On Accepting Compliments

I have learned a lot since I began belly dancing, but the most valuable thing that I have acquired is the ability to accept and appreciate compliments.

I haven’t always had the best self-esteem and, honestly, there are still days in which I don’t love being me but belly dance has taught me that I am a pretty cool human and that other people sometimes think so too.

Before belly dance was a part of my life, I used to brush off compliments regularly. I didn’t *believe* the nice things that people said to me because I couldn’t *see* those nice things in myself. “Your hair looks nice today,” she would say. “Thanks. I wish it wasn’t so frizzy,” I would reply. What?! This lovely person just went out of their way to compliment me and what do I do? I thank them but immediately follow up with a self-inflicted insult. Not cool. But how do I change that behavior?

There are lots of ways to approach this but my favorite is highlighted in Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.  Mr. Carnegie tells us to

“give honest and sincere appreciation.”

When you give a heartfelt compliment to another, you are starting a chain reaction. You mean what you are saying and so you expect the person that you’re complimenting to believe it with all of their heart. I remember attending belly dance shows and telling the performers how much I enjoyed their dances. I meant what I said, so I expected the dancers to believe that I was telling the truth. Fast forward a few years…now I am stepping off of the stage and people are complimenting me on my performance. What did I do? The same thing as with the compliment on my hair…I said thank you to them, but I didn’t believe that my performance was good (because I messed up or the audience wasn’t responsive or you name it), so I usually followed up with a remark about how I messed up or blah blah blah. Lame.

After a while, I noticed that some other dancers brushed off compliments like I did and it clicked for me that this is SILLY. A person that is showing appreciation is most likely doing so from a genuine standpoint, so that individual believes wholeheartedly whatever they are telling you. Isn’t that enough? If one person appreciates something that you do, THAT’S AWESOME! Celebrate that. You deserve it. Once you open up your mind to this idea, you will be able to thank the people who compliment you with absolute authenticity and guess what? That builds your self-esteem because it makes you admit to yourself that you are doing something right. 

Because of belly dance, I accept compliments with pure gratitude and I love my body and myself waaaay more than I used to. I am proud to be me, flaws and all.

What is the most important thing that you have learned from belly dance? Please share your stories!

Product Review: Deo by Domh Signature Scent

I love supporting my friends and I also like not smelling bad, so I recently purchased a stick of Signature Scent deodorant from Deo by Domh, a belly dance friend of mine who makes and sells homemade natural skin care products. You can find her products on Etsy by clicking the links above. I put the deo to the test over the course of a few weeks. Here’s what I thought:

About The Product

Deo by Domh’s Signature Scent deodorant is natural, handmade to order, and all of the ingredients are listed on the label (other than the specific combination of essentials oils used). The scent contains tea tree oil and is universal for any gender.

Ingredients

About The Brand

Deo by Domh is a homemade natural body care business based in Traverse City, Michigan. Only 100% Therapeutic Grade essential oils are used, blended in such a way to adjust to your body throughout your day. Products are made to order in small batches by an awesome woman in her home kitchen.

Likes

  • Natural ingredients.
  • Goes on clear.
  • Subtle, fresh scent: I wish that I had a more sophisticated nose so that I could describe the scent to you, but I would be making things up if I tried. The husbeast says it is a “zesty citrus medley.” It is a subtle fresh scent when worn, not obnoxious or overpowering.
  • Staying power: I wore this product to a belly dance intensive and didn’t shower after the last day. After a full day of moderately sweaty dancing, a night of heavy sleep, and 3 hours of driving (with air conditioning), I asked the husbeast to rate my pit stank on a scale of zero to “Tim after he has worked all day at Discount Tire,” and he gave me a two! I wore the deo to another, more strenuous dance intensive (5 hours of strong dancing per day) and found that the deo was slightly less effective after the day was half over, but reapplication did the trick to keep me smelling nice until evening. I’m impressed!
  • Cheap, fast shipping (I paid a little over $2). Domh ships worldwide.
When you reapply deodorant after wearing a sparkly choli…

 Dislikes

  • Application: This product is beeswax based, so it has a bit more drag on application. I personally like deo that glides on very smoothly (such as gel). Not a big deal, just a sensory thing. I’m going to keep using it anyway because the pros outweigh the cons.
  • Feel: Armpits feel a bit greasy upon application, a common situation with many stick deodorants.
  • Price: At $6 + shipping, this product is slightly more expensive than ones that I normally purchase (I usually try to aim for $3 or less) but I’m highly satisfied with the product and will not hesitate to reorder.

Neutral Thoughts

  • Due to the homemade nature of this product, imperfections in appearance are to be expected.
  • The label will vary from batch to batch.

Ingredients 

100% Therapeutic Grade essential oils (tea tree oil and others), arrowroot powder, baking soda, beeswax, mango butter, shea butter, and coconut oil.

Conclusion

I love this product and would definitely recommend it to dance friends and everyone else. I would like to thank Domh for creating and selling a natural deodorant that works and smells so good! Please note that due to the small batch nature of this product, it is not available at all times. I see that she is sold out at the time of this writing. Also, as Domh states on her site, the user assumes all risk. I recommend that if you have sensitive skin or any serious medical condition, do not use essential oils without first consulting a medical or essential oil professional.

Disclosure: The owner of this blog was not compensated in any way to provide her opinion on the product. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers’ own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer.

