Tag Archives: crystal ab

Gross.

I hate being sick.

I almost never get sick – I don’t have allergies, I have a super tough immune system, and I can eat like basically anything and be good. I am kind of like a goat.

Gregory Goat, you are such a terrible eater!

But every once in awhile, I get legit sick. And the problem is, you absolutely CANNOT go to work at a studio and dance with people if you are sick. Why? Well, DUH:

  1. it’s disgusting
  2. you will probably get your students and co-workers sick too
  3. it’s SOOOOOO GROSS to dance with somebody who’s sniffly and dripping mucus
  4. there’s no way you can have good energy and what not if you are trying to focus all your effort on breathing without coughing like a TB ward

Yet people will come to work sick. And come in for lessons sick. Uncool, people! Very uncool!

(I felt bad that I had to go in for half an hour to pick up work and call my students to clear my schedule for the day. I was all, please swab down everything I touched with some Clorox wipes, I am such a Typhoid Mary.)

Don’t be that monkey from Outbreak. Stay home. For real.

Maybe if I bedazzled one of these it would work…

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In other news, I have a partner! Or, I should say, more accurately, I have a person who wants to dance with me and with whom I also want to dance and if everything goes properly and neither of us gets hit by a bus or fired or has a foot spontaneously fall off, then by November/December-ish it should be happening. It’s super exciting!

But I am trying to not get too far ahead of myself – it’s not a thing until it’s a thing, you know? Like, I keep telling myself, don’t go picking out costumes before we’ve even had our first session with our coach. But it’s the best news in forever on the partner front, and I’m really pleased about it. Yay! So that makes being sick more palatable, I guess!

*     *     *

Next time: I review fake nails from the drugstore that cost way less than getting those bitches done at a salon! (I have to do my nails for a little comp on Saturday so I might as well take some pictures and SAY MY OPINIONS, right?)

 

 

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Spin Cycle

Sometimes I feel like my week is just totally structured around my stupid laundry. As in: if I’m not doing laundry then I’m putting off doing laundry or I’m meaning to do laundry but then forgetting or I’m delaying putting away clean laundry and just wearing it out of the basket until I need to do goddamn laundry again.

Laundry!

It’s stupid.

It’s extra double stupid because I can’t even dry a bunch of it (thanks dance clothes, for SUCKING) so I have to hang it up so there is always shit hanging in every goddamn doorway of my goddamn apartment. Like this:

Yes, that is a hanger with exactly 2398490283948234 pairs of black tights. Jesus. And like half of those are shot and need to be permanently retired to the garbage but I can’t be bothered to check which ones before I wash them so of course I will be putting on tights with a stupid hole in them when I’m getting ready for work (which fact I will hopefully discover before I leave the house looking like an idiot).

Also: have to make sure that I clean all the fucking rhinestones out of the washer that have inevitably fallen off shit EVEN THOUGH I washed the stoned things inside the super fancy ballroom pillowcase which is SUPPOSED to keep those little shiny bastards from getting everywhere. Does it work? Yeah, well, it’s better than nothing, I guess.

Ugh! Wash. Oh well, at least I have clean underwear again. That’s a win. And Woolite Black kicks some pretty serious laundry ass, I think we should all just agree on that right now. Woolite Black! When all your clothes are black!

Yeah, so I was going to do this whole cutesy clever thing where I segued from talking about laundry to talking about how confusing it can be to dance with dudes you genuinely dislike as people but who are nevertheless fun to dance with, and how that messes with your head (SPIN cycle, get it???) but then I got carried away with how much I wanted to bitch about doing the wash, so, there you go. A little ALOD behind the scenes action there. Stay tuned. Go put away your clothes.

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Accessorize! Making Armbands and Stoning Tips

So here’s the second installment of the costuming post. My Latin dress looks like this, and it’s pretty rad: 

The body of the dress is covered in slung sequin fringe (basically fringes of different length in red and holographic orange made out of sequins). It’s crazy fun to dance in, because the movement is insane, and it makes cool noises. I was dance testing it the other night at the studio and when I was walking back to the teachers’ room to change, one of my co-workers said, “it’s like applause every time you move!” SO TRUE. And who doesn’t want to take their own applause with them?

