Looking back on 2016

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I started to write this post as a reflection on 2016. While I was writing and this post got longer and longer, I felt gratitude that my life is filled with so many friends and family. I wish you all a very happy, sparkly 2017 filled with love and laughter!

And for those of you who are not afraid of reading long blogs, here’s a more detailed overview of all the belly dance accomplishments of last year.

Teaching belly dance

My weekly classes started on February 8th and it took me a while to get back in the saddle. I am very proud of my students, who got to perform our group choreography several times later that year. I taught ATS to my intermediates/advanced for the first time, and the beginners were extremely dedicated.

Teaching my first bellydance during pregnancy workshop was a lot of fun! I’ll continue with developing the workshops and classes in the next years as I plan on making it one of the main features of my dance studio. More about the dance studio later in this post.

The student recital in June was a great achievement for all off us and we can all look back on a great year. I was in for a surprise as my intermediates class sold out within 8 hours after enrollment opened. That certainly got me all excited! I decided to allow more people in the group, making this the first season that I have thirteen beginners and twelve intermediate/advanced students. It is also the first time that I teach fan veils to my intermediates, which is a bit of a challenge considering the group size.

Hafla’s!

In Februari we had our first belly dance party at Parnassos and I did my first post part solo performance. Despite my insecurities and my muscles not completely remembering everything I was really happy to dance and perform again.

Our annual belly dance party in Zeist was a big hit: we had to turn away some last minute visitors because the fire department didn’t allow more people in. Sense of Bellydance performed a special themed theater piece titled ‘Rainbow’ about the life cycle of women. It was fun and intense. I did a structured improvisation to Celtic harp music, played live on stage. I appropriately danced my interpretation of the phase of ‘giving birth.

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In October we had our first Halloween Hafla. I am really proud of one of my students who performed solo for the first time after taking classes with me for six years. It takes guts to put yourself on stage, and she totally nailed it! It was fun to have a Halloween half and I plan on doing another one in 2017.

In October we also had a belly dance party in Wijk aan Zee, organized by one of the members of Sense of Bellydance. It was her first big event and it had a varied line up, she put up[ beautiful decorations and all the performers and audience members felt great afterwards. We jammed until we had to vacate the building 😊 Two students who joined me for an improvised ATS performance. 2016 was the year that I fell back in love with ATS and I plan on doing combination based ATS with my students in 2017.

Stuff I learned in workshops

At the start of June, Sadie Marquard came to the Netherlands to teach her Raqs Flow program. I participated and learned a lot about her way of training, drilling, interpreting moves. Her efforts to create an accessible and inclusive training program that contains all the building blocks essential to belly dance is impressive. I also enjoyed meeting new dance friends and seeing old dance friends like Luna and Khalida. Having other crazy people to share the love for belly dance with is awesome.

Costumes

Not many completely new costume projects in 2016 but I am fine with that. I finished the gold metal mesh costume and celebrated by doing an outdoor photoshoot. I started refurbishing this costume in November 2015 and I am rather proud that I finished, as I had it in my stash since 2010 or earlier. Stash busting rules!

The Minty Fresh costume got some extra beading and was worn during a drum solo performance. It still needs some more permanent beaded fringe but I am happy that I made some progress on this costume.

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Last but not least, I lined the white Moon goddess costume, added a sleeve and adjusted the drape. And then I had a pretty impressive corporate duo performance with May’sa that involved a road trip and croissants.

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On a personal note

2015 was the year that I gave birth, 2016 is the year that I became a mother. It took me some time to readjust to our little one, and balancing my full-time job, belly dance, my family and my social life. I am grateful for my amazing husband who helps me carry the load, helps me laugh things off and keeps me firmly grounded when my thoughts go in many directions at once. Our little girl turned one recently and I am immensely proud and happy that I am her mommy. She loves it when I dance around the room, and she even waved a fan veil around when she helped me unpack a shipment of fan veils. Here she is reaching for the Christmas tree.

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I told you I’d write more about the dance studio earlier in this post. In 2016 we decided to put our plans of remodeling the house and garage into action. We figured that we might as well start right now. The first phase is nearly completed: the contractor knocked down the old garage and replaced it with a small dance studio. The dance studio includes it’s own bathroom and shower and it’s own entrance. It’s going to take a couple more months to finish the details like the mirrors, floor, window dressing, pantry and other things. At the start of 2017 the contractor will start building an addition to the side of the house plus make changes to the living room. We anticipate the remodeling to be complete in June 2017. I am already creating workshop material for the new studio, focussing on small groups and in depth belly dance related subjects.

