costuming, craft, dance, Uncategorized

Let’s hear it for good workmanship!

By the time the night before the studio anniversary show rolled around I felt like I’d been altering costumes forever, before even tackling my own.

It wasn’t forever but I had altered three costumes for my dance partner and had a student who’d bought her first ever costume. It was new to her but previously owned and..well..WORN.

My students had been worried about finding any costume because she’s chubby by local sizes and already had a lot of insecurity around showing her body. I wanted it to be as fixed up as possible so she could enjoy wearing it and focus on her dancing. For three lessons she’d bring her costume, and before and after the lesson, I’d see what work was to be done. Each time I did a fair amount of sewing to show how to do the work (explaining sewing and alterations purely verbally to someone who doesn’t sew is hard enough in one’s own language, I didn’t think it was worth it to try) and send her home with more pins in her costume.

On the eve of the show I had to make sure that I had a costume that would complement my dance partner’s choice for our duet. She still can’t locate her duet costume so she’d be wearing another bra/belt I made in 2006 that she now owns. Luckily I’d made that costume for myself, in colors I know work for my completion, and had other handmade choices in similar colorways.

Me, 2007, in a bra and belt I’d made.

My bra/belt from 2007 would work. It’s an example of me playing with layers of plastic lamp-fringe, ribbon, and Kuchi jewelry embellishments to make a light-weight, quick-to-sew, “Tribaret” (tribal-inspired cabaret) costume, the sort I used to wear more often.

It still fits but the bra edge has always been a bit shallow so I added to the cups on Saturday night. The edge looks floppy here but when filled with cleavage it does the job.

The show opened it’s doors at noon, a lunchtime block, so I had to be there in make-up by 10:30. Well, I didn’t officially have to be there in make-up…but when you know a place is going to be crowded with dancers getting ready, probably poorly lit, without enough mirrors it’s best to come made up.

Me, leaving the house at 9am


A student show isn’t a place to spend time doing my own face anyways. My job before a student show is to have supplies on hand to add MORE make-up to student faces: add highlights here, a pop of color there, help with false eyelashes until everyone feels lovely and confident.

Then, after we’ve checked blocking and made sure everyone knows the schedule, where to enter and exit the stage and such, I run around with safety pins double-checking the fit of everyone’s costumes.

It’s only after that when I can catch up with the other teachers, my dance partner, our guest musicians/dancers and such…and then worry about my own costumes.

Of course, my costumes are then under a groovy cover-up until stage time. Other people choose Middle-Eastern cover-ups. I raid Mrs. Roper’s closet.

The first set I watched my students perform my veil choreography and then got ready with my student of 8+ years, Yuko, and Jnana (a former student and now teacher) for my Turkish Roma choreography. My skirt, vest, and belt are all self-made.

Second set meant changing for my duet (and unfortunately missing other students who were performing a finger cymbal choreography I taught in a workshop last year) and performing with H.

Duet
me, Delyce (in dance drag) and H

The final set I could get back into quirky teacher garb and just enjoy.

Here I am heading back to my home with two bouquets of flowers from students and peers.

On the train home there were a groups of JR school girls on some sort of team low-key freaking out about me. I tried to ask why (in Japanese), they then asked me if I was Japanese and I replied that I’m American and they squealed more and I didn’t ask anything else.

The last time I encountered a similar reaction, and pushed for an answer, it turned out to be girls who thought I was a Tokyo Disneyland/Disney Sea face character actor getting off my shift. It’s not a crazy assumption to make on the train line that serves both parks…except that time I wasn’t one of Ariel’s sisters, I was just in very tropical dance face.

This time, if that’s what they thought, I can only wonder if they thought…

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dance

Partners in mind

Last night and tonight’s art is dance and altering dance costumes.

I’ve confirmed that my health clinic treats ADHD as well as anxiety/depression, but my next appointment is still a week and a half away.

As much as I want to I can’t drop everything and deep dive into ADHD learning right now. And I want to. Oh when I want to do something boy do I want to.

The current priorities are:
I’m wrapping up third/last semester at school. This involves a lot of lesson plans, busy days, shifting schedules.

Studio 10th year anniversary show this Sunday.

Last night, after work, I went to the studio to rehearse with my dance partner/ friend/ studio owner, H.

