Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The beautiful awful truth of the Internet

Hunt's "Lady of Shalott" weaving her web..
I got into reading Tarot for fun during college, found out I was very good at it, and it started to become a good way to make extra money since my "real job" as a fine art gallery director didn't cover the bills.

After a major move to the West Coast, instead of going for a job at a museum in SF, I got a job doing readings full time at a very large metaphysical store in Silicon Valley that had multiple psychics working at once (at least 3-4 per shift). Shortly after being hired, I was informed that I was to do "phone readings" in addition to in-person ones, which came as a surprise (who I am? Miss Cleo?), but there I was, being handed the phone and the client's name.

It was through my phone clients that I learned something very interesting about human perception.  Many of them eventually came in to the store to see me in person, and every single one was shocked to discover I was only in my early 20's.  They had assumed I was a very mature woman, in my 40-50's - because of my manner of speaking: tone of voice, vocabulary, and ability to listen.

Fast-forward to the other week, sitting in a room full of somewhat-strangers at a party, many of which who were anywhere from 10-25 years my senior. Now, despite my ability to boisterously teach dance to large numbers of people, perform "half-naked" in public, or to give spiritual advice to strangers, I am very much an introvert. I tend to listen and observe long before joining in. And watch the inadvertent "sizing up" that happens prior to my opening my mouth.

Genetics have been very kind to me in some ways, if the large number of people who have asked me what school I go to, or who carded me in the last year is any sort of indicator. Combined with the creative way I adorn myself, most people who just experience me visually assume I'm still in my early 20's. And so I tend to get labeled and dismissed as "young, skinny, pretty/weird, goth girl" - which means with some older crowds, an automatic discount that I could possibly offer anything insightful or full of experience to a conversation. Despite the reality that I'm well on my way to my 40's, have traveled the world, experienced more of it than most people twice my age, and am a pretty knowledgeable geek on a variety of subjects.

Being dismissed for how I look is certainly not the worst problem anyone can have for sure, but that, and being a professional artist by trade, it makes me think about visual implications.

And it brings to mind a lot of the heated interactions I have seen online in the last couple of years.  Especially the ones where the initial thought is a discussion about bringing about social justice, gender equality, minority awareness, positive body/health issues, etc.  It goes like this: someone brings in an intelligently worded counter-response to whatever is posted, and the result is something along the lines: "You are ____! You have no right to say anything in this discussion!" (Especially if that someone is  a "white", "straight" cis-male. Why does that make it OK? How does denying this person their right to add respectful input solve the injustice? Who are we to say that someone else can/can't speak?)

My response is, what year is this? At what point does wanting equality for all, actually MEAN equality for ALL?

History throughout this entire planet has shown that systematically, every group that has been the oppressor has also been the oppressed at some time.  History is also that - history. A person of a particular ethnic group is not responsible for their ancestor who may have caused my ancestors tragedy and grief 100 or 1000 years ago. Likewise, the way a person looks doesn't mean they fit any sort of stereotype. What someone looks like speaks nothing of where they have come from, what they have experienced, or who they are.

So if we want equality for all - and I really mean for ALL, regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, we need to embrace what Internet presents us with: it is the great equalizer, it brings everyone to the table, for better or for worse.  And that if you want people to understand where you are coming from, and what YOU have to say, then you also need to expand your brain to understand where others are coming from, before dismissing what they have to say.  Because in order to truly bring equality, we need to focus on bringing balance and understanding. That's the beauty of the Internet - it can educate and help us share in ways never before available to humanity on such a large scale.

Now the awful part of it? In order to truly want equality for all, then we all have to shed labels.  Yes, whatever words you perceive to define you, whatever makes you think that you're an authority who can tell other people that they're "doing it wrong", whatever you think makes you a special snowflake - you have to let go of it. (Yes, I understand this paragraph pretty much eats the meta, but roll with me here.) The other thing the Internet brings us is the ability to make us seem to be someone or something we're not - do we ever really know who's on the other side of the screen? Are they who their avatar or profile says they are? So if you're going to dismiss (or agree with) someone based on their apparent labels, then you are allowing others to do the same to you.  Effectively defeating what you're fighting so hard for in the first place.  There is a better way to do it.  Unless you're afraid to abandon your own labels.

Don't assume - allow instead.
Don't react - receive instead.
Don't divide or defend - discourse instead.

Awareness comes through openness and positive effort, which opens the door for future change.

2014 is at our door right as I write this - why don't we ALL make the future now?

Let us all work to bring equality for real - not just a group, race, minority, majority, faith, gender - but for all of humanity. That's the only way it's going happen. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Grounding and check-in!

Whew! It's been 5 weeks since my blog post, with good reason! But wow how time flies!

First, we were on tour from October 17th onward to November 4th.  We did stops in Atlanta, GA, Greenville, SC, Asheville, NC, and New Orleans - then journeyed to California to film the DecoDance DVD - and take care of wedding stuff!

Yeap, cause pretty much as soon as we got back to Seattle, we had just a week to get ready for the wedding.  Which for me, included finish making the dress, headdress and related accessories, the bouquets, the cake-topper, the guestbook, the favors, etc.  And yeap, got it ALL done.  Then we flew back down to the Bay Area and drove to the Monterey Peninsula (as well as our closest family/friends did as well), had a beautiful amazing event, and then the next day flew to Arizona for our honeymoon.  And we got back yesterday - and of course the cats were VERY happy to see us.

So..whew! Have a LOT to catch up on: a very busy schedule forming for 2014, lots of projects for many different things, and things to wrap up for 2013 (like the DVD!).  I have many new blog posts brewing in my head - and I will also make a post about the wedding dress, as a lot of you have asked how/what/why.  So keep an eye out, cause there's a lot more coming soon!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Performance P(r)imp?

When you perform a lot, getting ready tends to break into a kind of science, depending on how much time is involved.

If pressed for time, I can do it all in half an hour: make-up, hair, and ready-to-go in costuming.  And be solid and ready.

Ideally, I like to take about 15-25 minutes for make-up/hair, and have a good 10-15 minutes to futz around with my costuming, and 10-15 minutes for a nom/brain collection time.

And when I really can, give me two hours so I can linger in a bath (after teaching a day of workshops especially), take my time eating/snacking/de-braining, and the rest getting ready.

(and if I have to change costumes between sets, I can do it in under 7 minutes, though prefer 10-15 minutes to adjust if necessary, 20-25 minutes if major hair/make-up changes are involved)

So there you have it: as a professional, I can do it all in half an hour, but I'll gladly take about 2 hours if I have the accommodations and means to do so.  Most often when I am performing, I have taught for anywhere from 2-8 hours that same day, and if it's at a big event, probably took a workshop as well. And if I traveled far to get there, I'm probably doing it on less than 6 hours of sleep. Also, if I am traveling with the band, I'm going to dancing for at least 35-45 minutes, versus a regular bellydance show set that may be 6-7 minutes, or 12-15 total. For the record, I am NOT superhuman or abnormal - I have seen many old school pro's do the same in the same time or less, and they're 10-20 years older than me.

Hence my deep confusion and utter bogglement when folks tell me they can't take a workshop that ends 4 hours or more before showtime (or AT ALL that same day), because they need to prepare for their performance that night.

