Baby your Bling: preparing and caring for your belly dance costume jewelry

Costume jewelry

Costume jewelry

It’s happened to you before. You’ve scoured the Internet, the discount boutiques, or the rhinestone-filled stores of midtown Manhattan or downtown LA to find the perfect set of costume jewelry to match a costume. And then it happens. Maybe you saw it onstage, maybe you don’t realize until you’re unpacking your gig bag home, or until days later when you fasten the earrings on again. WHERE DID THAT CRYSTAL GO?!

While costume jewelry can be inexpensive (check out the price tag on this set I just got!), you get what you pay for in many ways.

Fear not, with a few easy preparation and care steps, you can keep your costume jewelry looking as good as the day you pulled it out of the package.




  1. Box with a lid 
  2. Old t-shirt
  3. Toothpick
  4. E-6000 glue
  5. Clear nail polish or Jewelry Shield
  6. Pliers


1. Storage: Tangles and scratches are the enemy of costume jewelry, whose weak links and soft imitation stones damage easily. Prevent damage by creating a storage system that uses the plastic packaging that most costume jewelry sets come with now.

Cut the plastic packaging to fix in a lidded box. Take the twist ties that were used to secure the necklace from the set and turn them around so that the ends face up. Use the twist ties to secure the necklace so it doesn’t rattle around in the box.

Costume jewelry in storage box with cloth

Costume jewelry in storage box with cloth

Twist ties keep jewelry in place

Twist ties keep jewelry in place

Place the earrings into the original holes from the packaging.

Cut a small piece from the old t-shirt to fit your box to place over the jewelry; this will prevent movement and scratches.

2. Check for loose stones and links: Tiffany-quality settings these are not, and more often than not, crystals fall out and prove to be nearly impossible to replace because of odd sizes or colors.

As soon as you get your new jewelry, use a toothpick to pry at the space between the setting and the stone.

Checking for loose stones

Checking for loose stones

If there are any loose stones (or if they pop out all together!), use a small dab of E-6000 glue to secure them back in place, making sure to wipe the glue off any metal or stone surfaces. Use pliers to tighten any loose links.

3. Coat the backing: Costume jewelry’s mystery metal likes to turn weird colors when it reacts to your sweat, causing streaks to run down your skin when you’re dancing. Prevent this by coating the back of your jewelry with a coat of clear nail polish or Jewelry Shield.

Coat the back of your jewelry to prevent discoloration

Coat the back of your jewelry to prevent discoloration

Now that you’ve prepared your new jewelry, you’re ready to dance!


1. Dry it off: Even though you’ve coated the back of your jewelry, sweat buildup can still eventually damage it or wear through the coating. Use the cloth in your storage box to wipe down your jewelry after each wear. Wash or replace the cloth as needed, and apply a new coat of nail polish or Jewelry Shield as needed.

2. Examine it: Did any prongs come lose? Did a link open when you caught your bracelet in your hair and had to pull it out? Look at your jewelry frequently to check for any problems, and if you find them, fix according to Step #2 in the Care section.

Just a few minutes of maintenance before and after each use can keep your costume jewelry in dance-ready shape for years!

Yale Belly Dance Society presents Hips Against Hunger 2013, or, a love letter to my college dance troupe

Hips Against Hunger 2013

I’ve got to brag a little (or a lot!) here today about how very awesome my college dance troupe, the Yale Belly Dance Society is. If you don’t believe me, read this article in the Yale Daily News about their upcoming show (April 5-6, 2013), 10-year history and past successes in raising money for New Haven’s Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen. It’s not always easy to get good, fair press as a belly dancer (see the many articles with the words “gyrate,” “exotic” or the like in them), and this might be one of the most positive and well-deserved I’ve read. The troupe has come so far from its humble beginnings in 2003.

I don’t know very much about the troupe’s first year, but when I joined as a college freshman in the fall of 2004 and unexpectedly became president to the troupe, I had no idea how important it would be in my life, and what an adventure running the troupe would be over the next four years. From four members that year, we blossomed into dozens, matured into an audition-based group, staged our first gala show in 2006 and became a presence on campus, and later–and most importantly–became a presence in the New Haven community through performances and our very first Hips Against Hunger in 2008. If I remember, that event raised a few hundred dollars; last year’s HAH raised nearly $4000! Since graduation, it’s been such a joy to see the group grow and succeed in so many ways, from greater fundraising to more professional level shows.

Running the troupe wasn’t always easy; we did everything ourselves, from choosing and fitting costumes, to creating choreographies, to managing finances, and sometimes disagreed in the process. It was a lesson not only in dance and culture, but in learning to work with one another and with other groups on campus, and for that, I’m really grateful. Being in YBDS gave us a chance to grow together not only as dancers, but also as people in general. Belly dance was something I was interested in during high school, but it was in college where I became passionate about it, and YBDS had a lot to do with that, as laboratory, performance venue, and sounding board for ideas and interests.

