Tribal bra and belt: the belt, part 2

We’d left the belt in Part 1 with the basic shapes and basic cover ready. What you need to do next is, basically, to attach the fabric, add boning if needed, add lacing grommets if needed, add decoration. Simple, right?

Once you’ve got your basic sturdy fabric shape and your base fashion fabric shape, overlap both, with the fashion fabric facing OUT and the study fabric’s inside facing towards you. Grab the extra edge you left all around, and start pinning. Depending on the fabric you’re using and the shapes you picked, you might need to clip some of it to get a better, neater fold. Be careful and make sure that the fashion fabric is not bunching or altering the shape of your sturdy fabric. Machine sew it all around, making sure that the internal edges are neat and there’s no bunching or pieces left without attachment. Wrap around your hips to make sure there is enough fabric, and there is no overlapping unless desired. If there’s not enough fabric, and for some reason the belt is a touch too short, consider using laces to make up for this. If there is a *significant* difference, you might be able to make up for this by adding two side panels, but for this to work you would be looking at least at 8″ difference or more, which would signal that there has been something fundamentally wrong in your process. Otherwise, you might have to review your numbers and cutting, because obviously there are issues, and you will have to start all over again. Sorry, go back to square one, and hopefully it will be better next time.

cable tie, bias tape, boning and eyelets

cable tie, bias tape, boning and eyelets

if you are adding anything like a sari ribbon or any other flat decoration that requires machine sewing, now is the time to add it. With mine, I realised that the bigger back would need something more and I would need some extra fabric decoration, so I cut two pieces of Chinese brocade to have two phoenixes (see finished photo). If you’re going to use lacing and/or need boning, now is the time to add it, just make sure that you’ve done all the other machine sewing needed first (otherwise you might accidentally sew through the channels). Cut your cable ties a bit shorter than the height of your belt, and cut the bias tape a bit longer. Sew the bias tape vertically, leaving the top open and enough room for the cable tie to slide in snuggly. Make sure you add one bone on each edge, two bones in the middle if you’re using a heavy decoration piece, and, if you’re using lacing with grommets, one bone on each side of them. You’re probably going to be better off sewing the bone channels before adding the grommets (use a loose one for measuring when choosing placement for the channels), and you might probably want to have the bones off while you try to make the holes with your awl.

Tribal Belt, boning and eyelets

boning and eyelets, inside view

Around now you should be pretty much done with the base belt, and should have your shape, with some decoration (or not) but with the fashion fabric firmly in place. Now move onto the lacing, if using it: decide on number of grommets, mark them on the fabric, and use your awl to create a hole for each of the grommets. Keep in mind that you’re not aiming to CUT the fabric as to find a weak point in between the fibres that can be expanded. For location and number of the grommets, I would suggest to keep the numbers low enough that the manipulation doesn’t weaken the fabric, but high enough to make sure both top and bottom edges are tied, otherwise your lacing will gap a bit when tightening (experience talking here, I wish I’d used more). Use either the little die that came with the grommets and a hammer, or a hand-held fitting tool to put them on. And of course if you do have a hand-press for them, you’re probably doing corsetry already and shouldn’t be reading this, because you’d know how to do it.

belt laces and eyelets, visible side

belt laces and eyelets, visible side

Once your grommets are on, insert the bones, sew the ends of the casings, lace up and check the fit. It’s ok if there’s a bit of a gap in between the front and back if you’re using laces, the important bit is that it’s not too loose: the fit should be snug enough that it won’t start wiggling around and falling off your hips when you’re dancing. On the left is a picture of how mine look once boned and laced; notice there is no room for the eyelets to stretch the fabric. These bones will also stabilise the whole belt and prevent it from bunching downwards.

putting on the decoration

decoration of the belt; above, the bra done previously

Finally, it’s time to start (or continue) the decoration. If you’ve used a particular pattern or motif on the bra that you want to reproduce, pick it up, and try to make it as similar as you can, to get a unified look. I used shisha mirrors and silver jewellery findings along the top, which I had to sew by hand. Remember when sewing these that you will be going through quite a few layers of rather sturdy fabric, so use your thimble, if you value your fingertips and nails. I finished the look with a big Kuchi pendant and some thin chains wrapping around the whole belt.