ATS® Technique for Teachers Intensive

Sitting at home with my laptop the day after the 2017 Technique for Teachers intensive, I’m struggling to find the words to describe the past four days. Gobs of smiles and sweat, a few tears, and a tiny bit of blood.

Event Description

“Are your elbows lifted? ATS® has grown into a global phenomenon with an impressive expansion of the number of certified ATS® teachers. The Technique for Teachers Certification Course is a NEW opportunity to ensure that we are all sharing the same high-quality instruction at our Sister Studio locations. In this course for ATS® Teacher Training graduates, Carolena and Megha will assess each teacher’s technique, provide feedback and offer corrections to ensure that all of our students, worldwide, are receiving consistent instruction.

Each day will consist of a detailed breakdown of two core moves from the ATS® vocabulary followed by chorus drills. Each participant will have an opportunity to lead a two-song drill and receive feedback on their movement technique. We’ll have plenty of time for questions and answers, and bonus drills as well.” Moves by day:

  1. Shimmy Family & Taxeem
  2. Egyptian Family, Spins, & Turns
  3. Arabic Family & Body Waves
  4. Pivot Bump Family, Circle Step, & Torso Twist

20 hours total, certificate of completion, SSCE eligible. This course is for dancers who have completed General Skills (Classic and Modern) and Teacher Training. It is recommended that dancers take this and Perfecting Performance before applying to Advanced Teacher Training (ATT). ATT graduates are required to participate in this course annually as continuing education.

My Experience

I had the immense privilege of spending five hours per day for four days learning from and dancing with ATS® master teachers Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman and Megha Gavin and 17 advanced ATS® dancers representing Ontario (Canada), Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Hungary, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and Washington. It was challenging, enriching, and a whole lot of fun!

The daily schedule:

  • 8-9AM: Breakfast
  • 9-10AM: Free Time
  • 10AM-12:30PM: Class (instruction, drills, Q&A)
  • 12:30-1:30PM: Lunch
  • 1:30-4:30PM: Class (individual demos with critiques, chorus & follower practice)
  • 4:30-6PM: Free Time
  • 6-7PM: Dinner
  • 7-11:30PM: Free Time
  • 11:30PM: Quiet Hour Begins

I looooved having so much free time, especially since everyone was staying at the same place. I got to spend a lot of time talking with the other participants about belly dance, science, cooking, air travel, sex education, living in Ukraine, middle and last names in Spain and beyond, where to get good dance pants, baths for muscle relaxation, makeup tips, finding time for socializing at events, and much more. I’d love to tell you more, but a good majority of my favorite memories fall into the “What happens at dance camp, stays at dance camp” category 😉

Morning class time began with a warmup, followed by a detailed breakdown of each move and drills with instructor feedback. There was time at the end of each morning for students to ask additional questions about the moves covered and related moves. I took lots of notes and had many “lightbulb moments.” Weight distribution in Taxeem, amount of heel lift and hip release in Arabic, foot placement and chest location in Camel Walk, stopping slow turns with right foot, location of floreos in Sahra Turn, arm engagement in Body Wave, ASWAAT arms during turn, fully releasing hip in bumps, Single Bump Half Turn feet, latissimus dorsi.

Perfecting our chorus shape and body angles.

In afternoon class, each student was assigned two numbers. The first was your number for roll call as well as the order in which you would be critiqued. The second number determined which group you were in. I was #17 and was in group 5, so I was supposed to be the 17th person to receive critique (I switched with Sam so that I could dance a day earlier because my shoulder injury was acting up) and I danced in a group with Suzy and Marie (chorus and featured) every afternoon. Each person leads one fast song and one slow song, one after the other, before receiving critiques and compliments from Carolena, Megha, and the members of their group.

Marie receiving feedback from Carolena and Megha.
Smiles everywhere on the last day!

Suzy was #3, so she led and received critique on the first day and Marie and I completed her trio. It would have been nice to get the critiques out of the way earlier in my week in order to get the nerve-wracking part over, but it was really nice to get to see how things worked before it was my turn. When my group was not in the featured dancer or chorus positions, we got to be the audience, encouraging the dancer that was being watched and taking notes on their critiques, many of which apply to us as well. The distance between the arms in the Egyptian Basic, body angle in Arc Arms, head and shoulder position in Torso Twist, swinging the Barrel Turn, LATISSIMUS DORSI!!!

View from classroom.

Because I switched to #13 (thank you so much, Sam!), I got to lead on day 3. I am dealing with shoulder impingement syndrome at the moment, and after a 2-day intensive at Tribal Revolution and 2.5 days at Technique for Teachers, my arm was not happy but I danced strongly until the very end of the last song, at which point I lost strength in the arm. My peers were incredibly encouraging while I danced (special shout out to my group members Suzy and Marie for reassuring me every time we made eye contact and to everyone in the audience and chorus, especially Diana, Lisa, and Heather, whose smiles I can still picture in my head). My shoulder was very painful in the end and I’m told that I my eyes looked like they were ready to burst into tears at any moment but I maintained my technique throughout. Carolena smiled and told me that my Ghawazee arms were perfect, which is a pretty big deal for me because that is something that is commonly done incorrectly across the globe. Megha described my Rainbow arms as lovely. I received compliments from my followers on the clarity of my cues. I need to work on my Turkish Shimmy arms (don’t let them go left of the chest), hip bounce in shimmies, Arabic Step chest lift, Body Wave arms (less movement in shoulder socket), and I need to smile more. I also completed a private lesson with Carolena in between classes and learned that I tend to lean into my toes and that I need to modify my upper body posture (for the time being at least) because of my shoulder injury. I am to work on bringing my weight back into my heels and on my Arabic Hip Twist arm positioning. Challenges accepted!

