My Bharatanatyam class performed a dance yesterday; to your left is a photo of me all decked out my costume. The show was lovely; it’s nice to see such talented dancers. I have a lot of work to catch up on, due the extra rehearsals and losing Sunday to the show, but here are some important things I learned:

– Plan at least an hour to get ready. The photo doesn’t show it, but I also had a fake hair braid down the back. Everything had to be pinned (hair pins or safety pins) or tied with string; if you look at my left arm, you can see the string on the arm pieces. There are a lot of components to that costume.

– Try to break in the costume. My costume was brand new, and I think that contributed to my fan (the piece on the middle) not spreading beautifully. The fan was very stiff, albeit beautiful. I noticed most people had silk fans, rather than the stiffer gold brocade. I think wearing it more will soften the fabric a bit.

-The rhinestone jewelry does look stunning on stage. Some of the dancers had especially sparkly jewelry and it shimmered and sparkled when they were barely doing anything. Beautiful!

-Get better cases for big jewelry. I had separated out some of the smaller pieces using plastic food containers, but I need something bigger for the belt and head piece. I think it would make finding pieces a lot easier when I need them.

All in all, I learned a lot from participating and am glad I finally had the opportunity to perform something I learned in classical Indian dance.


Even with the holiday Monday, I feel ever so slightly behind on life. Photos and adjustments to my costume haven’t happened yet, because school, MassRaqs, and Bharatanatyam are taking up time.

Yesterday, I had 6 hours back to back of lecture, which was a bit hard to sit through. Not impossible, but I was definitely feeling antsy. I’m glad that I brought a snack along, because I was starving after the first class.

The schoolwork, thus far, doesn’t seem bad. A fair amount of reading, but besides one class where we have a presentation every week for awhile, nothing too crazy. One of the things I’m struggling with in school isn’t the work but knowing how to gauge things. A physics or math class is fairly predictable, and I’ve done it numerous times. I have a firm grasp on the time and effort it takes me to do physics, plus there is typically a definitive end point. With humanities, not only have I not taken a humanities class in about 5 years, but also I don’t know how much time a grad humanities should take me. Physics grad school was kind of similar to physics undergrad for me, only more difficult material and in-class exams.

MassRaqs is slowly culminating. I work on the program, so it’s sort of rush rush time to get things in and then for me to make it happen.

As for Bharatanatyam, I’ve been going to practice twice a week, as well as trying to practice on my own. I think it is coming along, although we have not had a consistent group of dancers to rehearse. The choreography has place changes and parts where only certain people dance, so the vision is a little lost when only a handful of people are there.

The other big project, my new website, unfortunately has been put to the side. I’m hoping to have completed it by the end of this month, though. Like most things in life, making my website has taken a little more work than I had anticipated. Things have changed a lot from when I made websites, and making a site with a CMS wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be.

In the recent months, my need for costumes has increased. I mean an actual need, not just simply a desire. Meiver’s show- I need 3 costumes (the thobe, two Egyptian-syle sets). For my Bharatanatyam class recital, I need one Bharatanatyam costume. I’ve been trying to make wise choices for what I buy. The reason I own very few costumes is money. And by few, I mean, I now have one Egyptian-style skirt and bra set, 1 thobe, and 1 Bharatanatyam costume.

My Bharatanatyam costume and jewelry was purchased by a friend who went to India this past summer. I sent him with specific instructions of the style of costume and my measurements. I waited anxiously. Bharatanatyam costumes, as far as I can tell, cannot be purchased in the US. My dance teacher only recommended places in India, and I wasn’t able to locate a shop, even in NYC or Chicago. I had two options, other than my friend: buy a used costume or buy online. Although I’m not adverse to used costumes, I know I’m a hard fit. I’m short and thin with some curve. Buying online meant really high shipping and no idea what the costume would look like. That’s why I opted for my friend, whose taste I trust.

I just got my costume Saturday, so I haven’t taken photos yet; I plan on posting them tomorrow. My friend did an excellent job of picking out a pretty olive colored costume. The measurements seem like they worked out overall. The blouse is a bit shorter than I would’ve liked, as well as having too tight sleeves (I get muffin top on my arms!) and too tight in the bust. That was peculiar, since I haven’t gained weight this summer, and my teacher made my measurements an inch too big intentionally, since she claims that the costumers always make the costumes too small. The good news is that the seams are huge and have enough extra fabric that I can increase everything, except the length; I’m hoping that by increasing the width in the bust area that the blouse will be a bit longer on me.

