Thursday, 9 April 2015

Open Bra Surgery - What goes into a Dance Bra Reconstruction

So I thought I would do a blog post on what goes into re-working a bra. I recently had a commission through which involved changing the shape and size of a much loved dance costume, and managed to take photos of the process, and thought I would share these to show what really goes into having to "refurbish" a dance bra!

So this was the original bra... It was a lovely "Dina" style cup, however the cup size was far too small for the owner, and the cups were too rigid to accommodate any flexibility in size or style. As much as I love Dina bras, they can be very unflattering if you aren't the right body shape! The aim of the game here was to try and recreate the design as much as possible, whilst making the bra larger and a more comfortable design.
 
There are a few ways you can do this, depending on the look you want to achieve, however I decided to go down the route of using a completely new bra, and re-covering and embroidering. I felt this would give the best fit, and it meant that myself and the client were able to go through plenty of different bra designs and sizes to make sure we picked the perfect fit. The first step of creating the new bra was chopping off the old straps, and covering the bra with a lining fabric. This bra was actually a swimsuit bra and so fairly rigid, and because there was not any very heavy embellishment, I could get away with not having to reinforce with any heavy duty lining or interfacing.

 
I then began transferring the fabric over. I call this part the open bra surgery as it involves gently unpicking every single stitch on the old bra, so that we can preserve as much fabric as possible, as well as all the beadwork which I stored in handy jars for later.


As you can see I've now made fine progress - the fabric is transferred, the bra is taking shape. What you may find if you are working on something similar is that you might have to fabric match. Luckily with this particular fabric I was able to match some similar silks in a matching cream and blue - however, what I tend to recommend is if you can't find a matching patterned fabric, I would go with a plain fabric with of the dominant colour within the pattern. If you can't find a match for a plain fabric you have - go with contrasting! See what looks best, just because you are re-furbing a bra, doesn't mean you have to stick to the original exactly.

 
And this is the bra during all the painstaking beadwork! At this point I was glad I took reference photos as it gets to a point where you forget what the original looked like! Everything on this was beaded by hand. I was very lucky with this particular costume as the owner is a very dedicated dancer and takes really good care of her costumes, and so I didn't need to replace any beads. If you are finding you need to replace beads however, go for the best quality you can find - glass beads give the best shine, I tend to spend at least £10 for 30 large cut glass beads, and they really do sparkle!


 
A few tips for if you are planning to re-work or fix up any old costumes:
 
1. Crystals are the first thing to deteriorate. Make sure if you are planning to sew or hot fix any crystals on to your costumes that they are A grade standard or Swarovski. A Grade are great as they are a close replica of Swarovski, however they are a little bit cheaper if you are saving your pennies. Of course, nothing beats the shimmer of Swarovski crystals! A BIG no-no for costumes is Acrylic Crystals - you know the ones, plastic, gaudy and CHEAP. I wouldn't touch those with a barge pole unless I was making throw-away garments/costumes, and neither should you!
 
2. Keep the straps! Sometimes when you are re-working a costume, you can re-use the straps! This can be great if you just want to change the cup size, but everything else is a-ok. And if nothing else - you can re-use the clasps on other costumes!
 
3. Always keep spare beads and crystals. They come in handy for repairs and re-working costumes. I like to keep some matching spares in a little tub in with each costume - so if I'm ever off to do a gig and find a crystal is missing, I can quickly re-do it before I go out! Get in the habit of checking these things, as the last thing you want is missing gemstones on your best cossie!
 
 
Good luck!
 
 
Final Note for the Day:
If you are looking for crystals, check out Eimass - these guys produce incredible hot fix, and sew on crystals and gems, and I have always found them to be a lovely quality. Shhh! It's our little secret!

If you want to use this post in your e-zine, blog or newsletter, please go ahead! But make sure that you credit Louise Brooks - www.louisebellydancer.co.uk

Monday, 30 March 2015

It’s all about cross-training!


And I’m not talking about that crazy gym equipment – I’m talking about taking time to work on different aspects of your body and mind in order to benefit your dance. In this particular article I am going to be looking at how to cross – train to improve your creativity!
Dance is an unusual creature – ticking both physical and creative boxes, and because it’s so demanding on the body and mind, sometimes it can suck your creative well dry! And this is where cross training comes in.

