A still more glorious dawn awaits...

by Monday, December 28, 2009
With each passing year, I discover an incredible overlap between bellydance and geekitude. This pleaseth me greatly. :) So I am confident that a large cross section of you who visit this blog will appreciate the following video. It was sent to me via various methods earlier this year, and I have had it stuck in my head and heart ever since. It's autotuned Carl Sagan (feat. Stephen Hawking, even!), so for those of you not interested in either (autotuned music or science), you may not enjoy it much. But it made me cry when I first heard it and it still moves me incredibly every time I listen.

I grew up watching Cosmos with my family at home, and later on VHS in science class. Carl Sagan is at the top of my "if you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?" His combination of genius level intelligence, eloquent speaking skills, practical spirituality, childlike wonder, wry humor, respect for life, and passionate desire to understand that which is not yet understood is, to me, an incredibly evolved state of being which Mr. Sagan exemplified in his life* and work. This song is a lovely tribute to the man and his philosophies.

And while we're at it, you need to read "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark" by Carl Sagan. An incredible read by one of the greatest thinkers in human history. http://www.amazon.com/Demon-Haunted-World-Science-Candle-Dark/dp/0345409469

(* To be clear, Sagan was still HUMAN, and I am aware of his personal relationship issues with his wives and family, but I am speaking of the public figure and his admirable qualities. I should hope I am more judged on the good I do publicly than the way I fuck up in private. :)

Rest in Peace, Perry Lorenzo

by Sunday, December 20, 2009

My senior high school English teacher, arguably one of the most influential teachers of my life, passed away last night of bone cancer. Thanks to old friends and acquaintances from school, via Facebook I was aware of his illness many weeks ago, but was still knocked down by the news given just moments ago. I had the pleasure of not only being his student at John F. Kennedy High School, but also working with him in educational outreach at the Seattle Opera and performing in his production of The Mikado at the new Savoy Opera back when I was a college undergrad. I studied great works of literature because of him. Hell, I saw Wager because of him...all four nights of Der Ring des Nibelungen! How many 17 year olds do you know who can find an interest in that, if it weren't for someone influential pulling gently on the reigns?

What is it about our most influential teachers, in any discipline, that reaches not only those parts of us which are affected by the material they teach, but extends subtle tendrils which reach into our souls, and creates lasting memories and aftershocks of effects which last us all our lives? Perry Lorenzo was one of those teachers in my life, and I will be praying for his family and friends closest to him tonight, and meditating on his effect on me and others in my graduating class (and surely far beyond) in the coming days.

In the meantime, I want to share a piece of what made Perry such a beautiful human being, spiritually and intellectually. A prayer request letter written on the Catholic and Enjoying It blog, which for me beautifully illustrates a man of passion for his work, and depth of commitment to his faith. (to see more of Perry's writing about art and life, visit his blog at http://perrylorenzo.blogspot.com/, and there is an article from Sunset onoline about his work with students and opera at http://www.sunset.com/travel/northwest/hooked-on-opera-00400000018940/

"And finally, Perry Lorenzo, who is one of Seattle treasures both as a Catholic and as a fine teacher on practically everything to do with the Western tradition, but especially opera and the Catholic faith, writes:

Dear friends in the Lord,

I have a degenerative bone cancer in my left shoulder, as well as dormant cancers in all my lung lobes. I am going through radiation and MRIs and tests and scans at present, and soon we will be determining a future path of treatment.

This has not in the least diminished my faith, in fact only strengthened it. My prayer is that God heal me so that I can return to performing my vocation of education and teaching and music; if God will not at present quickly heal me, I pray that I can give the best witness of love, gift, and beauty to other people. In the spirit of Pope John Paul II. Please pray for me in that way, if you wish: or in any way you like...

I think that this experience of cancer, medicine, and treatment is quite profound. It does not at all alter what we all already know about ourselves--that we are created by God, that as creatures we are limited and dependent and mortal, that suffering is inevitable, and that we will die. These are all facts, whether we are diagnosed with a disease or not. However, the experience of a cancer, such as I am now going through, is simply an intensification of my awareness of this fact. I know, in a deep way, that I am created, mortal, and live every day in the face of death. The real issue is the how of facing death: and I need your prayers to face death--or serious illness and recovery--in a spirit of faith, hope, love, joy, gratitude, and most of all GIFT. God has given me my life, and I want to give it all back to Him, for it is His anyways; in giving it all to Him, I want to love Him and love my neighbor, to return to my vocation or to use what time is remaining as a Gift of sharing God's beauty with other people.

I keep a long list of people to pray for daily, as Im sure many of you do too! Please keep me in your prayers!

If you would like to pray to the Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, please do so. Newman inspires me to be a Christian Roman Catholic intellectual in the modern world, dedicated to education and the Gospel. Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for me.

Thank you,

Perry Lorenzo."

A stanza of the poem The Wreck of the Deutschland by Gerard Manley Hopkins, from Perry's blog, about knowing death is an inevitability:

"Some find me a sword; some
The flange and the rail; flame,
Fang, or flood’ goes Death on drum,
And storms bugle his fame.
But wé dream we are rooted in earth—Dust!
Flesh falls within sight of us, we, though our flower the same,
Wave with the meadow, forget that there must
The sour scythe cringe, and the blear share come."

The digital Universe

by Friday, December 18, 2009
This video is stunning. Shows the known Universe as we understand it today, through a combination of the most advance scientific resources we have available.

If you feel amazingly tiny and insignificant, and completely awed by the scope of human existence, raise your hand.
*raising hand*

Nightmare before Christmas as metaphor

by Thursday, December 17, 2009

Once upon a time there was a character named Jack Skellington.

Jack was very very good at Halloween. Everyone looked to him for leadership because he was so good at it.

As time went on, Jack became bored of Halloween. He kinda felt like everything that could be done had been done, and he really wanted to try something new to spice things up.

He stumbled upon a town which celebrated something called Christmas. "What's this?!" he exclaimed joyfully. It was something really different, and it looked fun and interesting. On the spot he decided to give that a try.

He took Christmas back to his friends, none of whom knew anything about Christmas. Jack himself really didn't know much except what he thought it should maybe look like a bit (from his brief visit to the town), and some general ideas about the traditions. Armed with this spare information, they set to work on their version of Christmas.

They took it on with gusto! They trusted Jack's instincts, and despite reservations and confusion, they plowed ahead with their attempts at something new. They did random experiments to try and see what it all meant, mixing and matching this and that to try and see what it would result in. They were scratching their heads, but kept pushing forward with innocent curiosity. "Making Christmas; time to give them something fun they'll talk about for years to come!" It was all done from a place of genuine enthusiasm and desire to do something spectacular. They poured everything they had into it. Jack even had a friend make him a version of a "Sandy Claus" costume for him to wear. Now that was authentic Christmas right there!

