Friday, May 22, 2015

DANCING UNDER THE SUN: TIPS FOR PERFORMING IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS


 
Photo by Maharet Hughes
It’s Memorial Day Weekend- officially known as the first weekend of summer!

For some people, this weekend marks the beginning of beaches, barbeques and Day Drinking. But for us dancers, it also marks Open Season on Daytime Dancing…are you ready for all the outdoor gigs that are coming your way?

 Here are some ideas to keep you looking and feeling cool as you perform in the heat.

First of all, it’s imperative to stay hydrated. Bring along extra water, even if you think you might not need it.  Dancing outdoors in directly sunlight can really sap your H2O reserves, and water is way better  for you and your energy than guzzling sugary sports drinks.  Coconut water tastes yummy and is extremely hydrating, too.

 Remember to apply sun block…. and to reapply it as needed. You’re definitely going to need it, and should be using it every day, anyway. There are many non-greasy formulas on the market today made for babies and small children- those are great, but theres also a plethora of products made expressly for use on the face, so invest in one of them.  And a word to the wise: make sure to cover – at the very least- your arms, neck, chest, torso and legs with sunblock, too, cause sunburn blisters and tan-lines in the pattern of your costume are not attractive!

 If you use perfume, go with natural essential oils rather than a regular scent, because once in a while, regular perfumes can have a chemical reaction under the strong  sun rays and actually stain your skin.

Bring some dance shoes even if you prefer going barefoot. If you normally dance in heels or ballroom shoes, make sure to have some flat slippers with you as well... there could be a possibility you might be dancing on grass at a private party or outdoor festival, and if you wear heels, they will sink into the turf!  Plus, at many outside events such as Ren Faires and neighborhood festivals, the pavement, stages, sand, the grass and especially Astro Turf get very hot when direct sun has been shining on them for hours, and you could literally get burned.  Shoes are mandatory!

Also, make sure to bring something light and airy to wear after your gig- you definitely do not want to be standing around for hours in your costume!

 For performing during the day, you’ll need less make up than you would use for a large stage or a dark nightclub, but you still need to apply more – and different- makeup than you’d wear on the street. This could, of course, mean using more liner or applying powder shadow a little darker and a vivid shade of shade of lipstick… but there’s also more to consider. Go over the perimeters of your face- forehead, cheekbones, and jawline- with a matte bronzing powder, both to contour and to make your face look healthy and glowing. Iridescent, sparkly or glittery bronzers are best saved for evening.

For daytime gigs, because of the sweat factor" I stick with powders and gel eye liners only.  I never use cream blush or eye shadow, and I skip any sort of pencil, because all of these formulas tend to melt, smear and crease in summer sunlight.  I don’t even use eyebrow pencils- too waxy. I fill in my brows with powder, using a small slanted brush.  As for lips, matte formula lipsticks are much better for day work than shiny ones like slick glosses or softer, more easy-to-melt products. Select a lip color in a bright “natural” shade, like a blue red (makes the teeth appear whiter) a youthful rose pink or a nice peachy-coral tone. Even if you’re dark skinned, stay away from anything too dark, like burgundy, brown or taupe. Apply the lipstick, blot your lips on a tissue, powder over your lips with a translucent powder, re-apply the color and blot again for maximum staying power. If you want to give the illusion of lustrous lip gloss, dip the pad of your finger into the same pearly white eye shadow you used as a brow highlighter, and apply a dot of it to the center of your lower lip, which will mimic the pretty sheen of lip gloss, but will stay in place, and won’t be greasy.

 Far be it from me to not want to be as risqué with my costuming as possible- but I always tone things down a few notches for my daytime gigs. Remember that there will probably be kinder present and that many of them will want to be photographed with you, so err a little bit on the conservative side costume-wise…. even I do that!  Also, since you’ll be outside, fun accessories like big   blingy earrings, glittery bindis and rhinestones around the eyes really catch the sunlight, so pile them on! But it's not like I have to tell any of you readers to wear more bling, right?

One last thought- undoubtedly  you will be  wearing sunglass to and from, as well as before and after your shows- so make sure that any pigment or congealed foundation that has collected under your sunnies before you go onstage!  If it has, try to spot-check it with a make up wipe (keep some in your dance bag) and just powder over the area tapping on the powder lightly to camouflage the area. Wiping the pigment off may result in streaky lines under your eyes, and you dont want to hit the stage looking like a Picasso painting!

Have fun, and Happy Summer everyone!
 
