What’s in a name? Using a Stage Name in Performance

What’s in a name?

A name is a label – it’s what differentiates Jenny from Sue, it’s your personality, your quirks, your reputation. It changes depending on who is using it and if they’re mad at you (parents/siblings/partners especially). It most likely links you to your heritage, your birth country, your ancestral home, or that of your spouse.

When you are a performer, it’s also a brand.

When you start your journey as a stage performer, whether you’re an actor, model, musician, dancer or public speaker, most often you sign up and spend the first years of your education just as ‘you’. But as you begin to learn and evolve, perhaps you find yourself becoming someone else or adopting a different persona when you’re out in front of a crowd. Maybe thinking of your ‘other’ self as being the performer helps to ease your stage fright or assist in giving your best character performance or maybe that character IS the performance. Maybe at this point you decide you are no longer Sue but Suzanne the Magnificent, or Suellen Strange, or Sneaky Sue, depending on your character.

Luna Queen by Kalikah Jade, Adelaide Bellydancer
Luna Queen by Kalikah Jade, Adelaide Bellydancer

Deciding on whether to commit to a professional stage name is a big decision, like most brands, once it’s out there and you are advertising yourself, it’s really really difficult to change once you’ve built an audience and/or community – Christina Aguilera went to Xtina then back again, Snoop Dogg turned into Snoop Lion then Snoopzilla and who knows what the next name will be. As an audience it’s confusing and it’s really tough to keep tabs on your performer buddies if they keep switching names!

If you decide that a stage name is the way to go my advice is:

  1. Google it a few times, to be certain that the name isn’t already used or doesn’t have unfortunate connotations or associations
  2. Pick something to suit your performance style that is easy to say and spell
  3. Practice using it privately or with a trusted group of friends to see if you feel comfortable being referred to by that name
  4. Be absolutely sure that you want to stick with it

When I first started out as a soloist, I used my first given name. That’s who I was, who my teachers and classmates referred to me as and what I was most comfortable with. But there came a defining moment, where with the advent of social media and more public accountability I made the decision that for professional & privacy reasons I wanted to give myself a stage name. This also helped in compartmentalizing my social/dance life, everyone who knew me from then on knew Kalikah, and close friends, family and work colleagues knew only my given names.

Siren Fusion Solo
Siren Fusion Solo, Cirque de Serpentine, Brisbane, 2013

The challenge with having a stage name is that it’s really really hard to change people’s mind as a performer once they know your ‘real’ name, or if they knew you prior to taking up your new identity. Personally I really identify with Kalikah and I have become my own brand so calling me anything else while I am at a show or in training (unless I’ve given explicit permission) is deeply jarring, both on a personal level but also at a performance level. It really ruins the air of mystery I try to maintain, especially at shows. I’ll never forget the time I was just finishing up a big stage show for the Adelaide Fringe, and I was heading out into the lobby to meet my family who had come along to watch. My mother got so excited to see me and screeched out my given name amongst the crowd and absolutely everyone heard it! In that instant it kind of ruined that character I’d built up during the show. Having said that, one lesson I’ve learned is that your parents will never, ever call you by your stage name ever. Even if you remind them!

A stage name evokes a sense of mystique, it gives the audience a sense that the person you see is not just your average citizen who goes to work like the rest of us, no she is ‘of the stage’ and therefore unique and exotic. I see my job as a performer to be like a game of imagination, the anonymity of an exotic name better allows the audience to believe even for a minute that they’ve been whisked from their everyday lives into a glimpse of the world I create through  my art.

I think if I was to give any advice it would be to make it crystal clear to your troupe, teachers and colleagues that from now on you’d like to be referred to at all times by your stage name, at practice, at shows, online, to help get into your new persona.

As I touched on earlier, using a stage name is also a fantastic way of keeping your private life private. At the time I was coming up with my stage name I was also applying for my first graduate jobs which required me to have an online presence, so I definitely didn’t want any future employers looking me up and seeing my dance footage out of context. I was also acutely aware of the possibility of unwanted attention, so for my own personal safety and responsibility I thought it would be a good idea.

So for me using a stage name has had a huge number of benefits –

  • I’ve been able to seperate my dance persona and my private persona
  • my stage name reflects the kind of imagery I’d like to think I evoke as a bellydance performer
  • I’ve been able to build a strong brand and presence around my stage name, allowing me to be comfortable in being Kalikah at any dance functions or performances, seamlessly able to get into or maintain my stage persona
  • my privacy is protected

Everyone has their preferences for their identity, and for me having a stage name has worked for me for over 8 years. I no longer think of that name as just a label, it’s me & everything I stand for as a bellydancer and as a performer!