Cross-training refers to an athlete training in sports other than the one that the athlete competes in, with a goal of improving overall performance. It takes advantage of the particular effectiveness of each training method, while at the same time attempting to negate the shortcomings of that method by combining it with other methods that address its weaknesses.”
Wikipedia

For dance – I feel that cross training doesn’t apply to just the physical aspects of the dance alone. It applies to the creative side too!

Find a release for your creativity when dancing just won’t do. For me – painting and art is a way to improve my creativity, to re-set any artistic frustrations I’ve been feeling, and give my brain a chance to re-adjust and get back into dance again. Especially after a particularly busy dance period – it can be nice to take time out, reset, and then begin again!

Looking at different art forms can also add to potential choreography ideas, and jog the creative juices. Paintings, Music, Theatre, Film, Literature – all these mediums can create some really strong images and ideas that can kick start a choreography – and personally I feel it’s good practice to really immerse yourself in these in order to engage and train your brain to think creatively and outside the box! Something that I always find really engages me is period dramas and antiquated fashions. I love pouring over old books on the Tudor court, Victorian clothing, and old fairy tales from bygone eras. They really conjure up a sense of beauty, of poignancy, of the magic of history that for some reason really gets me going artistically.

Find something that works for you and embrace it! One of my dance colleagues found inspiration watching a skirt dance from the 1800’s on a historical BBC programme! You never know what might inspire your next performance, costume, or music choice.

Never say never – you might be frightened to pick up a paintbrush, write a poem, or feel that reading is just not your thing – that’s ok! But don’t rule these things out. They may seem like you are goofing off, and not dancing – but they will benefit your choreographies, costumes and theatricality no end!

I hope this helps you to work on your creativity within dance. Some of my best ideas have come to me when reading a novel, listening to an unusual radio show ( BBC R2 Folk Show has given me some goodies!) and when visiting galleries or unusual places! Above all – be open, and let the world be your oyster!


Final Note for the Day:
Take a chance to have a look at one of my favourite websites Pinterest. It's incredible how images can really trigger ideas, thoughts and emotions - and the best thing about this site? You can save your own ideas on your very own moodboard! You can see my pinterest boards here.

If you want to use this post in your e-zine, blog or newsletter, please go ahead! But make sure that you credit Louise Brooks - www.louisebellydancer.co.uk

Thursday, 29 January 2015

What are your priorities?

So this blog post has been a long time coming - over the Christmas season I indulged and took some time away from dance to really focus on me and have some delicious "down time".

And I'm glad I did!

This year has already been a crazy year - and it's only the end of January!

I've started a new day job - working for an incredible Hospice within Fundraising, which is a blast! And really is a rewarding career. I'm buying a house with my gorgeous partner in dance, and in life, Jim, and to top it all off am teaching some amazing classes, creating some beautiful costumes and working on my yoga practice!

This got me to thinking - how on earth am I going to decide what takes priority, and how am I going to fit all this darn stuff in to my week!?
I thought I would share with you, ways to prioritise, organise, and work out your time, so that you get the most from all of your hobbies, dance activities, and your work!

1. Prioritise what you love - This is something that Amy Sigil says in one of her Datura Online classes that really stuck with me. If you LOVE dance - schedule that in to your week first. Make specific time slots in your diary, whether its an hour before work, or 15 minutes when you get home before you cook tea, make sure you schedule it in, so you get to do what you love. Same goes for other things - like if you love having a bath, schedule it in! Make time for the things you love! It may mean waking up half an hour earlier, but sometimes, it really is worth it.

2. Get rid of the things that don't make you feel excited - Is that Zumba class just a bind? Ditch it. Is trying to swim once a week just eating into precious drawing or sewing time? Ditch it. Do you resent having to sew a bellydance costume for your next show? Ditch it. Your free time is precious, don't waste it on sub par activities that don't excite you. Instead, dedicate more time to the thing you love, or find an activity that does excite you! It can feel tough, you may feel obliged to keep going to those rotary club meetings, or monthly bake sales, but if you aren't passionate about it, and it doesn't get your juices flowing - find something that does! Learn to be ruthless with your most precious commodity - time.

