Monday, December 29, 2008

A new direction

While my troupe mate Lyra has been taking a baby break, Noralita and I have been playing around with a choreography. So far we have one minute, twenty two seconds worked out. Not completed. Not polished. Not done. Just worked out. We have two minutes and twenty two seconds left to work out. Lisa Z. told us to factor in one hour per minute of song. I believe that!

It's been fun. No, I don't think this is a permanent direction change but it has been a fun way to play around with music and dance in a new way.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Virtual Shopping

Just for the hell of it I decided to post a dance wish list for all the little things I look at and think, "Yeah, I'd like that".

BD-TV 2 and Belly Dance Rocks DVD. BD-TV 2 for the interview with Caroleena, Belly Dance Rocks for some of the great (and fun) performances.

Skirts: A black 25 yard skirt because I love to swish around in them for everyday wear and a jaipur skirt in, hmm. Red, Saffron or Blue (I think). Not in black because I need more color in my dance wardrobe.

FCBD Instructional DVDs #5 and 6. This may be a reality rather soon, as I think there are things in them I could use for my classes. Or at least they'd give me a good idea of how to structure what I'm teaching.

I'm also interested in becoming a better zill player, so I am interested in the Zills Drills and How to Become a Killer Ziller DVDs.

To go with those videos? More zills! I want a pair of the brass Afghani Saroyan's, or maybe Sulyman's el Coyote's large zills in the low tone, if he ever makes them again.

For music, FCBD sells Aisha Ali's series "Music of the . . . " which would be a good addition to my library. I need to pick up Helm's first "Tribal Dance, Tribal Drums". I could probably use some serious time with Amazon and iTunes to start finding more music. Or hey, if I could have the money to work with live musicians!

Speaking of money, if the sky's the limit I'd go to San Francisco for the General Skills workshop. I have a feeling by the time I have the money and time the opportunity will be long gone.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Talk about commitment

My work life has been very stressful lately. I'm working mostly 6 day weeks, with a couple of dance commitments a week. I finally managed to engineer a shift swap with a coworker so I have one more night free and can finally take a class with Shems. I'm also trying to set up a private lesson with a local ATS certified teacher so I can brush up on my ATS skills and have some questions answered. That one's going to be tricky because she lives about 45 minutes away from me. I was feeling a little whiny about that drive, until I overheard a dancer last night in class. She lives in Delaware, but every Thursday she is driving down to Baltimore to take two classes. She said there is nothing in her area that is quite what she wants, so she is dealing with the drive (I think about an hour and a half on a good day) and considering it "her" night out.

I was really impressed, listening to her. So many of us (and I've done this) complain about having to drive to classes that are not close to us. It is hard to deal with this in an urban or congested suburban area, and it is hard to take the time from our busy schedules. I admit I am always amazed to hear from dancers who are traveling hours to take a class, who sometimes have to commit one entire weekend to travel and dance study because they have no local opportunities. It makes my own dance "problems" seem pretty minor.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What time? No time!

I'm working six days a week right now, and it's seriously cut into my dance time. I'm teaching every Monday after work, troupe practice is Tuesday after work, Wednesday and Thursday I work in the evenings, Friday after work my SO and I try to hang out, Saturdays are usually booked and Sunday I'm working and trying to relax or get things done in the evening.

I did take a few workshops with Dalia Carella last weekend, and she totally rocked. I wish I was in NYC so I could study with her all the time! Other than that, though, I have not really danced for me for a few weeks. It's tough, I have some music I've been wanting d to work with but I keep having to put it in the "Soon!" pile. Once I post this I'll be back to working on the epic email message I'm sending out to my students that goes over what we learned in class this past session. I've been trying to work on it for two weeks but it's really hard finding time to finish it.

Hopefully things will calm down in a few weeks, or else I'm going to miss the fun of the holiday season!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What is real?

My thoughts of late turn to that which is . . . fake. Fake eyelashes and hair, that is. I splurged on some eyelashes (and other things) while shopping at Sephora. I have yet to actually try them on, though I'm sure it will be a comical event. Now I am searching online for fake hair on a weft that will work with my hair color, which is, um, blondish-brownish-reddish? I have no objective idea WHAT color I'd call it. Anyone who knows me IRL want to help out?