I’ve tried on the pants and the bells. Although I don’t want the costume to become sweaty and/or ruined, it will take practice moving in it. I didn’t realize how much the costume restricts movement. Maybe restrict is the wrong word, but it definitely changes how I move. I haven’t had the chance to try on the rest; it appears that Bharatanatyam costumes are much more complicated than a Middle Eastern dance costume. I seriously couldn’t figure out how to wear anything but the blouse, the pants, and this covering for the pants. Even though I’m not the kind of person who goes crazy with costumes, I have to admit it is really exciting to have a nice costume to wear for a performance.

In my R&R time, people have posted photos of the show from Wednesday. We look really good. I was particularly relieved that my makeup wasn’t too much or too little; my SO thought it was too much, but he also the type of person who thinks women look better without makeup than with it. I think he marginally understands the need for stage makeup. Although others said my makeup looked great, I like having proof for myself.

On a shallow note, I was especially happy to see that my foundation worked. Finding the ideal foundation is difficult for me. I’m not very good at getting the right color and then I often find myself with something that I’m allergic to or wears oddly on my skin. I settled on Makeup Forever’s HD Foundation. Although it’s pricey, a little bit went a long way. I also think the foundation is somewhere between something I’ll wear often but not so often that it’ll needed replaced frequently, if that makes sense. I also really love the pump delivery, since I prefer to apply my foundation with my fingers vs. a brush; I’ve had foundations with bottles that don’t have pump, and it’s much trickier to get the right amount.

I applied my foundation at 3:00 in the afternoon. After changing clothes 5 times (into 4 costumes and then street clothes) and performing 4 times, it was still going strong at 11 PM when I washed it off. If you’re looking for a good foundation for performance, I’d say this one definitely is worth checking out.

I spent most of today resting. All the practices and the high of the performance yesterday called for today to be a day of rest. My neck is a bit sore today from the Khaleegi, but other than that, I feel pretty good.

I think the show went well. Many people I respect said very kind things, including Nepenthe who was kind enough to even write a review of the show last night on Facebook (and be present with a huge sincere smile on her face). It’s really touching to see that people are supportive in the community. Speaking of community, this being one of the only student shows I’ve been in, it was neat to see how everyone did pull together the night of the show. Things have been stressful, and yet, we’re all willing to lend a hand to help people change costumes, make sure everyone looks good, share snacks, etc. With 4 costume changes (or 5, if you were a soloist), we all worked together as team to make sure things happened as scheduled.

The show was fun. I think we did well. I know there were parts I didn’t do so hot (my fan veils and I were too close to the curtain, so the silk couldn’t go back when it needed to, and that caused issues), but I kept going since there is no other choice. I think it overall went well, and most importantly, people enjoyed it. It was a really good evening overall. The Modern Oriental was a good opening number. My favorite to do was the Saidi, but I heard most praise on the Khaleegi. My SO loved how the hair tossing looked at the end (and somehow missed that I almost fell backwards when sitting up after that). In Nepenthe’s review, she wrote that she enjoyed this piece, because it made a social dance interesting to watch. I admittedly am not fan of watching most Khaleegi, simply because it isn’t that dynamic on stage. However, Meiver made the dance like a party and gave us all different roles to do, while still making the dance cohesive and performance-worthy.

The MataHari people are absolutely fantastic. They were very kind throughout the evening and so appreciative; they even purchased flowers for all of us. It felt good to do something for such kind people who work for such an amazing cause.

I couldn’t see any of the show, unfortunately, but judging from the applause, it sounded like it was enjoyable. We haven’t heard a tally of how much money we raised for MataHari, but I wasn’t expecting to hear that yet. I imagine Meiver is rightfully resting. If you are interested in giving money to MataHari or reading more about them, please go here.

