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  1. #1
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    Fine feathers do /do not...........

    Dani brought me back to a report I once made on a "Designer" costuming thread. So I'll repeat it here not on the choreography thread:
    I was a approached at a hafla by a girl who more or less asked me why I thought I needed the quality of costume I was wearing seeing as I was "only a hafla dancer". So my comment was about the amatuer scene in the UK and I don't really need to explain why a girl needs clothes/costumes do I, ladies?
    As to the pro. scene in the UK, I have no idea as to wether or not there is backbiting regarding what another dancer is wearing.
    I've only climbed to the dizzy heights of dancing at a wedding,dancing on stage, doing the odd corporate venture, dancing on TV and doing a commercial pop video but mostly yes I'm a hafla dancer. It seems this girl thought that because I don't restaurant dance, I shouldn't wear ( in that case)a Pharoanics brought back in someone's suitcase which cost less than any nice dress on the trader's stall at said hafla and no more than the UK designer's wear on the back of another dancer from her class.
    Actually if I did restaurant dance no way would I have worn that dress.

    My answer in this case was I wear what I like and if you think it's not appropriate.... Tough and double TOUGH.

    I have bought 2 nice costumes by way of a UK trader and I am sure she and the others would not make a living selling only to the "pro" dancers in the UK. She will have to sell to rank amateurs and teachers and the occasionally paid like myself.
    As I say ,I have no notion about Kharis's comment re "being no one without an Eman" as I don't move in the exalted heirarchy of UK bellydance. I am sure she is right that there will be folks in that community who are sniffy about "pro" dancers wearing "last year's fashion" in costume.
    On the other hand I have always been impressed by all the costumes worn by our top dancers. They are not necessarily to my taste but they all seem to make the effort to look good wether it be in an Eman, Pharoanics, Abla, Bella , "trad" long fringe Turkish bedlah or their own splendid invention.
    And more and more at halfas, teachers and more experienced soloists and now even groups are paying lovely gear to enhance their dance and please their audience and why shouldn't they?.
    Our local and excellent young dancer for example deserves to wear all the beautiful "Designer" sparkle she puts on her back should she so wish even if she is just gracing the floor at a local platform or my humble hafla.
    As to the "pros" they really have to look their best but I don't think UK audiences are any more impressed by a slinky Eman than the creations of our UK genius Mandy(Wellie) or a glorious personal creation of the dancer herself.
    The costumes that blew me away in equal measure at JOY just past were Sara Farouk's (I know not which) Designer? costume and Michelle Pender's fantastic ensemble. (both on my photobucket site). And I know the audience admired the effort all the "pros" had gone to and would all have had different preferences. So if there are pros out there lauding over others then they need to realise that many of their audience don't know an Eman from a Bella even if they can tell a thoughtfully put together home creation or well chosen costumier's delight from a piece of tat.
    K


  2. #2
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    Of course someone else out there in the UK may have better first hand knowledge of snobbery in costuming.. K


  3. #3
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    Gosh, how rude of the girl who approached you at the hafla. How did you respond?


  4. #4
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    Funny thing is, I think that there is a subset of pros that are actually making a living out of it that don't really intereact with the wider dance commnunity who have no idea of all these designer costumes. How often do you come across a website for a dancer that is unknown in 'community' terms but claims to have been on TV etc, and they are wearing a Cario Airport special?! More times than I can mention.

    I heard a well known pro make a snarky comment behind someone's back about why they needed a pharonics and I just thought well if the have the disposable income and want it why not?

    Z


  5. #5
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    I've thought more about this. I know people who are really into their music that buy special expensive cables to make their stereos sound better at home. Folk who have different priorities can't understand why to pay £500 on a 25 cm cable and level the same criticisms - "you're not a professional DJ etc". I know a lady who lives in a big house. She loves her home, yet people have said to her that she shouldn't really live there since her family have left home now, wouldn't a granny flat be better?

    Generally some people will not understand the priorities of other people, and will project their own onto that person. Do you think they mention it out of curiosity about what drives the other person, rather than out of a desire to intentionally hurt the other persons feelings?


  6. #6
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    Yes, I am staggered that someone could be so appallingly rude!