In case you're wondering, Natalie of Delirium Tribal/ Columbia Alternacirque is responsible for this obsession.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Improv Tribal 101

I decided that, in order to get some information out to my students without the returning students having to hear the same information again (though some stories are classic), I'd instead post up an into to Improv Tribal/ATS basics, a place to direct people and provide links to more information.

A Quick and Dirty Historical and Informative Lesson About ATS and Tribal Group Improv for the Kallisti Tribal Student

The Foundation:
The foundation of most cued improvisational tribal style belly dance is American Tribal Style (ATS), created in the 1980s in San Francisco by Carolena Nericcio. ATS arose out of Carolena's dance classes, and at first was danced solely by her troupe Fat Chance Belly Dance (FCBD). Until recently ATS was not strictly codified; in the past few years Carolena has worked to define ATS through it's common look, vocabulary, and system; she does this through her instructional videos, the Tribal:Pura workshops, General Skills certification and Teacher Training certification programs.

Improv Tribal, solo or group, that does not follow the ATS structure is not considered ATS. Instead dancers use terms such as Improv Tribal Style, Tribal Group Improv, Tribal Fusion or named a specific system used by a particular troupe/dancer/school.

The name is descriptive of the style, American because is is an American invention, Tribal to describe how the dancers work as a unit and can look as if they are part of one "tribe".

There is a more detailed essay on this at FCBD's website:

The History:
Before ATS there was Jamila Salimpour and Bal Anat. In 1968, in order to offer an authentic look/feel performance for the CA Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Jamila created a troupe called Bal Anat that showcased different dance and entertainment styles Jamila had learned from her circus and dance background. The dancing was incorporated with live music into one seamless spectacle. Bal Anat costumed in a faux folkloric style, using original textiles and clothing from various North African, Near and Middle Eastern, and Asian countries. The show gave a feeling of an authentic dance experience, though it was made up of elements from many different cultures, and also introduced snake and sword dancing to the belly dance repertoir. The style of Bal Anat and similar troupes has been called California or Old School Tribal.

Baltimore area students are probably familiar with local teacher and dancer Piper, whose mother Rhea was a member of Bal Anat:

One Bal Anat dancer, Masha Archer, left to create her own group, The San Francisco Dance Troupe. In 1974 Carolena Nericcio began dancing with Masha; when the troupe disbanded in 1987 Carolena began teaching classes in order to have people with whom she could dance. What Carolena taught was pulled from Masha's eclectic style, and in her classes the movements began to solidify into a cohesive vocabulary.

Pictures of Masha's troupe:

The Style:
ATS can be defined by several things: the cued movement vocabulary, the improvisational choreography, and the look.

ATS has a set vocabulary of codified movements. Occasionally new movements are added, but only through careful examination to see if they line up with the rest of the ATS vocabulary. Movements are split into fast (with a timed count, done to fast music) and slow (no count, done to slow music). They are drawn from standard belly dance moves (such as horizontal figure eights), standard movements modified to fit ATS (the Arabic series of movements that date back to Jamila Salimpour), and movements modified from other cultures (floreos from Flamenco or moves from Indian dances). All ATS dancers know all the same movements, enabling dancers that are don't know each other to successfully dance together with no practice. The same movements are used if an ATS dancer solos, though the dancer may modify the moves to make work better for a solo dancer (such as not cuing a move since there is no one following the leader).

Also, ATS is danced while playing zills (finger cymbals) during fast songs. Patterns used most often are triplets, the military pattern and baladi.

Improvisational Dancing:
The style of ATS can be called cued improvisational dance, or improvisational choreography. ATS dancers will dance with a group of 2-4 dancers, sometimes backed by a chorus that uses simple move and which serves as a frame for the small group. The small group is set up with the leader in the front left hand position with the followers in formation behind, everyone angled slightly to the left corner to maximize visibility. When dancing the leader picks movements to execute and the followers know what moves are coming either by distinctive cues or because the beginning of a move is distinctive enough to tell the dancers exactly what is going on (i.e. the move is the cue). When the entire group knows the movements well the changes happen simultaneously giving a "flock of birds" appearance to the group. Leaders can change though line fades or circling. Some ATS groups will choreograph occasional performances, usually for a large stage, to give a dynamic look to a performance, though most choreographed pieces will still follow the ATS rules.

