Essence of Bellydance 2018 Wrap Up

20-24 September 2018

I can’t believe it’s already the end of September- honestly. I have had so much going on- so many things bam bam bam left right- outta no where!  I am overwhelmed by this weekend and my experiences down at Essence of Bellydance! I had such an incredible time with my dance family and visiting a whole new space. This is going to be a novel length wrap up post- soooooooo read on if you want- or just skim for pictures but the TL:DR version is Essence was amazing- I didn’t win the competition- but I made new friends, learned new shit and had an amazing time watching both the Gala Show and the BalAnat show on Sunday. So AMAZING!

It’s been a whirlwind of events- the weekend kicked off with my anniversary. It’s been two whole years since my love and I were wed and I just have a hard time it’s been two years with no one actually dying.  WOO HOO- and by “dying” I mean- you know no one murdering anyone. Unfortunately I had so much to do that weekend in terms of preparing for Essence that I just couldn’t afford to really go anywhere for any length of time. Saturday and Sunday was spent banging away through the Natural Blue costume. and then I took a break Sunday for Collective Rehearsal in Delaware and then dinner with hubs. We had a nice dinner at one of our favorite Brazilian steak houses and we came back and I got back to work. Just a side note- I do really love this man.

2016- Photo by Pixie Vision Photogrpahy

Monday- Wed was just work work work- dance and sewing and quick lifts.  Wednesday I left work early to pack, get a hair cut and head to DC for the Childish Gambino concert. Oh yeah- I was going with a friend to the DC show of Childish Gambino Wednesday night- and it was MAGICAL. We wound up skipping the opening act in order to purchase our swag- which YES GURL. YES. SO SOFT- SO AWESOME. who ever did the design work for him was on point.

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We finished up at a reasonable time frame (concert ended around 22:20) and I stayed down there then got up at 05:30 to head back to NJ. Our friend who was due to arrive a day earlier had issues with the hotel so we had to work through new accommodations but I fixed it and I proceeded to panic pack for the next 45 minutes before shoving all my shit into a bag and getting in the car for the flight.

Thursday I landed and retrieved this cute little Mazda cross over that was fancier than I was used to driving and got the navigation fired up and headed off to the Ulta I knew that was near my hotel. The Cover FX drops were on sale 50% so I obviously HAD to go get them. I picked up Celeste and Moonlight- I’ll cover those as well as my Melanie Mills lotions next make up Monday!photo collage maker_wm9yq4630992141..png

Then I hit up Wal-Mart and picked up food/wine and some basic weekend supplies for the weekend- then checked into the hotel. I ate and settled in to work on my costume. (Pro tip- packing costuming supplies- is the fucking worst- I left so much stuff (looking at you dance shoes) .  My first roommate arrived- but promptly departed for dinner post workshop- I just kept gluing crystals via hotfix.  Roommate number 2 arrived and we had some food and hung out catching up on travel plans and workshops.

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Thursday Night Shenanigans

Friday was a casual day- coffee, and blogging and breakfast.  Donna and I went and had this delicious breakfast at a local chain diner type joint and I pretty much spent the day gluing crystals on this crazy blue costume.

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Coffee IS the best reward!

4 PM rolled around way to fast and didn’t get nearly as much done as I had hoped but was much better than it had been. It takes me unfortunately over an hour and a half to get ready but I slapped the make ups on- repacked my “gig” bag and even managed to squeeze curling my hair up a wee bit. I seriously just need to start wearing a wig- this hair curling shit is over rated.

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Dancer check in was 6 and energy was HIGH- competition started at 730 sharp- I had plenty of time to connect with the other competitors and get in a solid warm up. The line up was the ametuer oriental/fusion group and then Oriental Pro and Fusion Pro, which was unusual but left me enough time to watch the other two performers I wanted to see AND get dressed. I used my Bewb Armor costume because I thought it was different and super vintage feeling and enough to stand out since it was completely devoid of sparkles. I love that thing so hard. I did my standard set of pushups prior to performance and got on the stage and slaughtered my choreography- or well- I thought I did. Then I switched gears to get ready for my fusion piece.  I’m grateful that I made something super efficient to get into! I was NOT grateful that I hadn’t done a full dress rehearsal in it. I had tried them on and had done a run through with the skirt but honestly wearing the skirt with no pants vs wearing them over my fitness tights was a WHOLE different ball of wax and honesty I was uncomfortable getting into anything resembling full body extensions-which left me feeling disappointed with that piece. But I knew going in just getting on stage and doing the damn thing was the important part of that performance- and I got some lovely pictures from both performances.