What do you think? Do you have a stage name? Do you choose not to have a stage name? What have been your greatest benefits from either using one or refraining from using a stage name?

 

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15 Gift ideas for the Belly Dancer in Your Life

The festive season is quickly approaching, and gifting that special something for the bellydancer in your life can be a minefield of confusion (and glitter). So to help ease off the stress of buying for your belly babe, or to gift to your fellow dance sisters, I’ve compiled my top gifts for bellydancers! (this may or may not be a hint to my significant other…*coughnudgecough*)

These aren’t necessarily ‘bellydance’ gifts, but more practical items that would come in handy or enhance the  dancing practice, performance, and experience!

For the Gig-a-holic Dancer

– The Gig Bag –

For the travelling performing dancer, the gig bag is essential. This gorgeous bag has a safe place to store makeup, costumes and some snacks for when you’re on the go, in style of course! This also doubles as a great bag to take to the gym or to a workshop weekend intensive!

Stella Sport Leopard Team Bag $79.95
Stella Sport Leopard Team Bag $79.95  

 

– The Portable Speaker –

When you’re backstage prepping for a show, a portable speaker is an awesome option especially if you have a last minute group rehearsal. It’s also a great one to pop into your bag when you’re travelling to shows to have an impromptu dance practice at your accommodation, or to start a party post show!

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Bose Bluetooth Speaker $399 

 

– Travel Size Brush Set –

Every dancer needs her go-to makeup brushset,  this beautiful collection from 3CE has both striking design (so if it gets mixed up backstage it’s easily identified) and a sleek, no fuss storage that is perfect to throw into your gig bag!

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3CE Travel Brush Kit $142 Buy it here

 

For the Tribal Goddess

– Finger Cymbals-

Finger cymbals are a must have musical instrument for every Tribal bellydancer! These gorgeous Sagats by Zenptah are 100% Australian made, and are similar to zills but are made of thicker, higher quality metal and have a slightly different production process. They have the perfect balance of satisfying weight and beautiful sound. Sold in lots of 4 (2 pairs), you can buy one for you and one for your fellow tribe sister!

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Zenptah Sagats, $100 (2 pairs) Buy it here

– Jewelled Adornments –

Every bellydancer loves a bit of sparkle! Get her a gorgeous bindi for her to adorn herself – Check out the gorgeous range from Aussie artists 3D Bindi (pictured below) and Bespoke Bindis & Other Accouturements. Both lovely ladies take custom orders and their work is exquisite!

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Bindis handmade by 3D Bindi (POA). Buy it here

– The Gift of Dance –

Now you can bring some of the world’s top dancers into your own lounge room with Datura Online! Give the gift of dance to your belly babe with a prepaid subscription of 30 days ($25), 90 days ($35) or a whole year ($260)!

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Datura Online Memberships $25-$260 Buy it here

For the Costume Addict

– Beautiful Storage –

One thing you’ll learn if your significant other is a bellydancer, is that YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH JEWELLERY! Here’s a practical way to store your precious items which doubles as a gorgeous feature for your home!

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Plum & Bow Jewellery Organizer Mirror $49 

– Body Bling –

Give the gift of bling with a gorgeous body chain that can be worn on and off stage! Lovingly hand crafted by internationally renowned fusion bellydancer Olivia Kissel, by purchasing her wares  you’re supporting the global dance community AND looking great!

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The Serpent Body Drape by Olivia Kissel $484 Buy it here

– Footless Sandals –

Adorn your tootsies and complete every outfit with a pair of footless sandals! There’s a huge range of colours and styles online, and they’ll add that extra twinkle to your footwork!

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Lotus Barefoot Sandals, $80 

For the Workshop Addict

– Yoga Mat –

Great for home or class practice, yoga mats are an essential tool for better comfort and stability when conditioning for bellydance via stretching and strengthening. The Gaiam website even has a tutorial on which mat to select based on what you’re using it for, and the mats come in a variety of gorgeous prints to make you stand out at your next workshop!

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Gaiam premium Marrakesh Yoga Mat $30 Buy it here

– Look the Part –

For the ultimate in practice wear (and also great additions to your costume wardrobe) Melodia Designs pioneered many looks that are now considered synonymous with bellydance activewear. The quality of her garments has been tried and tested by hobbyists and professionals alike, with classic silhouettes and breathable fabrics.