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 Get an autographed copy of The Belly Dance Handbook here: http://www.princessfarhana.com/shop.htm

Photo and Graphics: Maharet Hughes


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

THE DANCER'S BODY: EATING YOUR WAY TO SUPPLE MUSCLES, GLOWING SKIN AND SUPER STAMINA

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   A few days ago, a friend of mine posted  on my Facebook profile page, and it  caused quite a response from a lot of people, many of whom I don’t know. Maharet’s post said I was the healthiest person she knew, that I looked twenty years younger than my actual age (thanks doll… did I mention I love you madly?) that I was always full of energy, and she thought it was because of my diet. The post mentioned that I am sugar-free, which is true, and that I  basically live on green smoothies and Greek yogurt”, which isn’t entirely true… but I do consume insane amount of both those things. She said that the smoothies I made were better than any she’d ever had, and ended the post by asking, “I wonder what would happen if I ate exactly like you for ten days?” 

All this resulted in a happy uproar; there was a barrage of comments clamoring for information on my diet and the recipes for my smoothies.  So, I’m gonna give some outlines on my food habits, in case they might work for you, and of course I’ll and share my smoothie recipes with you. 

 My first major dietary change occurred at the beginning of my career. When I started dancing professionally twenty-five years ago, my food consumption habits changed almost by themself. Without even realizing I was doing it, I moved from eating three meals a day to eating five or six small meals, just because I found it uncomfortable to dance on a full stomach.  Three months later, much to my astonishment,  none of my costumes fit cause I’d dropped over twenty pounds.  I didn’t even realize that this was Eating To Fuel, Not To Fill.  Apparently, eating like this keeps your metabolism going, but when I began having multiple smaller meals, I didn't even know it was a concept! It just worked for me dance-wise, and the weight loss was a bonus. It may or may not work for you, but it’s worth a try.

  At that same point in my life as a new professional, I started waking up every morning ravenously hungry. That was weird to me- I’d always been one of those people who began the day with a ka-razy strong cuppa joe, and wouldn't even think of eating until three or four hours later.  But my dancing suddenly demanded that I needed breakfast, so I obeyed.  It was then that I discovered Eating Breakfast Is Really Important.  I still need my really strong coffee, but there’s no way in hell I can imagine skipping breakfast!

  The second big “food breakthrough” I had was in 2009, after a severe car accident. I was in a lot pain and all the physical therapy and drugs I was taking didn't seem to be helping all that much, so I started researching nutrition. There are tons of foods and spices that have anti-inflammatory properties, and I began eating them in ridiculous amounts, mostly out of desperation!  I ate tons of citrus fruits and tomatoes because of the healing properties of Vitamin C. I overdosed on berries and flax seed because they fight inflammation…as does cinnamon, turmeric, oregano, thyme, rosemary, cloves and ginger. I began using these spices as much as possible, preferably fresh, but dried will do. I ate as much raw food as possible, and went "krazy for kale".

  A confirmed sugar addict, before the accident I’d  actually  “shoot” a package of Sweet Tarts the way a kid tosses down tequila on Spring Break…until I found out that refined sugar is really bad for you in many ways, especially for your joints and for inflammation. So, it was  Bye-Bye Sugar !  Some people find it extremely difficult to quit sugar, but I was-pardon my French- feeling so shitty from my pain I was willing to try anything. I just started looking upon sugar as something that was poisoning me, and seriously, it wasn’t hard for me to quit. If you know something will have terrible consequences, you know it’s better not to ingest it, right?  So I didn’t, and it really wasn’t a problem.   That led to me becoming virtually Gluten Free.  The no sugar scenario really was making me feel better, so I tried deleting gluten, that wasn’t hard either, and soon I noticed my energy was off the charts.

An important caveat to all of this is- I made these changes willingly, and they worked for me. I also didn’t consider it a “diet”, or that I was depriving myself.  I simply found that I was making Healthier Choices…and I got to say, I’m not totally anal about them. Once in a great while, I’ll have a piece of someone’s birthday cake (especially my own!) and sometimes at a fancy restaurant, I’ll have a piece of bread…slathered in butter.

Also, if you are considering going sugar and/or gluten free, there are many things to consider. One of them is that artificial sweeteners are probably worse than sugar itself.  The other is that many gluten free foods are loaded with sugar!  Make your dietary changes slowly, see how you feel, and don’t beat yourself up if you backslide a little. Remember, for most of us, they are choices, not mandatory.

 And now on to my Smoothie Recipes:
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 For the recipes that call for yogurt, use only unsweetened, plain Greek Yogurt.  I prefer the brand Fage; I’m addicted to it!  I’m a FAGE HAGE!! It comes in 2 % fat, 0% fat or full fat- I’ve used any of these in my smoothies, and no matter what, they come out terrific. Obviously, the full fat version will make a more satisfying smoothie, but it’s your call.  Many brands pretend to be “real” Greek yogurt, but are full of  sugar or artificial sweeteners, and many also have some kind of gelatin in them to thicken it, so especially if you are a veggie, check the label carefully before you purchase!