3. Plan Ahead - Make a point of planning things in advance. This will really help you to work out what works for you and your schedule, and also what you can fit into your year! I don't know about you, but I very often say I will do things, or go places, and at the end of the year, nothing's changed! Planning in advance will really help that - you will be more likely to stick to your plans, and it also gives you more things to look forward to!

4. Get a calendar - and use it! - It may take a bit of time to get into the habit of using a calendar, but by gum does it make life easier when planning, organising and arranging your time. I love my gmail calendar as I can sync it to my phone, laptop and emails, and can sort out nifty reminders and alerts. You should see some of the things I schedule in - sometimes stuff as mundane as taking an hour for a bath and pamper session - but if you don't plan it in somewhere, you'll never get round to it!


I hope these tips help you guys to start thinking about your own schedules and the way you organise your time, above all though - make sure you make yourself the top priority.


Final Note for the Day:
Play around with ways to plan your time - spreasdsheets, calendars, diaries - use what works for you best! I often use a mixtures of excel, diaries, and more often than not, post-its!

If you want to use this post in your e-zine, blog or newsletter, please go ahead! But make sure that you credit Louise Brooks - www.louisebellydancer.co.uk

Friday, 21 November 2014

How to Combat the Bellydance Blues

It's gotten to that time of year, where it's dark, it's damp, it's cold, and it's miserable! (Well, here in the UK that is!) If there is going to be a period of time where you feel like hanging up your hip belts and packing away your dance paws in favour of snuggly jumpers and eating chocolate it's now!

Sometimes however, it's not just the weather and seasonal shifts that can impact our dancing.

Sometimes we just get a bout of the blues, where our choreographies seem muddled and not up to par, we perhaps lose confidence in our abilities as a dancer, and we let our inner critic come out to play and stamp all over our hard work.

I'm a sensitive person. I really care about my dancing and really invest a lot of time, and emotional effort into creating and performing. And this really does take it's toll, on not only my social life, but also, my creative life. Surprisingly, you'd think that trying to practice every day and working hard will encourage results, and yes, it does... but it can also leave you feeling frustrated, burnt out, and fed up!

I wanted to share with you my tips for coping with, and combating the bellydance blues!


  • Take a Break - This is the toughest to follow through! You may feel like perhaps sitting and taking notes in your dance class when you or your body is tired and fatigued is lazy, or that by skipping a class because you feel poorly (whether mentally or physically) is letting people down - Don't. I have pushed myself so hard before that I had to miss a workshop that I really wanted to attend because I was experiencing a really severe panic attack, that probably could have been avoided by taking a break when I needed it, and not feeling like I was "letting other people down". Sometimes it's hard to take a step back and say - "You know what? I feel really anxious, and stressed and unhappy today, and really need a break." 
  • Give yourself some "Me" time - Sometimes if we are working on other people's choreographies, or learning routines for shows, it can become really easy to lose sight of who we are as dancers. Take time out to just dance for fun, making up your own routines or improvisations that are just for you, and not for anyone else. Feed your inner creative artist and allow yourself to have a play - it's not shirking off, as you are still dancing!
  • Learn Something New - If you are feeling uninspired or feeling like you are at a loss with your dancing and not sure which way to go, learn a new skill! Whether it's a different style of dance, a new prop, learning from a new teacher, it can all help to jog your creative juices and get things flowing again. 
  • Talk to Someone - Its important to have a chat with colleagues, dance troupe members, teachers, about how you are feeling. Firstly because you realise that you are not alone as a dancer, and that other people are going through these feelings too! Secondly, if people know you are feeling down about your dancing, they will want to support you, and be ready with lots of advice, and help you to feel back on cloud nine about your belly dance abilities!
I would like to leave you with this Native American Indian Story:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Final Note for the Day:
In this cold weather, make sure to take in lots of fluids and eat plenty if you are exercising! Your body is only as good as the fuel you supply it with, so over this winter, look after yourself! 

