Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dance is where the heart is

It felt soooo good to go to dance class tonight! The moment I entered the room I felt the wonderful warmth of the room and the women in it. It really is true that because ATS is group oriented, that the class participants bond and interact more than any solo-oriented dance I've ever studied. It is so beautiful and exhilarating to expiernce the bond and the "mind meld" moments we have while dancing.

One of the reasons I was so enamored with ATS right off the bat was that it reminded me of something I saw while in trance many years ago. When I was a teenager I bought a book on past life recall, and during one attempt I had a vivid memory of dancing with other women. It looked to be somewhere in Western Europe around the middle ages. Myself and the other women were dressed in plain, country style dresses, with little flowers woven in our long hair. We were dancing in a circle in the grass, and I remember I was filled with immense joy.

Fast forward to a few years ago. I was taking Sabrina's Tribal fusion class, and she had us do a little ATS style work one evening. When the whole class shifted out of the horseshoe shape and started circling the room doing the Ghawazee shimmy, I had a flash of that past life memory. I was filled with that same exact joy I'd felt in the memory, and I seriously almost came to tears right there in class.
So perhaps one of the reasons why I love ATS so much is that is reminds me of dances I've done in another life. Regardless of the past life connection, I think it resonates with many people simply because circle dances, and communal dances have been a part of so many cultural histories. The modern Western dances that focus on mostly the isolation of the individual don't give us that same human connection that we really need.

This next bit is totally non sequitur, but oh well.
Tribal Fest 2010 videos are slowly filtering onto YouTube...

Here is miss Rachel being amazing as always:
(please ignore for a moment my previous tirade on the tragedy of Tribal Fusion- I consider Rachel to be an exception)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

oh, Tribal Fusion...

First off, pardon me for being a little frank in what I'm about to say here...

I just wrote my thesis on American Tribal Style and how it compares to Cabaret, or nightclub style, and how both of these forms of belly dance are no more "authentic" than the other, because they are both equally augmentations of older dances.

That being said, I think one of the reasons I'm burnt on the "Tribal Fusion" style of dance is that it really doesn't seem to have much of a consciousness about itself. It's essentially just a new version of Cabaret, but with cooler costumes and music. It continues the pattern of the exotification of classic Middle Eastern women's dance movements. It also continues to emphasize the solo performer over the group and because of this the star dancing girls are almost always skinny, mainstream pretty women in tight skimpy outfits. I realize that there is a great deal of strength in some of the originators of the fusion form, but I don't get that from a lot of the new generation of dancers.

The beauty of tribal was intended to be the connection between dancers and the communal feeling of a pre-colonial women's dance. It is also highly inclusive of women of all ages, abilities, and looks. You do not have to be a gorgeous super-athlete dancer to do American Tribal, but you do to perform Tribal Fusion. Fusion has merely taken some of the stylings of ATS and dragged it back into the post-colonial style nightclub, once again becoming a dance to titillate the male viewer. Titalation is generally fine with me, but things have a context- a hidden social meaning. I'm not digging the hidden social meanings of Tribal Fusion.

What set me off on this tirade was acutally this video:

The music is a (well done) rip-off of Beats Antique, and the dancer an okay imitator of Zoe Jakes, but the video includes requisite tit shots and come hither stares. It just illustrated the path Tribal Fusion has gone down. And it's really not for me.

(Sorry Rachel Brice- I still love you!)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dusting off the cobwebs...

I am currently lamenting the fact that I have not danced in two months.
Unforgivable, I know.
I am so out of shape and rusty right now. It only takes a week and a half for muscle mass to start to diminish, but takes three weeks to build it back up. So I gotta get to work! I've been missing my ATS classes too, and I really miss it. I'm going next week, and am excited about dancing with the ladies again.

Two things have factored into my temporary dance retirement:

1. Finishing the bulk of my senior year of college. I was working 4 days a week, going to school full time, and working on my thesis. Busy lady! But it's done now! I turned in my thesis last week, and I feel amazing. Now I'm looking for an internship for the fall to fulfill my Fieldwork Studies requirement, and then, the bachelors degree is officially done. hooray!

