Melodia of Melodia Designs has been designing amazing dance wear and comfortable-AND-sexy street clothes for over 20 years. But do you know about her intriguing dance past with the Belly Dance Superstars and Urban Tribal Dance Company? Listen and find out!
Melodia has been adorning and accenting the beauty in fusion belly dancers and more beautiful movers with her oh so lovely Melodia Designs clothing for almost 20 years.
Melodia has been adorning and accenting the beauty in fusion belly dancers and more beautiful movers with her oh so lovely Melodia Designs clothing for almost 20 years. You probably either own or are coveting your own “Melo’s”, as we like to call Melodia’s textile creations, but not too many of us also know the belly dance life of Melodia Medley. In this podcast, we’ll hear about Melodia’s start as a dancer in a Urban Tribal Dance Co with Heather Stants and Mardi Love, her first memory of Jill Parker, and her year touring the USA with the Belly Dance Superstars.
And Melodia loves to talk about festivals and food and music in addition to wearable art, so this is going to be a very fun interview.
I think that was maybe 2004 or 2005. It’s hard to find video or photo documentation of that era, but we traveled 60 cities in 64 days across the U S and Canada. Riding on a shuttle bus with 16 dancers and a crew with an ex race car driver as the chauffeur.
We would show up at a venue in the evening, roll out of the tour bus, do a quick tech rehearsal, get dressed, do our show, pack up, get back in the bus and drive halfway to our next location. So many of us refer to that as the hell tour. Our saving grace though, was the talent. I had the blessing of dancing with Rachel Brice and Sharon Kihara. We kind of were the “tribal girls”. And Jalina she’s so amazing. It was quite the adventure.
And I even played hooky one night from tour.
So I could take a flight into Miami and dance with rabbit on the moon at the ultra music Fest.
We had shower shelves suction cupped to the windows of the bus when we were on tour.
Alicia: When did you realize that you wanted to make amazing clothes for dancers and fire performers and other beautiful movers and dance vicariously through your clientele?
Ever since I was a kid I loved playing dress up, and I would often put on little circus performances in my living room. And my grandmother had very elegant taste and she would give me her hand me down night gowns and robes to play in. I often would up cycle them with like a stapler and safety pins and turn it into some sort of princess gown and fly around the living room.
And then after high school, I ended up working retail and I met this really beautiful clothing designer when I was working at the shop. And when she came in to show her collection, I whispered in her ear, “If you ever want someone to work with you, I would love to help.”
And sure enough, she did end up hiring me. And I ended up doing everything from sales to running errands for production, to trade shows, packing orders and folding inventory. So that was a great first step towards getting into fashion. And eventually they closed down shop, and I was left with a turning point in life where I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. And it just felt like the perfect time to start my own line.
And then in 2000 I discovered belly dance and I turned my focus towards making dance wear.
And here I am still doing it 20 years later.
Alicia: That was like the heyday for belly dance in the US in the early 2000s.
Yeah. I think I showed up on the scene at the perfect time.
Alicia: Definitely. And you were dancing with Marti Love and Heather Stants?
It’s amazing how many leaps forward we’ve made with like cinematography and posting video. I look back at those old videos and they’re so blotchy.
I’m pretty sure most of the old videos that are uploaded to YouTube were all done on the little handheld camcorder and then converted from videotape into some sort of digital format.
Melodia’s first performance with Urban Tribal Dance Company:
Heather Stants talking about he UTDC:
Alicia: I love the Elsa pocket leggings Oracle print so much that I bought two pairs of the same pants so I could just wear them almost every day. They are super soft. I think they are made of tencel? During winter in upstate New York, I also wear your bamboo fleece leggings and layer on some of your super soft organic cotton tops. It makes me feel so damn special when I slip it on. I love wearing form fitting pants that don’t give me a muffin top and make my butt look great, and that’s what you create! I could go on and on. Tell us more about the fabrics you choose for your designs.
Well, I’m a big fan of eco and sustainably produced materials. So as I had mentioned, some of our fabrics are like the tinsel and the muddle.
