Tips for calibrated spins!

Good posture is the foundation for that elusive smooth, controlled Calibrated Spin. Watch this quickie for some tips. Plus, a shameless plug for my workshops at ATS® Homecoming – hope to see you then!


Build a better lip

It takes a lot of practice to develop an open-looking, natural smile on stage. Because of the effort, it’s easy to develop a tight smile when we perform. This tightness in the lips and jaw can create a straight horizontal line at the bottom of our lips, which leaves our faces looking small and closed-off.

Luckily, makeup can help, at least a little! In this quickie tutorial video, learn a little technique for making your smile appear more expressive and natural on stage.

(Credit and thanks to Sofia for passing along the Lip Tar to me… it’s a favorite.)

Diva Dreads for short hair: the video tutorial!

Lots of folks at ATS® Homecoming have been asking how I put the dreads on my head, so by popular request, here’s a video tutorial version of the photo tutorial I posted last year.  Enjoy!

Apologies that the top of my head got cut off – I’m still learning best practices for using iMovie on my phone! But for reference, here are two photos that Brandie took of me when I stopped by her booth to prep for the fashion show.


Makeup for performance: the daytime outdoor gig

My very first time seeing tribal improv live was at the Farmers’ Market in Flagstaff, Arizona.  The dancers brought a carpet to dance on, and drummers, and created such a wonderful spectacle with their wide variety of bodies and faces and skill levels.  They brought so much joy to the people who thought they were just coming to the market for the vegetables.

To this day, street fairs and similar casual outdoor gigs are my favorite venue to perform in.  They’re a great opportunity to share our joy with the general public who wasn’t expecting to see something so delightful.

Makeup for this gig is interesting.  On the one hand, these gigs are probably going to be marketing opportunities for your studio, so you want your face to look accessible and friendly.  You want potential new students to think, “hey, I could do that.”

On the other hand, you still want to create a spectacle, and you still want to create enough of an exotic  look so that someone walking by doesn’t think, “Oh, that’s just Janet from the office in fancy duds.”  You still want your look to be removed from the everyday.

Here’s one way to achieve that.

Step 1: Sunscreen.


This is important, ok?  I like a lightweight cream sunscreen for my face (the purple tube) and a spray sunscreen for everything else.  Don’t forget your back, and neck, and chest!  And midsection!

Yes, I use a foundation that has SPF.  But I still put a layer of sunscreen on underneath.  I live in California, and that sun can get intense.  You could also use a tinted moisturizer that has SPF, if you like, but me:  I FRY.  So this is what Step 1 looks like before I rub it in:


Seriously.  Do not skimp on the sunscreen.  Remember that you can get burned even through clouds or — because this is San Francisco — fog.

(Depending on the texture of your sunscreen, you may find that your makeup slides around a little bit as a result.  Don’t worry, some tips and tricks for dealing with that are coming your way!)


Step 2: Primer.

Face and eyelids.  Here’s what I use.



Step 3: Foundation, contour, blush, highlight.

For foundation, I use one of the normal, day-to-day foundations that I often reach for: a pressed powder from bareMinerals.  (I’ve got very sensitive skin, and the mineral makeup doesn’t seem to irritate it at all. )

Use what makes you feel good.  I don’t recommend liquid, though; I feel like the powder helps set the sunscreen a little bit to prevent too much sliding around.  But that’s my personal experience, of course, and yours may differ.


For contour, I used a pressed powder that is a few shades darker than my foundation.  I put it in standard contouring places:  under cheekbones, under jawbones, on temples, and around the forehead.

IMG_6475 IMG_6476


For highlight and blush, I’m using these from the “Rock Star” palette from theBalm.  I am in love with this palette.

IMG_6479Blush goes on the cheekbones.  Highlight goes on top of blush, over eyebrows, maybe on the nose if you want.

Blend the heck out of all of that.


Step 4: Eyeshadow.

For daytime gigs, my troupemate Jesse turned me on to a black and gold eyeshadow look.  They’re both neutrals, but just bold and blingy-enough that it sets you apart from your daily routine.  And the gold keeps it light, a dramatic look that’s still good for daytime.

