February 27, 2013 § 3 Comments
My troupe produced our first full-length show a couple weeks ago. It was really our troupe director, Sadie Calderon and another local dancer, Lauren Martinez Burr who did most of the work with booking a location, inviting guest dancers and creating the lineup, finding tech people, making tickets and programs… The rest of us assisted with opinions, ticket sales, costume making, and choreographies. It was a lot of fun and quite successful! We sold out! It wasn’t a ginormous theater, but it is still exciting to sell out your first show!
It was a busy, busy month leading up to the show! It’s a lot of hard work, but it was totally worth it and I’d like to put on another one sometime. However, now that we’re done, I’m looking forward to a little more down time.
Here are the two dances I had the most to do with creating. The first is my solo, which is my own tribaret choreography, and the second is a tribal sword duet that I co-choreographed with the other dancer, Ally Lowry.
If you feel so inclined, you can watch the entire show (or just parts) here. Desert Darlings performed several numbers and the guest dancers were all wonderful! There is a lot of great talent here in Albuquerque!
October 15, 2012 § 2 Comments
Hello lovely readers! I know I have been quiet lately, but I haven’t forgotten about you! I have been incredibly busy in life and in dance! The nice thing about being too busy to write as much is that I have been dancing and performing quite a bit! Don’t worry, I will be back soon with stories, thoughts and insights! In the meantime, here is a video from one of Desert Darlings’ most recent performances. We performed in Santa Fe at “Raq-Us Illumination,” a show featuring Unmata! If you feel so inclined, you can check out other performances from that night on youtube. It was a great show!
August 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
It has been a busy summer, but I have been able to find more time for hooping! It is a great full-body work out, invigorating and most importantly, fun! Being at the “blossoming beginner” stage of a hobby is very rewarding. I now have enough experience with the hoop that I am able to learn new tricks more quickly (courtesy of homeofpoi.com‘s “learn” page) and there is so much to look forward to learning. I like to enjoy every stage of a hobby, but this is an especially fun one.
When I first tried hooping, it was in a workshop with a teacher who also taught belly dance. Most of the students in the workshop were belly dance students, and we started the class by repeating several times, “hooping is not belly dance!” The teacher wanted to make sure we weren’t inserting unnecessary movement into the hooping because of our belly dance muscle memory. The two art forms use some of the same muscle groups in different ways. That being said, there are some types of isolations used in belly dance that are useful with certain hoop moves. For example, being able to move the chest independently from the hips helps with chest hooping.
Hula hooping is a good cross-training choice for belly dancers. It’s low impact like belly dance, but is very cardiovascular, while belly dance is sometimes not. Not only does hooping aid in muscle strengthening and toning, it can balance the fitness routine. It is gaining popularity among belly dancers, especially in the tribal community. This, of course, leads to fusion! I am nowhere near being to a point where I could fuse together hooping and belly dance, but I sometimes come across videos of this. This is one of my favorites. It is artfully executed and reflective of the music. Enjoy!
April 20, 2012 § 1 Comment
I don’t usually choreograph my solos. I “tried” many times over the years, but was unsuccessful. I tried choreographing by dancing through a song, but couldn’t remember what I’d done. Or I came up with a set of moves for one phrase, but couldn’t come up with anything for the rest. Or I listened to a song and imagined how I would dance, but these images didn’t translate easily to reality.
Honestly, I think I lacked patience and confidence in my choices. I wasn’t ready to choreograph. Creating something definite was too much pressure. If I improvised, I didn’t have to worry about forgetting my choreography. Sometimes I worried about not knowing what was next, but I had no choice but to commit and keep dancing. It seemed less stressful. I love the freedom of improvisation. It’s so honest and genuine. However, both improvisation and choreography are important skills and lend themselves well to different circumstances.
A couple months ago, I signed up for a 3-5 minute solo at Amaya’s Oriental Potpourri. I wanted to challenge myself with an Oriental belly dance choreography. I picked a piece of music that seemed like it would be challenging to improvise to. After working on it obsessively, I am pleased with how it turned out.
Here is the process I went through:
1) I listened to the song over and over and over again. I wrote notes about the sections. How are they different? What is their feel? Should that section be fast? Staccato? Melodic? Traveling? In place?
2) I broke down the song by section and count. I wrote things like “Intro-32 counts” and “Call and Answer-16 counts.” Then I wrote general notes about what I saw for each section, such as “traveling,” “undulations,” “layering,” “shimmies.”
