Thursday, December 20, 2012

Your Dance Belief

Stereo Vision Gina Simon-Photography
"Beauty/Beast" at Raven's Night
Every time this year, I tend to write a post about the Winter Solstice - whether it's about the balance of dark and light, or facing the challenges of Winter. This year, I'm going to keep up the timely tradition, but I'd like to write about something that's been on my mind since June when I seemed to have the same discussion with several different sponsors along my tour route, and the holiday season is bringing it to the forefront of my mind again.  And that something is Religion.

Nearly every organized (and disorganized) religion has some sort of celebration this time of year.  There's a lot of talk about the reason for the season, about being PC, not offending anyone, offending everybody, celebrating love, fighting commercialism, who started what tradition and why, and so forth.  And of course, everyone thinks they're right.

And well, the same is true for the bellydance world.  We each (whether we like to admit or not) have our own dance religion. What we believe, how we practice it, what we think others should believe and practice.  And we span the range from fundamentalists and dogmatic practitioners to eclectic reformers and agnostic polytheists. And if you've spent any fair amount of time in the bellydance community, you have probably heard some, if not ALL of the following:

-"Egyptian style is the only REAL bellydance" (or Turkish or Lebanese...)
-"Tribal isn't bellydance." (or Gothic or Fusion...)
-"ATS is the ONLY way to do Tribal right."
-"Tribal style is for REAL women and REAL sisterhood...Cabaret is for sluts and strippers."
-"You can't do both X and Y, you just can't. It's either one or the other."
-"Bellydancing is for women ONLY."
-"X's Style is the only way to have proper technique, if you don't do it her way, your dance is crap."
and so on, and so forth, etc, etc.

Why? Why do people believe/say these things?

I've come to the conclusion that when we come to this dance, we fall in love with it.  And we invest so much of ourselves - our time, our money, our bodies - that it becomes important to believe that you're doing it right, that your investment is worthy.  And let's face it, most people starting out don't even know the complexity they're about to run into. Tribal? Oriental? Canes, Swords, Veils, and Fire? Oh my! How do I know I'm doing it right?

Some people react to the smorgasbord with glee : "I'm going to try it all! Weeee!" but a lot of people cling tighter to what they know and are familiar with - which is a very common human condition: whatever is strange/unfamiliar is possibly sinister/wrong.  Which is a great survival technique, but not a terribly good social/communal one.  There is also an explicable fear of BEING WRONG: "If Betty does Tribal, does that make me wrong for doing American Cabaret, or her wrong for doing Tribal? It does look more authentic, but it's really NOT, so there.."  And then there are instructors who further feed into these fears - whether because they're pushing their own religion, or they're afraid of losing students, or they just hate Betty's guts.

And here's where we come to the amazing thing about religion: It's about your personal relationship between you and whatever your chosen deity/path is.  It has NOTHING to do what what anyone else does. If it works for you, that's awesome.  And it's invigorating to share common beliefs and goals with others. But it doesn't make what anyone else is doing automatically wrong.

Egyptian is the only way for you? That's awesome!  Travel over there, study everything you can - there's a LOT to discover (like different eras, regions, history, and like the overlaps between Lebanese and Turkish). American Tribal Style floats your boat, fills your soul, and makes you stupid happy? Fantastic! Study where it comes from, and see what other variations are now out there and why - it's not blasphemy. Bellydancing helps your connect with your inner goddess and makes you feel empowered and beautiful? Rock on! Just remember, "over there" - EVERYONE does it - children, grandparents, women AND men. And just because some wrote some pretty myths and published them doesn't make it fact. Dancing TWO styles? Well, a lot of professional dancers learn and perform multiple styles of dance - generally through more than a single 6 week class.

I could go on and on, but what I'm saying here is: do what works for you, do it to the best of your ability, WHILE respecting that other people feel the same way about what they do and how they dance.  Learning about and accepting that other forms are valid does NOT invalidate what you believe and practice.  In fact, you may learn something new that expands or builds upon what works for you.  It doesn't make you weak or inferior - rather it's just another one of those things that makes you stronger and a better human being as well.

As teachers, we need to remember that what we share is OUR own experience, our own path.  As students, we have to remember this as well - that we are not only getting that person's experience, but are also filtering it through our own experiences. As performers, we also share our experience with the audience when we dance, and again, they filter it through their eyes and hearts. 