I’m not going to share everything that I learned because that would take forever. I’ll simply say that this intensive was worth every penny of the $750 tuition + room, board & travel and I will do it again when I have the chance. There were three students present that had taken the intensive before and two that are Advanced Teacher Training graduates, which shows you that this class is valuable to advanced dancers no matter how many times they have taken it. I highly recommend this course.

Shopping Carolena’s goodies!

A shout of to Grace for having the conversation with me regarding what we were trying to get out of the intensive. Both of us were thinking about it as teachers, pondering how we will bring this information to our students. Grace put it well when she said that this intensive is for us as individuals. Technique for Teachers. Personalized, individual technique feedback. Yaaaaas! We will share what we have learned by example, not necessarily with words because some of this info blew our (advanced level) minds and would likely be overwhelming to less experienced dancers. Thanks for working through that with me, Grace <3

Hostesses

Grace Tucker and Paula Ngo collaborated as Wild Oats Cartel to host this fantastic event and I can’t think of a single thing that they could have done better. Paula and Grace were exceptional hostesses, making sure that everyone was comfortable and having a good time. I had a crazy week before this event, spending 4 days at Tribal Revolution in Chicago and then driving home to Michigan for my first day at my new job and then waking up at 3:30 am to drive for 4ish hours to TforT in Woodstock, IL. I arrived around 7:30am and most of the others had arrived the day before and were not up yet but the Wild Oats Cartel ladies had left clear directions for check-in as well as printouts telling me how to access the WiFi and a campus map. I was able to find my room, unpack my bags, text the husbeast that I had arrived safely, and relax for a moment before joining everyone at breakfast. I am dealing with a shoulder injury at the moment and they made sure to check on me and they coordinated an evening campfire for everyone and shared tasty snacks (OMG, those dark chocolate covered salted caramels!!). Thank you Paula and Grace for being such great hostesses! I look forward to attending more Wild Oats Cartel events in the future.

Paula and Grace

Location

The instructors and students all stayed on-site, tribal village style,  at an all-inclusive retreat center about 50 miles northwest of Chicago. “Encompassed by 98 acres of prairies, savannas, woodlands, wetlands, and ponds, Loyola University’s Retreat and Ecology Campus provides a peaceful setting that serves as place for spiritual and intellectual growth and allows guests to connect through the mind, body, and spirit.”

We were given the option of single or double occupancy hotel style rooms and we shared three hearty buffet meals per day. It was great not having to worry about getting to class on time or trying to figure out where/what to eat. No transportation necessary from my lodging to the event site. My room (I splurged for single occupancy in order to nurture my introvert needs) was very comfortable, with two twin beds, a desk, private bathroom with shower, alarm clock, heat/fan/air conditioning, and a large window that I could open for fresh air with a nice view of the woods. Plus, it was only 50 feet from the classroom and maybe 3 minutes from the cafeteria.

I was recuperating from Tribal Revolution, so I didn’t have the energy to explore the grounds other than spending some time around the fire pit, but several fellow dancers tell me that there are some very nice trails that go into the woods and near the pond. There is also a lovely labyrinth.

Meals

Did I mention that there is a year-round farm on location? Loyola Farm staff and student employees tend the organic fruit and vegetable gardens, a greenhouse, compost area, and bee hives and they operate a farm stand that is open to the public. They are working towards becoming a sustainable operation and the campus stresses conservation and reducing, reusing, and recycling. There was no need to bring money for food or drinks because everything was included. There were vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options at each meal and the hostesses coordinated our individual dietary concerns with the chefs, who were nice enough to share several secret ingredients for recipes when asked. I could tell that they were proud of his work, and rightfully so. They make all meals from scratch, using only locally sourced, fresh and preserved-on-site ingredients with an emphasis on seasonality. I really enjoyed the breakfast sausage, salad bar, baked cod, vegan imitation teriyaki chicken, veggie burgers, baby potatoes, sweet potato french fries, and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and I’m looking forward to trying to replicate their delicious herbed summer squash, spicy cauliflower, and brown butter gnocchi recipes!

Gratitude and ALL THE EMOS

I don’t usually get emotional after events, but I got teary eyed as I wheeled my bag down the hallway, past the classroom, out the heavy wooden doors with stained glass windows, into the beautifully landscaped entry and to my car as I began my journey home. Students that didn’t have to leave immediately stayed for one final Facebook Live performance and I blew kisses and tried my best to take it all in. The dancing, smiles, teachers, friends, laughter, music, zilling, scenery, atmosphere, food, shenanigans… my heart is full and my passion for pure ATS® burns bright.

Scurrying to the building after abruptly putting our fire out when the storm sirens sounded.