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Melodia Designs Minnie Classic Flare $79.00 Buy it here

– Take Notes –

Keep all of your bellydance workshop and class notes in an aptly decorated notebook! This gorgeous illustration is one of many available designs on RedBubble, you could even upload your own image for a completely custom look!

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Scheherazade Spiral Notebook $15 Buy it here

For the Studio

– Add Character –

Transport your dance space into an exotic haven with the addition of beautiful Moroccan style candle holders and lanterns. Light them up for beautiful patterns and shapes to shadow your walls or keep them as ornaments to add character!

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Road to Home Temple Lid Candle Holder $57 Buy it here

– Evoke the Senses –

Burning scented candles or using mood diffusers work wonders in creating a lush space. We strongly associate smell with emotions, and nothing is better than coming into your favourite space greeted by a familiar smell. This also helps in de-stressing and helping you get in the right mood for dance!

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Glasshouse Fragrances Persia Diffuser $43 Buy it here

– Inspire Yourself –

Beautiful art in your most sacred space is a constant source of creative inspiration, and makes your studio feel less like a workout area and more like an inviting home! Whether you are inspired by landscapes, colours, shapes or dance art, there will be something beautiful that will work for you! I like this piece because it reminds me of our roots in folkloric dance and the many branches that have flourished as we pass on the dance via our teachers to the next generation.

 

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Mangowood Tree of Life Wall Carving $379 Buy it here

Phew! If you’ve reached the bottom, well done! I have plenty more gift ideas but now it’s your turn – what kind of gifts would you give to your dancer significant other or bellydance sister/teacher/student?

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.

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?

Bellydance and Body Image: A personal journey

After much thought, I’ve decided to share the experiences I’ve had during my ten year bellydance journey in terms of my body image – how my personal identity has been forged as a result of starting bellydance in early adulthood, and how expectations as a performer (or my own imaginary expectations) have impacted the way I view my body image and self esteem. (this is a long read, so grab a cuppa and settle in!)

After finishing high school, I felt a deep sense of loss of female connection. Like many, I didn’t have the best experience, I was bullied and made to feel unworthy because I was built differently to other girls, with a large ‘bubble’ butt, wide hips, big thighs but a narrow waist. Clothes didn’t fit me, boys my age didn’t like me and other girls didn’t have the same kind of body shape problems I felt like I did. In hindsight I guess this is all part of growing up but I felt an innate sense of not belonging anywhere that truly resonated with my whole being. I was never great at making friends with girls, I’d always been a tomboy and got along much better with boys, so I felt like I was missing something now that I was free to choose my own path.  It was for this reason I spontaneously decided to give bellydancing a try, after all it was all about being a woman & perhaps I’d meet people to make a connection with.

I honestly had no idea what to expect. I’d seen a bellydancer at a relative’s birthday party but the performer at the event didn’t pique my interest at the time. I remember my first lesson vividly, where I learned how to do snake arms and proper posture. I was really astounded at how simple it all seemed – the movements we were being taught were so natural and fluid it didn’t feel like effort at all. A couple of weeks later we were starting to learn hip movements and I bought my very first hipscarf, which I still own to this day. I remember feeling a satisfying heaviness on my hips and watched my movements in the mirror – and I had an epiphany right there. All of a sudden my too wide hips were making beautiful shapes accentuated by the curve of my waist, and my Kardashian butt was powering through hip circles with no worries! It dawned on me that my body was made for this dance, and that I shouldn’t be ashamed of my body any more. And so I was hooked, and took up this newfound hobby with enthusiasm, accepting each new movement as an exciting challenge to eventually earn that hallowed honour – to have my very own costume and perform on stage.

When I think about ‘a bellydancer’ my mind’s eye sees an impossibly leggy, voluptuous, long haired woman with dark hair and tanned skin. Each time I was hired for an event I did my darndest to fulfill this expectation I believed the audience needed. I covered my lily white skin with fake tan, darkened my hair and tried to create an aura of mystique and character, this is where Kalikah Jade was born. It was a lot of effort but I loved feeling exotic, beautiful, womanly and feminine doing something that seemed so natural to me at the time!

