Review: Shimmy Sista’s Shrug

Shimmy Sista Shrug

Shimmy Sista Shrug

I’ve heard plenty of good things about ShimmySista, but since they are based in the US, I didn’t want to order, to avoid expensive shipping and risk being stung by Royal Mail with huge taxes. Luckily, someone I know in the US did order one, and found it a *little* big, and knowing her personally, I knew it would work for me. I purchased it new from her and shipped it reasonably, and didn’t get any taxes on it.

The shrug is an interesting shape, as you can see in the photo. It is a touch big on me and I will need to reduce the bottom, but that doesn’t make it fit too bad. The cut frames the bust beautifully too. The material is good stretch cotton, seams are all overlocked properly with a 5-thread serging and a healthy seam allowance (no hair-thin seams here!), and the finishing on the open edges is an overlocked rolled hem that creates a teensy bit of a lettuce effect on the stretch. The only thing I would suggest is that it requires a wash before first use… I wore it straight into my ATS class, and when I inevitably removed it halfway through, I had black fluff all over my armpits and inner elbows, which wasn’t attractive.

This is a shrug that might not work for all styles, but if you wear standard tank-tops and want something to cover up for class, it should be really useful. And the asking price is more than fair. I am just sad it doesn’t come in any other colours or options… a black mesh or stretch lace version would be quite useful and pretty, and I wish there was a clubbing version made with something more interesting or textured, like irregular big hole stretch mesh, to combine when I go to gigs or the like.

So if you’ve been eyeing these, give them a try! I’ve found I am not using mine as much for actual class but it’s a great way of covering up to wear before or after, and I’m pretty sure it should be quite cool over a decorated bra and paired with cotton tribal trousers or the new FCBD Bessie skirt for a light summer costume.

You can purchase the Shrug at Shimmy Sista’s store, here http://www.shimmysista.com/shrug.htm

Addendum: On Thursday, I came back from class, went to remove the shrug, and one of my nails -which aren’t sharp, and are maybe a couple of millimetres long, so pretty tame as far as talons go- went through the stretching fabric, just like that. I am *not* happy about it, but there’s nothing I can do other than fix the tear. It’s the first time I ever have something like this happen with a piece of clothing, and suggests to me that the fabric in the area was a bit too thin, which is ironic seeing that it was very close to the area where I was thinking of taking it in as it was too loose. Anyway, in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to mention this. And I think that I will re-evaluate any future purchases.

Review: Bellydfance with Fan Veils

Belly Dance with Fan Veils DVD coverI was excited when I got this, but my excitement soon turned into disappointment.

Let’s start with the technical aspects.
– there’s two dvds, one for single fan, one for double fan
– there is a trailer for the dvd you’ve just purchased at the start of each DVD. Not real information, just the trailer you can see on YouTube and that probably prompted you to buy. I can’t really see the point of this, not doubled.
– the DVD was filmed and then voiced over. There is no instruction from Jehan while doing it, so sometimes the voice over talks about doing something and the image has moved way past that and into something else
– the single fan dvd has a warm up; very pretty arms and hands movements on this, among other things
– the costumes that Jehan wears throughout are black; this wouldn’t be that much of an issue except that she’s standing in front of a black theatrical curtain, and particularly the begining is lit in a rather “creative” way. The image is clear (on the demonstrations, I’ll tackle the performances separately) but while I understand the black costumes to attract the eye to the fans, with the black background and the lighting it can get a bit lost sometimes. Also, the skirts are obscuring the leg movements.
– the “chapters” in the first dvd are Trailer, Warm-up, Instructional Single Fan, Close-up tips and tricks, Performances, and Promos
– the chapters in the second dvd are Trailer, Instructional Double Fan, Performances, and Credits. This means that if you want to go to a particular section of the instructional where she does something, you will have to fast forward from the beginning or fast rewind from the performances, because the instructional itself isn’t broken down; this is a particularly annoying problem, because throughout the video we are encouraged to stop and practice on our own, but if we have to leave the DVD on pause or have to ffw every time, it can get tiring.