If you want to use this post in your e-zine, blog or newsletter, please go ahead! But make sure that you credit Louise Brooks - www.louisebellydancer.co.uk

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Getting into the Mood... Pre-Performance Rituals, and Make-up Must Haves! Part 2

I have been very lucky to be able to interview two gorgeous Tribal and Tribal Fusion Bellydance Stars about their performance rituals and how they prepare for the stage! Both Hilde and Charlotte are big inspirations for me, and to be able to chat to them about how they prepare to perform, it's a real treat!


Hilde Canoodt

Hi Hilde! Really great to chat to you. Your performances are so varied, and I know you are working a lot with Contemporary Dance and Fusing that with your Bellydance. How do you prepare for these performances and do you have any rituals to help ground you before a performance?
I'm in a weird transitional fase at the moment as a dancer. I used to wear a lot of stage make up, headdresses,... to add to the theatricality of my performance. But in the last few years a lot has shifted: I've been 'digging deep' and been trying to find my voice as a dancer. This goes together with lots of travelling and not having a home for about 2 years now. I feel quite nomadic. So I haven't got access to many of my costumes at the moment, and I've noticed that I started to 'shed' the layers of theatricality like make up, hair and costuming and when for more simple, natural look. Sometimes I hardly wear any make up, as I'm trying to find ways to dance from the inside out, wearing thick layers of make up seems to be contradicting that idea. I have a feeling once I have a home again and stop travelling so much, my pretty dresses will come out of the storage cupboard and I will bring more focus to my make up/hair/costuming rituals. I find it interesting how you can see dancers whole life on the stage, following their development as a dancer usually goes hand in hand with their personal life. For me: I feel I used to be much more of an entertainer and felt my performance was to please the crowd. Now, I want to dance from the inside out: more bare, and I think it shows in my aesthetic.
Wow, that is a really powerful idea. I love how you are really expressing yourself now as a performer. If you do wear make-up during performances, what is your cosmetic bag must have? I really do like my MAC eye liner: it's this little pot of black paint with the consistency of shoe polish it doesn't smudge and gives clear lines with a mat look. Even if I wear nothing else, I like to enhance the eyes as the eyes are so expressive in a dancer, I think it's important to enhance them.

Definately - The eyes are the window to the soul! Where do you get your inspiration from for costuming and makeup?
My inspiration comes from a number of sources: I will see someone's look on stage and go: oh that's beautiful and often have a chat with them to ask about their aesthetic choices. I like a more natural look often, but I do enjoy a bold lip colour too.

Where can dancers find out more about you and your performing?
I run a festival every year: Tribal Remix in Brighton, UK - www.tribalremix.co.uk I teach and perform in the UK and abroad - please visit my website www.hildedancer.com or find me on facebook (Hilde Cannoodt)


Charlotte Wassell

Hi Charlotte! You are such a Tribal Rockstar - how do you like to prepare for your performances?
Ideally the day of a performance I like to have a good workout of some kind, even if it is much earlier in the day, so I feel warmed-up to be able to perform my best. If I have time, I really like to go to town with my make-up – plenty of shading and lots of glitter and stick-on Swarovski accents in addition to the obligatory bindi. Usually I’m listening to my performance music in order to “brainwash” myself and get in the zone.

That's a great idea! Listening to your music before performing really helps ground you and get you in the "zone". What cosmetic item can you not live without in your gig bag?
Ok so this is not a make-up item, but I totally panic if I don’t have tictacs in my gig bag! I got this tip from the stunning Kathleen Pearlson (look her up) and as I really suffer from dry mouth when performing it totally changed things for me. Stick one or two under your tongue just before you go on and it stimulates your saliva so voilĂ ! No dry mouth and a beautiful smile! 

Awesome tip! Who inspires you when it comes to your own personal bellydance look?
At the moment I don’t have a particular person who inspires me, but I really like the dark heavy eyes common in Tribal belly dance. I rarely wear much make-up on a day-to-day basis so it’s fun to go to the other end of the spectrum when I perform!

Where can dancers find out more about you and your performing?