Fast forward five or six years and I had continued to explore my path as a performer. The hobby turned into an obsession but again I began to feel a disconnect with my peers as I realised I could channel my dance to reflect the kind of music and stylization that really resonated with who I was at the time. I was always aware of the Tribal Fusion movement, but early on in my training I was so busy learning the fundamentals that it never hit my radar until later on. I saw ‘fusion’ as a way to ditch the fake tan and thigh high split skirts and become more authentic in cultivating a persona for myself as an artist, so I could put to use the technique I’d learned in a way that suited my own body type and musical tastes. Youtube exploded, and suddenly I was watching videos of sinous, long limbed women performing feats of flexibility and strength that boggled my mind but intrigued me all the same. I had a wealth of information at my fingertips as I realised that I had only just begun to discover my art form.

With the increasing dominance of social media and internet use in general, slowly but surely I’ve found that though the community has been given a voice it’s also allowed an identity to seep through which brings me back to the earlier conundrum of feeling like ‘not belonging’. Every aspect of bellydance is now being hyper documented to the point where it almost feels fetishized – Pinterest being a huge example where costumes, makeup, hair, photoshoot ideas, props and body shapes become an aspirational want, an item to be collected and added amongst a long list of other equally beautiful and often unnattainable objects. (Does this then add the bellydancer ideal as an art form in the classic sense….? I digress!)
The new ‘ideal’ in my imagination became more apparent to me as I delved deeper into fusion style expression. My dance partner at the time was just about the opposite of me, tall and lean with long, graceful arm lines who loved making shapes with the upper body. The emphasis on balletic shapes, poses and patterns coupled with a more technical approach to dance really didn’t suit my short, thick arms and curvy figure, and for the first time in a long while I began to feel as though perhaps I wasn’t suited to bellydance after all. It did take a long time for me to realise that this of course was not the case, and that different dancers have different strengths and preferences, however at the time it was a bit confronting to have lost confidence in myself after finding it through dance to begin with.

I kept my insecurities to myself, teaching others instead that every body moves differently and has its own beauty, in all shapes, sizes and ages. I began to take some time out from dance as I think my internalized pressure to live up to a certain ‘ideal’ really knocked around my self esteem and I focussed on nurturing my body in other ways instead.

As a performer and teacher, I am putting my body on show for better or worse. The initial confidence I discovered from learning to bellydance waned over the years as I felt like I was caught up in what I should be instead of what I am. And what I am, is human – it’s completely normal to feel insecure, to be unsure or to fear change. In pursuing the dance I have been most happy when following my own path in choosing costumes that work for me, moving to music that resonates with me, using techniques from a myriad of teachers to express something that is uniquely me.

Contrary to many views, I don’t think that there are any rules in what constitutes bellydance as a whole. We all learn the fundamentals so that we can discover our own identity and flourish while sharing in an ancient art form that celebrates femininity and diversity. As the dance evolves and changes direction, ideals of beauty will continue to shift, but if you are authentic to yourself, realise that YOU are the ideal, so own it, share it and embrace what it is to be human.

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!

5 Tips for a flawless stage face

Kalikah Jade - Smokey Eye
Get stage-ready makeup with my quick tips & notice the difference in your look. 

Performance is often about illusion – constructing a story through costuming, movement, staging, lighting and sound. Often stage lights aren’t always the most flattering, or sometimes they’re so strong that when you look back on performance footage it’s like you just woke up out of bed! Going to all the effort to construct a believable illusion extends to your most expressive feature – your face. Now from my own experiences here are my top 5 tips for a flawless stage face that will suit any condition!

1. A Strong Foundation

The base of your face is imperative to get right – the foundation helps makeup to stick, and serves to blank the canvas that is your face so that you can tell your story with colour and contouring. Ensure that you always moisturize before putting on your foundation, and select a matte variety – this will ensure that you won’t have the dreaded ghost face when you are on stage. For extra staying power use a mineral powder to set, that way you won’t sweat it off!

2. More is More

Stage lights are like a black hole – they suck in your features and wash them out! Everything on stage needs to be BIG to be seen. You might feel ridiculous but experiment with darkening your brows, adding more eyeshadow, more blush and fake lashes and notice the difference. I take a lot of tips from drag queens who make up their faces to give an illlusion of face shape – their technique is incredible for making features stand out.

3. Layer It On

When it comes to building up colour for stage, one swipe of eye shadow isn’t going to cut it. Build up colour slowly and carefully so that it becomes opaque and that way stage lights won’t cut right through.

4. Don’t Sweat It

Ever wondered how people can get hot and bothered on stage but their makeup STAYS EXACTLY WHERE IT IS??!? No its not magic, it’s the type of product. Use oil based product and voila, you won’t sweat off your makeup, provided that there is enough build up on your face to form a big enough barrier.

