I recently had the joy of traveling to London, England. I had not been there in some time and quite a few things had changed! Not just in general but also in the way that I traveled and got around once I got there. Since I have already given you all tips about my travels to Greece, I thought, why not help out my readers with some tips for when they travel to London as well!
The first thing to take a look at is weather. I was blessed with almost summer-like weather while I was there but this is not usually the case. Even if you look up the weather beforehand, be sure to pack a few pieces for those sudden showers and changes in temperature just in case. For the most part, London doesn’t get very hot and if you are near the Thames it can be a bit windier and colder than you might expect.
While you are thinking of what clothes to patch, check your electronics. I stayed at the Doubletree Hilton at Tower of London and while the hotel may be modern in a lot of ways, there were no USB ports in the rooms. If you want to charge your phone, you’ll have to have an adaptor. And be sure to bring the whole set of them. There are some adaptors that will say Great Britain and others that say UK. I made the mistake of not bringing my whole set and the one I thought was correct, was not. Luckily, the concierge at the hotel had one to offer me. This is not always the case so be sure to pack in advance. If you forget and if the hotel is all out, you can purchase one. I recommend going to Oxford street, the shopping district will have one there for a few pounds, less expensive than other areas that know tourists are looking for them and will charge more.
The easiest thing to do to get around the city is to walk. You will discover so much more walking around than you might sitting on a tour bus. The city does have walk on, walk off buses for tours that you can sign up for that allows you to have the structure of a tour when you want but the adventure of your own footsteps when you don’t.
I used my GPS and google maps to help me get around. You can select the transportation option or the walking option and it will tell you what underground stations and stop to take and even the buses. If your feet are tired from doing a lot of walking, you can select the least amount of walking as well.
To get the most out of your travel buck, I recommend getting an Oystercard. You could get a Travelcard but I find that those limit what mode of transportation you can take. The Oyster card is accepted even for the Heathrow train (I’ll get to that one in a minute). There are kiosks right at the airport where you can purchase an Oyster card and load it right away. You can use –https://t.co/HoaPLcyDzr in order to plan out some of your trips and get an idea of how much you want to put on your card in advance. Make sure to get one for each person, it is not allowed to use one card for several people at once.
It is best to plan out your trips in advance and put them into your phone. This way you don’t have to try to search for them once you are there. If the locations are already saved in your google maps then you’ll use less battery and internet connectivity trying to look them up while on the go. A few of my friends asked me if Uber was available while I was in London. Yes, Uber does work in London. You can also get the traditional black taxicab but it will be more expensive. If you’re ever afraid of walking somewhere, Uber is safe to use. Just to be sure to track the map of your return back so they don’t take the long way for more charges and also for safety first!
If it’s your first time, I highly recommend going to the center of London and seeing Big Ben, Parliament, etc. The earlier you go, the better. The later in the day it is, the more tours have started to arrive and the areas can get very crowded, very quickly. It is also a good idea to buy tickets for things online in advance if you can. But be sure to check if these require an in person pick up the day of. Upon visiting the tower of London to see the crown jewels, I purchased my ticket online but had to have a paper version to get in. My hotel’s printer was down so I had to go to the ticket office. Being there before 930am allowed me to get my paper ticket and get in without having to stand in a large line. A note on the crown jewels- you cannot take photographs and you stand on a moving walkway as you glide by the displays.
In terms of payment, most places accept credit cards. What you may want to watch out for is the foreign transaction fees on your credit card. Most companies will charge per transaction, not a flat rate for your time there. You can order pounds from your bank and you can also return them to your bank once you have returned. Bank of America, for instance, will accept all the bills but not the coins. Not sure why, so make sure that you spend the coins first!
Last, but certainly not least, photos! You know I don’t go anywhere without pics, right? Why struggle to take photos with your phone or try to find someone to take one with it for you? Airbnb has an amazing service called photowalk. You can choose the city that you are going to be in, such as Photowalk in London. I chose that service and my photographer Domi was amazing!! She helped me figure out what areas I wanted to take photos in, how to get there, how long we would be and so much more! She was super friendly and my pics turned out fabulous to boot!
