Tuesday, November 02, 2010


I have been on vacation this week. To you, that may not be odd. To me, it's very very weird. I tend to not go on vacation, or, not on normal vacations. I'm a bit of a homebody. I've traveled for dance events. I went to Triboriginal three years in a row (and man, I LOVE me some Asheville, NC!). I think I'm going to hit Tribal Con in 2011. My boyfriend and I used to attend regional Burning Man events on a regular basis. But in the 8 years we've been together we've never taken an extended vacation together where we not only had no plans to participate in a planned event at our destination, but also were staying in a hotel. This changed because my parents booked us a week in New Orleans, using a week of their RCI time to get us a hotel room. We just had to get ourselves back and forth and take care of our other expenses. Thank you Mom and Dad!

We're finding we're not so good at the vacation thing, though. When left with days of unplanned time, we kind of wander around. New Orleans is pretty awesome; I'd been here in my early 20s and it's nice to come back as less of a sullen goth kid, and as more of an appreciative adult. But a lot of what there is to do is eat, drink, and wander around. My boyfriend and I excel at these activities, but also have had a certain amount of, "So, ah, what do we do now?" going on.

Luckily I have had the opportunity to take workshops with Ali of n.o.madic tribal the past three summers. Because I'm a slacker I didn't get to emailing her about our trip until the week we left, but Ali generously sent me an list of things to do/see/eat. She also picked me up Monday and brought me out to her class, where her students generously welcomed me and two other travelers (one also a dancer and one curious newbie) to the class.

It was wonderful, amid the feelings of dislocation caused by travel, to have the touchstone of a dance class. It was not my usual class, but because I've studied with Ali before it was familiar. What was also familiar, and comforting, was the routine of getting to class, warming up, working on new moves and reviewing old ones, stretching out and thanking my classmates for the experience. Everyone was sweet and I got to recommend my old teacher Lisa Zahiya's classes to a student who is headed to Asheville, NC.

So thank you Ali and thank you to my temporary classmates for giving me a much needed moment of normalcy in the fun but unsettling experience that is vacationing! I wish I could have been there for the entire class series, the small taste I got definitely made me want more. Have fun at your hafla this weekend!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Life updates and video!

Man, this year went from busy, to crazy, to OMFG when do I get a break! After buying and moving into the house, J and I decided sure, we could TOTALLY host the 4th Annual Kallisti Tribal Inappropriate Hafla! Thus began the 6 week scramble to get the house guest ready, which included shoving things in closets the night before the party.

The hafla was wonderful! The weather was gorgeous, the performances inspired, we packed at least 50 people in our backyard, the neighbors didn't seem to care about the yelling , and some guys in the house behind ours pulled up chairs to enjoy the show. The evening ended with a handful of us hanging out in the backyard and eventually having pizza and wings delivered. It was a great housewarming-ish party. I'm posting videos and a write up below, but there is one more thing going on.

18 months ago I lost my job managing a local cafe and home goods store when it closed. 9 of us from the business stayed in touch, purchased the cafe equipment, and started planning a worker-owned cafe for Baltimore. After a lot of planning, hard work, worrying, and help from our friends, Charmington's opened Friday. The name is a combo of the names of the neighborhoods we straddle, offered to us by a friend who has always wanted to use it for a business. The reception has been fantastic! We're riding the wave of a successful opening, and digging in for the work that is ahead of us. The idea is to serve awesome coffee and light fare, sourcing local and organic ingredients whenever possible. We also want to be a place for the community, and we're already had groups meeting up and knitters hanging out.

Right now most of us also have day jobs or are in school, so on top of my 9-5 I also have an evening/some weekends thing going on. My Tuesdays (troupe practice, now at my house to save money) and Thursdays (class) are non-cafe days, but other than that I am juggling dance events and weekend shifts. I want to have some other dance oriented things at my place. I have thoughts of video nights in front of the fire, and back yard music jams. I also, it seems, must be thinking I can live on no sleep or create an extra few hours to the day! On top of all of this, Kallisti Tribal's 5th Anniversary is this winter and we're thinking about holding a really big party. 5 years in bellydance time is like dogs years, right? We've seen troupes come and go in that time, but we're still hanging in there!

Anyway, to hold you over until my next post I am pasting in my review of the hafla, with videos. This was written for non-dance friends, which is why I explain some things. Hope you enjoy the silliness!

* * * * * *

Ah yes, the evidence.

Kallisti Tribal reveals our true nature, including Justin getting in touch with his inner pretty pretty princess. I highly recommend watching this one on Youtube, so you can read the biography written by my troupe mate Lyra.