Reading how ADHD presents in adult women hasn’t simply meant that I’ve seen >me< on the pages. H and I are very similarly wired but where we differ has always been a source of stress.

I am punctual. I have clocks in every room and make full use of kitchen timers to stay on track. I religiously use the train schedule app on my phone.

If kept waiting once I’ve made it somewhere, I become a fidgety mess. I can’t just wait. This is why I often pack projects and extra distractions.

H is habitually late. She has great difficulty estimating time and distance.

She’s gotten better about alerting me that she will be late, instead of just being tardy and then apologizing.

I’ve also learned that sending her a text message about 1-2 hours before we meet, that’ says I’m looking forward to seeing her at (time and place) is helpful for her and isn’t seen as a rude reminder.

Our other major clash.

I am a clutter bug who has developed an intense focus on decluttering. I know how clutter creates external stress for me and work hard to reduce it.

H is a clutterbug but at the studio her priority is managing the studio and often teaching while her 1 year old son is also present.

Clutter at the studio drives me to distraction. I will focus on items out of place and child handprints on mirrors instead of choreography and what I’m teaching next.

We’ve reached a defined agreement for the sake of our relationship. I will come early for extra studio cleaning when I teach, which tends to be the evening after her teaching. She knows I’ll clean what she doesn’t register at messy or can’t deal with. I’ve budgeted the time do I can do so without feeling like it interferes with my work and focus.

Before we rehearsed H and I had a long discussion about how to better communicate and schedule in light of our brains.

My love of making thing with my hands and her loathing of anything to do with sewing defines my art practice tonight.

She figured out years ago that she’ll never be up for moving hooks on her dance costumes. If she doesn’t pay someone to alter and adjust her costumes it won’t get done. She pays me.

I make costumes.

So tonight I’ll be altering some of her costumes, including one I first made for myself in 2009. H purchased it two years ago, early in her pregnancy, so accommodate her changing body.

We’d wear the matching costumes I made us but her house ate hers and she’s been realistic about the fact she would not have the energy to find it before the show.

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costuming, craft, dance, Doll

Parameters

I know I will need to create some structure for a year of art…because making (or writing about) creating/changing physical art objects everyday isn’t do-able. I’ll burn out.

I do consistently create (dolls, clothing, useful objects, decorative objects) every week…it’s just somewhat haphazard. The mood and inspiration strikes often but how much am I feeding it so it can thrive? How can both streamline my process and widen my scope of possibilities?

And then there’s the fact that my other art is physically demanding.

I wrote yesterday’s post on the train to my second job….the OTHER other art I do. On Thursdays after a 8-4 Mon-Fri full energy job with about an hour commute each way,  I go home for a nap and food, and then go to the studio to teach three dances classes (7-10)….and wake up the next morning at 6am.

Consistently feeding my dance self is a battle I feel I’ve been loosing. I currently teach 7 lessons a week. The studio I work at is about to celebrate their 10 year anniversary…with a student and teacher show.

So, my student attendance is up…but most everyone is focused on practicing the choreographies I’ve already taught so there is more running through whole songs and drilling tricky moves and less slower explanations…and this is true for my beginner students as well as myself and some peers. I’m drilling three choreographies and teaching a fourth one.

This is what I do when I’m not sharing my DIY. This is also a large part of my extra time this month.

My duet partner (and studio owner) H and I are reviving this choreography (with finger cymbals) I made and we performed 2015.

My Turkish Roma class had a student who wanted to perform a choreography I made two-three years ago. I’ll be dancing with her AND another student who learned it then but is now a fellow teacher. I like my choreography but it’s one I created to mirror “How I’d dance” instead of translating my choices to a more teachable/student oriented choreography. It’s VERY heavy on the heel bounces. This style is why massage places ask me if I wear heels a lot. I don’t, those are just the calves I get from this.

My beginners are doing a 3 minute choreography which has three distinct sections…veil work, slow moves, and FAST ALL THE SHIMMY. This is the veil work. Looking at this clip I realize that I’ve also lost weight since a few months ago because busy. Not intentional it’s just how my body ebs and flows. Enjoy my “lesson wear”

And last there’s the choreography my intermediate students are starting (not for the show) by a dancer I love learning from, Serkan Tutar. I have permission to teach it and alter it as needed. His choreographies always work well for me AND when it’s student appropriate and I DO teach what I’ve learned in his workshops it gives me some time off from creating new work…

And it’s finding ways to feed this, my other art, and myself, that can be hard.

