Easy Belly Dance Hairdos and Elisheva Awesomeness – ALLAF 015
Free your hair with featured dancer Elisheva, add a fun new drum solo to your repertoire, and get 11 easy belly dance hairdo ideas you can try.
This show #15 is a milestone for A Little Lighter! Hopefully you have been enjoying the Make-You-Shine Costume Tips and Damn Sexy Dance Moves in all the shows, and you are going to enjoy those 2 elements of this show even more. Why? Because they are coming from our very first featured dancer, the beautifully buff and graceful Elisheva (“Elly – Shehvah”) of New England. Hooray! Elisheva inspired this Simple Hair Do episode with the costume tip and dance move you’ll learn today. Yeah Elisheva!
Let Your Hair Dance in the Wind
When the wind takes over and throws our hair and clothes around, we might automatically wince and contract. We might fight it, strands of hair slipping into our eyes and making us feel like a mess. We can resist… or we can ride it.
Have you ever danced on a windy sea or bridge or rooftop? Or tried to do a choreographed veil piece at an outdoor festival in the wind? Fighting the wind is useless. A waste of precious energy. When we modify our movements to flow with the wind, we infuse our motion with the infinite power of the wind.
Wind makes our hair dance like no other part of our body. All of the other danceable rituals in previous shows have involved dancing with our body. This danceable ritual is going to be a little a different.
This episode is about hair as part of our costume. This is a good follow show up because many of you loved show #5 Khaleeji Hair Dance Moves from Iraq, where we talked about hair as more of a prop. Sneak preview alert: Look out for a future episode on Zar dance, a trance dance where hair is used kind of like a prop as well. And in the Henna episode #13 we talked about hair in regards to self-care and ancient ritual for dancers. So here we are, focusing on hair as a part of our costume.
Each time we create a costume, it’s as if we are composing a painting. Let us start this danceable ritual by composing a painting of our hair in our minds right now.
Close your eyes. Imagine a strong gust of cold wind cutting through a city street right into your face. Squint your eyes shut. Block your face with your arm. Collapse your shoulders. Start worrying about your hair getting all messed up. It feels pretty awful, right?
Keep your eyes closed and try this again. Imagine a warm gust of wind from the sea. Let it lift your hair. Let the wind kiss your face. Your chest opens as your shoulders relax, tension lost somewhere beyond in the breeze. Your hair is dancing. Raise your arms up like a ballerina, holding a moon that rests softly on your shoulders. Frame your dancing hair, free of training and expectations on how to move. Let your hair have a chance to go wild, and invite your body to follow.
My Kashmiri friend Bhinish once said “Your hair is wild. It suits you.” She was right. I was 20, riding busses around India. My hair was wild, my hair is wild, and it suits me. That’s a choice I made long ago. Wild hair, Alicia Free.
Next time you feel yourself fighting against the infinitely powerful wind, try welcoming it into your hair. Let it lift your hair. Release any resistance from your face. Let your hair dance. Raise your arms up like a ballerina, framing your dancing hair. Let your hair dance wildly in the wind, and let the rest of your body follow.
When my hair dances in the wind at the sea, I often recite a poem I memorized years ago, and you might want to pair something like this poem with the ritual of letting your hair dance in the wind. It is called “So I said I am Ezra”, by AR Ammons, a Cornell professor and famous poet who really made an impression on me when I met him in a small modern poetry class as an undergrad. You’ll hear the first section of the poem here, and then I’ll offer a modified version for this danceable ritual. Here is the original poem:
“So I said I am Ezra
and the wind whipped my throat
gaming for the sounds of my voice
I listened to the wind
go over my head and up into the night
Turning to the sea I said
I am Ezra”
So beautiful. Here’s a modification we can say when we Let our hair dance in the wind:
Feel free to close your eyes and imagine the wind’s fingers in your hair now.
So I said I am free
And the wind whipped my hair
Making it dance on its own
I surrendered to the wind
Going into my hair and up into the sky
Turning beneath I said
I am free
“That’s Freedom” by Artem Uzunov
Hair is definitely part of this fabulous drummer’s costume. And you’ll hear this song in the second half of Elisheva’s video of the Damn Sexy Dance move coming up.
The rhythm in this drum solo changes about every 20 seconds, so it’s very exciting. Lots of drum rolls you can shimmy too, as well as really dynamic changes in sound and tempo. And it is a very easy drum solo to edit into shorter sections that don’t sound like they are missing anything. In the video I’ll link to of Elisheva, she starts this song “That’s Freedom” about 2 and a half minutes into the song and it does not sound like it’s the middle of the song. And about 3 and a half minutes into the song, ayub starts and it’s time for Khaleeji hair throws!