2. Body issues/figuring out I have Celiac disease. I decided to try going gluten free to see if it made a difference with my health. I've had joint and tendon pain all over for years, as well as mental fogginess, and some intestinal issues. This semester my back pain got so bad I could barely handle sitting up in class, my back would spasm intensely the whole time. Even though I've known for awhile that it could be gluten that was causing my health problems, I was reticent to try the diet because I'm already vegan, and gluten free vegan just sounded like a holy pain in the butt.
Mid Semester, I decided to give it a go and see if I felt better. For a few days after going GF, I felt AMAZING. And then, BAM, I felt like holy hell. Apparently, gluten is a neurotoxin for some people (like me), and going off of it is like quitting an opiate. So thus began a month and a half of awful withdrawl.
During that time, I really didn't feel like dancing. BUT, as of lately, I feel so much better. My back and tendons don't hurt anywhere near as bad, I can fall asleep without tossing and turning for a comfy way to lay, and, the best part I think, I can actually get energy from food. I seriously never knew that you should feel energized after eating, it was always the opposite for me. Rad! Carrots give me a buzz. I love it.

So that is the story of my hiatus from dancing. Next week, it's back on! I'm gonna shimmy like crazy and get back into shape. :)

I'm also really really sad that I'm not at Tribal Fest this year. I couldn't afford to take time off work. Sad. I'll be waiting anxiously for all of the youtube videos, and will probably post some here.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bellydance as community dance

I've been thinking for quite awhile about the capitalist influence on art in or society and how it effects it's accessibility. For instance, to learn a dance form, one must pay for classes for an extended period of time. To learn with a very skilled teacher, one must often pay a higher price. Let me preface the following argument by stating that I believe that dance teachers work is valuable and needed, and they deserve to make a living on their own terms. What I am commenting on is the broader societies relationship to art and how this is influenced by a system based on the monetary reimbursement for services.

In my mind, art should be accessible to all, regardless of their wealth. I am also an avid lover of folk dance and communal dancing styles. I think there is immense spiritual and social value to the connection one makes with others and with or own bodies while dancing. I would like to advocate more communal dancing across the board. But how does one do that if one charges for classes? I know that I, for one, did not take dance classes for years because I was too broke.

Lately, I have been teaching in a free, skill-share kind of way through the bellydance club at my college. It's been fun, I love the concept of it, and I think I would like to continue this in some way in the future.
I think I want to start a free dance ATS group that meets and dances and shares knowledge of movement with one another. I want to teach others how to get in connection with their bodies, and learn to keep it happy and healthy, without charging them for it. This should be available knowledge to all. I think it's our responsibility as citizens of this society to share our knowledge with others.

Hopefully, I will be able to always fit this into my schedule, but I think this is an idea that I want to fly with.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Bra is finished!

Well, sort-of finished. I will keep fussing with it, be sure.

bellydance bra

It's seriously Heavy Metal!

How I made it:

- Bought a strapless bra (i've never sewn a bra before, so I didn't even want to go there)

- Constructed two long ties out of sturdy stretchy velvety material. sewed those onto the bra as halter straps.

- Bought trim at fabric store, purchased coins and plackets from an Ebay seller, made the pleather flower out of some pleather scraps I had lying around, found the pendant at the Swap Meet (only paid $5! score!), and purchased chain at a bead shop.

- Sewed all the bits on, and TA DA! I have a sassy jingly belly dance bra to call my own.

Also, if you want to check out and more involved photo tutorial of how to make your very own bellydance bra, go HERE


Friday, October 30, 2009

Honor your teachers

This post is dedicated to all of the beautiful, amazing people who have taught me this dance form.

Dilek, my first teacher:

The amazing Sabrina Fox:

Heather Stants, of Urban Tribal.

(a great modern dance fusion choreo)

My current teachers, with whom I am learning the amazing art of American Tribal Style, Wendy and Sandi of Fat Chance Bellydance (they are in the second duet):

Dancers I have had the pleasure to study with one or twice:

Rachel Brice (purrr):

Jill Parker, of the Foxglove Sweethearts:

Suhaila Salimpour:

Steven and Raine of Atash Maya (with Sabrina):

Kami Liddle:

Lots of love to all of them!

PS- I got the sword that is posted below!! It's amazing... sword dancing post to follow.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


When shopping for the best belly dance sword, it is often difficult to assess the differences between brands. This is because, in most places, there is no bellymart where one can go and shop in person. The only other real live option is to wait for a large festival and go shopping there. Otherwise, you shop on the internet and take your chances.

I just discovered that some smart belly dancin' gals in Atlanta made the process a whole lot easier. They have made several youtube videos showcasing different swords. How awesome is that??

Based on their videos, I'm thinking about making this one my first sword:

(if you want to check out the other swords they review, look in the right hand scroll menu)