When all was said and done, things were kind of sort of vaguely something like Christmas, but really it was just this strange kludging together of Halloween and Christmas that didn't quite work. In some ways it was completely horrifying how things were misinterpreted and misunderstood! But having done this from such a place of ignorance, they had no idea how wrong they were. And off Jack went in his sleigh to excitedly share his interpretation of Christmas with all the families of the Christmas world!

And it was a disaster. People were confused, terrified, and offended. And Jack and his minions couldn't figure out why! They had read some books, made some costumes and toys, and decorated to a T (with rats and bats, even! Who doesn't love rats and bats?!)! What could they have done wrong with all those bases covered...?

Perhaps it was just a basic understanding of the material?

Hrm...sounds so familiar...Can't quite put my finger on it...

Renee's look at ATS

by Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Today I stumbled across a tribal discussion on Bhuz from back in June which I missed (I was on vacation for my anniversary around that time), in which my co-director Renee was making some observations about tribal bellydance in the context of a discussion where another dancer asked about the difference between cabaret and tribal. I really enjoyed her perspective, and she is such an eloquent writer, I thought I would share.

The full discussion can be found HERE (must be a member to read, but Bhuz is a great resource--you SHOULD be a member and participate!).

From a technical perspective, everything done is tribal is geared towards enhancing and facilitating the group dynamic. Arms have fixed positions (frequently uplifted and away from the body) in relation to the corresponding hip and body movements because they are the primary cue mechanism. Formations are placed so that everyone can see the lead as well as be seen by the audience. There is not often a great deal of footwork or lateral traveling movements because you can't count on having the space to move an entire formation. Movements are kept simple and uncluttered to best emphasize the unsion of the dancers.

I think what's also missing here is the focus on the group. Many times when I see cabaret troupes perform, it looks like there are just multiple soloists all doing the same choreography, and no matter how much the choreography may have them "interact" they are not really connected or breathing the same breath. The connection required for good tribal group improv is palpable. It's a different skill set--being able to draw in the moment on a broad vocabulary and effectively communicate it to your fellow dancers in time for all to start the new movement at the proper point of the phrase; being able to follow smoothly and make all of the minute adjustments that keep you in the same angle, posture, movement and timing as the lead; the constant communication--it's all very different from cabaret group work.

For the benefit of friends who are cab soloists I have likened dancing group improv to the difference between dancing a choreographed solo to taped music and dancing an improvised solo to your favorite live band. You have an idea of what they're going to play, but you're not sure exactly what's going to happen from moment to moment and they keep their eyes on you and you turn to them, looks are exchanged and you vibe with each other and have this amazing conversation right there on stage. I mean, it's fun to nail a choreography, but it's *nothing* like a really connected improv piece.

Tribal just has a different spirit. It is about the joy and support and strength of the group, not about the personal emotional expression of the soloist. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just different.) While we never would claim to be traditional ethnic dance, we've had many people from the middle east come and tell us after a performance that it *felt* like what they experience at home, and I think they are talking about what they see in the home, at family events and such, as opposed to on a stage. While we do perform tribal on stage, I think at it's heart it is more of a folk art and less of a fine art.

I particularly love that last line. That resonates with me.

Organic Process: The Art of Seeing

by Monday, December 14, 2009
All the way back in May, I was pondering the collision of modern media and the organic process of artistic creation. In that post I wrote:

"A sculpture or a painting--even a piece of music or a video--is not expected to change, and is appreciated for its unchanging beauty. It is it's solidity that is part of its appeal, in a way. We see the same piece over time, and instead of expecting it to change or adapt to us, our perspective adapts and changes. We see it (hear it, experience it) from different angles, in different lights, in a different environment, our attitudes change, our perceptions change; and we find that our appreciation deepens and becomes richer and more multi-faceted as we take the time to consider the piece from all these perspectives. The work to appreciate that art day-to-day is in our hands as the viewer."

Behind the cut below is a vintage video which discusses a related topic: that how classic art is viewed today is so radically different from how it was when those works were created. One of my favorite quotes:

"As you look at (the art) now, on your screen, your wallpaper is around them, your window is opposite them, your carpet is below them. At this same moment, they are on many other screens, surrounded by different objects, different colors, different sounds. You are seeing them in the context of your own life. They are surrounded not by gilt frames, but by the familiarity of the room you are in and the people around you.

Originally paintings were an integral part of the building for which they were designed. Sometimes when you go into a Renaissance church or chapel, you have the feeling that the images on the wall are records of the building's interior life. Together they make up the building's memory, so much are they are part of the life and individuality of the building. Everything around the image is part of its meaning. Its uniqueness is part of the uniqueness of the single place where it is. Everything around it confirms and consolidates its meaning."

Which made me think about different pieces of dance performance art, and how for me it is ideally a reflection of the dancer's (or dancers') "interior life". And that sometimes, that context is so integral to fully appreciating the performance, yet we don't often have that piece of the puzzle. We are viewing it and assessing it "in the context of (our) own life", as an audience, by the familiarity of the room we are in and the people around us, no less! How much of the backstory is necessary to make a concept piece really effective for our audience, and how much is it lost if we just put it out there without our audience having any perspective on the creative roots from which the concept has sprung? When they go "huh", is it the audience's lack of vision or personal context, or did we fail as performers to make our intent and creative vision clear? And even further, how much does venue play a part of such a performance?

Is this part of the key in the proliferation of poor fusion out there? Lack of context? My very rambling stream of consciousness behind the cut...

Is it the crux of the problem that new and blossoming dancers are viewing fusion of another artist--a fusion which sprung from that artist's personal context, which the viewers are not privy to in any detail--and then parroting that style or creative choice without any personal context?

And then we have to ask, is it a failure of the performer to really access and present a honest "interior life" (rather than a contrived or copied one) in the work?

Or is there simply a lack of an understanding, on the part the audience, of an expression which is coming truly from within the dancer on stage?

Certainly the latter seems to be the cry of the struggling artist. I find that most often when dancers are challenged on their artistic choices, the volley back is "You just don't get it!" Soon followed by "I will do whatever I WANT. I am an ARTIST!!" The insinuation is that it is entirely on us, the viewer, to do the work of understanding and appreciating, and none of that rests on the performer themselves. That their job is only to do whatever they feel, whatever they think makes sense in the context of their life (even if it is sometimes a completely superficial copy of someone else's choices) without consideration of their audience. But I would argue that we are not just visual artists as dancers; that as performers, we are also necessarily entertainers. And while part of our job is an internal struggle to create something genuine from within ourselves, the other part is translating it into something for others to consume. If your work is truly from within you, and you want to put it out there for others to share in, the next step is to consider how you will best convey your message so others can appreciate it.

So following this train of thought, I ponder many questions...

How much of copying another's style is a stepping stone to a more personal expression, and how much of it is a crutch to avoid the real work of personal development?

How much of the responsibility to make any performance piece understood is in the hands of the performer versus the eye of the beholder? And what role to we performers have in helping the latter along? Is it creative sacrifice or creative consideration to change our original vision in any way to be more palatable to our audience?

