Sunday, July 28, 2013


 In the same way you service your car by getting an engine tune up, every so often it’s necessary for dancers to fine-tune our technique.  No matter what level you’re at, from newbie to professional take a little time every few months to make sure you’re not getting too complacent with your dancing. Going over the basic tenets of posture, weight placement and different types of technique will not only help you to become reacquainted with what you are doing, it will give you power that will make you a better dancer.

 Posture And Center Of Gravity
 No matter what kind of dancing you practice, there are certain guidelines for posture. The spine is elongated, the ribcage lifted, the shoulders are held back and down making a beautiful, long neckline. The pelvis is in neutral position achieved by pulling the tailbone slightly down towards the floor.

For belly dancing, we stand with equal weight placement from the balls to the heels.  Our knees are soft and pliable, with our feet and legs aligned just under our hips, without using ballet turnout, because this will inhibit the movements of the hips. For other types of dancing, a turnout may or may not be employed- this depends on your training and what sort of effect you’d like to achieve.

But no matter what genre of dance you’re performing, make sure you know where your center of gravity is. In ballet or jazz, the center of gravity is much higher than in belly dance, African dance, Hula or even burlesque dancing.

Be hyper-aware of your center of gravity, as it will dramatically change the quality of your movements.

Define Your Weight Placement
 Make sure you plant each foot firmly every time you set it down, even if it’s just for a few seconds.  Any hesitation with your weight placement could potentially throw your movement off…or just make it look not quite as awesome. Defined weight placement is absolutely necessary in quick footwork, especially for turns. Check your weight placement frequently, and you’ll start noticing a difference in the quality of your dancing really quickly.

Once you’re conscious of your weight placement, use the floor as a “launching pad” every time you take a step.   For belly dance especially, this is important because there are so many one-sided hip accents and flourishes happening all the time. These movements initiate from the knees or the feet; you can get much more power and definition from twists, circles, and upwards/downwards motions by grounding, or  quickly pushing off the floor with your foot.

 Check For Overcompensation
We all have a dominant or stronger side, and usually we need to drill more on that side to make things “even”- this is natural; it’s like being right or left handed. However, many of us favor our dominant sides…and let the stronger side do all the work! This leads to our bodies falling out of balance.

Once in a while, give your body the once-over and make sure that you are using both sides of your body fully.  If you aren’t, sometimes this might  be due to careless technique, but  it's more likely  that its a sign of weakness in a specific area. Especially if you have an old injury, you’ll notice that certain parts of your body- such as your spine, hips or leg muscles- are overcompensating in order to protect the injured   area.

 This is what usually leads to your body falling out of balance: some areas are really strong, while others remain much weaker.

 If you notice that you have spots that are fragile or not as strong as others, bite the bullet and get some professional training for strengthening and joint stabilization.

 Pilates has worked wonders for many dancers - including me! This form of exercise was designed for injury rehab as well as strengthening. But any sort of cross training can help you regain balance, just by using  muscles that you don’t use quite as often in your dancing. Try swimming, walking, running or Yoga-whatever-just take some time to cross train, you’ll be happy you did!

Finish Each Movement Fully
 Unfinished movements are common in baby dancers, who aren’t fully aware of their bodies in motion…but those of us with more experience are guilty of slightly sloppy too.  Sometimes we can tend to become too comfortable with ourselves and neglect to monitor our movements.

Check yourself for movement completion during drills in class or while you’re practicing at home.  Make sure you know exactly where each movement initiates and where it ends- even in fluid motions.
Check that your hip circles are actually circles, and not ovals, kidney bean shapes or open-ended- unless you are making it that way on purpose.

 Employ Muscular Resistance
 Give your movements more definition  and power by using muscular resistance. This requires strength and concentration at first, but will become second nature with practice.

Play with your muscular resistance when making full-body or limb-only movements, such as a languid sideways body wave or a utilizing a slow motion “dragging” effect with your arm pathways.