I bought it used off the interwebs, and it’s been an interesting reclamation project. When it showed up, it was definitely a fixer-upper (and hence cheap, which is why I could afford it!) – there’s a funky sort of nude panel on the left hip that wasn’t fringed, but just left open. I suppose it might look cool on the right person, but it looked weird on me. Clearly it looked weird on the last girl, too, because she had hot-glued these giant orange bird of paradise fake flowers on the hip? It was a very strange choice, and the ass flowers did not enhance anything. The side cutout was also too high in the waist (granny panties height) and the minimal stoning on the dress was cheap plastic shit.

So after I ripped off the ass flowers and most of the cheap-o stones, I sent it to a costume alterations house to be recut (because you have to know how to keep correct tension in the bodysuit as you do it, and you have to be able to sew the right kind of elastic – far beyond my present skill level). But I did the cosmetic alterations myself, including:

  1. adding new fringes and filling in that strange open hip situation (friends, I just typed ‘open hippo’ by mistake which is awesome; the idea of a sparkly fringe-y ballroom dancing hippo reminds me of the hippos in Fantasia who were my FAVORITE*)
  2. Pulling off the ugly cheap plastic “stones” and re-rhinestoning in the only acceptable choice, Swarovski
  3. ACCESSORIZING!
I mostly want to talk about #3, since you can save yourself a LOT of money if you know how to make your own ballroom jewelry and accessories. Last time we talked about how to do those fancy rhinestone bracelets you see all over the place; today we’ll talk about how to do armbands.
Like basically every Latin costume ever (and a lot of the smooth ones, too) comes with armbands. They’re super easy to make – exactly the same premise as costume straps, just with wider elastic and stoning.

Anastasia Trutneva rocking some armbands.

First, go ahead and sew a long piece of one inch elastic inside a lycra casing that matches your dress. (Don’t know how to do that? Learn here!)
Figure out how much you’ll need and then just add like six inches and do the whole damn thing at once, it saves time. After you’ve got your big giant lycra elastic snake, feel good about yourself for a minute. You did it! Yay for you!
Okay, now GET REAL. This is where there is high potential for you to fuck it all up.

Figure out how many armbands you want – I did three. An upper arm, an elbow, and a wrist (the wrist one being essentially a bracelet that does not move). It is important that you figure out how tight to make them: tight enough so that they stay in place when you dance and don’t move BUT not so tight that they cut into your arm and make it look weird and lumpy. Not even rhinestones will fix that.

The way I did it was to guess as closely as I could, leave an extra inch of elastic or so, cut the piece off from the snake, and then just futzed with it on my arm until it stopped looking weird. This is SCIENCE, people. It is SUPER precise. Even with all the futzing, my elbow one still sometimes slipped. But fortunately this costs you like six bucks so if you totally blow it or you need to make different sized ones later, it’s not the end of the world.

When you have the circumference of your arms figured out properly, pin those bitches and then sew them closed. I decided to sew the upper arm and elbow ones closed completely, but to put a hook-and-eye closure on the wrist one. It doesn’t make any difference – I could have sewn that one shut too. But don’t hook and eye the bigger ones; if you need to make them open and closeable, use velcro. (I’ll probably do that next time anyway, since it gives you more flexibility on the sizing. But I was concerned that my stupid dress would get stuck to the velcro, so. We all make life choices.)

Next step, try not to be a huge idiot and sew your hook and eye on backwards.

Oops, is it too late for that?

Well, I guess you can try just leaving it and hoping.

No? That didn’t work? It flew off your stupid arm every time you extended it? Well, then, dumbass, looks like you better re-do it the right way.

Once you’ve done that, stone the shit out of those armbands. You will lose a little elasticity with the stoning, but not too much. If you’re super concerned, stretch it out as you stone and then release it to dry.

I elected not to stone them solid because I felt like it would be too much and take too long and I would run out of stones and I did NOT want to go back to the fashion district and buy more. So I did mine like this:

Then, of course, after they were dry I was like, needs more stones! And I went back and glued more on. Which was obviously the right decision.

And that’s it, really! Not tough – the hardest part with these bitches is sizing them correctly so they don’t look stupid.

* NB the ballet hippos from Fantasia are a future post for sure; it turns out there is all SORTS of interesting shit to be said about them.

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Team Crystal AB Alert!

Oh my gosh you guys, Swarovski has an INTERACTIVE COLOR WHEEL on their website that tells you what color rhinestones are compatible with each other. It’s like the greatest thing ever. In order, it now goes:

  1. Swarovski rhinestone color wheel thingy.
  2. Sliced bread.

Using this whatchamacallit, you get a main color, harmonious colors, contrast colors, and a pearl color.