Emmet the Otter

by Saturday, December 12, 2009

Last night was our "Elf Virgin Party", which sounds kinky, but is actually just an excuse to get some friends to watch the fabulously hilarious film. Really, if you haven't seen it, you must.

My friend Michelle brought a bonus DVD for us to watch after: "Emmet the Otter's Jug Band Christmas". If you haven't seen it, and love Jim Henson's work as I do, you will love it. And do NOT miss the outtakes, which had us CRYING with laughter! Some of it is available on YouTube, but I feel you won't get the full effect unless you are in a room with people you love, eating junk food, and enjoying the holidays in style.

Now I am ready to make my washtub bass to rock with my new band.

A Simple Guide to Being Present

by Saturday, December 05, 2009
Zen Habits really just has some of the best articles! Here is an excerpt, and I encourage you to pop over and read the rest for yourself:

"How often are you driving while talking on a cell phone, or thinking about work problems, or the errands you have to do? How often do you eat without thinking about the food you’re eating? How often do you drift off while doing other things, thinking about something you messed up on, or worrying about something that’s coming up?

I would submit that most of us are elsewhere, much of the time, rather than in the here and now.

If I could only give one word of advice to someone trying to find peace in an overwhelming and stressful and chaotic world, it would be this: simplify. But if I could give two more words of advice, they’d be: be present."

This article came from a suggestion from commenter Mark, after I wrote about ways to create a peaceful, relaxed workday. It’s an article I’d been planning to write for some time, but Mark spurred me to do it sooner — so thanks Mark!

Focus On Now
There are three things we can think about:

1. The past. Reliving things we messed up about. Being embarrassed about something we did. Wishing we could have something back that is gone. Living in memories of good times past. Being angry about things done to us. You get the idea.
2. The future. Worrying about things we need to do later. Worrying about what might happen, or a big event coming up. Being anxious that things might go wrong, or that we might mess up. Hoping for something wonderful. Dreaming of great things to come.
3. The present. What is happening right now, at this moment. What we are doing now.

It is inevitable that we will think about all three. We cannot stop ourselves from thinking about the past or the future. However, with practice, we can focus on the present more than we already do.

But why should we do that? What’s wrong with focusing on the past or future? Nothing’s wrong with it. It isn’t wrong to think about past or future. However, there’s nothing we can do about things that have already happened, and worrying or agonizing about them doesn’t usually do us much good. I’d suggest analyzing what happened, learning from it, and moving on. It’s much healthier.

We also can’t control the future. It’s impossible. We can do things that will change the future, but they might change the future in ways we cannot anticipate. Or they might not change things at all. And the only thing we can do about the future is do something … now. In the present. So focusing on what we do now is the best way to improve the future. Not thinking about the future. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals or shouldn’t plan — but goals change (I know this first-hand, as my goals at the end of 2007 were completely different from what they were at the beginning). Plans change. We must be prepared for that change not by overplanning, but by being in the moment and rolling with the punches.

There’s also the problem of missing the present. If we spend most of our time thinking about the past or future, we are missing life itself. It’s passing us by while we’re elsewhere. You can’t get the most out of life unless you learn to focus on being present, while things are happening. Thinking about your childhood, or your kid’s future, is useless if your kids’ childhood is passing by without you being there.

Benefits of Being in the Moment
I’ve noticed a ton of benefits from my increased focus on the present. Here are just a few to consider:

1. Increased enjoyment. I find that I enjoy life more if I’m present rather than having my mind elsewhere. Food tastes better, I have more fun with my family, even work becomes more enjoyable.
2. Reduced stress. Worrying about the past and future gives you stress. But being present is almost like meditation. There are no worries. There is just experiencing.
3. Better relationships. When you really commit yourself to being with someone, to listening to them, you are being a better father, husband, friend, daughter, girlfriend. You have better conversations. You bond.
4. Get things done. I find that focusing on what I’m doing, rather than trying to multitask or multithink a million different things at once, I actually complete what I’m doing, do a better job on it, and get it done faster. I don’t necessarily do more, but I get things done. Focus tends to get things done, in my experience, and when your focus is split among a lot of things, it is less powerful.

The Magic of Flow
There’s a concept called Flow that’s been pretty popular among productivity circles in the last couple of years. I’m a big fan of it myself. In a nutshell, it’s basically losing yourself in whatever you’re doing — reaching that magical zone where you forget about the outside world and are completely doing what you’re doing, whether that’s writing or drawing or coding or whatever.

It’s a wonderfully productive zone to be in, and a state that also, incidentally, makes you happier. Productive and happier at the same time. Hard to beat that.

However, it can’t happen if you’re switching between tasks or thinking about the past or the future. It basically happens when you are in the present. So practicing being present will help you get to flow, which makes you happier and more productive. Best argument yet for being present, perhaps.

Practice, Practice
There’s no single method that will get you better at being present. I don’t have the magical formula, except one word that I often tell my kids when they’re learning anything or striving to be better at anything: practice.

You won’t be good at it at first, most likely. Your mind will wander, or you’ll do a lot of “meta-thinking”, which is just thinking about what you’re thinking, and whether you’re thinking it the right way, and whether there is a right way … and so on, until you’re no longer in the present. That’s normal. We all do that, I think.

Don’t beat yourself up about that. Don’t get discouraged. Just practice.

So what’s the magical method for learning to be present? Practice.

You do it in the morning. You practice it while eating lunch. You do it with your evening jog or walk. You do it while washing dishes after dinner. Every opportunity you get, practice.

And you’ll get better. I promise.

One Month Challenge
The best method I can offer for learning to be present, the best method for practicing, is to focus on it for one month. Make focusing on being present a habit. If you make it your only focus, I guarantee you’ll get better at it, and more importantly, you’ll get into the habit of remembering to focus, of remembering to practice, of being more aware.

Do a one-month challenge. It’s the best method for forming new habits, and it works for being present. A good way to do this is join the monthly challenge on the Zen Habits forums. Then do the following:

* Tell people on the forum what your monthly challenge will be (focusing on being present).
* Log in daily to report on your progress. This gives you the accountability and motivation needed.
* Do the tips below every day for a month.

“The living moment is everything.” - D.H. Lawrence

Tips On Being Present
You just knew I couldn’t end this post without a list of tips. So here are things that have worked for me … pick and choose the ones that you think will work best for you:

1. When you eat, just eat. The best way to think about being present is this: do just one thing at a time. When you are eating, don’t read or think about something else or iron your clothes (especially if you’re eating something that might splatter on the clothes). Just eat. Pay attention to what you’re eating. Really experience it — the taste, the texture. Do it slowly. Same thing with anything else: washing dishes, taking a shower, driving, working, playing. Don’t do multiple things at once — just do what you’re doing now, and nothing else.

2. Be aware. Another important step is to become more aware of your thoughts. You will inevitably think about the past and future. That’s OK. Just become aware of those thoughts. Awareness will bring change.

