Putting Together a Digital Workshop, “The Birth of Bedlah” – Part 1

The Birth of Bedlah - Digital Workshop with Dawn Devine ~ Davina

Hello gang! This week I’ve begun work on translating my “Birth of Bedlah” workshop into digital form. I was invited to join the Belly Dance Bundle 2018, and my contribution to this group project is this fun and informative hour-long workshop. I thought I would take a moment to share my process in putting together this workshop.

I’ve been using the title The Birth of Bedlah for workshops for many years. Over time, I’ve continued my research on the cut, color, materials, and construction of the bedlah set. “Bedlah” is the Arabic word for “uniform,” and today is used to describe the glamorous costume of the working professional belly dancers. This workshop focusses on a 40-year time span and traces the development of the modern dance uniform.

Art History Methods

My passion for research began in college where I studied art history, with a focus on costume history. As a graduate student, I learned to prep and present lectures using the art historical method. Back in the ’90s, we were still using slides, light tables, and loupes to layout our lectures. noisy projectors for presentation.

Today, everything is digital and that means that presentations are no longer limited to a single room. Teachers can now share their information with students around the world. This year, I’ve made it my mission to develop new methods for putting together digital workshops. It’s been a year of experimentation and I feel like I’m finally dialed in.

Old School Art History Method - Slides and Loupe on a light table.

Research Review

For me, costume history is the art of stringing together images and piecing facts together like puzzle pieces to create a cohesive story that supports the understanding of our past. I do this by sifting through the ephemera and teasing out new information from the archive and asking key questions of how and why. Why did people choose these materials, shape, style, and how did they put these garments together. On my research journey, I’ve collected thousands of vintage images, including photographs, artwork, and ephemera. 

To organize my research, I use Evernote, a cloud-based information organizational tool. Here’s a sample from my “Salomania” notebook. Evernote allows me to save digital information from across the web and make notes related to the content. The best part is that it’s totally searchable, so I work in keywords into the labels and text and I can find things easily.

Screen Shot of Salome Research on Ever Note

Prep the Outline

Because I’ve taught this workshop many times before, I already had a fully developed outline. But I like to take it from a text document into a more flexible and visual format that relates to the style of presentation. Each sticky note represents a single slide and because they are easily moved around, I can adjust and play with the flow of the talk.

Money Saving Tip: These post-its and 3 brightly colored folders at my local Dollar Tree.

Select Images to Illustrate the Themes

As time has passed and my visual reference collection has grown. Each time I prep for a new presentation, I like to freshen up the slide deck. Since my work and research is ongoing, I often find images that are better quality or simply illustrate the points better. Over the past four years, I’ve been lucky to work with professional dancer Shalimar on a trio of pink three-piece bedlah sets. I like to include examples of recent designs at the beginning and end of the presentation.

Shalimar in three pink costumes designed by Dawn Devine of Studio DavinaLove those pink sleeves on the left? I used my sleeve pattern to make them! Read more here.

Build Slides

I’m a “Mac Girl” and my computer came with built-in presentation software called Keynote. You might have access to PowerPoint which is a Microsoft product. Google Slides is a free, web-based alternative. I take my sticky note outline and start to build my slides, choosing the images from my digital files, and dropping them onto the slides. My two rules of thumb are: use less than 5 images and keep text to a minimum.

Slide of Constance Collier from workshop "Orientalism on Stage."Find out more about Constance Collier in this blog post.

My goal with each slide is to tell one mini-story. I look for interesting images that my attendees will find interesting, informative, and inspirational. The slide above is from a lecture called “Orientalism on Stage.” This presentation includes dancers, actresses, and opera singers from 1875 – 1940. Miss Constance Collier portrayed Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s “Anthony and Cleopatra” of 1906.