    As a pro dancer I feel obliged to own top quality costumes because people seem to expect it (within our community and outside it), and I will admit to being an Eman addict. I will happily tell anyone who asks who designed a costume, but I don't go around saying to everyone - 'I'm so much better than you because I own all these lovely costumes!' I just feel fortunate that I can earn enough from my dancing to be able to afford them.

    I find it very sad to learn that this sort of thing is a problem in some parts of the dance community. I guess the problem is that the offenders are by and large hugely competitive, but to a) repeat the kind of remark made to Kadife or b) sneer at a dancer because she cannot afford an Eman, Hannan etc, is equally bad.

    Why shouldn't amateur dancers dress up in expensive, designer costumes? I just don't get that at all!

    So how many Brits out there have encountered this problem?


  7. #7
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    Kadife,

    Another dancer wisely told me once that older and full figured dancers should raise the bar on their own costuming as it takes attention away from any negative perceptions the audience might have about size or age. Personally I feel much more confident about how I look when I know I am wearing something really classy and attractive. And it really helps when months later another dancer says, "oh yes, I remember you. You did that such-and-such number in that beautiful red dress."

    Souzan


  8. #8
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    I wonder if people (those who approach the dance seriously anyway) just generally costume appropriately? I don't think I need expensive costumes
    up to this point because I simply don't perform much. But on the rare occasion that I do, I want to look nice. So, used and reasonable (L.Rose) options are for me. Good heavens though, you can get killer deals on used cossies.

    I think I'd feel a little funny stepping out at a local showcase in a 1400 Sahar Oksas given my level of dance (in terms of my focus on it rather than ability). Would seem like silly money spent, but that's me not anyone else - totally private matter.

    Kadife that story still makes we shake my head - how dare someone!


  9. #9
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    If I remember, this lady had the previous year said.
    "That's a nice costume? Where's it from." I said it was from Cairo originally and I had bought it second hand from another UK dancer.(It was an Abla 2 piece from Candi )
    The next time I saw her says she" "Another nice costume? Where from this time?" Again I told her Cairo and a friend had brought it back from a lady called Amira el Khattan. "Do you really need something like that..you don't do restaurants, do you?" (or words to that effect).
    I think I got a tad sharp and said words to the effect that it was my business how I spent my salary. I neither smoke,drink a lot,drive nor go on world cruises..I like belly dance costumes which I can probably resell someday without too much loss.
    I think she stubbed out her ciggie and went her way and will probably not approach me when I wear yet again..another new costume ( not realising I have sold 3 since September)hehehe

    My liking for Pharoanics began when a friend returned home from a trip with one and another girl and I faxed Amira to make us one. Yes we were full of envy but really had no idea of "cudos through designer wear" just that we loved the handiwork and felt we deserved a nice cozzy.
    Same thing happened when we spotted Photo wearing a lovely Eman and I vowed if the lady had a design suitable for the bigger older gal, I'd like one.
    I put together my pennies from teaching BD and selling my first bedlah (bought from Kharis) and lo......

    My Eman and Pharoanic creations are gorgeous but I tell you what I have outfits by Wellie which are just as wonderful and if anything more comfortable to wear.
    You are much more likely to hear an admiring comment around a UK hafla which goes like this:
    "Ohh that's a lovely Shimmyshop" than "I like your Eman or Pharoanics."
    K


  10. #10
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    I think there are dancers who make a living from restaurant and night club dancing and maybe but not necessarily teaching but don't hafla dance nor do theatre for whom "designer ware" is totally innappropriate.
    What does a restauranteur or night club owner expect?..a nice bedlah with lots of sparkle and lots of fringe.
    In you are in that sphere of belly dance, then your public would be disappointed if you wore anything else. A lycra 2 piece or dress what!!!!!!! might be the reaction.
    And Zaf is right, these ladies don't necessarily mix with the teachers and students and "luminaries", they are " warriors for the working day" and best clad in the kind of costume which is expected.
    And all power to their elbow. It's hard way to make a living but they are belly dancing for it which is more than most of us can say. K


  11. #11
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    On this side of the pond, I'm often asked where I get my costumes from. Many people don't actually know about Pharonics, Eman, etc and just like my costumes. I've never heard anyone say anything snotty, although some dancers gave my SO a tip to impress me with... "remark that her costume is the Great Loop Ensemble".