3. Be gentle. If you think about the past or future, do not beat yourself up about it! Don’t try to force those thoughts out of your head. Just be aware of them, and gently allow them to leave. Then bring yourself back to the present.

4. Zazen. Ah, you were wondering when Zen Habits would have anything to do with Zen, right? Zazen is basically the center of Zen practice. It’s simply sitting. It’s a form of meditation, but really it’s just sitting. You don’t have to contemplate Zen koans or the meaning of the universe or chant anything. You just sit, and focus on sitting. I haven’t done this much recently, but when I have, it has been very useful practice for me.

5. Exercise. These days, exercise is my zazen. Running is my sitting practice. I run, and try to only run. I focus on my running, on my breathing, on my body, on nothing but the present. It’s great practice.

6. Daily routines. Anything can be your zazen. When you wash dishes, this is practice. This is your meditation. When you walk, focus on walking. Make anything you do become practice.

7. Put up reminders. A reminder on your fridge or computer desktop or on your wall is a good thing. Or use a reminder service to send you a daily email. Whatever it takes to keep your focus on practicing being present.

8. There is no failure. You will mess up, but that’s OK, because it is impossible to mess up. The only thing that matters is that you practice, and over time, if you keep doing it, you will learn to focus on the present more often than you do now. You cannot fail, even if you stop doing it for awhile. Doing it at all is success. Celebrate every little success.

9. Keep practicing. When you get frustrated, just take a deep breath. When you ask yourself, “What should I do now, Self?”, the answer is “keep practicing”.

This article was re-printed with permission from the fabulous Zen Habits blog!

What do you want to be known for...?

by Tuesday, December 01, 2009
What Do You Want to Be Known For?, a post by Jonathan Fields over on his blog "Awake @ the Wheel".

"It’s a question most of never really think about…

Or, if we do, we think about it fleetingly, then tuck it away for some time down the road…when we’ll be able to finally do something about it.

Then, we go about the business of more or less responding to life, just doing what’s in front of us every day. Soon enough, a few minutes turn into a few hours. Then, hours turn into days, days turn into weeks…and, out of nowhere, we find ourselves years down the road, but still no closer to doing what we really want to be doing.

Still, no closer to being known for what we want to be known for…"

(more after the jump)

"It’s been on my mind, more recently, because of a comment that blogger and author of Internet Riches, Scott Fox, left on my post about 'running to catch the sun' last week. He shared:

Nice to see some “real” writing in the sea of copywriting, advertorials, and pitches that floats us all along daily online.

That comment was a bit jarring to me…

Because it sent me spiraling back to the fact that one of the things that I truly want to be known for, when I look back on my life, is being a writer.

Not just a purveyor of information, advice or inspiration, no matter how useful those may be. Not a pundit, a blogger, a smart person. But a writer. Someone who cares about and crafts words to bring people into the story, to take them on a journey. To somehow illuminate and change the human condition, if only fleetingly.

That’s what that post about the sun was about. And, that’s what I want to do more of…and be known for.

Does that mean it’s the only thing I want to be known for?

Of course not. Being a loving, involved husband, dad, brother, son, friend and mentor rank high above. But, it’s part of my vision.

I wonder might happen if we all made a concerted effort to step away from the increasingly autopilot nature of life?

To commit to living with more deliberation.

I wonder what might happen if we built into every single day a little time, say 10 minutes in the early morning, to do 3 simple things:

1. Create and reaffirm a vivid vision of exactly what it is we want to be known for,
2. Commit to taking a single step in the direction of that vision that day, and
3. Visualize ourselves taking that step first thing in the morning

Won’t you give it a try? Commit to 30 days and just see what unfolds."

I have been giving this a lot of thought, and am not sure yet what is my goal for myself in this regard. Must think more on it....what about you?

Best Dance Advice you have gotten?

by Sunday, November 29, 2009
On a local discussion group, the topic of "Best Advice and Lesssons" came up--people started sharing some of the key lessons they have learned from their teachers over the years.

There are so many pieces of advice that I have received over the years, but I think the most important lessons weren't put into words, but put into practice and learned by example.

Like how on the technique side, some of my teachers and fellow dancers really taught me the value of "white space" in dance--that not everything needs to be go-go-go-go! That by having stillness offset the movement, we make the movement more dynamic. "Pregnant pauses" can be just as powerful as your biggest move. Aziza of Montreal is one great example of this to me (then again, she could just stand there and probably mesmerize an audience for about 15 minutes straight :)

On a personal side of things, some teachers taught me the value of connection and communication in the classroom. Some taught me the value of this by NOT having it--the lack of it really driving home how much I feel the need for it. But I know that Paulette Rees-Denis of Gypsy Caravan was my biggest inspiration in building community because of her ability to draw people together and inspire cooperation and mutual support in the dance.

I also have loved the lesson of dance as a sort of "moving pictures". For me, one important aspect of bellydance is the question "is it beautiful?" No, it doesn't always have to be, but I think it is a primary component in successful bellydance. Some teachers drove home the idea of creating beautiful lines, playing with open and closed spaces, elegant and strong shapes--the idea that if a photographer snapped a photo at any given time, it would make a powerful image. Of course, we all know there are tons of times in our dance when we are mid-undulation or something (which they always manage to catch! ;), but that moving from one strong shape or "picture" to the next makes for beautiful dance. Carolena Nericcio of FatChanceBellydance is a big influence for me in this philosophy--as a designer and visual artist, she has an innate sense of line and shape, tension and release, and how it creates lovely pictures in the dance...

So some things we learn by being told or seeing it positively demonstrated so often it gets into us. But still other things we learn by seeing what we *don't* like, or don't want, or don't appreciate being demonstrated. So while I know some people don't like going to a "negative" place by analyzing things we do not prefer, I think there is as much to be learned about what is important to us by looking at the good things as well as what we would categorize as unsuccessful in our opinion. Pay attention to your instincts--what are they trying to tell you?

Teaching vs. Simon Says

by Friday, November 27, 2009
One of my newer students, the lovely Kelly, gave me some wonderful food-for-thought today via her blog. From her very first class, I could see Kelly was a thoughtful student--she asked excellent questions, and gave good feedback verbally and physically when spoken to. So it didn't surprise me when she later told me she was herself a teacher; she teaches yoga. While I have heard nightmare stories from other teacher's experiences, I have found that some of my best students are teachers. They know what it takes to teach, and what is expected in a student. They are respectful and attentive, and my favorites: punctual and ask perceptive questions!

I have been reading some of her older entries this morning, particularly her older entries talking about her time as an officer in the Air Force. I came across her post about the first time she taught yoga, and I thought you might enjoy her insightful reflections on what it means to be a teacher. Enjoy!