First up, the gold.  I’m using Blitz from the Urban Decay original “Vice” palette — lots of great metallics in here — but use whatever metallic gold you want.

IMG_6485 IMG_6487


Next, the black.  I’m using Black Market from the same palette.  Any matte black should work well, though.  Put it in the crease and just under the outside part of the inner lid.

IMG_6488 IMG_6489


Then blend.  After blending, I will sometimes put another layer of gold on top to really lighten things up.  Here’s the finished eyeshadow look.



Now is a good time to give yourself a dose of setting spray.  This one’s my favorite.





Step 5: Eyelashes.

Normally I would always wear lashes, even to a daytime gig, because they really finish off the look and keep things interesting.  Here are the lashes I was going to wear — not as crazy as for stage, but still interesting and bold.


… but I was having issues with the eyelash glue, and my hands were shaky since I’d had coffee but no real breakfast at this point, so I gave up and went a different route:  lots and lots of mascara.

I would definitely not recommend this for stage or any nighttime affair, but if there’s one gig where you can get away with just mascara, it’s the daytime outdoor gig.

I did two types of mascara:  first, a thickening mascara from Makeup For Ever, and second, a lengthening mascara called They’re Real! from Benefit.


Step 6: Eyeliner.

(Or you could do this before the lashes.  Up to you, of course.)

I didn’t do anything fancy with liner today – I don’t normally for daytime gigs.  Liquid on the top lash line (I like the Illamasqua brand), no crazy cat eye, but you could go that route if you wanted.  Pencil about a third of the way in on the bottom lash line.


Step 7: Eyebrows.

I FORGOT TO DO MY EYEBROWS.  SERIOUSLY, GUYS, DON’T DO THIS.  Luckily, my troupemate Sofia had some brown pencil with her and I was able to fix it later.

Step 8: Lips!

Pencil, lipstick, and a little bit of glitter eyeshadow in the pout to finish it off.  But when I leave the house, I just do pencil – it’s enough to help the look appear finished, but you’re not going to eat off your lipstick before you get to the gig.

I always pack a mirror, lipliner, and lipstick with me so I can get those things done before I go on.

IMG_6511 IMG_6513

And here’s the finished look!  With the ever-patient Sofia.  (She’s made different — and equally lovely — makeup choices.  Remember there’s no real right or wrong here, just be mindful of why you’re making the choices you’re making, and be creative.)




Makeup for performance: the nightclub look

Let’s talk makeup, shall we? I separate my makeup looks for ATS into three categories.

1. The stage look.
You need to be visible from far away, and the lighting is harsh. The makeup needs to be extremely dramatic. From close up, it can be kind of scary.

2. The outdoor/daytime/close up look.
The goal here isn’t to be so dramatic or harsh, but rather to match the color and festiveness of the costume and overall performance. The makeup still needs to be heavy, but the lines are softer and contrast isn’t as pronounced.

3. The nightclub look.
This is an unholy hybrid of the other two looks. Lighting in the venue can be dark and unpredictable, so you want intense color and contrast, but you don’t want to look too scary close up when you go exchange your drink ticket for a glass of white wine with a straw (so as not to upset your lipstick, natch).

This post is about that elusive nightclub look, because that’s the gig I was dancing at tonight!

As we go through, keep in mind: this is only a reflection of what works for me. Use whatever products work best for you, and feel free to experiment. There are very few hard and fast rules.

1. Prep and prime.
Don’t skip this! I use moisturizers from LUSH, followed by face primer and eyeshadow primer. The eyeshadow primer in particular is important, as it keeps your colors stable when you get sweaty.



2. Apply foundation, contour, and blush.
Please don’t skip the contour or blush. You’ll be tempted to, because no one really does that in their daily lives, but under any sort of odd lighting, you’ll want people to think you have cheekbones that can cut glass, and this is what contour gives you.  Without contour, you probably look like a large white blob (if you are white).

Blush softens the look, makes you look less like a zombie, and brings color to your cheeks.