Sure, performing is important.  Doing the best job you can, especially.  But it's not the end-all, be-all of the dance experience, and not THE most important thing.  For me, it's about the learning and sharing that happens in the classroom  - what happens in class has much more longevity than any performance.  And time and time again, I have observed that those whose butts were in the workshops with me earlier that day, versus the ones who "needed the day" are consistently more successful on stage.  Same with teachers who told me they prefer to perform vs teaching - that they feel teaching is the only way they can get opportunities to perform - yet, their performances haven't grown, nor have their teaching technique over the years.

Also, I believe there's something to be said about actively pushing both your brain and your body the same day you're going to be performing.  On days when I only perform (not teaching or taking a class earlier that day), I always feel as soon as I get off stage that NOW I'm ready.  It's not enough to run through my set several times before I go on - I need to expand my brain and body past that piece to fully tap into what's possible.  It helps shut down the left side of the brain, and really engages the right brain. And whether I have taken or taught a class that same day, it's ALWAYS given me something else to consider for my performance that evening.  Much better than any amount of make-up.

True, there are extenuating circumstances for some folks, who have really valid reasons - family, work, illness, etc - but I think that most often, others have bought into this idea of the "sacredness" of performing - that they must save themselves all day for those precious 4-9 minutes on stage.  But if one actively works in the performance arts (music, dance, theater, etc) - this simply doesn't exist.  Rather it's full-immersion, full of practices, rehearsals, workshops, and other preparation - every day, that make for a successful performance.

I think it boils down to, if we want to be truly professional in our dance and outstanding in our performances, it's going to come from working both your body and brain beforehand. Then you can make it pretty.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October News!

October News!
Greetings all! It's Fall! My absolute favorite time of year, and October is full of crazy, amazing goodness. I will be on tour extensively for the next several weeks in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, New Orleans, and California. Here's what's going on:

October 11th-12th - Beach Blanket Beledi, Nags Head, NC:
I am honored to be returning to BBB for its 20th year anniversary and teaching alongside Sahra Saeeda and Chelydra. As always, BBB promises to a LOT of fun, right on the ocean! Details at

From October 18th-27th, Nathaniel and I will be on tour in GA, SC, NC, and LA - here's what's up:

October 19th: Workshop: "Nouveau Noir Dance" 
hosted by Atlanta Fusion Bellydance from 2-4pm! Register at http://atlantafusionbellydance.com/?page_id=1689

October 19th: Performance: with The Ghosts Project 
at the Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, GA from 6-10pm. Tickets at http://www.ticketalternative.com/Events/24066.aspx

October 20th: Workshops: Greenville, SC 
"Musicality & 'Motion" & "Mesmerize! Exquisite Arms
& Captivating Hands"
hosted by Discordia Arts - Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1422907584596322/

October 21st - TBD 
(in NC or SC or want to host a workshop or performance? email me!)

October 22nd: Workshops: Asheville, NC 
"Genderblending" & "Anatomy of a Song & Dance" 

October 25th: Performance: Anne Rice's Vampire Ball
New Orleans, LA, Event Info: http://www.arvlfc.com/ball.html

October 26th: Workshops: "A Gothic Trilogy" and "Nouveau Noir Dance" hosted by Crescent Lotus StudioNew Orleans, LA, 

October 26th: Performance: New Orleans Witches' Bell
New Orleans, LA, Event Info: http://www.neworleanswitchesball.com/

Then we are off to the Bay Area of California from the 10/29-11/3 to film the "DecoDance" DVD - may be available for private lessons and performances, email me for more info. 

Then we will be mostly taking November off (minus 1-2 exceptions, check my performance schedule for details) because Nathaniel and I are getting married! Then we're back and moving on some major projects happening in 2014 - so stay tuned!

Thank you for your support!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Feature: Rare Blends: Anaar!

In the last few months, I've noticed more folks working to shift focus to positive things - whether a daily, weekly, or monthly opportunity to think about what IS working in our lives.  I think that is a very important thing for all folks to do and to switch to think about what is working versus what is not. In that vein, I would like to do a monthly feature on somebody I think is awesome and that y'all should know more about.  They are truly offering something beautiful and unique to the community, but may not be on the radar of most because they're not part of some popularity/personality machine - they don't fix in neat boxes or trends.  So here starts "Rare Blends" and the first featured awesome person is Anaar!

Anaar is an artist, designer, dancer, priestess (and all equally powerful and amazing). Her artwork, costuming, and jewelry exemplify fine craftsmanship, creativity, and the heart of beauty. To own a piece of her work is to know that you have a beautiful garment or object of adornment that will last you indefinitely. (Shop here!) Her dance is truly sacred, ritual dance - suspending time, transcending the mundane, and of the divine.  She has the incredible power to hold your attention completely with just the simplest moves and gestures - exemplifying innate grace, profound musicality, and delicate theatricality. She has an instructional DVD on sacred/ritual dance called Dark Imaginations. Her talents don't end there - she also co-produces an event called Hexenfest, that takes place yearly in the Bay Area - and next year will feature Ego Likeness!

I first met Anaar back in 2002 at PantheaCon in San Jose, CA. I remember being struck by her beautiful work as well as her no-nonsense, direct approach.  I'm unsure about how exactly we started working together, but it had something to do with sharing a space at the San Francisco Pagan Pride Event later that year, and in the years to come, we would collaborate together (and still do!) on many dance and design projects...our next collaboration will be at the Witches' Ball in New Orleans on October 26th!

One of Anaar's performances:

One of our infamous Tribal Fest "opening ritual" dances:

An interview with Anaar:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Disappearing Divide (the reality of today's bellydance market)

What style do you dance and why does it matter?  Is it really that important?  No it isn't and yet...Yes, yes it is, and it's about time we take a look at it.

Last week I kicked off a poll asking folks whether they considered themselves cabaret/oriental, tribal (ats, its, tribal fusion) or a mix of both/performing multiple styles.  I had a hunch about the changing face of bellydance, and my hunches are usually spot-on, but I wanted to see.  But before we get to that, some background:

When I first got started in bellydance, Tribal hadn't even hit New England yet.  I found out about FatChance BellyDance from a friend who had moved back to the Bay Area - and I scoured the internet for pictures and information about this phenomenon (which included a lot of interviews and articles by Kajira Djoumahna), on top of my "regular" bellydance research and weekly classes.  I bought a copy of FCBD's "Tattooed One" on VHS and CDs by Solace thanks to a gift certificate to Artemis Imports friends and family had gotten me for my birthday. (Remember that huge cut-and-paste catalog?) I longed with all my heart to go to the first Tribal Fest! Boston-based dancer Amira Jamal had gone to study with Carolena and learn more about it - so I eagerly hosted her to teach a Tribal-style workshop in 2001 - the first Tribal workshop in Rhode Island! Then that Fall, I moved to California, I could finally study with FCBD and Ultra Gypsy - and so I did!