Thank you Grace and Paula for making all of this possible, for making me feel like one of the gang, and for being such fun folks to be around. Time spent with you is always great. Thank you Carolena and Megha for traveling to the midwest and devoting so much time to teaching us how to be the best American Tribal Style® dancers that we can be. Thank you for your tips, corrections, critiques, and praises, for being so approachable and warm, and for sharing your personal stories and latest moves with us! Thank you Carolena for spending one-on-one time with me addressing my issues and offering advice. Thank you Deenya, Diana, Fruzsi, Grace, Heather, Jeana, Lisa, Lulu, Marie, Omy, Paula N., Paula P., Sam, Suzy, Tammy, Tracy and Virginia for all the laughs, love, knowledge, time, and dancing that you shared. Special thanks to Suzy for the Biofreeze and the extra love. Omy, you’re a hero for sharing your delicious Puerto Rican coffee (thx for supplying the coffee pot, Grace!). And those guava cookies, Omy! I’m salivating just thinking about them. Thank you Suzy and Tammy for the beverages that shall go unnamed. Okay, I’ll stop with the food & drinks already. But not before I mention Jeana’s chocolate covered espresso beans and the toffee! Mmm. Heather is an angel for offering Reiki sessions. Mine was great and I was told that I looked “glowing” and “blissed out” afterwards. Win. Thank you Tracy and Leo for making an awesome fire and to Paula and Grace for hooking us up with the fixin’s to make s’mores. My god, this is a lot of thanks but I am filled with gratitude and I’m going to put it all down, damn it! Thanks to everyone that participated in zil-robics with me. Letting go like that, getting silly, and jamming out felt really good. Kudos to the photographers, models, and fluffers from the Wednesday night photo shoot. Marie and Paula P., I’ll never see you the same way! Thanks Tim for holding down the fort, taking care of the animals, and encouraging me all the way! Okay, enough. I’m thankful for everything and everyone that was in my life this week. For realz. Much love!

25 Random Things About Melissa

  1. My hippie parents wanted to name me April Dawn, but I tricked them and was born in March.
  2. My favorite food is crab. I also have soft spots in my heart for cheese, sushi, gelato, and all Mexican food.
  3. I studied abroad 5 times while attending college, spending time in South Africa, France, New Zealand, Nicaragua, and Italy. I almost didn’t come home from Italy because I loved it there so much.
  4. I studied tap, jazz, and ballet from the age of 2 to 14.
  5. I am a Gold Award recipient and a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of the USA.
  6. I hate cotton balls. The creaking feeling that you get when you squish one between your fingers gives me goosebumps and the chills.
  7. I broke the lower tip of my tibia in the same spot on two separate occasions when I was in middle school. The first time, I was playing street hockey and the second time, I was playing volleyball.
  8. My first paying job was on the transplant line at a greenhouse, giving me a lot of respect for those workers who stand and crouch over the line in the stifling heat.
  9. I pooped my pants at the mall once for no good reason other than that my body felt like embarrassing me.
  10. I have a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology and have had mice, gerbils, hamsters, rats, degus, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, birds (parakeets, quaker parrots, chickens, ducks, geese), fish, shrimp, starfish, crawfish, hermit crabs, frogs, snakes, an axolotl, and a tarantula as pets in the past.
  11. I was a pescatarian for 9 years. I quit in South Africa when I was offered exotic meats like wildebeest, kudu, and warthog.
  12. I’m deadly accurate with throwing knives and axes.
  13. My husbeast and I met online through PlentyOfFish.
  14. I have never been to Disney World and I’m good with that. I would love to see Disney on Ice though!
  15. My name, Melissa, means “honeybee” in Greek.
  16. I live with several chronic health conditions, including diabetes, psoriatic arthritis, and bipolar disorder.
  17. One of my favorite roles in life is being “Auntie M” to my nieces and nephews.
  18. I still haven’t figured out how to whistle.
  19. The husbeast says that I sound like Marge Simpson when I’m mad.
  20. A good 90% of my formal American Tribal Style® belly dance training has been completed live in-person with Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman, Megha Gavin, and other FatChanceBellyDance® Studio Instructors.
  21. I geek out on belly dance, veterinary medicine, genealogy, anatomy and physiology, and geology.
  22. I wanted to play the saxophone when I was young but I struggled with reading music.
  23. I always stop to help turtles across the road.
  24. I would like to take a pottery class someday.
  25. I slept on the floor under my bed for a good chunk of my middle school years.

Preparing for Belly Dance Workshops

Belly dance workshops and intensives can be, well, INTENSE! Here are a few things that you can do in advance to leave you feeling well-prepared.

  • Get to know your instructors. Whether you’re studying under one teacher or taking a handful of workshops with a different instructor in each one, it is helpful to know a little bit about each person. Knowing their name, where they are based out of, what style(s) of belly dance they teach, who their teachers were, etc. gives you a greater picture of who they are and what they are about. Tip: Google their name (if they have a common name, include the words “belly dance” in the search too) to find their website and read their bio. A step further:  When I first started attending belly dance workshops, I didn’t know much about the instructors, so I created Pinterest boards to help me put faces with the names. After finding their websites, I pinned a picture of ALL of the instructors at the event (not just the ones that I was studying with), including a short synopsis of their bio in the pin description. You can check out my Pinterest boards here.

