Tuesday, November 25, 2014

ATTITUDE AND GRATITUDE

Baby kitty Carmen,  my little "street tiger"

I'm home from my 2014 travels, and mistakenly made the assumption that things would quiet down a  bit... WRONG!  Aside from finally unpacking my on-the-road suitcases,  my house was a wreck cause I'd been away   about four weekends a month  for the past three months.  And, unexpectedly,  after  my two beloved senior citizen kitties Smudgie ( age 21) and Ni-Ni, (age 14) passed away within a month of each other, I was blessed with two tiny baby kittens!  They are  little  feral "street tigers", a brother and a sister, who have been rescued,  tamed and are now living in the lap of luxury in the Royal Palace. Beeper and Carmen are a handful, but they are amazing!   I am so blseed to have them,  The Universe brought them to me at the most perfect time ever. And  now that I'm home for a while,  we can bond even more and  I can watch them grow. 

On one of their crazy "let's chase each other around the house" moments, they knock a diary of mine from off a shelf. I had to page through it, and was kinda amazed at what I found. The diary covered a trip to Egypt from 1991.  In addition to Arabic translation of commonly used words and glue-in tickets from Luxor Temple and The Sphinx, there was a gratitude list I didn't even know I was thinking that way back then, but apparently I was!

  Just some of the things included on the list were  ( obviously) colored by my trip to Egypt, like  "I am thankful I can travel", "I am grateful that I can read" "I have a  a healthy, strong body" and, funnily enough, "I am grateful for modern conveniences"... yeah, I'll say!

 But there were many, many more. And there was also a list  on how to out-flow energy  and love to  people, things like " Keep a good attitude, try to be optimistic and positive, look on the bright side" ,  "Be helpful and supportive to other people", and " Communicate  as much as possible;  if I love someone or something, I will say it. If I am not happy with someone or something,  or find anything unsatisfactory, I will say that too but in a kind  and positive way".

  Seriously, I do not remember being so enlightened... but I guess I was, even back then.  For the past   fifteen years or so,  I've made lists like this  at the year's end, or whenever I thought I needed to count my blessings.

Since Thanksgiving is approaching, I made a Dance List of everything I am thankful for.

Dancing literally changed my life. On top of the “usual” benefits, like giving me a strong, toned, flexible body, the emotional and spiritual impact dancing has had upon me is so significant, I can hardly put it into words. In my writing, I am usually a confirmed abuser of the exclamation point, but the amount of punctuation I would need to apply in this case is boundless, so I will spare you.

From the age of three, I wanted to dance, but for many reasons (the foremost being a ballet teacher who rejected me at an early age because my feet were flat ) dancing wasn’t in the cards for me until  well after I had already reached adulthood.

Maybe I had a karmic debt to pay, maybe my life just unfolded the way it was supposed to, but I came to belly dancing fairly late in life, after the age of thirty. Though I still sometimes wish I had been able to study dance since childhood, I no longer feel robbed, or the regret I used to experience about not having been a life-long dancer; now I am just thrilled with the way things turned out!

Mere months after I began belly dancing-almost as a lark- my life did a full 360 degree turn-around. Instead of picking my body (and all the individual parts) to pieces by visually and physically comparing myself to unrealistic and “ideal” images in the media, I began to love my body for the way it looked while I was dancing. Soon, that sentiment morphed into simply loving my body. As I developed more skill, I began to be grateful for what my body could do.

Dancing also helped me quit some very self-destructive behaviors I had for decades: substance abuse and an eating disorder. A hardcore bulimic for years, my love of dancing helped me cultivate a healthy relationship with food…and need I tell you that it’s impossible to dance for hours with a hangover or while high? Suddenly, I had a choice to make and I picked dancing over controlled substances and being unhealthy.

Dancing helped me get through-and over- a painful divorce. The feminine energy and sisterhood I felt with other dancers was healing and gave me hope. I see this theme repeated with many other dancers, and I hope I can pass this feeling on to others.

Belly dancing also lead me to other forms of dance, and  for that, I am eternally grateful. It’s what directly lead to my career in burlesque, not to mention studying and performing other types of dance as well, like jazz, ballet, Bollywood, samba, contemporary, hip-hop and many other genres. Whenever my schedule ( or my creaky ole body) allows, I take dance classes.

Dancing has also allowed me to meet thousands of incredible, beautiful, intelligent and talented women the world over… that I may never have met normally during the course of my everyday life. Through dancing, I have made life-long friends with many strong women of all ages, shapes and sizes who are veritable super-heroines; they are giving, driven,  talented, and usually very witty to boot.