I might not approach the bamboo is super soft and of course, organic cotton. Those are the primary materials that I like to use. And I love them because they’re so soft and breathable and actually anti-microbial, which means that it stays fresh as you wear it.
Fabric made out of polyester ends up in a landfill. All these natural fibers are compostable.
Also polyester sheds every time you wash it, tiny little micro particles of plastic end up in our ocean. And I don’t think too many people are aware of that. And that’s another reason why investing in natural fibers is so important. I also love creating exclusive prints.
We’ve been making our own designs with faux assuit and the Oracle design, which is inspired from mehndi. And I actually hired a mehndi artist to create that print and we have some more coming in the future, which I’m really excited about.
I created the faux assuit design with a graphic artist. We basically create a template on our screen that echoes the same honeycomb, textile, like the tulle that assuit is woven onto. Assuit is basically metal fibers woven onto the tulle. So we create a template and then draw the little tabs onto that template. So it’s actually quite accurate, and very similar to what real assuit would be like. The same proportions, the same shape.
In fact, I have an assuit maker in Cairo right now recreating my heavy metal motif into real assuit. So I’m very excited about that. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. To actually test one of my layouts into a real textile.
So that should be coming up pretty soon. I’m really excited about that.
But back to the mehndi design. So I’ve gone about it two different ways. I have a friend, Alexis, who’s an incredible artist and she did the mehndi for my wedding. I had her do both of my hands. She draws with actual henna paste onto paper, and then I photograph it and import it into illustrator. Then I have a graphic artist then set up the motif, and get it all ready for rotary printing.
So it literally is like a photograph of real henna.
Dressing up makes me want to move. Putting something pretty on always makes me feel good, and that helps inspire movement.
Putting on a cute outfit always affects how I move. Also, some things like a kaftan with long flowy sleeves can really inspire movement. Or a skirt will make me want a twirl or long sleeves with the assuit print on it inspires some snake arms.
Oftentimes in the design room, me and my girls will put on samples, and get the music going and give it a good test run. Sometimes there’s like twerking in leggings to make sure it passes the squat test. We have lots of fun in the design room. It definitely has to pass the squat test.
CloZee is super fun to dance to. And there’s some Indonesian gamelan music in this song!
Alicia: Circling back to the Melodia Designs newsletter, I really enjoy clicking on the videos and photo posts of dancers all over wearing your designs. Listeners, if you search for #inmymelos, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Fire performers, burlesque dancers, fusion belly dance artists, contortionists, aerialists, all kinds of fun creative people to see. When did you decide to include those shoutouts in your newsletters, and what impact do you think that has had?
I was at a festival a few years back and this bright shining woman ran up to me from across the courtyard and she’s like, “Melodia! You’re such a goddess enabler.”
And that reflection made such a huge impression on me and. Regardless of gender.
So, because I genuinely love celebrating diversity, it just seems natural to want to shine a spotlight on our fellow movers and reposting dancers in our community. And our newsletter was a beautiful way to be able to do. And I would say the impact is that it’s really nurtured our community and has reinforced our little #inmymelos family.
That’s really a gift to us and our company. So it makes sense that we’d want to share that. So many talented photo shoots and videos and concerts. It’s quite amazing that we get to be a part of something like that.
Alicia: You have had both of your hips replaced in the past year or so. What has this taught you about self-care and perseverance?
it’s been quite the journey. I had my right hip replaced six months ago and my left one about eight weeks ago. And it’s really been a very internal journey. The healing process and cocooning.
I really do prefer alternative healing modalities. I tried acupuncture and auto immune protocol dire physical therapy.
So I finally made the decision to do so. And I feel so privileged that I have had the resources to have this. Truly has been life giving. And as a practicing yogini, we’ve all been taught that…
And one of my favorite authors, Louise Hay, who wrote a book called You Can Heal Your Life. She talks about the mind-body connection. Pain and the body. So I’ve been asking myself,
So I’m still in the inquiry process to arrive at the answer.
Maybe exploring what limiting beliefs I might have. And it feels so amazing to finally be set free from all the pain that I’ve been in. I’ve been rediscovering who I am as a mover and getting back to yoga and walking and hiking, and it feels so good to enjoy the simple pleasures in life, like moving and going outside and being able to connect with nature.
