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“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

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

Belly Dance Costume Inventory: Why & How To Do It

This is Week #1 of Your Sparkly Wardrobe, a collaboration with Sparkly Belly. To sign up for the full series, delivered on alternate weeks (July 15 – September 2, 2016)  here and on Sparkly Belly, please visit here.

How many costumes does a bellydancer need?
Just one more, right?

We’d all like a limitless wardrobe of sparkly things, but whether it is our budget or our closest space that constrains us, most of us will never achieve that beautiful dream. We can, however, make the most of what we can afford and store. In fact, if you’re like me, you may not be making the most of what you have already! That’s the mission of the Your Sparkly Wardrobe project – to help you make the most of the costume pieces you already own by taking stock, re-evaluating your performance needs and creating a plan to up your costume game without any major purchases.

Why do you need to inventory your bellydance wardrobe?

There are many excellent reasons to create an inventory of your costumes.  For starters, if you would like to include your costumes in the coverage of your renter’s or home owner’s policy – which I highly recommend you do – you would need an inventory, ideally with photos and receipts,  to make a claim in the event any were stolen or damaged in a fire, flood or other disaster. If you are a professional with a closet full of high-end bedlahs, this is absolutely essential!

On a more positive note, creating an inventory of your costumes will…

  • make you fully aware of what you already have so you don’t buy duplicates or near-duplicates
  • give you the opportunity to assess the condition and fit of your costume pieces so they are ready for the stage
  • help you spot gaps in your wardrobe that could open multiple options if filled
  • turn up items that you no longer need or want and can get rid of
  • give you an opportunity to discover new pairings of your existing wardrobe pieces

Are you convinced yet?  Let’s do this!

How To Inventory Your Belly Dance Wardrobe

Step 1: Get it together

Gather up all your costume items. This includes full sets, all manner of skirts and pants, sashes, veils and accessories. Put them on a large table, bed or on a clean sheet spread on the floor. Check all your closets, gig bags and any place you may have stashed things. Take a minute to think if you have loaned any items out to other dancers – make arrangements to get them back.

Step 2: Sort it out

Make separate piles for each category of items. Depending on your particular performance style, the kind of pieces in your wardrobe will differ. For example you may have many chiffon skirts, but no flare bottom Melodia style pants or short overskirts – or vice versa –  or maybe you have both! Here are some category suggestions:

  • Full sets with built-in belts on skirts (Egyptian style)
  • Full dresses (for example beladi, Saidi or folkloric costumes)
  • Bra and belt sets
  • Skirts that can be worn on their own (without being too revealing)
  • Overskirts or toppers (that can’t be worn alone)
  • Harem pants or flare bottom pants
  • Veils
  • Cholis and vests
  • Sleeves
  • Belly covers or body stockings\
  • Headdresses

At this point you will proceed with one category at a time through the rest of the steps.

Step 3: Should it stay or go?

We all find ourselves with items hanging around our closet that no longer fit our performance style or taste even if they do fit our figures. Go through your pile and decide one piece at a time if it is something you still use and enjoy wearing. If not,  put it in a bag out of the way. You will decide later whether to toss it, give it away or prepare it for sale. No need to make that call right now.

Do you like the item but just aren’t excited about wearing it any more? Maybe it just needs an update or small addition. Hang on to it for now – next week’s Your Sparkly Wardrobe post may be just what it needs to make it a keeper.

Step 4: Set up your record

For this you can use a small notebook, index cards, a spreadsheet or a wardrobe organizing app (yes, these exist) depending on your preference for paper or digital. If you are using a notebook or index cards, use one sheet or card per costume item. If you are using a spreadsheet, create one row for each costume item. You may want to make one tab for each category of items if your costume wardrobe is large. Wardrobe apps vary widely and may take time figure out, so maybe start out with index cards or a notebook and digitize your record later.

Step 5: Check the fit

Try on every item in the category you are working on. Make a note on the item page, card or spreadsheet row (make a column for Fit)  if the item is too small or too big anywhere. Note if a bra or belt has gaps. Check if the straps are ideally positioned for your comfort and stability. Some people prefer halters, some prefer over-the-shoulder style and some like cris-cross backs. Changing the strap arrangement can be a game changer when you have an uncomfortable bra! Check skirts and pants for length. If you’ve been rolling that waistband up to keep from tripping over the skirt hem – fess up now and make a note in your record.