“The Birth of Bedlah” Workshop in The Bellydance Bundle

Free Guide - Figuring out what to Practice - The Bellydance Bundle

Are you interested in the “The Birth of Bedlah” digital workshop? Visit the Belly Dance Bundle website and get on their mailing list. This week-long sale begins on October 4th and includes a tremendous collection of belly dance information, tools, classes from industry leaders located around the globe.

Get a Free Digital Guide
Just for joining the Bundle email list

If you have questions about all the things that are included in The Bellydance Bundle, visit their website. There is more detailed information about my contribution, the “Birth of Bedlah” digital workshop, visit this page here on my website. I still have some work to do with this presentation. Be sure to check out my next blog post to see more details on how I put this workshop together.

Back to work on my workshop!
Happy Dance and Costuming,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
September 14, 2018

Permalink: http://www.davina.us/blog/2018/09/digital-workshop-planning1/

High Quality Free Belly Dance Content

One of my favorite things to find in my email box is a great belly dance-themed newsletter.  If you are like me, you love looking at dancer photos, reading articles, watching videos, listening to podcasts about belly dance!

Print Magazines – Gone but not forgotten

I miss the day when I subscribed to numerous belly dance magazines that would arrive in my snail mail box. Back then, I kept a stack of mags next to my cozy reading chair for quiet moments.  What great memories!  I even had my own one-off Cloth of Egypt themed Costumer’s Notes digital magazine printed. It is great to have a tangible memory of the project that I can thumb through.

Today, I instead of waiting for a physical magazine, I look forward to belly dance-themed email.  With the proliferation of different media types, a newsletter is the best way for creative producers to tell us all about their latest content. What I love is that I don’t have to search to find information.

Email Newsletters Offer Curated Content

Perhaps the best reason to sign up for a newsletter is to receive curated content.  When you sign up for a mailing list from a content creator, you are receiving information that they have created themselves or have selectively picked to align with their style, technique, or methodology. Here is a collection of a few of my top “must reads” from the world of belly dance.

The Belly Dance Chronicles free digital magazine

The Belly Dance Chronicles Magazine

Isis and the Star Dancers of Texas produce the long-running magazine, The Belly Dance Chronicles.  This magazine has been filled with useful information, event and product reviews, interviews with celebrity dancers, and loads of photos.

Formerly, The Chronicles was a print magazine with a subscription fee.  However, today the Chronicles is now a digital magazine and absolutely free!  

You read that right – FREE! 

All you have to do is visit their website and sign up for their newsletter and they will alert you when new issues are available!  Find out more details about the magazine here.

Belly Dance Geek Podcast

Belly Dance Geek Clubhouse

Produced by Nadira Jamal of Boston, this wonderfully informative website and newsletter offer two podcasts. The Belly Geek Clubhouse is an interview style Q&A with belly dance industry leaders from all areas of our dance art.  

Nadira also has a podcast called “More Than Steps” where she discusses belly dance costumes one coffee-run at a time. Signing up for her Belly Dance Geek Clubhouse will ensure you never miss one of these informative podcasts. You can listen to past episodes using your favorite podcatcher.  Here’s a link I use to listen on iTunes.

Mahin's Belly Dance Quickies Email newsletter and website

Mahin’s Belly DanceQuickies 

Mahin of Phoenix has an amazing email newsletter Belly Dance Quickies that she sends out three times a week. No matter where you are in your dance journey, Mahin has content that is informative and inspirational.

Wednesday Watcher – Mahin shares a curated list of high-quality, interesting, and informative belly dance videos.  She includes embedded links to sites like YouTube where you can watch some excellent vintage and modern dance clips.

Friday Grab Bag – This is a delightful mix of blog posts, links to informational articles and resources.

Sunday in the Studio: Each week, Mahin presents a free mini-class, tutorial, or demo that takes place in her Phoenix-based dance space One World Dance and Music Studio.

Zameena Newsletter & Website

Zameena Newsletter 

Published by the UK based belly dance vendor Zara’s Zouk.   Each Zameena newsletter is written by different dancer authors from around the world, providing a global perspective on our dance arts. 