The Look:
One of the first things audiences members tend to comment on with ATS is the look. Like Old School tribal, ATS has a "fakeloric" look that has a feel of authenticity but is actually a fusion of many different styles from different cultures. The basic of ATS costuming are usually: turban or head wrap (many cultures, used to balance out the top and bottom of the dancer's silhouette), choli (open backed cropped blouse adapted from Indian clothing), coin bra (from American belly dance, often used for more "ethnic" flavored dance instead of sequined and beaded bras), pantaloons (based on salwar or other pants but styled differently than actual historical clothing), tiered skirts (adapted from multiple cultures), hip shawls/wraps (standard to belly dance), and sometimes tassel belts (not an actual or a rare clothing piece historically, adapted from horse and camel tassels and used to accentuate hip movements). Carolena has decided that is is the basis for the standard ATS costume, with some modifications allowed, such as mirror Indian cholis instead of a choli and bra combo, or more streamlined costumes for certain performances.

In addition to the distinctive costume there is the distinctive posture and carriage of ATS. Most belly dance starts from a strong neutral posture: head level, shoulders rolled back and down, chest lifted slightly, abs engaged, pelvis tucked slightly to protect the lower back, knees soft. ATS has a slightly higher lift to the chest, which lends a feeling often described as strength or pride and can create an illusion that the dancer is slightly arching the back. Arms are usually held at chest level or higher, with the elbows slightly bent; movement is generated from the shoulders through the elbows and hands to keep the arms strong. The gaze is level and outward, to enable followers to catch cues and move changes. Movements are usually danced flatfooted with some moves executed on the balls of the feet.

One point of contention within the belly dance scene has been the perception that ATS dancers do not smile while dancing. This is not generally not true. There are some groups that purposely cultivate a serious look, but Carolena has stated that ATS is meant to be a happy, joyful dance and dancers should be enjoying themselves and therefore convey this by smiling.

Overall, through the costume, posture and stylization, ATS aims to produce the feeling of the dancers as a cohesive unit. Dancers should move almost as one, and the costumes provide a colorful accent to the dancing.

So What Do We Do?
The members of Kallisti Tribal come from a variety of dance backgrounds. Lyra has training in classical western dance styles and Irish dance, personal family experience with Indian dance and has studied both tribal and non-tribal belly dance. Nora has trained in social partnered dance and multiple styles of belly dance. I have no dance back ground other than kids ballet and a semester of modern in college; my belly dance background has been primarily in tribal supplemented with classes in several cabaret styles. We met through one of Lisa Zahiya's classes, which was tribal group improv, based out of ATS but with some of the vocabulary reinterpreted and also supplemented with moves from other tribal improv styles or ones created by Lisa's dance troupe. ATS classes are new to the Baltimore area, and there are not many dancers doing strict ATS though this will probably change in the near future as current students start performing.

Over the past few years we have consciously decided to look back to our ATS roots for many reasons. First we feel that to dance tribal style we should have a strong base in the foundations of the dance. We also feel that ATS is just really cool and beautiful and we like to watch and dance it, and Carolena is a continuing source of inspiration to the troupe. Also, it's smart to look into not just the vocabulary of ATS but to the concepts (of presentation and form) that Carolena's developed because they look good and make sense, so why reinvent the wheel? None of us are ATS experts, but we are enjoying our continued studies in the style.

We've also kept some of the moves we learned from Lisa, some of which do not stick to the ATS rules. To this we've added moves or concepts we've picked up from other teachers and we've added things we've, to be honest, made up. Even when using established moves we sometimes change their execution to suit our tastes, but we always try to make sure that what we're doing looks cohesive. Also, though ATS does allow solos for dancers, we tend to do our solos in more fused tribal styles; we break out of the ATS vocabulary, will bring in more audience interaction, and will adopt more individual emotional expressions during solos. And if you ever see Kallisti dancers busting out a solo performance, don't be surprised. We are happy to support each other in our different dance endeavors, which include the occasional spot of solo dancing.

I recommend Sharon Moore's info site for a good synopsis of tribal styles; she is very knowledgeable and very passionate about this dance!