 

  • Prepare your notebook. If your learning style involves writing, note taking is a critical skill in belly dance workshops. In between listening to the explanation, watching the demonstration, and trying the move out, you might find it difficult to find time to take notes. Tip: Before you leave home, sit down with your notebook, a writing utensil, and your computer and read the description of each workshop on the event page. Many times, the instructor will list the moves and concepts that they will cover. Write the name of your first workshop, the instructor name, and the date at the top center of the first page in your notebook. Write the name of the first move/concept in that workshop just below the workshop name, slightly to the left. Turn the page and write the name of the second move/concept. Continue this process until you have listed all of them. Now, go back to the first page and write down any questions that you have about that subject. Now your notebook is ready! If any of the questions that you wrote down aren’t addressed by the time that the instructor is done with that subject, ask them. A step further: I like to color code my notes! I use colored markers when I’m writing the names of the moves down. For example, I am an American Tribal Style® dancer and I use purple for Level 1/1+ ATS®, blue for Level 2/2+ ATS®, green for Level 3/3+ ATS®, and red for ATS® movement dialect. I also label moves with an F for fast or S for slow. I could also label moves as Classic or Modern ATS® and/or list which family the move belongs to (Shimmy family, Turn family, etc.).
Preparing my belly dance notebook for the Tribal Pura ATS® intensive at Tribal Revolution 2017.
  • Prepare yourself mentally and physically. Most of us aren’t used to dancing for hours on end each day for multiple days in a row and then socializing all night. It’s important that we recognize that no matter how much fun we are having, this challenging physical and mental activity causes our body stress. In order to minimize the effects of this stress on our bodies and minds, it’s critical that we make self-care a priority before the event. Tip: Ensure that you eat well, drink enough water, and get enough sleep in the days leading up to the event. If you are traveling to an area that has a timezone different from the one that you’re used to and you’re able to do so without severely affecting your everyday responsibilities, slowly switch over to the new time a week or so in advance. If you anticipate having sleep/wake issues while you are away, brainstorm ways in which you can alleviate these problems, such as packing sleepy-time tea. If you know that you will be working your body a lot harder than you normally do, consider doing some strength/endurance training in advance and be sure to pack items that you use to deal with things like sore muscles and preexisting injuries. Consider packing protein-rich snacks (think humus, jerky, nut butter, trail mix, etc.) that can be eaten quickly and easily if you need an energy boost.  Don’t forget a refillable water bottle to keep you hydrated! Finally, Have a little conversation with yourself in advance, telling yourself that it is going to be a wonderful event, reminding yourself to be gentle with yourself, and allowing yourself to take the best care of yourself even if that means taking a break from dancing or socializing. A step further: I like to put the event itinerary in my phone before I go so that I know exactly when I have to be where and where my free time lies. If you know where you’ll have any of your meals, enter that info in your phone too so that you don’t have to worry about Googling addresses and such while you’re at the event.

I hope that you have found these tips helpful! Do you have any additional tips to share regarding preparing for multi-day belly dance events? Please share!

Product Review: Julep Denise Bombshell Nail Polish

I like to have nicely painted finger and toenails when I perform belly dance. Sometimes I splurge and get them done by a professional at the salon (whoever invented gel polish is a genius!), but most of the time I paint them myself the day before the show using traditional polish.

My sister gave me a little bottle of Julep nail color last year and I pulled it out last week as I was preparing for a job interview. I had painted my nails gun metal grey about a month ago for a performance and allowed it to peel off in patches over time. I embrace a punk esthetic, so it suits me, but it wasn’t appropriate for an interview and I planned on removing it but I couldn’t find my nail polish remover. My second plan was to slap on another coat of the grey, but I couldn’t find that either. Strange. I pulled out my jar-o-polish and spotted the pretty purple Julep. It matched my interview top, so I decided to give it a go. Here’s what I thought:

About The Product

Denise is a nail polish made by Julep Beauty. It is a “fast-drying, long-lasting nail polish powered by breakthrough Oxygen Technology that makes nails healthy and more beautiful.” Compared to other nail polish, Denise allows 30% more oxygen to permeate the nail bed and claims to reveal stronger, harder & more conditioned nails in two weeks. It is vegan-friendly, 5-free (no formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, DBP, or camphor), and features Hexanal for nail strength and antioxidant green coffee extract.  The color Denise is described as purple crocus crème.

About The Brand

Julep Beauty believes that beauty should do more than make you look good, it should make you feel good, too.  Based in Seattle, WA, this cosmetic company is cruelty free and their nail polish is 100% vegan. Julep products are made in the USA and can be purchased at julep.com as well as Amazon, Ulta Beauty, QVC, Nordstrom, and Beauty Brands.

Likes

  • Color: Gorgeous! It reminds me of the lavender border of the Queen Dorothy irises in my yard.
  • Smooth application
  • Drying time: By the time that I finished the first coat on both hands, the first hand was dry enough for a second coat.
  • Number of Coats: This polish is runny, but I only needed to apply two coats to hide an older, darker shade of polish because  I tend to apply a lot of nail polish at once.
  • Size: The 8ml (0.27 fl oz) bottle might seem small to some, but as a person who doesn’t go through a lot of nail polish in any given year, I would rather have a smaller amount that I use up instead of a large amount that dries up before I use it. It’s also a good size to toss into your purse.
  • Ingredients: Vegan, 5-free
  • Shipping: If you order directly from Julep online and spend more than $10, standard shipping is free.
  • Staying power: After 1 week of moderate abuse (showering, gardening, fishing, and lots of hand washing), I still had decent coverage without application of a topcoat. The polish came off around the periphery of my nails a little:
Denise 7 days later (no topcoat)

Dislikes

  • Price: At $14/8mL, it is a bit on the pricey side. However, the fact that it is cruelty-free, vegan, ultra-fast drying, and made in the USA makes it worth it.
  • Screw cap/lid: The lid consists of a black plastic screw cap housed inside of a black plastic rectangular cap. When I was shaking the bottle to reconstitute the polish, the glass bottle  and screw cap disconnected from the plastic lid and fell to the floor. Luckily, the bottle didn’t break. In my opinion, the screw cap and the housing lid should be attached to each other. Use caution if you have to shake yours!
  • Separation: After sitting unused for a year, the ingredients in the bottle separated. This often happens with nail polish and can be remedied by shaking the bottle, but it took a longer than normal amount of time for me to mix the ingredients back together. I actually gave up after about a minute after deciding that it wasn’t perfect but it was good enough.
  • Viscosity: The polish is too runny. I ended up with color on my cuticles on multiple fingers.
  • End color: It looks slightly darker when dry.
Separation of screw cap and lid

Neutral Thoughts

  • Sheen: Semi matte.

