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Phaedra’s Creative Costuming

Well, it’s cold today and I worked at two grown-up places (computer client and JoAnn) so don’t have great knitting-kid stories to tell. I’m sort of feeling blah about my day, so it’s a great day to dig through old photos I haven’t showed you yet.

The first photo is Habibi Dancers dancing at Renaissance Festival in the late summer. From left to right is Taahira, Eudora (me), Sara, Phaedra and Mahtaab. Yes, we really dance with baskets on our heads. No, they are not glued or otherwise fastened to our heads. Yes, it’s hard to learn… that is why they call it “practice.”

If you recall, Phaedra was in the photos of my party a few days ago. She was wearing a deep red outfit in a couple of the jam session shots.

Phaedra loves costuming. Many of the Habibi Dancers hire her to sew our costumes for us. She is very involved in any troupe costumes we put together, choosing fabrics and styles, and spending hours and hours of unpaid work, a labor of love.

In a “previous life,” I also sewed as my primary artform, although not costumes. I really understand what it takes to do what Phaedra does. She often says yes out of enthusiasm… and I wonder how often she ends up with too much on her plate. She’s a very quiet and private person so she often ends up with a lot going on, while others don’t necessarily notice. I know she enjoys it, but there must be times she wonders what she got herself into! Deadlines are rough when there are about 20 of us to dress.

Anyway, last year I remember thinking on my way to the Habibi holiday party, “I wonder whose name Phaedra drew this year?” She does such a nice job. Well… I was the lucky recipient that time. She made me a beautiful long purple and silver dress (pictured here from one of my performances at New Aladdin’s Restaurant) and also a two-piece combination of two-panel skirt with vest, out of the same fabric and heavily beaded with clear/silver glass beads. Breathtaking. I think she said she got the fabric on her trip to Egypt. Lucky me.

In addition to those items, she also gave me a very fun pink silk fabric wrap with tons of pink feathers, sort of like a feather boa. I keep the wrap in my classroom at Foster Center for occasional fun with my knitting kidz.

Can you see the amazing sleeves on the costume pictured here? They have beaded edging so that gives them weight, and when I move, they fly! It looks great as I dance.

By the way, this type of dress is sometimes called a beledi dress. Beledi is a dance rhythm (as is waltz, polka, tango, etc.). It can be spelled several ways since Arabic doesn’t translate easily to English… but it is always pronounced “BELL-uh-dee.”

I theorize this rhythm was one reason the type of dance I do, called “oriental dance” by many of its practitioners, is called “Belly” dance in the US and the western world. Of course, calling it that definitely helped the promoters fill auditoriums early on… but I wonder if the name of the rhythm, the one we perhaps use most often, inspired the misnomer. After all, most of our moves are in the hips, very few in the belly. And in many performance situations we are sure to cover our bellies out of respect to the culture of our audience. But “Belly Dance” sure catches the ear, doesn’t it??? It is no wonder the name has caught on.

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