Showcase week

Hello! Just popping in quickly to say that regularly scheduled posts will return next week. This is the final week leading up to the Aegela Centers for Middle Eastern Dance yearly showcase, so I will be rehearsing and costuming all week. Lots to do! :)

The show is Saturday, June 22nd, 7pm at Valleywood, 13501 Airport Hwy Swanton, OH 43558. Along with bellydance, we are also featuring African dance from Alma and Indian dance (Bollywood and Bhangra) by Shyam and Aha!. Tickets are $10, go to if interested.

We hope to see you there!

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A Circus-themed Halloween Choreography

Back during the days when the Mystic Lotus troupe (run by Mylitta) had a yearly Halloween hafla, ladies from our studio (the Aegela Centers for Middle Eastern Dance in Toledo, Ohio) would often make the trek up to Michigan to hangout with our dance sisters, watch the other performances, and put on a performance or two ourselves. I miss those haflas, they were so fun. :)

In 2009, I created a circus-themed choreography to “Roustabout” by Beats Antique. Each dancer took on the role of a different circus character/performer — with me as the ringmaster because I made the choreo. ;)

The theme was part macabre circus, part Muppet zombie, part glam/sparkles carousel, and all whimsical fun! :)

Dancers (L-R, Front row first):
Stephanie (tight rope walker)
Elif (Contortionist)
Calliope (Ringleader)
Voni (Girl that rides the pony & does tricks)
Laura (Trapeze artist)
Becca (Lion tamer)
Heidi (Lion)
Sandi (Fortune Teller)

This was so much fun to do with the ladies and they all worked so hard in the rehearsals leading up to the performance.

Thank you, ladies!

-Jen, a.k.a. Calliope

My dance website is: and my facebook page is:

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A look back: Jaclyn’s maternity session

Little baby Lyric just celebrated his first birthday! I can’t believe that little guy is a year old already. In honor of his birthday, here are portraits from Jaclyn’s maternity session (which we managed to squeeze in just in time!) I thought it would be a nice look back for the family and their friends. Enjoy!

Jaclyn strong

Jaclyn looking totally strong, regal, in control, and serene.

Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang

Jaclyn and Eric Laughing

Aren’t they cute! :)

Jaclyn meditation

A serene moment of mediation. Sat Nam.

Jaclyn and Eric artistic

Jaclyn and Eric. A slightly more artsy take on the yin and yang portrait.

To see more of my work, check out my website.

Thanks for stopping by!

-Jen Bak :D

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My Favorite Toledo Burger Joint: Bar 145

Burger Bar 145

From my first meal there. We got the duck confit fries and I got the salmon burger with sweet onion, mushrooms, peppers, arugula, and I think the red pepper aioli.

I’m not really a burger person in general, I’m much more of a salad person or a Korean food person or Thai or Indian or…well, you get the idea. :) So when I do get a craving for a burger and fries, I want it to be reeeeaaaally good because if I’m only having ~4 a year, it better be damn good. Bar 145 is my favorite place in the Toledo area to fulfill this craving.

Bar 145 gets it name from what they believe is the perfect burger-cooking temperature (medium rare). While I’m normally wary of eating a burger prepared medium rare, if the meat is high-quality enough, I happily indulge. After picking your temperature (or if you don’t want beef, you can opt for chicken breast, veggie burger, or salmon burger instead), you then have the fun task of filling out the rest of your Build-a-Burger sheet. I don’t know about you, but I find something really fun about filling out a bubble sheet — Yes, I’m being totally serious. :)

Truffle fries and chicken breast sandwich. I can't remember what my companions were drinking.

Truffle fries and chicken breast sandwich. I can’t remember what my companions were drinking.

  • You get to pick your bread (or non-bread – you can skip the bun or make it a salad),
  • Cheese type (has some amazing cheeses that rotate periodically — Detroit brick was an amazing, creamy, flavorful peace of heaven),
  • Veggies (woo! Arugula! Cucumber relish! Oven-dried tomatoes! And others!),
  • Premium toppings (House-cured Bacon, Duck Confit, Avocado Slices, Peach Habanero Chutney, etc.), and
  • Sauces and Spreads (Red Pepper Aioli, Bourbon Steak Sauce, Balsamic Mayo, Maple Demi Glace, Truffle Sea Salt Rub, etc.).