 For the legs, experiment with suspensions. A suspension is a long, slow lift, often made while rising up on the ball of the weighted foot. This looks great as a short pause at the beginning of a turn. Your weighted leg needs to be very strong and hyper-stable to achieve this effect.

You can also “punctuate” your hip technique by quickly tightening the muscles of your quads and glutes, or using the abdominal muscles for contractions and locks.

Open Your Chest For Beautiful Arm Work
  Standing with an uplifted, open chest with the shoulders held slightly back and down is an integral part of posture for almost any genre of dance.  It elongates the spine and makes the torso look long and lean, but it also really affects what your arms are doing.

 Keeping your ribcage elevated, imagine that all of your arm movements initiate from the sternum as opposed to your shoulders. This technique will make your arm paths gorgeous and defined. It adds an elegant quality to every movement your arms make, from floaty to angular.

 Use Your Head
  The angle of your head can really change the appearance of your movements.  Inclining your head towards or away from the audience will magnify the emotional intent of your dancing; using your head to spot while turning drastically changes your technique for the better, and following the paths of your arms with your entire head gives these movements a beautiful, finished quality.  Though it sounds crazy, don’t “forget” about your head while your body is in motion…and this goes double for your facial expressions!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Attention... You Are Hot!

This is your self esteem call-to-arms: step away from your computer, and take a look in the mirror: you are smokin’ hot.

 In the act of performing onstage, dancers leave themselves vulnerable and  open to critique of their performances, their music, costume choices, and of course, their physical beings.  While audiences and other performers usually praise, there are those who can be harsh, but it’s your own inner critic that is most brutal.

 For decades, through advertising and in the media, women in general have been held to an ever-changing, ridiculously  unattainable standard of beauty that is just about impossible to achieve.

 It’s pretty twisted- the genetic wonders on display as the penultimate of feminine beauty are also primped, preened and fixed up by a legion of experts, lit and shot by pro photographers at the top of their  field, and photo-shopped within an inch of their life.

 Because of this, we all have been made to feel that we are lacking somehow… and dancers have these feelings perhaps more than any civilian woman ever could!

 We’re too fat, too thin, too old, not old enough, too dark-skinned or so white we  practically glow in the dark!

  1991: I thought I was fat and that my face was "too round'! 
Our faces are too haggy, too jowly, and too wrinkled. There’s way too much baby fat on our cheeks or not enough. Our eyes are the wrong color and shape, our noses are hooked or too short and stubby, our lips aren’t plump enough.

We have  no chin,  our necks are too short or too long,  there’s cellulite on thighs- plus our legs are too short, too thick, too hairy or knobby-kneed.  Our bellies are much  too round, too protruding and, along with our hips (which, of course are too wide) are covered in stretch marks.  Our butts are   too flat, too round , non-existent or too shelf-like. Our boobs are too big, too small, and too saggy.  Or our boob jobs didn’t turn out right!  Our thighs and upper arms are flabby, our knees are scarred, the knuckles on our fingers are too big, and our hair is the wrong color or texture.

Crazy?  You bet!

Shall I go on? I thought not.

 I don’t need to tell you that condemning yourself is neurotic, unproductive and harmful.  You already know it.  I already know it, but I do it sometimes too!  We all do. Don’t drink the Kool Aid.

 Stop it!!!

  Dancing is what makes you happy, it makes you whole, and helps you feel lovely. It’s a passion and a blessing- it’s not to be taken lightly. Some women don’t have the luxury of dance because they live in oppressive societies, or because they are infirm: gravely ill, crippled or maimed in some way, physically or emotionally damaged beyond repair.

In the many classes I teach all over the world, along with experiencing the sisterhood of dancing, I often see and hear women slighting  their abilities and disparaging their bodies.  This hurts my feelings, seeing so many people truly feel that they are lacking or not worthy.  You  are clumsy, you have two left feet, it takes you too long to learn choreographies or you can't improvise. You feel stupid and ugly.
A few months ago...before I turned 54.  I finally like how I look!