So. If my main color is Peridot (which is BEAUTIFUL, I used it on another girl’s dress and I still am, har har har, GREEN with envy):

then apparently my harmonious colors are Lime, Olivine, and Khaki:

and my contrasting colors are Rose and Fuschia:

(Apparently my pearl color is Crystal Light Green Pearl, which is of zero interest to me. I say, who cares, buy a gross of AB and toss it on there. Peridot AB is pretty stunning.)

 This is a fun toy to play with – plan out your next stoning project!!

P. S. Note to other members of Team Crystal AB – I seem to recall a pink smooth dress that is pretty close to this color combination! Throw in some topaz and it looks like a big winner.

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Accessorize! How to Make Ballroom Jewelry, Part One

As promised, here’s the next installment on costuming, as I learn to replicate expensive ballroom costume crap in the comfort and fabric-scrap-strewn luxury of my kitchen. Last time, we looked at how to make the straps that hold costumes together – today, it’s bracelets and armbands!

An essential component of any costume is bling. You have to accessorize your dress, or it looks half finished. The costume department on Dancing With The Stars has buckets of them so Karina can stack them up her tiny arms every week.

Trouble is, those accessories can end up costing as much as the dress – mostly because high quality Swarovski rhinestones are expensive, and gluing those little bastards onto things is a time intensive process.

At my most recent competition, I checked the price on regular bangle bracelets with a couple vendors, and the average market price these days is about $50-$60 per bracelet. That seemed pretty steep to me, so I decided to try making my own. I already had to make armbands for my Latin costume, so what the hell, right? I had taken the time to check out the bracelets and it seemed like it was just lycra wrapped around a stiff material to give the thing structure, and then stoned.

I decided to use 1/2 in plastic dress boning (hur, hur, BONING) as the stiff material (I know, I know). I cut it to size in strips and then ran a line of glue down the center of the boning strip so that when I rolled the lycra around it, it would stay put. I did the first one with E6000, but that was a little too much firepower, so for the second bracelet I used Gemtac and that was fine. I only needed enough glue to hold the fabric in place for a bit while I wrapped the lycra, not enough to permanently secure it through the zombie apocalypse.

I hand-sewed through the lycra and the boning along the inside of the strip, just to make sure that it stayed attached.

After I ran the stitches all the way down the strip, I cut off the extra lycra and figured out how to make the strip into a circle.

The first thing I tried was just joining the ends together and whip stitching it closed. But that did not work at all because the boning sat in a teardrop shape instead of the circle that I wanted. So I pulled it all out and figured that I needed to have some overlap of the two ends in order for the circle to stay intact once I sewed it shut.

I overlapped the two ends about 1/4 of an inch and hand sewed (hand shoved my needle – that was a lot of crap to sew through!) the thing closed, which ended up giving me a pretty satisfactory circle. I tried to keep everything as tacked down as possible so that when I was ready to stone the bracelet, there wouldn’t be any extra fabric or thread or loose ends of things fouling up my stoning.

Then I stoned it with Swarovski – I ran a line of Crystal AB 20ss down the center and filled it out with Crystal AB 16ss on either side, which fit just about perfectly. The 20ss go much faster, but the 16ss give more sparkle, and also I had more of them, so that’s what happened.

I’m really happy with the way they came out – they look exactly like the ones the vendors sell (except that mine are slightly different colored lycra and the stoning is better). And God knows I saved some money! It literally came out to about ten percent of the cost. If I had more ambition, I would do some bracelets and sell them. Maybe a summer project?

Total cost for 2 bracelets – $11.95 (versus $110.00)

4 way stretch lycra – $1.05

Plastic boning (ha!) – $0.40

Gemtac, stones, thread – $10.50

Total time – about three hours (but only because I was learning – the second bracelet I did in about an hour start to finish)

The finished product, shown here with Latin fingers so you get the full effect. (You will also note that I have not one but two different kinds of fake tan in the background – that’s ballroom for you, baby. You can also see the plastic boning strips in their raw form on the left – they worked really well, and I have a giant roll of the stuff that only cost $20. It would probably make about 23948290384023 bracelets.)

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(Semi) Live! Behind the scenes competition blogging, part two

I’m back home again – I really tried to update LIIIIVE, but I’ll tell you the honest-to-God truth:

(1) I was working my tail off.

