Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Treasure Trove

Get yourself over to Larissa Archer's Facebook page and check out the album chock full of photos of her mother, Masha Archer, and the San Francisco Classic Dance Troupe (AKA the link between Jamila Salimpour/Bal Anat and Fat Chance Belly Dance®/ATS®). Look for a young Carolena Nericcio in some of the photos! Head over here for the pics!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blast from the past, looking to the future

While reading our local paper online the other day I saw a link to a story about an older belly dancer. Clicking over confirmed my suspicions, that it’s about Baltimore area dancer Samara. Kallisti Tribal had the pleasure of meeting Samara at one of our first performances. A local restaurant hosted haflas for awhile and we were lucky to perform at a couple of these incredibly fun (and supportive to our baby troupe) gatherings.

I remember watching Samara dance and thinking thank goodness I’d taken the plunge to try classes and keep up with them, to find other people I enjoyed dancing with, to get involved in this community. When I am Samara’s age I hope I am still doing my dance thing! I also hope I have her attitude too; after our performance she declared, with a big laugh, that Kallisti was “sexalicious”.

Here is the story with a lovely pictures of Samara dancing and zilling away.

And here is a link to our 2006 photo gallery which has pictures from some of those Amer’s shows. Nine people, nine!, in the small performance space in the middle of of the restaurant, with audience on all sides. I’m so proud of how hard we worked for these shows and that we took the plunge and put ourselves out there.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Turning down the noise

I was perusing the forums at Bhuz* and I came across an incredibly helpful reading recommendation from Ozma. A student dancer was explaining how her old teacher had helped her to get out of her own head (my words) regarding dancing. In response, Ozma recmmended the book How to Dance Forever, and in particular the section on "Noise". Noise is all the self criticism, worry and defeatist thoughts that happen while learning dance, which can become patterns that can inhibit dancing.

If you log onto Amazon and go to the book, check the "Look Inside" option and search for noise inside the book, and you can read most of the chapter (thank you to Suzana for pointing this out). It definitely struck a chord with me, as noise is something I have had to work past in dancing. It's the "I'm so old/out of shape/uncoordinated/clueless/etc." critic that can run on an endless loop in my head. When this happens I have to turn it off, focus only on what I need to do in class, ask questions, and act like I look awesome while I work things out (to avoid frowning, angry looks, or "oops" face while dancing).

While reading one line struck me as particularly relevant for ATS/ITS dancers: "Above all, be certain you learn as quickly as possible what happens on count 1. If you don't know count 1, count 2 will be ridiculous." ATS/ITS dancers, have you ever had the moment when you've gone into a move you don't know that well, fumbled the one count, then proceeded to make a train wreck of the next 4 or more counts? I have! I've also hesitated started a move, with the same result, as well as confusing feet, losing the beat, rushing a move to get to the "good part" and so on.

When this happens you can not only mess up yourself, but as a leader you can take your followers down with you. If that happens too many times, you can start to lose the trust of those following you, and when that trust is gone you can lose the magic that makes ATS/ITS work. You don't lead with confidence, your followers second guess what you are doing, and there becomes a tension and stilted quality to the dancing that makes it flat and uninspiring.

So, know your moves! Know them well, inside and out, facing in different directions. Know them to different tempos, how to come in and out of them from different moves, and which ones work and don't work with different music. Know what to do when you mess up, so you can correct gracefully and with confidence. Have your safety moves. Also, know your music! How many times have you fumbled your dancing because you didn't know the music? If you're dancing to live music or a song you've never used or heard before, mess ups will happen. If you're dancing to music you've used before or was picked for a performance, there is no reason to get out there and have no idea of what is happening. Listen to your music in practice, at home, in the car, wherever and whenever you can. Knowing your music is as much a part of training as knowing your dance vocabulary.

And no, no one is perfect and there is nothing wrong with messing up, but messing up and letting the noise take over your head can lead to a disintegration of quality for the whole troupe. Be prepared both physically and mentally so that you can dance with confidence and ease (and joy!), which is the best thing for you and your troupe!

* really, no matter what you're bellydance style, get on Bhuz occasionally and read the forums. There is a lot of information to glean from the members.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Time flying, making up time, long post!

So after about a month, my previously mentioned back pain finally worked itself out. It took so long because I had to fill in for a coworker at a job that kept me on my feet, and that combined with my two shifts a week at my other job (I co-own a cafe) as well as generally high stress levels made me a tense mess. I'm being very careful while doing yoga now, because I think an over enthusiastic arm-sweep-up-and-back-to a slight-backbend-while-in-a-lunge is what did me in. Dancing doesn't bother it at all, though, and that's good because though I'm off the Year of Practice I had still been dancing regularly.