I’m excited to go outside again and I’m excited to move.
So I definitely feel excited about what’s to come.
Alicia: You have been vegan, paleo, raw, and have also created Retox-detox recipes that are pretty fun. I’m all about pairing booze with healthy stuff, as much as that can be a paradox! What is one vegan whole food ingredient you love?
I love plantains. And I’m not talking about regular bananas. I’m talking about the green platanos. You’ve got to wait until they get real ugly, completely blackened bruised. They look like you need to throw them away, and then at that point you peel them, filet them and cook them in a pan with coconut oil and just caramelize both sides. And your house will smell like yum. And it tastes like dessert, but it’s also kind of starchy and comforting as well.
So I highly recommend the fried plantains. In Ecuador, one of my favorite dishes is patacones, which is basically green plantains squashed, and then fried and some kind of vegetable oil. Serve them with some avocado and lime.
That was an iconic moment for me. I saw Jill at Burning Man.
I think it was around 2000, and I had stumbled across the Playa and found a fire opera. And in the very middle is a giant lotus. The lotus slowly unfurled to reveal Jill Parker undulating with her grapes tattooed on our belly. And I was just completely hypnotized, gobsmacked. Star struck. All of the above.
And I will never forget that moment because when I saw her, I was witnessing a goddess with my own eyes. And her aesthetic of movement absolutely influenced what I cherish in femininity. So that’s my crush moment on Jill. And she’s amazing. She’s one of my favorite dancers and teachers and people, and I really enjoyed her podcast as well.
Being comfortable is so important. Sharon Kihara calls Melodia Designs creations as Glamjamas. Glamorous Pajamas.
Alicia: You design clothes that awaken our sense of individual style, freedom, and confidence. Clothes that feel good and look good. I always ask guests on my podcast for a feel-good-look-good habit. Do you have one you would like to share?
I think that hangry is not a good one. So I try to proactively meal prep every morning. I love soup. I eat soup almost every day. So I often start with a big pot of something good, and throw in all these veggies or make some lentils.
I put it in my instant pot and have it ready for me throughout the day. Also, I end up doing a lot of road trips.
I’ll put my soup in there or any kind of hot food is great inside of a thermos. Also having an insulated bag with blue ice is a great way bring your salad and other healthy treats.
So, yeah, meal prepping. That’s my feel good and look good habit. Because if you prepare healthy food throughout the day, you look good and you feel good.
There was also a time that I did an intensive at Tribal Massive, and I brought my Crock-Pot to the hotel and pre diced a bunch of veggies. And then, I threw everything into the pot. I left it in the bathroom in the hotel and let it cook four or five hours. And then when we’d come back from our day of intensive dancing, it would be there ready for us. And it was awesome.
Alicia: I want to look at more of your detox-retox recipes. I drink red zinger hibiscus tea with tequila. I’m at a festival and I got my teabags and I got my tequila.
It’s all about the balance. I love goji Berry juice with tequila. Antioxidants with the tequila, it’s kind of a wash at the end of the day.
You could soak some dried goji berries in the actual tequila and make an infusion that way as well. Just let them plump right back up in there.
I befriended Lay Tracy on Facebook and she lives in Cairo with her family and has relationships with several tally houses throughout Egypt. And I found her through our mutual passion for this textile and a desire to keep this art form thriving.
And after asking her how I could help, we arrived at a solution that I could purchase the metal thread for the tally houses. Having a consistent supply of materials on hand is critical to the artisans’ productivity. And I really understand that now with supply chain issues here in the states as well, but it’s been working out.
And they’re creating such beautiful work. And this practice and reciprocity is allowing me to give back for all the inspiration I have gained from their culture and through their art. So I’m really excited to have this real assuit shawl made with my design and I really look forward to actually traveling to Egypt and visiting her and meeting the ladies in her tally house.
I’m so proud of what you’re creating Alicia. Your podcasts are such a joy to listen to. I feel like I’ve become friends with you and different guests that you’ve had on your show. And it’s been so great to get to know them more personally.
Thank you for all of the wonderful designs and moments of feeling beautiful that you have given to us Melodia!