I’m happy to count the ladies of YBDS among my enduring friends, and so proud of everything they’ve accomplished on and off stage over the years!

Hips Against Hunger 2008

Hips Against Hunger 2008

Buy tickets for HAH or make a donation on the Yale Belly Dance Society website; all proceeds benefit the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) of New Haven.

Friday, April 5 – 9 pm

Saturday***, April 6 – 8 pm

Yale University – Harkness Auditorium

333 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT

***I’ll be performing a solo as well as a group number with the alumna at the Saturday evening show.


UPDATE: Coverage of the event in the New Haven Register, along with video of last year’s show, here

The ‘Harlem Shake,’ cultural appropriation and (con)fusion

In a truly compelling clip from MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry argues why the recent viral video phenomenon of masked, jerking dancing set to Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” is just another example of the misappropriation of African-American culture, in this case, a Harlem-based dance move that originated in the 1980s.

So what does this have to do with belly dance? Besides the obvious belly dance versions of the new ‘Harlem Shake’, the notions of cultural appropriation and fusion have been hot topics in the BD world for several years.

What is belly dance, how do you define it, who has the “right” (if anyone) to perform it, and when does fusion turn into (con)fusion or, worse, something downright offensive?

As Harris-Perry and residents of Harlem observed, the chaotic new ‘Harlem Shake’ craze has nothing to do with the intricate, on-beat dance steps of the original Shake. While the idea of absolute authenticity is a shaky one (after all, everything changes at some point), as is the idea that dance must be exclusive to one people or another, there’s something to be said about moving so far away from the original as to erase any hint of it. In the case of the new ‘Harlem Shake,’ the original name is used while the original dance steps and heritage are ignored; it’s false advertising at best, and total ignorance at its worst.

So what about ‘Belly Dance’ and all its recent fusions? Is there a line crossed when the movements, music and costuming are so far away from the original that they are no longer belly dance, but something else? Should fusionistas seek new names for their art, or continue to use the name ‘belly dance?’

While the dance community might be aware of the many debates, and history of the many dances under the umbrella of ‘belly dance,’ most of the general public isn’t, and will consider what they see advertised as ‘belly dance’ as just that…BELLY DANCE, just like the many ‘Harlem Shakers’ unaware of that dance’s long history believe that donning a mask and flailing is doing the shake.

Where do you stand on the new ‘Harlem Shake,’ or on fusion in belly dance?

Registration open for Belly Dance with Veil at the Princeton Adult School (Princeton, NJ)

It’s time to get hip in Princeton again! Join me this fall for a three-week session that will introduce you to the beautiful world of belly dance with veil.

Register at the Princeton Adult School’s website

Najla Belly Dance NYC with veil

Class description:

Tuesdays, October 2, 9 & 16, 6-7:30 pm (**the PAS website says 7 pm end time, but this is a typo!)
Community Park School, 372 Witherspoon, Princeton, NJ

Veils are large pieces of lightweight fabric (usually silk) used by belly dancers to create flowing, atmospheric dances. The veil dance may be a distant cousin of North African and Middle Eastern shawl, skirt and handkerchief dances, but veil dancing as we know it today has its origins in theatrical performances from the 1940s by Egyptian dancers. This course will introduce dancers to basic veil holds, turns, and combinations using a single veil, and will integrate veil performance with the fundamental movements of Egyptian dance. Some belly dance experience required. Participants must bring their own 3.5-4 yard veil, preferably silk.

(also available for purchase on the instructor’s online shop.)

Inspiration: Egyptian art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sometimes you need to recharge your inspiration (or just take a break from the summertime heat!). The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has a wonderful show on lesser-known aspects of Egyptian art. But act fast, it closes soon. If you don’t make it in time for this exhibition, you can always buy the catalogue or view the 39 permanent galleries of Egyptian art, which include the famous Temple of Dendur, a Roman-era temple originally located near Aswan.

The Dawn of Egyptian Art (closes August 5)

An insightful look at the world of art before the time of the pharaohs. Dancers may want to look for the many animal-shaped palettes made out of graywacke (a kind of stone); they were used for grinding kohl and other pigments for makeup!

One of these palettes is on the exhibition catalogue; it shows two turtles, possibly an image of love, or the two sides of a single idea.

