Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Level 3.3 Arabic Hip Twist Flourish and Wrap-Around Turn

  Well let's be honest, yesterday was a rough day. The cliche's of pregnancy stuck me one after another with everything from nausea to exhaustion to crazy mood swings to heartburn. Needless to say, I wanted to go home and sleep after work. (Which, to make matters worse, ended at 7 in the evening). I had no energy to practice any Doubleback on my lunch, and I wondered if I'd be able to do it at all in class. Of course, I still had to go. I'd have to be close to dying before I'd miss a class. Ha!

Everybody is always so happy and positive in class, I felt a bit better immediately. We went into warm-up and I messed up a simple step-touch excercise. Uh oh... I really hoped that wasn't a sign of things to come. Puja was calming as always, and then we began dancing. The great thing about it is you can't think anymore. You just have to dance. Before I knew it my teacher had cued the Doubleback. My feet started going right away and though my arms were a sloppy for a few beats they remembered by the time she changed the move again. That's pretty much how it was the rest of the night, maybe a little sloppy, but my feet and hips moved before I even knew what was happening! Way better than I thought it would be. Egyptian Full Turn has been going well, and Reshamka is fun. Fading is still very intimidating for me but I'm sure it'll get better as we practice more.

New move number one - Arabic Hip Twist Flourish. This one is very straightforward! Cue with a gaze on 1, complete the hip twist to 4, then do a spin for 4 counts with arms raised. Needs a bit of practice to be smoother, but just like the Egyptian half-turn it has a very clear cue and very simply addition to a move I already know. (Much appreciated after the Doubleback brain-splosion of last week!)

The second new move is one I think I'm falling in love with. A slow move called the Wrap-Around Turn. In my opinion it is a very plain, understated, even misleading name for such a beautiful move. Regardless, this slow turn is Flamenco influenced and very elegant. It has 'feelings' - which is a new concept my dance teacher is introducing as a popular one in Level 3.

This gorgeous painting of a Flamenco dancer is by Fabian Perez.  I love how he conveys the strength in her arms - the same tension we should have in 'Part 2' of the Wrap-Around Turn.

The Wrap-Around Turn begins with the feeling of 'gathering'. The left arm sits behind the back as the right arm slides in front, dramatically pulling the audience in towards yourself. The second feeling is 'tension'. The move turns around and weight sinks coyly into the right hip. Hands do a reverse floreo to the sides and then rise - with said 'tension'. The head is turned slightly to the left, giving the audience a mysterious bit of profile to admire. Then lastly, the feeling is 'release' as the dancer completes a Corkscrew Turn spin all the way back to the front. The Wrap-Around Turn is mysterious, dramatic and magnetic. Beautiful. I can't wait to improve at this one and perform it with confidence!

Tribal Talk-the voice of FatChanceBellyDance - Click Image to Close

* By the way, my dance teacher was recently in Oregon for training from Carolena and she purchased the book 'Tribal Talk'. She's been meaning to get it for a long time and now that she has it she wondered why she waited so long! Fat Chance Belly Dance used to have a newsletter and 'Tribal Talk' is full of the best (and still relevant) articles. Here is a link if you want to take a peek: Tribal Talk

Monday, 26 September 2011

Your Only Impulse Should Be to Dance!

   A few weeks ago I found an interesting video on Ted Talks. Benjamin Zander is a conductor, speaker, and leading interpreter of Beethoven and Mahler. In this talk he speaks about the love of his life, classical music. He explains how a student of piano progresses from novice to intermediate, and how it comes through in the music.
   The video is just over 20 minutes long, so if you don't have time, the part i'm referring to is 1:00 until about 3:30 - if you can, the entire Ted Talk is worth the watch.

You can watch it from YouTube in the player above, or click >Here< to go to the original Ted Talk page.
   Zander notes how the learning of a skill progresses. The novice puts an impulse, an emphasis or concentration if you will, on every key. They have to think about each note as a separate entity. As their skill increases, they don't have to think so much about each note - their fingers know where to go and the emphasis is on fewer notes. Finally they become so proficient that they place even emphasis on an entire phrase of notes - one impulse for an entire stretch of music. This is where the magic happens! The notes are smooth, beautifully running into one another with no hesitation.

   This idea of impulses can be applied to dance as well. A beginner concentrates on each facet of each move, and you can see it in their bodies - the concentration as they move between each motion. There's nothing wrong of course, this is just the start and I'm sure we all looked a little jerky and robotic in the very beginning. However, when you look at a professional dancer - Carolena Nericcio, Rachel Brice, etc - you will see no impulse, no jerky hesitant movements. Their motions run gracefully together in a stream of dance.

   You can see this easily when you watch videos of Fat Chance Belly Dance, and other extremely skilled troupes as well. Why do they seem so graceful? So in sync and smooth?  Other troupes may do the exact same movements, but you cannot deny the certain 'je ne sais quoi' that FCBD possesses. Well, now you do know what - they have so few impulses. Their skill has grown so great that they are playing their instrument with only one impulse.

   Let me give you another example. The Reverse Turn in ATS. It is a slow move, and there are 5 basic motions within the move. 1 - Floreos above the head. 2 - The right hand moves down and both hands floreo. Gaze cues the turn. 3 - Both hands do a floreo as the body turns. 4 - Hands floreo to each side of the body. 5 - Right hand moves up as hands floreo once more.

   When I learned this move, I did each part as if it was a separate move. I was doing the move, yes, but robotically. Now that I've improved, most of the move has smoothed out. I'd honestly guess I have maybe 2 or 3 impulses on the move now - the first floreos flow easily together, the turn I still have to focus on, and then the last two floreos flow together. My dance teacher, on the other hand, has one impulse on the entire move. Each motion flows into the next without the need for concentration. We do the same move, but because her practice and skill has so minimized her impulses, she looks a hundred times more graceful than I.

   Here is a video of Carolena dancing slow. Notice how she moves without any pause or hesitation. She is dancing on one impulse, as we should all aspire to. There is a Reverse Turn at 0:40. Enjoy the video :)


Friday, 23 September 2011

This Belly Dancer Has Big Belly News!!!

Hey everyone! So it's finally time to share my little secret...

I'm having a baby!

So my belly dancing is going to turn into big baby belly dancing!! :) The little one is due on March 27, which makes me just over 3 months along. My man and I are very excited. This is our first child and the first grandchild on both sides as well! :)

I hope this may shed some light on my lack of posts and tutorials over the month of August - I was exhausted! Literally aside from work, sleep, eating and dance class I was a lump on the couch. I was lucky and didn't have any 'morning sickness' persay but all day nausea was just about as bad!! Luckily that is gone now and I'm feeling much better.

Now obviously this is a dance blog, so I'm only going to be talking about my pregnancy as it impacts my dancing. However if you are interested in following my progress, you're welcome to follow or check up on my pregnancy blog - Baby Adventures. I'll put a link at the top of the sidebar as well.

Thank-you for all your support. If you have any dancing-through-pregnancy advice I'm all ears - or questions too, maybe I'll be able to answer them eventually! Have a wonderful day!


Chella & Baby

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Tutorial: Hair Flower

Flowers are beautiful to wear in your hair for dance, and for everyday as well. You can buy them in stores, but I find they're either really cheap (and really scruffy looking) or beautiful - and really pricey. Here is an easy way to make them yourself! Even better, it gives you a very sturdy hair flower, so it won't fall off after the first wear! ;)

You will need:
  • Flowers
  • Fabric
  • Large bobby pins
  • Glue gun and glue
  • Scissors
  • Sparkles and white glue (optional)

Step One:

Cut fabric to be a backing. The flowers I used had three main petals, so a triangle shape worked well. Depending on the shape of your flower you can use a square pattern instead. The brown piece of fabric (you can see the white reverse of it) is stronger, so it'll be the main backing. The pink will overlap in the back, so it has to have enough to fold over.

Here are some patterns to give you an idea - the red line shows you where to cut to be able to fold the fabric over the bobby pin.

Step Two:

As above, you will fix the backing onto the bobby pin. In picture one the pink is slid into place. In picture two you can see I've used the hot glue gun to keep it sturdy. In picture 3 I've glued the brown to the bobby pin and pink fabric. In picture 4 and 5 you can see I spread glue on the top and folded over the pink. Picture 6 shows the final base - secure and tidy looking.

Step Three:

Glue the flower on! You can wear it already, but I wanted to add a little extra sparkle to my flowers.

I used plain white glue and 'Crystal Snow' sparkles, both from Michaels. Put a line of glue wherever you want the flower to glisten. I just did the edges and very middle of each flower. Sprinkle the sparklies over your flower and shake the excess off. (Make sure to do this over paper so you can collect the extra and use them for the next flower!) Then just let them dry - and voila!

Below you can see how the flower looks before and after the glue dries. I love the extra shimmer!

Hope you've enjoyed this tutorial! If you have any requests let me know! :)

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Level 3.2 Arabic 1-2-3 and Double Back

Yesterday leading up to dance was not fun. Long long day at work, on the late shift, and I ended up staying even later as I was still dealing with a client! (I work at a travel agency). Anyways by the time I got to class I was tired, hungry, and in a bit of a foul mood! Luckily warm-up and puja helped calm me a bit, at least enough to focus on the tasks at hand.

Arabic 1-2-3 is fairly straightforward. Cue an arabic, bring arms to the sides and take two steps forward, then level down with three chest drops.  My brain fully comprehends this. My body however needs to learn to do the chest drops purposely and sharply. In ATS I have been used to chest lifts - and really the drop should come naturally after that - but this will definetly take some slow-mo practice! I'm excited to learn to isolate my chest better though. It always amazes me in tribal fusion how they can isolate their muscles so well and then layer the different isolations.

Then came the Double Back. My dance teacher was very kind and built up the move slowly, feet first. Then hips, and the two came together more easily than I expected. Once she brought in the arms, my brain was getting overwhelmed. Then she let us know that this is the other move where we perform military pattern on the zills! I love military pattern, any more intricate zill pattern gets me all excited - but all the components together seemed like insanity!

As long as I could watch my teacher I was fine. I've realised I'm an extremely visual learner and if I just watch her, I can almost imagine that I am her and her motions become my motions - I think this takes away from the logical thinking that I'm so bad at and lets my body learn more naturally. I knew though, that as soon as the pace quickened or we had to start on our own, things were going to get very tricky. We all attempted it in the group, and even though my mind was saying "heeeell no" I did give it a go. I got it maybe a couple times during the entire song haha. 

This one is going to take A LOT of practice. Of course, like any of the really difficult ATS moves - it is beautiful. I can't wait for the moment it finally 'clicks'!

I do have good news too though! After practicing, Reshamka and the Egyptian Full-Turn came a lot easier in class this week. Can't wait to feel the same way about this weeks moves! :)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Headwrap Tutorial

  One of the key elements of an American Tribal Style belly dance costume used to be the Headwrap. Now it is not used quite as much anymore, but the skill of creating a beautiful headwrap should still be in any ATS dancer's arsenal. If you had a look at my Headwrap Inspiration post you will have a good idea of how they're supposed to look. In this post I will tell you the basics of how to actually create it! Enjoy :)

You will need:
  • Black broadcloth fabric - 3 yards (I think it would help to have a little bit of stretch, but either way)
  • Other accent scarfs of varying colours, styles, etc
  • Accessories - any jewelry, flowers, feathers, clips, adornments etc
  • You may want safety pins or sewing pins to fix some accessories to the headwrap

Now lets get started!

Step One:
Put your hair into a high bun as in picture a). If you have short hair, you will need clips and bobby pins to get your hair off your neck and forehead.

Step Two:
Take your broadcloth and fold it in half lengthwise. The folded edge will cover your forehead as in picture b). Make sure the rest of the length is even on each side.

Step Three:
Twist the fabric outwards. Make sure the twist begins at your hairline and is evenly taut on each side. (c).

Step Four:
Cross the lengths of fabric in the back and bring them out on either side in the front. (d).

Step Five:
Cross the fabric over your forehead as in picture e) and twist each piece around the other. It will look sort of like a knot, but really each length of fabric is just looped around the other.

Step Six:
Tuck the ends into the back of the headwrap, wherever it looks even and won't fall out.

Step Seven:
Choose another scarf or two, even hip scarves work, and wrap them around your head. Tuck the ends so it will not come apart.

Step Eight.
Fix any adornments you have such as flowers, feather or jewelry onto your head wrap. Done!

These last two steps are what really make the headwrap your own. You can match the colours to coordinate with the rest of your outfit, or choose a certain style to go for. Bright scarves will be very fun, flowers and feathers are eye-catching, and dark or monochrome colour schemes with more regal jewelry can look very elegant.

I hope this tutorial gives you a basic idea of how to put together your very own ATS Headwrap!

Beautiful silk fabric flowers provided by Sareen Dream - follow her on Twitter now too! @Sareen_Dream

Also, a big thanks to my beautiful littler sister for being my model :) She'll be helping me with more hair and make-up tutorials in the future!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Level 3.1 Egyptian Full Turn, Reshamka and Fading

The first lesson of Level Three is now over! I was sooo excited to begin - and as soon as it did that old familiar feeling came back. The feeling that I can just barely keep my head above water! We learned the Egyptian Full Turn, Reshamka and Fading. I did them to the best of my ability, but my brain was close to exploding! We had a blast learning and dancing together :)

The Egyptian Full Turn wasn't bad. Easy, clear cue that I'm used to and makes perfect sense. The thing I'll have to work on is turning quickly, with balance, and transitioning smoothly into the next move. The turn happens so fast you have to know exactly what you're going to change to at the front if you're leading. As a follower, you have to watch very carefully to see what the leader will do to match as quickly as possible - which isn't unlike any other move in ATS, it just happens a little faster! Ideally it'll turn into a beautiful, quick, smooth spin... eventually! ;)

I was excited to learn Reshamka, it looked simple but sassy and fun when I saw it in videos online. In class, it is indeed relatively simple, fun and sassy - but the hand movement is trickier than it looks! It's like wringing a cloth, which is easy and comes naturally if that's all you're doing. Add in the zills and raising arms from the hips to above your head and somehow the cloth wringing turns to dog patting or pyschotic waving! I think some slow-mo Reshamka is in the works for my practices! I also kept starting my "1" too high, so that beats 1-4 were way too close together by where the "4" should go, so I'll have to pace myself and really start from the hips. I think that move will be a lot of fun though!

Fading. Enter, the ATS Mindmeld. Honestly, I think it's amazing, but I'm not the *biggest* fan. I like clear, straightforward cues. Tell me exactly what to do and I will do it. This formation depends on watching for a possible cue and then not knowing exactly what will happen. If you are in the 2nd position spot you may decide to follow and move forward to fade, or you may zone out completely and wonder why your leader is moving so far back and getting an increasingly preturbed look on her face - not that I would know anything about that! ;) If you are in the 4th position you have to watch the 2nd to see what they decide to do. The transition of fading is really beautiful, and I'm sure not all that complicated, but last night it was a bit overwhelming! It will require lots of practice in class and lots of forgiveness between the students!

Overall, the night went well. I kept my head above water and didn't lose concentration. We are learning so much so fast, and I think we all had fun. This class going to take a lot more practice and diligence than I've committed to previously, but hey thats what I signed up for! I just really hope I can keep up and make my dance teacher proud! Til next time ;)

*Head Wrap Tutorial is still on it's way I promise!! ;)

Saturday, 10 September 2011

ATS Headwrap Inspiration

  A headwrap used to be a staple in ATS costume. They have since been mostly outdone by hair gardens and more simple updos, but a head wrap will always be classic ATS. In fact, the ability to make one is a skill that each American Tribal Style Belly Dancer should possess. You can count on a tutorial soon!

For today, however, let's admire some beautiful dancers who have employed the regality and exotic feature of a head wrap in their own costume. Take note of the black undercloth, the many styles and colours of scarves overtop, as well as the flowers and jewelry used to adorn the headwrap. Enjoy! :)


Thursday, 8 September 2011

Starting Level 3 - & Questions for YOU!

Hey guys! First off I just want to say:


to those who read my blog on a daily/weekly basis. I hope you enjoy it, and if there is a certain type of post you'd like to see more of or any tutorial you're looking for, please email me at and I'll do my best for you!

I just wanted to share my excitement with you guys - next week I start Level Three in my ATS bellydance class! I started dancing a year ago on September 21, and I've been in level Two since January. My dance teacher chose a very small group of her students to begin level Three, so I am completely humbled and shocked but SO SO SO excited to be a part of it.

I really have no idea what to expect, but I know just like beginning any new level that there will be some things that come naturally, and some parts I will struggle with. I know my coordination has improved throughout the year, and my confidence has definitely increased, so I'm feeling positive and ready to be 'nice to myself' when it gets difficult.

So I may do updates from time to time on how Level Three is going. You guys know I'm no professional, nor am I a dance teacher - nothing like that, just a student. Just learning as best I can - and sharing with you anything I think you might enjoy! Please let me know if there are any questions you have about my life or my dancing.

Also, two new features on the sidebar -

my STORE (products used/mentioned in this blog)  & my FAVOURITE QUOTES - enjoy!! :)

Have a wonderful day, keep smiling, and keep dancing!


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Magic of Lemon Water

Some people may see lemon as nothing more than a garnish, others might be experienced cooks and use it to give flavour to their dishes.

Whichever end of the scale you're at, you deserve to know the benefits of the simplest, inexpensive, most beneficial recipe ever:

lemon + water

This easy to make drink can have a big impact on your health. Here's why:

  • Lemons are a rich source of vitamin C
  • They also contain vitamin B, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, proteins, carbohydrates and other vitamins and minerals
  • Lemon water can relieve indigestion such as: heartburn, bloating, belching, gas, nausea and constipation
  • When you have a cold, lemon water cuts down phlegm and acts as an antibacterial in your throat
  • Consumed daily, lemon water is great for your skin - anti-aging and reduces acne!
  • Helps protect against bad breath
  • Aids weight loss
  • Strengthens the liver
  • Prevents and helps to cure urinary tract infections
  • Purifies the blood with antioxidants
  • Helps the body process sugar
  • Cleans out the intestines and gets things 'moving along'
  • Tooth aches, gingivitis and other mouth/gum problems can be relieved by lemon water - the antiseptic properties will aid healing, and any bleeding, swelling and pain is said to be alleviated as well
  • Can help break a fever
  • Reduces high cholesterol
  • Very alkalizing for the body

I could keep going, but I'll let you discover some of the benefits for yourself.  I know if I've eaten too much chocolate or sugar and along with regret I've gotten a 'sugar' induced headache - a glass of lemon water is the cure. I've also used lemon water to alleviate heartburn, bloating, sore throat and other problems - so I can attest to its power!

So how much is enough?

The average person can have one to two glasses of lemon water a day. Use the juice of half a lemon for each glass. People over 155 lbs can use a whole lemon per glass.

  • If it's just too tart for you, add some honey. Honey may be sweet, but its benefits are endless as well.
  • Start small. Use a slice of lemon first and build up until you can handle the juice of half a lemon.
  • Use a straw! The citric acid in lemons might have an small adverse effect on teeth enamel after prolonged use.

For more info click >Here< and >Here<. Now go buy some lemons! :)