Flissy, from my troupe, is also a one half of Verve Tribal. Here they spoof the current "fusion" trend of costuming and stage antics that make you look like a drunk saloon girl. Which some people do on purpose. Priceless. Also, at the very end? Flissy is doing a legitimate move (sometimes called a Berber Walk). A dancer to the very end!

Troupe 'Hip'notic clued us all in to their piece before the hafla. I just wish the video was better because what made it, beyond the costuming and dancing, was their facial expressions. Since this went online Leslie Hall contacted them to let them know she loves it. The white shirts say: Vessel Of Shimmy

One troupe Rick Rolled us. Another did one of their sword choreographies except with phallic paper mache "eggplants" (a play on their name). I missed the who soloist did a great belly dancer inside joke, coming out to greet her adoring crowd to a famous dancer's entrance music (ed. Nagwa Fouad), then promptly skipping to the exit music and wafting off stage. A former Kallisti member steamed up the place dancing to this hideous song called "Lick". I promptly fell out laughing, as she had played it for me once and it was awful. Her dancing was impeccable through it all! There was inappropriate American Tribal Style to metal with punchy hands, and then crazy hats. Not one but TWO Freddie Mercury tributes. A kitty cat dance to Primus' "Tommy the Cat". Sassy blues bellydance. A five minute extended fart joke. I cannot for the life of me remember Lyra's solo music except that it was total rock and she downed an entire bottle of beer while in a partial layback (ed. it was "More Than a Feeling"). Our Femcee did a fantastic time introducing the acts, including riffing on both the bios and the performances. I think I may be forgetting some of them, but it was a big happy blur, made more so by the 7 of us who stayed up late finishing the beer in the cooler (and a flask of rum and a small bottle of Pikeville's Finest). It was truly a great time. Plans are already afoot for next year.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Where have I been?

Where have I been? Buying a house! My awesome parents decided to give me a chunk of change and tell me to get busy buying a house while the interest rates are good. So I spent March - May looking, hoping and freaking out about ever finding a home I liked and could afford. And then I found one! The buying process was tough but I had a great Realtor and a supportive cast of friends, some of whom helped us move this past weekend (THANK YOU!).

Some things I wanted in a house were wood floors for dancing, with the bonus of having space to hula hoop indoors. OK, and radiator heat, a nice big front porch, and a kitchen that was either spacious or open to a dining area. Well, I got all of it! And not only is the living room large, it's large enough to be our interior performing space for the Inappropriate Hafla, if need be! The house is a foursquare, and at some point the wall between the living and dining room was taken out so it's one big room. I mean, not immense but a nice size for a hundred year old house in a leafy urban neighborhood, without being some huge, hard-to-heat, space-wasted-on-two-people kind of place. Here is a picture, with the foyer and front door behind and to the left of the camera, looking down the space to the fireplace that was added in the mid-1970s. Blogger is being a PIA, but you can see the first set of pictures over here.

So now I'm living in a house full of boxes and Very Concerned Cats, but eventually that will clear out and I'll be back to practicing and classes. This weekend I'll be taking my third workshop with Ali of n.o.madic tribal (and maybe an ATS workshop with Megha money and time permitting), and I need to get back to my classes, and there is a hafla to plan. To the dancing!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

4th Annual Inappropriate Hafla!

Naima totally reminded me that we picked a day for our 4th Annual Inappropriate Hafla! It will be Labor Day weekend on Saturday September 4th. We wanted it to be over the summer but August is full of Pennsic, Charm City Tribal, Bellypalooza and Amel Tafsout, July is full of Tribal Synergy workshops and vacations, and June was just too close to everything else. Hopefully we'll have a good turn out, considering it's a holiday weekend. Also, we may have a new venue. We all LOVE Lyra's big yard but the possible new venue has an indoor performance space option if the weather turns against us.

So, dancers, start your engines! What craziness will you bring to the table this time?

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Being here, now

Yesterday I headed down to the southern part of our state to attend Troupe 'Hip'notic's annual Summer Solstice Hafla. The Hafla is a gathering of dancers, friends and family who get together to socialize, perform, and welcome in the summer months (which for many of us are dance intense!). Kallisti was not dancing, though Flissy performed with her other troupe Verve Tribal (a fun ATS piece to a Gogol Bordello song). We saw all sorts of dancing, different styles and skill levels, as the idea is for everyone to get together and have fun and enjoy themselves. There as an after party at Becca's house, with dance talk and good food and cute dogs and Becca's awesome new dance studio. The only problem is that 'Hip'notic is based 1 1/5 hours away from where I live, so we don't get do hang out more often.

