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Questions & Answers

I thought I'd take this opportunity to answer some questions that dancers have e-mailed or asked me. Below are answers to five questions I am asked the most.

1. I have a limited budget and can't afford many costumes. How can I get the most out of my costumes?

Multi-coloured cabaret bra and belt sets are the best for versatility. For example, if you have a costume that has red, black, gold, silver and orange in it, you can turn it into five different costumes. Not only can you wear different coloured skirts with the bra and belt, you can change the style of skirt from circle, petal, Turkish panel, eight-point, multi-point, fishtail, and the list goes on. Changing your veil to match the skirt is also recommended and using a variety of veils, from rectangle, to half circle, to veils with ruffles. You can wear harem pants instead of a skirt, and a vest over the bra. Changing the fringe colour on your costume is another option. If you are going to try this, I'd suggest not sewing the fringe right on the bra cup, but underneath the cup, along the sides/back or in a loop in the middle. These areas can take the constant attaching and reattaching better than the bra cups. Changing accessories will help with the overall effect too. Alternate between long beaded gloves, small wrist accessories, upper armbands, detachable sleeves, head drapes, crowns, etc.

Folk costuming is a matter of mix-and-match. Different scarves can be worn with the same beledi dress. Skirts, choli tops, and vests can be interchanged. If you layer your skirts, change the sequence each time you dance. Different styles of hats can be worn, with veil material or large scarves pinned to them for added effect. Wear a variety of scarves or turbans around your head and frame your face using different jewelry.

2. What do I wear on my feet when dancing?

A lot of dancers perform barefoot and there are some very nice jeweled drapes available to adorn your feet if you want a more elegant look. I suggest having a pedicure before you dance to keep feet looking lovely. If dancing barefoot, try to make sure the floor is clean ahead of time and no beads or sequins have fallen from other dancers - these can become imbedded in your feet - ouch! Hermes sandals are very common, natural looking and comfortable. If interested in high-heeled shoes, use ballroom shoes, which are made for dancing. Practice ahead of time, as the heel will alter your state of balance and could be confusing for you. I've seen some dancers wear ballet slippers, having sprayed them gold or silver and added jewels or sequins for a fancier appearance. Ankle bracelets and cuffs (like wristbands) are great extra touches, even henna tattoos if you're really daring.

3. I can't afford fringe! How can I make my own, and is it worth it?

Fringe is easy to make, just time consuming. The benefit is that you can make it any length, use the beads, colours and design you want. When I make my own fringe, I sew it onto a piece of sturdy gros grain ribbon (found at any fabric or notion store), which makes it easy to sew on to a costume and reuse at a later date. However, you can sew the fringe right on to your costume if you prefer. I recommend using beading thread, dental floss, or nylon thread that has been coated with wax. Use beading needles, which are thinner than regular needles. I also recommend knotting the thread after each strand, so that if one breaks, it doesn't affect the rest of the fringe. You don't have to cut the thread, just pull the needle through the last stitch a few times as if tying a knot. Don't string the beads too tight or they won't move freely. Leave about 1/8th of an inch of extra thread for movement.

To start, knot the thread through the gros grain a few times first, then pull the needle through the gros grain (from bottom to top) and start stringing your beads. Once you've strung the last bead of a strand, you have two options. You can attach a ssed or round beed to the bottom (or skip the seed beed if preferred), loop around the last bead and thread the needle through the second last beed and back up to the top. Push the needle from the top to bottom of the gros grain and knot. Alternately, you can knot the thread at the bottom of the last bead instead of double-stringing the beads - just loop the thread through the bead a few times and tie in a knot each instance. If using this method, double your thread for extra strength.

Turkish fringe is made using a different method. Individual strands are strung at double the required length - example, if you want four inch fringe, make each strand 8 inches in length and fold in half. Once you have quite a few strands strung, crochet or sew each strand together, at the fold to form a thin, flexible "rope". It is this "rope" that is sewn directly onto the costume. While more work than the above method, it does provide greater flexibility for attaching the fringe to tricky spots such as the bra cups. However, it's a little more difficult to remove without ruining if you want to reuse it later on.

4. How do I know what colour suits me?

There's no denying that some colours suit us better than others. How do we decide which ones, though? The first thing I do is look at hair colour and thing about what colours would contrast or go well with it. I check for any highlights and thing about colours that will bring out those highlights. Once I've decided on a colour, I then think about shades. A person's skin tone affects the shade to use. Do they have a fair, medium or dark complexion? What tinge does their skin tone have (i.e. yellow, orange, red, brown). Lastly, I look at a person's eye colour and will sometimes choose a colour that will match or accent here. There are no set rules, but I find that these guidelines work well when choosing costume colours for clients.

5.How should I wear my hair?

There is nothing worse than a dancer who has everything together, but her hair - or worse, a hairstyle - that is falling apart! If you clip your hair back or wear a ponytail, make sure the clips/head band are sturdy and will hold during your dance. Use clips with stones, sequins or glitter for glamour. Glitter gel in hair is nice and sparkles in the light. If wearing a crown, head drape or other head accessory, ensure that it is pinned well and practice ahead of time so you feel comfortable wearing it. Wigs and hair extensions or false hairpieces are great and add an extra dramatic flair, especially if you are dancing for people who know you. Just make sure that you know how to wear it properly and have it secured well. You don't want to flip you head up and have your "hair" flying off or have hair that's constantly moving off center it happens, believe me. You don't need a fancy hairstyle, just hair that looks clean, healthy and not like a bird's nest!

Hope one or more of these questions helped you out. Till next time, happy dancing!


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