It's rare to  hear  dancers  talking about how talented they are,what a great performance they had, or  to simply mention that dancing is a  gorgeous gift that has been bestowed upon them.  

We need to change our internal conversations! 

Time marches on relentlessly,  and  though you will probably become a better dancer in the future, you’re probably never going be any hotter than you are now, right at this moment. If you don’t believe me, look at some old photos of yourself- from fifteen years ago- or from last week- any time you thought you were fat and ugly.

What the hell were you thinking…you probably could’ve ruled the world!

Give yourself some credit, cut yourself some slack, and help other women to see themselves as wonderful too. Respect your vessel- the whole, healthy body you have which makes such lovely shapes and patterns to music. You are living art!

 You are beautiful. You are.

 And yeah…you better believe it…

You are hot!   

Thursday, July 18, 2013


 Here’s a dirty little secret
Did you know that most of your cosmetics and beauty tools  come with expiration dates? If you’re wondering why your face is breaking out constantly, why you are prone to eye infections  or  why a certain cream, powder or gel irritates your face, old beauty products just might be the culprit.

This is a list of commonly used beauty products and their life expectancy:


 These products are good for three months, tops- because the mascara  or eyeliner is is wet and gets “contaminated” every time the brush goes into the tube then onto your eye and back into the tube, it  literally becomes a breeding ground for bacteria! You wouldn’t put the contents of a Petri dish on your eyes, right? Well,  that’s exactly what you’re doing  every time you use an out-dated liquid, gel or cream eye product!

I date all of mine with a Sharpie and toss them after three months.  Sure, it gets expensive….but  eye doctor appointments are even more expensive!

And please don’t ever  lend these products to anyone, even your bestie.

 If you keep the cap on tightly and store the glue in a cool, dark place, you could probably keep the glue up to  six months… but again- this stuff goes on your eyes! You can never be too careful. If it smells fishy or like bleach, get rid of it pronto!

 Yes, darling, they can be re-used!   I’ve had some sets of lashes for months- they just need to be cared for properly. After each use, I pick the remaining glue off the band of the lash, then swab it with a Q-tip full of alcohol to kill any bugs or germs before storing the lashes in their original container, set into the tray they came in, so that they retain their shape.

Eye and lip pencils  will last up to a year if  you care for them correctly. Make sure to sharpen the pencils  before every use- or at least once a week -to prevent  transferring bacteria to your eyes or mouth.  If you notice a textural or color change- particularly a weird white coloring at the tip of the pencil, get rid of it stat!

Three to six months, depending on whether you use your ( clean) fingers,  or  a disposeable sponge to  apply it. Every time the sponge touches your face, it is transferring bacteria from your skin  right back to the product. Make sure to keep all of these containers tightly sealed, and stored in a cool, dry place.
 Definitely discard any liquid foundations that have separated, or any creamy make up item that smells funny.

 Generally speaking, these products have a “life expectancy” of two years. You could probably use them a little beyond that, but the  texture will be different- older powders  will be more flakey and dry, and the color may be a little off.

 Lipstick can last up to two years, if  you take care of it properly.  Some gals like to store it in the refrigerator in the summer, to prevent melting and breakage.  Throw your lipsticks away if they smell icky or become discolored.  You can make an older lipstick “new” again  by slicing off the tip with a knife.  As for lip glosses, they will last up to a year- again, it’s the concept of liquid/gel as a breeding ground for  bugs and bacteria.

 Most over the counter skin care products  will last about six months to a year, though  if you’re an anti-aging slut ( like me!)  you’ll use them up way before there’s an expiration issue!
Any  products  that are  organic, "all natural", or those containing antioxidants ( like Vitamin E or C ) or those with  retinals  should definitely be stored away from sunlight. Again, if  your skin care creams  smell funky  or have gotten separated, lumpy or  thinner, just to be safe... throw them away!