Try it on, have a good wiggle, make sure that there are no leftover pins, whatever dangling pieces you’ve used are not too heavy for the belt or too thick or out of alignment, etc. Once you’re completely satisfied, cut pieces of the lining using your original sturdy fabric pattern, serge all around to prevent fraying, and sew by hand at the back. Make absolutely, positively certain that the fabric is NOT slippery; you want your belt to be glued to your hips, and any taffeta, silk or satin-like material will instead make it slide more easily. Needless to say, you do not want that, regardless of how nice it looks.

And you’re done!
Put it on, have a good dance around, and enjoy your brand new, hand made, one of a kind belt!

tribal belt, back view

tribal belt, back view

tribal belt, front view

tribal belt, front view

Inspiration: Dancing During Pregnancy

No, I am not pregnant. No, I am not planning on doing it. However, a close friend of mine is, and the subject of belly dance did come up during conversation.

I’ve seen videos of gorgeous dancers pregnant, including Sadie, Saida and Sera. I’ve read a lot of comments (anecdotal evidence) about women saying that they did belly rolls or omis during birth, or that said they found the process easier/less painful because of their belly dance training. I’ve also ready at least a few people suggesting that belly dance evolved as a fertility dance, and also as a way of training the muscles for the process of pregnancy and birth. And hubby insists there is a certain “advertisement” in the dancing, not because we’re advertising our sexual availability (as a lot of people think), but, in a more basic sense, we’re advertising our suitability, in a sort of “we are well trained to give birth without risk and get back to normal quicker”.

The truth is, we do not know how belly dancing originated, but I do like to think there is something very primal about it.

My friend did some belly dancing in the past, and had mentioned wanting some exercising. So I suggested Sera Solstice’s “Goddess Dance: Prenatal Bellydance & Meditation”. There’s a wonderful clip on YouTube of her dancing at 8 months pregnant, but while doing that, I found something else, even more poignant: a short clip of her dancing at home, with her daughter and bump first, six days before birth, and again with her daughter and now born son six days after the birth. I think that brings the point across in a way that no organised masterful performance can do, and it is quite sweet to watch too. Enjoy!

Doing your first choreography

Sneaked among the latest post was a tiny bit of momentous news: I’ve finally gone and done my first choreography. Which wouldn’t strictly be true, as I wasn’t working on one but two, but right now I’m focusing on the one that is actually finished.
I know that for some people that have done theirs for ages, it’s not a big deal. For others, it’s anathema: they see belly dance as a dance form which should be free, improvised on the spot, according to the feel of the moment, and the music, so a pre-established choreography is not something desireable.

Me? I’m middle-ground. I’ve danced a few choreographies by several “famous” (or equivalent in the belly dancing world) people, some by Khaled, a handful of Kazafy’s. I’ve also done some by a troupe mate. I’ve enjoyed some, some I didn’t, and this had nothing to do with who created them. I think choreographies have their place, particularly when you’re in a troupe and not following an established improvisational style like ATS. As does improvisation: we tend to add a “free form” piece at the end of our Egyptian-style performances where we can dance with the public, if we are in a suitable environment, but the choreographies allow you to have something more established when planning.

Since we started taking ATS classes, my friend L and I had the request a few times to “prepare something tribal” . Of course the whole concept of improvisation can be difficult to explain to people not familiar with the format, and a choreography would both cover this and any spot of nerves that might raise. I’d also wanted to choreograph something for the Sunday group, as we don’t really seem to have any dances “of our own”, relying instead of older dances done by the Advanced group. So the “brilliant” concept (and notice the quotes; I am not taking this seriously, as I suspect it will create a load of headaches down the line) came about of putting something together to dance with L., and then show it to the Sunday Group, and if they liked it, see if we could teach it to them. Two birds, one stone and all of that.

So, when my Choreography Bunnies started bouncing around too much, I finally took some time and tried to come up with something. And it was surprisingly easy once I figured things out. So here are my suggestions, in no particular order:

  • decide what is the intended audience for your piece; will this be a street performance, a carnival, a theatre, a hafla? general public or bellydancers? where will you perform? Different venues and circumstances might make you think twice on what you’re doing (i.e. sword in a street performance with people walking around you invites disaster)
  • pick a piece of music that *really* makes you want to dance; bonus point if it’s not something that has been done to death, or that people might relate to (i.e. that obscure mizmar piece would be great for an appreciative belly dancer audience, but the nasal slightly discordant tones might feel too alien for the general public)
  • familiarise yourself with the music, to the point that you can repeat it beat for beat in your sleep; learn the phrases, accents, peaks, or tension within it; this will make it easier for you to practice and think of combos or steps to use.
  • if there are lyrics, become familiar with them, and their meaning, as it can help suggest to you gestures, expressions or actions
  • put it on a few times, have a few free-flowing dances to it; take note of things that you like (and I mean it, TAKE NOTE, write it down, don’t rely on your memory), even if you are missing chunks in between these parts.
  • now that you’re starting to get a skeleton for your choreography, look at the music again: notice the structure, whether there are repeating parts that could benefit from similar steps, whether there is an increase in pacing, a stretch in the notes being played, a modulation of the tone, or anything similar, and think of how you can help express that with your movements
  • it’s not all about the hips: you don’t need to shake your hips constantly like an electrocuted frog in a lab; you have a wide variety of moves on your dance vocabulary that include the whole body, use them!
  • it’s not all about you: if you’re choreographing for a group, remember it’s not all about you being in front and having backing dancers; think of ways to arrange things so that everybody has a chance to shine, unless they want to remain hidden in the back
  • it’s not all about the base rhythm; these can be quite similar and even monotonous unless you’re working on a drum solo; try to capture the feel of the main “voice” on the piece, be it a human throat, instruments or yes, even percussion
  • everybody doing the same in their little dancer’s box is ok, but a bit boring: travelling steps help a lot, and using the stage to move about or change places make the choreography more dynamic and visually interesting.
  • it’s not all about the High Concept: having an idea, trying to tell a story, is all nice and good, but don’t let your dance be lost in your concept; sometimes people dance because they’re happy or sad, or energetic, or simply because they like the music; don’t let your High Concept get in the way of your dancing to the point that it overpowers it; sometimes music is also made just for enjoyment!
  • don’t try to cram everything in once piece: don’t make your choreography a catalogue of moves, and try to give it some unity instead; repeat combos on similar sections, for instance, or do moves that are related instead of going for something completely different with every bar!
  • build up: you don’t want your audience to be bombarded with everything from the get go, or so overwhelmed with cool moves that everything blurs… showcase interesting moves among simpler ones,  and build up your moves as the music builds up
  • if you’re choreographing for a specific group, take into account their strengths and weaknesses; some of your troupe mates might be better at some moves, and some might be unable to do others, so think of ways around this
  • conversely, be mindful of your limitations and those dancing with you: impressive moves are impressive, but basic moves are beautiful too when done with proper technique; choose moves that are suitable to your level and that of those around you
  • don’t give up, or expect the whole routine to be ready in a matter of hours; these things often need quite a bit of time to come together, and sometimes what works inside your head might prove to be  just awkward to execute, so be ready to make changes
  • finally, when you start practicing, make sure you are aware of what parts of the body will take more of a pounding or require extra flexibility, so warm up those accordingly

In my case, I started with a song I really liked, and which hubby helpfully said “that would be nice with some dancing”, and went on from there. I keyed on certain parts of the song (slow intro, chorus) thinking of what could fit them, then took it one verse at a time, and once I had a first half I liked, tried to use it as the starting platform for the remaining half. I’m still doing touch-ups here and there, but overall structure is in place, and hopefully by the time the first performance rolls in, it’ll be ready for unveiling.

Avoiding Injury

It’s the moment we all dread, when the doc looks at you and says “you know what I’m going to tell you, don’t you…”

Starting at the begining, back in September, during Nawarra’s excelent and fun (and vigorous) Sha’abi workshop, I felt a tug under my left arch. That had happened in the past before when I’ve been bouncing too much, I didn’t think about it twice, wore a support for a few days, and promptly forgot about it. Then the Bonfire Parade came, the coldest in years, with a temperature of about 5°C, and despite wearing my brand new possum and alpaca wollen socks, and the multiple layers, no amount of warming up could make up for the freezing temperatures, and I got bad cramps first, and was showing a distinct swelling around the inner ankle bone when I got back home. I slept on it, saw the swelling the following day, spent the day with my foot up, skipped Sunday class, wore a support for a few days, and promptly forgot about it. I blamed the bone chip leftover from that very bad sprain in 2010 (before I started dancing, and the culprit in my late start, actually).