As the show started I had this realization that I would not have wanted to be anywhere in the world at that moment but there, at that hafla, watching those dancers and hanging out with people I love. I had this sudden overwhelming feeling of being so fortunate to be doing what I am doing with the people I am doing it with. I was incredibly peaceful. Dance can be stressful. I worry about doing a good job, learning new things, finding the time and money to do what I want, trying to get people to appreciate what we do. Sometimes the fact that most of the dance scene is "for dancers, by dancers" can be frustrating when you wish a wider audience would take note of what's going on. Not that I don't like that aspect of belly dance! No, I love it, but sometimes it can be annoying.

At that moment yesterday, though, I was perfectly happy to be a part of one area belly dance scene at one of our regular local events, cheering on the dancers, being inspired and entertained. Seeing beautiful people dressed up in their gorgeous costumes, having a good time doing something they love? Isn't that a sight we should see more often?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It changes how you look at everything

There is a flyer taped to a utility pole on my street, advertising a local "repair collective" of licensed, skilled workers who are available to hire for all sorts of repairs and jobs. While talking up their skills they also add the extra enticement of low rates, which they describe as undercutting the rates of their competitors.

Whoa, wait, undercutting?

If you've been in the belly dance scene for more than five minutes you've heard the stories of dancers losing gigs and other dance opportunities when another dancer, sometimes talented and sometimes not, comes along and offers to perform at a lower rate than the established performer. It's ugly. It's stupid. If you really are dying to dance go check out your local shows and haflas before stealing another dancer's job and performing for peanuts. One day you might be looking at the situation from the other side of the equation.

Though I know competitive pricing is all a part of running a business, it still made me stop to see the word undercutting used so casually. Hell, used with pride! I've been conditioned to think of undercutting as a sign of bad quality and clueless or malicious behavior. Perhaps this repair collective is made up of a bunch of wonderful, talented, hardworking people but their advertising language really turned me off. Something like "Give us a call and ask about out competitive hourly rates!" would have been a much more positive way to say, "We work for cheap!". And as someone who is about to buy a house, I am all about the cheap but not at the sake of quality and not if it screws other people out of a job.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Some more performance video

This past weekend Flissy and I danced as part of a neighborhood art festival in Baltimore. We've been renting space from the neighborhood dance school for the past year, and before that our studio as at their previous incarnation in another part of town. We really like working with them and were happy to do a short performance as a part of their dance showcase. We shared the stage with tiny tap dancers, a capoeira group, and an amazing pop and lock artist.

I'm posting the middle and last song of our set, please excuse the low volume in the last song. If you follow the video back to Youtube you'll see the first part of the set, where Flissy and I had a moment of zill fumbling. We've only been working on zills for about 6 months so I'm pretty proud we're doing so well!

Monday, March 08, 2010

The ATS Mixer

One thing I have heard about ATS, since my first class, was how once you know the common dance language you are able to dance with any other ATS dancers without ever having met them before. When Carolena reclaimed the term ATS a few years back that was one of the big points, having one common movement language for the style, so that it really could be performed by a group of technical strangers (united by their dance).

With this in mind, my troupe decided to put our money where our mouth is and host a mixer. So many of us spend our time in classes or performance prep, dancing with the same (lovely) people and working on the technical aspects of our dancing. The mixer is a relaxed, informal dance get together where we'll set up the space and music and you, the ATS dancers, come to dance and play together. Put that common movement vocabulary to good use and get moving with other ATS lovers, strangers and friends alike. We hope to make this a regular event, so locals please come out and support us!

The Electric Maid ATS Mixer
March 14th 3pm - 6pm
268 Carrol Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20012
(in Takoma Park)
suggested donation: $8

The Mixer is a low-key event for dancers to flex their improv muscles outside of
class or performance, in an intimate, sharing community arts venue. No pressure,
no recital, no judgement, no costumes. Dancers should come prepared to freely
improv with others based on their comfort level in American Tribal Style (ATS)
as established by Fat Chance Bellydance (FCBD).

Note about the dance space - bring dance shoes, the floor is a little rough. And don't forget to spring forward the night before so you're not late!

More details at www.kallistitribal.com

RSVP at the facebook event:

PS: if you throw in a non-ATS move we won't kick you out, we promise!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kallisti Tribal Sunday February 28th, 2010

This weekend we'll be dancing at one of our favorite events, DC Tribal Cafe! There's more info at our web page. It kind of blows my mind that this will be the 4th year we've performed there. It's a fun and challenging event. You dance for a lot of your peers and some of your teachers in a small, narrow, bar space that can be packed to the rafters with an enthusiastic audience. It can be both gratifying and shocking to be right up next to people, getting lots of live feedback, all while negotiating a space that seems to have simultaneously no or a multitude of "stage" fronts with which to orient yourself . It's tough and a ton of fun.