Bacteria and sebaceous oils  can easily get  trapped in  make up sponges and brushes… which is bad for your tools and  even worse for your skin!
 I wash all my brushes at least once every two weeks in tepid water with mild soap or baby shampoo. To dry,  lay brushes flat on a soft, clean towel  so the bristles don't break or lose their shape. If you care for your brushes well,  they can last for years!
 Toss cosmetic sponges roughly once every month or so, or any time you notice them cracking or flaking.  Better yet, invest in the disposable kind!


 A  good blow dryer ought to last at the very least one to seven  years, depending on the make of the dryer, how often-or carelessly- you use it, if it is dropped, gets hair clogged in the vents, etc.

 One to four years depending on use; the ceramic plates  and heating elements  on the flat iron are usually the first thing to go.

A good hairbrush can last for years- even a cheap one can- it just depends on how  you maintain it.  Make sure  to clean your brush regularly, by removing the hair from it, and swishing it around in a bath of hot water and mild detergent, then letting it dry naturally, before using it.


 Usually, these products are used up too quickly to go bad- but if you’ve opened a product , had it for a few months and it smells odd, do a little patch test on your wrist or inner elbow  to check for irritation before using it on your face!
As for make up wipes and towellettes, the liquid product in the package can tend to dry up rather quickly… say, two months. In order to keep mine fresh,  every time I use a wipe, I put the package back on the shelf in a different position- right side up, upside down or on it’s side- this will ensure that the towellettes stay saturated  with the remover product and easy-to-use.

 Since we tend to use an awful lot of these and they’re relatively inexpensive, expiration is not usually an issue.  Sealed in the container, they will last  about a year. After being opened, you’ll probably use the product up fairly quickly. But if you’ve had the lotion  for about six months, or it begins to smell off, get rid of  any unused portion.

 Most sunscreens last for two to three years, and, unlike "regular" cosmetics,  many have an expiration date  printed right on the tube or bottle! This means that you can use them from one season into the next-yay! I always date my sunscreen with a sharpie pen, just to make sure I’m getting full coverage.

 Though bacteria won’t really last -or reproduce-in nail polish because it’s a “hostile environment”, the polish itself  may lose color, separate or become gummy and tacky over time.  Most nail polishes have a shelf-life of about two years. They won’t harm you if they expire, but they may not go on well or look their best.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Achmed Al-Asmar drumming for Cory Zamora at The Fez Fundraiser, July 14, 2013
 On July 14, Roxxanne Shelaby put on a belly dance show  with live music  at Brazil Brazil Cultural Center in Los Angeles...but this was no ordinary show- it was ground-breaking  and intimate, seamlessly blending  different decades of belly dance history, both from LA and beyond. 

The show was organized to  raise funds for a documentary film project Roxxanne is working on about The Fez,  the celebrated Arabic nightclub that became a famous Hollywood hotspot, which was owned by Roxxanne’s late father, Lou Shalaby. A talented musician and extremely well-loved club owner, Shelaby created an amazing atmosphere at the Fez, making even first-time customers feel like family, and introducing thousands of patrons to the beauty of Arabic music and dance.

Antoinette Awayshak at The Fez 1961
The Fez was located on Vermont Avenue in the heart of Hollywood. The instant it opened it’s doors in 1959, it became not  “ just” a nightclub, but the breeding ground for Arab arts and culture on the West Coast. The immensely popular club not only became a center for the Arabic community in Southern California, but a catalyst for creative Arabic performing   artists which on to inspire generations of musicians and dancers well beyond Los Angeles. Much of the hubbub around the Fez came from word of mouth, but a good portion of it was largely due to the popular in-house recording “Live At The Fez”, which featured the house band and was a hugely popular album back in the day-and is now considered a coveted collector’s item.