Affirmations and Belly Dance Practice Dice

I am grateful for the cooperation with fellow belly dancers Mao (www.sparklybelly.com), Khalida, Zahra Zuheir and Andalee (www.bellydanceatanysize.com). We created a beautiful set of bellydance affirmations that you can download for free! I created a separate website called Belly Dance Resources to give the affirmations and practice dice their own place to live. Check out my other website and get your own set!

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In the last half of 2016 I created several prototypes of belly dance practice dice. With these dice you can spice up your practice routine, or use them in class and let your students play with them and try new ways of combining moves. I am currently using the fourth prototype in my classes, got a quote on how much it would cost to produce them in higher quantities (I hand punched and cut the prototypes). In February 2017 I’ll launch a kickstarter to see if there is enough interest in producing these sets for other dancers as well. Read all about it on this page.

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We are at the end of this blog post with many, many things that made me feel happy and accomplished in 2016. Thank you for reading this post up until the very, very end 😉. I have every intention to make 2017 a wonderful year filled with belly dance, cuddles from our little girl and late night talks with my husband. I want to thank you for reading my blog, for your comments, questions and support. Have a great year!

 

 

Ten ideas to renew your love for belly dance

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It’s the time of the year when everything get’s super busy and when I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be better to slow down a bit. Is whatever I am doing making me happy? Is it worth the effort of going out into the cold, dark night from a warm and cozy home? I mellow  bit as I get older and I am very content spending evenings at home huddled under a fleece blanket with a cup of tea and a movie. I also appreciate and love doing what I do and it get’s easier to say ‘no’ to the things that cost me too much energy.

As every dancer that I know at some point thought about quitting, I compiled a list of ten things that I do to renew my love for belly dance and keep me going. Feel free to try these, elaborate or change them according to what works for you. Falling right back in love with belly dance is one of the best gifts I can get for myself!

  1. Just say no to whatever is taking up too much energy

I love to dance. I love to teach. I love to perform. But when I am short on time, some of the these things give me more energy with a little bit of effort while others require a lot of preparation for a relative small reward. I tuned down my participation in one of my troupes, saving me a couple of hours every month. It sure hurts a bit when I hear of the exciting plans and projects that they are working on, but then I remind myself of the plans and projects I get to do for myself and I am good. As dancers we are used to doing everything, but not doing activity X, Y or Z doesn’t make you less of a dancer.

2. Dance ten minutes every day

Moving, dancing, feeling at home in my body, these are the things that drew me to belly dance in the first place. Even if I can’t schedule regular practice sessions, dancing ten minutes every day is an attainable goal and it is a lot of fun. I am dancing around the living room to Christmas songs with my little girl right now and loving it.

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Time according to dancers

 

3. Attend an event without participating

Usually I am performing, my students are performing or I am helping out back-stage. But it is refreshing to go to an event, buy a ticket, lean back and enjoy the show.

4. Create your own practice space

Or, if you already have a dedicated practice space, clean up and declutter. Creating a real space where I can practice, stretch, and focus helps me to reset my mind and think about dance as an activity of contemplation and serenity.

5.Get rid of costumes that don’t work

It could be the a costume that I am hanging on to for sentimental value, but never wear. Or costumes that haven’t fit me in years, hiding in the back of my closet. In the end, my costumes should fit me, flatter me and make me happy. They should spark joy! I try to sell my costumes first, and if they don’t move I try to find a happy new owner among my friends, sometimes trading costumes so we both have something new to wear.

6. Go back to the basic moves

Imagine being a beginner again, being excited about a well executed hip drop or figuring out different directions for figure eights. I sometimes make things far more complicated then they need to be. Going back to the basic moves and playing around always brings a smile to my face.

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One of my basic movement cards for my beginners.

 

7. Count the numbers

Every now and then I sit down and do a quick tally of what I have accomplished in the last year, and the last decade. I have created over fifty choreographies, taught over six hundred students, performed over two hundred times. Seeing these numbers make me grateful that I have done all these things and determined to add some more for the fun of it.

8. Set some SMART dance goals

When life is overwhelming, picking a couple of SMART goals that can be attained in a couple of weeks or months always cheer me up. I’m doing a very exciting project with several dancers from all over the world right now that gives me tons of energy and ideas.

9. Find some friends to dance with

Being a professional belly dancer can get a bit lonely. As the owner of my own company, most of my activities are done solo. Administration, taxes, promotion, creating lesson plans, working on choreography and practice… it has to be done, but being on my own it kind of sucks the energy out of me. Going out with my dance friends, visiting for a cup of tea or even talking on the phone helps me to get some feedback and perspective.