So, What Are We Teaching?
As I mentioned, we believe in Tribal Group Improv dancers having a strong background in ATS, because it is the source of our dancing. With that in mind, many of the basics we teach are straight from the ATS vocabulary, and we recommend students pick up the FCBD teaching videos (especially #1, 4 and 7) to supplement their home practice. Videos are an extremely helpful tool, though they can never solely substitute for feedback from a teacher. When we do teach something that is not strictly ATS we will make sure to tell you, and are happy to show the "traditional" variation. All three of us continue to study with local teachers and take workshops, so we will continue to bring in new information and inspiration from what we are learning in our own studies.

Also, though Kallisti does not currently dance with zills (as we were not taught to do so) we believe that all dancers should have basic zill abilities, so Amy will be introducing them in her class. We admit to being zill beginners, so we are learning right along with you and will be continuing our studies in order to present solid material to our students.

All of this information is, of course, just a taste of what is out there. I recommend students take some time and look into online resources, including the various groups on (the Tribal Style Bellydance, ATS, FCBD and ATS FAQ in particular), the forum discussion Bhuz (great info on music and various dance styles), and the North Beach series at The Gilded Serpent. But don't be just an armchair academic! Get out to watch dancing, whether at restaurants, shows or parties, and make sure to dance yourself, not only for practice but just for the fun of it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Elaboration: Fusion, performance and skill

I have been a part of a discussion on my personal journal regarding fusion performances. It was regarding an online video performance where the dancer, a beginner/intermediate level student, was dancing with a very dramatic prop and very non-BD/ME music in a fusion piece. I did not like the performance, because I found the prop to be distracting, and I thought that the prop and music choice were so dramatic that they took away from the performance because they emphasized not what the dancer can do but instead her limitations. That is, her prop and music did not contribute to the performance, but detracted from it.

I know that some of my future students and newer (to the) dance friends read my journal, so I wanted to clarify how where some of my opinions come from, and to emphasize that I am not bashing on newer dancers because they have less experience. Gods know my dance time is a mere blip of time compared to some dancers' long and rewarding careers, and I hope I get to keep dancing and keep growing. I admit I tend towards a more conservative view of belly dance. I love it for what it is, and I'd prefer if some of the crazier fusions going on would politely excuse themselves from the belly dance party and start hanging out in a different dance scene. With those points in mind, I'm going to expound of some of my thoughts.

* Dance honestly: Overall I am not fond of fusion that feels it is done just to do something different. It does not feel honest, it feels forced. There seems to be some kind of fusion one-upmanship going on where people are using weirder and weirder costumes, props and music that move further and further away from belly dance and into I don't know what. This movement doesn't feel genuine, it feels gratuitous.

* Match your ideas to your skills: I see dancers doing dramatic fusion pieces that are less effective because of their skill level. Does this mean dancers should never try new things, reach beyond their abilities in order to grow as artists? No. It means that when a dancer has a modest skill level but chooses to do a piece with dramatic costuming, props or music that over reach that skill level it can make the dancer look bad. Instead of the dancer's showing her strengths, the dramatic elements emphasize weaknesses. There can be stepping stones to a big dance idea, performances that build up until your skill level matches your dance plans and it all finally comes together. I have music and ideas I've had for a few years that I revisit to see, "Am I ready yet?" Some yes, some no. I don't want to waste my really cool idea on my current skill level, so I'm still holding it until I can pull that piece off. And I'm sure by that time I'll have something new I'm working towards.

* Teachers, you need to be honest too: On that note, I sometimes wonder if some of the dancers I see have teachers or mentors who are evaluating their students performances. I see some videos online that make me cringe at what people put on stage, and I ask myself, "Did her teacher not tell her that was a bad costume choice? Did her teacher not tell her that music was not good for that venue? Did her teacher not tell her she may want to work with that prop more before using it in a performance?." I feel sorry for these dancers because I hope teachers are putting their students on a stage looking and performing their best. My heart hurts for them. It's their moment to shine, whether it's a baby beginner hafla performance or a student about to go pro. Teachers can be tough and honest, but they also need to support their students. I don't see letting a student get on stage ill prepared, out of her league or way out of line as supportive. If my students come to me for help I hope I can evaluate them with fairness, tact and honesty. I want to encourage them and their creativity, but I also want to make sure they are growing into strong dancers. And I don't want anyone to cringe when they dance.

One of the best things ever said to me by a teacher of mine happened when I asked her what level she thought my class was at, and she said, "Advanced beginner". I'd been dancing for a few years and thought pretty highly of my skills. Her comment made me feel a bit deflated, but her evaluation wasn't mean. It was honest, and it made me committed to take an close look at my skills and then keep working on them. I knew that she always had my best interest at heart and that she wouldn't let us go out unprepared or unsupported.

