Friday, April 22, 2011

DVD Eve....

This weekend we are filming "Bellydance Artistry."  I can't believe it's happening tomorrow.  Tonight will be spent practicing with my girls, gathering everything we need for tomorrow (attire, make-up, jewelry, music, notes), putting finishing touches on my costume for Sunday, and doing my nails.  I'm still in a bit of awe that everything has come together.  Nathaniel has done an amazing job with the music, I've got a great videographer who understands the project, and how important good, clean, well-lit shots are, the locations are scheduled and we have plenty of time to do what we need to do.  I'm still amazed, honored, and so appreciative that so many people helped us reach our goal for the project. 

As I look over the material and estimate the running time, and map how it will be navigated, my hopes are that this will be a practice companion that dancers will be able to use on a regular basis, for a variety of reasons.  I believe that dancers from different styles and levels of experience will all find something they can resonate with and work with.  The material really stresses my dance philosophy - how I approach the dance from the inside out, how to get the most out your movements, fusion through foundation, and artistic process.  It's not a "feel the burn" kind of DVD, b/c that's not my philosophy - but rather, processes that condition both the body and mind together. 

If you're new to this blog, you can read a bit more about the project at

(photo from Angels & Absinthe Show, by Insomniac Studios, St. Louis, MO)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fundamentals of Fusion

Just published today on the Gilded Serpent, a new article I wrote about Fusion Bellydance.  It's a rather lengthy discourse (which shouldn't surprise most of you, if you've been here a bit..), so you may want to get a nice cup of tea and some cookies before settling down to read it.  Got it? Ok, here you go!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How to Make It in Bellydance...or Not.

So last week's post was about spreading a little love around.  I had thought about making this week's post being a direct contrast in the "when is it OK to not spread the love around" sort of vibe.  To be clear, I wasn't professing that you need to love every dancer out there, because seriously there are some bat-shit crazy (BSC) people out there. In fact, I had gone so far to officially designate 2010 my "guano-free" year, meaning eliminating the BSC people out of my life, and it's become somewhat of an institution now since it cut out a huge amount of unnecessary stress.  I'm a pretty easy-going person with the gift/curse of being able to reason/understand other people's issues, so I can put up with a lot.  A LOT.

But there are some things in this community we shouldn't be putting up with.  And one thing in particularly I've seen far too much of recently all over the dance community is bullying (for lack of a better word).  Essentially what I'm talking about is aggressive/abusive behavior used to get one's way.  I hate to use the term "bullying" here because it tends to conjure up ideas of grammar school playground teasing (not to belittle that type of abuse at all, because it is a rather serious problem), and what we're dealing with are full-grown adults engaging in extremely negative behavior to achieve their desired results.  Whether it's hate mail (email, letters, phone messages, or texts) sent directly to the individual, or communication targeted at other people/organizations/events who may know them/be involved with them, physical and destructive actions or threats, the aggressor is using negativity to push people to do what she wants, often on a very public scale.  Often the aggressor will also recruit sympathizers, who furthermore add to the waves of negativity, most often because they don't know the whole story or want to win favor.  She fears losing power and control, and will do what she can to retain it, rarely thinking about what is best for others.

In most cases, the aggressor feels that she has been wronged in some way (and hence considers herself a victim), and that justifies her extreme behavior.  The "wrong" could be a new competitor in town (dancer or event), someone voicing an opinion she didn't like or exposing a truth about the aggressor, or someone refusing to follow or agree to her terms/desires.  Rather than considering her own role or possible responsibility in the situation, OR evaluating how one can rationally and positively improve or correct the situation, the aggressor turns to vocal violence to attempt to get resolution/satisfaction.

In fact, most of the situations I've encountered exemplify the bully-as-a-victim scenario, to the extreme where the bully has manufactured or falsely claimed similar behavior against her to get attention.  Sometimes, they start off having a real offense/problem, but then things get out of control, and all of a sudden, it's the Salem Witch Trials all over again. But most often the "wrong" is a difference of opinion or a misunderstanding of fact, rather than anyone intentionally trying to cause the aggressor harm. The truth is, most actual victims of bullying rarely speak out/up, nor are they likely to engage in this sort of behavior as a means of justification.  They just want the abuse to go away, so they give-in, give-up, or go away.  And the bully knows this, hence why it's her chosen weapon to get what she wants, whether it's attention to exalt herself, to make a competitor go away or lose money, damage someone else's reputation, or just ride a power trip of ego. 

And most likely, you're sitting there reading this post thinking "That's crazy! Outrageous! How can anyone do that or let someone behave like that!? Real professionals wouldn't do that, must be inexperienced dancers!" or you're nodding along with several different encounters in mind. The sad truth is, most of the situations I can recall involved senior-level dancers (aka "professionals" and experienced, established individuals), whose behavior was excused because "well, that's just who she is and besides, she's a fabulous dancer/teacher/promoter/etc."  Why is that OK?  Why are we accepting this harmful behavior as the norm? Do we truly benefit from keeping them in business?  Are we really helping them by ignoring it?  Are we saying that these people are just talented animals who can't learn to behave better?