    It actually wasn't, it was a great loop, but combined with a Johara skirt . I save my heavily beaded and fringed things for restaurants. The Great Loops work beautifully for that, hold up to a lot of wear and tear, fit the most comfortably of any costumes that I have worn and retain their resale value. That's why I buy them. Pharonics actually have made the costumes that I wind up having to alter the least, so I gravitate towards them. I hate to sew!

    The Eman's, however, and other really nice couture costumes can be saved for hafli's, where there will be people who can appreciate them.

    I don't care what other dancers are wearing, although there are many costumes I covet. I just like pretty shiny things and it doesn't matter who makes them, as long as they fit well, wear well and shows off the dancers moves.


  12. #12
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    Yes, I know amateur photographers, stereo buffs, musicians, and gamers that spend lots of money on their equipment and so I think it's perfectly reasonable for a hobbyist to buy an expensive costume! It's not like they are of limited quantity, so you buying one is denying someone else. It's just creating more of a market.

    Amen to great costumes. I am working very hard to make my dancing the best it can be. I can currently afford to costume myself at a level above where I dance. But I reason that we should do whatever it takes to be pleasing to watch on all levels, makeup, manicures, costumes and of course dancing. And it makes me happy, which should be reason enough for an adult woman to spend her money.

    I betcha the woman was just jealous of your nice costumes, Kadife!


  13. #13
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    Kadife, could it be that people are expected to be so much more understated in the UK? It really seems like calling attention to oneself--as could be interpreted with fancy fancy costumes is seen as showing off? In the United States, I think we aren't as concerned with being obvious show-offs--it's almost a regular thing here!

    I see nothing wrong with owning the costumes you enjoy for whatever purpose you decide. It seems like it isn't anyone's business if you are "only" a hafla dancer. Honestly, I'd rather see a nice costume on ANY kind of dancer than a cheap airport nightmare of fringe and sequins thrown onto crooked bra cups and lopsided belts.


  14. #14
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    I think that woman was very rude, for one thing, but I also bet she was jealous. I get jealous of people with $700 - $1000 costumes all the time. I assume people will think I'm crappy and oldfashioned and out of the loop because I haven't got one of those heavily jewelled powermesh two-pieces or a dress with mega cutouts. (I do have a dress, but it's white and one of my students told me I must never wear it again due to the extreme whiteness of the overall picture. Even though other people like it, it's kind of put me off...) Anyone can have one if they have the money, I think, no matter how good or bad a dancer they are. I personally can't buy costumes off the peg, so even if I did stumble across one I could afford I couldn't have it. I'm entirely jealous. That rude woman probably is too.


  15. #15
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    I'm going to have to paraphrase Beata Cifuentes as I can't remember word for word what she said on Yasmina's 'Journey of Desire' video but essentially Beata said that often new dancers say to her that they'll just buy a novice/cheap costume because they aren't 'professionals', seemingly Beata says to them (remember I'm not 100% sure of the wording here!) 'listen, if you can't dance at least have a good costume and give the audience something nice to look at'. Infact, there is a section of Yasmina's doco that refers to the part of costume in the dance.

    I had a similar (but not so blatant) reaction to me going to a workshop by a'professional' dancer...there seemed to be an undercurrent feeling of 'why are you here if you aren't a pro?' I was discussing it with someone only recently actually. I guess some people just feel that if you aren't doing dance as a money making venture then why bother spending money on workshops and costumes. I reckon this is my hobby/obsession...just like other people go to toy train making conventions and spend money on that...and I have every right to use any disposable income in a way that makes me happy.
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  16. #16
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    My teacher was exactly the opposite - she said spend your money on music and workshops, because costumes you can always make. Of course, she made bloody nice costumes.


  17. #17
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    Well, Beata wasn't necessarily saying a nice costume trumps a good performance/training etc...I hope I didn't give that impression...but she certainly acknowledged that dance was a visual medium and that all aspects needed to be considered.