* Sometimes you have to be encouraged to fly: Just a note to point out that I also think teacher's should push students who don't see that they are ready and prepared to take the next step in their dancing. That does not mean going pro. It means getting a student who is ready to finally do a solo, or to finally take the lead in group improv, or finally work on a dramatic piece to take that next step. Sometimes you have to push them out of the nest.

* Teachers are there for a reason, use them: On the flip side, students should be checking in with their teachers. This is what evaluations and private lessons are for, to work closely with your teacher. This can be anything from specialized classes to info on how to go pro or just brushing up your basics. I especially encourage students who want to start performing to run things by their teacher, as no teacher likes to find out a student is performing and the teacher had no clue what was going on (the dance scene is small, everyone eventually knows what everyone else is up to). Teachers have a lot of info to pass along about performance conduct, pricing, ethics, etc. Keep your teacher informed and I sure you will find yourself well supported for that next step.

So hopefully I have not bored or alienated anyone with my long opinionated list. I was lucky to have, and still have, supportive teachers around me. I also know what it is like to look back and think wow, I was not ready as a dancer to do what I just did. Thankfully I think there are no videos of those performances, because YouTube can be your friend or your enemy, one with a long long memory.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A very happy post

I am very happy to post this video of my teacher Lisa Zahiya. This is the same performance she did at Baltimore's Bellypalooza, and I'm happy I get to watch it again (and again and again). At around 4 minutes the camera changes so you get to see her up close.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Let me tell you what an exciting evening we're having around these parts! First there was dairy dinner (grilled cheese and ice cream), washed down with a (ginger) beer. Now I'm making song lists for the class I'm going to be teaching. Yes, teaching. One of my troupe mates teaches a beginning level Tribal Group Improv class but needs to take some time off this fall. I'm going to pick up the class while she's out. The hand off is happening a little faster than I expected, so I have been working on my notes for what I want to cover, drawing up a syllabus, and planning warm up/cool down sequences. Now I'm making up some starter playlists: Warm Up Music, Easy Steady Songs, Zill Tracks and Fun Music.

Of course, all of this is dependent on me having a place to teach. Unfortunately the studio may have a class planned for our usual slot. I would rather not go an hour later, as I have MY class I want to go to that evening. I'm worried about changing nights, Monday's have been a really good time. The location is perfect, near my house, not too downtown for the suburban students but also in the city for those who need it. I've been doing some intense online web searching and I started calling some possible space alternates. I also have to get liability insurance, but I don't want to shell out a couple of hundred dollars until I know I have the class set (and as some places require insurance in order to rent a space this could become a big Catch-22).

So we'll see how it goes. The class may have to get pushed a few weeks, but I'm hoping something works out. I'd hold class in my living room but it's hard to dance around the cats.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

It gets better, but you have to make it happen

My SO and I know a photographer/author/blogger/all around excellent and interesting person in Philadelphia by the name of Kyle Cassidy. He is currently working with Amanda Palmer from The Dresden Dolls on a new book project, which is being written my Neil Gaiman. Those two names involve a bit of "Squeeee!' in my brain, and I think about how cool it is that Kyle gets to meet, work with and befriend such interesting people. Kyle wrote about the experience today, and I want to highlight something from his post:

" ... then we hied back to Castle Amanda and climbed up through the cloud club, through a skylight, and onto the roof where the cool air washed over us and the city was wide open before us. i felt like i was a part of something grand. and not because of who i was with or what we were doing, but because i was alive and a great metropolis streatched before me like an awaiting tableau saying "write your life here" ... we climbed to the peak of the house and all sat in silence looking out for a while. the tempertaure was perfect.

"Since I left high school," I said, after a long, contemplative silence, "my life has been going up, and up, and up. I feel like every day is better than the one before."

"I'm happy," said Amanda, looking at me, and then out across the cool vastness, with a lone skyscraper in the distance as witness.

"Life is really wonderful," said Neil.

And sitting there, looking out over the rooftops of Boston, I thought about all the hard work -- all the crap I put up with in jr. high school -- from all those jerks who peaked in 11th grade and spent their time trying to come up with new ways to make me feel miserable, all the bad times, and how everything just seemed right now to be exactly where it should be. neil was right.