 For all the following recipes, use only organic fruits and vegetables.  I buy fresh fruit, like bananas and pineapples, chop them up, pop them in baggies and freeze them, because it not only lasts longer, it makes the smoothie thicker, like a milkshake.  You can put any kind of berries in baggies and freeze them, and I often freeze greens like spinach, kale and chard specifically for adding to the smoothies.

Most of these smoothies have an odd color- usually bright green or brown, and that immediately puts some people off.  Also, if you are regularly eating sugar, these smoothies, though  not acidic, may not taste as sweet to you as they do to me. Feel free  to add more fruit  if they're  not sweet enough for you. But once you’ve tasted them, you’ll learn what you like, you can add or subrtract ingredients, and will also  not to trust the  scary color, because they’re all totally delish!

APPLE PIE SMOOTHIE
  
1 handful kale
2 Handfuls of spinach or chard, or one handful of each
1 Four-inch section of zucchini, chopped into “pennies”
 2 small broccoli florets
 1/ smallish apple or half of a large apple (any type of apple is fine, I like Honeycrisp or Fuji)
 4 Frozen pineapple segments
1 Frozen banana chunks
2 Generous dollops plain Greek yogurt – I prefer Fage, but use whatever you like as long as it’s unsweetened
A pinch of allspice
Cinnamon to taste (I like to use a lot- tastes good and it's an anti-inflammatory)

Pack the fruits and veggies into the blender tightly.
If you are using a Nutri Blend Magic Bullet, fill the blender cup with liquid to the “Fill” line. I use a mixture unsweetened coconut milk and water. If you are using a regular blender, use 2 cups of the coconut milk and water mixture. Blend until liquefied.

The smoothie will look bright green, but it tastes just like apple pie!



 THE GREEN LANTERN:  CUCUMBER AND MINT SMOOTHIE

1/2 Large hothouse cucumber (about five inches long, cut into chunks
1 Handful spinach or chard, or a mix of each
3 to 5 Leaves of mint, depending on how minty you ‘d like it to be
The juice from 1/2 a large lemon or 1 small one
The juice from a medium sized orange
5 or 6 medium to large strawberries, with the leaves cut off OR a few large chunks of fresh watermelon

 Pack the fruits and veggies into the blender tightly. If you don’t have a juicer for the orange and lemon, cut each fruit in half and squeeze the juice into your blender through a strainer.

 If you are using a Nutri Blend Magic Bullet, fill the blender cup with the juice of the lemon and the orange, and pour in water to the “Fill” line. If you’re using an ordinary blender, use about a cup and a half of water. If the mixture is too chunky, for your taste, just add a little more water.

This is a totally refreshing, invigorating and sweet smoothie; I make a huge batch of this and sip it all day.  In the summer, I’m all about the watermelon, and instead of using the orange juice; I just add more watermelon chunks.


“LIKE A VIRGIN” PINA COLADA SMOOTHIE

1 Large handful of frozen pineapple segments, or about 10-12 pieces
3 Frozen banana chunks
1 Handful kale, spinach or chard
1 three-inch section of zucchini, sliced into pieces
 The juice of 2 medium sized oranges
1 Tablespoon organic virgin coconut oil, put directly into the blender
Unsweetened coconut milk, or coconut water

Pack the fruits and veggies into the blender tightly.
If you are using a Nutri Blend Magic Bullet, fill the blender cup with liquid to the “Fill” line.
 I use a mixture unsweetened coconut milk and water, or you can use straight coconut water, either way is fine! If you are using a regular blender, use 2 cups of the coconut milk and water mixture. or the coconut water. Blend until liquefied.


 CARROT CAKE SMOOTHIE
 2 carrots cut into “pennies”
1 Handful spinach or chard
 Half of a medium sized apple cut into chunks
2-4 Chunks of frozen pineapple
2 Chunks frozen banana
2 Generous dollops plain Greek yogurt – I prefer Fage, but use whatever you like, as long as it’s unsweetened
1 Pinch Allspice
1 teaspoon  fresh ginger, finely grated
Cinnamon to taste
 Unsweetened almond milk or unsweetened soy milk

Pack the fruits and veggies into the blender tightly.
If you are using a Nutri Blend Magic Bullet, fill the blender cup with the almond milk to the “Fill” line. If you are using a regular blender, use 2 cups of the almond milk and water mixture. Blend until liquefied… regular blenders might yield a slightly chunkier version of this, cause the carrots don’t always puree up fine. If the smoothie is too chunky, add a little more almond milk, or some water.

