Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Classes with Kallisti Tribal Bellydance

My troupemate Lyra is offering tribal group improv classes in Baltimore January - March 2008. Here are the details (below). You can register for the classes at our website.

Aura Movement in Fell's Point (Baltimore, MD)
Saturdays: January 5, 2008- March 8, 2008

Improv Tribal Belly Dance is a series of moves that are woven together through hand and verbal cues. In this sense, it becomes a universal dance form wherein anyone who learns the moves and their cues can dance together in an improvisational lead and follow fashion. It's a very liberating, proud and joyful dance form that celebrates women in all of their shapes, sizes, colors and emphasizes spontaneity, interaction and a fusion of both individual and group dynamics. Class will focus on American Tribal Style moves as well as other fusion and tribal choreographies that draw from various forms of dance, including Cabaret, African, Indian, Middle Eastern and Greek. Note: This is not an ATS only class. Improv Tribal Bellydance mixes ATS movements with various Improv Tribal Combos not created by Carolena Nericcio and Fatchance Bellydance.

11am-12pm: Improv Tribal I
This class is focused towards students who are new to Improv Tribal Bellydance or need to work on solidifying the basic movements before moving on to Improv Tribal II. Class will focus on posture, basic slow and fast movements and formation. Emphasis will be placed on learning the stylistic differences that are characteristic of tribal bellydance- carriage of the body, arm movements, floreos, hip work, etc. By the end of this class, students should be comfortable following a leader in formation through these basic movements and can even try out leading themselves.

12pm-1pm: Improv Tribal II
This class is tailored for students with at least one year of Improv Tribal Bellydance instruction who are comfortable with basic posture, formation and lead/follow format. Improv Tribal II will be a more intense class in which we will be focusing on the finer technique of basic improv tribal movements, as well as the lead/follow/chorus format. Students are required to attempt to lead movements in each class, as this is an intermediate-begginer class. In order to join this class you must be proficient in the following:

-tribal posture
-tribal arm placement
-basic egyptian w/half turn
-turkish/turkish shimmy
-3/4 shimmy
-snake arms

By the end of this session, students should be able to fully understand the lead/follow/chorus dynamic, as well as have a much more solid grasp of the basic tribal movements and transitioning between them in a dance setting. This class will also focus on incorporating these movements to music and each class will end with a short free dance period.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please come in form fitting clothes that ensure easy movement and comfort. NO COIN SCARVES OR DISTRACTING ACCESSORIES ALLOWED. Please be kind and respect the right of your fellow students to learn in non-distracting environment. Shawls and hip wraps are fine, as long as I can still easily see your muscles/hip movements.

Class Rate: $15/drop-in rate or $120/10 week session in advance.

If for any reason you are wondering which class you should take, please contact me via tribe or email me at lyra at kallistitribal DOT com and give me a resume of past classes you've taken and previous dance experience. You may also contact me at the above email to set up a private or group evaluation for class placement. Please take care to consider which class would best benefit your skill level. I reserve the right to take students who are not ready for Improv Tribal II and place them into Improv Tribal I at my own discretion.

NOTE: In order to keep classes economic for everybody, each class has a 5 student minimum that must be pre-registered two weeks before the class or classes will be cancelled. Each class will be limited to ten students maximum in order to ensure that every students gets personal attention. Please contact me at lyra AT kallistitribal DOT com for pre-registration information. If classes are cancelled, any students pre-registered for classes will receive or a full refund OR can apply their payment towards private lessons.

Thanks and I hope to see you all in class!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

It's not so simple

Lately I've been watching lots of ATS and tribal group improv videos online looking for tips on technique and moves, and I've come to a conclusion: the Basic Egyptian move is really damn hard. This was one of the first moves I learned when I joined a belly dance class almost 4 years ago, and I still don't have it down correctly.

You can see this move at around 17 seconds in this clip of Fat Chance Belly Dance. It consists of the lead right foot stepping slightly forward of the body and the foot and hips twisting, then coming back and repeating on the left side, allowing the hips to reverberate as you transfer the weight. The arms are overhead and as a foot reaches out the arms give a slight pull, opening up the line of the body on the side of the foot that is out.

When I started dancing this move felt like "step the foot and bump the hip a little and pull with the arms". My timing was horrible. Then I realized I was pulling my arms too hard, and I had to soften it a bit. Next I figured out that the hips were a twist, not a bump. Then I saw that there was the reverberation with the weight transfer. I had to make my hands smoother, less flippy. When turning in a half circle the turn should be smooth and try turning under the left arm. And my current focus is on keeping my pelvis neutral (no duck butt!) while making sure my arms are up, not drooping down, and pulled back using my shoulder blades so I don't obscure my face.

4 years! 4 years and many teachers and workshops and I'm STILL tweaking this move. I'm not perfect at everything I do but I can say my Turkish Shimmy and Arabic basic and many variations and hip bumps/choo choos are doing a lot better than my Egyptian Basic. It's a tricky move, a lot is going on, and it all needs to pull together seamlessly. Unfortunately it's also a move where each bit that's "off" is noticeable, which is why I've been working on mine so much. Actually, I've also been working on my posture around my shoulders, that back and down through the shoulder blade that keeps the arms and chest strong and lifted, that gives the openess of tribal posture. It's hard work, but I've been lucky enough to have lots of "Ah-hah!" moments lately that make the work rewarding.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Music reviews and reservations: Beats Antique, Le Serpent Rouge and Tribal Beats for the Urban Streets

I am slow to buy new music, I think because I am so sad when a CD disappoints me. I did decide to splurge during one Border's trip, and picked up the Beats Antique CD "Tribal Derivations". It's not quite what I expected from the name Beats Antique, which was more of an Old World, modern age meets the music of the common people kind of stuff. Instead it would fit fairly well into the trip hop genre of the mid 1990s, which (for me) means it's nice to listen to but I don't want to dance to much of it. One that that does annoy me is in my own head, that is, I can see EXACTLY how this music is going to be used by fusions dancers everywhere. I hope I do get to see some fabulous dancing to this music so I can relax and shut the hell up. My favorite track? The hidden one. Seriously!