I’ve met dancers who are emergency room nurses, teachers, criminal attorneys, children’s advocates, speech therapists, accountants, trauma counselors, ranchers, authors, film festival curators, architects, coal miners, political activists, rock stars, explosives technicians, police women, sitcom actors, college professors with PhD’s… not to mention mothers, grandmothers and even great-grandmothers…and all of them are serious dancers!

I am thankful that I live in a country where women are free to dress as they please, to dance for joy-or professionally if they choose- and where dancing is considered an art-form.

Every day I give thanks that dancing, something I have always done only for love is also what I do for work, and how I make a living. I never take this for granted, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure my life is real. When I walked into my first belly dancing class, if anyone would have told me that within a fairly short time I was going to turn professional-not to mention have a career  over twenty years later- I would’ve laughed so uproariously, the walls of the studio would’ve blown apart!


My dance career – my performing and teaching- has taken me all over the globe and I have loved every moment of it. It was a far-fetched wish, and that wish came true. The only thing I might add here (and believe me, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek!) is the old adage about “being careful what you wish for”. Had I known that my wish was actually going to come true, I probably would’ve added in a clause allowing me to have a luggage valet and a personal massage therapist travel with me!

I am so thankful for all the wonderful women who have sponsored me to teach and perform. Sponsors are super-human, and in addition to paying for my travel, feeding me, housing me, fulfilling my backstage requests, and staying up til the wee hours talking shop, many of them have also gone wa-a-a-ay above and beyond the call of duty. They have taken me sight-seeing, brought me to amazing shows, given me gorgeous gifts, taken me hot-tubbing, booked me massages- even brought me to the emergency room, or dealt with my tearful grief when I was thousands of miles away from home and my beloved kitten disappeared. You ladies know who you are, thank you so very much! In general, my sponsors have gone so far out of their out of their way to make me feel comfortable when I am on the road, I cannot thank them enough; most of them have become life-long friends.

I am very grateful for my teachers and dance-mentors, women  ( and men!) who were dancing professionally long before I even  thought of starting to dance…all of whom were very generous with sharing their knowledge of not only technique, but also practical application, not to mention costuming ideas, crowd-control skills and career- building know-how.

My students, whether on-going pupils or one-time workshop attendees, make me feel such gratitude, I can’t even verbalize it. I learn something new from them every day!  The  drummers  and musicians I’ve worked with  are amazing and  love what they do… and  aside from learning a lot from them,   I love them for  caring, cause our shows have always been fabulous!

I would like to thank The Audience too- where would any dancer be without you? There is almost nothing more fulfilling than hearing an appreciative audience and seeing smiling faces in a darkened theater, just ask any performer! And of course,  all the behind-the-scenes people, those who never get enough thanks, like the artful  lighting and sound technicians,  all the harried- but unbelievably competent stage managers ( many of whom  are volunteers)  the  talented photographers and graphic artists I’ve worked with….and of course,  my long-suffering  friends and my boyfriend; all patiently waiting  for me to:
  a) get off stage  b) get my bag  packed up  c) stop talking about dancing!

Last but not least, I also gotta say that I am so very grateful for having a job that has the best, most amazing “uniform” EVER- what could be better than a blinged-out costume?


Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and yours!



Baby kitty Beeper helping  to organize my Belly Dance Handbook orders!


 In honor of the Holidays,  and to say  thanks to you,  I’m having a Thanksgiving-through-Monday, Dec 1  sale…  my  books "The Belly Dance Handbook" and  "Showgirl Confidential", and the new BaLAdi Tour CD by Issam Houshan will be on sale for big  discounts here:

http://www.princessfarhana.com/shop.html

Thursday, November 20, 2014

LOOK GLOWING AND PRETTY: ON STAGE AND OFF STAGE…AT ANY AGE!


 
I Drive Fifty-Five! Photo by Maharet Hughes, Costume: Hallah Moustafa


Just in case you didn’t realize, I am A Woman Of A Certain Age. Specifically, that age is fifty-five…and I’m really and truly proud of every damn year! I haven’t yet dabbled in “having work done”, but once in a while I think about it.  And sometimes I  miss my baby face of yore… the same face that, as a younger woman, I insanely used to think was “fat” and  puffy”.  DUH!  Believe me, now I’m eternally grateful I had all that collagen- in fact, I now wish I could’ve put it into a bank!

