Belly-Burnout: What happens when you lose your mojo?

As a student of bellydance for nearly 10 years, I’ve had many moments of wanting to give up my dance, for a myriad of reasons. The past couple of years, I’ve felt my inspiration waning, despite attending retreats, intensives and teaching. There seems to be something missing from my dance at the moment which has caused me to mentally and energetically pull back and examine where my journey is headed. For the better part of ten years my mind has been occupied with Bellydance – going over choreographies and performance ideas in my head, thinking of music to dance to, finding costuming inspiration, thinking about upcoming shows/haflas/intensives/trips/gigs and keeping tabs on what everyone else is up to on social media.

So when I started feeling dread at the thought of preparing of a show, or the thought of attending a weekend of workshops exhausted me before I had even signed up, I realized that it was time to take a step back. Call it Belly-Burnout, if you will. For a long time this feeling churned inside and I felt guilty that this was happening to me, that somehow it made me a failure or a fake or someone who *gasp* isn’t as dedicated to dance as everyone else. That because I had come so far that it was too late to just stop, that I had to keep going for the sake of students and the expectations of the community, to be seen to participate and not become irrelevant or forgotten. So I pushed through, but I found that I was spending more time and energy trying to force ideas and worrying if I would be able to come up with something that I feel like that’s when my mojo disappeared.

Now, the creative process is a very interesting creature – for most of my professional career I have been employed in creative roles and for me when the ‘aha!’ moment happens, all things come into place, and I find myself re-energized and invigorated ready to explore an idea. The thing is though, the road between development of an idea and the ‘aha!’ can take anywhere from a moment to years, which for me (and I’m sure for many others) is the most difficult stage to get through. But once that moment happens, that’s where magic starts!

I haven’t had an ‘aha!’ moment in quite some time. However instead of stressing about it, I’ve thought about what else is going on in my life and where I need to direct my energy so that I can nurture myself back to a point where I am ready to feel creative in dance again. Though I still drill a bit at home, I have taken up other forms of exercise to give my body a break from what it is used to, build up my strength and stamina, and discover a different way of movement. I have started sketching again after many many years of not making the time having been so preoccupied with dance (and also full time work).

I want to love bellydance again. It’s all I think about during the day, which really indicates either a deep love or obsession. I want to be better, I want to improve and I want to continue my dance journey. But first I need to take some time out to realign and readjust so that I can be truly present and enjoy every moment. There is no shame in feeling the burnout or wanting to give up, it’s natural and normal. A teacher once told me in class that, “Bellydance is like falling in love with someone: You discover them, and they are all you think about. You can’t keep your hands off each other and every moment is exciting and thrilling. A few years later you’ve developed a deeper relationship, you might not be so hands on but you know one another inside and out. Maybe you even think maybe you’ve fallen out of love. But then one day, something happens and they remind you how amazing they are and you couldn’t imagine life without them.”

This is how I feel about dance. I think about the journey that has taken me all over Australia, the people I’ve met, how as I’ve grown as a person my dance has grown too. Losing your dance mojo doesn’t mean the end. It just means a little bit of time needs to be taken to rediscover that hunger, that desire. It might not happen right away, but I have faith that it will. And that’s OK with me.

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Behind the glitter: My top stage makeup essentials!

Kalikah Jade - Smokey Eye

Every professional performer needs their stage toolkit, I’ve noticed over the years I have a few essential go-to makeup products I cannot live without that have been tried and tested to work for me in all conditions. Extreme heat, oily skin, unflattering lighting, low light, outdoor, indoor, festivals, you name it – take a peek into my top products I use religiously every time I venture out in costume!

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  1. Revlon colourstay liquid foundation, $34.95

    I love this foundation – I wear it daily for work, and also use it for stage. It’s light to medium coverage which can be applied as liberally as you need without feeling caked on or oily.

  1. MAC Khol Power eyeliner, $32.00

    You can’t go past a great classic Khol eyeliner. This guy won’t budge, once applied it will take an oil based product to remove. Easy to apply and smudge for an instant dramatic smokey tribal look.

  1. MAC Mineralize Skinfinish powder, $49.00

    I use this when I need maximum coverage over my foundation. It ensures a smooth, flawless base that will last right until you take it off.

  1. MAC Lipstick in Russian Red, $36.00

    This red lipstick will get you through in a pinch, the colour is rich and glides on with a beautiful creamy consistency that will also condition your lips. This will take several attempts to remove, for me it’s survived music festivals and moshpits as well as performances with just one application!

  1. MAC Lip Pencil in Ruby Woo, $30.00

    The perfect pair to the red lipstick to get the right shape, to avoid pesky bleeding. A creamy, highly pigmented finish ensures maximum coverage.

  1. The Body Shop liquid eyeliner, $19.95

    I like the applicator of these ones, sometimes I find other brands a bit hard which then affects the consistency in application. Only in extremely humid conditions have I experienced a bit of running, and only because I had something layered over it that ran first!

  1. MAC eyeshadow in Carbon, $33.00

    Every girl needs to own this. The black smokey eye is your best friend once you have this eyeshadow. Again it’s not going to budge unless you remove with an oil based makeup remover, it’s that good.

  1. Maybelline Colossal Volum’ Express Waterproof Mascara, $19.95

    I like these cheap and cheerful mascaras, they pump up the volume for long lashes. I also like to layer several different types (lengthening, voluming, waterproof) but the Volum’ Express is the one I use mostly.