All the while, I continued studying "cabaret" in California as well, or as my main teacher Azar called it, "Arabic style" and I studied with more and more classic teachers vs tribal ones.  I was realizing I was much more geared to being a solo artist, and the oriental movements gelled with me more.  But because of my personal styling, theatrical presentation, and darker aesthetic, I found more welcoming arms in the Tribal community. There was no such thing as "Tribal Fusion" when I started dancing, and when that term started to get used, it was applied to folks performing "tribal style" by themselves, instead of with a group, or anything that didn't quite fit into either "cabaret" or tribal group improv, well up until at least 2005-2005.  It didn't matter if you were rocking oriental moves to the core, if you had dreadlocks, tattoos, and fishnets, you were called "Tribal."  Tribal-focused promoters welcomed my alternative workshops - Tribal Fest 5 was the first year a Gothic Bellydance workshop was held at a major event, thanks to Kajira for asking me to do it!(and even today, I am often hired to teach at "Tribal" events, despite my style-base being oriental.)

And during all of this, I spent countless hours on the internet battling the "Cabaret vs. Tribal" divide.

"the divide" doodle by Tempest
I've heard it all, from both sides: "_____ isn't bellydance." "They need to make their own events."  "They keep invading our events." "Now that they have their own events, our events are suffering." "Everyone who does ______ isn't empowering women/is encouraging objectification." "I would NEVER do/wear ______ because __________." "They have no morals!" "They don't understand what they're doing." "They're killing the dance."  (yes, both sides folks). And most of it all coming from lack of information, promotion of misinformation, seeing bad examples of styles, a fear of being/doing it wrong.  And when one side is attacked, rarely do people go "oh, let me try and help you understand what I'm talking about", instead they go on the defensive. For years, I have watched, read, and tried to help bridge the gap. (Largely because I exist IN that gap.)

And in the nearly 10 years that I have been traveling the world teaching and performing, I have met a LOT of dancers from both "sides."  I have people share with me their thoughts and experiences.  Where they started, where they went, and why.  Whole troupes that have changed styles completely because they collectively felt more at home with another style then they started with, or worked to learn both so they could offer more.  I predicted around 5-6 years ago when Tribal Fusion really exploded, "It will eat itself, and then they're going to come back to the roots."  And it certainly has come true, with people who started with fusion going back to learning ATS, folkloric dances, and yes, even oriental (ALL THE ROOTS!).  And in the meantime, cabaret/oriental folks have ventured over and tried the "dark side."  If I had a dollar for every "confession" from a dancer enjoying something they didn't think they would like, I'd buy a designer bedlah or 3.

So back to that poll. I posted it in many places.  It was shared by folks of all styles all over. As of today, 250 people answered the poll.  12% identified as only Cabaret/Oriental. 31% considered themselves only Tribal (ATS, ITS, Tribal Fusion).  And a whopping 56% said they do perform both styles or do a mixture.  For a regional example, a similar survey done in New England over a year ago showed a third of the answering population fell into the last category.

What does it mean?  It means it's time to put an end to the us/them mentality for starters.  More and more people are expanding what they are learning.  Which also means that the market has been changing dramatically.  If you're marketing to just one group, you are most certainly missing out.

Promoters need to stop justifying booking on top of another event "because that's THAT market and so it's not the same."  Wake up folks, IT IS. If anywhere from 30-60% of the bellydance market is identifying as cross-over, that means in a crowd of 80 dancers, anywhere from 24-48 people have to choose to between your event and that "other side" event.  At $10 a ticket for something, that's $240-$480 potential that's being split.  And what about all of those potential students who don't know anything about styles yet? And maybe your local community isn't quite there yet - it will be.

Of course, in metropolitan areas that have a large community, there are going to be multiple events happening the same weekend, or even the same night that could interest a large variety of bellydancers - generally a mixture of showcases, haflas, concerts, restaurant happenings, club nights, etc.  But there's so much going on, it can be hard to track everything that's going on, and there's a fan base (or bases) big enough to support lots of small shows.  But if you're looking at putting on a festival, a workshop weekend, or anything similar that requires a huge investment of your time and money as a promoter (and likewise for the customer, who is also living in the same strained economy), going up against another similar event because you're believing the Myth of the Style Divide, you're fighting an uphill battle.

I'm not saying that events have to be all-inclusive - AT ALL.  If your festival event is focused on one style specifically, that's awesome!  But don't schedule it against another festival event, because you believe it's a totally different market.  The smart way to grow your customer base is to continually expand it, that means reaching out to folks outside of your established market.  It makes good sense and cents.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Please Vote - Where do you as a dancer fall in?

Do you see yourself as Cabaret/Oriental, Tribal, or somewhere "In Between" - either you do both, or blend?
pollcode.com free polls 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Choreography Cure

I have made it fairly well-known that I do not construct choreography for myself, nor do I retain it well (my own or others), or base workshops on it either.  I will create choreography for my students to dance to*, and occasionally may remember most of it, but I make no guarantees. Instead, for performance, I prefer to set a few "anchors" where I have specific ideas for a recorded piece of music - and in class, focus on combinations connected to musicality in short sections for my students to grasp and practice.

And for the most part, I also tend to avoid taking workshops that base the entire set-up of the class on a choreography. I AVOID THEM LIKE THE PLAGUE.


Me and my beautiful RIstudents at a Steampunk Festival,
doing the 1 choreography I have managed to remember.

I have heard all of the arguments for the virtues of learning and performing choreography. That it can help give a dancer a clear idea of how a specific ethnic piece may look/feel and connect with the music.  That if you get it into your system, then you can allow feeling to take over. And so forth - good points, indeed.

Except, what if your brain doesn't work that way?

We are all wired a bit differently, and that means that we also learn differently and have different ways of absorbing the material before us.

I thought for a while, maybe it's an issue because I'm not coming from a formal dance background.  Then I thought back to when I did horseback riding - particularly dressage and hunter/jumper.  I could finely execute all of the movements that make up a dressage pattern or successfully lead a horse over series of jumps/obstacles I was familiar with , but if presented with a new pattern to do, especially with a short amount of time of preparation (such as only looking at a map and needing to remember it for the next round), I was lost, my brain would refuse to retain it. And walking a course is not the same visual perspective as riding it.  It was the same way in school - I discovered that I had different ways of relating to the problems to solve - I would arrive at the correct answer, but usually via a completely dissimilar route to everyone else.  I inwardly would worry about this phenomenon, seeing that everyone else was going about a different way - yet, I was a straight-A student...so did it really matter?

I have had numerous people confess to me that they can't do choreography, and they felt they were lacking something because of it.  I know exactly what they mean, because I have been there.  Now that I've been dancing nearly 15 years, I've come to a few conclusions that I would like to share with you:

1. Some people have a knack for memorizing choreography quickly. That doesn't make them a better dancer than you, it just means they learn differently. You excel at improv? More often than not, they don't. Different brains. They work better in a concrete system versus abstractly.

2. If you're focusing on getting the movements executed correctly, and therefore are behind on learning the next 20 parts, it's OK.  In fact, it's more than OK, you're DOING IT RIGHT. I believe it's far better to learn how to do a few moves properly in a workshop and get a feel for what the teacher is trying to share with you, than to try and cram in 3-6 minutes of choreography done poorly - which you probably won't remember well either. (And this is the primary reason I teach core movements and combinations in workshops - students retain more information, and still get a good idea of how/why I dance, without trying to remember a whole song).

3. Maybe you start off great learning a choreography in a workshop, and then say 2.5 minutes into the dance/music, you can't seem to hold anymore.  This is actually fairly common. Think about it like you're running out of RAM. It's not the end of the world. If it was a 6 week class series, you'll probably be really exceptional at it, as you cover each section, and give your brain time to absorb just enough and refresh.