Helena Vlahos in the 1960's
Helena at The Fez fundraiser
Aisha Ali, 1960's
Just some of the Just some of the internationally acclaimed and now legendary dancers that performed at The Fez were Feiruz Aram, Syrian-born   Antoinette Awayshak, and gorgeous Greek performer Helena Vlahos.  Aisha Ali and Sahra Saeeda- both known world-wide for their incredible dance ethnology research and field recordings, worked there as well…as did women who were quite famous at the time and during the course of their careers gave birth to belly dancing daughters who are equally well known!  These women are Marta Schill  (author of the book “The Complete Belly Dancer” and mother of Belly Dance Super Stars dancer Jayna Kouzouyan) Janaeni, the proud mom of world renowned performer Ansuya, and Tonya Chianis, whose daughter is Atlantis Long, who, with her mom, produces the Belly Dancer Of The Universe Pageant, now entering it’s 24th year!

Peter Lawford, Jayne Mansfield and Lou Shalaby at The Fez
The Fez was also a favorite haunt of the Hollywood glitterati during it’s time, with customers including the likes of Marlon Brando, Lee Marvin, Jayne Mansfield and television personality Danny Thomas- who was known to frequently lead debke lines at The Fez!   Other celebs who were regulars included Peter Law ford, Richard Thomas (no relation to Danny, the actor known as “John-Boy” from the television show, “The Walton’s”) and basketball great Kareem Abdul Jabbar, among many others.

 At her show at the Brazil Brazil Cultural Center, Roxxanne created the same cozy atmosphere that The Fez was famous for.   In fact, it felt more like a wonderful family reunion than a show, with generations of Los Angeles Arabic musicians and the wonderful “dance mammas” who taught and inspired practically everyone else that was in the room! Truthfully this was not only one of the best belly dance shows I’ve ever seen- and I’ve seen literally thousands.  The buzz around the show itself was incredible, and it was attended by many belly dance greats, including former Habibi publisher and famed dancer Shareen El Safy, IAMED’s Suzy Evans, dancer, Aubre Hill, composer Dr. Samy Farag,   former Fez  performers  Feiruz Aram,  Barbara Al-Bayati, Jawahir, and scores of well-known local dancers as well. 

The show featured guest stars Jillina, Tamer-Henna, Cory Zamora, Anaheed and Lee Ali, who, although she never worked at the Fez, was performing on the East Coast at the same time and currently oversees the popular 1970’s Belly Dance group on Facebook.  She kicked off the evening with a purely nostalgic period-perfect rendition of a medley of 1960’s and 1970’s belly dance hits.

Lee Ali at The Fez Fundraiser
 But the best part was that (most of) the original band from The Fez, as well as many of the dancers who were featured there regularly performed. Many of the musicians and dancers who performed are well into there sixties - and in some cases even more mature- but they became magically young and electric the moment they started playing and dancing.  The band consisted of  violinist Maurice Saba, Rico Orel on oud, percussionist Var Daghdevirian, and tabla player Achmed Al-Asmar.

 It was marvelous to see full sets by these incredible performers, including all the amazing  “old-school” American Cabaret / Vintage Orientale bells and whistles-   gorgeous veil work, lots of zills, dynamic live drum solos, and Fahtiem even did a Sultan Act with a very pleased member of the audience! Anisa, of Anisa’s School Of Dance did a cute flirty folkloric number, Aisha Ali was elegant, Helena Vlahos was regal and lithe and kicked ass (as usual!) on her cymbals.  Atlantis performed in a massive 70’s style cape in place of her mom, who was just enjoying the show and having a ball.  And of course, it was super-amazing to witness all the past history- and current scene come together...pure magic!

Atlantis at The Fez Fundraiser
 During the show’s intermission, Roxanne screened a selection of interviews with the Fez dancers. The footage was shot beautifully, and the interviews were priceless- ranging from affectionate reminiscing to crazy backstage anecdotes.