Life is really wonderful.

Work hard, believe in yourself, enable your dreams, seek out creative people. Hang on. Tenaciously. Always be a force for good. "

It's true. I've felt my life has been one climb upward since the miserable days of my adolescence. Personally I'm a lot happier than those days of aimless yearning to do something, ANYTHING! with myself. I've enjoyed the modest amount of notoriety I've achieved due to my life (from the knitting, fire and belly dancing). I haven't chased my happiness, but I've worked at it. Or really, I've worked at things I love and the happiness has unfolded from that work.

I want to print this out and hang it up and pass it along to everyone I know particularly the teenagers in my life who may need the reassurance that yes, life is amazing and it can surprise you, but you will have to put some blood, sweat and tears into it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

TGIT (Thank God It's Tribal!)*

I wrote this for my regular blog, to amuse my friends and show them what things we go though as dancers. Of course I have to repost it here.

This past weekend our friend Cathy hosted Zafira for 2 days of workshops. It was incredible. I've taken workshops with Maria and Olivia twice before, at Triboriginal in 2006 and 2007, and even though some of the material this weekend was familiar I still walked away with so much new knowledge, so much inspiration, and so much of my a$$ being kicked (in a good way). I love them. Or lurve them. Or luff. With two effs.

Saturday night was the gala show. Cathy scored the Theatre Project, which I feel was (physically) an awesome venue, even with the tiny backstage (and tinier backstage restroom, which really makes you understand the term "water closet"). There were a lot of people in attendance, and though it was not a dance crowd (i.e. very quiet while you danced) they were very receptive and appreciative. Also, very patient and gracious with the sound mess ups. I'll get to that in a second, but first:

The good: Piper rocking her solo even with the horrible sound, getting to finally see Sammati from the audience (go zills!), Piper and students dancing with drums!, Levialora's beautiful basket dance with live music, Naimah showing us her softer side and endless shimmies, the huge group improv set with baby dancers to seasoned pros all dancing together even though most of us have never danced together before, Shems' glittering veil solo, getting to dance with Lyra and knowing that no matter what happens we've got each other's backs, Mavi being an incredible sword goddess, and Zafira working an amazing spectrum of dance from a saucy vaudeville number straight through to heart meltingly romantic belly dance.

Now, let me tell you about the crazy parts!

I have this part under a cut on my other blog, titled "You thought we would stop dancing, but you were wrong"

There were sound problems all through the show, starting with some of the CDs not working during the sound check. Piper's music from her CD was barely audible, full of static and the sound person cut it early, who knows why!! The crew didn't seem to understand that Zafira wanted their music to start and then took their time turning it up loud enough. Even though the sound guy said our CD worked, I ran for my iPod during the intermission, which was good because the CD of music for the large group set wasn't working and I thankfully had let the practice playlist on the pod. I didn't trust our CD to work, and I was worried even with the pod.

At first, despite the crew not understanding "Bring up the music and lights at the same time", it went well. But then, well, here's what was going on in my head:

First song done! Why are the lights going down? We have another song. It rocks! What? Okay, we'll stand here. And smile. Smile more. What is this! Okay, I'll start to taqsim just to do something. Hey, people are clapping, and it's a 4/4. We can dance to this! This is okay! Maybe the music will be fixed! Wait, this could go on forever. Thank you Mab for wrapping that up. Standing. Fine, I'll go up into the booth. *hike up skirts, run up the steps, pull up the exact song we need (the performance was single tracked)* "Don't hit play until I get down there!" *climb back to the floor* "Brooke, you go first!" Man, I am out of breath, but smile! Uh, why is our first song playing again? Okay, we'll dance to it! These poor people. I am so hot and sweaty. My arms hurt. Hi Brooke, look at us dancing! Hello people in the front row, are you tired of me yet? Okay, that's over. Pose, smile. Why are the lights going down! *scowling* Sound guy: "There's only one song", Me: "It's single tracked!" Suddenly! Our second song! Yeah! But it's too low. Make turn it up motions. Both of us yell: LOUDER! Hey, there it is! Me: Shimmy shimmy shimmy! Brooke: Shimmy shimmy shimmy! Both of us: dance dance dance dance. Totally rock the ending! Pose! Applause! Smile! Bow! Walk off. Sweat, gasp, gulp water.