Images courtesy of J. Christos Photography

Final Note for the Day:
Explore different styles of dance. Bellydance is a fantastic and diverse dance form, but don't be afraid to peek out of the box and have a look into Odissi, Russian Folk Dances, Ballet, Contemporary, Jazz... You may find it benefits your Bellydance in ways you never imagined! Take a leap of faith and see what you can discover!

Want to catch up on my 100 day Belly Dance Challenge? Don't forget to check out my YouTube playlist here.

If you want to use this post in your e-zine, blog or newsletter, please go ahead! But make sure that you credit Louise Brooks - www.louisebellydancer.co.uk

Friday, 24 October 2014

Puttin' On the Ritz - The Glamour of Stage Shows!

Helen and Cherie
So it's been rather quiet on the blog front recently, and with good reason! This Wednesday just gone (22nd October) was the Sheikh It! Bellydance Show! Organised and put together by myself and Natasha with the idea in mind that we wanted to get together as many professional dancers as possible and put on a theatre show to the general public to really showcase the talent and skill of the dancers, as well as showing what a remarkable and versatile dance form bellydance is!

So What's it like to put on a stage show?

Left to Right: Cherie, Kassandra, Amy,
Mim, Sabrynah, Natasha

Well - it's definitely different to doing a normal showcase that's for sure! There is so much to think about! I think the biggest challenge for me was the technical aspect of the show, lighting, timings, rehearsals... It's all a lot to take in if you are just used to being able to rock up, do a bit of decoration, and then have the dancers do their thing!
But despite all the stress that comes with organising a big show, the best thing about doing a theatre show is the magic when it all comes together, and the audience comes in, everything goes quiet, and the first performance begins. It really is an incredible experience, and is worth every sleepless night!
One of the most awesome things about doing this show was being able to collaborate with so many different dancers, to form new bonds, learn from each other, and really create a spectacular show!

Is performing in a stage show different to performing in a showcase?
 Oh yes! The lights are brighter, the stage is (usually) bigger, and there is a lot more to think about! It's often harder to interact with the audience like you would do in a restaurant or a smaller more intimate hafla or showcase, and you really have to make sure you look out into the room, despite the fact that it looks pitch black because of the bright lights shining up at you! Plus, you can really go to town with make-up and costuming, as the lights will really pick up crystals, sparkles and glitter and more elaborate costumes look incredible on stage.

The backstage area is often more crowded as well in the theatre, and full of hustle and bustle, girls putting on makeup, practicing pieces, helping each other into costumes, swapping jewellery and sharing cosmetics. There is such a sense of camaraderie before a big show, and it creates a real "back stage family" feeling. There is definitely nothing like it!
Left To Right: Kassandra, Natasha, Mim, Me!, Cherie

What should I do if I want to put on my own show?

Research venues to start off with, think about how much it would cost to hire and how much you would need to charge for tickets and minimum ticket sales to make the show viable. Once you are happy with all this, then invite dancers to perform! Everyone loves to be invited to perform at a show, so send out some feelers and make some connections! Make this a chance to network with dancers in your local area and to make new friends. Also, think about if you want your show to have a theme or a story running through it, lots of showcases have themes that the dancers stick to which can work really well to build a show around!

Final Note for the Day:
Bellydance is a great way to meet people! In your next dance class, or the next event you go to, try and have a chat with a dancer you haven't met yet! It's a good way to make new connections, and you never know, you might just find a bellydance soulmate!

Want to catch up on my 100 day Belly Dance Challenge? Don't forget to check out my YouTube playlist here.

If you want to use this post in your e-zine, blog or newsletter, please go ahead! But make sure that you credit Louise Brooks - www.louisebellydancer.co.uk

Monday, 29 September 2014

Getting into the Mood... Pre-Performance Rituals, and Make-up Must Haves! Part 1

I always have a bubble bath before a show. Always. I will make time to have a bath. Even if it means getting up stupidly early. I need to have at least 30 minutes in among the bubbles to be quiet, read a book, or listen to some music, and compose myself. 
It's a cosmetic thing that means so much to me, and really affects how I feel before a performance! Without that hug of warm water, I would - and I'm not ashamed to admit it - feel quite bereft! Let alone if I forgot my beloved MAC Shimmer Powder - then there really would be temper tantrums before going on stage! 