4. Anyone can create a choreography to a song.  That doesn't mean it's successful.  And by successful I mean, truly works with the music, rather than top of it.  There is a lot of choreography out there that beats the crap out of the music, or pretty much ignores it all together in favor of "symmetry" or perhaps the need to fill up every second with movement. If you are musically-inclined and are being presented with material that really doesn't make sense, it's going to not flow for you.

5. Choreography is a tool. It is only one of many at your feet. It can help you gain insight into someone else's dance - how they put things together, how to they hear the music.  It can challenge you to really think about how you can do the same and why.  It also is handy for getting multiple people on the same step when performing together, to create a vision, etc.  It's also a bit like a magic wand, a la Harry Potter. Just because a choreography works for one person, doesn't mean it works for everybody.

6. Muscle memory and physical technique is exactly that: muscle memory and physical technique - whether it's being used for improv or for choreography.  If you understand the movements, how they work with music, how to transition in-between, then you're doing pretty damn fine.  Being told you have to learn a choreography inside-and-out, and THEN you will be able to just "turn on the dance" once you have it down - well, it may not be the best thing for you. If you're already strong at improv, know the music, and express naturally, doing that is a bit like translating a poem into another language, and then back again. For me, improv is like having a direction connection to the divine.  When I have to filter it through choreography, even my own, it's like adding a middle man to the equation.

7. You will always feel like a dork in someone's else's class/workshop, especially if it's your first time with them.  In fact, if you don't feel even a bit like a dork in an unfamiliar class, you may want to check your ego. (Meaning, you may not really be getting the material, or maybe you're not being challenged enough).  It's not your material, it's not what's familiar to you, so of course you're not going to be instantly awesome.  But the more you study with someone else, the more you will become comfortable with what they present, if they are a good teacher. And so while you may not that choreography completely in that first workshop, the second or third or twentieth time you take with them, you will get it more, and then you will learn even more.  That's how it goes.

(*When needing to create a choreography for a student group piece, I like to work directly with my students to create it, versus me dictating everything - their input is key for it work.  They learn about how movements and music come together, and get to have a creative say as well.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Universal Grace: Collaboration vs. Competition, Round 3

Part One addressed the Conundrum of Competition vs. Collaboration.  Installment Plan B covered common behaviors to watch out for. Round 3 is an exploration of Universal inklings.

I have learned over the years to listen to the flow of the Universe, versus trying to fight it, or make it work the way I think it should - or more specifically thought it should, due to my limited understanding of the situation overshadowed by an over-abundance of enthusiasm.  (This would be the dangerous cocktail we called "youth.") And when you slow down, watch, and listen to what the Universe is putting in front of you, things make a lot more sense, move a lot faster, and just all around work better.  There are patterns, signals, symbols. Some of them are subtle, others are not.

And the Universe recently shared some media experiences with me that it thought would help y'all as well.

On one of the rare occasions that I have time to sit down and watch a movie at home (and I'm usually doing work at the same time - either graphic design or costume work), I watched "Happy" - which is a documentary-like film, investigating what makes people happy, what does it mean to be happy, etc. It really affirmed a lot of things I have already found to be true, but what caught my ears was a commentary on competition versus collaboration - and how individuals/societies/cultures that favor collaborating together versus competition thrive - people are happier, they live longer, in better conditions, have more success in their relationships, with more time for creativity and the arts.

I really can't argue with that - in fact, I wholeheartedly know it to be true. (And I highly recommend taking some time to watch it.)

Think about it:  dancers who work together to maintain decent pay/increase wages/improve overall quality of dancing/venues can only win, because they're working to improve the situation.  Everyone benefits - dancers, teacher, students, venue owners, customers.  This is collaboration.  Those who undercut/undermine purposely in the "spirit of competition" only bring EVERYONE down. Wages go down, quality of dancing goes down, it brings down the art of the dance, etc.  Same goes for putting on events - working with other promoters/producers in your town/city/state/region to put on quality events that don't conflict with each other, and celebrate the differences or similarities - there's so much to be gained by that.

And then, the same Universal nudge that brought me "Happy", brought me a series of TED Talks - and the one that made me put down my costume beading and watch it (and then also had Nathan watch it when he got home from band practice) was Julia Sweeney's. There's several different messages there, but one of the ones I take from it is valuing what you KNOW to be true within yourself, and respecting what makes you, YOU.  People fear collaboration sometimes because they are afraid they will get lost in the process.  But in reality, you are far more likely to lose more when you seek to compete with others about who is more right/who believes the right thing/who feels they need to prove they are MORE RIGHT.  What someone else believes/knows/thinks doesn't make you any more right or wrong.  Once you set aside that kind of ego, it's amazing what you can discover about yourself and what you can achieve. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

"DecoDance" - A new instructional DVD from Tempest!

I am very pleased and excited to announce that we have begun work on my next instructional DVD - "DecoDance"! Following the highly praised format and presentation of my last self-produced DVD "Bellydance Artistry", this next project builds upon the concepts presented in that DVD and expands upon them to enhance your dance!

"DecoDance" pulls inspiration from the beauty and elegant style of the Art Deco Era and blends it with Bellydance:
* Exquisite Armwork & Elegant Motion Exercises *
* New DecoPunk/Nouveau Noir Combinations *
* Theatricality & Drama in Bellydance *
* 2 Performances *
* 6 New Songs by Nathaniel Johnstone *

Just like "Bellydance Artistry", we will be raising the money for this project via crowd-funding - with options for a variety of budgets and awesome rewards for all!

For complete information on the DVD and to contribute to the project/pre-order your DVD before the deadline, please head to: http://darklydramatic.com/decodance.html

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Be Not A Doormat: Competition vs. Collaboration Part II

First, I want to express my gratitude to all of you who shared with me in person or in message your thoughts and feelings on my last post - THANK YOU!  I appreciate it so much!

Just in case you're a newcomer to this blog, or to the world and wit of Tempest, I don't want you to get the idea that while I'm professing the wonders of working together from my last post, that somehow I also expect you to just take everything and everyone as it is and deal with it while sacrificing your integrity, dignity, and/or sanity.

Far from it.

Cause my dears, there are sharks in that them waters. Really pretty, smooth-talking sharks, who act like they want to be your friends and best buds. And they may come in the form of teachers, promoters, peers, etc.

Now, frankly, I am the eternal optimist and I am not an alarmist. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I have given my share of second (and sometimes third) chances. Sometimes it's worked out REALLY well, and sometimes it hasn't.  I also prefer to form my own opinions about someone for myself, rather than what the rumor mill says...cause, well, DUH.  But I've learned some things the hard way, and I wanted to share some insights I have discovered over the years that hopefully will help you out as well, so that you can have healthy collaborations and keep an eye out for the possible problems.

6 Personalities To Watch Out For That Make For Bad Collaborations:

"The Eventual": Do you have a friend who you know has intentionally mistreated another friend or maybe someone else you didn't know - and it really didn't sit well with you, but then you figured, well, I DO like them, and they treat ME just fine?  Well, it's only a matter of time. Eventually, it WILL be you. No, really, it's a sure bet.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but it will happen.