So the next time you may feel threatened by what someone else is doing, or fearful that you may be doing it wrong, relax - take a moment and think about the way.  Ask yourself what is at the root of that emotion, and what does it mean if you are indeed wrong?  Will the world end? Nope.  Can you learn more and expand as a dancer?  Yes indeed.  So, go forth and be awesome!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Well, that didn't quite go as planned...but anyway:

Photo by Amber Clark, from SteamCon IV, Seattle
I have been a terrible blogger for pretty much the second half of 2012.  Not being harsh or down on myself. Just the straight-up truth right there.

I managed to update this blog quite regularly when I still had a full-time job (as in working for someone else), compared to the last 6 months where I have been working for myself.  Which is admittedly, also very much a full-time job, which I was already doing ON TOP of the other job.  But truthfully, I managed to write a lot of my blog posts on my work breaks/lunches - where I needed a mental switch-up to keep creatively producing for someone else.  Nowadays, I just switch from task to task, project to project, and my breaks are usually outside and away from the computer, enjoying Seattle and the fact that I can do my grocery shopping at 2pm if I damn well please and work until 2am if I feel like it. 

It hasn't been for lack of ideas of stuff to write about - that's for sure.  I've been keeping a running list - on paper, online, and in my head.  But I haven't sat down to write any of them into posts.

I'm not a big fan of resolutions. I don't want to say "In 2013, I'm gonna get back on track about writing my blog! 2 posts every month!" because that doesn't really work.  Instead, I need to further explore the self-scheduling that happens when one runs their own business(es - cause essentially I'm a performer, instructor, designer, artist, illustrator, booking agent, etc), and frankly, I really enjoy writing these posts and especially the feedback that I receive from y'all about them. This is part of my creative process, and part of what I teach and believe in, so I think it's important to verbalize it regularly - just as it's important to pay bills, make stock, practice, etc.  The key thing is to figure out how to do it best, what works? Is it something that be planned?

And I'm sitting here thinking, wow, 2012 is almost done - and there's no way I can say "oh, where did it go?" because OMG, a LOT happened for me in 2012.  I quit my corporate job. I moved over 3000 miles from Providence to Seattle.  I did a cross-country tour, and have done several coastal mini-tours with bands.  I started a new relationship.  I began new collaborations. I made two new websites for myself to replace ones I haven't updated in years.  I put on a hugely successful dark fusion bellydance event. And so much more.  How the hell did I squeeze all of that into one year?  And 2013 is already shaping up to be one very busy year.

So I'm not going to beat myself up about my posting schedule, and I'm not going to make any resolutions about being a better blogger.

Instead, I'm just going to share the following: 

I am thankful for the blessings of change. I am thankful for amazing friends and family who honor, respect, love, and support me. I am especially thankful that humming inside of me is the kind of drive that makes things happen (and it's because of those friends and family that I have the extra power to do it and keep it humming.). 

You can wish and ponder and imagine anything you want.  But it's not going to happen if you don't do something about it.  Don't resolve to make something happen. MAKE IT HAPPEN.  Don't have the money/time/energy to do what you want? Ask yourself why.  What can you do to get around those obstacles? There is always an option besides "that's just how it is" if you apply belief, some elbow grease, and get moving. No one else is going to do it for you.

So what is it that you want to do in 2013? And how are you going to make it happen?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

New Patterns, Tours, New Website, DVD, etc!

Hi folks!

October is almost upon us - my favorite time of year!  To celebrate I am releasing TWO new patterns - for The Shruggery and The Whoodlet - but the pre-order pricing is only good through October 1st - only $20 + shipping for BOTH patterns!  They will be released mid-October, but you can only get the special pricing now!  Buy online here:

And while you're there, you may notice that has a whole new look!  The whole website has been revamped with all new graphics and photos - plus there's a media gallery featuring video lists of recent performances - so if you haven't seen me perform lately, you've been missing out! 
Check it all out at

Also - some folks have noticed that my DVD "Bellydance Artistry" is listed for $999.99 on amazon - well, it's still very much available for only $25 plus shipping directly from me - at

There's a lot more exciting things on the horizon - I will be vending and performing at Steamstock in the Bay Area on October 7th, up in Vancouver, Canada October 13th, out in Washington, DC for Raven's Night on October 20th-21st, and teaching/performing at SteamCon in Seattle October 26th-28th! - check out the performances area of my website for complete details.