(2) When I wasn’t working I was out carousing with other dancers.

(3) When I wasn’t carousing or working I was passed out dead asleep so that I could continue to do (1) and (2).

Y’all, it was super fun. The other issue is that until yesterday, I had my competition nails on, and I don’t know about you, but I find it absolutely impossible to type with those stupid bastards. It hurts, and it’s awkward, and I am usually a super fast typist so it irritates the hell out of me.

But! I did keep notes! So for anybody who loves ballroom competitions, who’s considering competing, who just generally finds the whole thing fascinating because it is a tan and sparkly circus sideshow, I present, in no particular order, DO’s and DON’Ts of ballroom competition, followed by some stuff I learned at this comp that was new to me. (I’ve been doing this crap for a while, but this was my first time on the judges’ side, so it was pretty instructive.

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DO dance as many heats as you possibly can. Look, competing (as a student) is expensive, no lie. I get that. All the professionals get that. But if you’re going to do it, I swear to God, you will have infinitely more fun if you dance 80 heats as compared to 15. You’re already there, you’re already looking fabulous, you might as well just do it! There is nothing, NOTHING worse than sitting and watching other people dance and thinking, shit, I should be out on that floor.

DO enjoy yourself! If you’re going to be out on the floor, please be having fun! If you look terrified or bored, it is just a bummer. Just enjoy the hell out of it; the judges will forgive a lot if you smile and take genuine pleasure in your dancing.

DON’T overdo it on the dress. Be sensitive to what flatters your particular body type and your dancing. I know that I always say, it’s ballroom, more is more…but ladies. Seriously. Sometimes, no, it is not. If your dress has feathers and ruffles and stones and netting and gloves and a goddamn cocker spaniel, it’s probably too much. You want people to watch your dancing, not whisper about the dress.

DO own your floor. That part of the floor you’re dancing on? It’s YOURS. It belongs to YOU. You are the Lord High Commander of that part of the floor – own it! Take up space! Do not allow other people to impinge on your sovereign territory! I was watching some friends of mine compete in the pro divisions, and I’m telling you, there were seventeen or eighteen couples out on the floor. I was looking for these friends and couldn’t find them – why? They weren’t owning their floor.

DO show up to the on-deck area. Don’t be an ass about this. If you are a pro and you are dancing with six different ladies, I get it. You can’t line up on deck every time. But if that’s you, it’s YOUR responsibility to be on your shit and not miss a heat. Do not make the deck captain come look for you. Do not make the MC announce your number over the loudspeaker. Embarrassing!

DO be pleasant and courteous to everyone. You know why? Well, number one, it’s decent fucking manners, and what, were you raised in a barn? But if you need a more politic reason – you never know who is behind you, or who is paying attention. People remember. Keep your mouth shut. Be pleasant. If you need to talk shit, roll out of the ballroom and wait until you are in a secure third-party location.

DO get over yourself. At the end of the day, it’s still a damn ballroom dance competition. It’s pretty ridiculous. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Oh, I almost forgot – this is probably my number one rule:

DO cut the waistband out of your fishnets. Ladies, you look beautiful. You have these amazing dresses, you spent a ton of money on them, your hair and makeup looks great! Please please please please please do not wear fishnets with the waistband cutting you in half like a sausage. I don’t care what kind of shape you are or aren’t in, it’s still visible. And it looks bad. Fishnets are made of elastic. Your dress has a built in bodysuit. Get some scissors, cut the waistband off your fishnets, and they will still stay up and do their job and you will have a smooth line.

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And here is some stuff I learned, in no particular order:

• Being able to haul ass gracefully and still smile at the judges is worth something. Way to not fall down and still BOOK it across the ballroom! One judge said to me, “Girl, you were RUNNING. I was watching you more than I was watching the pros compete. It was more interesting.”

• The best hair spray (maybe ever?) is got2b glued freezing spray. Seriously, I did my hair Friday afternoon and then worked my tail off Friday evening and then went out and fell into bed around 4 and then I got up and showered around 8 am (I kept it from getting too wet) and MY HAIR STILL LOOKED PERFECT. Awesome.

• All judges mark differently. Some are done scoring thirty seconds in, some wait until the music stops to write down their order, and some do a rough draft order and then revise it as they watch the heat. The moral of the story is, if anybody tells you stupid things like, oh, all judges do x, they are wrong. Wrong!