"The Eternal Victim": There are some serious bullies out there and real victims who need help. However, you need to go to amber alert when you come across someone who is always complaining about how they're being victimized. Every week or month, there's always someone new who is causing them harm, and they didn't do a thing wrong! The reality of it is, they are most likely attention-seekers, causing the issues themselves, or trying to cover up something else they're doing - or ALL OF THE ABOVE.  Run, run quickly.

"But Somebody Is Going To Steal It": Let's face it, it's a small world nowadays, and ideas make their way around.  Sometimes its via direct "inspiration" and sometimes the Muses are just slutty - someone can indeed come up with the same idea as you, but never have come in contact with you. The only thing you can do is focus on your plate, and anything you share with others, you pass along the instructions of "credit me" and hope for the best, and try to address it firmly when it doesn't happen. This is really the best attitude to have. However, you may come across somebody who is always downright paranoid about people "stealing" from them - they don't want their performances videotaped because someone is going to "steal" their choreography, or tell you where their music came from because someone is going to "steal" it, they don't give notes in their workshops, because it makes it easier for someone to "steal" it, etc.  Here's the hilarious irony behind this type of personality: they are most likely the ones "stealing" in the first place - acquiring stuff from others and not giving credit and are inwardly terrified of being called out on it.  It's a vicious insecurity cycle that is best to stay clear of.

"The Over-Enthusiastic and Under-Acting Flake":
Whenever good and fun ideas come around, everyone wants to be a part of them and specifically benefit from them, but very few are actually willing to do the hard work to make them happen.  There's always lots of lipservice and when it comes time to do get work done, they're nowhere to be found or they have a hundred excuses about why they can't help now.  Which increases the stress of everyone else involved who is already doing their share.  And putting on shows, events, managing a troupe, etc - is already stressful as it is, so start ideas small, with people who you know you can trust to get the work done in a timely matter.  Also, be firm in delegating tasks, with set deadlines and expectations (and consequences for failure), and it will help offset a lot of the potential flakes.

"For Fortune & Fame!": Bellydancing is not going to make you rich. But you can have a lot of awesome experiences and maybe make a living at it - teaching, performing, producing events, vending, etc. The internet has made it very easy to get out there - which is awesome, but it takes dedication, focus, and being grounded to make it for the long-run. So be wary of folks who think that getting involved with a project is going to somehow bring them fortune and fame.  They're rarely in it for the project itself.  It's OK to ask people why they want to do something - in fact I recommend it. If everyone involved has a similar motive/goal for why they're doing something, it tends to be a lot more successful for everyone involved.

"It Will Be Great Exposure!": Exposure is a 8-letter-long 4-letter word. People who don't want to pay you, regardless of what you're doing, like to sell this line a lot. Especially when they themselves are making money at it. Do an event because you believe in the event (like if you're performing for free at a benefit, ideally it should be a cause you're behind), not because you think/someone tells you it will get you exposure.  There is no way to be sure that any one event will get you in front of some pair of important eyes or get you out there. Do what you believe in and makes you feel good, and it will pay off in spades.

And now that I have outlined 6 things for you to avoid, here are: 

6 Things That Will Help You Move Forward In Any Community:

Clear Communication:
Unsure about something? Ask questions, don't assume. Speak up, respectfully. And stay in communication, answer emails promptly whenever possible - or if you're behind, let folks know, versus going radio silent.

Get It In Writing: 
Whether it's a contract or discussing plans for an event - get it in writing.  Keep a group document that says who is doing what, how much something costs, etc.  Don't rely on verbal discussions, because no one ever remembers it the same way.  Write it down!

Comprehensive Reading:
READ. Carefully. Seriously. When I am answering any email, I always read it several times before I reply to it - and also re-read it again (and also what I wrote) before I hit "send."  I cannot tell you how many replies I have gotten about things where the answer to someone's question was already answered in the email they just replied to.  Or they failed to answer the question proposed to them.

It's A Journey:
Anything that's worthwhile doing, is about the journey, not the destination, because the destination can change at any time. Set small goals that move you forward that are realistic, and you will be surprised how fast things will move, grow, and change - and in a healthy way!

"Please", "Thank you" and "I'm sorry" are important things to be sincere about.  No matter whether you are a newbie or the grand diva star or somewhere in-between. Golden Rule here people - treat others as you would like to be treated.  No one is better or more important than anyone else. No one.

Be Awesome, Be You: No really, I mean it.  Don't waste your time trying to be anyone else. Be the best YOU you can be - as a dancer, as a student, as a promoter, as a vendor. Own being you, be aware of your issues and work to improve what you can. Treat yourself with respect, and truly be kind to yourself.  That is how you can be awesome.

Go forth! Be awesome!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sometimes, I think we're doing it wrong or "Competition vs. Creation & Collaboration"

Tempest & Celeste at MQ Studiowerks with Nathaniel and Jon S (and Heather!)
In the last few weeks, I have heard my partner Nathaniel give several interviews and speak on multiple convention panels about his recent/new projects and relative involvement/notoriety with "Steampunk Music."* When asked about his opinion of other bands, past projects, and other happenings, he essentially said, "It's not a competition - if we're all creating with common goals and the overall movement in mind, that's advancing the culture, the diversity within us, and challenging ourselves to grow."

And I thought, gee, that's a really nice idea.

And then I thought, how could that apply to the bellydance community? 

And the larger part of my brain, still recovering from being on the road for several weeks and digesting a lot of festival-ness (the good, the bad, the pretty, and the ugly), immediately scoffed at and rolled its proverbial eyes.

I've been involved with bellydance 15 years now.  I've seen a lot, experienced a lot personally - the really awesome and best of the best, and some really horrible stuff that my psyche still probably bears faint scars from. I've watched it grow from the early days of the internet and limited contact/availability of information, supplies, and so few events, so the massive amount of EVERYTHING that's prevalent today.  There's more of everything!  That's awesome!  Yet, at the same time, there's more of everything - which means the bad as well. That's not so awesome!  And sometimes trying to fight against the bad and the wrong feels like you've got a teaspoon to bail out the Titanic.

And then I go and teach a workshop or a private lesson or my weekly classes, and everything seems right with the world - my hope/faith is renewed, inspiration flows, and things are shiny again.  My students inspire me, and I am reminded that THIS is the largest part of the reason why I do this, why I love it.

So I come back around to that idea of creating and collaborating vs. viewing it as a competition and I wonder.  Well, obviously when we're all dancing in a show or in class, it's not a competition - the only person you are competing with is yourself and challenging yourself to grow. 

But from a business perspective, competition is a necessary part of it right? - there's only so many places to dance, only so many classes and workshops an area can support, only so many teachers to be hired for an event. And especially right now, the market is quite flooded across the board - SO many events happening, it's an embarrassment of riches. But the market can only support so much, especially in a fragile economy...and how many things can you do in a weekend? It boggles the mind! And with a flood comes sinking - really awesome folks who had many weekly classes happening are down to one or none...there are less "workshop weekends" because there are more and more festivals everywhere (new ones arriving and others failing), some happening within a short drive of each other, all fighting for the same market. It's really hard to think about collaboration and creativity when you're fighting to make a living. 