Step 6: Time for a close inspection

So far, we’ve only been looking at the fit of the item. Take it off and give it  a close inspection in good light. Check the beading, both flat beading and fringe. Look for any areas where beads are missing or rhinestones are coming loose. Are there missing bead strands in your fringe? Is the finish on your beads wearing off the fringe?  Check the prongs on large stones. Inspect the condition of your sequins, coins or other ornaments. For any items that are lined, how is the lining holding up?  Make notes on anything that needs repair. (If you are using a spreadsheet make a column for Repairs)

Next, a very important task! Check all the closures. Is the stitching holding up? Look for rust and hooks that are weakening and starting to bend open. If you have velcro, consider replacing it. Do you have enough closures? Personally, I like to have two closures on my neck straps and two or three on the back of my bras – usually two large snaps and one flat hook at the end. If one gives way, the costume is still secure – now that’s peace of mind!

Now the gross part. How clean are your pieces? This could be scary. Give it a “sniff test”, especially in all the potentially stinky places like underarms and crotches – sorry, it has to be done. You shouldn’t have to depend on heavy doses of perfume to cover the stench of your unwashed costume. Be nice to your audience! We’ll discuss maintenance in a later part of the project, for now we just need to assess the odor situation.

How does the lining of your straps, cups and belts look? Are there any makeup stains or dirty spots? Light colored skirt and pants are notorious for getting dirty at the hems. Check veils for lipstick or other stains. Make notes as you go.

Step 7: Time to play!

Now that you’ve done the work, you get to do the fun part! It’s time to look at your bellydance costume wardrobe with fresh eyes for new possibilities. Depending on the kind of items you have, your combinations will vary, but here are some ideas to get you started. When I did this, I was surprised by how may combinations that never occurred to me before! I paired the same bras and belts with the same few skirts over and over because they looked good and it worked. Doing this, I found several new combinations that made fresh looks – and I didn’t spend a penny!

Make notes on your item page, card or spreadsheet entry for what goes with what – especially if it’s a new discovery. Even better, snap a quick picture of the items laid out together as you’d wear them. A picture is worth a thousand words as they say.

Ideas to try:

  • Lay out a bra and belt set on your bed or table. One at a time, put each skirt and pair of pants next to it. Does it coordinate or not? If it’s not a great match, consider if an additional item like a veil, sleeves, choli, overskirt or extra layer of hip scarf could tie the colors together. You could wind up with a new and vibrant outfit with a small addition.
  • Try each skirt or pair of pants with each veil. As before, would the addition of another color or metallic bring them together?
  • Try each pair of pants or skirt with all your overskirts, toppers or similar items. You may find a new favorite!

 

Step 8: Make a plan

Once you’ve gone through steps 3 through 7 with each category of costume items, it’s time to make a task list. Review each page, card or spreadsheet line and list any repairs, alterations or cleaning. I like to divide my “to do” lists so I can quickly select what I have time for.

  • Small tasks that I can complete in one sitting with supplies I have on hand, like replacing a closure, mending a tear or washing.
  • Medium sized jobs that may be 2 or 3 sittings or that I will need to hunt down supplies like matching bead and sequins.
  • Major projects, like re-beading fringe, that may take me weeks to finish.
  • Hired out jobs. These are things I don’t feel confident doing or have the equipment for, like sergeing a veil edge.

Also make a list of items that would fill a gap. For example, maybe in your mix-and-match playing, you’ve discovered that a veil with 2 specific colors would coordinate with several outfits to give you new options. A strategically selected overskirt could be the key to making a tribal bra work with more pants or skirts.  Be sure to keep your shopping list handy when you go browsing online or at the next hafla or bellydance convention to make you next purchase a truly useful one.

Week #2 of Your Sparkly Wardrobe will be on Sparkly Belly….”3 Ways to Spice Up Your Costumes”

 

 

 

July 14, 2016 1 Comment

6 Tips To Close The Deal On a Bellydance Gig

close the deal

Last week, I taught a private lesson that was very different than usual. My student, who has been taking both weekly and private lessons consistently for over 3 1/2 years now, is on the cusp of performing professionally.  An opportunity popped up, so the week’s lesson became how to handle a call from a client looking to book a performance rather than technique and improvisation. When you are seriously invested in the comprehensive training of a bellydance student that is looking to “go pro”, there is so much more than moves to learn!