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Dancing with my friends, September 2015

10. Write down what I love about belly dance

I sit down and start writing. All the things I like about belly dance, the things that made me fall in love. The day that I come up blank is the day that I stop dancing. But looking at all the reasons why I dance, that might take another decade!

I am a professional bellydancer and costume-a-holic living in the Netherlands. My biggest passion is teaching and performing bellydance and I intent to continue for quite some time! If you enjoyed this post and like to be kept in the loop, please like Kyria Bellydance on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Leave your questions or comments in the box below, or let me know through Facebook.

Male bellydancers – part 1

A question that I often get from students or workshop participants is ‘do men bellydance?’. The quick answer to that question is:’yes, men do bellydance, both in social situations and professionally. There are a lot of male bellydancers out there making a living from belly dance.’

The long answer… well, it’s long. I’m going to cut it into several blogpost so I can cover it all. Today I’m going to write a bit about the way the male body is built and how it influences how male belly dance. The most important difference between men and women is the bone structure. The pelvis of men are narrow and their shoulders are wide, creating an inverted triangle shape. As a result, hip work on a male dancer looks smaller compared to hip work on a female dancer.

Here’s a video of Rachid Alexander, a male dancer from the Netherlands.

As men have more muscle compared to women, their dancing often reflects this by emphasizing muscular technique that comes easier to men. For example, belly rolls are easier for men, and tiny shoulder shimmies look great on wide shoulders. Traditionally male dancing was often used to impress the other men (In the Middle-East, men and women party separately) and it can include martial art style moves. Here’s a video of Tito Seif, performing Tahtib (A folkloric cane dance from Egypt for men). If you have time, check out more video’s of him dancing. He is incredible.

Now for a bit of fun, here’s a Buzzfeed video of bodybuilders who try belly dancing for the first time. It is a bit cheesy, but the teacher does a great job at explaining that belly dance is a social dance. Plus the faces of the musicians are priceless.

A random collection of free belly dance stuff

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blog-free-stuffI’ve been browsing around the internet, searching for interesting stuff to work with and I thought I’d share the result of my treasure hunt with you. In this blog, I present to you a random collection of free stuff. Some of it is belly dance related, some of it isn’t. Enjoy!

Free customized printable wrapping paper

How awesome is this? Customize your paper, download, print, wrap and gift. Can also be used for origami, creating cards, labels, etc.

Free wrapping paper ready to use

Bright patterned wrapping paper for immediate use. Cheerful and pretty.

Free choli pattern

Black Swan Tribe offers a free choli pattern for personal use. Great for practice wear.

Free belly dance coloring book

The amazing Dawn Devine made a free belly dance coloring book. All you have to do is sign up for her newsletter that is filled with cool stuff about belly dance.

Free printable affirmation

I found these cards pretty, beautiful affirmations and easy to print out and use. Well put together and I love the effect that having an affirmation every now and then has on me.

Free Bellyfit video class

I ccertified as a Bellyfit instructor a couple of years ago and I admire Alice Bracegirdle and the work she puts into the program. Bellyfit is aimed at all women and offers a work-out that nourishes the body and the mind. Plus it incorporates elements of belly dance, Bollywood and African dance.

Free belly dance practice prompts

Mahin is an inspiring teacher. Sign up for her daily bellydance quickies and receive free practice prompts and ideas.

Free podcasts on various bellydance subjects

Nadira Jamal geeks out with guest speakers in this monthly podcasts. Sign up and join the podcast live, or listen to the recording afterwards. There’s a wealth of information over here.

 

Exciting news

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I haven’t written about a rather exciting project that my husband and I are undertaking. When we bought our family home in 2013 we dreamed about remodeling the property to our hearts content. My husband, who is reading this (Hi honey!), happens to be a musician. He likes to play and create music with his friends. Iteach dance classes and I have claimed one of the upstairs bedrooms as my practice and dance-storage space.  But with our family growing, the bedroom needs to be used as a bedroom and we don’t like spending so much time on travelling to our practice space as we have far less free time. We’d rather be playing/dancing!

We talked extensively about our dreams and ideas and we decided to go through an extensive remodeling of our property. Our garage has been torn down and will be replaced by a fully functional albeit small sized dance studio. The official opening of the studio will be in June, as the contractor will also build an addition to the side of the house. We will live in utter chaos for roughly six months and even have to relocate our family including our baby and dog for a couple of weeks to make it happen.