There you have it, my tips and tricks for traveling to London. Please let me know if you have any additional questions, I’d be happy to answer them in the comments below!
Quality is always better than quantity. I hear things like this from a lot of people who reach out to me for a marketing assessment: But I blog a thousand times a day, why aren’t I getting sales? Or my ad is visible on Facebook 10 days in a row, why is no one clicking on it? Why are people hiding my ads?
It is far better to spend time writing a quality blog article and posting it- within reason than to rush and have a hundred out there. Just like with a performance, would you rather work on it and present a finished product? Or the first thing that comes into your head?
It’s easy in today’s age of digital advertising and social media to push your signal out there over and over again. But with that you run the risk of someone declining your content or even hiding it. What you want is people searching your content out and trying to find it. I know, it’s hard to take a bit of a back seat when you find others pushing it over and over again. But ask yourself this, how many Louis Vuitton pop up ads do you see on your screen vs something like Walmart? And there is your answer.
The same can be true for bellydance newsletters. If you’re filling my inbox day after day with your messages, I’m much more likely to ignore them. If it’s the whole point of your message and the subscribers of your email list know that- ie, daily _ then yes, and it’s also something they have specifically signed up for. For instance, a daily exercise program is a great example, but if it’s about your services and classes, not so much. You can create a daily bellydance tip and then include links to your information but don’t blast people. It’s the quickest way to lead them to the unsubscribe button.
So under certain circumstances, weekly is OK, monthly is best. If you have something going on monthly that I want to attend, trust me I’ll add it to my calendar. It is true that in this day and age of constant media, we do need reminders but if you send out a newsletter monthly you can time it such that the reminder is right before the next event. or have a button that I can click to add it to my calendar in that moment.
The next time you set up a bellydance newsletter campaign, think about the following questions:
Have I already sent out this information to my subscribers?
Is this a sales filled newsletter or an informational newsletter?
Am I emailing them more than once a month?
Am I sending my subscribers something of value?
Have I taken the time to include great content?
Am I rushing to get this out?
Once you have asked yourself these questions you’ll be able to get a feel for if the quality of your bellydance newsletter is one that you should send out or hold off on.
Have questions of your own that you use to evaluate your newsletters? Need help figuring out if your newsletter sounds too much like a sales pitch? Feel free to comment below or shoot me an email. I’m happy to help!
What’s a capsule wardrobe? By definition, it is a closet of 30 pieces or so that you can combine in a myriad of ways and always have something different to wear without feeling like you have to constantly repeat. It is a great way to pack for a long trip, to cull your closet or to save money while not feel bored with your wardrobe. The same thing that can be done for a “regular” closet wardrobe can be done for a bellydancer. So, what would a bellydance capsule consist of?
1. Jewelry- something silver and sparkly and something gold and sparkly. Metallics go with pretty much everything and you can mix and match. You’ll need two sets of earrings, necklace, bracelets and ring. So that’s 12 pieces right there- I count one bracelet per arm. I’m a symmetry girl!
2. Bra/belt set- this gets a bit tricky as you might have a favorite color that works for you but i’d say one in silver tones, one in gold tones and one with a myriad of colors to it. This way you can match them however you want and you have one for that splash of color so you don’t feel like you’re stifled. And that’s another 6 pieces!
3. Skirts- In this case, you could always do your math from your other options and splurge on the rest of the numbers with skirts. I think skirts really change an outfit completely and I speak from experience. At least 2 circles skirts and 2 straight style skirts. You can choose to have one in velvet for the chillier months and you can choose to have all patterns or no patterns. You’d be surprised how a skirt change can totally make a bra/belt set look different!
4. Dresses- You don’t have to wear a dress in all things, in all performances but if you have a more conservative event, a dress is a nice thing to have. You have to be sure that you don’t pick a Saidi style dress and then do dances that are not Saidi to it. You can also choose to buy a body stocking to give a more covered look to a set that you already have. In any case, this piece counts as one.
