ATS-inspired choreography

On May 6th, a friend and I performed my first choreography at the Ifield May Fayre, near Crawley. It was our first duet, and we got a really good reception from the public. We did our choreography as part of a bigger show, invited by Deb’s Egyptian Bellydance troupe, that was first set up at the Ifield Barn Theatre, and then repeated at in front of a pub.

We are not 100% happy with it, there’s a few things that could do with polishing, but it was nice to do it.
Now let’s see how long until we can do a proper improvised ATS routine, with the zills!

Carnival and Performances, what’s in your bag?

By all accounts, I am a worrywart with a nutso gene that takes way too seriously the whole idea of pre-emptive strike. This means that every time that I go out for dinner I always take not just my medication, but 2 doses of ibuprofen in case I get a headache. Or that despite all requests and warnings, when my friend got married, I was the only one of the bridesmaids with a teensy purse… which I proceeded to open during the ceremony to start handling out tissues to everybody around that was crying.

Now that the Carnival season comes to an end and I can start posting again, I’d like to write a bit about the general experience. Last year, I had my first series of carnivals and performances, and soon enough I started realising that some things were useful, some I’d want to have… This year, I tried to put together a fixed box that I can grab, add make-up if necessary and throw into the performance bag quickly to be “prepared”.

For that purpose, I purchased a 1.6L Really Useful Box from Staples, on the idea that their pretty near hermetic seal would come handy for some of the contents. What I’ve added as staples there are:

  • deodorant
  • pack of  wet wipes
  • pack of eye make-up removing pads
  • small sewing kit
  • Simple  Hydrating Mist
  • sunblock
  • nail file
  • small perfume vial

Of late, I’ve taken to do my make-up at home, and I just retouch it when changing, but you always need some last minute corrections and there’s always someone wanting to know what you’re using. The reasons for each part of it are fairly obvious, I’d think, but just in case:

  • deodorant: I picked roll-on, clear, and with as little scent as possible; I want an antiperspirant by preference, but ideally just something that prevents me from going stinky by dealing with the odour instead of just masking it
  • wet wipes: always useful for last minute clean-ups, or coming back clean-ups. We’ve had to get ready in changing rooms without quick access to toilets so having an alternative for washing hands or removing accidental dirt is good
  • makeup remover: for tiny corrections and removing it all after the performance; I like to dress down after I’m done, but I do wear quite heavy eye make-up for performing so leaving that on afterwards feels a bit uncomfortable
  • sewing kit: always good in case I (or one of my troupemates) needs last minute costume repairs, I include a pair of embroidery scissors (small and pointy, great for precission work), some safety pins, a couple of sets of hook and bars and hook and eyes (in my experience, these are the ones that most often get broken or need repair/exchange/addition), embroidery and standard needles, and black button thread, which is very strong and is ideal for sewing on all the extras
  • the Hydrating mist is great to use over makeup to give it all a quick boost, and if you use mineral make-up, it is also a nice way of “setting” it.
  • sunblock: does this need any explanation? Wear it regardless of whether you want a suntan or not; belly dancing costumes can have very strange necklines and arms, and the last thing you want is to have them on you
  • nail file: even if you don’t keep your nails too long, all the beading and the hooks and eyes and bars and pulling and zippers can produce very small tears on your nails, that can then catch up and break further, or can slash very delicate fabrics; you definitely do NOT want this to happen, so filing those down the moment you notice even the slightest imperfection on the nail tips is a good idea.
  • small perfume vial: carnival goers should not get close enough to smell you, but I do like to smell nice anyway; it gets me in the mood, so to speak, particularly if you’ve got a perfume or two that you use consistently to dance. But while you should not put on the perfume while wearing your costume (you risk staining the costume), putting it on before leaving your house, then adding a bit more before you change into your costume will “layer” the scent and make it last longer without being too intense.

That’s about it for sundries. Next time, I’ll try to do a few cosmetics reviews, as I’ve tried some new stuff this year and been rather surprised.
So, what is in your bag?