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November 1th: the garage is gone

I have never had so many meetings with official sounding people but the plans are finished, the finances are taken care of and 5his week the contractor started by tearing down the garage. What does this mean?

  • We will have a freestanding studio space in the back yard, that will function as a small dance studio starting in June 2017.
  • The studio is located in our backyard and we will limit the use of the studio in lieu of the privacy of our family. It is mostly for personal use and we will not program activities in it every day/night.

The studio allows me to focus more on teaching workshops to small groups. I’ve developed a prenatal belly dance workshop and course that I’ll schedule on a regular base, plus I love to do workshops for belly dancers on subjects that are rarely taught. Examples of what I have in mind:

  1. Rare folkloric themes like Nubian, Tunesian, etc;
  2. The business side of belly dance like maintaining your own website, creating flyers, taxes;
  3. Creative workshops on making costume items.

This summer I have been using the evenings to work on the programming, developing marketing material and improving my lesson plans. I am focusing on the Dutch market but some of my dance material will also be published in English. Stay tuned for ideas and materials to spice up your belly dance practice. The next six months will be exciting, busy, scary and filled with the sound of men at work.

Halloween Hafla

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Summer is finally leaving over here in The Netherlands and the chill of autumn is in the air. Falling leaves, hot chocolate… for the Dutch, it’s time to enjoy pepernoten, tidy up the garden and look forward to fall break. Or is it just me?

Halloween is gaining in popularity over here and I always wanted to do a Halloween themed bellydance party. When our last bellydance party was scheduled on October 5th, I figured it was close enough to Halloween to turn it into a Halloween Hafla! Just a few minor hiccups, including me being short on time and having to prepare the program, playlist, workshop and performance schedule. In the end it all worked out as I decided to make it a bit minimalistic.

Sara brought in black backdrops with white creepy animals. I did a bit of last minute Halloween DIY by cutting white paper in the shape of ghosts, orange paper in the shape of pumpkins and using a black marker to give them eyes and a mouth. As a good luck charm for the performers I drew pumpkin faces on mandarins.


For my own costume I reused whatever I had in my closet. A tiered skirt with shisha mirrors and sari border on the bottom, I quickly attached a coin and mirror bra cover to a black bra and added a black velvet wrap top for more coverage. The bra took me more time than I anticipated: about three hours. That’s because I sport a larger bra size these days and I needed to take the cover apart to fit it properly over the bra. The belt was even more work as it turned out to be a bit lopsided. This was to be expected as I bought it as a ‘flawed item’ and I got a really good price because of it’s flaws.


My solo was to ‘Black Magic Woman’ from Santana. Couldn’t find a decent witch hat so I had to do without. I am really pleased with the overall look of our group performance. Keep in mind that this is a student troupe that is not solely dedicated to ATS.

The workshop was well attended followed by four performances that all had a bit of a spooky accent. I say it was a success! I’m hoping to have a similar hafla next year, slightly bigger maybe.

 

 

 

How to add a gathered fabric effect with elastic

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Creating clothes is all about working with shapes and effects. A slight gathered effect can make the difference between a rather plain looking top, or a top that has a nice visual effect. This effect can be made by sewing a tunnel, threading the tunnel with cord or elastic and pulling it tighter.

But why would I spend so much time on a complicated tunnel construction if I can create the same effect in just a couple of minutes? In this post I’ll show you how. Let’s start out with a plain top. I made this one from lycra, but all stretch fabrics and knitted fabrics would work for this technique.

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I finish the edges, then take a piece of elastic and pin the top to the fabric. I then use the pins to create a guide for the elastic. The elastic is free to move in between the pins, yet remains in place. I prefer starting on the top so that’s where I’ll start sewing.

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Taking the top with my I use a wide zigzag stitch to stitch the top 3 mm/ 1/5th” of the elastic into place.

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I then pull the elastic towards me and continue sewing. Make sure that the underlying fabric stays smooth. Feeding the fabric and the elastic through the machine, it will look like this from the inside.

 

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When turned inside out, the effect is clearly visible.

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This top is part of a skirt and top combination that I made for the student recital in June. The pattern of the skirt can be found here.

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I love to hear from you if you used this technique and liked it! Let me know in the comments below or on facebook. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

I am a professional bellydancer and costume-a-holic living in the Netherlands. My biggest passion is teaching and performing bellydance and I intent to continue for quite some time! If you enjoyed this post and like to be kept in the loop, please like Kyria Bellydance on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Leave your questions or comments in the box below, or let me know through Facebook.