5. Props- Now this is also going to get tricky. One cane and one pair of finger cymbals should suffice. Now veils, those are another story. You could match your veils to your skirts or you could choose primary colors that go with everything- cymbals, veils, canes
6. Shoes- Not everyone dances in shoes but I wanted to include them just in case. Similar to the jewelry you could choose metallics, one silver, one gold or you could choose nude in which case they would go with everything.
7. Cover up- You could use your veil as a cover up but you also take the chance that it will get snagged on your beads. I like to have two cover ups. A summer and a winter. The styles that open in the front are the easiest so you don’t have to worry about pulling them over your head and messing up your hair or makeup. Let’s take a look at our tally, shall we?
I hope that this bellydance capsule article has helped you start to build your wardrobe if you’re just starting out or maybe cull the one you have. I don’t know if it’s possible to cull mine, I am a severe addict! This is most definitely one of those situations where you maybe shouldn’t be like me!
I’m going with an interesting twist this month. I think that this might be true for all music as it changes and evolves with the times but I see it happening with Greek music. Specifically being used in bellydance. Not only is is not happening with the old stuff but the new stuff as well. I have tried to integrate some of the newer pieces into my routines because heck yeah they have a great beat to dance to!
But as Greek music evolves it is becoming more mainstream. More of the Greek songs are rock or rap or pop and don’t always lend themselves to bellydance. at least. not. a fusion form of bellydance. Some. also have curse words in them and those are not exactly appropriate to dance to. I know, not everyone knows Greek but if my mom see it- I’m dead!
Shira and I had a very interesting discussion thread about this very thing on Twitter. She brought up that a lot of dancers forget that Greek style and music exists. They think only in terms of Egyptian, Turkish and incorrectly believe that you MUST use “Arabic” or “Turkish” music. She brought up the fact that it may also have a lot to do with who is in the local immigrant community and how close their ties are to their culture of origin. Which got me thinking, maybe there aren’t Greeks around in certain areas to request the music? Or even to ask for that style?
Which of course then lead to another thread of conversation on whether there is a “Greek” style and that some say that it is a not a Greek art form it is a part of the occupation. In this way they are disavowing the Greekness of the Anatolian Greeks who fled the early 20th century genocide. And it does depend on who you talk to. My mom will say that there is no Greek bellydance in the traditional sense in which we see it performed. She will say tsifteteli which also brings up several different styles depending on who you talk to. So depending on who a dancer has conversed with or where the Greeks in that area are from, they may have only heard that it isn’t Greek. And this, like other things, gets perpetuated on forums and social media, repeated and then becomes gospel.
Added to all of this is the fear of making a mistake. No one wants to use the “wrong” music. I’ve given workshops about distinguishing between the different rhythms and types of music. It is hard to know but it can be studied just like anything else. Believe me I don’t want to see someone dancing veil to the Greek national anthem as much as anyone doesn’t want to see cane to Om Kalthoum. Granted I have used music that my mom doesn’t think is appropriate for bellydance but I have found that it’s one of the few ways to bridge my audience. If I can find that right pop beat then I pull in the Americans while still having the Greek flair.
Greek dance and music is also easy to lump the art form into “AmCab” and yes perhaps in some ways it had to be kind of made that in order for it to be stage worthy. In its pure form it is not a dance that lends itself to a lot of WOW movements or travel steps. So I can understand and see the confusion. But it’s sad to think that it might disappear altogether because of misinformation and a lack of further study and development.
Another point that was brought up on the twitter discussions by Tevec, Nathara of CrowSong and Mahin was trends. My fellow dancers listed use Greek music and have performed with Greek bands but also know that styles are in trend. At the moment everyone is focuses on modern Cairo. Some are moving back into traditional music and have rediscovered their love of Greek music. 20 years ago Greek was the rage but I’m hoping it make a comeback. I know that everything is cyclical so maybe it’s only a matter of time. There was also a time when everyone was all over Egyptian and Greek and forgot about Turkish.