If you follow this link, you can check out some of the past issues.   Each issue contains one substantial article and lots of information about UK dance events and products in the store. Sign up for the newsletter here.

Davina's Costumer's Notes Newsletter

Costumer’s Notes

I’m going to take a moment to include a quick note about my own newsletter.  My mission for each of my newsletters is two parts. The opening of the newsletter is a note to update my friends, family, and fans on what’s happening in my little corner of the universe.

Then as you scroll down, you will find lots of links to articles and information from around the globe.  In each issue, there’s a curated list of 6 – 10 links to newspaper and magazine articles, Vimeo and YouTube videos, as well as blog posts by top dancers from around the globe.

If you are interested in receiving my “Costumer’s Notes” newsletter you can sign up here.

What are you favorite belly dance-themed digital magazines and newsletters?  Join the conversation over in the Studio Davina – Behind the Seams group on Facebook.

I hope your email is filled with inspiration and information!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
August 27, 2018




Permalink: http://www.davina.us/blog/2018/08/bellydanceemaillists/

Assiut Cloth in Early 20th century Opera

In the early 20th century, costume designers chose assiut cloth operatic productions set in the Middle East.  Plays such as “Salome,” “Anthony and Cleopatra,” and “Lakmé” featured exotic costumes and sets that evoked an imagined exotic opulence of these far-away places set in the distant past.

Opera singer Constance Collier as Cleopatra 1906 | Studio Davina • www.davina.us

Above: Constance Collier as Cleopatra, 1906

Assiut shawls started reaching Europe and America at the turn of the 20th century. Costume designers quickly adopted the cloth for use on the stage.  The gilded shimmer and shine of the foot-lights ignited the metal stitches epitomizing the wealth and standing of the characters. The cloth’s natural drape and flow made it an excellent choice for long body-skimming gowns. A knowledgeable audience would instantly recognize the fabric and accept the implied authenticity of the material. But above all, assiut was compelling to look at and evoked a standard of worldly taste that would appeal to a sophisticated world-traveled audience.

Above: Opera Singer Maria Jeritza c. 1910

Throughout the first quarter of the 20th century, Opera-goers enjoyed these orientalist themes.  But as their popularity expanded, vaudeville singers would pull individual songs from these high-brow productions to add a touch of class to their repertoire. Salome became such a popular and iconic figure to portray, that dancers would extract just the dance scene from Strauss’s opera to perform.  Sometimes it’s often difficult to separate the dancers from singers, just by looking at the surviving photos.  See some more of my Salome collection in this blog post.

Singer Lottie Collins c. 1912 | Studio Davina • www.davina.us

Above: Popular singer Lucia “Lottie” Collins as Salome, 1912

Both Maria Jeritza and Lucia “Lottie” Collins above wear costumes designed in the “Salome Style.”  This costume formula features a sheer skirt, circular bust plates, belt, and accessories made from pearls. This costume was so closely connected to the role of Salome, it’s easy to see these images and jump to the conclusion that these performers are dancers.  However, if you look carefully at Lottie above, you will see that she’s wearing a dance-preventing corset under her “pinks.”   Pinks were a full-body covering that would create the illusion of nudity under sheer costumes. To ensure the audience could see at a glance the performer was covered, pinks often didn’t match the performers’ skin.

Yvonne Gall as Herodiade | Studio Davina • www.davina.us

Above: French Opera Singer Yvonne Gall as Herodiade
For more information on Yvonne, check out this blog post

I look forward to catching an assiut clad “Cleo” or “Herodias” at a modern opera production. Until then, I will enjoy collecting postcards and ephemera.  Want to see more vintage images?  Check out this blog post “Actresses and Dancing Ladies” or “The Merry Widow.”

Happy Costuming!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
August 8, 2018


Permalink: http://www.davina.us/blog/2018/08/assiut-cloth-in-early-20th-century-opera/