There’s a big climactic finish where Elisheva ends with a Turkish drop. Love it.
In this song “That’s Freedom” you’ll hear a drum set, which is not that typical in belly dance songs, especially drum solos. You’ll hear the high hat and the bass drum. That also makes this song fun to dance to.
Let’s talk a little bit about the composer of this song “That’s Freedom”.
In videos of this Russian percussionist Artem you’ll often see him standing as he plays darbuka. Because of this, he can interact with a belly dancer at eye level instead of at her butt, which is about where drummers are when they are sitting on stage and a dancer is dancing in front of them. That’s something to think about when staging a drum solo with a drummer you know well. Maybe they could stand. Makes me want to practice playing darabuka standing up with my foot on a chair.
Artem photo shoots shirtless and soaking wet with women raking their fingers across his bare chest. So much fun. And the best part is that he does a lot of duets with famous belly dancers. Just him, Artem, as the only musician on the stage bringing the best out of a dancer with his darabuka. I love it.
Artem also made an app of rhythms for belly dancers. If you get the free version of the app you can hear the 3 most popular rhythms for belly dancers: Maksum, Beledi, and Saidi. If you pay $1 a month you can unlock over a dozen more rhythms. And you can also get dance instruction to each of the rhythms in the app from a dancer named Diana Gnatcheko (“Naht Chen kah”) for $5 a month. Seems like a fantastic resource for all dancers who have talked about learning more rhythms but haven’t taken the next step to really do it.
Artem also in a Balkan brass band and does projects in the classical music world with opera singers and so on. Versatile and theatrical drummers are hard to come by! Artem seems to be one of these unicorns. Great song choice Elisheva!
DAMN SEXY DANCE MOVE
Free Your Hair
Before we move on to the dance move, I’d like to introduce Elisheva a little more. Elisheva is a talented performer and instructor known for her earthy expressiveness and feminine grace. She tours to perform in all kinds of fabulous venues and also has regular gigs close to her home in Hartford Connecticut. Her youtube channel is awesome because her performances on that channel are dynamic and creative. I have not had the opportunity to study with her but I would love to. Elisheva has performed with bands like “Kashmir The Live Led Zeppelin Show” and produces an annual theatrical full-production called “Hartbeat of Bellydance” in Hartford. You can see what she is up to on www.elishevabellydancer.com
And now for A Little Lighter Damn Sexy Dance Move from Elisheva. She writes:
“I love to perform sidewinders and gooey snake arms. Sometimes I’ll do these early in a performance my back facing the audience because I maintain more mystery at the beginning of a performance and because this movement is really highlighted in the back of the shoulders. However, if you have long hair, your shoulders are covered.
“The neck is also a very graceful, expressive part of a dance. So pinning the hair up can better highlight these movements.”
Elisheva continues, “The problem is that eventually, I like to have my hair down, able to move. But just as every perceived problem is in fact an opportunity for discovery, my trick is to roll up my hair in an easy chignon (“shinyoh”) and clip it with an alligator clip- the kind that opens and closes by simply pinching the end- and romantically and dramatically remove the alligator clip and tossing it aside mid spin.”
Very cool idea. Gotta love very intentional on-stage costume changes. Burlesque is all about that. We can bring more of these costume change surprises for the audience into our belly dance.
Important note: “Be sure to toss the clip well out of the way so that you don’t step on while dancing, and of course, no so far that it could hit someone else.”
Elisheva has also done a similar thing with a hair ribbon, pulling the tie of the ribbon loose and then shaking her hair out side to side signifying release and freedom.
FEATURED LIGHTEN MY BODY FOOD
Elisheva has been a super generous featured dancer, even offering us a vegan whole food ingredient: Elisheva writes “For a super healthy and cheap meal, I love to simply chop up and stir fry a cabbage in coconut oil and toss it with some pasta, plenty of salt and pepper. Super simple satisfying vegan meal!”
Sounds good to me! Especially if it’s a mix of green and purple cabbage. That would be pretty. And maybe top it off with some cashew cream sauce and pumpkin seeds. MMMM.
There’s a recipe for 5 Minute Guacamole Pizza on my site that uses purple, aka red cabbage. And fresh spring rolls, Sweet and Sour Rainbow Fried Rice. When eating cabbage raw or lightly cooked, it’s best to cut it into thin strips. If it’s cooked for a while, bigger chunks can be nice.
Raw cabbage, like raw broccoli and raw kale, is arguably not so digestible. If it is cooked or salted and pressed or fermented longer, our bodies may have an easier time benefitting from the Vitamin C, protein, calcium, etc that is in there.