I love having that much control over my food and I have tons of fun coming up with various combinations (much like at Yogurt Vi’s and Cold Stone Creamery). I know it’s dorky, but I actually keep a copy of all the combos I develop, in case I want to revisit them or tweak them.

Roasted bone marrow. Amazingly good. I love it, but I know some can't get over what it is they're eating enough to actually enjoy the taste of it.

Roasted bone marrow. Amazingly good. I love it, but I know some can’t get over the thought of what they’re eating for long enough to actually enjoy the taste of it.

Bar 145’s other menu items are equally awesome, tasty, and totally fulfill my craving for things “foodie”. A burger place MUST have good sides. If a place has great burgers but awful fries, I’m not interested (and yes, there is a burger joint in town I refuse to eat at for this reason). At Bar 145, I haven’t yet met a side there that I didn’t find incredibly tasty, though I’ve found some to be a bit heavy for my salad-loving self and prefer to share them amongst a few friends (like the duck confit fries and the roasted bone marrow) or just have a taste of theirs (the cheeseburger soup was amazing but way too heavy for me to have a whole cup to myself, I found one or two bites was fully enough to satiate me). I also particularly like the tempura-battered green beans and the House Truffle Fries with Rosemary, Parmesan, and Red Pepper Aioli.

As stated in a previous post, one of my favorite things about Bar 145 is what makes it my honey’s second choice for a burger place — he finds it slightly pretentious because the fancy foodie dishes offered and the fancy burger toppings like arugula. He still really likes Bar 145, it’s just his second choice, if given the option.

Bar 145 also has an extensive bourbon list and I’m assuming a full bar, but I must admit, I don’t know from personal experience, I’ve only ever gone for lunches.

Since this was their 2012 Mayan Apocalypse party, we decided I should really do it up as a "dark harbringer of doom". I had so much fun with this.

Since this was their 2012 Mayan Apocalypse party, we decided I should really do it up as a “dark harbringer of doom”. I had so much fun with this.

The only time I was there at night was as a performer for their Mayan Apocalypse Party, and though I didn’t get to see much because I was busy dancing and eating fire, the crowd seemed to enjoy the atmosphere of the bar immensely and my friends who came to see me perform had a good time there. The night atmosphere was *very* different from the daytime one. At lunchtime I have fun with my foodie friends, at night it seems more like a regular bar crowd (but I honestly can’t say for sure, since I didn’t see much and I was there for a special event so the crowd may not have been the usual one).
The moment before I eat the fire.

The moment before I eat the fire.

Price is slightly on the high end for lunch (I normally spend $15-$20, with tip), but not over-priced given the quality, variety, and inventiveness of the offerings. As far as the service, I’ve personally always had really good experiences and the one time there was an error with our order, the manager came over and apologized, they took it off our bill, but still gave us the corrected item (yay for free appetizer!). To be fair, I must report that a friend of mine went and had really bad service, so I don’t know if she just went on a bad day, if the server was new, or if my experiences there were out of the ordinary. However, I have gone multiple times and she’s only gone once, so I think they must have just been having a bad day.

I highly recommend this restaurant to any burger lover (whether meat eater or vegetarian) and/or foodie looking for a high quality and out-of-the ordinary food experience in the Toledo area.

Just one more picture of my performance there — sorry if I’m boring you with these, but I really like this pic :)

Me and my fire fans!

Me and my fire fans! Mayan harbringer of DOOM!! :D

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OWE, She, & Stage Names

Had so much fun with my dance sisters performing this past weekend at the Old West End Festival and at She ~ A Celebration of Women. :)

First was the Old West End Festival from noon to one. I always love performing at this one, but lots of sunblock is always required. One year, I forgot sunblock and the pattern of my very elaborate necklace was tanned into my chest. o_O

But despite tanning mishaps, it’s such a fun venue. There’s always a really great crowd who really get into the performances, it’s one of the places I get to eat/dance with fire, and we normally have time afterwards to wander the festival.