I thought I’d share a few of the tips I went over with her in hopes that they will be useful for my blog readers here and on the “Bellydance Quickies”.

  1. Open it up. Start the conversation about booking by asking a simple, open-ended question like “Tell me about the party you are planning.” The key to making a good booking at a good price is getting good information. You don’t want every gig you get an inquiry for – trust me. Bachelor party? No, thank you.  This is where you initially screen the booking to see if it’s a good fit for you.
  2. Now shut up. Listen more than you talk. Your client will most likely tell you more than you thought to ask about the nature of the occasion if you get them started and give them a chance. Clarify specifics briefly as needed, but let them tell you all about their big plans. It is just as important to understand the size and formality of an event and the vibe they want to create as it is to know how long the show will be and at what time.
  3. Take notes. Take notes while you are listening to the client describe their vision for the party, wedding or corporate event they are planning. You will, of course, need to get more specifics like the exact address later to write up the contract, but you can gather much of what you need from being a good listener and asking a few well chosen questions. I keep a small notebook in my purse just for this in case I get a call while I’m out and about. I use the same notebook for calls I take at home, that way I can keep all potential client information in one place. I  put the date I received the call on the page too, so if I haven’t heard back from a client in a week, I call to see if they are still looking to book. You’d be surprise how many say, “I’ve been meaning to call you this week – thanks for checking back!”.
  4. Don’t jump the gun!  Clients are sometimes (often) in a hurry to get a price out of you. Make sure you have all, and I mean ALL the information you need before you give a price. Usually the first time I get a “premature ask” I deftly redirect with a question about other specifics I need to set an accurate price. What is the address? If I’m at my computer, I run it on Google Maps while I have them on the phone. There may be a travel fee. For example, here in the Phoenix area, if someone is in north Chandler, it’s a 20 minute drive from my house. If it’s south Chandler it could be over 45 minutes. During rush hour it could be 90 minutes!  Is this a wedding? Toasts, speeches, receiving lines… wedding receptions almost always run behind schedule. Figure extra time into the cost. And those are just two examples of the many things that could affect your quote.
  5. Paint the picture. Even if your potential client isn’t pushing you for a price, it is in your best interest to delay pitching your price. The more you can help the client build a mental picture of the lovely and exciting show you will plan for them, discuss the logistics of music hookup and how to get in and keep it a surprise for the guest of honor, the closer you are to sealing the deal.
  6. Keep your mystique. This is one paradox of   the bellydance biz . Remember that what the client is seeking is exciting, glamorous entertainment for their event. They saw your gorgeous, elegant photo on your webpage and thought, “I want HER to dance for our wedding!”  Yes, you need to be thorough and professional in your business dealing, but if you are “all business” and too cold in discussing the details, you can blow the magic your photo created. It may not work in your favor for getting booked. It takes lots of practice to finesse the client call with just the right balance of business and charm so they stay excited to have YOU grace their event.

Keeping all this in mind as you guide the client through a booking call takes practice, just like your choreography! The more you do it, the more situations you have to navigate and different types of events you have to organize, the better you’ll get at it. Honesty, I didn’t fully realize how much I’d learned over 16 years of taking bookings until I spontaneously had to give a “booking call lesson” last week and it all came spilling out!

If you are also starting to book professional work and would like more comprehensive coaching on how to handle client calls, I do offer lessons on Skype or Google Hangouts. I can take you step-by-step through an initial client call, booking and follow-up, including role-playing exercises (where I can play the indecisive client, the “price shopper”,  and a total pain!)  so you can learn to close the deal like a pro! Email me for more information.

January 13, 2016 3 Comments

What’s New in 2016 for “Mahin’s Bellydance Quickies” & Other Sparkly Plans

Hello to all my BDQ subscribers and blog readers! I hope you are all having a lovely holiday season! This time of year is so full with both celebrations and work, with trying to be “in the moment” for this short and special season and at the same time looking forward into next year to decide how to focus our time and energy.  This season of reassessment is very important to me – the momentum that keeps me working comes from not only the personal satisfaction and enjoyment of what I do, but even more so, knowing that it is meaningful and useful to others that share my enthusiasm and love for Middle Eastern dance.