The smoothie will look rusty brownish-orange, but it tastes yummy, just like carrot cake!


 BLUEBERRY MANGO SMOOTHIE
 1 Large handful or one cup of frozen blueberries
1 medium mango, pitted, skinned and sliced
2 handfuls spinach, kale or chard, or mixture of greens
2 broccoli florets
The Juice of one small lemon
The Juice of one small orange

Pack the fruits and veggies into the blender tightly. If you don’t have a juicer for the orange and lemon, cut each fruit in half and squeeze the juice into your blender through a strainer.

 If you are using a Nutri Blend Magic Bullet, fill the blender cup with the juice of the lemon and the orange, and pour in water to the “Fill” line. If you’re using an ordinary blender, use about a cup and a half of water. If the mixture is too chunky for your taste, just add a little more water.

Ok, this smoothie looks kind of disgusting, it’s a dark purple brown, but boy its it sweet and tangy!


CHERRY BERRY SMOOTHIE
1 large handful or 1 cup frozen raspberries

1 large handful or 1cup frozen unsweetened cherries
1-2 chunks frozen banana
2 generous dollops Greek Yogurt

2 teaspoon fresh ginger
, finely grated
1 Teaspoon ground flaxseed: buy it pre-ground or grind in blender before you make the smoothie
Juice of one large orange
Juice of one small lemon
 Unsweetened coconut, almond or soymilk


Fill the blender with the berries, cherries, spices and yogurt. If you are using a Nutri Blend Magic Bullet, fill the blender cup with the almond, soy or coconut milk to the “Fill” line. If you are using a regular blender, use 2 cups of whatever “milk” you’re using. Blend until liquefied. If the smoothie is too chunky, add a little more soy, coconut almond milk, or some water.

  

  TRY MY SMOOTHIES, THEY’RE DELISH!  And remember, you are what you eat! 
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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF DANCE CLASSES: APPROACHING LEARNING WITH INTENTION

The chorus at the London Palladium, 1950's
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 Most of us attend dance classes and workshops regularly, and many of us also teach them.  It goes without saying that for dancers, being a perpetual student- no matter what your level- expanding your horizons and pushing your physical boundaries is what it’s all about!  We take classes for a variety of reasons: to improve our technique, to learn a certain choreography or a new style, to hone aspects of a dance genre that we already perform, because we get a chance to study with a local or visiting master, or just because we need to move.

 Because dance presents a challenge that is mental as well as physical, we can never truly stop learning.  And of course, if you want to push yourself, you should take as many classes as possible.  But that’s not always the case.  Sometimes, entering the studio for class with a specific intention in mind will help you grow even more as a dancer. Taking classes to consciously improve on your weaker areas will ultimately make you a stronger dancer.

Sometimes I’ve spoken with dance instructors who are hesitant to take workshops alongside their students, for fear of looking bad.  While that might be a somewhat valid consideration, the main point is that nobody should feel bad about learning!  It’s also a terrific way to set a model for your students, showing them that there is no limit to improving themselves. This is especially true if they’re at that “advanced intermediate” stage where they think they know it all; you know, that little peak that occurs before they find out that there will never be enough hours…or years…or decades to learn everything?  Learning humility and being open to challenges are as much a part of dancing as the movements themselves!

The way I see it, there are many and varied reasons for taking classes, but if you define your purpose for going to a particular class, you’ll get a lot more out of it.

Here’s the way I break down my own needs and what I want to accomplish by taking certain classes:

Technique Maintenance And Improvement
 There are no boundaries for improving your technique- there’s always something new to learn. Longtime professionals and famous dancers take classes often, if not daily, for this reason alone. Just look at any ballet company-everyday classes are mandatory. Did Mikhail Baryshnikov and Suzanne Farrell ever skip a day at the barre? Probably not. Did Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire slack off on rehearsing cause they had better things to do? Doubtful. Though great dance technique is not strictly Use It Or Lose It, the more you actually use it, the better it will be!

No matter what level dancer you are, the experience of being in a class solely to hone your technique will make you a better dancer. While practicing or rehearsing on our own, we strive and sweat and get things done. But knowing that  in class, you are  performing under the watchful eye of an instructor is different- it pushes us to  focus and work a little harder…and to accept corrections or make little tweaks in execution that we might not have noticed on our own.

Learning And Inspiration
 Nothing gets a dancer’s brain synapses firing like learning a new style. We want it all, and we want it now! Many studies have proven that dancing of any kind helps to increase cognitive abilities in people of all ages…and most of them have shown that dancing was the only physical activity that actually staves off Alzheimer’s!