Since I wasn't all that crazy about the Beats Antique I passed it on to my troupemate, and she bought me the "Le Serpent Rouge" disc, which is music from The Indigo's show of the same title. This is a little more my style, especially (my favorite) accordians! I like the mix of music, though again the more eletronic stuff just isn't what I want to hear. In case anyone is wondering, no the Pentaphone is not too weird for me. I've listened to some rather difficult music in my life, so if I wanted to hear it I'd just trot over to my CD collection and pull it out. I'd like to hear more of Pentaphobe's newer stuff, but I'll wait until someone I know has it and I can give it a listen.

Along these lines, I find the review of Tribal Beats for the Urban Streets over at The Gilded Serpent to be highly amusing and at times right on target. Something I find interesting about the CD is the inclusion of a Muslimgauze track. I've been listening to him since 1994/95, and though I own and enjoy a handful of Muslimgauze CDs, I've always had internal conflict about supporting him because of his politics. I do believe he was addressing subjects in his music that most people shy away from, which is important. What bothers me even more is that I hope dancers look into the work of this artist and make informed decisions as to whether or not they want to use it for performance, instead of just jumping on a "it's on a tribal belly dance music CD so let's go with it!" wagon. Check out Donna Mejia's video for great dancing to a Muslimgauze song. I particularly like the attitude and strength she projects.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Random thought

Lorenna McKennitt's "Marco Polo" is the "Stairway to Heaven" of belly dance.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

This is the life!

What does a belly dancer do after a long weekend of performances? Why, put on her PJs and crash out on the bed with the laptop, cats, and leftover Halloween candy! Damn I'm sexy!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

News, privilege, guilt

Sometimes the news makes me think of dancing. The other day it was while I was driving home from work, headed uptown in late afternoon traffic. As usual I was listening to NPR, and the All Things Considered story was about gemstone miners in Afghanistan.

What caught my ear was the mention of lapis lazuli, a stone you see frequently in less expensive jewelry marketed towards tribal style dancers. Actually, my first lapis jewelry was a pair of dangly earrings I bought as a teenager at the hippie store in my local mall, earrings I've had for 15 years and now occasionally repurpose in my costuming. Lapis is not just for cheaper jewelry, it's also found in vintage and antique pieces. The less expensive items are easier to find, such as the ones sold by Tribal Souk or The Red Camel (who both also carry older, pricier items). *

The story ends with details about the working conditions at gemstone mines in Afghanistan, which really got me thinking.

Conditions in the 20 or so lapis mines above the town are even worse. Some of
them are run by militia commanders. There is no official oversight other than
a required license and taxes paid on equipment in the mine.

Surprisingly, news of the recent mine disaster in Utah has reached this
isolated enclave.

Police chief Sayed Asssadullah Mujaddedi says the American story may have
had a sad ending, but Afghans here envy the equipment and effort that went
into trying to rescue the six American miners.

"We don't have anything like that. There's only one way into our tunnels and
that's the way the miners use," Mujaddedj said. "Last year, six people got
stuck in a cave-in and we had to get them out by clawing at the rocks with
our hands."

Nor are there benefits paid to the families' of miners who die or are maimed.
Mining lapis is a job no one here likes. It doesn't help that the free-for-all
mining encouraged by the Afghan government is lowering lapis prices.
That, in turn, lowers the daily wage, which on a good day, is $10.

But miner Rahimullah says there's no other work available to them. He
has worked the mines for 9 years. He says his 2-year-old son will
someday work them as well, unless other jobs open up.

I wondered, does the lapis in my jewelry (much of it made in Pakistan, as the stickers on the back of items say) come from remote mining towns like this? Is the lapis in my jewelry mined by men with an aging drill and hammers, people who hope that their children will have the opportunity to do something else with their lives instead of this dark and dangerous job?

I suddenly felt like a spoiled brat, in that I am lucky enough to spend my money on jewelry for a hobby, jewelry made from gem stones mined by people who get $10 a day to go in the ground and dig out those stones with hammers. Then I thought that at least these people have a job and make money, and that Afghanistan is changing so that they can legally sell what they mine, and that hopefully this is a step to more economic development that will benefit them, and then I got angry that no, this still really stinks (note - I'm not getting into a discussion of the war and all that, or else this would go on forever).

Finally I felt like an even bigger jerk for my guilty, privileged** whining, when I should really just a) be thankful for what I have and b) try to use some of my money/time/abilities to help out other people.

So I drove home with all this tumbling around in my mind, and thought that I finally had something to type up and post on the blog that was not something I was going to just write up and then delete because it would just be crazy ranting about the usual crap that bugs me in the dance scene (this week: undercutting, bad "fusion"). I'm going to try to follow it up later with thoughts about costuming elements for tribal belly dance, where these elements come from, fair trade, and seeking out alternates when you want to know what you're wearing and where it came from. I'll try to make it coherent.

4/1/2013 ETA: Check out this great article passed along by The Red Camel for further reading. Seems like things could get better for Afghanistan lapis miners:

* Note: I am not passing judgement on these vendors, I am merely using them to illustrate the items I am talking about. I've shopped with The Red Camel (lovely items and a great lady) and I've heard wonderful things about Tribal Souk.

** Speaking of privilege, this weekend I'm headed to Asheville, NC for Triboriginal: Tribal Dance, Music and Culture Camp and I can't wait! I went last year and loved it; hopefully I'll have the energy to report back later. I'm currently having a crisis about what classes to take (when two that look awesome are back to back).

This entry was edited for clarity on 8/31/2010

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What I get for playing with fire

I may fire dance, but I've never candle danced. Sure, I've singed bits of my hair off, but I'd never dripped wax onto my head, face, shirt and arm before. At least I can say I've tried something new!

I'm pretty sure how to get the wax off my top (iron it with a paper towel on top of the wax), but I have to see the best way to get wax out of my hair.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

8 things, again

It's too hot to knit, sew or practice. It's too hot to cook or eat. It's too hot to blog.* But I will make sure to finally fill out this eight things meme passed on from Natalia:

1. I have been thanked in two album's liner notes, one a Legendary Pink Dots CD (for submitting artwork for said album) and one Ego Likeness CD (my SO was a member of the band).

2. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here, but I do fire dancing. OK, so I don't practice enough, I'm a really lazy fire dancer. I use poi and fire fans, though my poi skills are rusty to the point that I would not light up at the moment. When I started, my mom stated, "But you're not very coordinated!" Not true Mom, I just don't bother with physical activities that much.

3. As any of my close friends knows, I love the Little House on the Prairie series (the original books, and NOT the TV show). I would definitely draw a straight line from the series to my love of fiber arts, DIY crafting, and interest in local and sustainable food/cooking issues.

4. Man, I love office products. I have a special love for the kind found in older, independently owned supply stores: metal index card boxes, steno notebooks, drafting supplies. I like binder clips and folders and hole punches. A well stocked desk full of office tools and empty notebooks is not only a sign of potential creativity, but of possible life organization.

5. I knit and sew, and I want to learn how to crochet, spin and weave (see #3). I have a vague dream of making my living with these pursuits, but am momentarily too lazy to do so. Of course, I also still dream of having my own cafe, but after opening and running one for the past (almost) two years I'm not so sure I want to go there.

6. Contrary to what most people think about me, I'd like to be a librarian. I have loved libraries since I was a child. I like being able to take someone's vague question and find exactly what they need. I like the organization and information. OK, I don't really like people, or red tape, or paperwork, so maybe it's not the thing for me.

7. Several years ago I directed a scene in a water ballet. Baltimore is lucky enough to have Fluid Movement, a people powered performance art group that puts on water/roller/dancing/etc. shows every year. I would like to be involved with them again, but can we say time commitment?

8. I want a pony. And a llama, an alpaca, goats, a bunny, maybe a sheep (but they are so stupid). My SO and I want a mini-farm of "soft things you can pet".

*By the time I finished this the weather had cooled down. Now it's just "too lazy to blog".

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Standing at the source

I spent the weekend at the D.C. Tribal:PURA workshops. Though I have taken them twice before (every year varies slightly, so some information repeats and some is new and all of it is valuable) I still came away with new "A-ha!" moments and ever increasing respect for Carolena Nericcio.

While I let the workshops sink into my brain (and veg out on the couch), I am going to paste a section of a 2004 post from Bare Feet: a dance journal (readers of my personal journal have seen this before). It does a good job of summing up my feelings about the weekend:

. . . . Being in Carolena’s presence is like standing at the source of a mighty river, just at the place where the water is its purest. There’s a sense of vastness there. You know that the droplets from that very spot will travel downstream and intermingle with water from other sources and become huge and impressive- so much so that the spring, itself, can seem impressive, even if it’s really very small. And she is. She’s one woman, but she’s the beginning. Learning from her is more powerful than learning from someone further down the stream because so much of what we do sprang from her.

My thanks to DCTribal not only for sponsoring this event and having my troupe dance at the gala show, but for also awarding me a grant to take the workshops. We're really lucky to have such a dedicated group working to support tribal dance in the D.C. area!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I paid for this?

Yes, I did! I paid for 10 weeks of having my butt kicked in Asharah's Beginning I class. Monday's now involve joining two friends for the round trip to Joy of Motion's Atlas studio in northeast DC and putting ourselves into her capable hands. The class write up mentions sweat, and sweat I did, down my face, my neck, my back, the floor. I'm not too sore, but then we really didn't get into too many squats or butt squeezes. It was only the first week, though. We'll see what comes next.

So today I think I'll take my hoop to a shady spot in the park and try to work out some of the kinks. Tonight is practice in our un air conditioned studio space; this weekend . . . craziness! I have a private lesson with Lisa Sunday morning, a 4 hour workshop with her Sunday afternoon and we're dancing in a hafla Sunday night. Monday? Exhaustion!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Summer is the hardest season . . .

. . . for keeping up with your dance classes.

My teacher had to move her classes to her home studio, since attendance goes down too far for classes to keep going at the studio she rents. I emailed to see if there was room in the class today, but haven't heard anything back yet. Vacations and life in general keep interrupting our troupe practices.

It would be so easy to say, "Let's take a break until fall", but that way lies, well, not madness but surely laziness. Besides, we have three performances to work on for the summer!

Friday, June 08, 2007

You got me

I usually don't do meme's, but this one comes to me via Toya, and I love to indulge her!

Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to then report this on their own blog with their 7 things as well as these rules. They then need to tag 7 others and list their names on their blog. They are also asked to leave a comment for each of the tagged, letting them know they have been tagged and to read the blog.

1. I own a lot of socks. One could say I am addicted to them, especially tall socks. I have an entire (small, three drawer) dresser devoted to just socks (tights and such are in a different dresser). I really dig Socks Dreams.

2. I am convinced I am supposed to be taller, probably by a few inches. I am the shortest person in my family, and I think this is because I started drinking coffee as a small child. My grandfather would pour me a cup and I'd take it with evaporated milk and 2 Sweet N Lows. When all of my friends got into drinking coffee in high school they acted like it was a new thrill. To me it was just a tasty tasty beverage. I can still drink lots of coffee late at night and go right to bed.

3. When I tie knots, I usually tie them three times. This is some kind of a holdover from my spell castin' teen witch days or something. When I sew I always knot my thread three times; when I tack something I will pull the thread through and knot it three times. Starting or finishing embroidery? Secured three times to the cloth. Finishing a knitting project? I knot the yarn three times.

4. I wish I had some sort of organized belief system, but I don't. The best way I can describe myself is "vaguely pagan", and that's about it. I guess I pretty much believe that this world and our whole being is incomprehensible and pretty awe-some. As J and I joked at the PA Fairie Fest we really like the idea of, "Be excellent to each other." I think there is more to the world that can be seen, and I'm not talking about needing microscopes.

5. I have a very visual memory, and cannot stand to have my physical environment rearranged by other people. This is why I fuss when we're camping and the campsite is messy, or why I constantly arrange and rearrange my work spaces. It can be frustrating living with a messy person, because I want to know where everything is all the time. Ask me sometime where something is, and I'll probably close my eyes and move my hands around in the air to "place" it, then I'll be able to tell you exactly where it is located. I think this visual memory is one reason I give really good directions.

6. I want to travel and live in other places. I am terrified of going to unknown places or living somewhere I do not know like the back of my hand. This causes me a lot of internal strife.

