Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yes you can, but SHOULD you? : Music

The title of this week's post is a question I often (and infamously) ask of my students in the fusion workshops I teach.  It can refer to costuming, moves, props, group interaction, general presentation, audience participation, make-up, or music.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about music.  Partly brought on by some of my students trying to choose music for their first solos, partly by the fact that I'm enamored with my car's sound system.  And that I seem to have developed an obsession for Florence + The Machine (which if you're my friend on facebook, this is not news to you whatsoever.)

In particular, I was thinking how much I am IN LOVE with specific songs, but there's no way I can see myself actually bellydancing to them. (I do however, sing along with them, but only in my car...alone.) This was a bit of a surprise to me on several levels, so it made me stop and think about why.

The songs definitely made me feel something - I could definitely move with them and translate the energy and feel of the song through my body, but the movement language it required was definitely not bellydance.  Now, I don't believe that a song must be Arabic/Middle Eastern in order for it to work with bellydance - rather, I often apply that musical interpretation/approach to what I'm dancing to for fusion - but it doesn't work for every song, and I think that's one of the things you really only learn with time, especially the deeper you explore the roots of the dance. 

In the last couple of years, I have enjoyed the challenge of going back to sets I performed to when I first started dancing.  Some pieces, I have been extremely excited about all over again, in a whole new way - I hear them differently, can apply far more control and quality then I was able to the first go-round. Other pieces, I am just dumbfounded at how I thought I could bellydance to it in the first place - danceable, yes, bellydanceable, not so much, or at all.  Yes, it's quite common that once you learn bellydance, it certainly infiltrates everything you do, including when you go to the club and want to social dance. But when you take it to performance, it becomes a different territory.

The revelation is: just because you love a song, doesn't mean it's going to work for a bellydance performance.  Ask yourself, why do you love it?  What about it grabs you? What kind of movement does it inspire you to do?  Is that movement bellydance-oriented? And by bellydance-oriented, I'm not talking fusion elements (popping, locking, whacking, strobing, glitching, and various other -ing's), I'm talking BELLYDANCE here. If you're suddenly confused about what that means then, time to do some research.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Challenge to the Community

Like clockwork, every few months, there's a discussion on any bellydance forum about how fusion is the root of all evil, the end of the world is coming to traditional bellydance, etc, etc.  There's usually some good debate, mixed in with some really bad generalizations and pot shots.  Personally, there's a lot of things happening in the name of "fusion bellydance" that makes me have kittens (which if you have read this blog for any amount of time, it's probably pretty apparent), but there's a whole lot of bad "traditional" bellydance being done too...really, we have a mess on our hands, but I believe it's better to do something about it, then to constantly bitch and do nothing.  And while I internally debated whether I wanted to partake in the latest thread to pop up, I learned of the untimely passing of Jeniviva, dear friend, beautiful woman, and fellow Gothic Bellydancer - one of the few other prominent cabaret-based ones.  And suddenly, all of the nit-picking and ranting seemed pretty pointless.  So this is what I wrote, and I wanted to share it here as well:

In the light of being made even more very much aware of how fleeting life is with the loss of a fellow contemporary pioneer in my genre, I just want to say this:

You want to see more bellydance? BRING IT. Stop bemoaning and whining about the potential loss and who is to blame for it. Go out there, show your love for the dance with every performance and every student you teach, be a POSITIVE voice in your community. There is plenty of room for all styles, but if you want folks to get more interested in the traditional forms, the folklore, the music, the culture, you gotta have that joy, you have to show that love, and not waste time and energy on what others may or may not be doing.

My roots are oriental. I wanted to do Tribal when I first came across BD over a dozen years ago, and when I finally did take it, I found my heart was back in my roots - but what made it easy for me to embrace it (the roots) and go forth were teachers who shared with me their inspiration and their support. It definitely was NOT because of the people hoisting themselves on digital thrones of authenticity, crowning themselves the queens of preservation wagging their fingers/mouths at me and others, whose own dancing was less than inspired on stage and instruction full of venom. Nope, rather it was the ones who shared their joy and love of the dance with everything they do - on stage and in the classroom. Their enthusiasm fueled (and fuels) my enthusiasm, and I bring that to my students in my classroom and on stage. My classes cover both tradition and innovation - they learn about Arabic culture and music, and they learn fusion with focus. It's not an easy place to be in, because I've always been "too cab for the tribal folk, and too tribal/weird for the cab folk", but that hasn't stopped me and won't. My workshops focusing on how to make fusion more bellydance-rooted may not sell-out as quickly as the popular TF classes flavor of the year, but that's what I believe in, and slowly, change is happening. It's what *I* believe in, teach, preach, and dance. Its what I LOVE. My students are all ages, sizes, colors, genders. There are no borders.

So ask yourself, what do you believe in? Are you bringing that joy? How are you going to feed that passion to others? What are you going to do TODAY about it? Because we may not be around to dance tomorrow.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bellydance Artistry DVD Trailer!

While the DVD was officially released back in late May of this year, we've been a tad bit busy to sit down and get the trailer done until now...and here it is!