I’m going to share a few  of my favorite  make up and skin-care tips and products  that’ll work whether you’re performing or just on your way to dance class. These are small cosmetic tweaks  which’ll make you look refreshed and gorgeous no matter how  young or old you are!  These tricks will keep you looking dewy and  rested when you are tired…and since The Holidays are just about upon us, they’re also a great camouflage for those mornings when you’re lookin’ just a teensy bit hungover!

Eyes And Brows
 A super-fab trick for making your  eyes look brighter, is to use dark blue liner... as opposed to black or brown.  I use navy blue to rim my eyes both in “real life” and on the stage. Blue liner  plays an optical trick, making the whites of your eyes really alabaster-white.  For every day wear, I use a power shadow  for this, cause it also makes the eyes look softer than they do with a harsh liquid or gel liner.  For stage, I apply the dark blue powder shadow first, then go over them with a black gel liner, which adds definition while retaining the softer look of the powder.

For every day wear, I use a couple of coast of mascara- always!  I love Rimmel’s ScandalEyes Retro Glam Mascara , it’s absolutely telescopic…and my lashes need all the help they can get! For stage, of course I use false lashes, the bigger and thicker, the better!
 
 As we age, our brows tend to thin out- or maybe you’ve just over-plucked them. Lush brows are important on stage or off… they frame our eyes, plus they make those  of us who are Of A Certain Age look younger . Right now, thicker brows are in vogue, and the best way to get them-and also have them look natural, is by using powders, as opposed to pencils.  For an every day look, I always use a matte powder. You don’t need to buy a fancy brow powder, though there are many on the market that are reasonably priced. I  use a stiff angled brush and a mix of regular matte  brown and black eyeshadow.  First, comb your brows with a spoolie brush, or an old, clean tooth brush. Then use the angled brush to apply  the powder  in short, swift strokes, going in the direction you’ve combed your brows, the way they grow-or have been trained to grow naturally. If you make a boo-boo just  take a Q-tip and erase it, and start again.

 By the way, I always do my eyes first, then clean up the migrating pigments underneath, before applying the rest of my face make up. It prevents the dreaded raccoon eyes.

Foundations And Face Make Up
 Because we dancers wear so much make up onstage, many of us don’t use foundation for  every day wear.   But many of us have uneven skin tones, blemishes or get chapped skin during the colder months that leads to redness or a mottled, ruddy complexion.

 Even if you prefer not to wear foundation for  every day, here’s  a little trick that will peel away the years. Dip a flat but slightly  thick  and fluffy brush into  a concealer that matches your skin tone, lightly feathering the product over all the small  lines and red  areas ( we all have them) around your nose. This one thing will make you look  at least a few years younger-guaranteed! Or if you’re in the under-thirty age bracket, it’ll just make you look more fabulous!  Do the same thing on   any red spots or pimples,  again  carefully blending it into the skin.  This will even out your complexion, without the heavy  full-foundation feeling  we sometimes get, as though we were wearing  a mask.

On stage,  no matter how young or old you are, you need to wear foundation- because it will make your complexion appear poreless and perfect.  Those sheer, “natural look” formulas aren’t strong enough- you need a very opaque, full-coverage type of foundation to get the desired effect. Choose your  foundation color by matching it as closely to your own skin tone as possible. Try foundation samples on the inside of your arm because the  skin tone there  is very close to the color of your face.

Often, performers will use a foundation that is a shade or two darker than their natural skin tone, because it makes their face appear brighter, more robust and healthy under the harsh stage lights.  I myself use this trick, and it works every time! And I’m never without a primer under my foundation, either!

To apply foundation, use the edge of a sponge or clean fingers to daub the make-up onto your face, blending it well, making sure to extend the shade onto the sides of the cheeks, chin, and onto the neck, so you don’t have a line where the foundation ends and your natural skin tone begins. Press a similarly toned or translucent powder onto your face to set the foundation, and then it’s time for…


Cheeks
When you do your blush, make sure to pick a color that goes with your skin tone, and won’t make you look sallow or unhealthy. Corals are great for those with olive undertones ,  and if you’re pale, a true blue-pink or berry tone will work great. For gals who are very dark, magentas or a blue red looks great, either onstage or off. A word to the wise: in order to look natural – and not look  odd in photos, always use matte- never pearly-colors for blush.