7. Sometimes I hate myself for it, but I love pork products. Bacon. Sausage. Pork chops. Pork roasts. Pork rinds! There, I said it! I like to snack on pork rinds. I also think pigs are incredible animals, and like to hang out with them. I also think Pig (see: my pet cat) is totally awesome, but I do not want to eat him. Hopefully one day I'll be able to put this love aside and go vegetarian

I participated, but I'm not so much for passing these on. So, I tag you!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The teaching dilemma

Why do so many belly dance students become belly dance teachers? Am I the only person who sometimes wonders if belly dance can be like a university's English Lit. department, turning out students that will become teachers to the next generation of students in a never ending cycle (this is coming from someone with a degree in English with a Women's Lit. concentration. I have two career choices there: teach,maybe at the college level, or be a barista. Ahem).

I ask this because I sometimes wonder about my own place in this chain. A year and a half ago I did an evaluation with my teacher before she moved away. She asked me at one point if I ever thought about teaching belly dance (not in the near future, but when I had more experience). I said I wasn't sure I was cut out for it, as I don't think of myself as very patient especially with people who have trouble understanding and need lots of help, or people who don't think/learn like I do and need different teaching methods to help them understand. This is something I've always had trouble with; one of my big challenges at work is training, as I want to tell people, "Just . . . do it. It's not hard. Figure it out!" (which is much how I was trained to do my my job, or parts of it).

Currently I do not feel I have enough belly dance experience to teach other people. I don't feel that I am 100% totally positive all the time accurate on how I do moves, especially since we do a lot of ATS and it is a codified "system" of dance. I don't want to teach and realize I'm constantly changing what I am doing. Not that dance does not change and evolve, but I want to make sure if I teach a vertical hip figure eight on the down up (taqsim) that I am doing teaching it exactly right. To go hand in hand with that, my troupe is currently tweaking moves, dropping or changing things we were taught to fit the ATS format or to better reflect our style of dance. I feel we're in a state of refinement that reflects our growth as dancers and as a troupe, which is good but also currently unstable.

So with my "no teaching!" stance why then did I just start a notebook where I am entering detailed notes on all the moves I know, from the ATS standards to solo dancer moves to Kallisti specific ideas? Because Baltimore is lacking so horribly in a tribal scene that I feel one day I'm going to throw my hands up in disgust and admit, "F#@k it, I'll teach!" (actually, if you know me you know it'll involve a lot more cussing than that). If I eventually get to that day I want to make sure I have lots of background work accomplished - information on the moves, the formations, how I'd put them together, what works, what does not, tips and tricks for passing on this detailed body of knowledge. Even if this information is never utilized in the classroom it is still valuable for me, a personal tribal compendium perhaps.

If that day does reluctantly come I hope I have other tools under my belt: a Fat Chance Belly Dance General Skills certification, probably an ACE certification, insurance, about a million more years of dance experience, a steady tribal teacher of my own. Ok, hell may freeze over before the last one happens, but you can't blame me for being optimistic! Most of all, though, I hope I have the confidence to pass on not only the practical details of tribal belly dance but also my enthusiasm and love of this art form.

Edited: to correct definition of taqsim. See!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Short letters to things that may not respond

Dear hands,

Play with confidence. Practice. Doing these things will only make you better. The zills and the drum will not bite, they are something to be worked with not against. Honestly, people will not point and laugh if you mess up.


* * * * * *

Dear body,

Yes, I am going to schedule a check up, then get those knees looked at. I am sorry I don't take very good care of you. I admit, going to the doctor's makes me scared. I will try to be nicer to you.


* * * * * *

Dear self,

Admit it, you have to get off your butt. Try really digging into things instead of flitting from item to item. Think of how good you could be if you really, and I mean REALLY, applied yourself. And one last thing. Practice. You know what I'm talking about.


* * * * * *

Dear new notebook,

You're plain, nothing fancy or expensive. I love you. I love your college ruled pages, the nifty pockets, your three sections. I am excited about filling up your pages. Thank you for indulging my Type A tendencies. Maybe you would like a sticker to dress you up?


Monday, May 21, 2007

On that note

Memo to self:

Remember that dancing and having fun thing? Like the hours of dancing Saturday night at the Goth Prom party? How you didn't have to think about dancing, it just happened? Work on that! It's fun! It's good for you! It looked good! Sure, it wasn't all belly dance, but there was a lot of it in there.

Also, if dancing wildly for a few hours did not cause massive thigh and calf pain then the classes and practice must be paying off. Bonus!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Who would've thought?

My "Duh" moment of last week:

You're dancing because you like it, and you like the music, so just go ahead and dance to the music!

We were dancing a 15 minute set Friday evening at al all tribal night at a restaurant. I was worrying about specifics of the performance, how would my little solo go, the usual round of thoughts.

Then something hit me. I really like most of the music we listen to. I really like dancing, whether it's belly dance or just out at parties or fun or whatever. So . . . (wait for it) . . . I need to carry the fun I have from dancing casually over to my belly dancing (particularly when performing)!

I know, it sounds elementary. I am one of those people who gets into things for the technical aspects; I can very much put a mental, academic spin on my hobbies. It takes effort to just relax and enjoy things for what they are, without my brain overdoing the whole experience.

Was I successful Friday night? Not completely. But I'll keep reminding myself that "Hey! This is FUN!", and I think it'll take hold eventually.

On that note, today I am going to the library then to the park and I am going lay in the grass with a book and not do anything else. I'm not going to practice my hula hoop or my poi, I'm not going to take any dance stuff along. I am going to relax and read and enjoy the weather. I swear.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Something I wish for

OK, so I actually have a dance teacher, a very good one. She has developed her own method for teaching and performing belly dance, a way which focuses on technical precision and doing little harm to the body. I really admire that cerebral aspect of her style and method, though sometimes it's execution can leave me a little . . . uninspired.

Beyond that, though, I have no teacher in the style I dance. I like to refer to Baltimore as the "Tribal Hinterlands". There is interest here. There have been classes, though three teachers have moved/stopped teaching, one's style has changed, and two other teachers admit that they are teaching a highly fused style that is moving away from belly dance. One of my troupe mates is teaching a beginner improv tribal class, for non-baby beginner belly dancers who want to try out the tribal waters. It's a small class so far, but I bet it will generate a lot of interest (go Lyra!).