Come November, I started ATS level 2, where the conditioning now included one-footed hip drops and shimmies; we also started doing more work in relevé in both Egyptian and ATS classes, with plenty of shimmies. I was rather happy that I could now spend more time on tiptoes, as I used to be useless about that. Every now and then, my ankle would complain a bit, I would wear a support for a couple of days, then promptly forget about it (starting to see a theme here?). December came, and for one reason or other I had to flee classes without proper stretching and cool down, in the cold, sometimes with quite a bit of a walk as I had to take a bus. Last classes came, and by mid December I was waking up with a stiffness on the back of my leg that, by late December, had started to make me limp when waking up. It would go away with a bit of movement, and since I had no classes planned for nearly a month, I decided to start practicing at home. Heck, I even planned a full choreography during a week! I was on fire! Late December, there was that VNV Nation concert, and again the swelling and a bit of limping (“Must be that I spent too long standing up, no doubt!”). And the New Year’s party, where I went as far as… you guessed, put on a support and forgot about it.

And then I got together with my friend L. to start praciting that lovely choreography, my very first, child of my loins (figuratively) and suddenly… *pop*. It felt like popping a joint, except that the pain was instant and intense. And I had to stagger to a chair, and request ice. And after an afternoon at A&E the following day, and some X-rays that showed that thankfully there was no broken bone and everything was attached, I had the traumatologist sit me down for a *very serious talk*.

Apparently, I was dancing too much. And while the dancing helps, the dancing is also THE PROBLEM (he was very serious, you could hear the uppercase in his tone of voice)
“But I thought you guys wanted me to exercise!”
“yes, but we normally mean things like swimming”
“I would if I could travel to a pool nearby, you know”

The diagnostic was, unsurprisingly, tendinitis. The doc was, despite what it sounds like, surprisingly good, surprisingly sympathetic, and surprisingly supportive, and agreed that since I *liked* dancing it was the best thing for me to do, I was just too enthusiastic about it. He did say, however, “no dancing for at least a week”. He explained all the anatomy of the leg muscles and tendons for me, and pointed out that I kept having issues consistent with the Achilles tendon being overworked, including pulls underneath and down the back, and around the inside of the ankle. According to the physiotherapist, it is very likely that I have one or more sprains combined with the tendinitis. She mentioned that it was possible that all the movements had increased the muscle mass on the calves without enough stretching of the tendons to compensate (her words, I suspect she was trying to dumb it down for me) and that a stiff tendon made everything else work harder and more prone to sprains. She did, however, agreed that I could dance. Except that I can’t do any spinning, turning, jumping, or quick change of direction; no arabesques for me either, no slow turning hip drops, no TSWATS. And no relevé. At least until it starts healing, and only then slowly easing myself into it.

You can follow the pattern quite easily. There are two things that seem consistent, one is the lack of proper warm-up or cool down for particular events, the other is throwing some duck tape at it and ignoring it. Now I’m paying for it, and dearly, as I can barely walk down the stairs, my ATS L2 second term will be screwed, I’m having to skip a performance at the end of January, and my glorious choreography planned for the Hafla in February is also a no-go. The good news is that I *should* be back to normal by March. The bad news is that the tendinitis can reoccur, although I’ve been told it should not as long as I remember to do the physio exercises, and to warm up and cool down and stretch properly, and preferably avoid dancing on uneven surfaces or when it is cold. Goodbye Bonfire Parade, I never liked you that much anyway.

What’s the moral of the story? Take care of your body. It’s the only one you have, and there’s no point in killing it; you’re not taking part in an Iron Woman contest, there’s no point in grinding your teeth and “working through the pain”, nobody is going to believe you’re any better, and what’s worse, as the rest of your body has to compensate for it, you might actually injure or damage your other leg. If there is consistent pain, chances are there is something going on that requires your attention. If I had gone to the doc back in early December I would have probably avoided the extra sprain, and although the diagnosis and treatment would have been exactly the same, most of it would have happened over a break period without classes, so I would have been nearly back to normal by the time I was back. I’m already slapping myself for this, and I’ve promised everybody I won’t do it again.

And now I’m publishing my stupidity on the hopes that it helps others avoid the same.

Illamasqua Sale

I’ve posted quite glowingly about Illamasqua’s eyeliners before, and now they are having a sale, where you can get all three I mentioned in my post for £5 each. Regular price is £17 so you can snap my three favourite for less than the full price for one. Even more, there’s also most of their Liquid Metal creme eyeshadows on the sale too, also for £5. These creme eyeshadows are brilliant as bases for other colours, or as your only makeup; you can also apply them with thin brush and use them to add accents or lines. As their counterparts, they stay on, won’t smudge or crease -at least on me- and have vibrant, lovely shimmer.

And if you spend £35 or more, the shipping is free.
Go to Illamasqua!

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