So yeah, have I told you lately about the glamorous world of belly dance? On the other hand, improv rocks my world!

*Tribal group improv, that is

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rings on her fingers, bells on her toes

Well, maybe not bells. Toe rings, for sure.

OK, I know it's a cliche, a belly dancer wearing toe rings. But seriously, when your poor feet take the abuse of practicing and performing* (not to mention normal wear and tear) it's nice to thank them with something pretty.

I bought my first (well, I may have had one as a kid) toe ring at Smile Herb Shop in College Park, MD soon after I started classes. It's just a plain silver band and I've been wearing it on my middle left toe ever since. Today I was at a local jewelry store and I picked up two more rings. One is a thick silver wire that has two curlicues on the topside with a small silver ball set in one curl. The other has two stylized almost paisley shaped curls decorated with chips of hematite. I'm wearing the silver wire one on my right middle toe, I'm saving the fancier one for . . . later? A special occasion? Something like that. Either way, this is one belly dancer cliche I'm happy to live up to.

* Just ask, I can tell you about what happened the first time I was leading our student troupe. It was a total "I should have known better" situation.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Performance Realization

I spent the weekend at a non-dance festival, hanging out, volunteering, listening to some great music, hooping a little bit, having a great time. I also had an interesting dance realization, regarding performance.

I prefer to (belly) dance in more formal situations.

Formal is the best word I can come up with, though it may not be the most accurate. Perhaps defined situations? Either way, some friends were performing at the festival and months ago had invited me to "sit it" (dance in?) for a song during the set. With planning for the weekend and costuming things and running around all weekend I didn't really do that, though I did jump around and get down a bit during some of their sets. I was totally happy to dance around but realized I was feeling well, shy might be the best word to use, or hesitant, about getting all belly dancer-y down during their set. So I had to think about this a bit.

I don't know if this comes from my inherent personality shyness* or from my experience as a dance performer, but I think I really like to have a definite idea of what's going on when I dance. Even in situations such as the DCTribal Holiday Hafla or the D.C. Jalsah it's a little hard for me to get up and belly dance. Sometimes I feel too, "I'M A BEAUTIFUL BELLY DANCER! LOOK AT MEEEEEE!". Or I wonder if the musicians really want me to be up there. Or I feel like I'm hogging the limelight. Or I feel slightly off, which my troupe mate pointed out may be that I'm feeling the lack of official belly dancer drag that we put on for a performance. If I'm dancing with my partners I start to think, "Are we taking up too much room? Too much attention? Putting the focus on us too much? Can't stop thinking AHHHHHH!" I also think I get super sensitive to the fact that not everyone likes belly dance and I don't want anyone thinking, "Would she just stop and sit the hell down?".

On the other hand, if someone wants me to dance and we arrange it I can show up in my dance drag and have a bit of a clue of what's going on and if I feel like I belong there and it's okay that I'm taking up people's attention then it's totally fine. I will dance and smile and make eye contact and shimmy around, even when I am alone and missing the back up of my troupe mates. The stage is set, I am there as a part of what's going on, I feel appropriate and pulled together and in the right head space and it's fun and even if I'm nervous it's okay. And if anyone doesn't like what I'm doing than tough!

So if I'm at some event and there's great music and everyone else is busting out a shimmy or some snake arms or something on the dance floor and I'm not, it's not because I don't want too or don't like the music, I just feel weird. And if someone asks me if I'd like to maybe dance along with their music or DJ-ing or whatever I have to figure out a way to say sure, but I need to have it be in a performance based way or else I feel like an attention hogging ass.

Just to make it more confusing, if I'm at a non-BD dance party or club or something I am out there shaking my butt all over the dance floor, and I'll even dance when no one else will. I didn't say this all made sense, it just is.

* Yes, I am shy, you can stop protesting now. Wonder why I talk about my cats so much? Can't think of anything else to say. Why, when I do start talking, I have trouble stopping? Total brain freeze freak out and can't shut up, breathe or let anyone else get a word in edgewise. Talk to you without ever introducing myself? Forgot such social cues as, "Hello, my name is ___ and I'm glad to meet you." Use very animated facial and hand gestures? Hamster wheel is the brain is going a thousand miles a minute.