So what do you think? do you think that Greek music isn’t used because of fear? lack of information? misinformation? or just trends? I’d love to hear your thoughts and continue the discussion below!
Thank you to all the dancers who contributed to this discussion via Twitter: Shira, Tevec, Nathara of CrowSong and Mahin!
Recently I posed a question to social media that I’ve been pondering a lot- and that’s giving up. Should I give up dancing? Should I give up on dance completely? Partially? I asked the following: Have you ever given up on something in dance? Have you ever stopped doing something that you felt obligated to do in order to appear “successful” but that wasn’t really bringing you joy anymore?
I’ve been looking at this because of all of the frustrations that I see online and in some aspects of my own dance business and career. Maybe my priorities have changed from when I started but I’m not sure. I wanted to see if it was just me feeling this way or if dancers. I don’t want to do things out of obligation because it tends to show. If you’re not dancing for the joy and for the money it starts to come across. If you’re only attending this or that to be “seen”, it shows. Your heart isn’t in it. And I don’t want to give time to something that my heart isn’t into.
Another thing I have seen is a change in the vibe. When the economy changes our businesses change and the focus can be more on the dollar than the art. Teachers change how they teach in order to reach more students and attract more to the class. Maybe your class changes to a more fitness style and you’re not into that. But if there are onl ya few then there aren’t enough people to sustain it. The world also seems to be in general more negative. Everything is sad or bad and it changes things.
Also, I’ve seen people try to change who they are as dancers to fit into an event or a show. For instance, I might be able to loosely pull off a hula style performance at a party. But because I haven’t trained in hula dance extensively, I don’t feel right doing so. To me, it’s not ok, to put on a grass skirt and then bellydance just to be able to present something as hula dance. Or any other fusion or addition that I haven’t done extensive research into or practice. It might lose me that gig or event but it doesn’t feel right in my heart. I feel like I’m not giving that art form the fullness it deserves.
I’ve found that I have to give myself permission to say no. It’s ok to say no to things, it’s ok not to be super busy all the time. Just because someone isn’t gigging doesn’t mean they are busy in their business or active. Just because they aren’t posting about it on social media doesn’t mean they are actually busy. It’s really easy to fool people in photos. Heck, i saw a hack using a toilet seat to make it look like you were traveling on a plane! So just because you’re not all over the world or doing all the things doesn’t mean you’re giving up.
What I am trying to say is that it’s ok to have changes, to change your priorities and for dance to change with that. Your art is much better when you’re heart is in it than when it’s not. And you’ve got to go where your hear leads you. I hope that if this is something you are struggling with that this article gives you someone to commiserate with and maybe the permission you needed to let it go.
With summer upon us, and vacations taking students in and out of our classes, it’s a good time to start revamping your curriculum for the fall semester. If you don’t take a break for your classes over the summer then this would still be a good time to add new things in. I want to present to you 5 innovative approaches to improving your bellydance class.
Ask your students to create a combo. It’s great to include combos in your dance class as it helps your students start to put together the individual movements that they have learned. But how about letting them get a little creative and create a combo of their own. You can ask them to demonstrate it or even teach it to the class. This gets them to interact more with each other and get their own creative juices flowing.
Break them off into groups to create something. Have each group create an 8 count combo and then at the end, put all of the groups combos together in a song.
Add emotion to their movements. Create a list of emotions and turn them into flashcards. Have each student pick one but not share with the group. Then have each one create an entrance using that emotion. The rest of the group has to guess what the emotion is and so on. You can also have each student express an array of emotions and have the rest guess. This will start them on the road to not just stepping through the movements but actually feeling them and help in performances later.
Encourage Improv. It’s very easy to always provide combos or choreography when teaching. Why not throw in a jam session? Put on a piece o music and just have everyone move! The only way to get “good” at improv is to just embrace a piece of music. Turn the last few minutes of class into a circle jam
Folk Dance. Teach a folk dance whether it be a line dance, partner or single, adding it a folkloric element not only adds the cultural element back in but also challenges students in a different way. The different rhythms, footwork, body placement can help add another layer t class that your students weren’t expecting.