Last year some dance friends and I started tossing around the idea of putting together a tribal (mostly improv) show for the 20th Anniversay of the Spoutwood Farm Fairie Festival. This is the place where I first saw tribal bellydance, and I was eager to find a way to honor that inspiration and my 10th year volunteering at the festival. Talis (who introduced me to the festival) and Jenn of Lilam were also interested in pulling something together, both because it would be fun to dance at such an amazing event and because we'd already be there volunteering, so why not?

We met in December to draft a proposition email to send out to dancers we wanted to work with, and everyone started getting together in February. We pulled 10 dancers from 5 troupes (and 1 soloist) to work up three 40 minute sets for 2 days, featuring large group ATS pieces, solos, small group improv or choreographed pieces, and general dancing with the crowd. It was incredibly fun and an incredible amount of work. Just getting everyone fully on the same ATS page was tough, then picking music, putting the sets together, agreeing on costumes, finding places to dance (we could only get one stage slot so we did "ground" sets too), and making sure everyone arrived at the right time and place became a logistical nightmare. Plus the three of us were managing our own volunteer duties and two of us had wrangle out camping gear too. Thankfully everyone was very professional, and we had some great shows.

For the festival we used the name "The Faerie Ring Dance Collective", and our bio read:

Inspired by the spirt of collective creativity manifested at Spoutwood
Farm and the Fairie Festival, the Faerie Ring Dance Collective brings
together 10 dancers (from 5 troupes and 1 soloist!) to create
performances imbued with passion, fun, and friendship. Grounded in
group improvisational tribal style bellydance, FRDC weaves together
our various styles into a magical expression of the joy of dance.

Our videos:

The full Saturday afternoon stage set (I am in the group pieces, the fast dueling duets, and the basket piece with the rest of Kallisti Tribal).

Transcendence Tribal Bellydance Collective from Talis on Vimeo.

Youtube has the Saturday afternoon ground set and the stage set divided into different pieces. I'm in the group pieces and with Kallisti doing "Amel" with zills. Oh, the tricky stops and starts! Oh the tricky soundsystems! The first part of the ground set is here and the first part of the stage set is here. I think there are nine videos per set. Sadly we have no video of the Sunday set, which happened under a tent were we sheltered from the rain. It was crazy, it was muddy, and it was magical. Those are always the performances that you miss filming!

You'll notice that the name listed for the performance is Transcendence Tribal. That's because this one-off plan has turned into a perma-project. We decided to keep going because we like dancing together, we like have the opportunity to do big group ATS, and it's nice having such a large group to pull from for certain performances. All of the individual members are keeping with their solo or troupe projects too, but we plan to get together once a month to hang out and dance, and then add more practice time as needed. We've also added three more ATS dancers, but we're going to hold it there for the time being to keep things manageable.

Our next performance was at Troupe 'Hip'notic's Summer Solstice Hafla. This hafla is a lot of fun, as it's a community event with all experience levels celebrating the summer and dancing. I particularly enjoyed Tribal Remix's passionate fan veil piece, and Cypress's sword duet. Post-hafla we retired to an after party and caught up with dancers we NEVER get enough time to see. Kallisti Tribal has long considered 'Hip'notic to be a sister troupe, after bonding backstage at a Tribal Pura show. That night's discussion of "the things you do in practice that would get you kicked out of the local bellydance scene if you did them in performance" was an inspiration for the Inappropriate Hafla. For the Solstice hafla, Jenn and Spiral were both feeling awful. I am incredibly proud of both of them for holding their own while under the weather, especially considering they danced again that day with Lilam. I really liked dancing this performance, I felt very connected to the troupe which can be hard for me as I tend to think two steps ahead.

Transcendence Tribal at Troupe Hip'Notic's Summer Solstice Hafla 2011 from Talis on Vimeo.

Next up was Baltimore Pride. We rounded up a big group to put on a show for the last set of the day at the Pride festival. As soon as we started a handful of people rushed the stage, and danced along the entire time. It was tough doing an outside gig in Baltimore City in the summer (hot! humid!), but we had a great time and the organizers were really happy with our set. If we do it again I hope we have time to do some "dancing with the crowd" songs to round things up. I'll admit, I felt pretty special at the festival, people kept stopping us to take pictures. It reminds me of how what we (BDers) do is really unusual if you're not embedded in the bellydance culture. Also, a bunch of women in ATS costuming is an impressive spectacle. After the performance we high tailed to a bar near my house for well deserved beers, burgers, and salted caramel and bacon cupcakes. Mmmm mmmm.

Transcendence Tribal Bellydance Collective from Talis on Vimeo.