The experience certainly had its ups and downs, but I really enjoyed learning these dances, being forced out of my comfort zones, and getting to know some of my classmates better. A few of us were talking about what we had hoped to get out of this experience. I definitely ended up with what I had wanted (troupe/group experience, growth as a dancer, etc.). It’s a little strange to not be at Meiver’s studio tonight with everyone, like the routine has been since May.

With the show fast approaching, I need to obtain a bra and belt set. It turns out that I cannot borrow one and for me to make one- well, there isn’t enough time. There isn’t enough time to comission someone else to do it, either; my plan was originally to get a nice costume for this local designer named Shadia. Shadia’s work is gorgeous, I hear she’s very reasonable with cost, and she’s local, so that means I can get things fitted to me by her. Even with sending your measurements to the costume designers abroad, people still end up having to adjust. I figure that I’d rather have something fit me right away.

But I digress. I’m learning why I have never bought a bra and belt set of any flavor. They’re kind of pricey. That isn’t to say that they aren’t worth it, but a few hundred dollars is a lot, even if it’s great quality and will last. The ones that are cheaper may fall apart significantly faster, and most of them honestly are not my style. There’s also the issue of fit. I’m short, and on the smaller side; a lot of costumes are not surprisingly made for people of average proportions.

I’ve posted on Bhuz just now, in hopes someone has an amazing bra and belt set that I can purchase. On one hand, spending that much scares me. I try to be cautious with my money. On the other hand, a good bra and belt set should carry me for quite awhile. I’ve remained more or less the same size for the past few years, and I’m always impressed with how different accessories and skirts can change the look of the bra and belt. Even though finding a good set is a current struggle, I’m excited to own my first real costume.

As most readers would know, I don’t roll in dough. However, I do make a point of budgeting in dance. Dance benefits me both physically and mentally, so I include it in my budget. That isn’t to say that dance can’t costly. Here are some of my tips to keep yourself moving while not going broke.

  • Look into work study or bartering. I currently do work-study at a huge dance studio to pay for my Middle Eastern dance classes. It’s a very good deal, one hour of office work for one dance class. At least one other studio in this area offers work-study; I’m sure there are other studios in the world that have work-study established. Bartering also may be something to explore; teachers need anything from professional helpers (seamstresses, website designers, etc.) to other kinds of help (childcare). Ask politely; you never know what kind of deal you could strike up.
  • Distinguish wants from needs. Particularly with the active internet communities, I think it’s easy to get caught up in the want part of dance. You see the costumes, the fancy practicewear, etc. But how much of it do you need? There are cheap options for practicewear (a lot of people favor leggings or yoga pants and a tank top). Costumes may or may not make sense for you to purchase; if you’re not planning on performing for awhile/at all, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to purchase a costume if you don’t have the money. If you are performing, that brings me to my next hint.
  • Find where the deals are! Costumes can be purchased for lesser costs. You may not end up with a designer costume, but plenty of dancers sell their used costumes for fair prices; some costumes have very minimal wear. They do this online (Bhuz, for instance) or in face to face trades. If you do a dance form that doesn’t have an online community or in person swap meets, you should ask your teacher. S/he may know of used deals. If you’re looking for shoes/practicewear, it’s always good to ask other people where to go; your particular teacher or school may have worked out a discount deal for students if they name drop at certain stores. There are also online stores, such asĀ  Discount Dance Supply, where dance shoes, practice gear, etc. can be purchased for very reasonable prices.
  • Share studio space. If you and a friend are working on the same pieces and lack performance space, why not split the cost of a studio and practice together? I learned in the past few weeks that studios can rent for very fair prices. My classmates and I are splitting the cost of a studio to practice for 1.5 hours. Although we do not have a final head count, I don’t think I’m paying more than $4 for that practice.
  • Shop wisely. One of my favorite things to do with dance is take workshops. Those can indeed be costly. Although I encourage people who have time/money to check out everything, because you never know what you’ll like, it’s important to think about what you will learn at certain workshops. If you know, for instance, that tribal isn’t your thing, it probably isn’t worthwhile to attend a tribal workshop, particularly if there is another workshop coming up. I also am a big fan of asking around about teachers, workshop content, etc. People love sharing what they learned, so you can use their opinions to determine if the workshop is worth it to you. I also recommend checking local calendars, so you can really see what’s being offered and how to spend your money.

Anyone else have any other tips for saving money on dance?