I will be touring with Jody Ellen and The Nathaniel Johnstone Band in California November 16th-18th - hitting San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.  

We are also in the midst of planning a quick tour from Atlanta to Philly in Mid-November - check it out at

OK, lots more news to come as there's a lot happening behind the scenes!

Thanks so much for your support!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Amping up!

Finally recovered from having been on tour for about 3 weeks, and this blog is about to go back on schedule again.  I have an exciting backlog of topics I want to discuss here...but in the meantime...I have totally revamped the look of my dance website, so check it out and LMK what you think!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Ghosts Project West Coast Tour August 25th-30th + Atlanta + New England

Hello all!

I plan to be back on a regular posting schedule in mid-September.  Right now I'm about to head off on tour for several weeks - first with The Ghosts Project, starting in Seattle on 8/25, Portland 8/26, Eugene 8/27, San Francisco 8/28, San Luis Obispo 8/29, and Los Angeles 8/30. The Ghosts Project is an amazing improvisational world fusion live music experience - I will be dancing, and we will be featuring guest dancers from every location we stop at. Details for all of the stops (plus video!) at

And then I will be at DragonCon in Atlanta 9/1-9/4 - performing with Frenchy & The Punk, as well as some other possible surprise performances.  I will be available for private lessons from Saturday through Tuesday, so if you're going to be there, or are from the area, and would like to schedule a lesson, please drop me an email.

And THEN, I am flying to New England, where I will be performing in ANIMUS on 9/8 in Cambride, MA - details at - AND I will also be teaching a brand new workshop in the Providence area that morning from 11am-1pm - it's nearly sold out! Sign up at:

Then I will be back home in Seattle on 9/10, and my next series of classes at Tin Can Studio ( start on 9/11 and 9/13. 

And there's more in store for the Fall!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I'm alive!

I live! I have arrived successfully in Seattle (as of 7/1), it's beautiful and awesome here. Going to take me a few weeks to get situated - my stuff is still apparently back in Boston (supposed to arrive next week apparently at the latest) but I love my new apartment and neighborhood! 

I will be teaching two series of classes at Tin Can Studio (Tuesday and Thursday evenings, starting at the end of this month), I will be performing at Medfest on Saturday, July 21st, from 3-4pm with Nathaniel Johnstone...and this past Saturday I performed up in Bellingam, WA with Abney Park.  More info shortly on upcoming classes and shows.

I'm in the midst of doing a complete website overhaul, so once I get that completed in the next week, and get my toes on firm ground, we'll be back up and running with a lot of new exciting things, so stay tuned!

Monday, June 18, 2012

On The Road!

Today is Day 3 of the "Ocean to Sea" Tour, where I will be teaching tonight a shimmy workshop in Buffalo, NY.  (Yesterday was Syracuse, NY and Saturday kicked off in Spencer, MA). It's been awesome so far, and many great stops ahead:

June 18th, 2012 Buffalo, NY Darkly Sparkly Bellydance  
June 19th, 2012 Youngstown, Ohio Eos Whole Fitness & Bellidance
June 20th, 2012 Kalamazoo, MI Boheme Tribal Belly Dance  
June 21st-June 24th, 2012 Chicago, IL Tribal Revolution (workshops and show)  
June 25th, 2012 Madison, WI Dance Life Studio and Fitness  
June 26th, 2012 Minneapolis, MN Eye of Horus  
June 27th, 2012 South Dakota TBA  
June 28th, 2012 Billings, MT Spiral Skies Bellydance Troupe  
June 29th, 2012 Missoula, MT BuddahBelly Dance Studio  
June 30th, 2012 Spokane, WA Parizadah - details  
July 1st, 2012 Seattle, WA Arrival! (and there was much rejoicing, stay tuned for details on a party of 7/4 at Tin Can Studio!)

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Master Plan Has Begun

I know, I know, I've been far too quiet here...but I have a really good excuse. HONEST!

In a nutshell, I have quit my corporate design job, and I am moving to Seattle. In two weeks, I will begin the journey from Rhode Island to Washington state, via a cross-country tour with stops in Spencer, MA, Buffalo, NY, Youngstown, OH, Kalamazoo, MI, Chicago, IL, Minneapolis, MN, Billings, MT, Missoula, MT, and Spokane, WA.  Complete info is here:

I will be teaching regular classes in Seattle, once I get settled, at Tin Can Studio, and already have a list of upcoming performances in the Northwest/West Coast where you can catch me, including a tour with The Ghosts Project from Seattle to San Diego at the end of August:

Instead of putting my creative energy into corporate clients, I'm going to focus on my own jewelry line and get back to making actual artwork, on top of teaching/performing dance - so more on that as I get settled.

