned tan and black, they also can be custom ordered in a range of colors and metallics. They are equipped with a hard, thick heel (heights range from about 1.5-3”) and grooved leather sole, which also takes well to a thin application of dance rubber. The oval-shaped toe-box, while giving a streamlined look, fully protects your feet and is unusually roomier for dancers with wider feet. Built for optimal support, these shoes can really take a beating. They work well for all styles of dance, and offer variety- depending on which style you choose, they can work for anything from straight ahead belly dance, folkloric, classic, even a 1920’s or Victorian Gothic flavor. I even have a pair of Capezio Tango-style character shoes that I bought for stage use, but because they were so darn comfy- and foxy – that I wound up wearing incessantly in my “civilian” life! Expect to pay anywhere from about USD $20.00-$250.00 for character shoes, and they are well worth the price!

 With the popularity of belly dance fusion, many performers like to wear boots onstage, and many dancewear manufacturers offer wide selections of dance boots. These can range from lace-up cancan booties with small Louis heels to flat, soft-soled boots that would fit right into a pirate or medieval-themed performance. Many dancers even opt to wear street boots, but once again, these do not offer the support of those specifically made for dance.

Ballroom Shoes
Hands-down the most glamorous and showy choice for dancers, ballroom shoes offer complete support to the entire foot, and yet look amazing. They come in a mind-bending variety of styles and colors, including loud animal and reptile prints- a veritable rainbow of metallic leathers, shiny fabrics, contrasting colors and sometimes-even rhinestone buckles. Style-wise, ballroom shoes can be open toed, close-toed, ankle straps, tie-straps, and made with many different heel heights and widths as well.  The uppers are usually strappy, but though they look flimsy, these shoes are constructed with dancing in mind.                                                           

The soles are suede, and let you really feel the floor, but there is usually a steel shank embedded in the arch of the shoe leading up to the heel, which offers optimal support. Again, you can have the suede soles covered with dance rubber, but it’s not necessary.  Ballroom shoes are available  “out-of-the-box” but many dancers have theirs custom-made, mixing and matching styles, colors, and even heels shapes and heights to their own personal choice.  Either way, expect to pay a lot for these babies.  What they ARE NOT is cheap, but they are constructed so well, it’s always a great investment.         
Ballroom Shoes

 When I first started dancing, at the recommendation of my teacher, I bit the bullet and paid $98.00 for a pair of gold and silver ballroom shoes to use for belly dancing. At the time, I thought I was nuts- why did I spend that excessive amount of money on a pair of shoes when I could put it towards buying a costume? But I wore them incessantly, and it was TWELVE YEARS (and four sets of-re-soling) before I finally had to retire them, due to wear and tear. A dozen years of wearing them three to seven times a week- you do the math! Nowadays, the prices on ballroom shoes range anywhere from USD $30.00- $400.00, depending on what type you get. Do what I did- bite the bullet, you WILL NOT regret it!

 In general, professional dance shoes are designed to look good onstage while they protect your feet, and that’s a really smart investment in your dance career!

 If You Opt To Dance Barefoot
 Make sure you have a clean performance surface. If there are other dancers working the stage before you, asks someone to sweep up between performances, so you don’t get a bead embedded in your foot, which is a classic- and very typical- belly dance injury. Carry a package of baby-wipes with you to clean your feet before slipping back into your street shoes, and bring a pair of flip-flops along to get you to and from the stage safely. You may want to bring some band-aids along too, in case of emergency. And check your tootsies- nothing wrecks your gorgeous stage appearance like dirty, calloused feet with a chipped pedicure!