Ingredients 

Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol/Trimellitic Anhydride Copolymer , Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Bis (Glycidoxyphenyl) Propane/Bisaminomethylnorbornane Copolymer, Stearalkonium Bentonite, Acrylates Copolymer, Ultramarines (CI 77007), Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Silica, Benzophenone-1, Trimethylpentanediyl Dibenzoate, Aluminum Hydroxide , Red 28 (CI 45410) , Hexanal , Dimethicone, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil , Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Ext. Violet 2 (CI 60730), Coffea Robusta Seed Extract.

Conclusion

Denise is currently rated 3.7/5 (44 reviewers) on Julep’s website. I rate it as 4/5. Despite being too drippy, I would purchase Julep Nail Polish again because of the good staying power, because it is vegan friendly, 5-free, and made in the USA, and because of Julep’s free shipping over $10 policy.

Disclosure: The owner of this blog was not compensated in any way to provide her opinion on the product. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers’ own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer.

 

 

 

 

 

Ultimate Packing List & Travel Tips for ATS® Belly Dance Workshops

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a workshop virgin, creating a packing list for out-of-town belly dance events will save you time and give you peace of mind that you won’t forget essential items.

I’m gearing up for a 4-day belly dance convention in June and I’m happy that several of my students are joining me. One of them has been to a handful of these events and the other has never been to a belly dance workshop. One of the most common questions that I get from students in anticipation of an out-of-town dance event is “What should I pack?” I make lists for everything. Shopping lists, reading lists, lists of inspirational quotes, and….you called it…..packing lists! Here’s my ultimate packing list for out-of-town American Tribal Style® belly dance workshops. Please feel free to copy this and customize it to fit your individual needs.

Civilian Clothing

Think about the event itinerary. Will you be in workshops all day, never leaving the event location? Do you need to pack clothes to change into after workshops? Are you attending any shows?  Here’s what I pack for time spent outside of workshops:

  • 1 outfit per day x _____ days
  • 1-2 comfortable travel day outfits. Don’t pack your day 1 travel clothes! Set them aside so they’re ready for you. I usually wear the same skirt on both travel days and switch out my top.
  • Bra(s) x _____
  • 2 pairs underwear per day* x _____ days. You will want to change into a fresh pair after you’re done dancing for the day 😉
  • 1 pair pajamas. Hotel rooms can run warm/cold, so plan accordingly. I usually pack 1 top, 1 pair mesh shorts, and 1 pair scrub pants.
  • Shoes x _____
  • Socks x _____
  • Optional: 1 dressy outfit with jewelry and shoes per evening show x _____ shows
  • Optional: hafla outfit x _____
  • Optional: bathing suit or swim trunks. Most hotels have a pool and hot tub. Great places to unwind after a long day of dancing! Use their towels to save space in your luggage.
  • Other non-dance clothes (swim cover-up, etc.) ___________________________________________________________

Although throwing everything into your bag or suitcase is fast, it leaves your clothes rumpled, your items disorganized, and it takes up more space than if you fold them neatly. If I don’t have a lot of clothes, I fold them in half lengthwise and then roll them up. If I have a lot of clothes, here‘s what I do.  Put shoes inside a plastic grocery bag or shower cap. Hang clothes that are prone to wrinkling up in the closet and put the rest into dresser drawers when you check into your room so that you don’t feel like you’re living out of your suitcase while you’re away.

*These items get stinky, so don’t skimp on quantities here!

Personal Care Essentials

If you’re staying at a hotel, they will provide shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, and face tissues so you can leave these items at home unless you have particular products that you always use, in which case I recommend investing in empty travel size containers and filling them with your products. If you do this, make sure that you close lids tightly and place the travel containers inside well-sealed plastic baggies so they don’t spill inside your luggage. Many items such as toothpaste and ibuprofen can be purchased at the hotel lobby if needed.

  • Oral hygiene: toothbrush, travel toothpaste & mouthwash, floss
  • Vision items: contact lenses, contact case, travel size contact solution, glasses, glasses case
  • Prescription medications & medical devices. Bring enough meds for a few extra days just in case. It is recommended that you carry a copy of prescriptions in case you lose yours.
  • Any OTC health items that you may need for pain, headache, motion sickness, upset stomach, etc. I always bring a few ibuprofen, band-aids, and Q-Tips.
  • Deodorant
  • Hair brush and/or comb
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Optional sleep items: eye mask, ear plugs
  • Other personal items that you use daily (hair ties & styling stuff, lip balm, makeup & remover, etc.): ___________________________________________________________

Place personal care items by the bathroom for easy access and so that you don’t feel like you’re living out of your suitcase while you’re away. If you’re sharing a room, choose one corner of the sink for your personal items. Many people are sensitive to fragrances, so it’s best to leave your perfume and essential oils at home.

Miscellaneous Items

Don’t forget to consider the projected weather forecast, your travel situation (car, plane, etc.), and any ancillary activities (outdoor excursions, etc.).