Like carrots, raw purple cabbage can stay untouched in the fridge for weeks and still add color and healthy magic to meals when you thought you were all out of vegetables. At festivals or on the road, green and purple cabbage can last quite a while in a cooler. Napa cabbage is great for kimchi, but doesn’t last as long as the more tightly packed leaves of a green or red cabbage.
And then there’s the alchemy of fermentation, where cabbage really shines. A big head of local cabbage makes reach for the book “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz . Newsweek called this book “The fermenting bible” and I couldn’t agree more. It is one of the few cookbooks I keep right in my kitchen. The author Sandor has been living with HIV since the 80s. I heard Sandor speak at Cornell years ago, and I remember him mentioning that he started fermenting foods as a way to heal. Fermenting food also does something for me. The process is really enjoyable. Checking in, tasting along the way, and deciding when the taste is just right. There’s always homemade kimchi or sauerkraut in my fridge, ready to garnish rice or noodles or go in a sandwich, or to get scooped up with a round of nori.
The countless microorganisms in our bodies, especially our guts, are nurtured by the microorganisms in live food like kimchi and sauerkraut.
Savoy cabbage is on my list as a vegetable I have not tried to cook with yet but would love to. I’ll add that to my grocery list right now.
MAKE YOU SHINE COSTUME TIP
Get out that alligator clip or ribbon and Free Your Hair Elisheva style! Love it when a Damn Sexy Dance Move and Costume Tip go together like this. Thanks again Elisheva.
Let’s talk some more about simple hair dos for belly dance.
Some people put a lot of work into their hair for belly dance performances. There’s the whole ATS style bun with tons of flowers and other treasures pinned in. Extensions, hair spray, fancy headdresses or turbans that look fabulous but can restrict movement.
It’s a stylistic choice. I like to toss my hair when I dance. I want the freedom to do that whenever the music asks for it. That’s part of why I wear my hair down when I dance. Some people prefer more structure when they dance, and hair plays into that as part of a costume.
And there are the Fifi Abdo pompadour and lightly pinned long and loose flowing hair styles on dancers from the Golden Age of Egyptian cinema. Those often allow us a little more freedom to toss our hair.
Disclaimer: I have curly hair, so the whole world of blow drying and curling and using product is lost on me. Please forgive me if wearing your hair down takes more time than putting it up. The simple hair dos in this show are meant to be just that. Simple. But they might not work for everyone.
Check out the Pinterest board of Simple Belly Dance Hair Dos. I’ll keep adding more images of easy belly dance hair styles from Hollywood and Egyptian film Golden Era belly dancers, paintings of dancers created before photography, vintage belly dance photographs, cabaret headbands, etc.
The 2 easiest hair dos options for belly dance are headbands that stay in place without bobby pins and decorated side clips. Just these two kinds of hair ornaments can go a long way, and you can literally have them placed perfectly in your hair in 1 minute.
Let’s talk about headbands first. Not the plastic horseshoe shaped head bands that squeeze our heads behind our ears and can easily fly off of our heads. I’m talking about headbands that are a full circle we can tie under our hair.
In episode five I suggested making a no-sew headband out of a stretchy cotton blend or non-stretchy fabric that is easy to tie and stays where you want it. This is a great base to add more ornamental to like antique asuit or lightweight coins or shells or flowers. Even head jewelry that has the chain that runs along the top center of your head can just be sewn to a headband and you don’t have to worry about that chain getting tangled or sliding around anymore.
And it’s easier to pin a veil to a sturdy headband than to your hair if you are doing a Persian piece or just want a loose veil framing your body, etc.
Decorate side clips add so much in so little time. It takes some experimentation to find clips that stay where you want them even if you toss your hair. The snap clip barrettes with a fabric flower or decorated felt base work best for me. I’m not really into fake flowers that are made to look real, but there are great fabric flowers that don’t have that fake vibe. Of course it would be fabulous to dance with real flowers in our hair, but the freshness part is a bit tricky.
If you are up for some DIY belly dance costume accessory action. You can experience the joy of repurposing an orphaned earring that you love but no longer wear, because you lost the other one. Or showcasing a feather you found maybe from a bluejay or your friends guinea hens, or some pretty jewelry you found secondhand but still haven’t figured out how to wear.
The headband and the side clip are the easiest belly dance hair accessories, and you can change them in a minute backstage during a performance for a simple mini costume change.
Want to add a little Ottoman or rural Turkish bride to your hair? Add a few skinny braids. They will be more noticeable closer to your face.
Now onto some other hair dos that are still simple, but a little more restrictive in terms of movement. These use flapper style headbands, crowns, and chopsticks or porcupine quills.