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costuming, sewing, Uncategorized

Finished Costume Pictures.

I totally forgot to show you finished costume pictures from RomaFest.

But you need to know that I got there nice and early for pre-show rehearsal and spent times napping dressed like this.

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The show was huge, those of us dancing in a Turkish Roma influenced style were but a small part, probably making up about 10-20% of the performer. This is Team Turkish Roma Style, minus one. We danced improvisationally with live music and then did our own solos or work with our troupes. I have no troupe yet so I soloed.

Left to Right:
Marika, Nourah, Miho, Me, Ikuyo and Tomoka.

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The last member, Ai Donya, can be seen in front here.
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I liked how the body stocking looked, and got good feedback on it, but I will add more bling to it so it doesn’t stop below my ribcage.

There was also a camel costume.

Other random shots.

I don’t know if there are any in-action photos.

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Uncategorized

Sunday damage report.

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’ve moved my private dance lesson so my body can rest all day.

The last two weekends have involved evenings with back-to-back restaurant gigs in a single night. How not-glam is that? Three solo shows in two days on top of dance lessons can be killer…and I haven’t modified all my costumes to not pinch the pack of my neck.

To show you what a figurative pain in the neck double gigs are, I give you SATURDAY NIGHT.

Here I am in restaurant closet/office/changing room #1 of the night. Both restaurants (in Shibuya) are owned by the same guy…otherwise I wouldn’t do a double. There’s too much chance location one will run late and mess things up and location two…but with the same owner that onus to keep everything on time is on the staff, not me. If I did gigs for restaurants owned by competitors I’d be in the wrong if I was late for a second gig.
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These restaurants are within walking distance of each other so after my first, sweaty, set I put on a cover-up robe and my full jacket and just wheeled my cart to location two. The week before I danced at restaurants in different areas of Tokyo which required a train ride. I changed out of costume for that one.

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Location two actually has no heated changing area. You go down the building stairs to the basement. To your right after the stairs is the TINY restaurant.

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To the right behind the check-out and the owner’s son, that’s the kitchen. You might think that to the left it’s BIGGER. nope. To the left, the area of the restaurant you can’t see, it’s only about a elevator wider than what you see. One row of tables. I’m very good at dancing with a 3-meter silk veil in a confined place.

To the left after you’ve come down the stairs…is a wall with a a fake-wood screen against it. The other side of the screen is fake-gold.

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That’s the changing room. It’s opened up into an L shape and I scurry Into that space near the storage closet.

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And that’s where I huddle, in my jacket over my costume and standing on my shoes for warmth.

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The owner used to insist on putting a heater in there, and newspapers on the floor, but I was afraid of catching fire.

(Picture from last year, December)

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And that, in a nutshell, is why I’m resting today.

 

 

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costuming, craft, sewing, Uncategorized

Costume Alterations.

Today brings me to sewing I don’t really want to do but need to do.

I have two jobs. One as a mild-mannered English teacher (for Japanese children) and the other as a belly dance teacher/performer (for Japanese adults, Turkish restaurants, etc.).

My English teaching is within set hours that don’t fluctuate from week to week except during vacations. I teach six dance lessons a week and that only fluctuates if I do any substitute teaching or have a workshop to teach.

Then there’s gig life. That can be super dry or super busy, rarely anything reasonable in-between.

It’s been dry. Maybe a studio show, restaurant gig, or dance show here and there. When it’s like that I can get away rotating the same few costumes i’m feeling and fitting well into and not altering much.

My costumes I often make from scratch . Some I fix up after buying them used. years of that can be found on my FB costuming page.

And now, suddenly, I find myself doing two restaurants shows (two different nights) a week in Shinjuku…every week.

It’s time to open the costume closet (yes, I have a closet of just costumes) and figuring out what needs altering. NEVER FUN. Sure, I see things I haven’t worn in a while but I also have to confront the why of it.

Bellydance costumes are tricky to fit as you want everything tight enough that you don’t worry about anything sloshing out or slipping down but not SO tight as to give you excess muffins tops or injury.