 To  ( seriously) look five or ten years younger, apply blush to the apples of your cheeks only. If you go under the apples, you’ll look like an 80’s Nagel painting…a hawt look sometimes, but definitely  not natural and also kind of dated, at least for day-to-day wear.

 Find the apples  of your cheeks by smiling, then load  a domed blush brush up with powder, blow or tap off the excess product and  gently brush the product into the center of the apples, then  curve it slightly up, in a “C” shape towards your temples.  For stage there’s almost no such thing as too much blush,  but if you feel like you’ve applied  a bit too much color for “real life”,  gently blend the blush with a dry cosmetic sponge or just tone it down a little  with some translucent loose powder.


As for winter time make up, one of the problems most of us have is that our summer tans are fading. Check the foundation you’ve been using  to be sure that the shade still matches your skin tone. You might want to mix two colors together, so you can lighten or darken the current  color you are using to match your “new”  seasonal skin tone. For pale  or fair gals, bronzer might be in order…and you can find great, inexpensive ones at the drug store! E.L.F  Studio Contouring Blush And Bronze is only about four bucks and comes in a wide variety of shades.  If you want to go a little higher-end, MAC Bronzing Powder is the bomb. For bronzers, make sure to use them sparingly, since you are no loner tan; take a large fluffy brush , and lightly go over the outside contours of your face: cheek bones, temples, jaw line, then  fluff some across the bridge of your nose. This will give you a healthy and subtle sun-kissed glow, and extend  the remnants of your summer color.


Lips
 For stage, and for every day life, if I’m going with a red lipstick, I make sure it’s a blue red , not an orange red. The blue-red gives the same effect with our teeth as  the blue eyeliner I mentioned above… it makes anyone’s teeth truly appear pearly white!  And, as we age, our teeth always- no matter what our habits- tend to become a bit more yellow. This optical illusion works  wonders to counteract that dingy tone, believe me!

Onstage, I am a nut with lip-liner; I go for the full Joan Crawford Effect by over-lining my lips almost a quarter inch outside their natural  parameters.  From the stage, under hot lights, this is another very  anti-aging optical illusion, because as we get older, our lips lose collagen and become thinner and less plump.

 Of course, you can’t really get away with this  in very day life without looking like a bag lady!  For  my “off duty” look,  I  lightly line my lips just outside the natural guide-lines  with a flesh-toned pencil ( I like to use  # 666 by Wet ‘N’ Wild ) pick a subtle peach shade or light  blue-pink color  of lipstick or gloss to use inside the faint lines I’ve drawn.


Skin Care
During the winter, our skin gets dry from  the cold and wind and also from indoor heating. Moisturizing is necessary, even more than it it is in warmer months! As for  moisturizers, I love  to go natural, and Atomic Cosmetics/ Xerion Skin Science  has  fantastic products that are all natural! The CEO- and the mad doctor behind this company- is the super-cute, super-smart Jennifer Dietrich, a gorgeous pin-up model and chemist with more  than a decade of scientific study under her patent leather waist-cinching belt!

Gorgeous Dr. Jen Dietrich of Atomic Cosmetics and Xerion Skin Science

  Along with a mind-boggling line up of  lipsticks, blushes and eye shadows, Jen has  created some incredibly terrific skin  care products too. I absolutely adore her  anti-aging eye cream The New 20 , it’s so velvety and scrumptious  that I slather it all over my face!  She also makes  City Skin , an anti-aging serum,  a superb Rosewater Facial Toner and a wonderful primer that’ll keep your face looking poreless, ( with or without make up)  called  Optimus Primer.


About once or twice a week, I use  a scrub to exfoliate my face. There are tons of products you can buy, but an easy  ( and cheap!) home made scrub will do the trick, without causing irritation.

 In a bowl, combine  1 tablespoon of dry oatmeal with ¼ teaspoon of table salt- any kind will do. Add a teaspoon of water , or if your skin is very dry,  use olive oil instead. Rub it into your skin  very carefully with your fingers in circular motions, going upwards. Make sure not to drag or pull your skin. Then let the  paste sit on your face for about ten minutes, and rinse it off with tepid water.

 After this scrub, I apply  natural coconut oil  to my face.  You can purchase a large bottle of coconut oil at any health food store- it’s great for cooking too. But when used on the skin, it draws moisture to you and seals it in, without leaving you feeling greasy and gross…plus it smells nice.

Here’s another natural,  homemade skin scrub  that is super easy to make and use:

 Combine 1 cup coconut oil  or sweet almond oil, if you prefer, with one cup of sugar. Mix it well in a bowl, and scoop it out with your hands, scrubbing your  face and entire body down before you step into the shower. This stuff works like a miracle!  Trust me, your  skin will feel like a toddler’s.