A flapper style headband can allow for a bit of movement, but not nearly as much as a headband that’s tied together under your hair. It’s still worth having a flapper style headband option in case you are invited to perform at a 1920s event, etc. If you have a glue gun, a shorter feather and some thinner brocade, you can whip one right up. Mine has the top of a peacock feather, which I love because it’s a nice round shape instead of being a skinny spear-shaped feather and it stands up straight on it’s own.
Remember that we have a license to be as glamorous as a bride every time we belly dance. That’s part of why we do it right? Dressing up just for a couple proms and our wedding isn’t enough for a lifetime. This is one of the reasons people who do not belly dance are jealous of us. The dressup never stops. We actually get to wear the big shiny things in our closet…and crowns.
Crowns can be make out of chunkier necklaces or fancy dance belts that too short for our hips. My favorite crown is a piece I bought in India, that I believe was meant as a belt. The silver is only as long as the front of me, and then it was ribbon for the back. I just tied it together and made it a crown. The key is to get a crown that is heavy enough to stay in place, but still comfortable and does not get tangled in your hair. I really just wear the crown for photos. It might work well pinned to a veil pinned to a sturdy headband though! Sounds like too much work for this episode. Ha!
I haven’t mastered the mess boho updo that stays right where I want it, but it’s a great simple hair do option to consider when our hair looks a little rough after a few days of festival camping, etc. You could do this with or without a headband. Similar to Elisheva’s chignon in a alligator clip, you can just gather your hair as if you were making a pony tail, twist it a bit and add hair sticks or porcupine quills. Reinforcing this with bobby pins may be a good idea, but you can walk on the wild side without bobby pins and see what works for you. A note about porcupine quills: they are great for those of us with light-weight hair because they are hollow, but they are sharp. You don’t want them on the floor of your room or the floor of your tent. Ouch.
A side note, the whole gypsy style phenomenon seen when we google “gypsy style” seems completely unrelated to actual Roma dress and culture. I searched for “gypsy head scarf” and I got all kinds of messy hair with scarf photos. Don’t get me wrong, I liked them. But the word Bohemian may be more descriptive for that style.
For this last simple belly dance hair do, let’s bring just a few bobby pins into the picture. Let’s try a 1970s Egyptian Fifi Abdou faux pompadour. I like to actually split it into 2 mini pompadours on either side of my side part. I call this a faux pompadour because teasing hair and adding hairspray freaks me out. Just a little volume and height looks good too. I take a small section of hair on top of my head puff it up, twist the part I’m going to anchor down with 2 bobby pins, and pin them. A hair stylist taught me that bobby pins are actually designed to lock together opposing, meaning the bumpy side of one bobby pin faces up and the bumpy side of the second bobby pin faces down. I make an X with the two opposing bobby pins and it the mini faux pompadour stays right there without hairspray. For this hair style, I would need to do some hair toss tests before going out on stage and be willing to abandon the pompadour idea if it’s not working backstage.
You’ve heard this in the Danceable Ritual and Damn Sexy Dance Move this show. It’s the perfect Feel-Good-Look-Goddess Habit too. Free your hair! Let it loose and see what happens. Disrupt your everyday hair routine and see what happens with as little styling intervention as possible, and see if a freeing your hair makes you feel like a goddess and is worthy of becoming a habit.
Some expectations and restrictions placed on hair, especially women’s hair, are discussed in
the article “Untangling the Meanings of Hair in Turkish Society” from Anthropological Quarterly. It was written in 1994 by Carol Delaney of Stanford.
She wrote that “In Turkish society hair is an emotionally charged symbol with different meanings that depend on gender, age, class, political commitments, and religious sentiments. All of these factors can become entangled in any given context”. I can see this being true in many other cultures as well. Consider how shaved heads for some monks and nuns symbolizes castration.
“Women’s sexuality is not allowed to run rampant, or to be displayed; instead it is covered and put under strict control. Women’s hair, it would seem, comes to symbolize the physical entanglements by which men are ensnared, and thus must be kept out of sight.”
Delaney writes about hair braiding, and how a big part of transforming a woman into a bride is doing her hair. “…women are thought to have, a loose and rampant sexuality, which must now be tamed and brought under further control. This is symbolized by braiding the hair for the wedding.” (p.161)
Delaney mentioned the “fetishism of hair” in Islam and elsewhere, which I find so interesting. Hair is a big part of our everyday costume, and can be so steeped in cultural and political meaning.
So maybe you feel like a goddess with your hair all tied up and under strict control, and maybe freeing your hair will make you feel different. The beauty is that many of us are able to choose.