BUT, there are ways to go about it, and I have some suggestions, in particular order:
-Class Schedules: When possible, try scheduling weekly classes on different nights than other folks in town, even if it's a different style.  I've heard of places where there's 2-3 teachers in a town, and they are all teaching at different places, but on the same night.  The argument of "well, she's Cabaret and I'm Tribal" (or whatever) is bunk. You've got the same market, and oftentimes, students will want to try other styles.  Better they have the option of different nights than to give up one class to take another because it's the same damn night.

-Event Schedules: When planning an event - ask around to find out what else may be going on with other troupes/studios/etc, within at LEAST 1 hour radius, and start your planning at least 6 months out (or more!).  If there's something of the same scale already happening (even if it's a different style), see about selecting a different date, or at least letting the other producer know what you're considering and why.  If you both agree you have different markets, then maybe you can actually help each other cross-promote.  Maybe y'all can work together to create an area calendar - it's really easy to create a mutual calendar via gmail/google that local teachers and producers can access, add their events and double-check dates.

-Stand Behind Your Own Work: You know what works better than starting rumors about your supposed competition? NOT spreading rumors. If you're an awesome teacher/performer/producer, then your work will speak for itself.  If you have to badmouth others to make yourself seem awesome, then your work is probably not that good and needs some fixing.  If you doubt yourself, then perhaps you should do some soul-searching and find out why you're insecure. But putting negativity energy out there will only come back to bite you, sooner or later.

-Be Yourself, Create Yourself: Be proud of what you create, credit those that have helped/inspire you, and don't rely on copying/borrowing from other people.  If you want to be in this for the long haul, then you need to be your own creatrix vs being a "cheaper substitute for X." If you feel you haven't found your own voice yet, then you may want to think twice about teaching/performing/producing.

-Switch Gears: Particularly with women, we often feel driven to critique/criticize others, because society trains us/puts us in the position to believe we are in competition with other women.  Why? So someone has a nicer costume or looks prettier or has a lot of talent- what does that matter to you? Nothing. It doesn't make you better or less, because at the end of the day, you will still be you and she will still be her. So rather than searching for what's wrong with someone (unless well, you're the teacher and you've been asked to critique, you get I mean that other thing entirely, right?), focus on what works and what you do like.  Ask yourself why you don't like something and see how valid the reason is...but don't dwell in the negative, it'll only suck you down. Otherwise, if what's on stage is really not your cup of tea, this is a great time at a show to shop or take a bathroom break!

So there's a few thoughts that I hope you'll find helpful.  Collaborating means working together for a common good, even if you're not directly working with someone on a project. Maybe if we all starting shifting how we approach ourselves and others in the community, it will create a ripple that will balance everything back out.  Yeah, lofty goal, but it has to start somewhere. Why not here?

*This is still a very big debate within and outside of Steampunk - what IS Steampunk music, is there such a thing?  Check out this great panel discussion from Clockwork Alchemy a few weeks back...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New FUN Music for Dancers!

Some of you may remember a few months back, we were doing a fundraiser for the "Narratives" Project - which not only met its goal prior to the deadline, but also exceeded it!  It was officially released at Clockwork Alchemy in San Jose, CA two weeks ago, and it's now available for purchase online (download or order the CD).

The CD features 10 songs, all based on myths, stories, and fairytales - with a twist! And par for the course with Nathaniel's work, it's very danceable, and lends itself to creative and fabulous performances - from a wicked Little Red Riding Hood and Baba Yaga to the Angel of Death and Frog and Toad!

Have a listen! 

And there's even an animated video for one of the
 songs ;)

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's June!

I'm not sure what happened to the month of May, cause it was April, and now it's June.  Somewhere in-between, there was Tribal Fest 13, Clockwork Alchemy, and A-Kon in Texas, and recovering from being on the road for 3 weeks by teaching a pair of workshops here in Seattle....like you do.

I have a LOT of backlogged things I will be putting up here as my brain clears out, so bear with me as I get sorted out.  Though I expect most of the writing to happen after Tribal Revolution in Chicago June 20th-23rd - where I am teaching two great workshops - "Decopunk Bellydance" and "A Teacher's Workshop" - of which I think there's still space in both.  If you're a fan of "Nouveau Noir" and my Steampunk workshops, you will love Decopunk - and if you're an aspiring teacher, or looking to breathe new life into your current classes, "A Teacher's Workshop" will give you a LOT to think about and work with!

In the meantime, I'm going to leave you with two videos: my Tribal Fest 13 performance with Nathaniel Johnstone and my performance at Art of the Belly back in March!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Light and Dark Side of the Moon and the Search for Beauty

(At first, I thought about separating this post into two separate posts, but I decided not to. There has to be balance, and I wanted folks to get both at once...)

Producing a major event pretty much requires that for 1-2 weeks leading up to the event, I'm going to curse myself, question my sanity, make my loved ones swear I won't do something crazy like this again, and generally be a ball of nerves. At least it feels that way on the inside, because many have commented to me, "How do you manage to be so calm and focused?" (Because I have a job to do, people are counting on me, and it has to happen is the combo-answer.)

And then the event happens, and everyone is ecstatic and my inbox is flooded with happy messages, and I know that YES, all of that was worth it, and YES I will do it again (and my loved ones are doing nothing to deter this...in fact, they're with me on planning the next thing, maybe it's a conspiracy?).  And yes, Waking Persephone was even better this year, and it blows my mind. But, I don't put on events for me...I put them on because of what it does for the community - my students, my friends, musicians, teachers, performers, vendors, and the venues it supports - and because I do a good job of planning, the event pays for itself.  I see what the event does for everyone, and it makes me happy.  And so it pains me to move Waking Persephone because I know what it does for New England, but logic must win in this case - it's much harder to produce a major event from 3500 miles - BUT I will be doing something back in Rhode Island to fill a bit of that void...more details on that later. Still not an easy decision.

And then the week or two after the event, after my body and brain has had time to recover, there's usually a bit of depression, a void.  But this time, the malaise wasn't so much for the "oh, it's all over...", but that point where I seemed to reconnect with the internet, rather harshly. That the very tactile physical experience of what community really means and feels like, gets a bit lost in the melee of various media onslaught...and it pulled me down. (The upside of being so damn busy is that you often miss a lot of the rigamarole, and so there's a blissful ignorance that comes with the busy.) It's not caused by one person or one discussion, or really anything to do with me personally, but what I see...this is what's being going through my mind lately, in no particular order, and I have covered them in this blog in various ways in the past, but I felt particularly bombarded by all of these online, this week:

!) "Rosemary does indeed grow in the gardens of the wicked." Seeing praise for someone who has a long and active history of stealing, lying, and other unsavory business habits upsets me. It's clear that the person giving the praise has had little exposure with the actual person, only the persona, and it pains me that more people will get hurt by them, but nothing I can do about it (besides not hire or promote them myself).  Is there always another excuse for why something can't be done? If you contribute to something, what do you get back, and are you getting it back in a timely manner? Just because someone puts on the airs of a deity doesn't mean they're divine. Nobody is perfect, keep your eyes open. Trust is earned, not given away.

!) "I'm born again! You're NOT! And you're doing it wrong!" People who come to some drastic realization about their path and their own choices, and then decide that everyone else is also wrong and proceeds to inform everyone how they're doing it wrong. You know, we all do stupid stuff, and it's great to try and educate others, but everyone comes to things on their own, and what worked for you may not be the answer for anyone else.  Be enthusiastic FOR YOU, leave others to focus on what works for them, unless they're paying to learn it from you.  But still, damn it people, you have to be sincere, be honest, be human.