Smashbox makes this really amazing concealer. If you are, I don’t know, let’s just pick a random example, going out drinking and dancing till five in the morning and kissing a bunch of random boys and girls and then rolling back to your hotel room and trying to look ballroom polished and fabulous for a seven am call, THIS IS YOUR CONCEALER.

• Always overdress. (That’s one of my rules for living, actually, but I saw it in action this week.) There was a lovely girl, brand new trainee instructor, who showed up to the last evening’s formal banquet and show in what was basically a sun dress. Nobody cared, really, because whatever, but she was uncomfortable. Always bring an extra evening gown, or something that is black tie appropriate. You never know. It’s ballroom, baby. You can’t overdo it. (Except for the feathers + spaniel dress situation, but that’s been covered.)

• The judges notice and remember bad behavior on the part of professionals. As a student, the event is for YOU. The pros are there to make sure you dance well and have fun, not to be tools. Not only do the judges notice and remember, they tell each other about it and laugh and laugh and laugh and then they do not call you back when you are on the floor with your professional partner. (See above, don’t be an ass.)

• Students are amazing. Seriously, it is so awesome to see them improving and learning and dancing their hearts out on the floor. It is ABSOLUTELY what makes this the best job in the world. If you are a student – thank you!!!!! You are the best.

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Live! Behind the scenes competition blogging, part one

So I got into town this morning, all ready to go! I think it is going to be really hard to work this competition and know that I am not dancing at all – that completely sucks. There are lots of (bullshit and non-bullshit, but mostly bullshit) reasons why that’s the case, but it still sucks out loud. I predict having several drinks and bitching at length about that situation around Friday or Saturday evening.

I love ballroom competitions. They are weird, and artificial, and bizarre, and AMAZING. There’s something about them that is just so great – I don’t know what it is. Thank God that I have a competition coming up in two weeks that I am dancing in; and dancing a shit ton, as well. Given that I am ALREADY getting bummed out about not dancing, and we haven’t even convened yet, it’s a pretty good sign (and a good heads up in the Making Life Choices division) that next time I do one of these bad boys I better be on the floor at some point.

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I remember my first real competition as a new baby dancer; I had no idea that you could make ladies’ hair do some of the things they did to it. And of course, not knowing ballroom hair from a hole in the ground, I did mine very badly with, like, no hairspray at all, and it fell down into my face during the samba, nearly killing some innocent bystanders with bobby pin shrapnel. Never again!

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So at this competition, I am working as a runner – the person who runs around and picks up scoresheets from the judges (who usually stand on the edge of the dance floor) and delivers them to the scrutineer (who inputs those scores and tabulates the placements for a particular heat). I haven’t done this job before, really – I’ve been a deck captain (the person who gets everybody in the next heat lined up – “on deck” – and ready to go so that the competition runs smoothly) and have assisted the judges before, but that was at a much smaller event. This is a big national competition, and it will be very interesting to see how it goes.

So why am I doing this? Couple of reasons:

(1) It’s a great way to get to know the judges and the national-level folks at various studios and organizations.

(2) It pays pretty decently.

(3) If I can’t be on the floor with students or a pro partner, it’s the next best thing.

I am going to be super ballroom about it, though – I want people to see me doing my job and know that I am a DANCER, not just some random flunky who wears a lot of black. The kiss of death question is, “so, do you dance?” You bet your sweet ass I do. So hair, nails, tan (although not so much tan as I would do if I were really competing) and ballroom-business attire… a chimeric hybrid of dancewear and business attire that says, yes, I know how to WORK IT on the floor, but right now I am being professional and organized, excuse me, I know this blazer looks awesome and my skirt is HELLA flippy.

We have our first judges’ meeting tonight at six; I better get my fake nails glued on before then.

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Liveblogging a dance competition from the inside!

So next week I will be at a big national dance competition (about 10,000 entries over four days, to give you a sense of scale) working for the judges. I’m going to liveblog the whole process – that’s right, I’m going to be reporting liiiiiiiiiiiiiive from the floor to throw out some thoughts about competitive ballroom.

(I love that even though I am not dancing at this comp, I am still tanning because I’m going to be on the floor under the lights and I don’t want to look un-ballroom and bring shame on my house. Ballroom! It’s weird.)

To all six readers out there – let me know if there’s something you’d really like to know, and I’ll try to find out for you. But don’t get crazy, this isn’t the New York Times.

 

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