 The night ended about three hours later than it was supposed to… which was no surprise because nobody wanted it to end at all!

 But it doesn’t have to end… as I stated previously, Roxxanne Shelaby is in the midst of writing, directing producing a documentary film   (co-directed by Greg Williams with cinematography by David Rapka) about The Fez.

 Find out more about The FEZ Documentary here:

If you wish to contribute to The FEZ project- any amount will help- you can do so here:

Helena Vlahos and Roxxanne Shelaby at The Fez Fundraiser

 Read  “Great Moments At The Fez” by dancer (and Fez favorite!)  Feiruz Aram, in a vintage issue of Habibi Magazine   here:

Saturday, July 6, 2013


She comes in colors everywhere
She combs her hair
She's like a rainbow…

 Color is a powerful force that influences us not only visually, but also mentally, emotionally, and even physically. It’s no secret that certain colors have an almost universal effect on human beings.  Even if you think you don’t know a lot about the psychology of color, your subconscious does know.

Notice that many nations in the world use red prominently on their flags. This is because red is considered a color of power - it looks important- consider the effect of a stop sign.  Put a woman in a red suit, and she’s “dressed for success”, but put the same woman in a red dress, and the subliminal   messages of influence and control becomes overtly sexual!

Blue has a calming effect, which is why it is often used for medical and governmental signage and logos. Yellow is vibrant and visible, which is probably why it became  “the” color for taxis. It’s also used quite often in children’s toys. Orange and yellow are often use restaurant décor and fast food chains because these colors used together are known to stimulate the appetite.

Traditionally, brides wear white because it symbolizes purity, but during the middle Ages, brides often wore green because that color was associated with fertility.  And most of us realize that black frequently connotes mourning.

  I’ve always been fascinated by color because I’ve painted and drawn since I was a child- but also because my entire life, I’ve had synesthesia.

  Wikpedia describes synesthesia like this:

“Synesthesia from the ancient Greek σύν (syn), "together," and ασθησις (aisthēsis), "sensation," is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.[1][2][3][4] People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes… In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme → color synesthesia or color-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored.”

Yes… my whole life has been “colored” by synesthesia.   Case in point:  for me, the number five always had to be red, three was blue, and   the letter “R” had to be yellow.  If I ever saw one of those old-school magnetic alphabet and numbers sets for kids and the colors were “wrong”, I would get upset.  And usually, when my mother spoke to me, I always saw a mental image of blue-gray smoke rising from a white cup of coffee.  Ok, yeah, I know this sounds a little far out, but it was normal to me!

However, it wasn’t until I started dancing that I began to really considering the effects of color- not just on myself but on my audience.

 Pre-dancing, I wore primarily black or blue, and it was always a toss-up as to which of those colors I would pick as my favorite.  As a rock and roll chick, those colors were easy to wear- think denim and leather.  Red probably came in a close third, but more as an accent color rather than something I would think of wearing head-to-toe.  There were also certain colors I would avoid completely- such as brown, green, orange, yellow, gray or pink… but I wear all of them now often, both onstage and offstage.

Photo By Lapis
 Curiously, people always seem to associate me –or more often, my "royal" dance persona-with the color pink. True, the background of this blog is pink and   the main page of my website has a hot pink background- but both of those graphics happened after I was already being associated with that color.  I also have a lot of pink things- clothing and accessories.  But I wasn’t sure why I was being connected with that color in particular; especially cause through the ages, purple has typically represented  royalty- hello… Prince, anyone?  In my entire dance career, I’ve owned maybe three pink costumes-one of them is pictured here- and it made me really ponder about why my image or persona was so heavily connected with pink.

 Then it hit me- it was because of the “Princess” part of Princess Farhana!   Pink is a color that is linked with femininity. When faced with the color pink, most people think of  romance, glamour, little girls, breast cancer awareness and of course, fairy princesses. Then I realized that most of the pink things I own- cell phone cases, coffee mugs, hip scarves, jewelry, t-shirts, pot holders, flasks, iPad covers…you name it…have all been given to me! 