I remember the first time I taught yoga. I was deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was December of 2002 and I'd been there for a couple of weeks. I'd finally plucked up the courage to take my yoga mat and my copy of David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual to the gym so that I could practice. I had informally practiced Ashtanga for a little while (using this book, a couple of classes, and a DVD), and brought the book along so that I could practice the Primary Series whilst deployed. At the time I wasn't sure if the book would get confiscated upon entering the Kingdom, due to the near-nakedness of Mr. Swenson in the photos (he wears the traditional "Iyengar undies" - sorry I can't find a link, but they basically look like a cotton diaper cover, with elastic legs and waist). So I snuck the book in. :-p

Anyway, I'd been spotted practicing in the gym and was asked if I would teach a class. Apparently there had been a lot of interest shown in having a yoga class, but there was no one to teach. I hadn't had any teacher training, so when asked if I would be the teacher I promptly and decisively said "No." I was reluctantly swayed, however, after we reached an agreement that participants in the class would be told that I was "leading them through a practice, not teaching them yoga." I felt very strongly about that, because while I knew that I could play Yoga Simon Says with whomever showed up, I knew that I lacked the skills to safely and appropriately teach to each individual's ability and needs. That concept is one of my guiding principals, and I'm thankful that even back then I recognized the important difference between going through some yoga moves with a yoga-bot at the front of the class and being taught the art and science of yoga by a trained, professional teacher.

Classes went well - twice a week - until the war got under way and my work schedule made it impossible for me to teach. That experience underscored for me the importance of having adequate teacher training - not just having experience practicing yoga - before truly becoming a teacher. Also, I may be the only yoga teacher who can honestly say that her first classes were taught while she was at war, and mean it figuratively as well as literally.

Daily Thanks

by Thursday, November 26, 2009

Daily Thanks

by Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Today I am thankful for sisterhood. I am often reminded what a rare and precious gift I have in my dance family. Each is truly a unique and amazing woman, with enviable beauty and strength, inside and out. I love to dance with them, but I also love to simply be among them, talk, and laugh. They are a blessing to my heart and I love them each so dearly.

Daily Thanks

by Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Today I am thankful for computers. My computer is not only a tool for communication and creativity, it is a conduit to information and greater understanding of the world outside my front door, and far beyond my front door, via the internet. I love learning new things I can do with it, especially when it involves Photoshop, Illustrator, iMovie/Final Cut, or HTML/CSS/PHP; with which any small project can keep me entertained literally for days with just the sheer volume of amazing and exciting new things to absorb and experiment with.

(Hey, did you see my Programs for Dancers post earlier this year? If you are thankful for your computer, too, maybe you'd be interested in seeing some of my highlights! :)

A group improv lover's dilemma:

by Monday, November 23, 2009

An online friend, dear Leslie-Jean (Miss Boo, to those on tribe) remarked the other day on her Facebook status that she was exhausted by debates and discussions about ATS/tribal. And frankly, it is genuinely tiresome, and not for the faint of heart to leap into these topics of discussion in any medium. My latest was a discussion on one board about Tribal Fusion, and some misunderstanding that Rachel Brice does ATS. *le sigh*

When I pointed out that she doesn't in fact perform ATS, and has more cabaret background than anything else, and in fact calls herself dark cabaret now, I was directed to a video of RB and another dancer doing a very simple lead-follow at some party, using a few moves which one would identify as ATS. When I pointed out that it was not RB performing ATS, but an example of casually playing around with a fellow dancer improvisationally, the arguments came back that RB had taken private lessons with Carolena, and that those were "definitely ATS moves". This is one of those times I realized I really had to sit back and let it go. Because while that person was right--Rachel has done some studying with Carolena (after she had already been dancing the style she is known for because, as she said, she wanted to be able to back up the "tribal" in the "tribal fusion" label she had been stuck with), and those moves are used in ATS vocabulary, it wasn't an example of Rachel "performing ATS". And if I tried to go into any depth explaining why, I might just frustrate and anger the person who made the misinformed assertion in the first place. And in the end, I would come out being attacked for my attempt to educate, be stuck with some of the usual "you're just trying to shut other people out" bull, when all I was trying to do was help disseminate some facts about what is and is not ATS/group improvisational bellydance. But here is what I would have written:

So do you have some friends who have taken some bellydance classes for a while? And do you think that if you kept it pretty simple and didn't go too fast or make it too complicated, that your friend could follow along with stuff you did? Frankly, ANYBODY can do that. And if you shared some of the same classes and teachers and stylizations, you could probably do it even better. But you wouldn't really be "dancing together", would you? It would be mimicry. Copying as best you could, but it would not likely be very precise, energetic, or necessarily interesting or entertaining for anyone but the two of you playing around together. A lot of people who have never done ATS or its descendants (and even some students when they start out in tribal group improvisation) think that is all group improvisation is: following along.

But it is SO MUCH more than that. It is more precise, and more nuanced, and more interactive than that. It is a conversation between the dancers which is based on a common understanding of not only the vocabulary, but the agreements (or rules, if you prefer) surrounding the interaction, allowing a powerful and playful give and take between leaders and followers, which keeps it dynamic and exciting for the performers, and multi-faceted and entertaining for the audience. That exchange of energy and ideas is palpable! That is the power of group improv!

I run into a lot of people who point out dancers bopping along together, "making it up" as they go, and say that is just like tribal group improv. "They're using ATS moves" is one of the most common arguments (sound familiar? :). They just don't know any better, and it is nearly impossible to explain to those who don't delve into it to any depth. I imagine it's the same for dancers of any style--I am sure Egyptian dancers debating dances from Egypt in the 50's and 60's in the clubs, versus what made it onto film, versus what is being performed over there today, versus what is being performed in the West--all of these interpretations of Egyptian dance have a lot of nuances that a studied Egyptian dancer can see and understand which I could not unless I really devoted time and energy to studying. Those same dancers can probably also understand the frustration one feels when the term "tribal" and ATS get lumped in with many things which completely are not of those genres, especially when it is labeled with a dismissive tone: because we invest so much of ourselves in the understanding of these art forms, and have such a passion for it, it's hard to be patient with rampant ignorance; and there is no way to succinctly explain it all to someone who doesn't know what they don't know without sounding insulting of their demonstrated lack of experience and understanding. And when one tries, one gets accused of being "elitist" or "exclusionary" or worse.

This is the dilemma:
Keep plugging away, helping to educate a population who doesn't understand what makes ATS/tribal group improv so amazing and why it is important to make a distinction in our communications with one another, and risk being snubbed or dismissed or called names? OR
Let it go, let the ignorance continue (but live to educate another day)?

Sadly, until women stop taking simple disagreements personally, and stop attacking each other instead of listening and talking through a valid topic of debate, seeing the merit even in those times (or as I believe, especially in those times) when we don't see eye to eye with one another, sometimes it has to be the latter...

Daily Thanks

by Monday, November 23, 2009
Today I am thankful for my students. They have no idea how proud I am of them every second (I can say it every day, but they can't know how deeply in my heart I mean it!), and how honored I am to help guide them on their dance journey. I know "dance journey" sounds like a lot of hippie-hooey to those who aren't into dance, but I can tell you, it is a very accurate visual for what it means to be moving through this world with dance as one of your vehicles of motion. Thanks to all of you who have put your trust in me as your teacher and mentor, be it in weekly classes, in workshops, or even in reading this blog. It means the world to me to share in this with you all every day.