ETA: New thought. I am a control freak! Maybe that's why I worry so much

ETAA: Ah, I think I may have thought of something. It's doing versus thinking. In an organized dance situation I know what I have to do and I do it. OK, it isn't that utilitarian, but that's a nice summary. In a less organized situation I have to think too much about what I'll do, how to do it, etc. and then I start over thinking and then I'm so in my head I can't dance.

Discussing with another dancer in my livejournal about dancing with a group versus solo made me stumble upon this thought. Dancing tribal group improv with people I already know what I'm doing and how to do it and it's pretty easy. Dancing solo is new for me and I still over think it and worry, which is why I'm currently taking classes with a someone who teaches solo style dancing because I need to work on that weakness.

Hmm, that's a lot of thinking for today, maybe I'll need to watch some Youtube videos later, maybe that Engineer's Guide to Cats one.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Stupid injury

I think I sprained the middle finger on my left hand hoola hooping last week. I was doing a lot of off the body hooping and corkscrews up and down; after class Monday the knuckle was sore. Then Wednesday I spent an hour hooping in the park and now my finger hurts down into my hand. I'm going to ice it when I get home; since hoop class is over for a little while I'll take it easy practicing for a while.

Speaking of, I found these tutorial videos at, and I'm going to give her knee hooping tutorial a try this week.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

New dance crush

I've developed a new dance crush. No, I'm not going to give up on my old crushes, I have space for many of them. My new one is on n.o.madic tribal. I've been aware of them for awhile, and I love Ali's intelligent and thoughtful posts on various groups, but I'd never sat down and watched a bunch of their videos. I love what they are doing both with their ATS-derived improv (and how they've made it their own) and the choreographies they create (which keep the feeling of the improv while allowing for more ambitious staging). Here's a clip:

I also love how they bow to each other at the end, we should honor our dance partners!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Holy S!$t!!!! She won!

My friend, fabulous dancer and beloved teacher won Bellydancer of the Universe: Tribal Dancer!!!!! I am so proud of her!

Hey Lisa? Can I touch you next time I see you? Can I get your autograph? OK, I kid!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

You go get 'em!

I just want to send out some love and support to Lisa Z who is headed out to California this weekend. You rock!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Not a safe sport

This week I:

* Have bruises on the back of both hands from hand hooping in my Monday hooping class
* Have a bruise on the top of my head from troupe practice, where we've finally started working with swords. I have the huge Cas Iberia scimitar, and even with a scarf on my head it dug into my scalp.

Note to self: fingerless gloves for hoop class, thicker scarf for sword practice

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Meal time!

Doesn't every dancer need a delicious and healthy pre-performance meal of bologna and butter on wheat bread with a side of chips? The post dancing reward will be falafel from the awesome place down the street from where we're dancing.

OK, time to go fight with my hair!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Squealing fangirl!

Have I mentioned how much I love my teacher, Lisa Zahiya? If I had seen this in person I think by the end of this I would have been screaming, "Yes, yes, YES!!!". I recommend letting the entire thing load before watching, so it's (for YouTube) in synch.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Reductio ad Envelopium*?

or, Godwin's Law of Belly Dance Discussions:

As an online belly dance forum discussion about dance styles grows longer, the probability of the invocation of the term "pushing the envelope" approaches one

"For example, there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis (ed: or has used the term "pushing the envelope" to justify their belly dance performance choices, even bad ones) has automatically "lost" whatever debate was in progress. This principle is itself frequently referred to as Godwin's law. It is considered poor form to raise such a comparison arbitrarily with the motive of ending the thread. "

This may also be seen with the phrase "But I'm an artist I can do (fill in the blank with whatever action is being justified)", and may be followed by the phrase, "You just don't understand" or "You're just jealous".

*Please excuse my dog Latin.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Class time!

Well I was planning on signing up for some dance classes this week, but instead I'm taking a six week hula hooping class. Poor me! I've already hooped a little and I have a one my SO and I made and a custom one I comissioned from a local hooper. The class was great, and I've already picked up a few new things. I don't know if this will help my dancing, but it's great exercise and it's FUN.

I'm also going to drop in on some classes. One is a Level I in a local teacher's method and one is an Intermediate level solo tribal fusion class. Of course, things being the way they are, all three classes are on Monday nights, hooping at 5:15 p.m., Level I at 7 p.m. and Tribal at 8:30 p.m.. I am obviously not cooking dinner Monday nights.