I’ve gained some weight at my waist, but my belts and skirts are fine! The thing I’m finding my costumes need is wider ribcages. For some this means just moving hooks but other costumes actually need longer ribcage straps…which is what I’m doing tonight. Luckily this was a used costume in bad shape I fixed up…so I still have extra fabric from my past changes. These alterations don’t help me in cleaning my stash “but what if i neeeeeed it”

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An album of ALL this costume has been through can be found here.

I even used this as part of one of the tutorials I made for a Japanese book on how to DIY when you’re a bellydancer in Japan.

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That girl in the corner? That’s me. I was the sequin and bead master and hand model. These medallions are my creation and my tutorial.

So, again, I’m changing another part of this costume.

Tonight I extend the rib cage.In the future I’ll probably change the neck straps so they cross over and connect to the back instead of attaching like a halter. The chest uplift of a halter is no longer worth the risk of pinching nerves in my neck. Criss-cross straps are a bit harder to get into but they provide the same lift with less neck strain.

I won’t wear it for tomorrow night’s gig, I’m already packed, but it might be worn this Friday or Saturday.

And, I’ll be packing some train sewing for the train into and out of Shinjuku. I’ve wrote a few of my blog posts on the ride last week.

Back to the machine!

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craft, Doll, pullip, sewing, Uncategorized

Nah-Atto part 2.

Ok, catching up on two months of crafting is showing me how godddamned much stuff I make. A Japanese bellydancer I’m friends with on FB JUST posted a photo of a Pullip Nah-Atto she saw in a Book-Off and I replied with a picture of my before and after…and was going to send her the link to my blog when I realized I’d NEVER finished documenting this.

Recap: I’m a belly dancer. In late April I bought a used Pullip “Nah-Atto” on the cheap. I gave her a new MTM Barbie body, sewed a more accurate costume, and started repainting her face. All the construction detail can be found here. An additional post I made about getting MTM Barbie bodies for this project and one other is here.

Then life got in the way of blogging and I didn’t keep you up-to-date!

When in my hometown last March I was given a stash of doll clothing, some dolls, and a few doll wigs from my unnamed source. In this stash was a brunette doll wig with a TON of waxy glue in it. I decided it was a little late 70’s/80’s looking  and perfect for the dancer look I was going for….and perhaps not totally unlike my own hair.

Over weeks I froze the wig and chipped away at the glue many many times. This is midway through the process.

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A pair of eyes I’d ordered from ByByBlytheCo on Etsy arrived. I inserted her new eyes into her eye-mech, inserted new earrings into her existing ear holes, and screwed her head onto her new body.

If you want to know more about the process of creating a hybrid (Pullip head on a MTM Barbie body) I found this well documented blog entry by Sutura Workshop for you.

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WIG TIME!
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With After and Before photos. Please note that she’s not lighter-skinned in the after face photo, that’s just lighting.

 

 

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costuming, craft, Doll, pullip, sewing, Uncategorized

Dressing to Dance. Nah-atto part 1

I’m a belly dancer. I teach and perform and study belly dance. I also make belly dance costumes.

There was no doubt that I’d combine dolls with dance. As soon as I saw a used Pullip Nah-atto doll I had to have it.

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But let’s be honest, Nahh-ato is all Orientalist tropes.

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Genie lamp, harem pants, odd collar with a ring, lounging couch, a not included in this photo but totally included in the outfit face veil….

That’s not to say that I, as a Western white woman involved in the dance, am not guilty of appropriation and Orientalism. I try to educate myself. I listen. I make mistakes and hopefully I have and will continue to correct myself when called out.

My Nahh-Ato has arms that have grown loose and floppy over time. So, she’s getting a new body. The closest skin match I could find for her was the MTM Soccer barbie.

MTMbarbie

This Barbie can easily fit in every part of the outfit except the bra-top. So, while repainting the face and awaiting new eyes, I made a dance costume modeled after 1960’s/1970’s belly dance albums and fashions…all from leftovers in my stash.

I serged/roll hemmed four half circles (two larger, two smaller) to make the skirt. Then I sewed the remaining serger tail into the serged area and beaded the edge.

I then made harem pants with side slits that close at the ankles and are open on one side at the hips.

I stitched the pants onto a Barbie bikini bottom that closes on the side (you can see my basting stitches). I then attached the skirt to the panty-harem pants combo. In human-sized belly dance these would be three separate items you could mix and match but a doll can’t afford that many rolls of elastic and fabric bulking up her form.