A student's epiphany...

by Sunday, November 22, 2009
I have students who drive quite a distance to study with me--a fact I find speaks more to their dedication to the dance than any special skill I have in my teaching bag of tricks. A handful drive as much as an hour and a half to come to class every week, and I just want to squeeze the bejeezus out of them for their commitment and enthusiasm! Kat is one such student, and is even more remarkable than most. Not only does she drive so far (often alone now that some of her friends she used to commute with have conflicts and can't come to class each week any longer); but she has overcome some incredible struggles with her health as well, culminating in a kidney transplant about a year ago, from which she is recovering beautifully and is healthier and stronger than ever, I am pleased to report! Combined with many dance and life commitments in her own town, I don't get to see her as often as I used to, which is our loss. Kat has an incredible energy that everyone in the room can feel--to meet Kat is to love her, truly--always with a smile, a positive word, a hug, a laugh.

This fall she has been making an effort to come to class again with more regularity, which continues to be a struggle, and which is completely understandable. This last week she came after a few weeks away, and a couple days later I received this message from her. I was moved to tears by her words, which is the kind of epiphany all we teachers wish our students could arrive at. I thought some fellow dancers and teachers might appreciate the astute observations Kat made about her class experience this past week, about the importance of intention and being fully present in your practice. I asked her permission to share this with you, and she enthusiastically agreed. So here is the letter that completely made my day...really made my teaching year! I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on this as well, so please feel free to write or comment.

Your class this Monday was meditation to me. I left there with a whole new appreciation and perspective about classes. I realize how precious it is to be there. I saw more than ever all that I lose when I can't make it...

It's more than just being there, it's what comes with me when I leave. I've always known that class was important, I just didn't realize till now HOW. Moves I've known like the Circle Step (that I've done more times than I can count) took on a whole new life to me. You broke it down and made it rich. It wasn't just a move, it demanded thought. My mind and my body fused~and I realized that every time I've done a move/combo without my brain involved, the movement lost it's purpose. Dance is a language and if the movement has no intention, no purpose, then it's like saying stuff without saying anything at all.

I spent all day yesterday going through all the moves/combos I know and did them one by one with awareness~and I saw that with each move I did, I didn't have as good of a relationship with them as I thought. My body is sore from it, and my mind is much more excited and awake.

You teach much more than just moves~ you're teaching energy, awareness, and connection. Thank you for peeling my eyelids up so I can really look at myself...I needed & wanted to see this truth about myself and my dance.


Daily Thanks

by Sunday, November 22, 2009
Today I am thankful for the rain. Yes, rain, even you I am thankful for. They grey days can sometimes get me down, but at the same time, I am grateful for the water that makes things so beautifully green in my city. And I adore the sights, sounds, and smells of the rain! Oh yes, especially that crisp, clean smell. I love the sound of heavy rain pelting its rugged pitter-pat on the roof; and a storm...! Don't even get me started, when the thunder and lightning arrive. It's rare enough around here that I become a giddy kid, lighting candles and sitting by the window watching in fascination. Yes, rain, we have a love/hate. Today, I express my thanks for you.

Daily Thanks

by Saturday, November 21, 2009
Today I am thankful for my mind. Another thing we take for granted: our ability to process information, to parse data, to analyze details, to visualize, to question, to imagine. I feel like I got lucky, and got the best of both my parents: my mother's powerfully creative and artistic right brain, and my father's extraordinary logical and analytical left brain. I am not as strong as either of them in these areas, but instead have a respectable balance between them, which I am proud of, and feel blessed to be a combination of their strengths.

Daily Thanks

by Friday, November 20, 2009
Today I am thankful for friends who make me laugh on a grumpy day. Friends who listen, and who tell great stories. Who care about what's going on in your life, and are open about their own experiences. Friends who make you go home with a smile and say "Today was a good day!" when you were pretty sure a distinctly opposite report would have been delivered without their presence.

Alternative drill music

by Friday, November 20, 2009
What are your favorite alternative tunes for class drills? Let's exchange some ideas for fun music which gets you moving and breaks you out of the usual!

Right now, I am loving:

Fast drills: "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" by Daft Punk, "Tickle It" and "Shake Ya Boogie" by Mocean Worker, and "Blues for Brother George Jackson" from the Verve Remixed album (which has some great slow breaks in it to play with).

Slow: "Feels Just Like It Should" by Jamiroquai and "Call it Stormy Monday" by BB King feat. Albert Collins.

Daily Thanks

by Thursday, November 19, 2009

Today I am thankful for variety. I live in a city (and in a country) that has such variety available to us--in art, in cuisine, in fashion, in entertainment, you name it! There truly is something for everyone. I am so grateful for the simple pleasure of choice.

CLASS NEWSLETTER: Thanksgiving, Winterfest performance, and more!

by Thursday, November 19, 2009
Hello all! Here is the November Newsletter:

That goes for Monday and Thursday. Have a great Turkey Day!

Note to all Level 2 and 3 dancers who might be interested: Winterfest is coming! Are you interested in performing at Winterfest this year? Get in touch with me right away! We need to work out a rehearsal time for everyone to put the show together. (Right now, it will likely be the Wednesday before the performance, December 2nd, likely from 7pm-9pm. Does that jive?)

Winterfest is an annual tradition for Nomaditude, our student troupe dancers. This year they have invited experienced students who would like to be a part of the fun! No performance experience necessary, but you must be level 2 or 3 to take part. If you are interested, e-mail me right away to get on the planning mailing list for more information.

I am re-compiling the student resource center,and would like your input!

Not only will the new improved student resource center include class level details, finger cymbal practice resources, and music resources as before, I would also like to include a Student Business Directory! We have a great community of women who own their own businesses, and I would like to feature your business or services in the resource center! Stay tuned for more information on how to advertise your business and reach a large community of women from all walks of life who might be seeking your services!

What else would you like to see in the resource center? Write me with your ideas!

I am participating in a daily thanks practice between now and Thanksgiving. You can see what is on my mind, and participate yourself, over on my blog at http://thetribaldancer.blogspot.com/ Stop by, read, share!

As always, I find myself feeling so thankful for all of you, my beautiful, strong, amazing students. You are dearer to me than you may ever know. Much love to you all.

Merce Cunningham quote

by Thursday, November 19, 2009
"You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady souls."
~ Merce Cunningham

Q&A: I'm not progressing like I thought I would...

by Thursday, November 19, 2009
"I took ATS from another local teacher for 6 months, and have been taking cabaret for about 2.5 years from Teacher X and Teacher Y, and also had workshops with Zoe, Rachel Brice, Ariellah, Suhaila Salimpour, and Caroleena (sic) in San Francisco. Though you would not believe it from watching me. I took a hiatus since feeling that I wasn't where I should be after 3 years. But I love bellydance, so I have turned to you because I have always been wowed by your troupes performances and thought it would be so great to be a part of that."