And if that's not enough for's a close-up video of my performance at Tribal Fest 12 with Nathaniel Johnstone, courtesy of Beebe Lee (who is made of awesome):

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ragnelle Performance at Alchemy

My next post is going to be writing extensively about the process involved in creating this piece, but first I wanted to share the performance itself without my thoughts:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Well hello there...

I'm really not sure how it happened, but something jumped up and ate April.  And now we're galloping through May with Tribal Fest on the horizon next week.

Let's see what ate April:

Waking Persephone was amazing and a huge success all around.  And yes, we're going to do it again: April 11th-14th, 2013 - in Providence.  Details will be posted soon about next year's instructors, live music, and more, so be sure to join the newsletter, facebook page, follow us on twitter, give us all of your kittens, etc.  (By the way, the picture to the left is of myself and my student Samara, during our "Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum" piece.  If you're good, you may see video of it.  But only if you're good.  I will write more details about how the event went down soon, maybe after Tribal Fest.

The next week, I took a little break and tried to recover, before launching myself into ABRAXAS Dance Theatre's "Alchemy" show in Cambridge, MA - and I definitely want to spend some time writing about this show, and particularly the piece I created for it, so more on that soon.

And now, it's MAY!

This weekend is Steampunk City up in Waltham, MA where I will be teaching and performing and vending both days. Saturday: performance at 2pm, workshop at 4pm.  Sunday, workshop is at 2pm, performance is at 4pm.  I will be vending outside in Landry Park, which is in front of the Museum, and adjacent to where Jake von Slatt will be set up with his amazing Steampunk RV and roadster.

And yeah, so a week from today, I leave for California for Tribal Fest. I will be teaching "Essence of the Dance" on Thursday, from 2:30-4:30pm and there are a few slots available still if you want to take it (and you do).  I'll be at the Meet & Greet Thursday night., Friday afternoon I'll be setting up for vending inside, in my usual spot, and at 3pm, Anaar and I, along with the live music of Nathaniel Johnstone, will perform the opening ritual dance for the event! Saturday, I'm performing solo (again with Nathaniel) at 5:30pm  - then join us all at Aubergine After Dark, starting at 9:30pm for a fabulous and super fun afterparty with The Nathaniel Johnstone Band, Unwoman, myself, Asharah, Celeste, The Standfire Collective, IrinaXara, and YOU - cause there will be LOTS of open floor dancing!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to be Awesome

I have a feeling my blog schedule is probably going to be off for the next few months, as I have the Mutter Ball this weekend, Waking Persephone in less than 3 weeks, then Abraxas' Alchemy, IBCC, Tribal Fest, Tribal Revolution, and The Master Plan, so bear with me - stress and schedule cuts down on my writing inspiration.  But when a certain topic pops up several times in a week, I take it is a poke from the Universe to get writing.

And this week's topic is about being awesome - and by being awesome, I mean professional.  And by professional, I am not talking about having a certain number of gigs, years of experience, amount of money you're paid.  Nope, those things aren't really important in my book for defining "professional" nor do they determine the "awesome factor".

It all comes down to how you treat people on a daily basis.  You want to be awesome? You want to be professional? Here are the secrets to achieving it:

1. Everyone's time is valuable.  EVERYONE.  Students, teachers, costumers, photographers, musicians, everyone. I don't believe in arriving "fashionably late" and I try not to adhere to "bellydancer standard time." This is not an easy thing to accomplish, especially when traveling and dealing with new situations, and I will definitely vouch for the "shit happens" circumstances.  But that is not an excuse, and in this age, if a problem arises, it's very easy to text, email, or good old fashioned make a phone call.  It's not only good manners and common courtesy, it just makes sense. You make a better impression giving someone a head's up if you're going to late or not make it, then just showing up late or not at all.  Budget your time accordingly, plan ahead for the unexpected by cushioning in at least 15 minutes to your arrival time, and always have the contact info of whomever you are meeting with you.

