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Dance has been an integral part of my life.  Thanks to my aunt who was a bellydancer, she took me under her wing as a youngin’. Dance came natural to me as walking.  Alone in the corner of her dance studio, I emulated her movements when she rehearsed or taught class. Her students were amazed at how a 5-year-old girl caught on so quickly. She brought me on stage performing dance duets  and solos. I wowed the audience with challenging choreography for my age.  Many people remarked that I danced beyond my years. My ability to interpret the music through movement was visceral, a skill only conveyed by a dancer with years of experience.  I continued to train in several dance forms: Brazilian samba at 9 years old with my mom, Afro-Haitian dance during my teens, and flamenco in my early 20’s to present day.  I’ve spent subsequent years on and off learning different genres but my journey forward always took me back to my roots — bellydancing!

There are many different styles within the art of bellydancing: cabaret style known as raqs sharqi which is what westerners perceive as bellydance, Egyptian Folkloric & Ethnic, American Tribal Bellydance, and Tribal Fusion Bellydance.  What I love most about this art form is that bellydance is a language that communicates a woman’s strength and beauty. A dance celebrating the female spirit and body (via):

Belly dancing is an ancient art, many thousands of years old, that celebrates the woman as the creator of life.  Over the years it has often been misused or vulgarized, leaving us today with the image of the sultan and his harem, or the stripper.  But these are misleading impressions.  When done in the true spirit, and viewed with understanding, belly dancing affirms the power of womanhood and sisterhood.

Historically, belly dancing was done as part of ancient Near Eastern religious rites that venerated motherhood and prepared women for the efforts of childbirth.  The dance was, and perhaps still is, performed in the Near East during labor and birth.  Women of the tribe dance around the bedside of the pregnant woman to inspire her to imitate the movements with her stomach and pelvic muscles, thus facilitating delivery and reducing pain.

Unlike ballet where a standard physique is required, bellydance accepts all body types. Your body doesn’t evolve with the dance, the dance evolves with your body.  My favorite style I enjoy practicing and watching is Tribal Fusion Bellydance.  Tribal Fusion is the more edgy and contemporary form of bellydance fusing traditional cabaret style, folkloric Egyptian, flamenco, southern indian folkdance, burlesque, vaudeville, hip hop and yoga.  The prep is just as important as the dance itself. Getting ready for performance reminds me of puja, a ritual to honor, worship, and give devotional attention to the dancer’s female form. Makeup is vampy with dark sanguine lips, eyes blackened with kohl, and inked skin. Costumes are dramatic and vibrant with layers of lavish textiles, beads, and coins; bodies embellished with jewelry; elaborate headpieces of gold brocade, lush fragrant flowers, feathers, and hair ornaments.  Scent is vital to enhance their presence, create a persona, and establish a mood. Dancers baptize themselves with fragrance.  They anoint their bodies with perfume oils. The smoke of incense is imbedded within the fiber of their costumes. Every detail is addressed in sight, sound, texture, and smell to create a sacred space that allows dancers freedom to move and express themselves.  As an audience member, watching a tribal fusian bellydance performance is an all-encompassing sensual experience of fantasy and magical theater.

The way Sharra, the nose behind Alkemia Apothecary & Perfumery, blends her perfumes is much like the art of bellydancing.  Just as a dancer’s body becomes one with the music, Sharra’s perfumes meld with your skin:

 Alkemia’s perfumes are blended with science, passion, and magic. Our olfactory artistry blends with the subtle variations of individual skin chemistry to create uniquely personal scents that invite delicious surrender to the seductive pleasures of fragrance.

La Bohème is what I imagine Tribal Fusion Bellydancer superstar Rachel Brice would smell like.  A bohemian in her own right, Rachel Brice dances with passionate abandon and free of regard for conventional rules.  Like Rachel Brice, La Bohème is a fragrance that smells exotic and other-worldly as if from another time and place.  A slinky, undulating modern-day Mata Hari.  Hypnotic and mesmerizing, she’ll lure you into her web of “seductive pleasure”.

Description:  An unorthodox union of earthy patchouli and dark, blood-red roses. Erotically radiant. Intoxicatingly free-spirited.

“To take the world as one finds it, the bad with the good, making the best of the present moment—to laugh at Fortune alike whether she be generous or unkind—to spend freely when one has money, and to hope gaily when one has none—to fleet the time carelessly, living for love and art—this is the temper and spirit of the modern Bohemian… in Bohemia one may find almost every sin save that of Hypocrisy.” – Gelett Burgess 

Notes:  Smoky patchouli and Gothic Rose

 Scent:  La Bohème opens dark and smoky.  The scent transports me to the long gone Amira Restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District.  Amira was the place to watch up and coming bellydancers back in the day.  When you enter the restaurant, you feel like you’ve stepped into a Bedouin tent with its overt display of opulence: tapestries on the wall, fabric hanging from the ceiling, cozy pillowed seats while candles flicker on Moroccan tray tables and smoke swirls from hukka pipes. There’s a small stage in the center where live musicians and bellydancer perform. As the bellydancer enters the stage, she comes creeping from the dark and emerges through the fog like a mysterious ancient goddess. Her arms are snake-like, fluid, graceful and sinuous.  She undulates and coils her body like incense slowly curls up into the air.  As she twirls, she becomes a blur.  All you are left with is the scent of her patchouli smoked costume combined with her rose perfume wafting in your direction .  She’s smells of a gothic rose, black and mysterious to match her khol-lined eyes and vampy burgundy-stained lips.  It’s a rose on the verge of overipeness, sweet but pungent.; velvety and lush like the roses that adorn her hair.  The aroma from her costume smolders rustic pungeant earthiness.  Near the end of her choreography, the smoke fades.  She closes her dance with a shocking backbend and falls backwards into a Turkish drop leaving the audience spellbound. As she exits the stage, all that remains is the trail of her scent — soapy rose and dewy skin.

Sillage: It depends how much and where you apply.  Decent sillage and projection with drops on pulse points: wrists, cleavage, behind each ear, and nape of my neck.  Not too strong or weak.  People could smell me within a few feet distance, it leaves a pleasant trail upon movement.

Longevity:  I wish it would last longer.  I got 5 hours with this.  For the first 2 hours it was strong but it started to fade at the third hour.  By 5 hours, the scent was barely there.

Who Would Wear This?  Female fans of florientals and dark roses. Steampunks and of course, bellydancers!

Season and Occasion:  Winter and Fall.  Day or Evening.

Would I Buy A Full Bottle?  Full bottle worthy. Yes!

Final Verdict:  I love La Bohème.  It’s a beautiful smoky, earthy, velvet rose with a mystical and sensual ambiance.  It does get slightly soapy in the end but it doesn’t bother me. The only downside is the longevity but I can live with it. Wearing La Bohème makes me feel like I’ve slipped into my bellydance costume again. The scent conjures memories of my heyday as a performing bellydancer and inspires me to dance. (It’s not very often I find fragrances as my muse.) I’m tempted to wear it during practice sessions to discover what will happen. Maybe La Bohème will work its magic and miraculously turn me into a bellydancing superstar like Rachel Brice? (Heh. Dream on.)

Alkemia Apothecary & Perfumery La Bohème: 5ml perfume oil retails for $12 on etsy

Looking for more reviews on Alkemia Perfumes?  Check out my reviews here.

[Image 1] Rachel Brice via taboomedia.com
[Image 4] Goth Rose via http://q-me-in.tumblr.com/