A. With regard to your frustrations with where you think you should be at any given time in your dance, we all hit plateaus in our dance life, and maybe you have been stuck at one for a time. Shaking things up can help push us through those barriers. If I may offer some perspective from my experiences? Truthfully, focusing on one style that really resonates with you can be a big help in seeing marked improvement over time. I love Teacher X, and hear great things about Teacher Y, and you are blessed to be taking from them surely! But their styles are very very different approaches to movement and musical interpretation than you get with group improvisation. It can be difficult to expect our bodies to build the muscle memory necessary to push things to the next level when we are constantly switching gears back and forth between different skill-sets. (I address this in my FAQ Here ) I know my students who split their studies between multiple styles are often the ones who get stuck the most often and for the longest time, unable to really ramp up their skills in group improvisation as they should or could if they were 100% focused on one style.

Now I am not saying that dancers should isolate themselves and limit their studies to only one single style for all time, forever and ever amen. But I do run across the "Jack of all trades, master of none" syndrome quite a lot in the bellydance world, particularly in fusion and tribal circles. Where we are just taking in too much at once, hopping from style to style, concept to concept, and we never really let our minds and our muscle memory latch onto and develop a solid set of cohesive skills over time. Imagine if you were studying history, for instance. And you had chapters on each decade of even just American history. And you were constantly skipping around, reading a paragraph about the 1930's, then reading a paragraph about the 90's, then jumped back to the 20's, then into the 60's, and so on. How well do you think you would really retain useful information and a true understanding of any given period of history, and how much of it would just end up being trivial facts useful only for the 200-level Jeopardy questions?

Something to think about as you move forward: What style really resonates with you? What do you see yourself performing in the years ahead, if performing is your goal? Think not only of costuming and music, but of what movement really gets your creative juices flowing and gets you excited about coming to class every week (or multiple times a week!). One of my favorite all-time dance quotes is the following:

"The most essential thing in dance discipline is devotion, the steadfast and willing devotion to the labor that makes the classwork not a gymnastic hour and a half, or at the lowest level, a daily drudgery, but a devotion that allows the classroom discipline to become moments of dancing too..." *Merce Cunningham*

To what dance, what style, what teacher, what classroom, what discipline can you really see yourself devoted to? Chew on that for a little bit and see what solution percolates to the top.

Daily Thanks

by Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Today I am thankful for a career that allows me so much freedom and opportunity to be creative in my life. Sometimes I feel I squander the time I am given, but I am always humbly grateful for the charmed life I have been given through dance, and and of course my loving husband who supports me in my endeavors.

Daily Thanks

by Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Today I am thankful for sunshine! The way I bounce out of bed on a sunny day, ready to take on the world...no doubt I am solar powered! And today it makes the fall leaves just sparkle. Soooo beautiful!

Daily Thanks

by Monday, November 16, 2009

Today I am thankful for music. I have music playing most of the time in my world, whether I am home working on computer tasks, or at work (class or performing) dancing to it. I am grateful I have two ears to hear it with, and a mind and heart which appreciates it on so many levels. It can pick me up and drive me forward, help me relax, set the mood for a party with friends, or be the reason for the party (Rock Band!).

Daily Thanks

by Sunday, November 15, 2009

Today I am thankful for quiet mornings, drinking tea and reading, with warm puppies underfoot.

On being an artist: Your Artist Workout

by Saturday, November 14, 2009
From http://clicks.robertgenn.com/personal-trainer.php

Advice to artists from a personal trainer, taking skills from workout training and applying them to being an artist:

* Find a sanctuary where you can comfortably work.
* Dedicate at least two hours a day to your art.
* Have more than enough equipment and supplies.
* Set short- and long-term goals and keep track of progress.
* Think of your work as exercise, not championship play.
* Explore series development and exhaust personal themes.
* Work alone with the benefit of books and perhaps tapes.
* Replace passive consumption with creative production.
* Use your own intuition and master your technology.
* Feel the joy of personal, self-generated sweat.
* Fall in love with your own working processes.
* Be forever on the lookout for the advent of style.
* Try to be your own person and claim your rights.
* Don't bother setting yourself up for rejection.
* Don't swing too wildly and damage the well-being of others.
* Don't jump into the ring until you're feeling fit.

Daily Thanks

by Saturday, November 14, 2009
Today I am grateful for things we largely take for granted, like running water, electricity, food and warm shelter. It is ridiculously easy to forget what a large population of our world does not enjoy these luxuries, and I am grateful to live as I do with my most basic needs met.

Daily Thanks

by Friday, November 13, 2009

Today I am thankful for the smell of incense and candles in my house. I feel restful when those sights and smells intermingle. Even better when I come home from teaching, and Chris has pre-lit both in the living room to welcome me home, and cracked the front door a little so I can smell it when I come up the walk.

Daily Thanks

by Thursday, November 12, 2009

Today I am thankful for my physical therapists, who care about me, encourage me, and leave me sore in all the right places on my road to improving my body's health and awareness.

A month of thankfulness

by Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Okay, late on the stick by 10 days, but a Facebook meme is going around that I really like, and would like to do here on my blog. Would you like to join me? Then blog, Tweet, Facebook, LiveJournal, or however!

"Every day this month until Thanksgiving, think of one thing that you are thankful for and post it as your status. "Today I am thankful for..." The longer you do it, the harder it gets! Now if you think you can do it then repost this message as your status to invite others to take the challenge, then post what YOU are thankful for today.

Kicking it off:
Today I am grateful for my husband. I love our relationship of communication, trust, and laughter. I have never felt so safe, and so positively motivated to be a better person in my life. He's worthy.

The importance of chorus

by Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I was perusing some very old tribe topics of discussion (and enjoying it immensely I might add--tribe is like an archive of the evolution of tribal bellydance in so many ways), and came across a thread about chorus. Specifically about students who don't "get" the idea of chorus, and feel "left out" if they are "stuck" in chorus a lot and aren't in the "spotlight".

Molly had this astute observation to share:
I think it's pretty hard for a lot of dancers to let go of the idea that if you aren't the soloist or feature, you aren't important. Our culture really seems to value the individual genius over the group a lot of the time, but the truth is that chorus members can make or break any performance - just look at opera. If the chorus isn't on and supporting the lead vocalists, the whole thing falls flat. Same with ATS. When the chorus is energetic and their movements and attitudes support the featured dancers without distracting from them, it's so much fun for the audience to watch. And it's great when you are in a duet/trio/solo to see the smiling faces of your fellow dancers every time you go into a turning move. It keeps up the energy of the group as a whole when everyone is tuned in and supporting one another in turn. Even with the most unresponsive audiences, you know you have someone behind you who's into your dancing and appreciates it. Encourage them to look at the chorus as a unique time to appreciate what their fellow dancers are presenting - I mean, in how many other styles do you get to stay involved onstage and watch what's going on? It's a nice little mental and physical break to re-center without breaking your connection to the group. At least that's how I see it.