 Aside from that, learning a new type of dance or being inspired by another dancer’s interpretation is thrilling.  The movement differentiation that comes with studying a new dance form is a welcome challenge and is usually lots of fun.  If you’re used to soloing, try a partner dance like tango, swing or square dancing.  If you’re trained in classical ballet, test-drive some street dancing.

 Even if you’re studying a genre you’re already familiar with, seeing how another dancer-the one you’re learning from- moves will motivate you to look at your own technique in a whole new way. Often, breaking out of our own personal boxes and becoming an eager newbie once again will stimulate our creativity and encourage us to excel both in class and in our own familiar genre of dance.

Improving Retention And Sharpening Motor Skills
Some of us prefer choreography to improvisation or vice-versa, but for right now, that’s a moot point. Taking a choreography class (or learning a choreography for a show) is a terrific way to think on your feet, improve your cognitive abilities and aid your retention skills. For many of us, memorizing  choreographed sequences or intricate combinations is a bit of a downfall, but the good news is that with time and practice, you get better at it. This occurs because your brain is actually learning this process through repetition.  Once you’ve mastered this type of study- even unconsciously- it makes it much easier for your brain to apply this skill in the future.

 Another plus is that every time you learn a choreography that someone else has written, you’re opened up to a whole new way of seeing and hearing things. Even in a dance genre you’re quite familiar with, musicality  (and personal style) is a highly individual thing, there’s not any right or wrong. It’s stimulating to see that everyone hears the music-and interprets the phrases-differently. While you might think of hitting accents at a certain point in a musical composition, another dancer might slide right through them and save the dynamic rhythmic references for elsewhere.  At first this might be maddening, because we've learned to rely on own instincts, but ultimately it’s refreshing. When you become used to these little  “surprises” by working with a number of new choreographies, it opens up a world of new possibilities, by breaking down any conscious or unconscious preconceived notions you have about dancing. Even if you never plan on performing the piece you’re learning, it helps you to grow as an artist.


 Advancing Performance Abilities
 As I said before, everyone hears music differently, but they also feel, respond to and interpret it in their own individual ways. This can be an incredible learning experience for you, too. By witnessing someone else emoting to a composition, whether it’s a set gesture done as part of choreography or just a fleeting, genuine moment of emotion, it can be quite illuminating.

If you’re learning or enhancing an ethnic dance genre, such as belly dance, flamenco or samba, watching your instructor respond to the music itself- or lyrics that are sung in a foreign language-is invaluable. The classes you take to improve your performance skills don’t even have to be movement-oriented. I always recommend acting classes or workshops to my students, because they get you in tune with accessing your emotions and will help you to build confidence for your non-verbal performances in dance. 

Last but not least, the more familiar and comfortable you become with  your own dancing, the easier it will be to let the music move you and let your unique feelings shine through…and that is  the key to what makes a good dancer a great dancer.


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Get a signed copy of The Belly Dance Handbook: A Companion For The Serious Dancer here: www.princessfarhana.com

Photo and graphics by Maharet Hughes
  To get a Tarot card reading from me or to check out what I do when I’m not dancing, click here: http://www.pleasantgehman.com/

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

HEAD GAMES: MENTAL PREPARATION FOR DANCE


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HEAD GAMES: MENTAL PREPARATION FOR DANCE


 Ever had one of those moments where you’re about to dance and your mind totally blacks out?   In rehearsal, you’re not sure if you remember the choreography that you’ve known for ages. Or maybe you’re   in the wings waiting to go on and can’t even recall how the song you chose goes?  The panic is indescribable and very real…until the music comes up.  Then, as if by magic, everything is ok.

 As dancers, our bodies know exactly what to do when the music starts because it’s ingrained in our muscle memory.  It doesn’t matter whether we’re taking a class, teaching a class, or stepping onto the stage, our bodies understand why we are there and what we need to do. The only problem is, our minds don’t always get the memo!

 Or maybe you have extreme stage fright or are feeling unmotivated. Perhaps you feel like you’re falling behind in class even though you work as hard as you can, or that you’ve hit a plateau and are stuck in a personal rut.

The reason all of these things come up is because we don’t train our minds to perform in the same the way we train our bodies.

 Intellectual preparation for dance is not something that most instructors teach-or even address- in their classes.  Dancing, of course, is a physical activity. But in order for a dancer to excel, there needs to be mental and emotional technique in place, too!

 Physically, we’ve learned to dance through repetition by constant drilling or rehearsing. Through repeating and perfecting technique, combinations or choreography sequences, we unconsciously merge the mental memory of those actions with our motor control skills, so we barely need to think about what we’re doing. This is why we can perform every day tasks with little or no thought, or why we can go ten years without riding a bicycle, then hop on one and ride away as though we’d never stopped for an entire decade!