    On another thread I posted a link to Gilded Serpeant article written by an attendee at a recent Suhaila Salimpour workshop...Suhaila suggested that they all draw 2 columns and write down on 1 side what they spend on training and on the other what they spend on cosumes - she then suggested that training costs should be 5 times the amount of costuming costs. The link is here http://www.gildedserpent.com/art39/E...laWorkshop.htm I don't know that you can put a figure on things like this (ie 5 times the amount) but I do agree that I've seen students get carried away on the glitter rather than substance - ie buy a hip scarf instead of taking a workshop in something they need to work on. I went to a class last year that was all about the vending and very little substance being taught.


  18. #18
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    What an outageous comment but it's nothing new, unfortunately people use it as a nasty put down over the years and I agree that it's mostly jealousy! The most recent was from a dancer who knows I'm not a regular "working" club dancer now but who has herself NEVER had a paid gig in any club, said to me sneeringly, "well, you are just a costume ho, aren't you". My reply, delivered with a wicked smile was: "Yes, I am, and this is a problem for you --- because why..........?". She fell all over herself apologizing! She has since come to me with questions about costuming and I was only too happy to advise her...heh, heh.
    Then there are dancers in troupe who wistfully mention that they'd "love to have a costume" but won't buy one because they "aren't a professional" and I say, well, you are performing with troupe and at staged shows and concerts that earn money for the troupe for props and costuming items. To do this, you commit to a rehearsal schedule and have to present a polished appearance and demeanor, on time and this is professional behavior. So, why not treat yourself to a nice costume as long as you can still pay your bills? There is a lot of gray area in the definition of "professional dancer" all the way from "troupe performances only" to "dance career as main source of income".

    One of the ladies in our square dance club when she found out that I'd been bellydancing for 20 years, and asked me if I could recommend a good source for a "nice beaded costume". She'd been looking at stores that stock Halloween costumes but the belly dancer ones she thought were "awful", and she's right! I referred her to several websites that have attractive and relatively inexpensive bedlahs and off she went, happy as a clam. She'll probably spend at least $200 on bedlah and she has no intention of taking a single belly dance class, ever.

    I just don't see any downside in someone wanting to live their dream - life is too short to pay attention to "Costume Police" type put-downs.

    --Nisima


  19. #19
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Many a woman owns sexy lingerie - some of these women aren't even in a relationship, but own it anyway. And no, they're not aspiring to use it as their "uniform" for services that they sell...

    Many an amateur photographer owns a high-end camera even though the photos they take are just for their personal pleasure.

    Many a woman owns a beautiful evening gown or two even though she will never be on the red carpet at the Oscars.

    So why shouldn't someone own a beautiful belly dance costume if she can afford it and if she loves it?

    I've seen SO many belly dance students over the years experience a rise in their self-esteem simply by putting on a costume that made them feel beautiful. And a person who feels that she looks great will probably dance with more joy and confidence as well. Only a mean-spirited person would try to poke a hole in the pleasure someone else takes from looking fabulous.


  20. #20
    Established BHUZzer Shirin.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    Many a woman owns sexy lingerie - some of these women aren't even in a relationship, but own it anyway. And no, they're not aspiring to use it as their "uniform" for services that they sell...

    Many an amateur photographer owns a high-end camera even though the photos they take are just for their personal pleasure.

    Many a woman owns a beautiful evening gown or two even though she will never be on the red carpet at the Oscars.

    So why shouldn't someone own a beautiful belly dance costume if she can afford it and if she loves it?

    I've seen SO many belly dance students over the years experience a rise in their self-esteem simply by putting on a costume that made them feel beautiful. And a person who feels that she looks great will probably dance with more joy and confidence as well. Only a mean-spirited person would try to poke a hole in the pleasure someone else takes from looking fabulous.
    This is so true. you took the thoughts right outta my head. I've been in bellydance for about 12 years now, but I dont dance professionally anymore at restaraunts, paid gigs, or what-have-ya's. Why? Well frankly, because the dance scene here is too cut throat for me. There's alot of trash that gets talked and personally I dont want to get involved, so now I just dance at an occasional hafla, for my family and for myself. I bought a brand new pharonics last year after I had quit the professional work. I could only afford it by paying on it monthly, but after putting it on and feeling like a princess, I dont feel I need to justify my purchase by paid gigs. Everybody has bought things they dont really need just to feel like they're not missing out. Im one of them.
    Last edited by Shirin.; 04-11-2007 at 03:51 PM. Reason: to add one more thing


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