The night before Charm City Tribal hosts it's Bloody Heart's Ball one year anniversary show! I'm really proud of this group and all they've accomplished. You can catch Kallisti member Flissy at the BHB as part of the dance duo Verve Tribal, and soloist Samantha Hegre will be at both events too. Other members of Kallisti will be relaxing and letting our hair down for the evening.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2 (video) reviews

I have been exercising my Netlix account late (or, if you're my SO, hogging the Netflix) and picked up two videos for getting my butt in gear: Every Shimmy in the Book with Bozenka and Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred. I figured someone else might find my thoughts on the videos to be helpful, so here are my reviews.

A quick note to start. I feel that neither of these videos are good for total movement beginners. It's good to have a basic knowledge of proper posture, how to keep your back flat when bending over in movements, how to keep your core engaged, all things you learn in a basic dance or fitness class. Jillian does give some pointers in her video, reminding you not to bend your knee over or toes, not to collapse your ankles and other simple instructions. Bozenka does not really get into any pointers on form, so it's good to have at least a basic idea of safe posture and movement for belly dance.

Now, I really wanted to like the Bozenka DVD. I've only seen videos of her online but I really like her dancing and yes, her shimmies are wonderful. Unfortunately this video does not do her justice, not her dancing and, I'm assuming, not her teaching. It's labeled as every shimmy in the book but it only touches on a small handful of shimmies possible. What's worse, though, is that she doesn't really explain any of the shimmies. She demos a shimmy, sort of breaks it down, does it slow, speeds up very quickly and then there is a bit of practice time but not a whole lot. There are no detailed break downs, no tips. There is no practice section where you go from one shimmy to the next. There is not much in the way of discussing the way the shimmies happen, anatomically. Each shimmy is presented in the same manner and the whole thing feels very dry. There is also a drum solo performance with her and Issam, and though it's lovely I wish BDSS had sprung for a little extra production budget because the camera angle in part of the performance shows the lights and back stage area and really? Do a couple of takes! Actually, the whole DVD felt like the production was rushed and on a tight budget, which made me realize that the one other BDSS instructional video I own, Rachel Brice's first, was very well made. Summary: I wanted to like this, and if you can check it out for free I would do so, but I wouldn't spend any money on it. The top review at the Amazon page pretty much says it all for me.

Next, the video I didn't want to like. Why? I hate exercising. I do enjoy being active and getting exercise through my hobbies or daily activities, but I do not like focused work out time. Unfortunately I have a desk job, so I need focused work out time. I ditched my gym membership when I lost my job last year, not that I ever used it enough because going to the gym to spend 40 minutes on the elliptical staring at a wall while I went no where was not my thing. What do I like? Hiking. And dance class.

Anyway, I know I need to add more activity to my life and I know I need to do it in small steps so I don't get frustrated and give up. At about the time I admitted this fact I read this helpful post at the blog Not Martha. As a side note, I almost want to get back on the elliptical if that means I get to Netflix Gilmore Girls. Taking the post to heart I rented the 30 Day Shred video and, hey! I kind of like it! I admit, I've never watched The Biggest Loser so I have no idea how Jillian acts on that show. On the video she's encouraging but also no nonsense. If you want to get somewhere while working out you need to apply yourself, and she says that straight up. I liked her attitude, the quick pace of the workout, that there are modifications for some of the moves, and that there's a progression to the video. At about the moment where I'm thinking, "Bored bored BORED!" it's over.

Now, I'm still on Level 1 as I'm not a consistent exerciser, but here are some things I've read and that I do to change up what's on the video. I warm up a little before I start, by jogging in place, or else my calves are not ready for the jump rope moves. I do not pause in the warm up but keep moving during her explanations. There is a lunge/squat move with curls that I rarely do because of my knees; instead I do the curls with squats. I don't do the jumping jacks, I know my form is awful and I don't want to hurt myself, so I jog during that section. I pull my punches a bit so I don't overextend my shoulders. I take 3-4 times as long to stretch out at the end, targeting trouble spots on my body that I need to address. When I move up I'll follow the advice of a review I read where the reviewer goes up through the levels, then on the next round ups the dumbbell weight to get a better work out. I think as I progress I may pick to sub in some moves in places as I find what I like.