The “instructional”
I am writing instructional between quotes because I don’t believe this is anything of the sort, except maybe a small section at the beginning and the Close-up tips and tricks. We are told how to handle the fan in the opening section. Told about flutters and figure eights and circles (with lots of affirming thoughts about your beauty and the sacred shapes and whatnot). And… that’s about it. The rest of the 40+ minutes on each DVD demonstrates combos but doesn’t really break them down or go over exactly what is happening, let alone why. Barrel turns? rapid turns? dervish turns? You can see them, there’s some token “you should let yourself go in a trance-like movement” but on the technical implementation of it? You’re on your own (as an aside, I recommend Petite Jamilla’s double veil instructional or Ashe’s Wings of Ashe videos for this). Turns with a gypsy kick? mentioned with a word about “getting to them later”. They do get to them… just to show them again. I didn’t see any explanation of what was meant by that. On the double fan dvd there’s an explanation on how to do a “sun barrely turn” and the explanation amounts to “do a barrel turn with the fan held this way”. Yes, this isn’t a Bellydancing 101, I wasn’t expecting that, but since the props do affect the way you might want to carry out certain movements, even a glossing over the technical differences would have been welcome.

A lot of the combos shown are basically using wrist circles, figure eights and flutters, and we’re shown a few with a comment on what is happening. But as I said, while the audio is fine, the voice is quite often not on time with what is going on.
There’s also a lot of repetition of the same thing with different colour fans or with different in and outs. There are also quite a few cuts that fade to black before we get to see the final pose or result.

It all has much of a feel of a session where Jehan decided to show people what can be done, as opposed to instruct people on how to do it. However, the cherry on top for me was when approaching a poi-like move. We are told about the sacred dance uses of the poi in New Zealand, but when it comes to explain the not-so-easy 3-way weave, which could REALLY have done with a breakdown or slow explanation? We are told to look it up on YouTube. I’ve just purchased an instructional video that is telling me to look up how to do something on YouTube, there’s irony for you.

The Tips and tricks on close-up are a good idea, particularly the opening of the fans. I wasn’t too keen on the headband hold, for reasons that are amply demonstrated with the impromptu beehive gained by the dancer using it on the Gypsy Fire performance. But for the most part? It felt a lot like common sense and nothing you couldn’t figure out with a bit of a play by yourself.

Also, technically… I am no expert with the fans, but I found the tendency to leave a fan “dead” while doing something with the other fan a bit disturbing, as it didn’t look aesthetically pleasing, at least to my eye; a small gentle flutter would have sorted that out, but that wasn’t explored. And some of the movements and combos shown required very vigorous movements that, again, aesthetically were questionable. I am not sure how comfortable I would be trying to include them in a routine of my own.

Finally, the camera seemed to focus a bit too much on Jehan’s ample bosom, or on close-up of the fans but without a real grip on WHAT to show that is of interest to us (like the swirling of the hands). This was distracting, and while it happened often, it wasn’t a constant occurrence.

The performances
– some performances were obviously filmed with low quality video; the editors tried to compensate for this by adding blurry filters that are frankly distracting
– one performance has sections that were filmed and then edited to show backwards; obviously whatever is happening on the screen can never ever happen on a stage.
– another performance is very obviously shown in slow motion, but the music is at the right speed; this is another example of something that can’t be achieved on a stage.
– yet another performance suffers from a case of creative editing, where for some reason there are cuts with a “hypnotic” swirl, and then we see the performance has gone, in the space of 1 seconds, from being flat on the floor swirling closed fans to standing up with open fans and in the middle of a swipe movement. There is no obvious progression from one to the other, and lead me to think that it wasn’t as much a full performance as several bits that were “knitted” together with the editing.

overall? It’s worth buying used, and worth watching a few times, but I have strong doubts on how suitable it is as an instructional. I would definitely not recommend it, and gave it the 3 stars because obviously the production values are good. You can check the trailer for it below.