5. What Glitters is Gold

Don’t forget to finish off your look with some glitter! Glitter is awesome because it highlights, adds depth and generally sparkles, making you look like a crazy, fabulous fairy. Though it doesn’t generally show up a heap on stage it brightens your face and is fun to apply!

Blue glitter stage eyes.
Lashes – check. Bright lips – check. Glitter – double check!

Do you have any hot tips to share? I’d love to hear more!

Yoga for Bellydancers: The Top 10 Poses You Need in Your Practice

In my previous post I wrote about how yoga changed my life, helping me to rehabilitate a chronic back injury and also improving my bellydance technique. This certainly didn’t happen overnight, or all at once. Over the course of a number of years I gradually incorporated yoga into my practice and by trial and error I encountered many beneficial poses that not only helped my flexibility but also improved my strength and general wellbeing.

The most beneficial yoga poses which I believe helped to rehabilitate my lower back but also provide more stability in my belly dance technique target the hip flexors, hamstrings, lower back and core.

All images are sourced from http://www.yogajournal.com – a fantastic resource for technique and information about building your own practice. Links to each pose from the website are in the numbered headings.

1. LOW LUNGE

Low Lunge
Low Lunge

This pose is a fantastic beginner’s pose, to increase the stretch in the hip flexor you can scoot your knee back. The front knee must be over the ankle at all times. Any variation of lunge is a great way to safely stretch the hip flexor.

2. 1-LEGGED KING PIGEON POSE

One Legged King Pigeon
One Legged King Pigeon

For the beginner, this pose can be executed without arms, and with assistance of a blanket or bolster under the buttocks if the hips are too tight. The King Pigeon pose is not only a fantastic hip flexor stretch but also does wonders for the glutes and outer hip. I found this pose to help my slow hipwork, particularly figure eights and omnis.

3. STANDING FORWARD BEND

Standing Forward Bend
Standing Forward Bend

This is a great pose to stretch out both the hamstrings and lower back, and is perfect for after class as a cooldown especially if you have been drilling lots of hip or lower back intensive movement. To really stretch the lower back you can bend the knees as much as you need and rest the belly on the thighs.

4. WIDE-LEGGED FORWARD BEND

Wide-legged forward bend
Wide-legged forward bend

One of my favourite post-class poses, this is a great lower back and hamstring stretch to improve flexibility. The wider apart your legs are, the easier it is to reach the floor, so you can increase difficulty by shuffling the feet closer together for a stronger stretch. You can lift the head from the floor and vary your arm positions to stretch the hips and side abdominals as well.

5. EXTENDED TRIANGLE POSE

Extended Triangle Pose
Extended Triangle Pose

A great pose that lengthens the hamstrings, side abdominals and calves, which also strengthens the knees and core, while opening the chest and alleviates stress on the lower back.

6. REVOLVED HEAD-TO-KNEE POSE

Revolved Head to Knee Pose
Revolved Head to Knee Pose

This pose is your new best friend. You’ll stretch your hamstring but with the twist and side bend you’ll experience a deep stretch down your side abdominals and right into your hip joint. As dancers we use these muscles a lot but there’s not always an accessible stretch to relieve and lengthen these areas we overuse. It also has the added benefit of stretching the upper body and generally relieving stress.

7. BOAT POSE

Boat Pose
Boat Pose

To be strong dancers and to avoid injury, core strength is a must. To target different abdominal groups you can gradually lower but not touch the floor then engage the core to raise back into boat pose. A strong core protects the spine and improves posture and carriage. If you engage in floorwork for your dance, core strength is a must to execute the dance safely and gracefully.

8. SIDE PLANK POSE

Side Plank Pose
Side Plank Pose

This pose can be modified by bringing the lower knee to the floor to begin conditioning the side abdominals and upper body. The side plank with the extended arm not only opens the side body but helps to engage the side abdominals and improve balance.

9. CAMEL POSE

Camel Pose
Camel Pose

If you engage in floorwork, backbends or laybacks in your dancing, the camel pose is a great strengthener for your back and thighs. It also has the benefit of stretching the entire front of the body.

10. HALF LORD OF THE FISHES POSE

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

After you’ve done a hard session of dancing and yoga-ing, cool down with this seated twist – you’ll gently release your spine and end your practice with a smile!

It was so hard to choose just 10 poses, but these are the ones  which really helped me personally in my journey as a dancer and yoga student. Do you have any favourite poses I haven’t featured?