On April 22 people around the world joined in for the March for Science! Among many other things, one of the goals of the March for Science is to recognize the many ways that science benefits our day to day lives. We may know we feel good after attending a dance class, doing a performance, or just dancing around with our friends at a hafla, but we need the scientific method to be able to empirically show how and why this happens. I spent a little time going through peer reviewed studies on bellydance specifically, and one on dance in general, to see what the body of scientific research says on the subject. Most of the research focused on statistical analyses of qualitative measures of dance benefits, though some studies also utilized measurements of observable quantities such as stamina in the case of the third study listed below. Here are some findings from various studies exploring some of the potential mental and physical benefits of bellydance:
1) Dance Improves Brain Health
A 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at several leisure activities to assess what, if any, impact they had on dementia risk. The study was comprehensive, spanning a total of 21 years and considering a wide variety of activities including reading, puzzles, walking, and dancing. The results showed that dancing was the only one of the physical activities that correlated with a lower risk of dementia.
2) Improved Body Image
A study by Tiggemann et. al. of Flinders University in Australia used a variety of statistical methods to assess how perceptions of one’s own body image varied between college women who do and don’t bellydance. She found that belly dancers had more positive body image, primarily as a result of embodiment from focusing on internal feelings and the experience of dancing.
Here it was found that the effects of belly dance on positive body image were mediated by reduced self-objectification. This suggests that one mechanism for the observed positive effect lies in the reduction of the relative focus on external
3) Can Help People Suffering from Fibromyalgia
A study from 2012 had participants being treated for fibromyalgia take a belly dance class twice a week for 16 weeks. Their pain reduction assessment showed a 40% reduction in pain for the dance group versus the control group which lasted for 32 weeks showing that the benefits continued even after the class ended. After analyzing a variety of factors the authors concluded “Belly dance can be used in the treatment of fibromyalgia to reduce pain and improve functional capacity, quality of life and self-image.”
4) Another Study on Improved Body Image!
A study from 2009 surveying 103 belly dancers evaluated feelings on body image. Their findings showed that bellydance can improve body image by supporting a broad range of body types and challenging the notion of a narrow range of ‘acceptable’ body types. This results in reduced pressure to conform and provided participants with feelings of self acceptance and positive body image.
Our data confirm the common perception that belly dance challenges narrow body image norms and promotes healthier body image among participants – including support for broadened norms, lack of pressures for conformity to any particular ideal, and high levels of body satisfaction.”- Downey et. al. 2009
5) Can Improve Quality of Life for Cancer Patients Undergoing Rehabilitation
A 2015 study published in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing looked at quality of life in patients being treated for cancer. They study compared a research group who attended a 1.5 hour bellydance class and a 1.5 discussion group once a week for a year to a control group who did not attend the dance or discussion groups. The research group showed significant improvements in quality of life, life satisfaction, and perceived support as compared to the control group. The authors of this study concluded that bellydance had the potential to be a beneficial addition to the rehabilitation program.
6) May Help with Chronic Low Back Pain
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation looked at bellydance practice as a method of alleviating chronic low back pain. The study concluded that people who completed the bellydance course had diminished pain and increased functionality after two months.
Proper bellydance posture emphasizes low back safety so their results make sense, however the sample size used in this study was only two people which is too small to achieve statistical significance and leaves me questioning the results. It would be great to have a follow up study with a much larger sample size to more adequately evaluate the findings from this preliminary research.
There are relatively few peer reviewed studies focusing on the mental and physical health benefits of bellydance specifically, but the ones that are available show promising conclusions. More research is needed to further analyze the physical benefits of bellydance practice. The studies cited above demonstrate that the practice holds promise for people suffering from fibromyalgia and chronic low back pain. It can also potentially be a useful addition to rehabilitation programs for people undergoing cancer treatments. The benefits for the research group in that study seemed to be mainly due to having a support group and feeling better about their bodies which in turn increased feelings of quality of life. That study seemed to tie in well with the results from the studies by Tiggemann and Downey et. al. which concluded that bellydance had a lot of potential for improving body image due to it's focus on feeling present in ones body and to the emphasis on inclusivity and acceptance of all body types.
Note- While bellydance has many potential benefits please consult a physician or other medical professional if you are looking for advice on whether a specific type of exercise or physical activity is right for you.
1) J. Verghese, M.D., R.B. Lipton, M.D., M.J. Katz, M.P.H., et. al.. New England Journal of Medicine; 348:2508-2516, 19 June 2003.
2) M. Tiggemann, E. Coutts, L. Clark. Belly Dance as an Embodying Activity?: A Test of the Embodiment Model of Positive Body Image. Sex Roles (2014) 71:197–207.
3) A.S. Baptista, A.L. Villela, A. Jones, J. Natour. Effectiveness of dance in patients with fibromyalgia: A randomised, single-blind, controlled study. Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology. 2012.
4) D.J. Downey, J.J. Reel b , S. SooHoo, S. Zerbib. Body image in belly dance: integrating alternative norms into collective identity. Journal of Gender Studies Vol. 19, No. 4, December 2010, 377–393
5) M. Szalai, et. al. A clinical study to assess the efficacy of belly dancing as a tool for rehabilitation in female patients with malignancies. European Journal of Oncology Nursing 19 (2015) 60e65.
6) T. Castrillion, et. al. The effects of a standardized belly dance program on perceived pain, disability, and function in women with chronic low back pain. Journal of back and musculoskeletal rehabilitation. 2016.
Teaching and Student Achievements
* Taught classes on Classical Egyptian style, fan veil, double veil, modern Turkish style, drum solo, Vintage Oriental veil techniques, Social and Folkloric Dance, floorwork, and more
* Coached Amy, Anne, and Kamri on their first solo pieces and Lauren on her first sword solo
* Taught at many wonderful bridal showers, birthdays, and bachelorette parties
* Mentored Avienn, Aralia, Melissa, and Lisa Wall
* Aralia began teaching beginner classes at Ohana in South Hadley
* Aralia and Avienn both launched their websites and began a new community venue called Bellies and Brew
* Penny, Amyee, and Salazar were all invited to join the Crescent Dancers!
* One of the biggest things this year- my partner and I bought a house and he built me my own home dance studio!!!
* Redesigned my website! After 6 years of the old one it was time for a change
* Was interviewed by DJ Spence along with Aralia and Lisa Wall for the Creative Valley podcast
* Released my first branded merchandise, t-shirts designed by Aralia
* Had a photoshoot with Peter Paradise Michaels, whose work I have admired for many years
* Hosted the 6th annual Secret Habibi gift exchange
* Hosted the 5th annual Dancing into the Dark and Dancing into the Light student showcases
* Performed at community events including Goddess Lounge, Cairo Cabaret, Athenian Corner, Bellies and Brew, Cultural Chaos
* Performed at the weddings of several dear friends- Victoria and Harley and Veronica and Nicholas
* Performed in Vermont at the Raq-On Community Day and Southern Vermont Dance Festival
* Performed with the Illuminata Dance Company at Bellies & You which raised $1500 for #blacklivesmatter 413 chapter, Safe Passage, and Out Now
* Danced at many amazing private events including a Lebanese retirement party with live music, and many ladies night events, bachelorette parties, and bridal showers
* Danced at a benefit show hosted by Sisters for Peace, proceeds went to a clean drinking water project in Tanzania
* Began private lessons with Victoria Teel after my wonderful dance partners Felicia, Kenna, Avienn, and Aralia bought me a lesson package for my birthday
* Attended the most incredible private training retreat at Artemis Mourat’s house with Nadira Jamal, Sarah, Amy, Amyee, Avienn, Aralia, and more
* Attended the Raq On roundtable discussion of oriental and fusion bellydance history
* As part of the mentoring program Lisa Wall, Avienn, and Aralia all hosted or co-hosted their first workshop events:
*Co-hosted Elisheva with Avienn
*Co-hosted Hayam and Ashley Elizabeth with Aralia
* Lisa Wall hosted Heather Powers
* Took workshops with Phaedra of Boston, Elisheva, Hayam, Heather Powers
Here are my top 4 favorite performance videos from this year!
What were your favorite moments this year?
Artists and Small Business Owners From Around the US
Victoria Chapman is an all around talented lady! She makes beautiful art prints, cards, circlets, jewelry, and batiks. I love all of her color pallettes, everything is just gorgeous. I am using her cards for many of my gifts this year, they are so lovely.
Price Range $6-25
This is my new favorite place to buy makeup! Maurie makes custom vegan pressed glitters, eye shadows, highlighters, and lip scrubs that are cruelty free and handmade with love. She is giving away free samples and a lip scrub to all orders in December. I just ordered one of her $25 pallettes that comes with 4 custom made shadows and art work on the cover, it is gorgeous. She can make pretty much any color you want, all you have to do is ask and she can make your makeup dreams come to life!
Sacredscapes Art Prints
Price Range $50
Aria Michaels Paradise, does exquisite photography and she just opened an Etsy shop to sell prints of her gorgeous work. She can print in 8x10", 11x14", or 13x19" on a variety of paper types and can do custom framing if desired. She has such a beautiful eye for magical places in the natural world.
Peter Paradise Michaels Photography Art Prints
Price Range $20-400
I had the pleasure of working with Peter this past year and he was just amazing. He does gorgeous portrait and event photography and also specializes in making museum quality archival prints of his work. I have two and I love them. He can make prints of any of his work so if you love something on his page contact him. He can do sizes up to 13x19”. He is also Aria's husband, they are an incredibly talented family!
Fantasy Allure and Freckles Fairy Chest
Price Range $18-125
Ashley Ormaza has two great businesses. Fantasy Allure is a new vegan makeup startup that has the best lipstick! Freckles Fairy Chest is her Etsy shop where she sells handmade crowns, headdresses, fairy wings, and jewelry. Everything is gorgeous and perfect for a fairy tale.
Price Range $5-105
Three things that are always great gift ideas for the dancer in your life are music, DVDs, and zills. Jillina is a talented and generous dancer who has done so much for the bellydance community over the years. She also produces amazing music and instructional DVDs for all levels. Cheeky Girls Productions also has a wide variety of instructional DVDs from a ton of different dancers and styles. Saroyan Mastercrafts is the very best place to buy zills.
Price Range $15-125
Jenny Lisa makes a variety of winter gear including hats, arm warmers, shawls, and headbands, plus other fun items like necklaces, key chains, and beautiful instruments. She also uses fun color schemes and lots of rainbows!
Small Businesses Only in Western MA
Shameless self promotion! I have really cute gift certificates, in both printed and e-card versions, that can be made for a custom amount or for gift registration for a specific class. The custom amount versions can be used for any classes, workshops, or private lessons. I also have adorable What Doesn't Zill You Makes You Stronger shirts and tank tops available for local pick-up or by mail if you order soon.
Bellydancer Pint Glasses
These are an adorable gift idea and they support a great cause- all proceeds are given to the local non-profits Out Now, Black Lives Matter (local chapter), and Safe Passage. The glasses are only $10 and are designed by the talented Aralia Pearl. They are not shipping them though so these are available for local pick up only.
Purple Rose Healing Arts
Chaya Leia Aronson specializes in Mayan Abdominal Massage and she is a wonderful woman to work with. Her modality has many healing benefits and is a great way to take care of your body.
Awakened Heart Healing Arts
Asherah Allen offers many self care services including massage therapy, acupuncture, Reiki, and Flower Essences, and yoga instruction. Plus she can provide e-gift certificates to help out last minute shoppers!
Avienn Rose is a local dancer known for her sassy charm and engaging stage presence. She is a committed dance student of Sahina and Elisheva, and travels far and wide to study with Fusion stars such as Mira Betz, Kami Liddle, and Ashley Lopez. She is known for her precise movement, loveable faces, and innovative choreography.
I spend a lot of time on youtube watching bellydance videos.
A lot. (See: figure right)
And I know I’m not alone.
I can feel you nodding along in solidarity from here. (Thanks!)
I am a dedicated student of my lovely teacher, Sahina. She was my first teacher, and as such holds a special place in my heart. It was in her class that I was introduced to and steadily fell head over heels in love with the beautiful music, movement, and community of bellydance.
Sahina is primarily a Turkish and Vintage Oriental dancer, and brings her knowledge of the dance, history, and culture into every lesson. She is known for her graceful movements, perfectly pairing with her style of dance: light, raised, floating, elegant.
These are things I am naturally not. They are not words that anyone would use to describe me.
Elegant. Not so much.
But that’s okay -- we all grow and expand our skillset as we learn and explore new ways of movement..
And in the meantime, I hold onto those small moments when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror with beautiful sweeping arm movements when I am in the zone with the music and movement and think to myself:
Damn. Where did that graceful minx come from?
When we get swept up in our love-obsession with bellydance, we find ourselves spending countless hours getting lost in what we endearingly call “the rabbit hole” or “the bellydance vortex”. We find dancers from all over the country, the world -- from different eras, styles, and cultures.
(Below you will find a scientific photograph of your brain while you are in the rabbit hole.)
And that is how I found the world of fusion bellydance, and the amazing talents of Kami Liddle, Rachel Brice, Ashley Lopez, Heather Powers, Serena Spears, Mira Betz, Zoe Jakes, Deb Rubin, April Rose…. if you pulled up my youtube history the list would be endless (and you’re welcome for how long you now will spend in the rabbit hole because of these links... #sorrynotsorry). I have traveled far and wide to be able to learn from these amazing dancers, find my voice as a fusion artist, and connect with my body and movements in new and exciting ways.
I have fallen deeply in love with an expansive definition of bellydance that incorporates your own voice and meaning and spirit. Fusion dancers get to push boundaries, integrate various styles, and try (and sometimes fail- which can in itself be just as important) to create something new in our dance world.
I love the world of fusion.
But I will never stop learning and loving traditional dance.
And I think that you shouldn’t either.
The history, the culture, the stylistic differences between geographic areas over centuries. This is what I have learned to celebrate, respect, and honor with my dance. The foundational movements, knowledge of culturally appropriate (or not) aspects, and the rich community of people.
This is what I build upon to establish my own stylistic voice. Because by maintaining a strong foundation of traditional bellydance, you will have the knowledge, skills, and vocabulary that will ground your dance as you push the limits. And that is why I ensure that I never stray too far from the traditional world. I take workshops, stay connected to my traditional teachers, and remain informed of the histories and cultures of different styles. Because it’s important to me that I keep in touch with the foundation of belly dance, both my own and of those who came before me.
If you are doing a studio shoot find out in advance what backdrops are available. You want to pick a backdrop that will accentuate your costume choice and avoid a backdrop that your costume will blend into. For example, if you are wearing a black costume you will probably want to avoid a black backdrop.
What props do you use most in your dancing? If you are getting photos as a professional dancer I recommend only posing with props you use regularly and are proficient with so they accurately reflect your dancing for clients who may be booking you. If you are a student getting photos for fun use any props you are having fun learning even if you aren't completely proficient with them yet.
Practice your poses and facial expressions
Find the angles and poses that work for you and practice them in the mirror. It is often quite difficult to come up with poses so you will probably want to find a little inspiration. Here are some ideas:
-Look at other dancer's photos, check your favorite dancer's websites to see what kinds of poses look interesting to you. I have created several pinterest boards for photoshoot inspirations which include solo, duet, and group pose ideas.
- Nadira Jamal has some great tips that she uses for finding ending poses for improvised dance and her advice is also very applicable to photoshoots- she suggests looking at record and cd covers.
- Princess Farhana has aDVD which great resource for this as well.
Practice hair and makeup
You are spending a lot of time and money on your photos and you want to look your best so be sure to practice your look for the shoot just as you would practice your dancing for a show.
If you are comfortable with hair and makeup you can definitely do this yourself. I was never particularly comfortable with either of these things so I usually hire a stylist to do my hair and makeup.
Remember, makeup is critical in photoshoots. The bright lights will wash you out if you forgo it. Wear heavier makeup than you would daily and make sure you contour and highlight to really bring out your features under the lights. If you are doing a costume change be sure to wear makeup that goes with both looks so you can use your time on site more effectively.
A few days before the shoot try on the costume(s) that you intend to wear and check to make sure they fit well and are in good shape. This will give you time to do any repairs that are needed Make sure your hooks are secure and don't need to be moved. Check for loose threads or beading and fix or trim anything needed.
Get your jewelry, accessories, and props together. Don't forget to iron your veils! Nothing can ruin a great photo quicker than a wrinkly veil.
If possible do a few test shots with a friend to see if you like the way the poses and costume work together.
The next post in the series will give tips for the day of, a sample packing list, and a general photoshoot resources list. In the meantime if you have questions, comments, or any photos to share I would love to hear from you!
You have picked a photographer, now you need to choose a place to shoot. Where you shoot may depend on the photographer you chose, their preferences, and what’s available in their schedule. Some photographers work either exclusively in their home studio and some only on location, but many are flexible and can work in both.
Studios are traditional spaces often owned or rented by the photographer. They usually have a range of professional backdrops and lighting setups to choose from. In a studio, your photographer can play around with lots of different lighting and effects, change up backdrops, or get silhouette shots. You may need to coordinate studio rental if you are choosing studio shots and your photographer doesn’t own or regularly shoot in a specific studio.
On-location is anywhere that is not in a photography studio. It is further differentiated into outdoor and indoor locations. There are a wide range of places that fall under this category. Your lighting options would be more limited but a pro photographer would have mobile lighting setups so this can really open up your options for the background of your photos.
Time to Book!
After discussing your options with your photographer and picking the location that works best for both of you and your vision for your photos now you can have everything booked. There are so many wonderful options for photoshoot locations and whether you shoot in studio or on-location you will have beautiful new photos. Now it is time to plan your look! The next post in the series will focus on that and is coming soon!
What are some of your favorite studio and on-location photos of yourself? What ideas do you have for on-location places?
Whatever reason they come to dance, and stay with dance, it is so wonderful to see the growth and improvement in each of my students.
Dance teachers exist to pass on our knowledge and help guide our students as they discover where dance fits in to their lives. While one student may enjoy dance as a weekly hobby to connect with friends, another student may feel the desire to make dance a profession. I really enjoy being a teacher and a mentor for both ends of this spectrum, and for everyone that falls in between.
Over the years, many students have asked me about how I became a professional dancer. Many times, someone asks because they are entertaining the idea of going pro and want to know what steps to take to get there. Dedicating that much of your life to dance is such a wonderful thing. And the process of getting to that point is really important. So, I wanted to share what I know, as well as some general guidelines and rules to follow if you are entertaining the idea of becoming a professional dancer.
I want to be clear, so let me say this right now: There is absolutely no need to go pro.
It is completely legitimate to maintain dance as your hobby, or your creative outlet, or your “me-time” activity. In order for someone to become a professional dancer, it takes a lot of years, practice, dedication, and mentorship.
Professional dancers usually have been actively studying dance for 5-10 years. Most often, the general dance community and your mentor will let you know when you are ready to transition from student to professional. Therefore, it is important that you are active as a student and attendee at events, to not only be consistently learning, but also getting a sense of connection to the people in the dance community.
Here are some other things that you should keep in mind as you start the process of becoming a professional dancer:
Maintaining stellar community relations is integral. Not only does it anchor you in a group of amazing dancers who can relate to you and who will inspire you, but it also will provide you with opportunities to dance as well as show your support to other dancers. As a community, across styles, it is imperative that we support one another’s dance as much as we can. Be sure to attend events even when you are not performing and try out a variety of workshops in various topics with a range of teachers.
Learn from watching your mentors. If you are interested in paid gigs, ask your teacher if you can assist them and then go, watch, and take in the process. Gigging isn’t required as a professional dancer. It is also much more rare for certain styles of dance to gig, for example, fusion performers. Often gigs are at Middle Eastern restaurants or private parties, who are looking for traditional dance. This is a good time to also think about how you can be an appropriate cultural ambassador. Many of us are not from cultures where bellydance is a part of social gathering, which means that we must be as educated and informed as possible about our dance. If you are performing and gigging you will need to know how to modify your choreography, or your costuming, and your choice of music for different audiences or venues.
You need to be informed about local rates. If you are hoping to seek out paid dancing gigs, charge what you are worth, and don’t undercut other dancers. Even if you are okay dancing for less than the local rate is, it means that other dancers will suffer the consequences.
Hopefully some of these tips will help you in your process of becoming a professional dancer! Stay tuned for another blog about appropriate venues to seek out along your journey as well as proper etiquette for performing.
For more information on mentoring please check out Sahina's interview on Nadira Jamal's Belly Dance Geek Clubhuose.
I can't believe it is the end of another year! I know it is cliche but time really does fly by. This coming spring it will be 6 years since I started my dance business. When I reflect on all of my experiences over the years with fellow dancers and students, workshops and performances, I am in awe.
2015 was another incredibly full year, both in dance and in life. Outside of dance I finished my masters degree and have begun work on my PhD. Within the dance world so many incredible people have helped make this year amazing. Here is a look back at some of my favorite memories from 2015!
Teaching and Student Achievements
* Taught classes on Skirt Dance, Veil, Classical Egyptian, Solo and Small Group Composition, Exploration of Bellydance Styles, and more
* Avienn and Aralia have officially started the mentoring process to become professional dancers, they now join with Melissa and Lisa Wall in a new mentoring program that will begin in 2016 (they also made a beautiful website!)
* Coached Carolyn and Kia on their first solo pieces
* Taught at the Shimmyathon for the third year in a row!
* Coached Maddi on bellydance and veil dance after she was awarded a scholarship from her college to do an intensive study- she then presented her first solo piece in August!
* Contributed to Julie Eason's Belly Dance Practice Prompts book
* Hosted 4th annual Dancing into the Light student showcase (more pictures here)
* Performed at a variety of wonderful private events for a wide range of audiences
* Did an awesome Vashti Banquet performance as a duet with singer Felicia Sloin
* Performed at the Raq On community day to the music of the Mosaic Ensemble
* Performed at Amity Alize's 30th birthday party to the beautiful music of the Fred Elias Ensemble
* Performed in Rosa Noreen's Zaman Classical Egyptian showcase to the music of Okbari Middle Eastern Ensemble
* Continued as a core performer at Goddess Lounge, and performed in Cultural Chaos with the other core dancers
* Danced at some super fun Halloween shows
* Headlined at Cairo Cabaret, performed at other local venues including Marco Polo, Goddess Lounge, Athenian Corner
* Attended Art of the Belly and took classes with Victoria Teel, Aziza, and Lotus Niraja on Body Percussion, core isolations, layering, and more
* Attended Shimmyathon and took classes with Jeni, Amity Alize, and Aslahan
* Cross trained in east coast swing
* Attended Southern Vermont Dance Festival and took classes on Broadway Jazz, Jazz styles of the 50's and 60's, Sevillanas, Turkish, and Aerial Fabric
* Hosted Mahin for sold out workshops here in Northampton and took classes with her on Khaleegi, Shaabi, anatomy, Classical Egyptian, and more
* Studyed with Shadia, Shifah, Nadira, and Irina Akulenko on flamenco fusion, improvisation, routine structure, debke, Arabic sharqi, and more
* Took a private lesson with Ansuya
* Took a doumbek workshop with Raquy Danziger
* Had a super fun photoshoot with Felicia and RT2 Photography, and met Maia Kennedy Photography along the way
* Co-hosted a Hafla for Humanity, which raised $1,634.50 to contribute to the International Rescue Committee's Syrian Relief Fund
* Attended the Arabic Music Retreat, Laayali concerts, and other fun live music events
* Hosted the fifth annual Secret Habibi bellydance gift exchange
* Emceed the Crescent Dancer's 40th Anniversary show with Avienn
* Was featured on Nadira Jamal's Belly Dance Geek Clubhouse to talk about mentoring for dancers
* Grew my costume collection ;)
I already have some exciting things planned for 2016! I will be hosting some of my favorite New England dancers for workshops in Northampton, starting an official mentoring program for my students who have transitioned to or are transitioning to the professional realm, working on some amazing collaborations with my dance partners Felicia and Kenna, and so much more! I can't wait to dance with you all in 2016!
Here are my top 4 favorite performance videos from this year!
The Gift of Dance
Bellydance classes are fun and rewarding, allowing you to gain a new skill set, develop an appreciation of Middle Eastern dance, music, and culture, and meet new friends. Class registrations with optional hip scarf and zill bag gift sets will be available in a few days can be purchased here. Gift certificates are available if you are registering someone as a gift. General gift certificates are available as well and allow the student to choose their own combination of classes, private lessons, or workshops and use it anytime throughout the year!
For further recommendations on music, DVDs, books, and more visit Sahina's full online store here!
Julie Eason's new Practice Prompts book is a great option for guiding at home practice and Lauren's journal is a great way for students to keep track of what they are studying. There are also many fun books on bellydance history available.
Feeling Crafty or Shopping for a Dancer Who Likes to Sew?
Crocheted Zill Mufflers- Zill mufflers help to keep down the volume of zills so dancers can practice without disturbing the neighbors. Instructions to crochet them are available for free here.
Veils- Veils are easy to make if you have a serger. Just buy a 3 yard length of light weight polyester chiffon (as floaty and light as you can find), serge a 3 yard by 45" rectangle, and you're done!
Hair Flowers- Hair flowers are super fun to wear andeasy to make, plus they can be worn for dance or a night out!
Canes- Easy to make and affordable, just follow this handy instructional.
Headdresses- A lovely way to accessorize any costume. You can find easy to follow instructions and a materials shopping list here.
Our looks for this shoot
Felicia and I hadn't done a photoshoot together since 2010 so it was really time for some updated images! We wanted to have shots using two costumes that each had a much different feel.
In January, we made cream and gold chain bedlahs for a show. We first wanted to find the same fabric that we used for the beldahs to make circle skirts to create a princess-y look for the shoot. Luckily, the fabric was still available, which meant that we were able to make skirts which matched the bedlahs perfectly.
For our second costume, we wanted to wear our gorgeous new hand dyed skirts made by Painted Lady Clothiers, but we needed to find a bedlah to match. For many years we had been coveting the Mid-East manufacturing coin sets, so we decided now was the time to buy them. However, that meant we needed to make new bedlahs as well. The coin parts for the bedlahs arrived on Monday and the shoot was Saturday. By some miracle, and with Felicia's costume and design ingenuity, we managed to get the entire bedlah bases done, the coins mounted, and the new ivory skirts completed in time!
It had been so long since we had done a shoot, so we wanted to cover all of our bases for updated photos by getting shots with all of the props we routinely use. For us this meant zills, veils, and swords. We also dance with palm flames so we opted to include those as well.
Day of the shoot
Our good friend, and fellow dancer, Laura accompanied us. She was curious about doing a photoshoot as she is planning her first one for next year. I always prefer to have an assistant during shoots, even better if it is another dancer. It is ideal to have someone there to help with costuming and to give a dancer's eye to my poses and posture, so having her come along was perfect. Laura was especially helpful during costume changes by being able to create some private space in this location with the help of our vehicles and strategically placed veils. In addition, she is experienced with fire props so we did not have to prep our own fire props while in costume. This blog series was already underway so we also decided that she would take some behind the scenes photos to use in this post.
We started out in the tower with our princess costumes and got veils and swords ready. It was a lot of fun using our swords to mimic the look of the arches in the tower. Next, we went to the top of the tower to get photos of our veils in the wind. Choosing deep red veils added the most contrast to the ivory costumes, blue sky, and green foliage.
We also wanted to get some shots in the woods. As not to interfere with the people visiting the tower, we decided to do the fire shots there. We always think of safety first so we made sure to have all of our fire safety equipment ready, Laura spotted us, and we stayed well away from the trees.
Paul is wonderful to work with because he always has fun ideas for photos. We don't like to take ourselves too seriously and always make sure to get a few photos in non-dance poses for fun. Paul had the brilliant idea this time to do some fun things with perspective on the forest path.
When it was time to switch costumes, we changed with Laura's help one at a time while the other took the opportunity to take some solo shots. It is always a good idea to trade off like this if you can, in order to use the photographer’s time as wisely as possible. After we were both changed into the coin bedlah costumes, we did more duet shots in the woods before heading to the tower. It turned out a lot of people were keen on using Poet's Seat as a photoshoot location that day because when we returned to the tower there was a wedding party doing photos there! I still regret not asking them if they wanted to photobomb each other’s shoot.
In the tower we decided to return to the top tier. It was getting cloudy which we were worried might make the photos look dark or wouldn't be as pretty as a clear sky, but it ended up being absolutely perfect. Paul really used the clouds to our benefit and we created some great sword shots with dark and stormy backgrounds due to the cloudy skyline.
We wrapped up on the next tier down so we could get a few more shots by the arches and another professional photographer who happened to be on a day trip to Poet’s Seat came across us. She was excited and asked if she could take a few shots as well. We all agreed and we ended up getting some beautiful pictures from her and making a new photographer friend.
Lots of hard work on our parts, as well as the talented Paul Jones, created the beautiful photos in this post and many more. After a long day filled with costume and prop changes, hiking up many flights of stairs in the tower, and successfully manipulating fire in our brand new costumes (yikes!), both Felicia and I came out with some amazing images and had a ton of fun working with some of our favorite people.
I hope this post has given you helpful information on what it is like behind the scenes at a photoshoot. Please feel free to ask any questions you have about this post or photoshoots in general. Upcoming posts will cover choosing a location, developing your look, and what to do the day of your shoot. As always, if this series inspires you to do your own photoshoot please share the photos!
My adventures in dance, music, costume design...