I thought I would ask some of my favourite dancers about their own personal pre-performance rituals, their make-up essentials, and also what inspires them with their own performance makeup and style!

In Part 1, I will be interviewing the Glamourous Princess Farhana, the Beautiful Rachel Bennett, the Scrummy Helen Santa Maria, and the Exotic Natasha Bradley!

Princess Farhana
So Princess, you are always so busy - you must have performance preparation down to a T! how do you like to prepare for a show or performance?
Since I travel constantly,  sometimes my gig preparation  is done days before the actual gig occurs…  selecting which costumes to pack, making sure I have every piece  and that its in good repair, all the matching accessories, my music, cymbals, and promotional  materials.  If I am at home,  I   do this too, but usually on the day of the show.

Photo taken by Lee Corkett
If I’ve never performed at a venue before ( like when I’m on the road) I  like to get to there early as possible, so I can look at the stage or performance area, hang out with the other dancers, and feel relaxed.  At home, I’m familiar with  most places I perform, but  I have to allow time  for  the insane traffic in Los Angeles, and would still prefer to get to my show early as opposed to rushing in at the last minute!
Wow! That is super organised! How important to you is your make-up ritual before a show? Do you have any other rituals or practices you do before a performance?
 I can do my stage make up anywhere… in 10 minutes flat!  I’ve done it in parked or moving cars  by street light, on beaches, in a forest, in the Men’s Room of a club, in  a tent at Burning Man in the middle of the desert. But whether  I’m getting ready in a dressing room, hotel room,  “on location” or  at my own house, I absolutely  would choose  not rush it. Taking the time to decide upon  my colors, lay out my brushes and cosmetics neatly and taking my time applying make up carefully  centers me and gets me in a nice, calm Zen-like space, where I can focus on my performance.  I like to listen to my music  while I get made up.  Let’s put it this way:  I’d rather do my face than eat dinner -and I LOVE my food, I tell you! - but I’ve have been known eat while  painting up my face, cause nothing trumps this ritual for me!
I always  need time to warm up  too…   no matter where I am, I keep moving and stretching.
I keep a small emergency  bag within my   gig bag  with bobby pins, safety pins, fashion tape, band-aids ( or “plasters”  as you  Brits say!) feminine protection, breath mints, pain relievers like ibuprophen or paracetemol,  a sewing kit, comb & brush, travel sized hair spray, deodorant, and my favorite scent, “Cotton Candy” which is a light body spray that makes me smile… I think it was originally intended for  8 year old girls, but I love it!
Another thing I  always do is to pray before I go onstage.  Actually, it’s more of a   gratitude ritual.  I close my eyes for a moment in a quiet place, even if it’s just the wings of the stage  and  thank the universe  for allowing my dreams of dance to come true… I am always so grateful for this!!! Then I focus on the audience and silently send them love and appreciation for coming to the show, and hope that I can transport them  with my piece, and that we can exchange energy  in a beautiful way.
You have some beautiful make-up looks, and always seem to have your own unique style. Who is your main inspiration for your own personal look, and why?
As far as make up goes, I look to vintage  movie stars and showgirls for inspiration…  and I like to chat with the dancers I’m sharing the stage with- it inspires me to see everyone’s creativity and to get to know them  before we go out and perform!
Where can dancers find out more about you and your performing?

Helen Santa Maria
So Helen, as a seasoned performer, how do you like to prepare for your performances? Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
For my very first gigs I used to start the build up build up about 3 days before! Then on the day I'd gear my whole day around getting ready and warming up etc.
These days I like to listen to my list of 'inspirational songs' and decide my set list whilst getting my make up on. I also listen to any new music I might be dancing to. I'm usually trying to entertain my one-year-old daughter, Sophia, who likes to get involved in the make up process. Through sheer necessity I can pretty much get myself ready from top to toe in 90 minutes or less! But however stretched I am for time, I ALWAYS have a cup of tea before leaving the house - that's non-negotiable.
I like the idea of the cup of tea! I think I need to include that in my own ritual! So what is your must-have in your performance make-up bag?
It depends on the season: in Summer it's face powder but in overall I'd have to say a really good lip gloss. Generally I travel pretty light for gigs.
You always look so polished and beautiful when you perform. Who or what is your inspiration for when you do your own make-up for shows?
I learned to do make up when I was a competitive ballroom dancer. I'm not naturally very artistic or good at make up so I had to just copy what everyone else did as best I could. Boy do they plaster it on, it was good training!
Where can dancers find out more about you and your performing?
Find out more about me at www.helenbellydance.com Follow me on twitter @helenbellydance.com Connect with me on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HelenSantaMaria2012 Like my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Santa-Maria-Bellydance-Academy/278022738894598 Subscribe to my youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/helenainslie
Come and see me perform!: - Resident dancer at Mangal Turkish restaurant, Reading 24th October, 7th November, 19th December - Sheikh It! Kenton Theatre, Henley 22nd October - Hossam ans Serena Ramzy hafla, Hurst Village Hall, 29th November

