Saturday, 8 October 2011

Musings of a Newbie Vegan Tribal Dancer

Newbie vegan, that is, rather than newbie tribal dancer!

Now don't panic. This is not going to turn into a moralistic diatribe - it's just a bit of personal rambling about the impact of my recent decision to go vegan upon my dance journey! Having been vegetarian for almost thirty years now, I've only really considered the vegan thing over the past few years. Around 2008 I treated myself to a copy of 'The Idiot's Guide to Vegan Living' (comments on a postcard please) and that was kind of that ..... until around a month ago I started pondering again. Dangerous stuff, that pondering! It's primarily an ethical choice, but I'm not going into all the details here; suffice it to say it's a very well thought out and informed decision. Of course, there's always the hope that there may well be health benefits in it too, although given my recent discovery that Fry's Chocolate Cream bars fall under a vegan banner I fear I could be destined to become The Fattest Vegan In The World .......

Now before any of you start to worrit - you know the kind of thing, 'You'll have no energy to dance', 'Your bones will crumble away' etc etc - just don't. Firstly it's not true. And secondly - well, us tribal dancers have THE ultimate role model in the beautifully amazing Carolena Nericcio. So there! Sadly it will take more than a couple of weeks on a vegan diet to coax me into a layback, but you get my drift. I believe that Ansuya is also a vegan (though I haven't been able to verify this), as well as Megha Gavin. So We Are Not Alone!

I decided to start my path into veganism with my diet ..... and opted for a softly softly approach. Week One was cut out butter, yoghurt and milk. Discovery of the week : I LIKE soya milk! Who knew? I'm the world's biggest cowardy custard (vegan custard of course!) when it comes to trying new foods (possibly brought on by terrible experiences with TVP in the early days of vegetarianism) but I also found I like seaweed and pumpkin seeds! But hey, guess what? After clearing a couple of non-vegan veggie products from the fridge (like Quorn. Why oh why do they have to use egg white?!) that was it. Really it. For two weeks now I have not eaten or drank anything derived from animals. I have resisted temptation after temptation - cakes and chocolates galore at work, a cheese pasty, Fry's Turkish delight bar - and I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I haven't missed anything. I haven't even had any cheese cravings, which has amazed me. Now do I feel better? Well, it's only been two weeks ..... very early days. But I do actually feel as though I have more MENTAL energy if that makes sense. As well as a bit more emotional resilience. So who can tell? I'll keep you posted!

Of course Jewel of Yorkshire festival in a couple of weeks is going to be hard .... the yummy cakes on that stall, and ohh, the fried egg butties! I shall have to take a pocketful of pumpkin seeds to keep me going! Unless of course they happen to sell Fry's Chocolate Cream bars, in which case at least one vegan dancer is going to be a very happy bunny! On the other hand, who knows - maybe they have their very own copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World?

Now of course true veganism isn't just a diet - it's a lifestyle. And it's the other areas of the whole compassionate choice thing that are REALLY going to impact on my dancing life! Scary, but kind of exciting too.

Now, having been vegetarian for over half my life I'm proud to say I have NEVER worn fur of any kind for any reason. I'm a firm believer in the adage that fur is worn by beautiful animals and ... well, you know the rest! I also have very very very little leather in my wardrobe, although I am ashamed to say that on occasion in the past I have been seduced by the perfect pair of shoes. Well, no more! The hardest step here however is definitely going to be giving up my dance sandals. I just love them - they make turning so relaxed and easy - but as they're pretty much 100% leather they have to go. And would you believe, I can't find a suitable vegan alternative anywhere?! Big gap in the market there I think! Anyway, it's going to have to be foot undeez I'm afraid. I'm not happy about this mainly because they're just not pretty. I mean, look at them? They're like teeny tiny underpants, and who wants to dance with underpants on their feet? Eeek! So I have decided I shall just have to bling some up with some jewels and Kuchi and stuff. I shall post piccies once I have them!

Another big step for me is going to be de-feathering - to be done at our regular stitch'n'bitch tomorrow! Particularly since having my hair shorter (it's sort of growing again now) I've been making and wearing headbands with lots of feathery protrusions, and a bit of adaptation is on the cards. Cowrie shells aren't that much of a problem - it feels like I've bought loads over the years but somehow most seem to have disappeared!!! I have three on the front of my tribal bra, but I'm struggling to find more. I may have been invaded by the Great Cowrie Shell Grabber. Either that or they've gone up the hoover!


Make up and cosmetics have been on the agenda as a vegetarian for many years, and with brands like Lush  and Urban Decay around it's not too hard for a tribal dancer to pile on the sparkle. Hair dye though, is a concern. I dont want to go down the henna route but am a committed dyer, so a bit of research is going to be in order! My hairdresser is lovely but I just know she'll think Im deranged if I start to quiz her about vegan, cruelty free hair colour. Still, it can be a learning journey for her too!!!

So there you have it - my first couple of weeks as a vegan dancer. Where will this journey take me? Will I be happily doing backbends by my next blog? Who knows, but I guess not! But whatever happens I shall keep you informed as I lurk about with my feet encased in a lovely pair of flesh-coloured underpants ..

However I really can't sign off without giving a huge shout-out to a very beautiful friend and sister dancer! Jan has been a committed vegan for some time now and is my sort of unofficial mentor on this whole adventure. She introduced me to vegan chocolate cake (oh yum!). has given me loads of information and is constantly encouraging me, but in a non-judgemental way! It is she who says things like 'Yes Cayte, you can still have Heinz Tomato Ketchup' and 'Look out for Lidl's Dark Chocolate Covered Marzipan cos it's vegan'. (And yes, Jan, at this rate you will be a key contributor to me becoming the Fattest Vegan In The World'!) But a big thank you honey, for all your support!

And huge thank yous too to two other gorgeous sister dancers, Sarah (yep, Sakura Sarah!) and Jo ---- who are humouring us awkward vegans at tomorrow's tribal stitch'n'bitch with vegan hotpot and shortbread! Yay! Love you all!

Phew - this was only going to be a short blog!! It must be all that new-found mental alertness!

Until next time, happy dancing!

Cayte x

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