So for those of us who are past the beginning stages of ATS or ATS based tribal there is really nothing. There are the options of workshops, traveling to teachers, and video study - we're lucky DC and it's strong tribal scene is so close! When there were teachers tribally focused teachers in Baltimore I found I took beginner classes over and over because of the interruptions in classes or having to switch my teacher when the previous one stopped teaching. Though I think my basic grounding in the style is stronger because of this repetition, it's also frustrating to know that my tribal education was held back because my dance classes did not progress in a constructive linear fashion.

There are some days I feel like I would kill for a teacher in the style I love. I have my troupe, which is fantastic, but sometimes I don't want to be self directed! I want someone to tell me How It Is and How To Do It, to make decisions and inspire me. I want someone else to tell me when we're performing, what we're wearing and what music we're using. I want someone to kick my butt when I'm tired and pat me on the back when I'm doing a good job. I want someone to look up to.

While having a tough time in class a few weeks ago, hour 2.25 out of 2.5 hours, I almost started crying right in the middle of the class. As much as I can admire my teacher 's style it is not what I love, and it doesn't feel natural to my body. I was so frustrated; I want to be learning and working hard at what I love, not at something that doesn't really move me. All of a sudden my chest got tight and my eyes started to tear up, and I was grateful for the beginning of our cool down and the moment to collect myself.

I keep going back to class because one (me) cannot live on video instruction and self motivation along. I need the kick in the butt provided by an actual class, the feedback provided by a real live teacher. But sometimes I get really sad thinking of the lucky students who get to study the dance style they really love and I wish it was me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Thing of Interest in Baltimore

On May 24th, local troupe Indra Lazul will start hostessing a weekly event at Latin Palace in Fell's Point. The event is 1001 Nights. My teacher Piper will be dancing the opening night.

There is another weekly ME night, Shanta at Red Maple. I'm not too keen on it (not my kind of bar/club, not crazy about their current policies regarding their dancers). Perhaps 1001 Nights will fullfill my desire to get out to dance for fun!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

My dance lineage

Head over to the Gilded Serpent and check out the vintage pictures of Masha Archer and her San Francisco Classic Dance Troupe. Masha would be my something-great-dance-grandmother. I love looking at these photos; the troupe blends what I love about the presentation style of both 1970s American belly dance and ATS.

Also, I am coveting the jewelry. Coveting!

Sunday, April 08, 2007


I've discovered an annoying habit I have picked up. When I need to be working on a dance craft project, I want to knit. When I should be making progress on one of my *cough* six *cough* current knitting projects, I want to play with the accumulated bits and bobbles I've picked up to put towards future costumes.

Today I allowed myself some time to listen to an archived episode of Cast-On, then swore I'd work on the belt I need to have finished by Friday. Then I poked around on line a little more. Finally I loaded up Episode #4 of the Craft Sanity podcast and pulled out the belt.

I'm working on two piece belt, made from the top of a mirrored skirt that's been cut in half and has ties on the sides; a common style. I decided to try this style as my current belt ties in the front and always ends up shifting up in the back when I dance. I know I don't want to do the uber amounts of yarn fringe or anything like that (*note to self* when feeling like a rant, go off about novelty yarn).

So I made a bunch of tassels, put on the belt, held the tassels up to it in various places. No. Unpinned two long beaded tassels I had on my old belt, held them up. Better. Grabbed a length of chain-with-dangles I bought last year from ShimmyBliss. Dipped on the sides? No. Across the front below the belt? Hmm, better. Picked up the tassels again. Still not right.

Then I thought, why be complicated? Go for the belt with a piece of fabric or a plain scarf underneath to add some contrast and cover the top of my skirt. Add the long beaded tassels and the chain swag. Get to that point, maybe add some beads to the bottom of the belt ties, see how it goes. It doesn't have to be noisy, fluffy, tangly or weigh a ton.

So the belt-and-options are sitting on my craft table for when I get home tomorrow. Now it is too late to dig back into the two knitting projects sitting on my desk: simple 3x1 ribbed socks in a flecked sage green, and clog socks with a cable and lace pattern down the back knit in a raspberry/pink/purple/dark blue hand-painted yarn. They may end up sitting there until the end of the weekend, after Saturday's trip to Philly, after opening the store on Sunday morning and going to a family party in the afternoon, after everything when I can finally sit down and relax. And then I start working on my costumes for the Fairie Festival.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

I can do that but I can't do it all

March blog carnival topic

If you belly dance, then you know you have said or heard this phrase at some point: "I can do that!". Sometimes it shows up as, "I can make that!". I think all but the most non-DIY person among us has made this comment, stating that yes indeed, this item here? I could make that my self, nooooo problem. Sometimes this statement is made with a note of superority in the speaker's voice. That simple hip wrap? Why buy it, I could make it myself? Those decorated dance slippers are how much? Give me some glue, jewels and ballet flats and I'll do it in my spare time! The long belted robe cover-up out of interesting fabric? I could make one just like it for myself!

I've had my own DIY moments. I am a crafty person. I sew a bit, I can knit and embroider, I can figure out how to make a lot of things, and if I can't do them already I can use Google and the library to help me out (I get my SO to chip in on the more heavy duty projects, such as my fire toys). I've had many make-it-myself moments, some more successful than others. The cover-up: batik cotton material and a bathrobe pattern, this was pretty simple and worked out well. The velvet stretch choli: the free pattern was fine, though I had trouble with enlarging it on a copier and damn I hate darts. The three tiered 10-yard skirt: gathering is the bane of my existence, I think my SO would take up a collection to buy me a new skirt before he'd let me sew one again. The coin bra: several weeks and countless sewing needles later it was finally done, and my poor finger tips peeled for weeks, but it fits me perfectly. The mirrored tassel belt: the first one went through two remakes to get it right, the second one has just been started.

Making things myself has taught me a lesson, though. Yes, I can and will do my own projects, because I love the process of making items, but seriously it is often worth it to just pay to purchase an item. This is doubly true when I can buy an item that is being made by a small business that specializes in dance wear. Instead of making my next tiered skirt, I'm buying one from Flying Skirts (as well as any choli's I want, unless I need one out of a particular fabric, then I'm locking myself in my office with FCBD/Folkwear's pattern and you can shove food under the door until I emerge). I'm seriously thinking of buying some pantaloons from Belly Roll, because even though I can whip them out in no time I end up spending not only the money for supplies but also a chunk of my time to finish the project.