 Mental preparation for dancing is hugely important, because it actually helps your brain to stay focused intellectually on what you are doing physically. It also helps you to get emotionally “ready” for what dancing onstage, in rehearsal or a class.

 Here are some ideas that ought to help you get mentally prepared for dancing.

  Before you enter a studio for rehearsal or class, Focus on what you’re about to do.  This means completely clearing your mind of any non-dance clutter that could interfere with what you’re about to do.  If possible, arrive a little bit early, and start warming up your own. The warm-up will prepare you physically, but it’ll also help you to shift gears, providing a smooth transition into your dance headspace. 

If you tend towards stage fright, as you warm up for class or rehearsal, take note of your muscles, where they are tight and where they’re loose.   As you work each muscle, think or say these cue words: Loose and Tight. If your shoulders feel like steel, think “tight”, as they loosen up, acknowledge that they are now feeling supple by saying or thinking “loose”. This might seem strange, but if you make this a regular part of your warm up, it will become a habit, the same as your muscle memory.  When we get stressed or nervous- like in an episode of stage fright- many of our muscles automatically clench up.  If you’ve taken the time to train your mind to be aware of this, when you’re at a show, audition or competition and experiencing stage fright, you can put this concept into play and your muscles will co-operate by limbering up and relaxing.  Also, remind yourself to Breathe.  Often when we concentrate, we unconsciously hold our breath.  This can make your dancing look stilted cause it impedes flow.  If you’re nervous or anxious before a performance, taking a few deep, even, slow breaths will calm your jitters.

 During Tech Rehearsal especially, stay focused. Teching is a long and sometimes boring process, but if you don’t pay strict attention to what you’re doing, the odds are against you for having a quality show.  As you wait for your turn onstage, watch the other performers doing their tech, and take note of where the lights are the hottest and where the stage is dark- this will save valuable time  when you’re onstage for your own tech.

If you’re working in a venue where there isn’t a tech rehearsal, scope out the stage or performance area thoroughly.  You’ll want to look for lighting, but also other things, like a uneven floor surfaces and possible areas of danger, such as cords, musical equipment or sound monitors on the stage.  Also look for the best places to enter and exit the stage smoothly.


Observation is a powerful tool. It’s something you can do with your eyes in class, and with your mind’s eye before a performance. In a class or workshop, watch the instructor demonstrate combinations or choreography before you try to perform it. This is hugely important, because your brain will then have a visual frame of reference when it comes time for you to act physically. You know how everyone says that little kids absorb everything like a sponge? That’s literally what they’re doing!  They simply sit back to observe and absorb, allowing the all the information soak into their brains completely before attempting to do what the adults around them do. Watch your instructor run whatever it is you’re learning before you jump right in and start trying the moves yourself. At first this may seem counter intuitive, but believe me, it’ll make a huge difference.

 For Performance Preparation, we warm up and run our number, but often don’t address the mental and emotional aspects of our dance. On the evenings leading up to a show, go over the choreography in your head just before you fall asleep. Envision yourself dancing to it onstage and excelling at it. Connect to the character you’re portraying; think about their motivations. If you’re not going into character, but just dancing as YOU, imagine the lights on your skin, the way your costumes feels, and picture yourself looking out at the  appreciative crowd as you glide across the stage.

Research has proved that going over the movements mentally will help to ingrain them into your psyche as well as your muscle memory. It’s the same for your character work- your pre-sleep “fantasy” will allow you to connect emotionally to your characater and the  music as well.

Once you’re backstage, it’s a given that everyone’s out in the hallway with their iPods on, dancing full out.  Instead of joining them, try avoiding the hallway (it’s pretty crowed anyway!) and find a quite corner to get into your zone. You’ll notice that from the previous nights you’ve spent running your number before sleeping, that your connection will now be full and effortless.  Run the number in your imagination  a few  times, both with and without music. This quiet time will center you and allow you to re-familiarize yourself with your piece in a calm, serene way, so you can really own it once you get onstage.


Positive Self Talk is something we humans-let alone dancers- don’t engage in nearly enough. We’re constantly judging ourselves, and often the “judging panel” can get awfully vicious.  We’re too fat, too skinny, too old, too dark skinned or white as a ghost. Our noses are too large, our eyes are too small, our legs are too thick, too thin, or they don’t have enough muscle tone.  Oh yeah, and we can’t dance: our technique sucks, we can’t retain choreography, and we’ll never be able to master certain props. 

Stop that right now!