When people hear the word “princess” they associate it with the color pink.

So…what do your costume colors say about you?  Do they go with the intention you had in mind for your performance? Are you picking out these specific colors because they make you feel good, or because of what you want to convey to your audience?

 Here’s a list of just some colors in alphabetical order- and what they subliminally represent to the general public. I’ve also included what their unique properties-or hazards- may be on stage, or when worn by performers with different types of coloring:

 This soft, fresh-looking  mixture of blues and greens has most of the properties of true blue- it sends out calming and serene vibrations. Onstage, aqua costumes  might remind the audience of youth, springtime, or even mermaids, among many other things.  Aqua is a terrific color in performance because it flatters so many skin tones, from very fair to extremely dark. On a large stage with full lighting this color may appear white unless the lighting looks natural.

 In real life, black is an imposing color that signifies authority. As we all know, black is often worn for funerals, but it also implies elegance and timelessness. Onstage it can represent a variety of things, from poverty to evil…which is why this color is so popular among Goths! Black absorbs light and can wash out a fair-skinned performer; it usually takes someone with very strong features and high coloring to carry it off.

 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 performer to look oddly heavy. This effect is doubled if the performer has dark hair, which will also recede into the background. In order to avoid this, make sure your black costume ( and dark hair, if that's what you have) are decorated with a contrast color or colors, or are very sparkly. Either of these will add texture and dimension to the black, and cancel out the effects listed above.

 The color blue actually causes the body to produce chemicals that promote a feeling of serenity and tranquility, that’s why it is so often used to paint bedrooms and hospital rooms.  The phrase “true blue” is right on because blue also symbolizes loyalty. Blue is also supposed to increase productivity.

Onstage, a nice, bright medium-to-royal blue colored costume will retain its color accurately under almost any sort of lighting...and also looks very nice on a wide range of skin and hair colors.

 Abundant in nature, brown symbolizes the earth as well as sincerity and dependability.  It is considered a “friendly” color. Brown costuming onstage can appear muddy and sallow, especially if it has yellow or gray undertones, however, a rich warm brown with a red or orange undertone can look beautiful.

 Of course gold symbolizes richness, wealth, and a touch of the precious or exotic.  This beautiful warm metallic will look terrific in performance, retain it’s true tone under any manner-or lack-of lighting, and is universally flattering.

Photo by Celeste Hines
  The color of ashes, storm clouds and lead, gray can be a somber tone, signifying dignity modesty and intelligence. The equal mixture of black and white, some people consider gray dull and colorless, but gray is also an elegant hue that is often worn by the elite- think military uniforms, fencing suits and tuxedos at the Kentucky Derby. Depending on the shade of gray being worn by a performer, it can signify many things.  This color can have many undertones, even appearing to be a light purple on stage, depending on the scenery, back drop or lighting.  A dove gray costume trimmed in silver can be gorgeous on a pale brunette, or cool and removed on a blonde. It doesn’t look too great on redheads, and it can make deep olive to African American skin tones look ashy and sickly.

 Green is another calming color, probably because it symbolizes nature; it’s the color of plants, grass and trees.  For these reasons, green, like blue, has a calming effect and is often used in interior decoration. Green symbolizes luck, youth, hope, peace and prosperity…ever wonder why dressing rooms are often called “green rooms”?  Now you know!  It also has the subliminal projection of money…  and whenever I have worn a green belly dance costume, I’ve gotten a lot of tips!    This color in it’s many shades looks lush on redheads, whether for street wear or the stage.  if you have olive skin or  are very tanned, you can rock a neon lime green costume like nobody's business! When performing in  shades of green, avoid green or yellow stage  lights, as they will both wash out the true tones.