See, that's what it boils down to. Time. I bet a lot of people will talk about time when they talk about their dance budget. I may not have a lot of money, but what I'm really low on is time. If I really need to save some cash I'll make sure to hit the fabric sale racks or dig in my stash and come up with what I need. I'll repurpose jewelry and clothing into what I want, and I'll spend my time-budget getting the items finished. My coin bra probably cost me way more than a similar handmade item would have if I'd bought it custom made, simply because I spent many evenings sitting at my desk pulling needles through the bra with a pair of pliers (and cussing). Those evenings could be calculated not just in time, but also in money, an hourly wage paid to myself for every minute spent working on a costume (this is one way the retail cost of an item is figured).

Luckily I have a job and the luxury of extra spending money. I can keep adding my spare cash to the tribal piggy bank, and one day I can pour out the money, add it all up, and buy something I want. Try doing that with hours spent stressed out over uneven skirt gathers or yet another damn dart! My time is precious to me, more than money, and I'd rather pay it to myself in hours spent practicing, evenings spent knitting, afternoons spent hooping or mornings spent relaxing with my loved ones.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Dance Crush Part 2

OK, so I've never seen her dance in person, and I have never met her, but I've been hearing for years that Nanna Candelaria is a fantastic dancer. I checked out her (few) YouTube videos, and now I have a coast-to-coast dance crush. Watch how she makes her belt fringe dance with her!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Hooping . . . fever?

On my Christmas list this year I put (among other things because I am a greedy greedy person): hula hoop.

OK, not the old hula hoops you used as a kid, the flimsy striped circles with the beads inside. Nope, I wanted one of the new breed of hula hoops, made of heavier poly tubing, connectors and some colorful tape. These hula hoops fit adult bodies, are easier for starter hoopers to manage and can be easily made at home. Hoops like this come in plain, multi colored, UV reactive or light filled versions. They can be small, for kids, or large, for taller or rounder people. I wanted one!

I was introduced to hooping through my involvement with the Baltimore/DC Burning Man community, particularly at the biannual Playa Del Fuego event. It didn't really catch my eye until I watched a friend hooping - her movements were so smooth, so joyous, so much a dance and MORE that I thought, "I want to try that!". I didn't get an opportunity at that burn, though a few months later I did get some instruction while at a dance camp. All I managed to pick up at camp was the ability to keep the hoop up for about a minute, but I loved the whole process! I dropped the hoop, I shot it across the lawn, I hit myself in the head, I pulled muscles all along my sides but it was worth the satisfaction of getting that huge plastic circle spinning for just a little bit. That's when I added "hoop" to my Christmas list.

It is now a few months past Christmas, and the hoop is finally here! Make that the hoops are finally here. J read the hoop making tutorial, then went all over the area to find the proper tubing while being unable to find the proper connectors. So the hoop was partially done: a white unfinished circle, decorated with a pattern of made by laying lace over the plastic and coating it with spray paint. That's the hoop I got on Christmas. A month later, on a hunch, I went to an unvisited hardware store, and there were the connectors. Except, the size I picked up didn't work and J was leaving for tour for a month, before I could make another connector run. Finally I got back to the store, he got back from tour, and the second connector worked with a little tweaking from J. Success, a hoop!

But this hoop, this hoop was hard to use. Larger hoops spin at a slower rate, which is often easier for new hoopers. This hoop was smaller, just a little taller than my navel, which means I'd have to hoop fast for it to stay up and moving. Since I'm new at this I couldn't keep up my speed, and the hoop kept falling. So, "Larger hoop please!" I demanded, and J was happy to fill the order. Now there are two hoops; the second, when resting with one edge on the ground, comes to my chest, and it is decorated with a simple stripe of black electrical tape over the white base. It's rotation is slow and almost hypnotic, much easier for my untrained muscles to handle. J has happily found he can use it too, so for the past few days we've been grabbing the hoops and working with them in the middle of the living room.

Now, hooping is not belly dance. The hip movements that work with belly dance do not work with hoops. You can dance with hoops; I recommend looking up videos on YouTube to see what is possible. What I am looking forward to is learning a new kind of movement, one I can dance, one that that can be exercise that does not involve going to the gym, one I can take to the park or a party or a festival. One of my troupe members hoops, so I'm going to pick her brain while we're hanging out (I bet it would make a great pre class warm up!).

I admit, belly dance has a lot of my heart, and it's not going to be replaced, but it(and knitting, and sewing, and fire dancing) are going to have to scoot over a little and make some room for my hoop. I hope there's some space left when I finally learn how to play my accordion.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Good luck!

I just wanted to say good luck to Toya and the rest of the NDC. They are headed to Rakkasah West, and perform on the Cabaret Stage Saturday evening. Have fun, dance hard, and don't spend too much money! (Oh, and give us a call when you get back so we can get the full report)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Looking With A (Gleam In My) Dancer's Eye

February blog carnival topic

Whenever my mom and I go clothes shopping together (which is not enough) we always make sure to point out any sequined, beaded, embellished clothing as "Nana Clothes". My grandmother loved such items; all of those decorated holiday sweaters, dress up sparkly tops and glittered shoes for going out (I wore a pair of her 1960s dancing slippers in high school).

My mom dresses more in earth tones, and it seemed for a while that perhaps this eye for the the shiny had skipped me too. I started dressing in (almost) all black starting in middle school. This followed a brief neo-hippie phase, until I figured out I hated the music, and though I loved the clothing I didn't like identifying myself as a part of that crowd. Basic black became the standard instead, more in the teen angst version than any attempt at being chic or sophisticated.

20 years later black still dominates in my wardrobe, though there has been brief forays into color. I'll wear blue jeans now. I own some red Danskos and boots. Purple, ironic shades of pink, and deep jewel tones will make an occasional appearance. But I think all the years of monochromatic dressing left me with some kind of inherent inability to color coordinate. Okay, there was the entirely chartreuse green outfit: dress, tights and matching underwear set, accented by my hair (dyed with one side a matching green, one side magenta) and a pair of thrift scored, Italian made, raspberry suede, low winkle picker boots. But other than that it's been mostly black, black, black . . . and striped socks.