Our last three for three performance (I had eyelash glue stuck to my eyes for three weeks straight) was at the long running DCTribal Cafe. 6 years ago Belladonna and Mavi (then of Romka, now both dancing as soloists in DC) started this as a professional once-a-month event for tribal and fusion performance. Kallisti was supposed to dance but Oneira had to travel for work. We subbed in Transcendence, and I'm really happy we got to dance the last show at Tribal Cafe's long time location (it's continuing next month at a new spot down the street). It is always tricky dancing there as the space is long, super skinny, and you have three areas you can lead to as well as some people standing behind you. You have to keep your face "on" the entire time, and remember not to stare at yourself in the wall of mirrors behind the main part of the audience. Because of the space challenge, every performance at TC feels like doing it for the first time, and I'm really happy with how the group (six of us) made it work especially considering two of the dancers had never performed there before! We came in with the FCBD Prayer and Lyra's awesome BSG Gayatri Mantra remix, split into duets (which let some of us use non-ATS combos since the song had tricky changes) for the second song, moved to slow dueling duets, and then finished with small groups to the whole troupe for a fast finale (with planned zill changes that were NOT ALL TRIPLES! YAY!).

Transcendence Tribal at Tribal Cafe, June 2011 from Spiral Dancer on Vimeo.

So that's been the past few months. Right now Kallisti is planning the 5th (already!) Inappropriate Hafla (sign up at our website), and TT is down to once a month practices until the Next Big Thing (possible DC neighborhood festival in September). I'm still taking classes with Shems here in Baltimore, though soon I want to start dropping on in Lotus Niraja's new classes. In August I'll be taking workshops with Lisa Zahiya when she visits town, as well as a day of classes with Amel Tafsout (again, yay!). For July, though, most of us have relaxed our dance obligations a bit. We deserve it!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Month Three of Practice

Well, things were going well, and then I hurt my back. It's about 90% better, unless I stand for a long time. I am totally off my practice track, though, and need to get back on it.

Inspired by A Year of Practice :

3/1/11: Troupe Practice
3/2/11: Yoga
3/3/11: 2 classes
3/4/11: ATS practice
3/5/11: Missed practice
3/6/11: Drills3: 3/4 an regular shimmy
3/7/11: Yoga
3/8/11: Troupe practice
3/09/11: Autum Ward DVD: arms and basic hips sections
3/10/11: Very intentional yoga practice
3/11/11: Free dance time, with zills.
3/12/11: uh oh, tweaked my back
3/13/11: none
3/14/11: canceled practice
3/15/11: none
3/17/11: 2 classes
3/18/11: none
3/19/11: none
3/20/11: none
3/21/11: none
3/22/11: Troupe practice, baskets
3/23/11: none
3/24/11: Two classes. Be careful of stopping suddenly from spins.
3/25/11: ATS practice
3/26/11: none
3/27/11: none
3/28/11: Free veil play
3/29/11: Troupe practice
3/30/11: none
3/31/11: Two classes: swords, vintage style/floorwork (be careful of knees!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Around here we call it Giggle Cast

You all are listening to YIP! Podcast, right? RIGHT!?! I found them when Carolena linked to their interview with her and Megha, but I'm not going to link to those episodes because you should go and listen to them all.

My boyfriend calls it Giggle Cast, because Tammy and Mary are always laughing. I enjoy the fact that they are having fun, that they mix up light and serious discussions, and that they cover all sorts of belly dance styles and events. I will load up a new podcast and listen while cooking, which is the best sort of multitasking. Sometimes I'll listen when I'm sewing but since my machine drowns out my stereo and I don't want to miss a thing, I don't do it very often.

This blog gets a <"a href="">wee mention in a recent episode. I got to meet Mary for a brief moment at TribalCon, but then barely saw her the rest of the weekend. It seems that is in part because she was interviewing tons of people for future release, so you should head over there and get caught up on the back episodes. Some of my person favorites are the ones with Donna Mejia, Mira Betz, Carolena and Megha, and Florida dancer Carol (who tells it like it is).

Friday, March 18, 2011

Off my practice track

So my back is still bugging me and I'm off my practice routine. I did go to my classes Thursday night. Moving around doesn't make me hurt any more, and actually while I was moving I felt better even if it didn't last. I made sure to take it easy, though, and iced the hurty spot between classes. The worst part is the pain makes me feel snappy, so I'm not at my best right now mentally.

I'm getting my first massage ever Monday morning (too bad I have to go to work afterwards). If that doesn't help, it'll be off to the doctor. In the meantime I need to figure out some gentle practice to keep me moving. I think the culprit was yoga, so I'm not keen on jumping back in. I don't want to drill to much, as I'm worried the tension I hold when drilling over and over would not be a good idea. I'm going to maybe work with some combos and choreography bits instead.