And while it's out of stock temporarily on, you can buy it direct from me at - and in honor of it being the 13th, all DVD orders will get a discount code for the music download! (still good through Monday the 14th).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Waking Persephone - April 13th-15th, 2012 - New England

You know those events I produce that you keep hearing about and wish you were going to be at?  Here's another one, so start planning now.  It's really not that hard to get to Rhode Island, and OMFG so worth it: 

"Waking Persephone"  is an event specializing in exploring the dark and the unusual within the realm of bellydance. This event will take place for the first time April 13th-15th, 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island - the heart of New England.  Nothing like it has ever taken place on this scale in New England for the darker side of the dance, and we are thrilled to bring it to you!

It will be a different kind of dark dance event experience, with a core focus on education and exploration, creating community while breaking borders. While there will indeed be performing opportunities, the main goal is an intensive series of classes, lectures, and activities featuring both new and established faces in the genres of dark, gothic, steampunk, experimental, theatrical, and ritual dances. Over the course of 3 days, there will be two shows, live music performances, workshops, master classes, panel discussions, vending, and more!

Our fabulous teaching staff includes Tempest, Anaar, Asharah, Ami Amore, & Celeste, with more being announced.  There is also the opportunity for you to throw your own hat into the ring to teach -  We are accepting applications for those interested in teaching at Waking Persephone through November 13th. Info at

We are lining up some amazing live music from all over the US for WP including Nathaniel Johnstone (of the Nathaniel Johnstone Band and Abney Park), French & the Punk, Servitor Sanctum 7, and more special guests to be announced!

Vending is also officially open for WP - with just 13 spots total - 8 regular vending spots, 3 artist spots, and 2 services spots.

Complete details available at

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tribal Fest 12! Bring IT.

photo - Dina Lydia, w/ Nathaniel Johnstone Band, Seattle 10/22/11
So the Tribal Fest 12 website launched on Tuesday. Tribal Fest doesn't take place until May 16th-20th, 2012, but workshop spaces are already selling fast (and selling out), so here's your head's up about what I am teaching this year. 

I am offering a BRAND NEW workshop entitled "
Essence of the Dance: From the Inside Out".  It takes place on the Thursday (17th) from 2:30-4:30pm.  I created this workshop because so many people have asked me in the last year, how do I put so much energy and intensity into my performances?  Whether you're doing traditional or fusion dance, dark or perky, this will show you how to get that something else in your dance, while still being true to YOU as a dancer. 

So, yeah, this class isn't for those who want to be clones.  You wanna develop your own style? This is for you. Two hours that will revolutionize your dance, I promise. I'm not here to kick your butt, I'm here to kickstart your mind and body.

Here's the description: Truly making the dance your own, creating your own voice and personal style, comes not just from the movements you do, but how you translate them through your body and the energy you use to engage the audience with. If you're looking to find your own voice in the dance and strive to be uniquely YOU, this workshop will actively engage your body and mind, and give you the tools in order to make it possible, within the framework of bellydance. We will explore daily exercises to enhance your dance connectivity, personalize your core movements, and add intensity and power to your armwork, footwork, and core while deepening control of your entire being. From exploring "simple" elegance to adding more complexity and contrast, get more satisfaction out of both your practice time and your performances! Suitable for all styles of bellydance. Warning: May involve live music.
Spots going fast.  Sign up here!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

End of the Wheel, Beginning Anew

We have once again returned to what in my spiritual tradition, is considered the End of the Year. It's known by many names: Halloween, Samhain, Dia de Los Muertos, Feast of All Saints/Souls, and others. Throughout this planet, this is the time of year where we acknowledge those who have passed on - not only in the past year, but our family, friends, ancestors who have crossed over in years past.  Many traditions believe that this is when the veils between this side and the other side are the thinnest - or lifted up all together.  This is why images of Death, spirits, ghosts, and other beings of the Underworld are prevalent in so many places - it's partly about acknowledging the cycle and the closeness of the deceased, about the dead mingling with the living. 

But it also a time of letting go, in preparation for our new year, our new make room for the new good things we will bring into our lives, the new experiences.

A lot of dancers tend to focus on negative things like what they didn't do right, what didn't happen for them, who is to the blame for that, comparing themselves to everyone else. Others focus on goals so far ahead of themselves, they only set themselves up for failure.  These modes of thinking only serve to entangle our minds and our feet, preventing us from being true to ourselves and our own journeys.  They make us chase ghosts and lose sight of what's directly in front of us. We get caught up with all of the trappings and goings-on, that we can forget about what is the essence of the dance - what it really means to us.

So, as we cross into the new year, past the parting of the veils, I challenge you to let go of what haunts you in your dance.  Acknowledge the past and what has made you, you, but be prepared to move forward. Let go of the negativity.  Release the drama, forgive, forget, let go. Be considerate to yourself and others. Challenge yourself to be responsible for your own actions in the dance. Don't be afraid to be yourself and show who you are as a dancer, where you are at at this very moment, in this very body.  Face each day, each week as it comes to you, and how you can make the most of it. What new things, ideas, concepts are you going to explore?  What change will you bring into your dance that will help it (and you) to continually evolve?

And lastly, dance your dance as if nothing else matters.