3) I listened to one section at a time, and then one phrase at a time. I visualized dancing. I kept listening until I had an idea I really liked, then I wrote it down. If I couldn’t get an idea for something, I skipped it and came back to it later with the question, “what does the dance still need?” As the dance developed, I made sure there was enough variation in floor patterns, traveling, staying still, leveling, etc. I didn’t want my dance to look stagnant and I wanted it to reflect the changes in the music. I also made sure there was some repetition so the dance was cohesive.
4) Once I had a combo written down, I tried it. I sang each part to myself as I slowly went through the moves. Some things worked and some didn’t. Some phrases needed a little refinement while some had to be entirely reworked. It was a process. Once I had something solid, I tried it with the music.
5) When I finished choreographing, it was time for memorization. I kept my notes nearby and practiced transitioning from one section to the next. This took awhile. It was the same process as learning someone else’s choreography.
6) Once it was memorized, I focused on musical expression. I listened to the music very closely and adjusted moves to reflect the sound. I tried to really dance it.
7) Practice, practice, practice.
This is the process that worked for me. I put together my 3-and-a -half minute solo in about a week and a half. I worked on it everywhere I could; every free second I got. At home, at school, at work, at the laundry mat…Once I started, it was hard to stop. It was a labor of love.
Here is the finished product:
What is your choreography process? Do you have any tips to share?
December 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
This is a project I worked on with my roommate, a film student, a couple months ago. He was assigned to create short films in the styles of some of the first filmmakers. This project, he did in honor of Turkish Dance by Thomas Edison, shot in 1898. I tried to keep my free-style dancing on the folkloric side and create a similar feel as the dancer in the original video.
Here is my roommate’s completed project:
Here is the original short:
If you’ve never checked it out before, there is a lot of vintage, belly dance footage on youtube. It’s pretty interesting.
May 27, 2010 § Leave a comment
American Tribal Style Belly Dance is a right side dominant dance form by design. The dancers are always turned slightly so their right side is more visible to the audience. Some moves, such as the Basic Egyptian, are very symmetrical so the two sides of the body are worked evenly. Other moves are not symmetrical such as the choo-choo, a hip bump that is always done with a weighted left leg and unweighted right leg and the right oblique working more than the left. Another is the Arabic Undulation, always done with the right foot in front. I am not sure that this is the healthiest thing for the body. I don’t know of any other dance form that works one side of the body more than the other. You wouldn’t go to the gym and lift weights with only your right arm, so why would we dance in a way that works out the right side more than the left?
I was lucky to begin my dancing with Myra Krien who is also an Oriental Style trained belly dancer and had thought it was not healthy to dance this way. She had designed a way to switch sides so we could also do ATS left side dominant. I still use this technique in my dancing today. Most students are right-handed so the right side is more comfortable for them, but it is important to get an even workout.
When I began ATS, my class would do what was easiest and dance on the right more. Later that year, I was injured while playing soccer in my high school P.E. class. I saw multiple doctors to help me through different stages of my healing. I saw an orthopedic doctor who said one of the problems was that my pelvis popped out of place and he sent me to physical therapy. Another doctor I saw was a cranial sacral specialist. He told me that the muscles in my sacrum were not equal in strength and it was causing my hips and pelvis to twist to one side. I told him about the style of belly dance I was studying and told him we end up dancing more on one side than the other. He told me I should work on building up the muscles on the other side, even if it was just during practice at home. After I told Myra about this, she was much more strict about making us practice both sides equally. Now that I am teaching ATS, I teach both the right and left side as it was taught to me and make my students practice evenly in class.
I believe the ATS community should adopt a more evenly strengthening approach to the dance. I have heard that Carolena Nerricio, who developed the dance form, is an avid gym visitor, so perhaps she builds her muscles evenly enough in other forms of exercise that it does not have adverse effects on her body like it did mine. A lot of people use dance as one of their main forms of exercise and do not have the time or motivation to get in as much gym time, so I think it is important that we workout evenly in dance class.
Adding left-sided ATS is actually quite easy and does not have to interrupt the improvisational choreography. What my teacher had come up with were a couple of moves based on the existing vocabulary that could cue a switch to the left. The transitions are really quite seamless. When dancing on the left, we use the same vocabulary and formations as on the right, only mirrored. This can be done when dancing to fast or slow music.
Here is a video of me and my students dancing at Panoply this year. The first song is performed by my ATS Basics students, with me leading them on the right (the traditional ATS way). The second, slower song is performed by two of my ATS Beyond Basics students on the right. I join them for the final, faster song and lead them into dancing on the left. (The switch happens at 4:37.)
April 1, 2010 § Leave a comment
Once again, I had a great TribalCon experience. This year, I only came to the Friday night hafla and Saturday workshops and show.