!) "Hissing? No, that's just the sound of my ego inflating..." I love intelligent discussion and debate - where someone asks a sincere question to solve a problem, and everyone has a different solution - ideas get compared, contrasted, shared.  It makes for growth and awesomeness. But I don't get questions posed to get a rise out of people, for the interest of "keeping things going." To point out how others are wrong (in your head/belief), how you disapprove, and then it just gets more ugly from there.  It all stems from personal insecurities, a desire for power/control, and rarely does it do anything beneficial for anybody else. Just spreads around more negativity.  Do we really need more of that?

!) "We're being too nice and that's causing all of the issues." Oh really?  I'm not a fan of blowing rainbows and unicorns up people's arses when they don't deserve it and I'm sick of the popularity machine-games, but there's a time and place for everyone, and "you suck" isn't helpful to ANYONE either.  Why knock a troupe of students who are trying their best at a hafla?  What good does it do to rip apart a group of middle-aged women who may not have the "perfect" figure or the best technique, but enjoy this dance with all their hearts? No, poorly-done fusion doesn't do any good, neither does poorly-done ANYTHING for that matter.  Sitting in front of your computer ripping people apart doesn't solve anything.  You know what does? Knowing what "constructive critique" means - versus criticism, and doing it in the proper setting in the right way - in the classroom, face-to-face, where you can demonstrate and discuss what's working and how to do it better.  It also means learning to be open to receiving it. This is NOT an easy thing, but it can be learned, and contributes to everyone's success.  However, it cannot be done on your arse, hidden away.

!) "I wish, I could never..." Some people who believe nothing is possible, who spout negativity all day long - and you know what? They're right.  Nothing will happen for them, because they refuse to be pro-active in their lives.  You know how I get things done?  I decide I want to do something, and I see about how to make it happen, in small reasonable steps. You want to go to a festival? Make a realistic list of what it will take to happen, and create a timeline.  You want to study with OMG famous dancer? Ok, what will it take to make that happen?  Stop disbelieving everything and thwarting yourself in the process.  Stop it with the negative language and start considering the possible. Your life will improve. For reals.

That's a lot isn't it?  That's almost everything I felt like I got exposed to in the last week, and it just broadsided me.  And then I felt the venom coming out of myself, and it startled me.  Because it's not me, but I was immersed in it, and it all got me down and pulled me deeper.  To go from experiencing the very best of a community and what can happen when everyone comes together, to watching the worst unfold before my eyes, and it hurt me. It had nothing to do with me personally, but the empathy for situation, for those who were, are, and will be hurt.  But it doesn't have to be that way.

Instead, I challenge ALL OF US to search for beauty.  Within ourselves, within others.  One of my favorite definitions of Goth is "to search for beauty, and see it in all things - the traditional, the unusual, the macabre."

I'm not talking about some cosmetic standard of commercial beauty.  I'm talking about respect for oneself and for humanity, a desire to bring about positive change, self-growth, and to compete only with yourself. Bring the beauty out in yourself, and it may in turn bring the beauty out in others. 

I will warn you - it's not easy, and it's rather dangerous...but giving into the negative is even more damaging and dangerous.

Friday, April 19, 2013

April, May, June News!

Samara & Saideh up front being silly,
Tempest & Nathaniel in the back, at Motif!
Just returned from Waking Persephone II  (http://www.wakingpersephone.com) which was just amazing!  The first year was so incredible that I was unsure how the second year would compare, and well, it was phenomenal.  Thanks to all of the dancers, vendors, volunteers who made it possible.  The next one will be in Seattle, shooting for October 3rd-5th, 2014 - possibly with a "Possessing The Dark" intensive right before it.  But we won't be leaving New England entirely - stay tuned for developments for a very special Museum Quality: Art School for Bellydancers event happening April 10th-13th in Providence! 

And now there's some very exciting news, upcoming performances, etc:

April 20th - Shimmy Happens Alternative Hafla, in Lakewood, WA - I will be performing close to 6:30pm: http://aleedra.blogspot.com/2013/04/shimmy-happens-alternative-hafla-sat.html

April 28th - An Evening of Live Music & Dance at the Can Can in downtown Seattle, with myself, The Nathaniel Johnstone Band, Oliver Franklin, and more!  Tickets ARE available for both general admission and VIP (there was a website glitch), but they are going fast and this venue will sell out! http://cancan.strangertickets.com/events/7183846/the-nathaniel-johnstone-band-with-tempest-and-oliver-franklin

And while we're talking about awesome live music - Nathaniel is doing a fundraiser for "Narratives" - his next CD project, which sounds AMAZING. The project is at 60% funded with 11 days to go, so help out an amazing project and get create music, art, and more in the process - details and clips at http://www.nathanieljohnstone.com/fundraiser.html

Now in May: 
Nathaniel and I will be performing (in addition to vending) at Tribal Fest 13 in Sebastopol, CA - 5:02, Saturday the 18th on the main stage - http://www.blacksheepbellydance.com/tf13/index.html and we'll be hosting the official Sunday after-thing, called "Hipdown" - details will be on fb and at http://www.nathanieljohnstone.com this weekend.

The following weekend, we're performing and teaching at Clockwork Alchemy in San Jose, CA - check the schedule for the performances and workshops: http://www.clockworkalchemy.com/

And THEN we're off to Dallas, TX for A-KON - http://www.a-kon.com/?p=2902 and I will be teaching a very special mini-intensive workshop on Saturday, June 1st - limited to only 20 dancers! Details at http://www.darklydramatic.com/dallas-workshop.html

And near the end of June, I'm thrilled to be returning to Tribal Revolution in Chicago, where I will be vending, teaching two workshops, and performing - http://www.tribalrevolution.com 

Whew - ok, think that's everything that's coming up fast!  


Saturday, March 16, 2013

So what are you waiting for?

There were many sayings in the house I grew up in (that are still used today in fact, by my parents and brothers), and I'm sure they weren't specific to ours alone - perhaps you may even recognize a few. 
Such gems as:
-What? Do you have shares in the electric company? (in response to lights being left on in a room that wasn't being used)
-What do you want, a cookie or a medal? (after one of the kids sought out praise for something they were supposed to be doing anyway)

-What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation? (when one of the kids was late to a meal, dillydallying, etc)

Yes, I grew up in a family of smart asses: family gatherings are displays of wit, cunning, and fancy linguistics, and not for the faint of heart or overly sensitive. But for better or for worse, a lot of those sayings have come in handy (especially when paying the electric bill), and the last one I'd like to introduce in terms of bellydance community drama - or more specifically, the avoidance there of.

It comes down to being aware of some simple truths that EVERYONE should take to heart:
-Not everyone knows who you are, what you've done, and where you're going, nor does everyone know what your personal schedule is.
-Event promoters/producers rarely have the capacity to single out every person in their community and personally invite them to participate in the event, especially in large cities.  Nor does having a iron memory generally coming along with the ability to herd cats.