Here are the specific products I’m using.  From left to right: contour brush, mineral foundation brush (both from Sephora), bareMinerals Ready foundation, Bobbi Brown contour, and then the “Balm Jovi” palette from theBalm.  I’m using the pink “Pop Pop! Don’t You Want Me?” blush from this palette.


After applying the foundation with a heavy hand, the contour goes right under my cheekbones, under my jaw, and around the hairline.  YouTube has lots of tutorials if you need help figuring out where everything goes. Soften this up a little bit and blend.


Blush goes on the cheekbones.  I forgot to grab a photo of contour + blush.  You’ll see it in later photos.

2. Apply eyeshadow.
I like to think about eyeshadow in three colors: the very dark (usually black, even for a paleface like me), the medium, and the very light.  The more contrast you can get here, the better.

Tonight, I’m using the white (“Sassy”) and black (“Serious”) from theBalm’s Nude’tude palette, shown below.  Those will be my light and dark, respectively.


The medium I’m using tonight is “Fringe,” which is a dark teal from the new Electric palette by Urban Decay.  It’s the one in the top right.


Apply medium color all over lid.  Then dark color on the outside crease and just under the eye, and then light color on the interior, sweeping up above where you’ve placed the dark color.


Then, just for kicks, I applied “Revolt” — silver metallic from the Electric palette — on top of the white.


Now, blend the hell out of it!  I like to blend from inside to outside with a wide flat brush, and then use the flat part of the brush to subtly wing the eyeshadow out in a line.  Here’s the blended look:



3. Lashes!
Yes, you do need to wear lashes. They just make everything better. And besides, they’re darned fun.  Here’s some tricks to make application easier.

You’ll need lashes (go big or go home!), eyelash glue, mascara if you want, liquid black liner, pencil black liner, and optionally this little spring-loaded tool that I found in the Japanese dollar store for a buck.


This little tool is the best thing ever.  It holds the lashes while the glue gets tacky, and then helps you put them on your face.  You can definitely put on lashes without this tool, but it’s so much easier if you can get your hands on one.


First, apply a thin line of glue to the base of the lash.  Then, wait for the glue to get tacky – at least 30 seconds.  Put on a coat of mascara while you wait.

If you have a lash tool, you can just let it sit like this while the glue gets tacky.


Now, put the eyelash on your face.  Again, the tool is helpful here!

I like to position the lash so the inside is just a little bit away from where the inside of my eye is.  This makes it a lot less pokey when I try to blink.

If using the tool, stick the middle part of the lash to the skin of your eyelid, then unclamp the tool and secure the ends with your fingers.  If you’re just using your fingers or tweezers, put the ends on first and then secure the middle.


I like to put my bindi on at this point too, since I’ve got the eyelash glue out.

Get out your black liquid eyeliner (I’m in love with the Illamasqua line – doesn’t budge) and fill in the space between the inside corner of the lash and the inside corner of your eye.  You can extend this line onto the side of your nose if you like.

Since you have the liquid eyeliner out, now is also a good time to put on any tribal markings, if that’s a thing you like to do.


Now is also the perfect time to fill in and darken your eyebrows to create contrast if you haven’t done it already, especially if you have light eyebrows.  And use the black pencil to line the bottom of your eyes, as you like.  Tonight I went about halfway from the outside corners.

4. Highlight.
I like to do this for club gigs, since I never know what the lighting situation will be like. I’m using the highlighter from the Balm Jovi palette shown above, and I’ve put highlighter just under my eyebrows, above my lip, and on my cheekbones.



5. Lips!
Start with your lip liner – a nice true red, or a darker red than your lipstick if you like.  Line the outside of your lips, and fill in.


Next, lipstick.  My current favorite is MAC Viva Glam III, which is a rich burgundy that looks great on my skin tone.  Do that “apply, blot, apply” trick that we all learned from girl magazines in middle school.



I like to highlight the pout (middle of bottom lip) with some shiny stuff.  It’s pretty, and if you want to add glitter to the pout later, this helps the glitter stick better.  I’m using Lipglass by MAC.