There you have it! 5 ways that you can add innovation to your bellydance class. I am sure that there are more so if you have ideas, please put them in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you have to say!
I have been noticing a lot of comments and threads on social media that are leading me to this question. Why doesn’t bellydance seem to be trending? More and more events are being cancelled or condensed, classes aren’t as full or are being cancelled altogether, and all of these things are making me wonder, is bellydance not cool anymore?
Those of us that have been in the bellydance scene for a while have seen other dance and fitness styles come and go. First it was Latin fusion exercise classes which then morphed into Zumba classes and there are also ballet classes made into more off an exercise class with barre blast. But is bellydance going to do this? Is there going to be only bellydance for fun and fitness? There are some who are marketing bellydance as an exercise class but depending on the style and the way it is taught, will students get the sweat that they desire? Maybe we don’t appeal to them as a form of cardio where you sweat a lot. Sure bellydance works your muscles and helps tone but it’s not a cardio sweat kind of class. I think an advanced class can turn into that once a student has a basic knowledge of movements you can add layers and traveling and really boost it into a cardio workout but it doesn’t lend itself initially. Also, it is a part of a culture and an art form. If we change it into fitness are we losing the essence of it and the reason why a lot of us got into this dance form to begin with?
Bellydance does seem like it gets a bump whenever a singer uses it in a music video. Shakira helped us with hips don’t lie as well as Beyonce but aside from some of the Indian pop music videos we haven’t seen any more mainstream artists use it. I know quite a few dancers who credit Shakira with getting them into their first belly dance class to begin with. Also, Shimmer and Shine have brought many a little girl into the bellydance world with themed parties as well. Maybe with the new live action Aladdin movie coming out we may see people end up in our classes. I’m not sure.
All I know is that I am seeing a downward trend as of late and I hope it’s not permanent. I hope that something comes along to give us a boost. In the meantime it’s up to us dancers to get super creative not just in our marketing but in our dance in order to lure and show that bellydance is an art form that needs to start trending again.
Have you seen a downward trend in your neck of the woods? If so, please share your thoughts below. I’d love to know if it’s just in my area or if it’s farther spread and get the discussion going on ideas to help change it!
In this week’s post, I wanted to address some stereotypes that I have heard about Greek Dance. Now these have come from audience members, those inquiring to hiring me, as well as other dancers. I’m going to go through the 5 most common and address them each individually.
Greek Dance is….
Getting drunk, going crazy and smashing plates. Contrary to popular belief we don’t all dance inebriated and smash everything to bits. Am I saying it never happens? No. Is it limited to Greeks? No. Greeks are about having fun, not causing property damage.
Super fast. There are a few songs that are fast and have some quick steps but a lot of the times what sounds really fast to the ear actually has steps that are slower. Or even at half time. You don’t have to become an Irish dancer in order to master a Greek dance.
All floorwork. Doing floorwork does not make it a Greek dance. Plenty of other cultures have incorporated floorwork into their styles. Was it made popular with American cabaret style dancers at the Greek clubs in the ’70s and ’80s? Yes. Does it look super cool? Yes. But it is not exclusively Greek. You can be a Greek style dancer and never do floorwork.
Balancing a cup on your head. OK, this one is a little bit tricky, I will admit. We do like to balance a cup of ouzo on our heads and show off some amazing dance moves. BUT again, this is not just Greeks. We might have incorporated it into our dance but plenty of people and cultures balance cups on their heads. I have myself used it when representing a Greek style Zebekiko piece. Balancing a cup on one’s head and doing kicks and tricks is in that particular style and it’s fitting.
So there you have it, the four common stereotypes of Greek dance that I know of. There could be more but as a Greek woman, I could be biased and not see the stereotypes. If you know of any and you’d like me to address them, feel free to put them in the comments section below!