Here's to a Sparkly 2016

Looking back, 2015 has been a tremendous year! I have done more travelling and workshop teaching than in any year to date – a trend that I am excited to see growing! With the help and support of many wonderful people, I am 2 days away from shooting my very first full-length instructional bellydance DVD, “Full On with 3/4 Shimmies!”  And a little project I started in 2010  is about to enter it’s sixth year.

Looking forward into 2016, I gaze through that lens of personal satisfaction and true usefulness to others to decide how I want to spend my time and energy – because just like money, you only get to spend it once. This coming year, I will be refining the scope of my work for more personal artistic fulfillment for me and more usefulness for you, my BDQ subscribers, blog readers and students.

More and more, we are living in a world of well… MORE!  More options, more decisions, more expectations, more emails…. everything draws onr attention. This overwhelm is definitely a stress I feel, and I suspect you can relate to it too. For me, the only “more” I want in my life is more of what really deeply matters to me and to my work.  When something really and truly hits my personal target of fulfilling for me and useful for others, no amount of work feels like “too much”.

So what DO I want MORE of in 2016?

  • I want to engage more personally with students by teaching more workshops and doing more one-on-one coaching.
  • I want more space in my life to devote to my own continued studies in dance – because we are always and forever students of this art!
  • I want to do more event production, which I have almost entirely gotten away from over the past few years.
  • I want to dive more deeply into the bellydance content I teach.

That’s my personal bellydance wish list. How will that play out in the work I plan to do for and with all of you in 2016?

I am opening more time in my schedule for private students – both in person and online.

I plan to host 4 seasonal bellydance events here in Phoenix which will include some curated performances by dancers across all levels and bellydance styles to recorded music, some semi-pro and professional performances with live music and an open floor party with a band for all to enjoy.  If all goes well, I may even revive my annual “Fully Fusion” show series… I left off at “Fully Fusion 5” a few years ago.

Realigning the “Bellydance Quickies”.  This is a bigee! The BDQ is so very near and dear to my heart – and from the feedback I get, near and dear to many of you too.  I also know that keeping up with and truly making use of the BDQ on a daily basis is difficult for most dancers’  schedules. Going into it’s sixth year, the BDQ will transition to a 3-days a week schedule as follows:

  1. The Wednesday Watcher: (Wednesdays) This will include both the fun, unique and surprising finds and the wonderfully inspiring videos I have featured on Sundays.
  2. The Grab-Bag: (Fridays) Music, history, costuming, culture, stage makeup… you will find these here to keep you a well-rounded and informed bellydancer.
  3. Sunday in the Studio: (Sundays)  This is where and when you will find the short tutorial videos. Topics will be a mix of combos, drills and prop material (definitely guided by your input, requests and feedback!) I hope that the timing will give you a better opportunity to use and keep up with what I put the time and energy into creating for you. I have heard from so many of you that you “hoard” your BDQs on your computers – which is very flattering, but I really want you to use them!  Do you see a theme here?

If you are not on the “Bellydance Quickies” list yet and would like to be, you can sign up here – it’s free.

 

Special Topic Programs & Intensives.  As I mentioned, I’d like to present some deeper, longer content in special topic areas. This year I will experiment with 4-week segments, some in collaboration with other bellydancers, focusing on things like health, costuming, dance skill intensives, business building and more. I will announce these in advance in the BDQ, the BellyGram and on my social media in general so you can get on board for whatever interests you and supports your development as a dancer.

Speaking of The BellyGram… I have been so busy this year, I have not put out many of these! I plan to return to a monthly newsletter that includes both event info and special content exclusive to the BellyGram. This is where you will find upcoming editions of the “Raks Me A Question” series! If you want to receive the The BellyGram you can sign up here.

Whew!! That’s a lot of plans for 2016 but I’m excited!  I’m looking forward to all of it and hope that you’ll dance along on this journey with me. As I write this, it is December 26th and I’m deep into the final preparations for the “Full On with 3/4 Shimmies!” DVD shoot on the 29th. The “Bellydance Quickies” will be taking a short holiday break, returning in it’s new 3-day format on Friday, January 1st.

I want to take this opportunity to THANK YOU for all your support of the BDQ, my workshops and for your friendship – online and in person! I wish you and yours the merriest of days, filled with love, good times, good food, and some time to recharge for a fabulous shimmy-filled 2016!  – Mahin

Your thoughts, comments, requests and feedback are welcome …. please share in the comments below!

 

December 26, 2015 2 Comments
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