For those not familiar with Toledo’s Old West End, it’s a historic district with a lot of cool houses, an awesome bed and breakfast (Mansion View Manor), is near the Toledo Museum of Art, and a bunch more. Bonus: during the festival a lot of people have yard sales, so you can wander the neighborhood, look at cool houses, and do some shopping. :)

But I digress — I think the Aegela dancers made a pretty strong showing at the festival. I was proud of my tribal (ATS®) students during our improv number and it was great to see some of the choreos the other ladies have been working on, plus, Aegela did a sword number! It was the first time I’ve seen her do sword. :)

After OWE, a contingent of us dashed off to She ~ A Celebration of Women held at Fat Fish Blue in Perrysburg. We, unfortunately, arrived towards the end, so we didn’t get to see many of the other performances, but that’s how it goes when you have more than one performance in a day. We did get to see Becca Nease, who was AMAZING and is now my favorite local musician — very powerful voice, but not overblown. She played acoustic guitar and the harmonica and rocked out a few songs, including among others: Jewel’s “Who Will Save Your Soul”, C-Lo’s “Crazy”, and an original song (my favorite!). Since she plays the harmonica, I’d love to hear what she could do with some Blue’s Traveler. She has some samples of original work on her Facebook page, so I hope she comes out with an album soon.

While we were waiting to perform, a somewhat odd thing happened, and if anyone has an opinion on it, I’d love to hear it. A Blade photographer came up to our group to get our names for the paper. I gave her my dance name and she asked for my last name. I explained that “Calliope” was my dance/stage name, thinking she would take that as sufficient, but she pressed me for my legal name. I thought the point of a stage name was to use it in situations like this? I kinda stared at her confused because Aegela had just given her the name “Aegela” and she didn’t ask her for a last name. The photographer gave up after a bit and moved on to the next dancer, leaving me a bit relieved. I honestly wasn’t trying to be difficult, but I’d prefer all press mentions of me as a dancer reference my dance name and not my legal name. Have any of you other dancers run into this? Was I supposed to give her my legal name, too, or was the photographer just not well-versed in how to handle dance/stage names?

The Aegela Dancers were the last performance of She and we were all honored to be included in such an empowering event for women. If they have another event, I sincerely hope we are invited back.

Plug for the studio: our annual showcase is coming up on Saturday, June 22nd. Tickets are limited, so if you’d like to come, you can get ordering info at We hope to see you there! :)


Awesome lamp at the Grape Leaf Diner

Side note: some of us went to the Grape Leaf afterwards and they had these lamps: If anyone knows where such lamps can be purchased, let me know!

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From the Archives: 2011 Girlified Final Fantasy Red Mage

My friends and I are costumers and out of all of us, I would say that Amanda (a.k.a. Ayablue) is one of the most dedicated and talented out of the group.

One of the things we like doing is taking male character costumes and Lolifying them (a.k.a. girlifying or Lolita-fying — see Wikipedia for a description of Japanese Lolita if you are not familiar with the fashion trend). This was Amanda’s take on the Final Fantasy Red Mage character type (who has shown up in numerous FF video games).

She made the costume and hat, I did her make up, and the photo shoot. I love her wig and the red contacts! :)

I love the drama Amanda brings to a shoot.

In this last one, I had a little fun making her look a little more doll-like.

To see more of my work, check out my website.

Thanks for stopping by!

-Jen Bak :D

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From the archives: my first solo

From 2010, my first solo in the Aegela Centers for Middle Eastern Dance yearly showcase (That year’s show was called “Evolutions”).

The song is called “A Song of Storm and Fire” by Kaijura Yuki, from the Tsubasa Chronicles soundtrack and I tried to dye the veil to resemble flame. I think the effect came off pretty well, especially against the black backdrop. :)

The track is pretty quiet, so you may need to turn up your speakers.

I’m not sure if it was out of ambitiousness or nervousness, but I decided to do veil poi for my first solo. Actually, it was a little of both. I think there is a fear amongst dancers (and other performers) that we, by ourselves, are not entertaining enough to hold an audience’s attention, so we believe we have to add some sort of prop or gimmick. I think, ultimately, that fear is unfounded, but there is still often a desire to rely on the crutch of a prop, which is why I’ve tried to make myself do a lot of no-prop solos since my first solo.

My dance website is: and my facebook page is:

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