Then came the dance classes, and my subsequent browsing on belly dance websites and discussion forums. Suddenly my world was a kaleidoscope! Sure, I may prefer to dance tribal, and my natural inclination is to the bright primary and deep earth tones found in many of the ATS costumes, but really I'm not picky. I love everything from the pastel of layered chiffon circle skirts to the deep tones of a velvet beledi dresses. Screaming pink Egyptian style lycra costume? Sure! Dusty browns of a minimalist tribal fusion outfit? Yep! The occasional foray into a dramatic white bedlah, the antithesis of my all-black days? Love it! Sure, I don't WEAR all of these, but I love cruising costume vendors and dancer's galleries, gobbling up the bright costume confections.

What really grabs my eyes though is the shine, the sparkle. Shisha mirrors on a tribal belt, glittering fringe dripping from a bra, sequins edging a veil; they all elicit a low, "Oooo, shiny, pretty" from me. When watching a dancer I tend to focus in and out, from costume to dancing, following a snaky arm up to a sequined bra to shoulder shimmies down an undulation to the belt and fringe accentuating a hip figure eight. I sit back and take in the entire package of dancer and outfit and music, then focus in on tricky technique, clearly expressed emotion or a particularly stunning piece of costuming. When I see a vendor's table of bedlah or rack of dresses I head over to check them out, drinking in the piles of coins, sequins and beads. Sure, I tend to tassels and pantaloons and coin bras for my performance gear, but I am a sucker for the glitter.

It took me about a year into my dance classes to realize that belly dance indulges my eye for "Nana Clothes". Perhaps there is some deep seated happy association that links fond memories of my grandmother and her sparkly clothes to the pleasure I get from watching (and being) a glittering, shining performer. Or perhaps the love-of-the-sparkly gene didn't pass me by, it was waiting for just the right catalyst to turn it on. Dancing is a hell of a lot of fun, but to quote Baltimore performance group Fluid Movement, glitter makes it better.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Performance Blues

When I started dance classes I never intended to perform. When my classes began I'd already been doing fire dancing for almost a year; some of that involved performing in very low key situations. The last time I'd stood up in front of a bunch of people was in high school during my theatre geek days. I didn't think that as an adult I'd be performing on a regular basis, though.

Belly dance has a tendency to take you down the road of performance. First it's dancing for your classmates, perhaps in an end of class session "show". Then it's on to informal haflas, where you cobble together an outfit and get up in front of friends and family. Many more haflas, studio shows, and other informal events follow. Then suddenly it's gala shows (the ones that happen during a workshop weekend, are yearly events sponsored by local teachers, or something of the sort). Dancing at fundraisers, or showcase nights at local venues. Before you know it you're involved in the whole, "What should I/we set as a pay rate" debate and BAM . . . you're performing.

Now note, not all dancers do this. A lot of people never get on stage or stop with the the informal performances. They don't want to get on a big stage or commit the time to performing or deal with the stress, and that is great! I think it is awesome to do something because you love it for yourself.

I'm one of those people, though, who likes to have something pushing me forward, and beyond my own perfectionist streak I've found that the deadline of an upcoming performance works rather well. What I've also found is that the looming deadline pushes my stress level up to new heights.

Sometimes that can stress can be good. In November I danced at the DCTribal sponsored Tribal:PURA show with my troupe mates Brooke and Nora. We had two weeks to pick music, brush up the new moves we'd been working on, and get costumes together. It was two weeks of intense rehearsals, evenings in my living room going over and over the music, and last minute sewing. We were practically delirious on the ride to the venue, nervous as hell through the run through, nauseous while waiting our turn backstage. There were minor flubs on stage, but it went over well, we got a great response and we felt good about what we'd done. The show left us is on a high (thank goodness, as it was the start to a long weekend of workshops).

This past weekend the same trio danced at a local hafla. Again there was the rushed lead up, though intentionally more relaxed this time. There was nervousness before the show (even worse in a way because we were the last to perform). Despite minor problems (such as my belt getting up close and personal with Brooke's belt, locking us together until I spun around and released us) it went well. Afterwards, though, I crashed. Like literally as SOON as we stopped dancing I felt like I could have laid down on the floor and slept for a million years. It was like the pre-show stress and recent troupe goings on had all crashed down on my head and left me completely drained. We left, I schlumped home with my SO, peeled off the layers of my costume and swapped them for my pajamas, and spent the evening staring at the computer.

When dancing leaves me energized it is fantastic. When it leaves me drained it is awful. I have to learn that all of my dance experiences will not be great ones, that I can't beat myself up over it and I have to keep moving forward. I can't let the bad times sour my opinion, because performing can be great and I know I'm going to do it again - an invitation to dance will pop up, we'll all decide to go for it, and the cycle begins again. I just have to hold onto all of the good times and remember that the tough ones are the situations that usually lead to a period of change, growth and progression. I have to keep reaching for the next goal, raising the bar for myself and finding out what I am really capable of achieving.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Thinking is not doing, though it's a step on the path

Lately I've been thinking about writing here, without really getting anything down. I have one paragraph of a post about zills; I was interrupted while writing and now I can't remember what I wanted to day. It seems that all my good ideas hit me while I'm at work, and once I make it home the will to blog is gone.

On a productive note, I've been cleaning up my office/sewing room and laying out the projects I have to complete. In the wings:
backing the cool tasseled material and turning it into a hip adornment, finishing the yoked pantaloons, taking the Rajasthani choli to the fabric store and picking out material to use for alterations, buy a bra to use as a base to start playing around with new top ideas.

On an unproductive note, I have absolutely no desire to do all the things I need to do to prep for a show this weekend (adjust belt and sew on some mirrors, figure out how I want to do my hair/make up, figure out what to wear and make sure it's not balled up in the floor of my closet). Lately the siren song of new library books, DVDs and napping in our ugly orange chair has been hard to ignore.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Guilty pleasure

So, my belly dance background and taste is with ATS/group tribal improv. But sometimes I like to check out the Dahlal catalog*. I like to ask myself, "If I was a non-tribal belly dancer with lots of cash, which costume would I buy?" Actually, I already know the answer to that, I'd get one of the coin sets. Shiny.