2. Everyone is valuable. No one is above or below you. Becoming "popular" does not mean you treat "less-popular" people like they don't matter, or that you should spend all of your time up someone's ass who you deem more popular than yourself.  Here's the thing folks: popular is all eye of the beholder, and it's a brief and fleeting thing in the arts. And popularity does not automatically mean success, reliability, stability, nor a get-out-jail-free-for-being-a-diva pass.  Your dance mentor, your classmates, the instructor from the next town over, the newbie just taking their first class, the life-long hobbyist, the event producer, the vendor, the musician - all of these people should be treated with courtesy and attention.  Now, I know it's not easy to make everyone happy, especially all at once.  My typical experience walking into ANY size event is being greeted by a slew of people left and right - old friends, new folks, people I haven't seen in 5 years, someone who took a workshop 7 years ago, people you only know via twitter or facebook - and it's extremely difficult to divide your focus and give everyone equal attention all at once - and to top it off, I am actually an introvert - I shift gears into extrovert when I teach and dance, so dealing with large crowds of people in an informal setting is not easy for me.  But I still make an effort, and try to talk to everyone, even if it's just to say hello for a moment.  Even if it's someone I don't like/don't agree with/don't get along with, I believe in acknowledging them in a professional setting - whether it's just saying hello or holding the door if they need help or a safety pin.  It's not being fake, it's being an adult, and it's what I would do for anyone, whether I know them or not, whether I like them or not.  And remember two things: life is ever-changing and everyone looks different without make-up.

3. Treat yourself as valuable. By being courteous, I don't mean be a doormat.  Rule #1 and Rule #2 don't just apply to how you treat everyone else, they apply to YOU as well.  If you want other people to respect you, you need to respect yourself.  This does not mean act like a diva-bitch nor suck up to everyone around you.  It means know your boundaries, know when to say no (and say it with grace), and don't fall for the "good exposure" when it means respecting your time and value. This also means be good to your body (eat right, sleep right, take care of yourself), be as organized as you can be to help keep you on time and prepared, and focus on having positive self-image.  Be yourself, be good to yourself, and for the most part, you will get this in return.  Yes, there are assholes out there, but there will be less of them if you don't act like one yourself. :)

I promise if you follow these 3 Rules of Valuable Awesomeness, you too will achieve it!  So go forth, BE AWESOME!

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Concrete" vs "Abstract", Dance & Model Airplanes

So I have had some thoughts. (You're not surprised are you?) 

When it comes to dance workshops, it's really the difference of offering a click-together model airplane versus making one of those from bits of balsa wood, glue, and paint.  Some people just want to feel like they're assembling the parts, but not take the risk of messing it up. To have a very specific result, already packaged practically.  Others want to know how all of the parts come together, take the chance making a mess of it all, but at least no matter what, coming out in the end with a better understanding of the process.

Why this thought? I am in the midst of planning and implementing "The Master Plan" (and have been for the last several months). While I can't talk about "The Master Plan" just yet, I can talk a bit about the process and journey.  What it has required is a lot of research into business models, promotion, communication, productivity - as well as ways to maintain passion, creativity, etc.  And recently I have been thinking about the "concrete" vs. the "abstract" in terms of marketing and targeting - who is my audience? Who do I wish to attract?

But first back to those model airplanes.  One of my older brothers built a lot of model planes in his younger days.  Definitely not the most artistically gifted of the offspring, he still tried his best at building the planes from the most difficult kits.  They might not have been the most highly-crafted examples of model planes ever, but he kept at it, and it taught him about attention to detail, patience, craftsmanship, not to mention aerodynamics on a miniature scale.  And he didn't default back to the simpler kits just to get a quick end result that looked good.  He wanted the nitty gritty DIY, he wanted to learn, and that involved the struggle for getting it done the hard way.

Now back to dance. The marketing/business parts of my brain is fascinated by what people chose to take - what sponsors pick out of my two dozen+ offerings to have at events, what sells out lightning fast in one area, and slow in another. Some of them cover very specific, concrete subjects: aka, Gothic or Steampunk bellydance, floorwork, twists and turns, stage presence - others sound more abstract in title ("Essence of the Dance", "Museum Quality" etc), but have concrete results.  And while there is definitely overlap between who signs up for which workshops (especially since there are plenty of folks who sign up for whatever I'm offering regardless), I was pondering if there's a difference between those who are attracted to the neat concretely named workshops and those attracted to take the abstract-sounding ones.