Rachel Bennett
Hi Rachel! As a super busy dancer who is is constant demand, do you have any pre-performance rituals to keep you calm and performance ready?

My most important ritual is to pack in advance using my special personalised bellydance performance pack list. Knowing I have everything I could possibly need is essential for a focused mindset.
What are your make-up must haves for your performance cosmetic bag?

My key cosmetic staples are: Eyelure eyelash glue, Max Factor pressed powder, MAC khol eyeliner crayon, Lipsticks in 3-4 key shades and of course, Perfume. All of equal importance and essential for makeup maintenance and refreshing in between sets!

Wow! You have a good arsenal of key items - I can't leave without perfume in my bag either! You are always so perfectly presented, how have you created your own personal bellydance look?

My look is individualised for me. I play with ideas but ultimately I create a look that endeavours to compliment and enhance my appearance as a bellydancer.
Where can dancers find out more about you and your performing?
You can visit my website at www.rachelbellydancer.com!

Natasha Bradley
Natasha, your performances are always so upbeat and full of life! What do you do to prepare?
1.      I don’t often have the luxury of time when preparing for a gig. I will usually settle on a playlist and dance around a bit to get some ideas and then music is fresh in my head before I go. I will also listen to some up-beat bellydance music whilst applying my make-up to get me in the party mood!  When at the venue I will warm-up and stretch just before going on.
If I am doing a practised performance at a show however, my preparation will be more about relaxing, deep-breathing and again lots of stretching!
Good call with the stretching - that's something a lot of dancers forget! What can you not leave the house without when it comes to your make-up bag?
        I always make sure I take ALL my make up with me if I’m doing more than one set so I can touch up in between sets... but the things I cannot leave behind when going to any gig would be... safety pins, a hairclip (as I have to get my hair off my sweaty neck ASAP!) and eyelash glue!! I love my false eyelashes as they help me get into character and hate it if they come loose!!

      Good call with the hair clip, that is definitely every dancers worst nightmare if you have long hair! I always bring a hair band so I can tie mine up after the first set! So tell me about how you do your make-up, your style is very exotic and really adds to your costuming - what's your inspiration?
I must say it took me a while to get my make-up right, and I am still always experimenting and change it all the time. I like the classic Cleopatra look with heavy eyeliner in a long flick from the eye...but also recently like using bhindis at the edges of my eyes, or one eye for an easy splash of colour.  I also take inspiration from ancient Persian art, again with the heavy black eyeliner to accentuate the almond eye shape, I sometimes darken and lengthen my eyebrows too.
Where can we find out more about you and your performing?
       You can find me at www.natashabradleydance.com. I dance every Saturday night in Windsor and teach classes with SMBA.
That all for now folks - stay tuned for Part 2, where we will be chatting to some more dancers about how they get performance ready!

Final Note for the Day:
All these dancers have one thing in common - they all PREPARE. If you are a nervous performer, prep your bag the night before, I guarantee, it will take a load off your mind if you know that all your costumes, make-up and extras are all in one place, ready for you to take to your gig!

Want to catch up on my 100 day Belly Dance Challenge? Don't forget to check out my YouTube playlist here.

If you want to use this post in your e-zine, blog or newsletter, please go ahead! But make sure that you credit Louise Brooks - www.louisebellydancer.co.uk