*I like some of the practice wear too, so perhaps I'll spend some money with them in a more modest way.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dance Crush: Zafira

I admit I have a few dance crushes, on troupes or particular dancers with whom I've fallen in love. My most recent crush is on Zafira Dance Company from Pittsburgh, PA. I met and took classes from Maria and Olivia at Triboriginal Dance Camp this past fall. They are fabulous teachers, giving tons of information and teaching with a great combination of strictness and humour. Plus the setting of the camp gave the opportunity to grill bug ask them questions after class/at meals/ while wandering around the grounds. I learned a lot and was completely inspired (note - I also took many other awesome workshops at camp, I recommend it highly!).

Last night I watched Zafira's video "Caravan Serai", a 50 minute performance which presents dancing through four vignettes: The Cafe, The Sacred, The Home, The Muse (I think I got those all right). Something I love about their style is the precision, especially the excellent timing when all four dancers are working together. I was less moved at some points (not into the Balinese-esque parts, natural tendency to get bored of sword work no matter how well done, but that's just me). The best thing about them? The energy they produce, and the fact that though they are dancing with choreographies you can tell that they are also dancing together. They look at each other, smile and interact and show you that they working together to produce this beautiful dancing. I loved it!

Zafira has produced a new video which should be available soon, and I cannot wait to get it. I plan on showing it to anyone who might be even slightly interested.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

How I started dancing

Everyone tells this story I think, the "How I came to bellydance" saga. Sometimes it is after a lifetime of other dance practice. Sometimes it is inherited, picked up during childhood through a mother or sister or family friend. Sometimes it doesn't come until later, a college class, a chance restaurant encounter, a Parks and Rec. class.

My friend A started dancing raqs sharqi *thinks* 6 years ago? I'd say, at least 6 years. She encouraged me to look into middle eastern/bellydance (ME/BD) classes, but since I was trying to finish up college/totally burnt out on classes and working full time, I just really didn't have it in me to pick up a regular class for fun. Though I loved dancing for fun, it all took place at clubs or parties. Note; yes, there is a part of me that keeps saying "If I had started when she first told me about it, I'd be x-number of years further along my dance education".

Then, in 2002, friends of mine convinced me to attend the Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm. I wasn't convinced until I got there that this would be a good thing, it sounded a little too twee for my taste. But not only was I enchanted by the festival, but I also got a chance to see Fleur and Geela dancing American Tribal Style belly dance (with live music) as the (then) current incarnation of Philadelphia Tribal Bellydance. There are no pictures of that performance on the site, but you can see them again in 2003. I was particularly enamored of Geela's dancing, and also of the communication that was occurring between the dancers. I didn't know what ATS was, that this was improv, what defined their dance style, any of it. All I knew was I liked what I saw, and I wanted a chance to dance like that.

Now, a side note. I have always been a terribly shy and private person, one who prefers to take the safe route than to embarrass myself in front of people (even ones I love and trust). The same year I was lured to the Fairie Festival I also met ding0 (my SO), who has no problem jumping into new activities, giving things a shot, trying something new, and being a spectacle. Thankfully, some of this has worn off on me. It really involves a large dose of, "Honestly, if people don't like it they can just f@!k off" combined with a bit of "I'm tired of living my life constantly worried about what other people think" and a whole lot of "I need to get the hell over myself." It's been liberating.

Anyway, in 2002 there were no ATS classes in Baltimore. Hell, I couldn't make heads or tails of what the teachers in the area were doing at the time. I remember looking at Piper's classes, and checking out Latifa's site, and wondering how I could ever take a class with a roomful of strangers, doing something that involved me moving and other people looking at my body. I felt stuck.

Then, in late 2003, my friend Sara Sathya (who I met through ding0, see it's all his fault!) told me she was going to start offering tribal bellydance classes in Baltimore. She'd had ATS/tribal instruction before, and, tired of waiting for a teacher to appear in Baltimore, decided to start a beginner level class. For Christmas that year, ding0 gave me pink hip scarf and my first session of classes that started in January.

I took that hipscarf (it was a little small, I soon replaced it with a red one with tassel trim I knit) to my first class, and I wore a black t-shirt and black elastic waisted pajama pants, and socks, because I hated to be barefoot. I remember learning my ATS posture and Hug A Big Tree/basic arm position, the taqsim and maya (out-and-up and over-and-out horizontal hip figure eights), and the Turkish/Turkish Shimmy. I could barely stand to look at myself in the mirror. Instead, I focused on the music, which I really liked (including selections from Arabian Travels I and II, which became my first dance music purchases), on how good it felt to move, on how though I knew I wasn't doing everything exactly right I felt as if this was something I would be able to understand one day, on the other students who were also working hard to understand the movements. It was one of the hardest hours of learning I have ever had, and also one of the easiest.

That night I went home and blathered to ding0 about class and showed him what I learned. And the next week, I went back and I practiced those moves and I learned some new ones, and I've been going back, to class or practice, ever since. This week it's been three years since my first belly dance class. Next week I'll go to practice on Monday, I'll listen to the music, I'll look at myself in the mirror, I'll watch the women I am dancing with, I'll practice something I know and I'll learn something new.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Setting the tone

I had wanted to set the tone for the year by doing a little sewing today. Too many projects are languishing in my office, too many yards of fabric are sitting in the "this will make a great . . . . " pile. Well, no sewing today, but I did at least get some junk cleared out and some items organized. Some things that are hanging around and projects I'm thinking of:

* finish the damn yoked and pleated pantaloons, make a note of modifications for the next pair
* cut and finish the piece of green cotton fabric for a head wrap
* continue to rework the Banjara choli that I took apart
* slit the seam on the Banjara skirt, reinforce where the ties go if needed, add new ties

* yards of burgundy cotton gauze - divvy up among troupe, what to do with my piece
* head dress: need to make a head dress (and work on putting hairstyles together)
* new bra: make a lighter halter style mirror bra
* buy choli pattern and start altering it to fit me
* belts: start embellishing/cutting and reworking two "scrap" belts
* napkin belt: figure out how to use napkin as belt base. Fringe?
* dyeing: when can I add fabric dyeing to my list of hobbies