All of these layers were eventually attached to her belt so her waist-down outfit snaps at the side and the ankles.

I used interfacing to start making the belt form.

If I were costuming for a human the form and back of the belt would be two separate pieces  that overlapped at the sides… makes altering costumes when dealing with weight changes easier, you just unstitch the joined side and the hooked side and adjust symmetrically. But dolls don’t change size and don’t appreciate the extra layers.

The fray check stained the satin but that wouldn’t be an issue as I was adding another layer of fabric, silver lace.

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I started using chains and decorations from some cannibalized jewelry I have in my stash for decorating dance costumes…

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I made a top based loosely off her original one using the same techniques. It snaps at the back and neck.

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The ribcage articulation reads a little like underboob from this angle.

This is her face, waiting for eyes and a few finishing touches.

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Enter a caption

….and I found Nahh-Ato’s lounging couch at my local Hobby-Off….so she’s ready for her eyes, wig, and the sort of “lounging bellydance” photos that bring ALL the haters and shamers to the yards.

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craft, Doll, pullip, sewing, Uncategorized

The mail contains bad news and a head.

Yesterday, Friday, was not great.

I could get into it all but I won’t.

This is a huge change from my early Live Journal days when I would reveal all intimacies (with certain filters in place) and find it therapeutic to do so.  I’ve already told this story to a few close friends and will repeat the story over the next few days to others. Yet the idea of typing it out and drafting that and exploring my words until I have THE way to say it all? Not here. Not like this.

I wanted something.

I didn’t get it but I didn’t NOT get it.

I’m literally in the in-between.

There was a brief letter with three options on it:

  • Accepted
  • Accepted if an accepted person falls through.
  • Rejected.

And the middle one was circled. Not metaphorically but in a Do you like me?: Check Yes or NO way except “Check: Yes, You’ll do if something better falls through, or No”

And I got a doll head. Bad news and a doll head.

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The art over my shoulder, the performing bear, is by Phineas X Jones. You should get one of his shirts: https://octophant.threadless.com/

I shared my story with a few friends, set other plans into action as if it were a properly circled rejection, and didn’t do anything with the head.

I did finish a pair of pajama pants for Monomono who has been channeling my mood.

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I drafted those pj’s…twice as the first pair didn’t ride high enough. She needs a lounging sweatshirt/sweater and a coffee mug.

Now it’s Saturday and I’m home after teaching three back-to-back dance classes and a brief nap.

(This is some of what I teach Saturday mornings…thus the nap. That’s a lot of little hops)

 

I think I’m at a point where I’ve located most of the parts I need for doll rehab and can create three new/whole dolls soon.

Except for this regrettable wig purchase that is reminding me why I buy used wigs in person.

Yahoo Auction Photo:

Fun fact: A lot of doll videos and sites warn you ahead of time about DOLL NUDITY…because it seems some folks can’t handle DOLL NUDITY.

Wig from the side photographed:

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And the view not shown in the listing:

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There’s some sort of WIRE  with hair running around the wig in the back. From one side the hair cascades the correct way but on the other? NOPE
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So…I’m just going to think about that later because I have no way to understand why that wig is….like that.

But now it is time to handle The Professor who has put up with me tpying and bothering him

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craft, Uncategorized

Gratitude and pictures.

I’ve been thinking this but not typing it…for fear of jinxing it…it’s nice to be writing.

I used to blog daily…yes…Live Journal. I’m older than you may think.

A lot of things squelshed it. Depression hitting new lows after 3/11 the Tohoku quake and everything at Fukushima. The great NEED to write for emotional reasons or stresses often followed by an energy crash once whatever it was was finally dealt with. Face Book. My personal schedule. The ups and down of transitioning to professional help for my anxiety and depression. Life.

It’s been lovely to start to write something that, ultimatly, doesn’t need to be writen. My mind will not be a mess if I don’t work through this. My world doesn’t need this. No one is going to have emotionally deep breakthroughs or feel less alone without these words…and yet writing this brings me, and hopefully others, small but real joy.

That’s all.

But, because I live in Japan…here’s some fan service. The dance top I finished:

The silver bra and belt were also made by me. In fact the bra, half finished, and some sewing supplies traveled with me in my backpack to Tokyo-Nagoya-Taiwan in the worst weeks after 3/11. Here’s the album of that project.

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