Ciana- the lovely winner of the night!

Our corner of fabulous at the show!


We had to wait a total of 20 minutes maybe before climbing back on stage to have them announce the winners.  Ultimately I did not place in either category- which I was rather disappointed with for obvious reasons- but it’s always a learning experience and I get feedback from some instructors I would not really be able to without extra expenses.

I can’t lie, it was a pretty significant emotional blow to not even place after I’d put so much effort in to my choreography.  I improve almost everything- and while I can’t say what I wrote was ground breaking- it was a huge break through for me to actually write and perform a piece. I’m grateful that the most magical Donna helped me write cymbals that wound up forcing me into writing something that I had to stick to. Even if it didn’t win- that’s a huge success for me personally.

Post show- we re-organized and headed over to the Cheesecake Factory with some of my DC peoples.  And we ate. Man did we eat- so hungry. I had so much fun and honestly being able to share these experiences with people and then get to go talk and eat and drink just makes all of this worth everything.

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Selfie Lessons!

Saturday was a full day of workshops and the gala show. I had Abigail Keyes Turkish Oriental Choreography which was amazing- I had so much fun and I just adore taking her workshops.  I think headed over to take the Victoria Teel fan method workshop- which I was SO. THRILLED.WITH. If you like doing fan veil work and you haven’t done one of her workshops- then I highly recommend hitting up the next one that’s near you and or looking at her on line classes for the technique. She put a lot of time and energy into the look and finesse of managing the larger fans. I also obviously bought on- and her asymmetric dress. Because BOOTY DRESS WAS NEEDED.

After that I had the Jamila review workshop with Suhaila where I saw MY PEOPLE AND MY FAMILY. It was an entry level Jamila workshop- and all the Suhaila peeps were at various rehearsals so attendance by Suhaila people was a little light but even with 5 of us in a class of twenty it was a ton of fun. The wrap up of the workshop was a wonderful quick 30-45 min lecture by one of the original BalAnat dancers Rebaba- which was SUCH.A.TREAT. Again- totally worth getting to sit in on that with her there.


We finally managed to get ourselves extracted from the workshop/festival and head back to the hotel to get ready for the Gala Show. None of us had eaten so we had a very exciting adventure trying to find food before the show. We wound up ordering ahead of time and picking it up on our way over then inhaling it in the car. It was some Greek tavern food and it was… .AHMAZING.

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All glammed up – ready to eat!

The Gala show was a little long- but it was truly a great show. It was wonderful to see 3 of the Suhaila Level 5 performers (Sabriye, Abigail and Rachel) dance- it was a testament to the hard work to see their craftsmanship on display!  Saide, Lebanese Simon, Mardi Love and Kami Liddle also performed (all of them twice I believe, there was so much talent on the stage.  After we wrapped up the show I chatted with Rob and Maia from Candlelight Productions and – gosh I love them so hard. They are just such positive energy and always a source of joy for me. And I realized I am so grateful to be surrounded to such incredibly hot and talented people in my life. It’s almost over whelming how awesome it is. It’s fucking crazy.

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Sunday was the last day of workshops and I woke up later than I wanted with my back protesting and a sore throat developing. Sabriye had asked me the night before about coming to her workshop and pretty much guilted me into coming- which was a new choreography she was teaching for an entrance piece and while it was early and my back was cranky I am SO glad I went. First of all- Sabriye is just magical. She’s great instructor and she’s just a magical unicorn performer and it fills me with joy to learn from her and be near her. SO WIN. Totally worth it. SECONDLY the choreography was AWESOME!


I connected with my other roommate who came and took a different workshop- spoke with one of the judges regarding the competition and feedback- and then we went shopping on accident and bought assuit. #whoops (STAY TUNED FOR NEW COSTUME COMING SOON!)