  • Purse or wallet with ID, money, travel documents, health insurance card, emergency contact list.
  • Cell phone with charger
  • Travel gear (headphones, travel pillow, etc.) __________________________________________________________
  • Weather-related items (hat, sunglasses, umbrella, jacket, etc.): ___________________________________________________________
  • Bag for dirty clothes. You don’t want that stuff stinking up everything else in your bag/suitcase!
  • Ancillary activity stuff (sunscreen, gym wear, bug repellant, etc.): ___________________________________________________________
  • Networking swaps: business cards, promotional items, etc.
  • Optional electronic devices (laptop, mp3 player, camera, etc.): ___________________________________________________________
  • Optional: personal comfort items. Do you get homesick? Maybe you miss a family member or pet? Or maybe you’re going somewhere that you know won’t have an item that you use regularly (I’m looking at you, cigarette smokers). Pack the things that you need in order to keep you comfortable. I always take my husbeast with me in the form of a custom-made amigurumi created by Diana, owner of Mermaid & Weasel. When flying, I take a little good luck bracelet that my sister made for me before I took my first international flight to South Africa. I usually take a small pillow in a pillowcase that my husbeast has slept with too <3
  • Other (journal, reading material, food, drinks, etc.): ___________________________________________________________
A few of my comfort items that make travel a little less stressful: a bracelet that my sister made, amigurumi husbeast, and travel trinkets.

Wrap any fragile items (did you know that you can check up to 5 liters of wine in your luggage when you fly?!!) in clothing or a towel and place in the center of your bag/suitcase.

Workshop Wear

The clothes that you wear to ATS® workshops depends on type of workshop. First, read the class description. Does the instructor request that you wear (or not wear) a specific item, such as a 25-yard skirt? Next, think about what you will do in the workshop. Is it a lecture? Is it a technique class, in which the instructor will look at your form? Or maybe you will dance in groups or as a whole the entire time? As a general rule for technique-based workshops, I wear leggings/yoga pants OR an “ostrich tucked” 25-yard skirt with leggings because it is important for the instructor to be able to see your feet and knees in order to make sure that you’re demonstrating proper form. Avoid pantaloons. For lectures, you can wear whatever you like, including street clothes, and for jam session-type classes (Dancing in the Flow®, Club ATS®, Belly Jam, etc.), dancers wear the full spectrum, from everyday dance class wear (leggings & tank top, etc.) to full-blown ATS® costuming. Here’s what I pack to wear to ATS® workshops:

  • 1 top (choli, tank top, or t-shirt) per day* x _____ days
  • 1 pair leggings per day* x _____ days
  • Specific clothing items requested in workshop description: ___________________________________________________________
  • Recommended: 1 or more non-jingly hip scarves/belts. It’s fun to add a little decoration to your hips and it helps the instructor see how your hips are moving. Jingles are distracting, so avoid coins, bells, kuchi, etc.
  • Recommended: dance shoes (ballet slippers, dance sneakers, or footies) OR 1 pair socks per day* x _____ days. Many large-scale belly dance events take place at hotels, with workshops taught in ballrooms on carpeted floors that can cause joint & tissue pain and blisters. Your feet will thank you for the extra support and padding!
  • Recommended: a hoodie, shawl, or something else to wear over your clothes to keep you warm before and after dancing.
  • Optional: 25-yard skirt
  • Optional: Sports bra x _____
  • Other (supportive braces, emergency energy snacks, etc.): ___________________________________________________________

*These items get stinky, so don’t skimp on quantities here!

Dance Bag Necessities

  • Dance bag. I use a canvas book bag.
  • Zills with tight elastics
  • Notebook & several pens/pencils
  • Reusable water bottle. If you’re at a hotel, there is almost always water available inside the workshop rooms. You can also refill your bottle at drinking fountains.
  • Optional: yoga mat. Some instructors begin/end workshops with yoga stretches, and doing them on a yoga mat provides a non-slip barrier from the floor with some cushioning. I bought a lightweight travel yoga mat that folds up into about 12″ x 12″ square. I sit on it when instructors have us sit on the floor for extended periods of time.
  • Optional: cell phone/camera for selfies with instructors
  • Optional: If you will receive certificates or handouts, you may want to bring a folder to keep them in so they don’t get crumpled.

Put your name on anything that might be accidentally picked up by others (dance bag, FCBD® OG hoodie, etc.).

Costume & Makeup

Chances are that if you’re getting into full costume and makeup, this isn’t your first time at the rodeo so I will not list everything here (I’ll post a complete list at a later date) but here are the things that you might wear at a hafla:

  • Cover-up
  • Choli
  • Coin Bra
  • Belly dance belt
  • Hip scarve(s)
  • 25-yard skirt(s)
  • Pantaloons
  • Headband, hair flowers, hair sticks, bobby pins, etc.
  • Jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, etc.)
  • Makeup & remover: _________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________
  • Other (falsies, lash adhesive, panels, bindi, glitter, etc.): ___________________________________________________________

Miscellaneous Belly Dance Items

  • Event tickets
  • Travel sewing kit (needle, thread, scissors, zill elastic, safety pins)
  • Optional: props _____________________________________________
  • Optional: knee pads (for floorwork)

Notes

This list is HUGE! It is meant to be a complete list of everything that one might possibly need for an out-of-town belly dance convention. Nobody likes hauling around lots of luggage and it is often cheaper and faster if you have fewer bags, so please take each unique event into consideration and pack only the essentials.  Here are some final tips on packing and travel:

  • Start your list 2 or more weeks in advance. First, write down everything that comes to mind. When you can’t think of anything else, leave the list on the kitchen counter (or somewhere else that you will visit often). You will think of more things throughout the days leading up to the event. Write them down as you remember them, slowly adding your list. If you’re not home when you think of something, send yourself a reminder text and add it to the master list later. When you think you have everything, consider asking someone else (significant other, family member, friend, etc.)  if you can read the list to them and see if they think of anything else.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to pack! This will leave you feeling frazzled (and probably sleep-deprived) before an event that is meant to be fun and physically challenging. I try to have everything except the items that I use daily packed 2 days before traveling.
  • Leave room in your luggage for items that you might purchase while you are away!
  • If you’re flying, ALWAYS carry-on medications and expensive items like jewelry. If weather permits, consider wearing up to two 25-yard skirts on the plane…they will keep you warm and save space in your luggage (thanks Cat Ellen for this tip!). Read about TSA’s 3-1-1 Liquids Rule here.
  •  if you’ll use debit or credit cards internationally or spend more than usual.
  • If you’re staying in a hotel or renting a car, your credit or debit card will likely have a hold placed on it. Ensure that you have adequate funds to cover any holds and still be able to purchase food and shop.
  • If you’re travelling internationally, debit and credit card users should notify your financial institution of your travel plans. Consider enrolling in the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP), so that you can be notified about safety conditions in your destination country, and help the U.S. Embassy and your family/friends contact you in an emergency.  Write down the address and contact information of the nearest US Embassy  or Consulate and hospital.  Learn about your destination country and read travel alerts/warnings. I always place a copy of my IDs (driver’s license & passport) and my social security card inside of a bag other than my purse/wallet in case I lose my purse and its contents. If you lose your passport (heaven forbid!), this will speed up the process of getting a new one.
  • Don’t toss your packing list! Save it for future trips, eliminating the need to try to remember everything all over again and reducing pre-trip prep time. You might even consider having your list laminated at a local office supply store! Then, you can use a dry-erase marker each time to cross off items that you have already packed.

I hope that you find this list helpful. Feel free to comment below if you find that I have missed anything. Safe travels and happy shimmies!

A Call for Blog Post Suggestions

I apologize that I haven’t posted here in some time. I have an old shoulder injury that is acting up, so I haven’t been teaching classes. I finally got a referral for physical therapy and I’m hopeful that I will be able to return to teaching soon but in the meantime I thought I would blog about belly dance topics here. I have a couple of ideas: product reviews, costume discussions, teacher highlights, etc. If there’s something that you would like me to write about, please let me know by commenting below!

2016 Goals and Word of the Year

Ashley Lopez recently wrote a great little post about the process of setting goals. So that’s what I’m going to do today… “assess, re-assess, look ahead, and plan for greatness.”

In Ashley’s post, she suggests looking at your current situation before setting your short- and long-term goals. This helps you to pinpoint your location within your personal map of life by rating how satisfied you are with specific aspects of your personal, physical, and daily life.

PERSONAL LIFE

  1. Overall happiness
  2. How satisfied are you with your current living situation?
  3. Mental health and ability to manage stress
  4. Intimate relationships/partnership
  5. Family life
  6. Friendships

PHYSICAL LIFE

  1. How well are you sleeping?
  2. Nutrition
  3. Hydration
  4. Physical activity
  5. How well are you making progress on any previous physical goals?

DAILY LIFE

  1. How happy are you with your current job?
  2. How stable is your financial situation?
  3. Are you satisfied with your current level of education/continuing education?
  4. How well are you making progress on creative projects?
  5. How efficient are you at managing time?
  6. How inspired/focused/motivated are you on a day-to-day basis?

I am not going to share my answers to the above questions here, but I will share my assessment of my 2015 goals as well as my dance  goals for 2016.

Last year’s dance goals:

  1. Practice ATS® belly dance and Tribal Fusion at least twice a week outside of regular classes. I haven’t been great with at-home practice, but I have increased the number of workshops and classes I am attending. I no longer dance tribal fusion. Instead, I am completely focused on ATS®.
  2. Assemble a complete, professional quality ATS® costume. Mostly.
  3. Perform ATS® solos at events in order to draw new students and increase visibility. I did a few.
  4. Teach ATS® belly dance classes up to 3 days per week at various locations. I currently teach one class/week at one location, with plans to add two additional classes at that location soon.
  5. Complete the annual continuing education requirements for FCBD® Sister Studio re-certification. Completed in Feb 2016 (a bit late).
  6. Plan on applying for FCBD® Advanced Teacher Training by the end of 2018. Hopefully!

 

Last year’s word: GROUND. Absolutely!

2016 personal dance goals:

  1. Dance at least once a week outside of the classes that I teach.
  2. Dance with others at haflas and parties (work on shyness).
  3. Practice zills for at least 5 minutes each week while dancing.
  4. Work on keeping shoulders relaxed.
  5. Spend at least one hour/month on costuming.
  6. Save money for California trainings.
  7. Complete annual continuing education requirements for FCBD® Sister Studio re-certification before Feb 2017.
  8. Register for ATS Technique for Teachers workshop before the end of 2017.
  9. Prepare to apply for FCBD® Advanced Teacher Training by the end of 2018.
  10. Complete SEEDs teacher training certification program in June 2016.

 

2016 word:  #IMMERSE