Rustington Carnival, Egyptian outfits

Around new year, our group was invited to take part in Rustington’s Carnival, which would happen during the really long Jubilee weekend. We were also told that the theme for this year would be (unsurprisingly) “Royalty”. We also found out, pretty much at the same time, that Super-Neil, the trusted props person (and usual driver, sound engineer, and a long list of etceteras) had already started work on a Cobra for the trailer. What could we possibly do that would match both the cobra and the Royalty theme, and could match the belly dancing ? The cobras are supposed to be the Royal Snakes, but the whole relationship would be rather tenuous and more than likely missed by the judges. So we decided on an Egyptian-revival theme, thinking that the whole costume would also come handy if we ever made a Pharaonic piece.

Egyptian Historical Clothing

So off we went, trying to find suitable fabric. I had originally lobbied to use a very basic “wrap” over a skirt to obtain the type of dress you see mostly on things like mural paintings.  Yes, I was actually being stubborn and trying to go for accurate historical clothing. Which you can all guess how it was received (the words “lead” and “balloon” come to mind). Mainly, we all love the highly stylised versions we see on the statuettes and paintings,  lovingly hugging every curve, which has been repeated and reinforced by nearly every Egyptian-themed movie since. In reality, this was rarely, if ever the case, mainly because pattern-cutting skills back then were not exactly developed. On the upside, while looking around the net, I found a pdf version of a long out of print book exclusively on Egyptian Clothing. This made things easier, in a way, and more difficult in another as, the longer I kept looking, the more I realised these would definitely *not* fly with the rest of the group, and would basically made us all look like we’d taken a sheet and wrapped it around us.

So, back to the drawing board, I did the unthinkable and looked to the costume places. Still nothing really suitable, as most of it was either way too expensive for what they were provided, was made of horrid polyester or synthetic crushed velvet, didn’t have a range of sizes suitable to cover all of us, or was so short that would classify much better as lingerie suitable for bedroom play.

One thing did strike me clearly, though, and it was that for the most part, the Egyptian “vibe” was more about the accessories than the actual shape of the dress, and as long as these were kept, worn with a column or shift dress without unnecessary drapes,  it would be easier to come up with something that would work for everybody. With that in mind, I turned to my patterns and wardrobe, found a simple shift that would give the right feel, and lifted and modified the pattern to purpose.

The result was a simple shift with an Empire waist and straight sides, that we all wore with Egyptian necklaces; some of us even had proper beaded ones, although sadly none of us had remembered to add a menat (or counterweight) to keep them in place. We used our standard coin belts on top instead of the Egyptian sashes, just to add some colour, and instead of the typical wigs, we chose a rather good costume headdress with beaded falls nearly all around the head, and a rather funny posable snake at the front, that sadly had the tendency to look either like male genitalia, or a stoned stuffed animal. And in some rather disturbing cases, both at the same time.

And after a couple of false starts with potential but ultimately discarded fabrics, we settled on white cotton cheesecloth from Whaleys Bradford Ltd, and split the job between two of us (three if you count the help I got during a day). I made a proper pattern out of Swedish Pattern Paper, made a copy to give to my partner in crime, and wrote instructions, then we set out to make them all.

The final results were, against my fears, rather good. So much so, in fact, that we won the competition for Best Adult Walking Group, even if the local paper conveniently forgot to mention us on the following week, while mentioning everybody else. Could it be because we weren’t flaunting cleavage this time? Guess we’ll never know! Anyway, click below to see a big version of the photo of our group, with the Cobra, and the Trophy at its feet.

And the morals of the story? Several:

  • Judges like uniformity; our costumes are lovely, and professional, but so far we seem to win when there’s extra unity of design in them
  • Rustington can be bloody cold in early June, and cheesecloth is NOT good for cold weather
  • Costume unity can be achieved, even if it can be a pain to obtain sometimes
  • Creating patterns for an Apple shape is a completely different game than doing them for a Pear

But we’ve got the trophy and the certificate and the (small) cheque, and the full costumes. Now all we need is that Pharaonic coreography!

Egyptian Dresses, Rustington Carnival

Egyptian Dresses, Rustington Carnival

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