The hafla was fun. I saw more ATS this year than I did last year. There was less poi spinning and a bit of hooping. Something new was African dancing, which I hadn’t seen at a hafla before. That was really awesome. Also, there were a few more male belly dancers participating in the convention. Notably, the ATS troupe Shades of Araby was there. They have a male troupe member and came all the way from Toronto. They are a very fun troupe to watch.
My favorite workshops were Ariellah’s and Asharah’s.
Ariellah’s “The Artist’s Workshop: A primer for the well-rounded dancer”, was very interesting and thought-provoking. We addressed many conceptual ideas about dancing, music interpretation, execution and expression. We explored what moves us to dance, why we dance, how we envision ourselves sharing those things with an audience, and what qualities we want to possess when we dance. During one really cool exercise, we listened to various songs and wrote down the temperature of each, the color and whether or not it evoked a memory. Then, Ariellah taught us some combos, but insisted that we didn’t just go through the movements, that we actually danced the combos. My favorite TribalCon quote was from after Ariellah had us do an arm movement as if we were touching velvet drapes with our finger tips. A student in the class shared how much she was able to imagine that she could actually feel the drapes. Ariellah told her, “That mental memory is going to become muscle memory, and it’s going to be beautiful.”
Asharah’s “Salimpour Legacy in Tribal” workshop was incredibly interesting. She discussed the history of Tribal Belly Dance and how the dance morphed a little with each student becoming teacher. Jamila Salimpour is credited with establishing a common language in the dance. Many of the names for movements we use today were coined by Jamila. Jamila directed the first Tribal-like troupe, Bal Anat. She was Masha Archer’s teacher, who was Carolena Nericcio’s teacher. When Carolena began teaching, American Tribal Style was developed, somewhat unintentionally, to meet the needs of her and her dancers. On the other side of Tribal, Rachel Brice was a member of Ultra Gypsy at the time she developed and named Tribal Fusion. She was the first Tribal dancer to take the dance solo. Ziah of Awalim was in the class and shared that she was at the Tribal Fest where Rachel Brice debuted her solo Tribal Fusion style. Ziah said at the time they thought it was kind of funny and the general reaction was, “Hey, look! That Ultra Gypsy girl is dancing all by herself!” We can thank Jamila’s daughter, Suhaila Salimpour, for refining the muscle technique to be more in line with other dance forms. My favorite part of the workshop was when we danced through the moves as they were originally executed by Jamila and compared them to how they are executed today in American Tribal Style. The moves are very similar, but the ATS versions have been modernized and altered to fit the music style and format of ATS. One of the common changes occurs in the timing and where the downbeat and upbeat fall. For example, Jamila’s Basic Egyptian was “step, twist, step, twist”, and the American Tribal Style version is “twist, step, twist, step.”
The Saturday show was beautiful. It was a whopping 3 hours! There was a lot of lyrical, modern-inspired pieces. Unfortunately, there were sound problems much of the night. It turns out a whole amp was turned off for the entire show. The music didn’t fill the auditorium the way you’d expect during a dance show, and the mic levels for the live musicians were imbalanced, but it was still a pretty show.
My troupe is still waiting on our performance video, but here are two of my favorite performances of the evening. The first is Jahara Phoenix and the second is their student troupe, Sherar.
February 11, 2010 § Leave a comment
I am really looking forward to attending TribalCon again this year. This will be my third year. The classes are diverse and educational, and my troupe has some really fun things planned for our performance.
I am especially looking forward to Asharah’s class on the legacy of Salimpour technique in Tribal Belly Dance. She will talk about how Tribal came to be and about the roots of the American Tribal Style dance moves. This should be very interesting. I enjoyed Asharah’s ticking class last year and am looking forward to seeing what else she has in her arsenal.
I am also looking forward to taking Megha’s dynamic fades workshop. I wonder if there will be new fade moves or just reviews and clarifications of the current ones. The class description specifically said we would be reviewing the ASWAT (Arabic Shimmy with Arms and Turn) which I learned in a TribalCon workshop two years ago. Whether there is new material or not, it is always interesting and valuable to take classes from other ATS instructors and see how they break things down.
I am sad I will not be attending the entire weekend because I will be missing the workshops taught by Donna Mejia. I loved her classes last year and think she is an absolutely amazing woman and beautiful dancer. Oh well, hopefully I will have an opportunity to take classes with her again one day.
As always, I am really looking forward to the Friday night hafla, which is such a blast!, and the never-disappointing Saturday night show!
This is the host troupe, Awalim, performing at the Saturday show in 2008:
Only two more weeks!