A romantic and calming color, lavender is a mixture of soft blues, reds and whites. Depending on whether it has more blue or red, undertones, lavender can look very cool or extremely warm. Onstage, lavender lighting when mixed with pink and amber looks soft and yummy.  This color is considered feminine and inviting without being seductive. Lavender in it’s many varieties looks very beautiful on a huge range of performers.

Stimulating and energizing, red is a warm color that appears “friendly”. This color can be hard to pull off for pale dancers because it is so intense and can overpower dancers. If you are very light-skinned, try a subtle peach tone instead of a true, citrus orange.  However, orange, coral or metallic copper look fabulous on those with darker skin and hair, providing a warm glow that looks healthy and glamorous.

 As I said before, pink is associated with femininity and youth… but it doesn’t have to be a frou-frou color!  Pink comes in so many shades from pale ballet slipper pink to hot magenta, there is literally a tone for everyone  it can look great no matter what your hair or skin tone is. It’s a vital, fresh color that looks happy and fun onstage.  If hot, bright lights illuminate your light pink costume, it may fade to appear white. Whether wearing extremely pale or stronger tones of pink, make sure your stage make up is sufficient   so that you don’t appear washed out or over-powered.

  Equal mixtures of red and blue, this secondary color is considered dreamy, elusive, mysterious, and rich.  Signifying royalty, purple is the deeper cousin to lavender, and also can look great on a variety of dancers, depending on its undertones. Elizabeth Taylor favored purple clothing and costumes in many shades because it brought out her lavender eyes.  A nice deep purple costume, especially of satin, velvet or metallic lycra has the same properties as blue in performance- it looks wonderful on almost anyone, under many different lighting washes.

 You already know that red stands for power and authority, but this strong and passionate color- the color of blood and fire- also signifies speed and prestige…which is why  fire engines are red and also why so many men buy red sports cars in the midst of their mid-life crisis!  A true bright red can be hard to pull off for blonde performers, but looks dazzling on brunettes and those with darker skin.  Red with blue undertones will make everything from teeth to skin look whiter, so compensate for this by using strong make up with a lot of blush. Red with yellow undertones can make olive skinned performers appear sallow. 

 Silver is a rich metallic color that has many of the properties of gray, but with a touch of playfulness. Just like gold it symbolizes richness, but is often associated with a sleek modern feel.  Onstage, silver appears much cooler than gold.  Silver costumes will flatter paler skin tones, but might make those with olive to dark skin look ashy unless the make up is intense and warm.
Photo by Pixie Vision

 These cousins of blue are considered jewel tones, and share many of the properties of aqua. True, deep turquoise, even though it’s technically a cool tone, is a  also a hot tropical color that will look fantastic on anyone with a tan, real or fake-bake. Slightly deeper and with green undertones, teal will be a little more difficult for lighter-skinned performers to pull off but looks fabulous on brunettes and red heads.

 Cheerful, exciting and hopeful, yellow is the color of daffodils and many other flowers. The color practically screams, “notice me”, which is why it is used so often on taxis and emergency vehicles. Because it keeps the viewer on alert, it is also a popular color for writing paper. Yellow comes in so many shades that you’d be hard-pressed not to find a shade to flatter your skin tone.   Yellow can sometimes be overwhelming to wear, but those with darker skins will look great in  “hot” yellows that have a little red or orange in their base- like the meat of a mango. Pale lemon yellow looks great on fair skin, and compliments many shades of hair or eyes. Make sure to check your yellow costume out under stage lights and adjust your make up and contrasting accessories so that you do not appear sallow or sickly.

 White is the color of brides and the good guy hero. It signifies purity and innocence, and reminds the viewer of summer time. Clean, modern-looking and efficient white can also connote cleanliness and sterility- think lab coats and nurse’s uniforms. In performance   and in day to day wear, this radiant color reflects light, and can look pretty and crisp on almost anyone.   Remember that a white costume will take on the colors of your stage lighting, so plan accordingly.

** Read the entire Wikipedia article on synesthesia here: