The Blog

The Belly Dance Lesson Scam: How To Spot It & Not Get Taken

Bad people are out there – and some of them have their sights set on the the bellydance community. In particular, I’m talking about scam artists. Recently, I’ve seen a lot of people posting about this on Facebook, asking if a request for services they have received is legitimate. I have been getting these for so many years, I was really surprised that so many dancers had never seen or heard of it before. So as a public service to the bellydance community – I thought I’d get this on the record so we can spread some education and awareness and be on our guard against those that would design to steal your money out from under you.

How To Spot The Belly Dance Scam

In general, the communication comes as an email, although in the past 3 months I have also had several come as text messages. The wording is almost identical, the most current version requests choreography and lessons for a “flashmob” bridesmaids’ performance. In years past, they were more often a request for dance lessons for a child visiting from abroad, usually several lessons per week for a few weeks. Here are some screen shots of ones I’ve received in the past few weeks.

scam 5

scam 3

 

 

 

 

 

One laughable giveaway is that they often ask  you to choreograph a John Legend song, “All of Me”. And exactly *why* are you coming to a bellydance teacher for that? Hmmm.

How Does This Belly Dance Scam Work?

It’s not immediately obvious just how this ruse works. They ask for a price for lessons for the bridesmaids and want to pay by credit card. The twist comes when they ask to add the driver’s fee to the charges, because this poor guy just can’t take credit cards. And you’re willing to help them out, right?

Once you’ve given the money to the driver, they reverse the card charge and – voila, they’ve got some of your money!  I have gotten that far in the discussion with one person. I knew already that it was a scam, but I was just curious to probe the situation to see what more I could learn about it. Here’s a shot of the email conversation where they bring up the driver’s fees.

scam 2

 

 

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What Should You Do?

So now you know. What should you do if you get one of these propositions? Belly dancers that have been fielding them for years have taken a variety of approaches.

  • The best tactic is not to reply. You can report it to the Federal Trade Commission here.  If the person sent it from a gmail account, you can report it here. Report scam emails from Yahoo addresses here. This violated the Terms of Use for both email services. 
  • You can have some fun stringing them along if you like. One dancer on Facebook said she demanded to be paid in birdseed, which made me laugh out loud – literally! I used to do this sometimes, but the entertainment value has long since dried up and I refuse to give them a second more of my precious time and attention. If you’ve got the itch to mess with them – go for it – but please also report it.

Here’s a fun response from Amity of Raq-On that she generously let me share with you!

scam 6

Be on the lookout for these. Tell a friend, share this post and help protect our community from scam artists and financial predators.

“Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage” – A Book Review

"Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage"

“Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage”

“Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage” is a collaboration by Sara Shrapnell, Dawn Devine, Alisha Westerfeld and Poppy Maya. All of these women are experienced belly dance performers and bring their own voice and experience to the content. This is one of the most unique things about this particular book – and one of it’s strengths, in my opinion. Reading it is like attending a panel discussion on entering the pro bellydance track. Through copious photographs to illustrate each point, useful checklists and illuminating sidebars and anecdotes, the reader gets to hear and see each of the author’s unique contributions and perspectives on being a working belly dancer on the scene.

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Dawn Devine and Sara Shrapnell in 2015 while this book was in the writing process, so I am thrilled to see it finished and out in the world  as a belly dance resource. You can watch that interview here.

This book addresses that tricky transition a serious belly dance student has to make if they want to start gigging and make a name for themselves on the professional circuit at any level – local, national or international. For many dancers, these are lessons learned the hard way – that is certainly how I learned most of them! Classes and workshops abound to teach us movement, choreography, specialty props and musicality, but how do you put your “open for business” shingle out there in the belly dance world?

 

Who should read this book?

“Becoming a Bellydance: From Student to Stage” does a very thorough job of answering the minutiae of that question in approachable, actionable and practical ways. Obviously, it’s target reader is the belly dance student contemplating going pro, but as a seasoned professional who trains up-and-coming dancers, I think it’s a valuable read to remind me of how overwhelming  the business facets of starting out can be – something I may have forgotten or taken for granted after being in the game a while.

A Reality Check

You need to know where you are before you can navigate to your destination. I like that this book begins with some honest self-assessment – it is time well spent for the blossoming student. It continues with advice on how to set clear goals and how to plan the intermediate steps to achieve them. This is key to using this book (or making progress in anything) and the best way to approach the treasure trove of actionable material in this handbook.

The Self-Made Bellydancer

We may not like to think of it this way, but a belly dancer for hire is a product for sale. And just like any product designer, considering their customers’ needs and how to fill them, the belly dancer embarking on the business track needs to decide who they are (and aren’t). The author crew walks through all the public-facing aspects of your persona – your “brand” – that signal to the customer who you are and what you do.  

Dawn Devine, a master costumer known to many in the belly dance world, does a thorough breakdown of the layers of costuming that build your overall look. And as I mentioned before, each author adds their perspective and experience. This book even includes 13 costuming projects from “no-sew” to relatively simple – all very handy additions to a dancer’s wardrobe.

Other pieces of the branding game include what to include in an effective website, creating marketing materials, and tips on photo shoots and getting flattering photos. “Becoming a Bellydancer” also includes guidelines on how to use social media to build your brand – a new skill that is very necessary for the current day dancer!

On With The Show

Performance opportunities run the gamut from short festival shows to full sets in a club with live music. Each one has it’s own set of considerations. What music is appropriate? How do you prepare it? Do you need a contract? And then there’s the “people” part of the equation – backstage etiquette, audience interaction, and the politics of the show lineup. These ladies cover all of these things beautifully because they have all been there and done that.

If you are a belly dance student with aspirations of someday going pro, whether as a paying hobby or if your dream is to be a full-time dancer, “Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage” is a valuable reference that you would do well to turn to often to help direct yourself toward your goal. If you are a mentor to dancers in this phase of their training, this book will be just as valuable to you in assisting your students on their dance journey.

 

For more information on the authors, please visit:

Sara Shrapnell’s site

Dawn Devine’s site

Alisha Westerfeld

Poppy Maya

 

March 24, 2017 0 Comments

The Evolution of Finger Cymbals

This is a guest post by Dawn Devine – Davina. I am really honored to have her work shared here on my blog. I have such respect for her dedication to research and her ability to show us the depth of history in all aspects of our art. If you are as fascinated by this history of zills as I am, you will be very excited about what we’re doing over the next few days!  Learn more after you’ve enjoyed this short history of finger cymbals.

Scholars of dance love to theorize on the origins of our art form. We contemplate the regions that may have given rise to unique body motions or the cultures that developed different musical styles.  But there is one component of our dance that has been definitively proven to date back to pre-literate antiquity.  These are our much beloved favorite music instrument, the mighty finger cymbal.  

In this article, we’re going to take a trip through time and trace the evolution of finger cymbals from their popular precursors through today.  This is an overview of the technological advances that begins deep in prehistory and extends through our current, modern finger cymbal production. This is a story of the development of the metals used to produce the instruments we use today.

1-Wood-Bone-Clappers-Lourve-AW

Egyptian Wood and Bone Clappers 2000BCE – 500CE Louvre Exhibit, Alisha Westerfeld

Copper Age

Our journey begins back in the 4th millennium or 3000 BCE.  It’s a time when our ancestors were still making music with wooden clappers, skinned drums, and simple stringed instruments which rarely survive. The smallest, most portable, and easiest to make instruments were simple concussive idiophones. This is a category of musical instruments that produce resonant sound from the intrinsic property of the item. Our forbearers used materials such as wooden sticks, lengths of ivory or bone, and precious stones to produce pleasing resonant sounds to their ears.

 

The discovery of smelting ore, and humankind’s first practical metal, copper, allowed people to craft stronger and more practical work tools, kitchen utensils, and weapons. It also added a new material for making musical instruments.  Some of the earliest finger cymbals are made from copper or simple copper alloys.  Examples of these earliest instruments survive because of their value and importance in daily life. They have been found in the graves of wealthy and important individuals ranging from Anatolia (modern Turkey) around the Eastern Mediterranean to Egypt.  

Egyptian Finger Cymbals or Copper Alloys and Bronze, 1000 BCE - 500 CE Louvre Exhibit, Alisha Westerfeld

Egyptian Finger Cymbals of Copper Alloys and Bronze, 1000 BCE – 500 CE Louvre Exhibit, Alisha Westerfeld

Bronze Age

The next phase of technological development in metallurgy coincided with a rapid growth in civilization. At the dawn of the bronze age, writing developed, cities grew, and people began to live in larger groups defined by their mutual languages, religions, and social beliefs. As the population of the world blossomed, there were more people to make music, sing songs, and dance. This new material, bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, made a stronger and more durable metal.  It was used extensively to create musical instruments around the world including struck instruments like the gongs of China, jingling instruments like the sistrum of Egypt, and our favorite, finger cymbals. Archeologists have unearthed hundreds of sets of cymbals in sites around the Mediterranean that span the breadth of the bronze age.

 

 

Egyptian Finger Cymbals 1000 BCE - 500 CE Louvre Exhibit, Alisha Westerfeld

Egyptian Finger Cymbals 1000 BCE – 500 CE Louvre Exhibit, Alisha Westerfeld

 

Because the human hand hasn’t changed significantly in design and shape, ancient finger cymbals are about the same configuration as modern instruments. The length of the fingers determines the maximum and minimum size possible. Consequently finger cymbals of great antiquity closely resemble their modern descendants. Bronze zills also sounded much better than than earlier copper varieties. They are still coveted by performers today for their resonant sound and long sustaining ring.

Ceremony at Ned Sili,1801 by Luigi Mayer engraving based on aquatint.

Ceremony at Ned Sili,1801 by Luigi Mayer engraving based on aquatint.

Brass Instruments

Finger cymbals made from brass are a relatively new invention. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and throughout the Middle Ages, zinc was difficult to find and was tricky to smelt.  It wasn’t until the early stages of the industrial revolution in Europe that large scale brass production was made possible.  By the late 18th century, brass was made in large rolling mills which created enough metal that a new class of wind instruments was invented. These brass instruments, includes flutes, French horns, and the mighty tuba.

Turkish Cengi, 1802 by Octavian Dalvimart from the book “Costume of Turkey.”

Turkish Cengi, 1802 by Octavian Dalvimart from the book “Costume of Turkey.”

Of course, as time passes and the technologies of print and industrial papermaking and bookbinding improve, we begin to find images of dancers making their way into texts on culture, costuming, and history of the world. Throughout the whole of the 19th century, the subject of the exotic east was so abundant, that they are now grouped and labelled as the Orientalists.  Our dancing ancestors move through these paintings and illustrations, often with props we would recognize and use today, including finger cymbals.

Dance of the Almeh, 1863 by Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Dayton Art Institute

Dance of the Almeh, 1863 by Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Dayton Art Institute

 

German Silver & Silver Toned Alloys

As metallurgy advanced during the industrial era, there was a search for an alloy that closely resembled silver.  A recipe was found after an 1823 contest in Germany.  This new “German Silver” is a nickel and copper alloy that had the appearance of silver, but without the tarnishing or the high cost.  Nickel or German silver retains the beautiful ringing tone of all of the “red metals” that include copper as the base. But unlike copper, brass, and bronze, this alloy has a beautiful silver toned finish. This is the same metal used by instrument makers for piccolos and french horns.  The ringing tone of nickel silver is brighter and higher, but unfortunately, this is a softer metal, so is prone to scratches and warping with heavy use.

Modern Finger Cymbals, Dawn Devine

Modern Finger Cymbals, Dawn Devine

Modern Finger Cymbals

Dancers are now able to buy finger cymbals made from a myriad of different metal alloys, finishes, and in in sounds from high toned trills, to deeply resonate rings. Today they are known by a wide variety of names depending on your location.  In Turkey, they are called Zil or Ziller.  In Egypt they are called sagat for smaller sizes and toura for larger orchestral instruments. Here in the US, we use any or all of these terms depending on our taste, style, and dance education.

Modern Zills by Dawn Devine - 1 - Decorative Enamel on mystery alloy , 2 - copper alloy, 3 - Brass cymbals, Turquoise International, 4 - German silver, Saroyan International, 5 - Cast Bronze, Sabian, 6 - Bronze stamped, Saroyan International.

Modern Zills by Dawn Devine – 1 – Decorative Enamel on mystery alloy , 2 – copper alloy, 3 – Brass cymbals, Turquoise International, 4 – German silver, Saroyan International, 5 – Cast Bronze, Sabian, 6 – Bronze stamped, Saroyan International.

 

So when you are selecting your next set of finger cymbals take a moment to consider the kind of metal you enjoy.  If you have the opportunity to hear how different metals sound and resonate,  take the opportunity to listen to copper, bronze, brass, and white metals. Many performers select their instruments based solely on how they sound. Pro dancers will often create a wardrobe of different metal toned instruments to coordinate with their wardrobe, choosing to play silver-toned sets with silvery costumes and brass with gold.  But always, buy the best quality you can afford and a ring that you enjoy. If you like the way your finger cymbals sound, you remove one obstacle from practice, and ultimately performance.   

 WIN ONE OF 3 COPIES OF DAVINA’S NEWEST BOOK
“ZILLS: Music on Your Fingertips”

 

Dawn Devine ~ Davina is a well known author, costume designer, and historian working in the field of belly dance.  She has published several books the meld her love of history and dance including her latest book Zills: Music on Your Fingertips with Illustrator George Goncalves and The Cloth of Egypt: All About Assiut with photographer Alisha Westerfeld.  She has a blog on her website, http://www.davina.us and is active on various social media platforms including:

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DavinaDevine

    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/davinadevine/ 

    Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/davinadevine/

   YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfhuBvWXAgGqb6c0aXXA9SA

Get a copy of Zills: Music On your Fingertips from Amazon – http://amzn.to/2lbjwJt

Or directly from the author on Etsy – https://www.etsy.com/shop/DavinaDevine

 

 

February 23, 2017 3 Comments

Interview with Shira: Travelling in Egypt and Breaking the “Bellydance Bubble”

ShiraI recently had the opportunity and privilege to interview Shira, of Shira.net fame. Shira is a dancer and instructor, but is perhaps best known as a writer, researcher and lecturer on a broad variety of topics related to Middle Eastern dance and culture. Her website, Shira.net,  is the most linked to bellydance site on the web, and one of the first resources many new dancers find when then begin their dance journey. 

Shira is such a wealth of knowledge and experience, it was hard to pick a topic- we could cover so many things! However, this time we talked about travelling to Egypt as a student of bellydance and Egyptian culture.

Mahin: What is your experience travelling in Egypt? When did you first go there and how many times have you returned?   

Shira: The first time I went to Egypt was in 1999.  Morocco was going for the purpose of doing some of her customary business in Egypt, and invited a few of us to come along as companions to hang out. I have been there 11 times so far.

11 times – that’s a lot!  What keeps you going back?

What keeps me going back is a mixture of things:

  1.  I do enjoy returning to places I already know and like, to re-experience the things I liked on previous visits.
  2.  Egypt is ever-changing.  Every time I’ve gone, I’ve had new-to-me experiences.  For example, last February was my first time experiencing the moulid for Hassan in Cairo.
  3.  Because I’ve been there so many times, I’ve started getting to know people who live there, and I love reconnecting with them.
  4.  It’s always a pleasure seeing live music & dance shows in Egypt

Thinking of your first visit to Egypt, what were your expectations and assumptions before you went and how was the reality different?

Probably the biggest thing is that I expected a third world country, and Cairo showed me that the major cities in Egypt are actually very cosmopolitan.

What do you think are some of the misconceptions the bellydance community at large has about the dance scene in Egypt? Or about travelling as a foreigner and dance tourist there?

One issue is that belly dancers who go there often go in a bubble.  They go in a dancer-led tour, to a dance event such as the ones sponsored by Nile Group, and aside from a couple of outside typical-tourist excursions they don’t really get to see what Egypt is like.

Dancers often take a lot of stereotypes with them, such as thinking Egypt is all about goddesses, pyramids, camels, and veiled women.

Going outside the “dance tourist bubble”, what did you see and experience that a dancer in one of the tour groups might miss?

Going to the Oum Kalhtoum museum. Hanging out outside the Victoria hotel (which is in a baladi part of town) and people-watching. Going to the Gayer Anderson museum. Going to the zar music show at the Makan theater.

Would you say the western bellydancer zeitgeist in general has a romanticized notion of Egyptian dance and culture, that does not allow for it to change and evolve as cultures inevitably do?

I do think Western belly dancers romanticize Egypt, especially those who have not been there at all, and also those who have confined their visits to the big festivals.  For some, it’s all about seeing the famous dancers perform, taking workshops taught by them, and shopping for costumes.  These are all good things to do, and I still enjoy doing them.  I just like to break out of that mold and explore the many other fascinating things Egypt has to offer.

And you’re right, Egypt’s culture does change and evolve, as cultures will do.

For someone visiting Egypt for the first time, perhaps travelling internationally for the first time, I imagine these tour groups are helpful in navigating an unfamiliar place.

That’s very true.  A lot depends on which tour leader you choose.  Some simply take you to a big festival, where you can take workshops from local dancers, and maybe they include a one-day tour to see the pyramids and Old Cairo.  Others might skip the festival, and take you to see more of Cairo culture in action.

A dancer can repeatedly go to the festivals without ever experiencing the other many fabulous things there are to do in Cairo.

How has the dance scene in particular changed for you from your first visit to your most recent one, regarding the quality and quantity of performances and venues you could go to?

I think the dance scene in nightclubs may be starting to pick up a little.  When I went in 1999, I saw Fifi Abdo and Dina do nightclub shows.  Fifi no longer dances in the clubs, but Dina is still at the Semiramis one day a week.  Some new Egyptian dancers have arisen in recent years.  Sahar dances on one of the boats, and Camelia Masreya recently started dancing again.  I’m hoping to see the Egyptian dancer Aziza on a future trip. Soraya Zaied, originally from Brazil but has worked in Egypt many years, dances several nights a week now.

Are the performers now just ask likely to have live music for their shows as when you first went in 1999? Has the size of the ensembles changed in general?

All of the performers I just mentioned work with live bands.  I don’t have a clear memory of how big the bands were, I just remember feeling as though the music was very rich and satisfying.  Soraya’s current band, in particular, is top-notch.

When you leave the 4 and 5 star clubs featuring big names like Dina, and the Nile show boats,  and go to the smaller venues, what kind of show would you see?

One big thing that differentiates the venues is “type of audience”.  The 5-star clubs in hotels tend to cater to Gulf Arabs as their primary audiences.  This is also true of some of the higher-end nightclubs such as Lucy’s Parisiana and El Layl.

Another type is the boats, which tend to cater to tourists from places other than the Gulf – Americans, Europeans, Asians, etc.  These would include boats such as the Pharaoh where many of the foreign dancers living in Cairo work.

And then there are the shaabi clubs, which are frequented by middle-class Egyptians.

The type of audience determines the type of dancer hired and the type of show.

Some of the boats hire their own bands, and the dancers have to perform with whoever the boat hired, instead of bringing their own orchestras. Whereas dancers in the high-end clubs tend to bring their own bands, in the shaabi clubs, with Egyptian audiences, some feature performers, others are just discos.  All of them really make you feel like you’re in a party atmosphere, which makes them different from the boats.

Of the shaabi clubs that feature performers, I’ve seen a format in which the club provides the band, and throughout the evening a series of different dancers take turns coming in, doing a set, and leaving.  None of them are internationally known names, but I’ve seen some very good dancing there. Some are quite playful, others look a bit bored as if they’re phoning it in.  The playful ones can really engage the audience.

The audiences in these watch-the-perforrmers shaabi clubs tend to be almost entirely men.  It’s not the sort of place a decent woman would allow herself to be seen, due to all the alcohol being served.  A tourist wanting to go to one usually needs to be accompanied by a man.  Otherwise, a taxi driver might refuse to take her to such a disreputable place that’s not fit for a woman.

Over the years of your travels, what influences of western music and dance (if any)  have you seen show up in Egyptian music and dance as done there?

The big festivals (such as Ahlan wa Sahlan) will hire western dancers to teach if they bring along a large tour group.  So, you might see tribal fusion taught at one of these big festivals. I have seen very little Western influence in the shows I’ve gone to.  Dancers are still mostly using the big-orchestra type of music.  

But, social dancing at weddings can be a different matter.  In 2008, when I was a guest at a wedding in Egypt in which I knew the family, the DJ played the macarena and everybody started doing it.  So of course I joined in, and soon I realized the Egyptian teen-agers were scrutinizing my technique, trying to dissect what I was doing so they could copy it!

There’s a new dance style that has emerged in Egypt over  the last decade, known as mahragan, and that shows very clear influences from hiphop.

As a woman travelling in Egypt, how were you treated in public and business transactions – for example in stores, restaurants and hotels?

I’ve always felt as though the locals (including men) treated me very courteously. There’d be an occasional annoying person, but that’s true here in the U.S. as well.

That said, there are certain things that can garner higher respect.  For example, I *never* tell Egyptians that I am a belly dancer.  It’s obvious, of course, to costume vendors.  But I don’t tell shopkeepers, restaurant owners, or hotel staff.  I tell them that I work in the computer industry, which is true.

I also dress fairly conservatively – tunics that are long enough to fully cover my hips, sleeve lengths no shorter than elbow length, and high necklines.  Pants that fit loosely (such as yoga pants) rather than leggings.

Overall, what has been your most surprising experience (positive or negative) in your travels to Egypt?

Surprising?  Hmmm.  I need to think about that a moment. I think it is the hospitality that they show to outsiders. So many times, I have encountered locals who were kind, welcoming, eager to show me their culture.

That is good to hear in today’s world! As a final thought, what advice would you give to dancers travelling to Egypt for the first time, given your experience there?

Buy a guide book before you, and read a little about the history of each place you plan to visit. Or, look up the places on the Internet to read about them before you go.  For example, if you will be staying at the Mena House hotel, read about its history.  If you will be going to Khan al-Khalili for shopping, read about its history.  Knowing some of this will make your visit much richer.

Did you have any final thoughts to add?

Another dancer who was with us in one of the groups I went to Egypt once said this:  she was told by a friend that regardless of your preferred dance style, it’s important to go to Egypt at least once.  That it will change you.  I agree with that comment.  I think it’s hard to say exactly how it changed me, but I know it did.

Thank you so much for your time – and your dedication to dance through your work on your incredible website!

You’re welcome!  I enjoyed our chat!

 

October 6, 2016 0 Comments

Storing & Transporting Your Bellydance Costumes

This is Week 7 of Your Sparkly Wardrobe, a collaboration between Sparkly Belly and Mahin’s Bellydance Quickies.

storage

For most bellydancers, a costume wardrobe represents a significant investment of money, and possibly time if you made your bedlah yourself. To keep your pieces in top condition, it is important that you store them properly and pack them carefully when going to gigs or travelling. In this post,  I’ll cover some tips and tricks to keep your sparkly wardrobe beautiful and stage ready,

Your available space will of course play a big role in determining how you can store your wardrobe. If you are lucky enough to have a large walk-in closet or a separate room, you can give your cossies luxury accommodations. If you are like me in a small house with very little closet space or an apartment, more compact storage solutions are a must!

Storage At Home

Your costume pieces spend more time in home storage than in any other place so how and where you keep them is crucial. In general, all pieces should be protected from excessive humidity to prevent mildew and direct sunlight to keep them from fading. Different types of costume pieces have specific considerations – let’s look at them one at a time.

Skirts & Pants

There are many considerations when choosing how to store your skirts. In this section, I am including the type of skirts you would wear with a belt,  skirts that have “built in” belts and heavily embellished skirts with no belt, like many of the modern Egyptian costumes, Bellas and other designer lines.

Skirts with heavy embellishments of beads, sequins and appliques are best stored folded in drawers or boxes. Prolonged hanging can pull them out of shape and strain the fabric. Undecorated skirts, if made properly, should be able to hang safely. Here’s the catch – “if made properly”.  Skirts should be hung for several days before hemming so the hemline will remain stable. If they have not been hung before hemming, you may be surprised to find they are uneven and too long after they’ve been on a hanger in your closet for a while. Fabrics which have a looser weave are also more susceptible to stretching out of shape, even if they were hung before hemming. Think before you hang!

If storage space is at a premium, multi hangers like the one below are a good choice. If the fabric is delicate or there are some decorations near the top, place some scrap fabric between the skirt and the clips.

multi hangers

If you are unsure whether your skirts will stretch, or you don’t have hanging space, fold your skirts neatly and stand them up on end in a box. You will be able to find and take out what you need easily and keep the rest neat.

box o skirts

 

 

Bras & Belts  (and more)

Bras and belts are the workhorses of your costume wardrobe! Protect the beadwork and finishes by storing them in plastic shoebox type containers with silica packets to absorb moisture. Silica packets come in boxes of many items you buy – keep an eye out for them! An alternative is to use pillowcases or a similar type of cloth bag. These methods also work for costumes with a bra and heavily embellished skirt or full dresses with heavy beading.

Always air out costumes on a rack for 12-24 hours after wearing before putting then away to be sure they are completely dry. I spray the linings and insides (not the decorated surfaces!) of my costumes with a 50/50 mix of cheap vodka and water to keep them fresher between occasional cleanings. This kills the bacteria in your sweat that can make them smelly over time.

Bra in box

Veils

Veils are the most forgiving of your costume pieces when it comes to storage. If you have space out of strong sunlight, they look lovely hung on a rod or coat tree so you can enjoy their colors every time you pass by.

hung veils

If you don’t have room to hang your veils safely, fold them lengthwise and roll them up neatly. Stand the rolls up in a basket and you’ll be able to find what you need quickly. A third option is to fold them like the skirts and store on end in a box.

rolled veils

 

The Big Picture

If you have used boxes and/or cloth bags to store your costume items that cannot hang, you can organize them on shelves or in a bookcase. Here are some of my boxes of costumes and my basket of veils. The opaque boxes are labelled by type – chiffon skirts, straight skirts and harem pants

All the boxes

Transporting Bellydance Costumes to Gigs

The safest and most convenient way that I have found to pack for gigs is to use a carry-on sized rolling suitcase. I use one that has dividers to keep things contained to each side. I usually have two costumes with me and this keeps each set and its accessories together.

2 sides of suticase

To keep beads and fringe from getting tangled or caught, I fold the skirt, veil or another piece of fabric in between like this.
wrap in veil

Shoes, jewelry and makeup stay safe and easy to find in their own separate bags. Tuck them into whichever side has room for them. Be sure shoes and makeup are well-contained so they don’t get your costumes dirty and jewelry won’t snag on your fabric items.

the extras

Packing for Travel

Packing your bellydance costumes for travel is very different than packing for a gig. You will go into your suitcase to get many things other than your costumes and you don’t want to dig through them to find your street clothes. Packing cubes are a great solution for this! They are very thin zippered cases. I pack each costume in it’s own cube along with its veil, accessories and jewelry.

Some costumes travel better than others. I go strictly carry-on when flying, so space saving is top priority! As I am writing this, I am on a 3-week tour, living out of one carry-on suitcase with 2 full costumes! If I have the option, I go with straight skirts and less bulky bras and belts. Sometimes the gig requires a more voluminous costume. I pack them snugly into cubes (layer to prevent snags as above). I unpack them well before performing to smooth out any wrinkles. Draping them over a hanger while showering can help release creases too.

packing cubes

Take only the essential jewelry and accessories.  Pack jewelry in a ziplock bag and tuck it into the packing cube with the rest of the outfit.

jewely in bag

 

Do you have other storage or packing methods that work for you? Share them in the comments below…

 

August 26, 2016 10 Comments
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