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Tomboy to Tribal Diva? A workshop review…

Hair n’ Make-Up Workshop Review
or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Glam
by Rebecca Slingwine

As you probably know, Shay held a performance hair and makeup workshop a week ago! The focus was on getting students familiar with ATS hair and makeup appropriate for a variety of settings, from the stage to the up-close-and-personal. We didn’t leave the workshop experts, but the point was to give us familiarity with the big ideas so we could go play with them and find our own style on our own.

To put it mildly, I am not a makeup girl. To demonstrate how much of a not-a-makeup-girl I am, I will show you a picture of me in my natural habitat:
(Picture courtesy of my awesome bench partner, Eunice Lau.)

No makeup, hair in a ponytail, and yes, what I’m doing to Mocha’s forelock is the extent of everyday hairstyling skillz.

I showed up at the workshop pretty nervous, but I was armed with my notebook for note-taking, and my camera for picture-taking when words failed me! BRING IT ON, HAIR AND MAKEUP!

Since Shay and I sometimes have a similar hair color, her falls were more or less a good match, so I was her hair model for the day. Here I am, makeup-less, with normal hair:

She started by “dirtying up” my hair with some AeroGel Spray Gel (apparently you’re supposed to style your hair dirty!), and set about making a base for the rest of the hairstyle. We started with partitioning my hair into three sections–a section of bangs at the front, and then splitting the rest into two ponytails high on the back of my head.  She then twisted and twisted and twisted each ponytail until it wound down on itself and secured them with a second hair elastic, making mini-buns, aka bun-buns!

Shay then pulled out and explained various falls, dreads, hair pieces, and hair accessories you can use as the basis for your tribal look. I particularly liked the elastic circular contraptions that fit over your buns to give you this look:

(Pictured are a combination of two pair of two different hair pieces 
layered on top of each other, similar to THIS and THIS)

They were just my level of hairstyling—you pop them on, pin them, and off you go!

But Shay is more ambitious than that. She decided we were going to demonstrate a tribal hairstyle with multiple dread falls. She started applying the synthetic falls by giving me a rat, explaining this would make a good “corkboard for my head”, adding volume to the fake hair and creating a place to anchor various accessories. A rat, I learned, is not only a small mammal that is a good pet and model organism, but also hair net filled with synthetic hair.

She secured the rat with large bobby pins, and then tied the falls around the rat and bun-buns. Then pinned some strands in place, both to keep the fall from peeling up away from my scalp due to its own weight, and to keep the strands from gaping and exposing the useful but somewhat unattractive rat.

Next, for decoration and to ease the transition from my slightly darker hair to her falls, she added a scarf. It’s just a patterned, sparkly scarf that can be obtained at festivals everywhere, but she folded it in a triangle and then around itself to get a band. She then tied it over the transition from my hair to the falls.

For the sake of demonstrating “performance-ready hair” (and because I do so love my Egyptian Half-Turns), she assumed were I dancing, I would be doing a lot of whipping around and/or spinning. As such, she did not tie the scarf under the fall, as this would assure that the falls would whip around and hit me in the face with every spin. Instead, she tied the scarf over the falls, containing them in case of intense spinning.

After freeing me to spin to my heart’s content, she took the lengths of bangs she had partitioned out and pinned them under the falls in the back so they swept across my forehead.

At this point, I thought we were done—it already looked plenty glamorous to me, and is easily the most complex hairstyle I’ve ever worn. But no! We must decorate, embellish, and glam-ify! (this is for the STAGE after all!)

I was terrified. Was I ready for more glam?

She laid out her assortment of tribal hair ornaments and explained that they didn’t all have to match—indeed, matchy-matchyness is undesirable. Like the rest of your costume, they’re supposed to resemble a dowry that you’ve built up over time, and each piece generally has its own story.

The up-side to this lack of matchyness is you get to shop for hair ornaments like a magpie. That’s exactly how I shop: “Oh! Look! Shiny! Mine!” I don’t consider things like if it matches what I already have, or what color it is. It’s shiny. I like it. Therefore, it comes home with me.