I'm a pretty well-known dancer.  I teach and perform on national and international levels, have been featured on more than half a dozen mass-produced DVDs, headlined major festivals all over the world, and have a pretty strong presence online.  Yet having moved numerous times in my life, particularly 3 major moves in the last 6 years, I don't expect the local community to automatically know who I am, what I do, and invite me to ALL THE THINGS.  Or have them know/realize that where I am now as a dancer/artist/teacher is completely different than where I was 6-7 years ago.  If I did expect all of these things, I'd have a pretty empty schedule, filled only by a ginormous ego. Yeah, no.

So I don't expect them to arrive on my doorstep with flowers and be all "OMG, famous dancer! come to my event!" Instead, when I see an event I'm interested in, I write the promoter, introduce myself, and see about getting involved.  If I had talked to them at a previous event where they suggested things for the next one, I don't wait to for them to remember our conversation 6 months later, find my card, and contact me.  Nope, instead, I'm pro-active, and I contact them in a timely manner.

I think too many dancers live so much in their own heads (and personal infamy) that they fail to realize that not everyone else is keeping track of their every movement, wish, and desire.  I've often heard "Oh, X slighted me by not inviting me to perform/teach at her/his event" where the truth is more like, X is up to their ears in producing said event that they failed to remember or was unable to follow through with contacting the dancer.  I have mad event producing skills, usually tackling what takes a team of people for other events, but there is no way in hell I'm going to remember everything and everyone.  And so I try and take that into consideration when working with other people. 

So what does this mean for you?  If you see a local event you're interested in, but didn't receive an engraved invitation to be a part of it, then get off your hipscarf and contact them.  There's no room left this year for performing or instructing?  See about volunteering or at least showing up to attend the event.  The best way to make a great and lasting impression is not performing at an event, it's being a helpful participant. Nearly every event can use one more pair of helping hands....and sometimes last-minute performance or vending or teaching slots open up. As a promoter myself, I'm more likely to make that extra step for someone if they show they really want to be part of a community and help out.  The folks who show up only to perform and then leave? Or didn't follow simple instructions? No thanks.  The gal who signs up for workshops and also offers to help clean up? Yeap, I want to talk to her.  There are 10 slots, but 20 amazing dancers? I will remember who showed up anyway, even though they didn't get a slot - or expect them to send me a note along the way.

It's not about putting up a front of being nice, it's about understanding the energy that it takes to make an event happen as well as putting the REAL YOU out there.  People who really want to be a part of things for the right reason will stand out.  The fakers and the divas? They fade away. 

Want real community?  Drop being so jaded and judgmental, deciding that everyone is out to get you/slight you (well, unless you ARE a total bitch, then yeah, maybe they are, or more specifically are avoiding your lame ass.) 

Don't miss out on great opportunities because your engraved invitation didn't arrive.  It takes courage to put yourself out there, but it's so worth it. 

Better than sitting at home with your ego any day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Upcoming Events in Feb & March!

While it's been quiet on the surface the last month and a half, been very busy moving into a new place, getting situated and putting things into motion.  In the next few weeks, online lessons will be up and running - recorded as well as skype!  In addition to that, there's a lot of great things kicking off:

1) I will be teaching a 6 week session of classes here in Seattle at Tin Can Studio starting on Thursday evenings - 7pm is Bellydance Foundation and 8pm is Fusion/Performance Fundamentals - only a few spots are left, and I will only be teaching classes when I can put 4-6 weeks together consecutively, so take advantage of when I can offer them! Complete info at http://www.darklydramatic.com/classes.html

2) Nathaniel Johnstone and I will be presenting/performing/teaching at FaerieCon West in Seattle this Saturday, February 23rd: 

1:00-1:45pm: Dreaming the Raven: A Morrigan Dance Ritual
Experience a performance ritual dance presentation inspired by the mythical aspects of the Raven and the Morrigan, featuring the dancing of world-renown fusion performer Tempest and live music by multi-instrumentalist Nathaniel Johnstone. The performance will be followed up with discussion about the ritual presentation, including the myths that inspired it, the incorporation of dance and ritual, improvisation, and the creation of the music.
Market Stage - Ballroom Foyer – Level 3 (free with FaerieCon admission)

3:00-4:30pm Sigils in Motion: Merging Movement With Ritual
Ritual is a dynamic union of self and spirit, above and below—so why should it be static? Learn to incorporate movement into your ritual with focused intention and discover a much more powerful experience. With dancer Tempest and musician Nathaniel Johnstone as your guides, you’ll explore the key parts of several rituals and how actively discover how different sacred movements, gestures and dance steps can be applied to enhance your spiritual practice– for groups and covens, as well as solitary practitioners. $30,
Faerie Academy class, James and Marion Suites – 4th Floor - register at http://faeriecon.com/west/participate/faerie-academy/

3) Angels & Absinthe II, St. Louis, MO, March 8th-10th - teaching and performing workshops, along with Nathaniel Johnstone, The Ghosts Project, Secondhand, Il Troubadour and more! - great for ALL styles of bellydance! http://exoticrhythms.com/EXOTICRHYTHMS/?page_id=346

4) Art of The Belly Festival, Ocean City, MD, March 22nd-24th - teaching and performing and vending! Details at http://www.artofthebelly.com/ 
5) Cues & Tattoos Festival, Seattle, WA, March 27th-30th - performing in the Saturday Night Serpent's Muse Show, and vending Sat/Sun with Tin Can Studio. Details at: http://www.troupehipnotica.com/cues/

6) And just beyond in April, Waking Persephone II happens again in Providence, RI - April 11th-14th - The East Coast's Dark/Experimental Bellydance Event.  Details at http://www.wakingpersephone.com

There are even more exciting things planned for the rest of the year, visit my website for the whole schedule!

Thanks so much!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dark Inspirations: New Developments for 2013

Truly, there is no rest for the wicked.  Just days after getting back from teaching a 3 day-long Museum Quality Intensive in Indianapolis last weekend, still recovering from the satisfied exhaustion of a great workshop weekend, my brain has kicked off into high-gear about new projects for 2013. 

First off, we are coming up on the 10 year anniversary of The Gothic Bellydance Resource. The site has been in major need of a complete overhaul and update for quite some time, and it's finally going to get it.   All new content, new features, videos, galleries, and links - and if you're a dancer, artisan, or event producer who specializes in the darker styles of bellydance - stay tuned for how you can get involved and get featured on the website.

Next: a new dance intensive from me, which is designed to be the most complete and extensive learning experience for Gothic/Ritual/Dark Fusion bellydance anywhere: Possessing The Dark: Spirit, Body, & Mind.  20+ hours over 3 days which will lead dancers through the complete process of truly mastering darker styles of bellydance. As I have said many times before, it's not just about the make-up costuming, and it's not just about the movements and music, and it's not just about telling a dramatic story - it is the successful combination of all of these elements channeled with introspective energy that makes this beautiful art-form so mesmerizing, captivating, and powerful.

And then, to top it all off with awesomeness, the intensive will also be made into a 3 DVD set (estimated to be 9-12 hours of material) + a compilation CD of music.  Now, it won't be the same experience as the intensive, as there are many exercises that do not translate into DVD effectively nor does anything surpass a one-on-one live instructional situation, but it will be the most comprehensive collection of instruction on the subject available on DVD.  More details on the DVD Project to come in February/March!

So that's a bit of what's in store!