  1. Eyelure eyelashes in #143, $12.99

    These lashes are long enough to give your eyes some drama but not too long that you can’t see! The Eyelure range has a huge variety of lengths and thicknesses, and once you know which number is your favourite it’s super easy to refill next time!

These products have been absolute staples in my makeup bag for more than 5 years – don’t be fooled by price point either, the MAC products above will last you years, a fabulous investment that can be worn on and off stage. Being oil based they don’t sweat off and the pigmentation is fantastic!

Do you have any favourite products? Comment below!

Going Pro: My Top Tips for Negotiating with Clients

In my time as an entertainer, I have had experiences where I have felt unsafe, disrespected or misled about performance expectations which put me in a position of dis-empowerment and vulnerability. This to me occurred because I did not set any clear boundaries of what I was prepared to do and what was expected of me by the client.

When you’re negotiating a gig for yourself, it’s often a challenge to ensure you are in the driver’s seat in terms of payment and expectations. Too many times in my earlier years was I found myself in certain situations which had led me there because I did not have the confidence or know-how to communicate my expectations to a client.
As a result of some of these unfortunate events I crafted my own guidelines on how to engage or respond to certain types of clients, ensuring a favourable, respectful outcome for both parties as is the right of the client and the entertainer. I’ve distilled them into 6 pointers but if you have any more please feel free to comment below.

1. ALWAYS receive payment in full prior to the performance, preferably a day in advance, with a non-refundable deposit of 30% for an initial booking enquiry. This is a non-negotiable term for me for a number of reasons:

  1. In paying the deposit, the client reserves the date & time, confirms the venue, performance rate and expectations for length of performance. If for some reason I am unable to fulfill the booking this is refundable if I cannot find a replacement.
  2. In paying a deposit this commits the client to avoid a last minute cancellation.
  3. By paying my complete fee in full prior to the performance I become responsible for honoring my end of the deal to deliver a performance as agreed.
  4. MOST IMPORTANTLY – If my booking has been paid for in full and for whatever reason I feel unsafe, disrespected, misled or otherwise vulnerable or disempowered, I HAVE THE RIGHT TO TERMINATE THE PERFORMANCE AT ANY TIME and leave with my dignity intact, not continuing a performance because I haven’t been paid yet. This is a specific term I put into my quote, and by paying the deposit amount the client agrees to my terms & rights in engaging my services.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask more than the ‘going rate’, especially if you are a soloist. If you have certain skills others don’t have in your local community, use that to your advantage! An expensive item has more perceived value than a cheaper one, so you might not win every single gig but the ones that you do perform at will respect you more if you give yourself the value you deserve.

3. Don’t be afraid to say no. If you think a gig is not really your thing, or has a super low budget (or none) more suited to students or amateur performers, make it clear what your expectations are if they are negotiable in order to make it the right gig for you. If you pick and choose which events you perform at, you will find the kind of crowds who will appreciate your skills.

4. Give yourself a ‘Charity Quota’. If you get approached to perform for free or at a very low rate, unless you really believe in the cause or dance with a student troupe, limit your charity (that is, free) performances to perhaps 2 or 3 a year tops. If you politely inform the charity or organiser that you only perform pro bono gigs for certain causes or events, you can perhaps instead let them know you are available for paid or corporate bookings, but that your students would love the opportunity for some extra exposure and experience. The exception to the rule is local dance community participation.

5. Be sure that you are clear in your photo/video policy that is agreed upon payment in full. If you do not want your footage on youtube/facebook/anywhere else make sure you let the organisers know that permission needs to be given before any footage from a private booking goes online.

6. Have a set transport fee that is extra on top of your performance fee, depending on the distance travelled. For example, a 1hr drive to and from a location might incur an extra charge of $80 including toll costs. This ensures that your time & transport costs are taken care of without impacting the base performance rate.

Have you ever had a bad performance experience or have been taken advantage of by a client? Do you have any tips or advice on how to approach this for next time?

4 Steps for Successful Performance – Taking Your Stage Presence to the Next Level

Kalikah Jade at Evernight 4, 2012
Kalikah Jade at Evernight 4, 2012

Have you ever wondered why there are some performers out there that have that special something which draws you to watching their every move? Though it might not always come naturally, with some practice you too can learn to have charismatic stage presence for powerful stage performance.

1. Transformation works both on the inside and the outside. In your everyday world you might be a busy parent, have a demanding career, or have personal issues outside of dance. Unless it directly relates to your character or performance theme, leave your ‘other’ self behind and become the captivating creature looking back at you in the mirror. If you use a stage name/persona, find your character and use this character to focus your performance.

2. To mesmerize is to captivate with intention. Be connected to every move you make and feel how you want your audience to feel. If you are playful, let this shine by using eye contact or even improvisation to genuinely connect with your audience – they WANT to be engaged by you, it’s up to you to use your skills to keep them interested and invested in your performance.

3. Your face tells a story, use it! Eye contact is a powerful tool to engage with your audience and establish confidence. Don’t be afraid to lock eyes with an audience member and exchange a moment with them – it will feed your performance and add an extra level of charisma to your stage presence.

4. Whatever happens, be confident. At a subconscious level, we can detect when a person is anxious or otherwise unsure of themselves, especially when this person is the focal point on stage. Whatever happens on stage, own it and work with it, even if you make a mistake. Some of the most unfortunate stage mishaps turn into a great test of your ability to work with an unexpected situation and handle with grace, and in character.

Do you have any other tips to improve your stage presence? Comment below!