And I think there is, to some extent.  I think some dancers want to learn their dance like those snap-together model airplanes. To learn some ready-made combos and choreography, go out there and perform them, and add it to their resume'.  Other dancers want to take the nitty-gritty approach.  They want to make the dance their own, figure out what makes it (and them) tick, how do the parts become the whole? How to customize it with their own style? Balsa-wood bits and all.

Now, there's a fair bit of generalization involved there, yes I know.  Concrete-sounding topics are often key opportunities to learn more about a specific subject, and the forever learning dancer will always take those if it piques their interest - they're up to expand their knowledge, try something new.  But I do wonder about a certain amount of fear factor involved with abstract topics.

So I'll ask you - what do you like to take? What piques your interest? What draws you to take a workshop or not? Why?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

March 10th - Workshops & Show in Seattle!

Returning to Seattle on March 10th, to teach two workshops and do another amazing live show with the Nathaniel Johnstone band + friends. (Here's a review of the last show we did in October:

I am teaching "Essence of the Dance" which is a workshop that will help profoundly impact your dance from the inside out - at it's first run in St. Louis, dancers who have been performing years remarked how much it really centered and refocused their dance - so whether you're new to the dance, or have been doing it for a long time - tribal, cabaret, or somewhere in-between, this workshop will revitalize and empower your dance. Complete workshop description here:

And then Nathaniel and I are presenting "Anatomy of a Song & Dance", which provides key secrets to not only working with live music, but ANY kind of music - from both the perspective of the musician and the dancer. Suitable for all levels of dancers. Info at

Workshops are very reasonably priced at $35 each ($40 drop-in) or both workshops for ONLY $65. Info here as well:


And then the incredible show that evening, also at Tin Can! Pix from the last show:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sex Appeal in Bellydance: Introspection & Irony

While I have been doing a lot of thinking (surprise, I'm part of Overthinkers Anonymous...ok, not so anonymous, see the overthinking?), I haven't had a lot of time to put it all down, so here's to trying to get back to a regular schedule with the blog.  There is a lot to cover in this one, so this post will make up for it.

So, you may have noticed the image connected with this post.  It's a new photo, taken recently of me by the amazing Carrie Meyer of St. Louis, MO ( - Carrie has taken some incredible photos of me in the last year (as have several other great photographers in New England).  I'm about to totally revamp my website, since it's been several years since I've changed the overall look, so I have been thinking a lot about what images I want to use, what they reflect, what branding they put forth etc.  I also just recently posted a slew of my old costumes for sale, so I was looking at photos that were taken of me from 2005-2008 and comparing.  And how much I like the new ones more.  Not for any lack of image quality - there are some truly great photographs in that group, taken by very talented photographers, and I got a lot of mileage out of those images.  But personally, it's like looking at two different people. Which is pretty close to the truth I think.

But let me back up a bit here.  Growing up, I was never much of a girly-girl.  I have two very much older brothers who I idolized.  I played street hockey, I surfed, I spent hours in the backyard playing wilderness games, excavating under stones and "hunting" things. I wore my brothers' clothes whenever possible. I failed at "girly" activities, not interested in the pink satin trappings of ballet, cheerleading, make-up application (though I loved "fashion plates" - remember those? well, it fell under "art"). Puberty snuck up on me around 6th grade and caused much confusion for the next several years.  I had always felt more comfortable around guys, but now I was being rejected and harshly teased by them as well as the rest of the girls.  I felt stuck between the two sides, and it was fairly traumatic for me, until I moved at 15 to South Carolina, and entered a whole new school system.  The social dynamic was much different, and I could easily be the artsy/tough girl without catching any flack. And pretty much proceeded along that path indefinitely throughout college and so forth. And I found bellydancing - and my personality merged with that. Which makes a lot of sense when you look at a lot of my earlier Gothic Bellydance pieces, full of elements of "dangerous/femme fatale" mixed with "hard-edge", alternating between in that spectrum.  I had a hard time reconciling "soft" vs. "hard", feminine versus masculine, especially wondering about audience reception.  Now? Now I don't care which way my dance swings, because I think I've merged the elements now more successfully, or found a different way to say them.

So I've been thinking about what makes who I am now as a dancer different than who I was then, because I think that has a lot to do with the changes in the imagery and idea development.  It again made me think about this article I wrote about 5-6 years ago and wondering if I would have a different opinion about "a dancer has nothing to dance about until she's over 30". And well, not really. I may have something different to say now, but it doesn't invalidate what I had to say then. 