I’m glad to find a style of costuming that embraces my avian tendencies.

Shay mentioned it’s important to not forget the back of your head. We have a lot of fast turns, but we also have a lot of slow, chewy turns where the audience gets to bask in the glory of our costumes. Don’t leave them disappointed when you turn around! And remember, ATS dancers who derive their formations from the FatChance format spent a lot of time on performance angle, leaving the audience with a great view of our right side, and part of the back of our right side. A savvy dancer puts her most beloved pieces there!

Next, On to Makeup!
Shay suggests that when you are first learning to do hair and makeup that you do your hair first—hair gives you the context for your makeup, and dramatic hair encourages dramatic makeup. Apparently, it’s all about the drama!

This was going to take some getting used to.

I did my own makeup under Shay’s guidance. She first emphasized the importance of applying makeup to clean, moisturized skin, and added that a good (but not vital) thing to have was a primer to protect skin from potentially outbreak-inducing stage makeup and prevent the makeup from slipping.

I had crazy hair, and now I had weird stuff on my face. I started freaking out a little. THIS WAS NOT MY NATURAL HABITAT!

But we pushed on! We are ATS bellydancers,

and we are HARDCORE! 

Next was eye shadow. She advised starting with a neutral color, so I picked a neutral beige-y color and put it on all over the lid. Then she advised picking a darker color. I showed her the colors in my makeup palette and asked which color I should use. My eye shadow experience is very limited—I had purchased the palette because the people on the front looked like Ziggy Stardust. If Ziggy Stardust look-alikes wore it, there must be something good about it, right?

She took a look and asked, “How daring is Rebecca today?”

“SUPER daring. Let’s GO FOR IT,” I declared.

“Purple,” she advised.

Oh, boy. I was going to have purple on my face.

I put some purple on. “Is this enough?” I asked.

“That’s a good start!” she said encouragingly. “A really good start!”

I interpreted that to mean “no”.

Two more applications later, I had enough shadow on and I figured we were done. I had purple on my face! How crazy was that? But no, we were just beginning!

Next, she had us pick a color darker than our dark color. Craziness! We used it and some eyeliner and mascara to frame the eye and make the placement of your features more apparent to distant audience members.

Again, it took me a couple of tries to get it dark enough, but I managed! This was way more makeup than had ever been within a ten-foot radius of my face.  And now it was time to highlight, blush, and contour. I put on what I thought was a really dramatic amount of blush. But Shay said it wasn’t enough, and took over. When I finally looked in the mirror, it was a shock to my system, but she reminded me it is meant to be viewed at a distance, on stage. She wisely had me look at her, wearing a similar amount of blush, and she looked lovely! I decided not to panic just yet.

Here is my final look (sans bindis or other similar embellishments), with the note that I needed to add darker lipstick, because that will make my lips visible on the stage. I like having lips onstage, so I don’t suppose I can object too much to that reasoning.

(Ed note: Rebecca’s makeup here is a little understated for the stage, but she would have keeled over from a heart attack had we gone any further that day. Baby steps.  She has since taken these skills and learned to make her makeup even more dramatic! GO REBECCA!)

The workshop was challenging, and a little daunting, but I was inspired. I needed to practice, and to practice some more, and I needed to shop for more makeup…

Post-Workshop Shopping
I had basic brushes and whatnot (gifted to me many years ago by my mother and rarely used), but I needed things like blush, and plum eye shadow, and lipstick, and highlighter, and contour, and… Shay had supplied us with handouts with a list of core makeup items every tribal bellydance performer should have, and during the workshop gave us lots of information about various recommended brands and stores to shop with.  So I was off to Sephora with my list in hand.

The Nice Sephora Lady (who was extremely helpful and whose name I unfortunately have forgotten. As it is, all I can do is recommend the Nice Sephora Lady at the U-Village Sephora, for she is awesome) got me set up and ready to go. I was feeling bold and decided that on top of the must-haves of blush, eye shadow, and lipstick, I wanted some glitter, but not too much. Nice Sephora Lady immediately procured glitter of the not-too-much variety and sent me merrily on my way. Thus equipped with makeup goodies, I went home to practice.