How to make Egyptian fringe – step-by-step instructions with photos

Najla's "Princess Jasmine" belly dance bedlah belt with fringe

Najla’s “Princess Jasmine” belly dance bedlah belt with fringe

Making fringe is not for the weak of heart; this is without a doubt one of the most time consuming (but rewarding and oddly meditative) costuming projects I’ve taken on. Egyptian fringe is available ready-made online and in some dance shops, but can be extremely difficult to color-match to a costume and expensive. My “Princess Jasmine” costume (featured in Jareeda magazine’s 2011 costuming issue) needed a little extra swing, so I decided to add some fringe to the belt, making my own to ensure a perfect color match. Past experiences laboriously threading seed beads onto thread to make small beaded sections on costumes had put me off from making fringe, but purchasing a bead spinner made the task much easier.

Want to make your own Egyptian fringe? Here’s what you need to make approximately 40″ of fringe, the perfect length for a hip belt.

  • Beading thread (at least 2 64 yard spools) in a color that blends with your beads
  • Bead spinner & curved needles
  • Thick, flexible thread such as denim thread
  • heavy duty thread (carpet & button thread)
  • small crochet hook
  • Satin or grosgrain ribbon (1/4″ width) – [optional]
  • Fray Check
  • seed beads (this example used approximately 3 bags of Darice Big Value! of size 10 beads. Most manufacturers sell beads by weight, so that would be 90 grams. Weight/number of beads may vary depending on the size of the bead you use and your specific measurements.)
  • ruler
  • tip: all thread and ribbon colors should blend with your costume and fringe (the colors here are just suggestions)
  1. Determine how long you want your fringe to be. You can even Photoshop fringe into a photo to visualize the final effect. This technique uses double-long bead strands that will be folded in half to achieve the desired length. Ex: if you want 4″ fringe you’ll make 8″ strands.
  2. Use the bead spinner to quickly create a strand of beads. Tie the knot at each end around the final bead and secure with a dot of Fray Check. With practice, this step takes 2 minutes or less per strand.
  3. Using the denim thread and crochet hook, use a crochet chain stitch to make a 2″ long piece that will mark the beginning of your fringe.
  4. Start your next chain stitch; before wrapping the thread around the needle and pulling it through the loop, drape the folded bead strand over the thread, taking care to make sure it’s even. Once the strand is placed, draw the crochet hook through the thread loop. Create a regular chain stitch, then one with a bead strand; continue alternating this pattern until you’ve reached the desired length. You can change the number of plain stitches in between beaded stitches (or eliminate them completely) to change the thickness of your fringe.
  5. Finish off the fringe strand with another 2″ of regular chain stitch.
  6. From here, you have two choices. A) Apply the fringe as-is to your project; since the crocheted thread is flexible, this makes applying it to a round surface like a dance bra much easier. B) Sew the fringe to a length of satin or grosgrain ribbon, and then sew the ribbon to your project. This is a great choice if you might remove the fringe to use on another project in the future, as it is much simpler to pull out stitches from the ribbon than from the crochet stitches, or if you need extra support for the fringe. I recommend doing this if you are applying the fringe to a belt, as the beads become very heavy and are subjected to much more intense movement than on a bra. Stitch the crocheted denim thread down the middle to the edge of the ribbon using heavy-duty thread; use the same heavy-duty thread to sew the ribbon to the costume.
  7. Shimmy, and enjoy your beautiful new fringe!

Besides the initial investment in a bead spinner (around $20), this is a very cost effective project considering 40″ of solid-colored 4″ long beaded fringe STARTS at $40 plus shipping.  All told, the supplies for this fringe cost around $25.

Before fringe:

Najla's "Princess Jasmine" costume - before fringe

Najla’s “Princess Jasmine” costume – before fringe

After fringe:

***This post contains Amazon Associate links. Anything you purchase will support this blog–thanks!

BDTA: Dum Tek rhythm generator app (review)

screenshots of Dum Tek app

screenshots of Dum Tek app

Wayward Gypsy Studios has really put out something cool with their Dum Tek app for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. In fact, so cool, that after playing with the app for a while, my novice drummer hub-ibi turned to me with a very serious face and said “This…is…awesome.”

So what’s so awesome about Dum Tek? Pretty much everything! The app is a rhythm generator that allows you to practice and learn Middle Eastern rhythms. While there are many rhythm drill MP3s available for practice, the genius of Dum Tek is the “play along” feature that notes just where the dums and teks are hitting, making this an excellent learning tool. You can also adjust the BPM of the rhythm to fit the music you’re working with, making it a much more ME specific practice tool than a metronome (or metronome app!).

screenshot of Dum Tek appPlatforms: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

What can I expect to hear? 31 rhythms and variations (and more promised in future versions)

What kind of dancers would like this app? All kinds of dancers and musicians.

Recommended by Najla? yes

Price: Free!

Where can I get it? Download Dum Tek on iTunes