One of the things I would say is that I'm much more comfortable being ME now than I was then, as weird as that sounds.  That perhaps I know who I am more.  The girl in the old photos is pretty, touch of edgy, proud but not grounded. The woman in the photographs now seems far more confident, in command, and sexy. She knows things. And yes, I said the s-word. Sexy

Which brings us to the conundrum of sex appeal and bellydance.  Dancers are constantly fighting the stereotypes that we're not strippers, that what we do is a valid art form and socially proper form of entertainment.  We're endlessly debating sexual vs sensual. That we're not doing this for the arousal of the opposite sex, etc, etc.

And in looking at these photos, along with all the other photos I deal with from other dancers for the events and websites I put together, and the commentary on photos post on facebook, I realized something.  It IS about sex appeal.  The funny thing is, it's really not about the dancer in the image trying to appeal to the opposite sex, as so much it is about transferring sex appeal to the consumer - which for workshops and classes, the consumer is the potential student.  The student wants to have that same sex appeal themselves - for whatever reason, and if they perceive it in the teacher, then they feel they too can get in on the action. That's the root of it, plain and simple.

And while some of you are probably going "duh" - well, you have to understand that I don't really think that way.  I'm a geek, and a dork, and like being silly. I don't care about "looking cool", b/c I'm just going to be me no matter what, for what it's worth.  So instead of going "whoa, that is a hot photograph of X", I'm wondering if she's wearing underwear, how much shaving did that involve, and surely she wouldn't perform in THAT "costume", because if she moved her legs, we'd see it all.  And wow, that can't be comfortable. 

Which means, I either think too much (which we have already established), but also, there's different levels of sexy.  To me, sexy isn't about how much I'm exposing of my body - especially since I believe the fashion truth that it's a matter of ratio versus what you show  versus what you don't show (like ankles being sexy and taboo for Victorians, that Flappers were sexy for showing legs and arms, but they look wholesome next to the pop stars of today who bare pretty much all of their assets).  It's not about the clothing or lack there of, it's about the attitude, and how you wear that attitude that makes the sex appeal. That it's not a request for attention, but a declaration of self. That's what really makes it sexy.

Which makes me love all of my students that much more, because I think that means they're in it for themselves too.  How awesome is that?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Performing & You.

Yes, I'm a bit behind my normal schedule on posting, especially made obvious by the fact that it's now the third week of January.  Maybe I had a bit of "new year, first post" anxiety? Anyway, here's to getting back on track:

In the last month or so, I have been talking with a lot of people about performing - musicians, dancers, students, and other creative types.  Why we perform, how it makes us feel, what qualifies as a good or satisfying performance, what leaves us wanting more personally, and how to get satisfied more consistently.And what I discovered is that those who felt the most consistent and satisfied about their performances had similar reasons for WHY they performed. 

I think a lot of people get into performing for the wrong reasons. That doesn't mean they won't eventually come to the right reasons, but I have to wonder if a lot of stress and heartache could be saved if they started from the right spot.  Or maybe it's all part of the learning process. What are the "wrong reasons" anyway? I would say anything that blocks the flow of energy between the performer and the audience, and doesn't foster truth growth.

Performing is about having a shared experience on multiple levels. It's about communication, opening up a dialogue between you and the audience - you give something, they give something back, and so it cycles from there.  The amazing thing about performing is that it is a communal experience. For many of us, it's like church - there is something sacred, something energy-based about it, as close to you can get to a divine experience on the earthly plane. Time moves differently on stage, and there's a sense of transformation, of reaching an altered state of existence. 

If you're only performing to boost your ego, it's only going to go so far, because self-esteem can't be fostered from an audience glow, it's has to start from inside of you, YOUR own confidence in YOU.  Eventually, the audience will catch on, and leave you crashing hard. Attention-seeking is disrespectful to the audience and negates the communication experience for both parties.

We all have to start somewhere.  Not every performance is going to be a mystical, magical experience - but you have to start with getting experience in the first place.  It takes practice to learn how to communicate properly.  As long as you have a willingness to acknowledge that, and the desire TO communicate and share, then you are on the right path. Consider when you're putting a piece together, what is it that you want to say with it? How does it make you feel? How do you want your audience to feel? If you take the time to consider these things, you're on the right path.