The makeup was surprisingly not-frightening. I felt pretty good about even my first application—the trick was adding enough and then blending so I didn’t look like a cubist painting. Once you have the pattern down, it’s honestly not that bad. I was even okay with the glitter! (Here is where I would like to make a shout-out to my cabaret teacher. When you see the shimmer on my cheekbones? Nadira, if you’re reading this, I’d like you to know that glitter is for you.)

Unleashing the Diva at Home
Back home, experimenting with my new skills, I hit some roadblocks and nearly melted down completely. Frustrated, panicked, and not knowing what else to do, I sent Shay a Facebook message containing the phrase “OMGWTFBBQAAAAUUUGGGHHH”, which I felt was a good summation of my current mental state. She responded shortly thereafter with some sage advice.

The sage advice was to not think of this as me doing my hair and makeup. Of course she wanted me to feel beautiful and confident, but this was not my everyday self, who does rather messy science for a living and plays with horses in the mud in her spare time and thinks purple makeup is for Ziggy Stardust. This was Stage Diva Bellydancer Rebecca, a slightly different self who is glamorous and loves purple makeup and has big, elaborate hair and may or may not stab people who try to hassle her with hairsticks.

I realized that while this was about hair and makeup, the hair and makeup weren’t just there for their own sake. They were there to make screamingly clear that I was not in my normal roles of research technician and overgrown 4-H kid. Just as a t-shirt, sturdy jeans, tied-back hair, and no jewelry signifies that I am ready to kick ass and do science; a costume, elaborate hair, and lots of makeup signifies that I am ready to kick ass and perform.  Learning hair and makeup wasn’t really about mastering a series of techniques to produce a certain look; it was about unleashing Stage Diva Bellydancer Rebecca on the world.

With that goal in mind, I practiced a lot.  I would practice a little before I’d shower at night—even if I messed up, I’d be showering it off later. I wouldn’t do all of the makeup, because that would just make me frustrated, but I’d try eye makeup, blush, or hair, and take it out, and shower.  I wore makeup to troupe practice and dress-up night in class, because I knew no one would judge me for bad makeup. Everyone assured me I looked lovely, Shay gave me a hug when I came to class with purple eye shadow on, and assured me that I looked fantastic. My boyfriend gave me plenty of compliments even when I didn’t ask him how I looked, and that was great, too.  And after all this experimentation, I had to wonder…

Was the world ready for Stage Diva Bellydancer Rebecca?

Was I ready for her?

Through practice, I have come a long way. Looking at what I am capable of creating today, it’s not perfect—I doubt the blush is dark enough, for one. However, considering I’ve never really worn blush, I think it’s a step in the right direction. My hair could probably stand to be bigger and fuller, too. It’s all a work in progress.

But you know what’s awesome? Thanks to the workshop, some sage advice, some practice, some encouragement, and some perseverance, Stage Diva Bellydancer Rebecca is starting to emerge.

I think she’s going to be fun to dance with!

Follow Shay:

Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

2 Responses

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    Love this! The transformation process can be frustrating but also rewarding and fun. I’ve been performing regularly for 5 years and I still have to tell myself: Bigger! Better! More! My hair has been a particular struggle, especially since i cut it shorter this year. On the other hand, I’ve found that for certain performance situations that works out because I can tease the heck out of it, spray it big, add flowers, a headband and an accent piece and call it a day.

    A particular joy of mine is going out after a gig, when I’ve changed out of my costume but still have make up and at least partial stage hair. Nothing like getting a burger and beer while wearing glittery fake eyelashes (believe me, start playing around with fake lashes, once you’ve got the hang of them they can transform your look!).

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    What a great article! As a cabaret dancer, don’t know the intricacies of tribal hair. Very interesting-thank you for sharing. And yes Rebecca, glitter is good…. ;). Nadira

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