Beading at 112 kmph

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When people see me working on costumes the most heard comment is: ‘Doesn’t it take forever to finish a costume?’. My common answer is: ‘It does take quite some time’.  I always wonder what the rationale is behind this question. Should I not start a project that requires a great deal of my time? Are they amazed that I am not getting bored by sewing thousands and thousands of sequins and beads to a costume? Or do they wonder how I have time to make costumes?

My secret to costume making is my daily commute. For my day job I travel roughly sixty five km by train. Living on the outskirts of a city means taking the local train, and the local train uses app. 50 minutes to get to my destination. That’s fifty minutes of sleep, listening to music, staring out of the window, checking facebook updates on my phone….  or fifty minutes of costuming. This is my regular view: the screen on the top tells me we are travelling at 112 kmph. The seats are color coordinated with the project I am currently working on.

IMG_5093At the end of the day when I am done with work, I have to take the same train back home. That’s another fifty minutes of costuming. The tricky bit is preparing workthat can be done in the train. For example, bringing a lot of supplies with me is out of the question. Bringing something with me that needs a lot of workspace is also a big no no. The tables are narrow and small and often I can’t get a seat at the window during rush hour.

I learned to pack light, bring only the bare essentials for what I’m working on and to divide my work into chunks. For example, I am working on filling triangles with a random bead pattern. This is what I can get done in fifty minutes. For the record, this was the biggest triangle.IMG_4959

I am not putting pressure on myself to finish something in the limited time that I have. Instead, I focus on motivating myself to get started. If I don’t feel like beading, I simply don’t. But I know how happy I am when I finish a costume and get to wear it. Working on a costume is essential to getting closer of the shiny prize at the end of the proverbial tunnel. And there’s another pay off! Beading works like meditation for me. It’s totally zen to not stare at a screen, to limit my vision to the fabric before me and not do anything else. Sewing can be kind of therapeutic for the very same reasons. When others see a box of beads and a seemingly endless project, they get stressed out. When I see a box of beads, I think of how lovely it will be when it is done.

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Another option is beading while watching the TV, something I used to do when I had more time on my hands. Something that requires little attention to follow the plotline is perfect. Nowadays I don’t watch much TV as it is. Too busy being home and running around after the little one, cooking dinner or being too tired to pick up a needle.

What are your time saving tricks to get some sewing or costuming done?

I am a professional bellydancer and costume-a-holic living in the Netherlands. My biggest passion is teaching and performing bellydance and I intent to continue for quite some time! If you enjoyed this post and like to be kept in the loop, please like Kyria Bellydance on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Leave your questions or comments in the box below, or let me know through Facebook.

 

Overlapping row of sequins

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This is a basic beading technique I use often and I’ve seen it referred to with different names. Basically it is sewing sequins down in a row with the sequins partly overlapping, like roof tiles. The non stretch sequin trim looks quite similar to this technique and is much faster. I wouldn’t recommend edging the edge of a veil or skirt by hand as it would take up a lot of time. Machine stitching pre made sequin trim would be much faster and easier!

This technique is perfect for parts on a costume that need a bit extra, or where I want to hide something. Beaded fringe can be bought premade and it is attached to a cord on the top. The cord needs to be hidden after sewing it on, and an overlapping row of sequins is perfect for the job.

Getting started

I wanted to add some more fringe to the black multicolor bra and I had some old pieces of black fringe lying around. I hand stitched it on top of the cups. As you can see, without covering up the cord on top of the fringe is kind of ugly. I didn’t have enough to create a full row so I left a small gap in between the pieces. Due to the fringe swinging it is almost not noticeable.

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The technique

Start by anchoring your thread to the fabric in whatever way you prefer. I like to work with a double thread and anchor by pulling the needle through the two threads in the back. I then take one sequin and sew it down by sewing through the fabric to the back.

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Let the needle re emerge on the outside of the costume, right next to the first sequin. Add the next sequin and repeat.

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Continue adding sequins until you reach the end of the rope, then add a couple more just to make sure the rope is well hidden. When finished, it looks like this:

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One more thing to cross of my costuming  to-do list! If you want to read more about this technique, I recommend Naima’s blog on fish scale beading. It shows some interesting ways of using this technique to create different textures in a costume.

I am a professional bellydancer and costume-a-holic living in the Netherlands. My biggest passion is teaching and performing bellydance and I intent to continue for quite some time! If you enjoyed this post and like to be kept in the loop, please like Kyria Bellydance on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Leave your questions or comments in the box below, or let me know through Facebook.