 Anytime you have a negative thought about your body, your technique, your learning curve- whatever- you’re literally wiring your brain to believe that it’s true. Would you be this blunt or mean with a friend?  It’s highly doubtful. So whenever a negative thought rears it’s ugly head, take a moment to assess it.  Be logical and rational: is what you’re saying actually a fact? Are you devaluing yourself? Why? Is this coming from a moment of exasperation? Would anybody else think this about you? More importantly, would you actually talk like this to a family member, friend or another dancer?  No, you wouldn't. We all have our moments of self-doubt, but constantly putting yourself down is emotional abuse. If someone else spoke to you like this, you’d probably cut them out of your life!

 Change the tone of your inner voice from critic to cheerleader. You can’t constantly degrade yourself and then expect to perform to your best capabilities.  Do whatever you can to be gentle with yourself without allowing mediocrity.  Acknowledge your weak points, but give yourself credit for trying… and then try harder.  Be constructive in your self-critique, not destructive. If you feel like making affirmations out loud or leaving encouraging notes around the house for yourself, then by all means go for it, but just start focusing on urging yourself to excel. Executives do it, athletes do it, actors do it… and they do it cause it works.  Try it.


  For dancers, there’s almost nothing as important as getting enough Sleep, unless it’s Nutrition.  Without sufficient rest and fuel, your body cannot perform to its best ability…and the same goes for your brain!  These days, eating and sleeping well seems like a tall order. We’re always rushing around, focused on getting everything done or being distracted by  calls, texts and social media.  After a great show or inspiring class, sure, we’re all jacked up.  But there’s ten million other things  that happen every day, and they sometimes prevent us from eating nutritious  food  or getting quality slumber.

Make conscious choices about what you’re putting into your mouth, and prepare healthy snacks to bring to gigs and classes. Put your damn phone down, get off Facebook, and get into the groove of relaxing before going to bed.  We need sleep to keep our brains alert and stay on top of our game. With poor sleeping habits, your dancing will suffer. Your memory disintegrates and you won't be able to retain anything you learned in class or practiced at rehearsal. You’ll be so tired that you won’t get those flashes of creative brilliance while you're building a performance. If you’re running on empty, you  also might get cranky and emotional, which can potentially lead to diva-like behavior that’ll alienate those you work with- including show producers...and you want to be doing more gigs, right?  Show and festival orgamizers hire performers who are easy to work with and behave professionally, not those prone to  flakiness or temper tantrums.  Be vigilant about getting your rest and  it’ll make you a better dancer- and better to work with all around.

Last but not least, before you take the stage, remind yourself to Relax and to Believe In Yourself.  Whether you’re a newbie at your first performance or a seasoned pro, remind yourself that you’ve been working towards your goals for a long time, and right now is when all those endless hours of training and striving are about to pay off. You can do it!


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 Wanna get yourself fully prepared  for the stage physically and mentally?
Dangerous Beauties’  Wicked Drills And Elegant Technique  covers everything from  technique, combinations and  conditioning to acting excercises, breath work and stage makeup. 
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Order this 2-disc  set and have it autographed  here:

 Watch the  Dangerous Beauties DVD trailer here:






To get a Tarot card reading from me or to check out what I do when I’m not dancing, click here: http://www.pleasantgehman.com/















Tuesday, March 31, 2015

COSMETICS AND BEAUTY PRODUCTS PERFECT FOR SPRING




  

Oh, you know  me and my mania for makeup and beauty products- I’m certifiably insane! But this obsession is something most women- and all dancers- have in common.  I’ve  been test driving  a ton of  cool  cosmetic products  lately, and all of them  absolutely perfect for Springtime,  and  most quite affordable.  Many are available at   chain drug stores, target or Walmart.

 I’m sharing my current  favorites with you here :

 SKIN

E.l.f Skincare Daily Hydration Moisturizer
This is a light and super-hydrating  moisturizer, great for every day use, and rich enough to apply at night. Best part is that costs less than ten bucks, and that’s a lot of bang for your  Beauty Buck.  Also, E.l.f. makes insanely great Makeup Remover Wipes that are so saturated  with product, you don’t have to scub  them on your face to get clean, even if you’re rockin’ serious stage makeup. These are  a  mere $3.00 , so stock up and use them throughout the summer!

Rimmel Stay Matte Primer
 Another genius drugstore find, this silky crème  can be used alone, or as a primer under foundation. It glides on soft and smooth, and  gives a matte finish for hours, even in the often-oily T-zone area.

EYES

L’Oreal  Colour Riche La Pallette in  Nude
  An eyeshadow palette with ten gorgeous neutral shades, this  is splendid for every day use or the stage! The highly pigmented colors go on smooth and don’t flake, and  will create  velvety dimensional smokey eyes. The shades  range  from beiges and pinkish/lavender neutrals to rich chocolate browns and taupes, so this palette would be marvelous for  women of any age or  skin tone! With a retail price is $19.99, this is a great beauty investment.