Now, we all go through tough times and don't always behave as well as we should, and if we can recognize and acknowledge those bad times and lack of good judgment, then forgiveness is definitely a viable option.  But when someone is a repeat offender without any sense of self-exploration, then shame on us for continuing to support them, because they will never learn, and they only continue on their cycle of negativity.  And people think it's OK, as long as it's not happening to them personally.  Which is a fault-ridden position, because really, it's only a matter of time until she fixes her gaze on YOU or someone you care about.  Folks, it's not that big of a community.  How many wolves do we need? Do we even NEED wolves?

How do we eliminate this sort of negativity from our community?  The first thing is to check ourselves, and make sure we're not the ones propagating it.  Yes, we should all stand up for ourselves, our dance, our business, but HOW we do that is key.  You can work to solve problems in a positive manner, keeping cool (or counting/breathing) when faced with issues that set us off, and not fly off the cuff.  You can choose not to spread rumors or hearsay and not blindly accept everything you may hear as truth.  Open up the lines of positive communication by asking questions, clearing up misunderstandings, and clarifying where there is confusion.  Instead of blaming someone else for a problem, consider what your own role in it was or could be, and help works toward a solution.  If you need to discuss a problem, then seek advice from a few trusted, impartial sources, not everyone with an ear within 10 feet of you.  If you did something or someone wrong, acknowledge it, apologize, and make amends.  If someone makes an apology to you, accept it and move on.  Vote with your feet and your wallet. We can also choose NOT to support people who breed negativity with their drama and abuse. Support the talent who do walk the positive path. There are other options out there, trust me. Make bellydance a bully-free zone. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

DVD Update!

Hello everyone!

I have terrific news! This past weekend, we broke $4K for the "Bellydance Artistry" DVD project!  This means all of our pre-production costs (videography, editing, music, licensing, etc) have been covered, and will take place on schedule. Thank you so much to everyone who has helped supported this project - in all forms!

We still have a little ways to go to cover the DVD manufacturing (our last major expense), so I will keep the donation buttons up until April 15th.  So if you haven't donated yet, but would like to - plus receive special rewards, including limited edition artwork, signed DVDs, kudos on the actual DVD, and more, please head over to

Thank you again so much!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

like dislikes like

When I was in 4th grade, a new girl named Julie joined my class.  She was smart.  I was smart.  She drew very well. I drew very well.  She loved horses.  I loved horses.  So naturally, we hated each other, and spent most of the school year exchanging negativity.  I don't remember what happened, but some how by the last month or so of school, we were best friends.  It was awesome. Sadly, she transferred to another school, and that was the end of it.

Looking back as an adult, it seems really rather silly doesn't it?  Logically, here was someone who was a perfect companion, shared a lot of interests and talents, and yet, we repelled each other simply because we each felt threatened by our similarities. It took us getting being really horrible to each other in order for us to come to our senses and realize we were both better off as friends rather than enemies.  We missed out on so much.

But the reality is, it still happens well beyond the 4th grade, and is actually quite prevalent in the dance community, probably because it's a really unfortunate competitive side effect amongst women in a given group.  Not to say guys don't do it too, but they seem to be able to cut through the crap quicker on this one.  I've seen it in all styles - Egyptian, Turkish, Tribal, Gothic, Steampunk, Folkloric, etc - "Oh, so apparently so-and-so does X, well we'll just see about that."  Someone comes into your niche, and immediately the claws come out.  There's rarely even a chance given, they're already have marks against them before you've ever seen them dance.  There's an attitude of "this is MY area, MY specialty, MY love, how DARE SHE!"

We forget that we're already marginal, and instead of considering building shared strength through solidarity, we do in our microcosm what the macrocosm does to us.  I think we were really lucky in the early days of Gothic Bellydance, because the earliest pioneers did not fall victim to this common scenario - we were so thankful to share our weirdness with others, the "like dislikes like" factor did not kick in right away - we shared our stories and helped each other, which in turned helped others.  As the movement grew, well, it was only a matter of time for this behavior to show up.  I'm seeing it show up now in other fusions and subcultures too, and it makes me sad.  "Oh look, there's another intelligent woman who shares my interests, instead of giving her consideration and reach out to her, I think I'll hate her instead." 

How much time do we have to waste with negativity before we realize we gain so much more by opening our minds and sharing our strengths - not only as a group, but personally as well? No one is going to take away your individuality.  No one is going to steal your thunder.  By having like-minded people to bounce our ideas off of, share our problems and successes, support causes and events, we become even stronger as individuals and really let our talents flourish and grow.  It truly helps us build a solid community.

So the next time someone new pops up on your radar, try extending your hand instead of your claws, you may be surprised where it takes you. No foolin'.