   Have fun playing with  these colors, products and ideas…and looking cute to boot!

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 My instructional  make up  double-disc DVD Bombshell: Dramatic Make Up For The Stage, Photos And Glamourous  Occasions   makes a great holiday gift!  Get it – and The Belly Dance Handbook- here:

Order Atomic Cosmetics and Xeriox Skin Science Products:

 Contribute to the Atomic Cosmetics  Go Fund Me Campaign  ( and get rewards!) here: http://www.gofundme.com/ftvozs

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DANCERS BACKSTAGE RITUALS: KARIM NAGI


 
Karim Nagi in a recent performance
Karim Nagi is a multi-talented musician, composer, folkloric dancer and deejay.  His performances are so high-energy and in the moment, and his connection to the music is so great, that he could probably   re-animate a room full of corpses. Born and raised in Egypt, he’s spent most of his life in America, though his global  travel schedule for teaching and performing is so hectic, I once heard him answer the question "Where do you live?" by saying:

  “In an airport!”

Karim in  the midst of a Saidi performance
Just in case you’re not familiar with his work, he’s released numerous instructional DVDs and a variety music CDs, both under his own name and as DJ Turbo Tabla. Since 1999, Karim has headed up the traditionally oriented Sharq Music Ensemble, and his Arab Dance Seminars routinely sell out months in advance.  He’s having one in New Mexico this November, but unless you’ve already secured your spot,  or if by come miraculous twist of fate someone drops out, there’s no way you’ll get in.

 His program Arabiqa educates   elementary school kids at over three hundred schools around the USA, but his educational efforts don’t stop there by any means.  In fact, his knowledge of his native Egyptian music dance and culture is so great, that he’s presented and lectured at many Ivy League universities, including Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Yale and many others.

We’ve performed together- in many places- for quite a few years, and in 2013, we also recorded a song “Heart Full Of Cairo” together- if you're interested in hearing it, you can find it on iTunes or Amazon.  Karim is  always a pleasure to work with because he’s so knowledgeable, and  a total perfectionist whose open to obsessive compulsive rehearsing and preparation.  But  he’s  also as much fun off stage as he is onstage… I once had the (dubious!) pleasure of hearing him  do an impromptu after-hours rendition of Ted Nugent’s hit “Cat Scratch Fever”, sung in a tongue-in-cheek Upper Egyptian Fellahin accent while he accompanied himself on the tabla !  In spite of-or maybe  because of incidents like this, I think he’s an absolute genius…though he’ll probably roll his eyes when he reads this. 
Karim & me  by Maharet Hughes

 Recently, he’s started a new four-hour-long workshop,  “Music Raqs”, which is a kind of “literacy program” for dancers who want to be able to better understand- and teach- oriental dance in a comprehensive way. In addition to music theory and technical info, he also goes into cultural and linguistic details that will no doubt be illuminating to dancers of any level, from absolute beginner to seasoned pro.  He’s putting on this workshop in Los Angeles this coming Sunday, October 26, and I’m very excited about it.

  Since Karim’s shows are so entertaining and high-energy, I thought he’d be a terrific candidate for my “Dancers Backstage Rituals” series.  So here’s what he has to say about his show preparation, in his own words:

“ I shine my boots. I iron my galabaya. I tape my assaya. I test my drum microphone. I stretch my legs and arms. I wrap the kufiya. I close the phone two hours prior. I recite the Quran's Surat al-Falak. I chose which sagat goes on which finger. ‎I do one hundred jumping jacks. I eat nothing for four  hours before. I watch most of the acts before me, to get an impression of the evening's overall message.
I choose a belt buckle. “

  I think he left  out one teensy thing though… the fact that he loves what he does so much, it can’t help but shine through in his performances!


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   SUNDAY OCT. 26, 2014: LOS ANGELES
 KARIM TEACHES MUSIC RAQS:
 4 HOUR WORKSHOP ON ARABIC MUSICAL LITERACY FOR DANCERS
Third Street Studio: 8558 W. 3rd St. Los Angeles California
 $50 before October 24: or $60 cash at the door
 Info  & registration here:


VISIT KARIM’S WEBSITE HERE:



DOWNLOAD “HEART FULL OF CAIRO” HERE:
http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Cairo-feat-Pleasant-Gehman/dp/B00BN074PU