Sugarpill Heartbreaker Pallette
If the Natural Look isn’t what you’re after, this quad-color set will knock your socks off, featuring brilliant  neon shades of lime green and  royal blue, violet and  a wintergreen, minty-fresh turquoise.  Stunning on stage, and with a lighter hand and a  a little blending, fresh pretty for every day. A bonus is  that all  Sugarpill products are  cruelty free, meaning no Easter Bunnies were harmed by testing.

Ben Nye Lumiere Grand Color Pressed Eyeshadow in Cosmic
This otherworldly pinkish blue metallic shadow has been a favorite of mine for years. It is pearlescent and can be used wet or dry. Using it dry, it creates a pretty shade of pink  that, due to the blue undertones,  won’t make your eyes look tired or like you have conjunctivitis.  Applied  with a damp brush, you’ll get a rich, electric violet tone that would make the 1970’s-era David Bowie faint with envy.  For stage, I also use this stuff on my cheeks, and to highlight my lips…it looks fantastic daubed over the first  lipstick I’ve listed  below!

Eco Tools Essential Eye Brush Set
  I adore these brushes to pieces. Whenever I’ve found a random brush in my cosmetic kit that seems to really get the job done right, when I examine it to see the manufacturer, it’s Eco Tools.  Their brushes are lush and full-bristled without being stiff, and can really take a beating- daily use and frequent washings, and the brushes still retain their shape and don’t shed bristles.  this  five brush  set is no exception. This set is  also  a bargain- less than nine  bucks!


LIPS

NYC Color Expert Lipstick in Air Kiss
 This gorgeous orchid color reads  bright pink, but  it’s luscious, creamy formula prevents it from looking chalky or garish  for daily wear.  With a slightly blue undertone, it’ll make your teeth appear whiter, too. And like I said, if you want  to accent your lips and give them a dimensional, pouty look  for  the stage,  use   the Ben Nye “Cosmic” eyeshadow dotted on directly over this lipstick, without blotting it. The powder will set the lip color, and your  mouth will look bright and kissable.

 MAC Viva Glam Lipstick in Rihanna
 This frosty red is just about the same shade as Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. MAC lipstick always glides on smooth and silky, and this one is no exception.  One coat is sheer and pretty for “off duty” dancers, two coats will see you through a night out or a show. A little pricey, but def worth it! And in case you didn’t know, all of MAC’s Viva Glam  products  fund  HIV/AIDS research, so you can pout pretty while doing  a good deed.


BODY

Pretty Feet And Hands
 This nifty sloughing product, which I’ve used for eons, is the number one eradicator of Dancers Feet !   You can start off looking like  like Sasquatch  or The Walking Dead, and  five minutes later look like a rich lady whose just spent a a hundred dollars on a spa pedicure.  Just slather it on, and watch your icky  callouses roll off, with no burning, peeling  or stench.  It’s kind of a miracle, and also works great on knees, elbows, and your hands. Not only that. It’s a drug store product, which means it’s ridiculously inexpensive…and for dancers, it’s priceless!

Tit Tape by Shape Tape
  No matter what kind of dance  you do,  toupee tape or fashion tape is a godsend for  keeping costume pieces, bindis,  wigs, and other accessories in place during performance. This  burlesque- oriented product was sent to me by the manufacturer to test drive., and it works quite well! The thing that sets it apart from other fashion tape- and the reason it’s called Tit Tape- is because the adhesive is  round ( as opposed to  being a rectangular strip) making it perfect  to use with burlesque  pasties. It works to keep  heavy, tasseled pasties in place, and the backing peels off easily, just like regular fashion tape. Great idea!

Flash Tattoos Temporary Body  Art Metallic Temporary  Tattoos in  Isabella
 My sister gifted me with a set of Flash Tattoos during the Holidays and I was skeptical. They were really shiny and pretty, but I thought there’s be no way in hell they’d stay on through sweaty classes and shows. I was wrong!  Not only do these decals stay on looking metallic and  super-blingy for four or five days, they ;asted me through showers and a hot-tub session without losing their color or peeling. They also  come off quite easily with baby oil or coconut oil. They  come in designs and shapes of bracelets, necklaces, floral  medallions and  mystic-looking, filigree mandalas, and can also be cut up  for mix’n’match. They’re  so darn  pretty  that from the stage they look like actual real jewelry-  and the beauty is, they won’t snag on any costume pieces or in your hair, cause they’re temporary tattoos!


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 For more info on my worldwide workshops & events, or to get a signed copy of  The Belly Dance Handbook or my memoir Showgirl Confidential, please visit  http://www.princessfarhana.com/index.html


 If you’d like to see what I do on the rare occasions when I’m not dancing, please visit http://www.pleasantgehman.com/index.html