Now do I think this video alone will make me look like Jillian? Hell no! But I know that some activity is better than no activity so I feel it's a really good starting place for me. This video is totally worth the money and I plan on buying it soon so I can send my Netflix version back for some other budding athlete to check out.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Snow Asana

I live in Baltimore, and as some of you may know we got one hell of a snowstorm Friday and Saturday. I spent 2 hours shoveling out my car today, and that means I don't have to do my exercise video! That also means I'm going to be achy and sore tomorrow even though I popped some ibuprofen. Thankfully Flissy posted Asana Practice for Snow Shovelers! Thank you Flissy! I'm going to give it a shot, though not right now because I am full of dinner and am not fond of the full tummy + yoga combo. Hopefully some of you in snowy climates will find this post to be helpful!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Product Reviews

Picked up some MAC Fluidline eyeliner in Blacktrack, knowing that Toya gives it her stamp of approval. Love it! I had a different gel eyeliner that I liked but the color was too light for performance wear (a black raspberry color). The Fluidline is so easy to put on, smooth and not out of control. I use a long fine tipped brush as I can control it better than a little stumpy applicator. I love that I can easily make a cat's eye tail on my liner, and if I mess up it doesn't dry so fast I can't fix it easily. Thumbs up!

For my birthday I was given a tin of Madame Scodioli's Fiji Mermaid Natural Clay Mud Mask. I've used it a few times and it really seems to do . . . something to my face. Get gunk out of my pores and tighten things up, it seems. The only downside is that it smells like seaweed, so today I put a dap of Vick's vapor rub under my nose to counteract the smell.

Finally Noralita picked up a tube of Lipstick Queen Medieval for me. This is a very sheer pale red lip product. It's lighter than a lipstick or stain but not as shiny as a gloss. The tint is barely there but it sticks around because the base is nice and creamy. I love this as my work lip product because I feel like I have a little more color without worrying about reapplying my lipstick. I have but am not crazy about Burt's Bee's tinted lip balms because they are minty and that makes me feel like my lips are drying out, so for me the extra bonus is it has almost no smell or taste. Noralita's been loving the Chinatown Gloss pencil in Mystery. Medieval was also one of Toya's recommendations, and let me say she is always right!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Getting back in one of my grooves

I decided that it's about time to get off my butt and get back in the groove of my One More Tiny Choice Things (see tags and past posts for full info). On that note, I'm going to institute Meatless Mondays, inspired by my friend Barbara at Tigers & Strawberries. I'm actually going to really aim for not just meatless but also vegan meals, though I reserve the right to make it happen not on Mondays but on whatever day seems like the best for the week.

We didn't make it all vegan yesterday, as lunch was left over bacon and bean soup, but I did make a delicious dinner with leftovers for today. I made the lentil salad out of Veganomicon; I was skeptical at first but it is crazy good. With it I made a macaroni casserole from the Whole Foods Recipe App. It's like mac & cheese except it uses coconut milk, butternut squash and sage. Next time I'll maybe spice the bread crumbs on top (paprika?) and double the sage. I like intense flavors. It's amazingly creamy and very much a comfort food.

The meatless meals are coming hand in hand with my attempt to start exercising again (more about that later) and an all around decision to try to be more conscious of how I am living my life (more later on that too). It isn't hard, I just have to DO it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ATS Classes In Baltimore - Winter 2010

My troupe mate Flissy will be starting her ATS Belly Dance classes tomorrow night in Baltimore City. I hope I can drop in on them occasionally because I know I could use the work!

American Tribal Style (ATS) Bellydance Classes

Expressions in Motion, 756 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21230
Wednesdays 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
6-week session begins Wednesday, January 13th
$84 session
$17 drop-in
To register, contact me to pay by check or cash. Or you can register via PayPal: http://omchantress.com/

Tribal bellydance is a fun and empowering dance form that creates camaraderie among women, celebrates the feminine form, and builds core strength. This class will be specific to American Tribal Style (ATS) as established by Fat Chance Bellydance. ATS utilizes non-verbal cues to allow a group of dancers to improvise and dance together in the moment.
Over six weeks, you will learn basic tribal bellydance posture and movements, as well as the cues and formations to dance in a group improvisationally. Each week will also include drills and conditioning as a foundation to build the strength and flexibility to execute movements safely and gracefully. Other topics, such as costuming, dance history, and music appreciation will be presented.
No dance experience is necessary. Please wear comfortable, close-fitting attire, and a quiet hip scarf (no coins) if you like.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Tribal Pretties

Just want to give a heads up to let you know that Chris of Verve Tribal is currently updating her etsy shop with beautiful, tribal belly dance inspired jewelry creations. Head over to Sihaya Designs to check them out!