The most fabulous Carrie of the Dancer’s Eye was coming in for the BalAnat show and she arrived just after we returned to the hotel, finished getting ready to go and headed out. We found a tasty little Mexican restaurant that had a bar and smashed dinner before heading back to The Strand Theatre for the 50th Anniversary Tour of the BalAnat show.

Which if I’m being honest, is precisely why I came down to the event. The show kicked off about 5:30 sharp with a great video tribute to Jamila and what she actually created with BalAnat.

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The following hour and a half we were transported to a place far away that was part circus and part tribal earthy goodness.  The show opens with the dancers filing in from back and all the sides of the stage coming down through the audience and filtering on to the stage. We are treated to the Mother Goddess and the cycle of life and just setting intentions. It’s a very powerful opening scene. The show runs for 90 minutes. All the dancers stay on stage as the back line for the duration of the show unless dancing or back stage changing. It’s such an experience. Sword, cane, pot, cymbals, voi (veil poi) fan veil, chamadan (which is a huge candelabra worn on the head)- and all manner of dance. It’s just- such a spectacle and nothing else in the bellydance world compares.  I think I was truly moved because it’s such a huge part of our dance history and it’s magnificent to behold in person.

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Can we talk about how hot my friends are? seriously…

We got to hang out for a bit after and when I was able to come down off the experience a little bit to explain my thought- all I could think about was the talent and hard work involved in the show and I was so honored to realize this was my family- these are my people and I’m so proud to have this as my heritage and history.  I think when I realized Cane dance was all 5 of the Level 5’s in the program I just – lost my mind- SO. AMAZING. So good. Juicy- vintage awesome forward thinking goodness. I loved every second of it.

We headed home post after part and started corralling our bits that exploded all over the room and talked about the weekend trying to post process. A chilled bottle of prosecco was a god send and I was really glad I picked it up to share with my roommates!

Monday morning was a bit of a shit show getting out the door but we got there- everyone was emotional and tired- but we got packed up and headed out for coffee and breakfast.    It was a great way to wrap up the weekend without just taking off was lovely.

A note about my trip back through the Atlanta airport, as I was headed into the D terminal- coming up the escalator from the tram I heard this beautiful music that sounded much to loud to be being piped through the speakers. And as I crested the rise there was this woman playing a cello was rocking out with her little amp and her cello.  I was so overwhelmed. Not only is live music ALWAYS to be stopped and appreciated- I absolutely ADORE cello music- and violin music and any deep throated melody music- it just moves my soul in a way that makes me SO happy.  So I took ten minutes to enjoy- and then dance- and chat with her and found her on IG and followed her (JennCello by the way if you are wondering) and I was totally moved to tears- just- crying in the airport. Apparently it’s a thing. It was a beautiful way to wrap up the weekend and be sent on my way home. I was SO.HAPPY.

Hubs picked me up from the airport with the dog in tow and a small bouquet of flowers- he knew the trip was a bit rough for me since I didn’t win (or place) and that I wasn’t feeling that well- so it was really a lovely gesture- silly but lovely and he was a welcome site!


I’ve returned- unpacked and settled back in to the house with some sort of crude going down which meant I had time to type this up and drink a hot toddy since I got kicked out of the office.

It’s hard to explain these dance weekends if you aren’t used to them or haven’t been, it’s just inspiring and motivating and soul filling to see and connect with people who love doing this as much as you do it- it’s like a giant family reunion for multiple days with dancing and music and booze and all the goodness that is a dance family.

If you’ve made it thus far- congratulations- you’re a trouper. if you just skimmed for pictures- I’m not mad- this was a lot- but needed to get it off my plate!  With that- I wish you well and can’t wait to see you next time for costuming or in class!

I have to say thank you to Donna for helping with my choreography, Abby, Sabriye and Victoria Teel for my wonderful workshops, the Georgia Collective for trusting me with their skirts, Faaridah for the amazing event and to Suhaila and the cast of BalAnat for the amazing show- thank you everyone who makes this event possible and for consistently putting up with the crazy that comes with dance events- it’s so much- but we love coming and we are grateful for you going through it !

Till next time fearless readers!


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