(the above is a copy of the review I left at Amazon.com when I first purchased this DVD, back in 09/2011; I would like to add reviews of the fan veils DVDs I’ve got so for completion’s sake I’ve added this one)

Review: Aromaleigh Mineral Make-up

Aromaleigh's Eye shadowI don’t often review make-up because I am a creature of habit, and I am rather settled in what I use, so there’s little “new”. Of course I could write about what I’ve chosen to use and why, but mostly, I just forget. Not this time. I was introduced to Aromaleigh, a mineral make-up company, a few years ago, and immediately loved the aesthetics they offered. I was new to mineral make-up and also new to applying pigments, and slowly, with the help of the people in the community, I became quite better about the treatment I gave my skin, and far more adventurous with make-up. And when I started dancing, I came armed with a bit more knowledge, a good set of brushes accumulated over the years, and a penchant for the dramatic.

There are two types products of Aromaleigh that I use the most, the first being their finishing powders. I am not a fan of foundation, they almost invariable oxidise on my face, so I was after something that I could use to add just a layer of “barely there” correction. Their “Glamoured” finishing powder fits the bill, being what other brands present as “mineral veil”; they have light diffusing particles that make your skin look a lot smoother, and if you have, like me, one of those difficult tones, it can help you give a unified, radiant skintone, It looks fantastic on photos, it doesn’t run when performing, and these days I wouldn’t use anything else. I normally use it as a final cover, and finish setting it with a couple of pumps of Lush’s Aqua Roma (lavender and rose water).

If you are after something that finishes and corrects but without the extra ethereal soft focus look, their Coquille product is the ticket. Both it and Glamoured come in different colours, and of course if you have specific areas that need different correction, the beauty of the minerals pigments is that you can do a mix or apply differently to get what you need. And if what you want is some sparkle, their Laluna powders will do the trick. Unlike most body glitter, which has a definite golden or bronzing base, or big and harsh glitter, Laluna comes in a very fine powder in a pale base with white/silvery sparkle, and in different size glitter, so you can go for a “barely there” illumination to your nose, chin and forehead, or an all out for arms, collarbones or wherever else you want.

Aromaleigh's Eye shadows 2The second product I use of theirs is eye shadow. Aromaleigh’s range of colours and finishes is FANTASTIC, there’s something for everybody, and even more, they regularly release limited collections inspired by a central theme. The previous ones include Ancient Egypt, which has a rich deep gold colour (Bast) which you just HAVE to have if you’re a belly dancer, one inspired in the BBC Sherlock Holmes series called Brilliant Deductions, and the latest inspired by The Hunger Games, called “Ever in Your Favor”. The pigments are very finely milled and stay on without creasing or dropping, which is a problem I’ve found with a lot of the cheaper drugstore pigments out there (Barry M, I’m looking at you!)

Aromaleigh's Ever in Your Favor “Ever in your Favor” appears to be another brilliant collection, with bright, bold colours along rich deep ones. You can take a closer look at the collection here http://www.aromaleigh.com/hungergames.html, along with swatches and close-ups. Their swatches are accurate, although how the colours will look on you will depend a lot on whether you use primer, your brushes and application technique, and your underlying skin-tone.

The little jars last forever, although you can just order samples, which are enough to test a colour, or have if you can’t see yourself using it that much. Shipping to the UK is reasonable, but only cost-effective if you place a big-ish order, so if you want to just give it a try, get together with friends who also want to try it. Every single time my make-up has been praised, it’s been a either pure Aromaleigh, or a mix of Aromaleigh with Illamasqua, so if you’re looking at building up your make-up bag, it would be well worth a try.

What I am using in the photos: on the eye, two colours from their Brilliant Deductions collection, called “Recreational Scolding” and “Surveillance Status”, and one from a previous collection called Tutu. Sleek’s Ink Pot gel eyeliner, Illamasqua’s Vow eyeliner in the waterline, Illamasqua’s Eyebrow Cake in Thunder, and L’óreal’s False Lash Architect mascara. My face has Garnier’s 5 sec Perfect Blur and Aromaleigh’s Glamoured in Triteleia.

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