Last year some dance friends and I started tossing around the idea of putting together a tribal (mostly improv) show for the 20th Anniversay of the Spoutwood Farm Fairie Festival. This is the place where I first saw tribal bellydance, and I was eager to find a way to honor that inspiration and my 10th year volunteering at the festival. Talis (who introduced me to the festival) and Jenn of Lilam were also interested in pulling something together, both because it would be fun to dance at such an amazing event and because we'd already be there volunteering, so why not?
We met in December to draft a proposition email to send out to dancers we wanted to work with, and everyone started getting together in February. We pulled 10 dancers from 5 troupes (and 1 soloist) to work up three 40 minute sets for 2 days, featuring large group ATS pieces, solos, small group improv or choreographed pieces, and general dancing with the crowd. It was incredibly fun and an incredible amount of work. Just getting everyone fully on the same ATS page was tough, then picking music, putting the sets together, agreeing on costumes, finding places to dance (we could only get one stage slot so we did "ground" sets too), and making sure everyone arrived at the right time and place became a logistical nightmare. Plus the three of us were managing our own volunteer duties and two of us had wrangle out camping gear too. Thankfully everyone was very professional, and we had some great shows.
For the festival we used the name "The Faerie Ring Dance Collective", and our bio read:
Inspired by the spirt of collective creativity manifested at Spoutwood
Farm and the Fairie Festival, the Faerie Ring Dance Collective brings
together 10 dancers (from 5 troupes and 1 soloist!) to createperformances imbued with passion, fun, and friendship. Grounded in
group improvisational tribal style bellydance, FRDC weaves together
our various styles into a magical expression of the joy of dance.
The full Saturday afternoon stage set (I am in the group pieces, the fast dueling duets, and the basket piece with the rest of Kallisti Tribal).
Youtube has the Saturday afternoon ground set and the stage set divided into different pieces. I'm in the group pieces and with Kallisti doing "Amel" with zills. Oh, the tricky stops and starts! Oh the tricky soundsystems! The first part of the ground set is here and the first part of the stage set is here. I think there are nine videos per set. Sadly we have no video of the Sunday set, which happened under a tent were we sheltered from the rain. It was crazy, it was muddy, and it was magical. Those are always the performances that you miss filming!
You'll notice that the name listed for the performance is Transcendence Tribal. That's because this one-off plan has turned into a perma-project. We decided to keep going because we like dancing together, we like have the opportunity to do big group ATS, and it's nice having such a large group to pull from for certain performances. All of the individual members are keeping with their solo or troupe projects too, but we plan to get together once a month to hang out and dance, and then add more practice time as needed. We've also added three more ATS dancers, but we're going to hold it there for the time being to keep things manageable.
Our next performance was at Troupe 'Hip'notic's Summer Solstice Hafla. This hafla is a lot of fun, as it's a community event with all experience levels celebrating the summer and dancing. I particularly enjoyed Tribal Remix's passionate fan veil piece, and Cypress's sword duet. Post-hafla we retired to an after party and caught up with dancers we NEVER get enough time to see. Kallisti Tribal has long considered 'Hip'notic to be a sister troupe, after bonding backstage at a Tribal Pura show. That night's discussion of "the things you do in practice that would get you kicked out of the local bellydance scene if you did them in performance" was an inspiration for the Inappropriate Hafla. For the Solstice hafla, Jenn and Spiral were both feeling awful. I am incredibly proud of both of them for holding their own while under the weather, especially considering they danced again that day with Lilam. I really liked dancing this performance, I felt very connected to the troupe which can be hard for me as I tend to think two steps ahead.
Next up was Baltimore Pride. We rounded up a big group to put on a show for the last set of the day at the Pride festival. As soon as we started a handful of people rushed the stage, and danced along the entire time. It was tough doing an outside gig in Baltimore City in the summer (hot! humid!), but we had a great time and the organizers were really happy with our set. If we do it again I hope we have time to do some "dancing with the crowd" songs to round things up. I'll admit, I felt pretty special at the festival, people kept stopping us to take pictures. It reminds me of how what we (BDers) do is really unusual if you're not embedded in the bellydance culture. Also, a bunch of women in ATS costuming is an impressive spectacle. After the performance we high tailed to a bar near my house for well deserved beers, burgers, and salted caramel and bacon cupcakes. Mmmm mmmm.
Our last three for three performance (I had eyelash glue stuck to my eyes for three weeks straight) was at the long running DCTribal Cafe. 6 years ago Belladonna and Mavi (then of Romka, now both dancing as soloists in DC) started this as a professional once-a-month event for tribal and fusion performance. Kallisti was supposed to dance but Oneira had to travel for work. We subbed in Transcendence, and I'm really happy we got to dance the last show at Tribal Cafe's long time location (it's continuing next month at a new spot down the street). It is always tricky dancing there as the space is long, super skinny, and you have three areas you can lead to as well as some people standing behind you. You have to keep your face "on" the entire time, and remember not to stare at yourself in the wall of mirrors behind the main part of the audience. Because of the space challenge, every performance at TC feels like doing it for the first time, and I'm really happy with how the group (six of us) made it work especially considering two of the dancers had never performed there before! We came in with the FCBD Prayer and Lyra's awesome BSG Gayatri Mantra remix, split into duets (which let some of us use non-ATS combos since the song had tricky changes) for the second song, moved to slow dueling duets, and then finished with small groups to the whole troupe for a fast finale (with planned zill changes that were NOT ALL TRIPLES! YAY!).
So that's been the past few months. Right now Kallisti is planning the 5th (already!) Inappropriate Hafla (sign up at our website), and TT is down to once a month practices until the Next Big Thing (possible DC neighborhood festival in September). I'm still taking classes with Shems here in Baltimore, though soon I want to start dropping on in Lotus Niraja's new classes. In August I'll be taking workshops with Lisa Zahiya when she visits town, as well as a day of classes with Amel Tafsout (again, yay!). For July, though, most of us have relaxed our dance obligations a bit. We deserve it!