… and with a fingerful of that same silver eyeshadow on top of the pout:


And voila, my friends.  Here’s the finished look.  If you have some finishing spray, like Urban Decay All-Nighter, give yourself a spritz or two to help everything stick while you sweat on the dance floor.


Have fun!  Go out there and play!  And stay tuned for more ideas.

BONUS:  Want to know how to take all of this stuff off quickly at the end of the night?  This stuff below – “Just Release Me” from Philosophy, available at Sephora – is magical.  It’s a two-phase makeup remover.  You shake it up, saturate a cotton pad with it, and everything just comes right off, including your eyelashes, minimal pulling or tugging required.  It’s incredibly gentle, too, and doesn’t smell bad.



ATS® & Diva Dreads; or, what to do with a pixie cut

I love my very short hair, but sometimes a girl just needs a hair garden to stick stuff into!  So, at last year’s Cues and Tattoos, I walked up to the Diva Dreads booth, pointed to my head, and said: “I’m an ATS dancer. What can you do for me?”

Brandie, the owner, knows and loves the aesthetic, so she understood:  I didn’t want anything dangling down, and I wanted height and a certain shape.  So she invited me to have a seat, and whipped out a set of dreads.  In just a few minutes she had created a “hair turban,” mostly pinning the dreads to themselves, and had clipped in a few flowers.

It was pretty good.  But I showed it to Carolena, who was vending from an adjacent table, and she made that face I’ve come to know so well:  good idea, but the execution needs some work.  Carolena pointed out that my head shape is pretty round, so I should try for some height next time rather than going with a round shape.  So I took the dreads home and started playing.  And now, a year later, I am happy to share how I make this happen!

I’ll be sharing pictures as we go through this tutorial.  Please forgive the blurriness – I took most of these in a hurry from the hotel room where I was getting ready for the Tessera performance at this year’s Cues.

As a reminder, here’s where we’re starting.  It’s a bit of a long pixie right now, but still too short to effectively make a solid ponytail.

The current state of the pixie cut - a little longer than at last year's Cues & Tattoos.

The current state of the pixie cut – a little longer than at last year’s Cues & Tattoos.

You’ll need a set of dreads threaded onto elastics big enough to go around your head.  If your preferred vendor only puts them on ponytail elastics, you could make a simple modification — or just talk to Brandie and she’ll make you a set that will work for you.  You’ll also need a scarf and boatloads of bobby pins.

Here’s what the dreads look like.  I store them wrapped up in the scarf I usually wear with them.


Step one is to put the elastics around your head, with the dreads dangling down the back.  The sets of dreads don’t overlap with each other, they just sit side by side. Like this:



ERMAHGERD! It's Wendy Allen photobombing!

ERMAHGERD! It’s Wendy Allen photobombing my tutorial selfie!

Next step, I start wrapping the outside-most dreads over the top of my head, alternating sides, and bobby pinning in place behind my ears.

First one side...



I do that until I’ve got most of the top of my head covered.  Next up, I start pinning the center dreads up to where the back of my head meets the top of my head, usually two at a time.  Make an X with two bobby pins to keep every section in place.


Back view.  Holy moly, do I have a bald spot?!


Continue pinning until you have two small chunks (just a few strands) left on either side.


Now, flip your head upside down and start twisting.  The placement of the sections in your hands will determine the overall shape of the updo; bring them tight and slightly to the back to create a stronger vertical line and avoid too much roundness.



Next, twist into a fairly high bun, and pin the crap out of it!  I recommend using more bobby pin “X” shapes, since mostly you’ll be pinning the dreads to themselves and single bobby pins are unlikely to stay.


You can fine-tune the shape with more bobby pins.

Finally, grab your scarf and tie it over to cover the elastics.  Tie it snugly at the nape of your neck.  I like to then twist up the ends and bring them up and over the headband, pinning the ends in place.

This photo is from a few weeks ago - I loved this version of the bun!

This photo is from a few weeks ago – I loved this version of the bun!

Finally, put all of your flowers, jewelry, whatever you like into your ‘do.  You look MAHVELOUS.

with Jesse and Nina at Tannourine

with Jesse and Nina at Tannourine