And I really love the following perspective from Amy:
As a perspecive (sic) on the chorus vs. featured dancer thing, the way I figure it is, everyone will put in at least 80% of their performance time in the chorus...that's part of what being a tribal dancer is about. So it's better to be supportive and really work to feature the dancers in the spotlight- because that will be you in a song or two, and if you've been great support as a chorus member, you fellow dancers will be psyched about making you look good when you're out there doing your thing. It's more of a give-and-take situation than a superior/inferior situation. If there are dancers who feel dancing is only worth their time when they are in the spotlight, they might eventually migrate to a solo-oriented style of dance, which is fine...to me, tribal is about being comfortable supporting other people when they're rocking it, and letting them support you in turn, doing your best to rock it for them when you're up there. That's why super diva attitude doesn't really work! I love it when I see my fellow dancers kickin ass as I'm following the chorus leader, getting ready for my turn to carry the torch- that's why I'm all about ATS.

Class Newsletter: New session tonight!

by Thursday, November 05, 2009
The next new session of Tribal Bellydance with Sharon Moore begins tonight at 7:30pm.

First it's Level 1 Foundations!
Get your groove on learning the movements which comprise the basis of tribal bellydance. Feel stronger, more flexible, and have FUN! If you haven't registered yet, never fear, there is room! Or register online right now at http://www.mandalatribal.com/classes/register

Then at 8:30pm it's Level 2b - Skills n' Drills!
This session topic is open to *all levels*, but it is recommended that you have taken at least a few sessions of Level 1 and/or are familiar with basic bellydance concepts.

~ This session's Skills n' Drills special topic is Creative Combos with Finger Cymbals!
Inspired by my recent intensive study with Jamila Salimpour - one of the Mothers of American Bellydance as we know it - I will be sharing with you various combinations of movement paired with finger cymbals patterns. We'll start with some deep muscle isolation drills to get our hearts pumping, then each class we will dig into a couple different finger cymbal patterns, a couple movements and variations, and then pair them together into a combination we can dance together. Each week will build in complexity as we increase our confidence with finger cymbals while dancing. Bring your finger cymbals and be ready for a fun, challenging workout.

~ Don't worry if you don't have a lot of finger cymbal experience!
We will be breaking the skills down piece by piece, and each dancer can work at their own comfort level. I definitely recommend this class for dancers of all skill levels and styles to add some new movement and rhythm skills to their repertoire.

Quick and Easy Baby Hat (Now in the Round!)

by Monday, November 02, 2009

Here is a simple baby hat pattern I adapted from Emma Waller's Quick & Easy Baby Hat. Hers is done flat and then seamed up the side, and I wanted to do mine in the round. So I adapted her pattern for circular knitting.

I love the spiral decreases at the top, and think it comes out a bit more polished done in the round than with a stitched seam up one side. For my knitting friends, enjoy! I hope to adapt this pattern for an adult this winter!

Quick & Easy Baby Hat


YARN: I used Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash, a washable wool blend that is very soft and comes in a bazillion colors. Great for kid knits.

* C1 = "Create 1": insert left needle front to back under horizontal bar between stitches of the row below, picking it up, and then knit this to create a new stitch

When pattern says to "slip one stitch knitwise (rows 4, 9, & 13), it is to create a more jogless connection for the textured rows, so they create a more continuous stripe

Cast on 73 stitches
Row 1: K
Row 2: P
Row 3: K2TOG, YO, until 3 stitches remain, K2TOG, K1 (72 stitches)
Row 4: slip first stitch knitwise, then K to end
Row 5,6: K
Row 7: K2TOG (36 stitches)
Row 8: P1, C1* (71 stitches)
Row 9: slip first stitch knitwise, then K to end
10: K
Row 11: K2TOG until last stitch
Row 12: P1, C1* (71 stitches))
Row 13: slip first stitch knitwise, then K to end
Rows 14-28: K
Row 29: *K10, K2TOG* repeat until end
Row 30: *K9, K2TOG* repeat until end
Row 31: *K8, K2TOG* repeat...
Row 32 *K7, K2TOG* repeat...
Row 33: *K6, K2TOG* repeat...
Row 34: *K5, K2TOG* repeat...
Row 35: *K4, K2TOG* repeat...
Row 36: *K3, K2TOG* repeat...
Row 37: *K2, K2TOG* repeat...
Row 38: *K1, K2TOG* repeat...
Row 39: *K2TOG repeat...
Row 40: *K2TOG repeat... (3 stitches)

FINISHING: Cut yarn and thread through remaining stitches. Pull to inside and weave in ends.

Thread a ribbon through the eyelets if desired (note that both ribbon ends should come out of the same eyelet to make a bow)

Tribal Bellydance in Seattle, classes begin TONIGHT!

by Monday, November 02, 2009

Tribal Belly Dance Classes in Seattle
with Sharon "Shay" Moore!

Monday November 2nd
Thursday November 5th

Phinney Neighborhood Center
6532 Phinney Ave N Room 7


Click on "Schedule" at the left to learn more about times, directions, and more.

See you in class!


Seattle Tribal Bellydance classes are a dynamic blend of ancient dance with modern, funky stylizations. Teacher Shay Moore is the only dancer in the world to have achieved upper level certifications in both FatChanceBellyDance and Gypsy Caravan teaching styles, as well as trained in Jamila Salimpour Level 1 technique; providing her students a uniquely well-rounded dance learning experience. Her attentive and nurturing teaching style makes even the most difficult dance skills accessible for students of all levels, and makes having fun an equal priority to developing strong dance technique. Her joy of teaching was celebrated with her nomination for Teacher of the Year in 2007 in the peoples choice awards in Zaghareet Magazine.

Everyone is welcome, no matter what size, shape, or dance experience. In each class, students will have the opportunity to build their strength and confidence, as well as develop connections with their fellow classmates in an atmosphere of support and trust.

All levels of study include posture, strengthening, flexibility, and tribal technique, and may cover a variety of topics including deep movement refinement, drills, partner work, group improv, combos and short choreography work, and rhythm study. See level descriptions for more information on individual classes by visiting http://www.seattletribal.com/classes

It's November 1st, so we can talk Christmas...

by Sunday, November 01, 2009
For some reason, this quoted section below made me think of a lot of people I know in the dance community. I seem to run into a lot of what I would term "overly generous" souls in the dance community. That sounds wrong, doesn't it? How can one be overly generous? I define it as when people are not firm about their boundaries and limits, and as such their lives are partially or largely made up of people who use them up emotionally, financially, and spiritually. I think this is a common trait among artists. A big chunk of us are givers and nurturers! We like to communicate and share on so many levels, and to hold back feels counter to our soul's urgings.

So when I was over on Ravelry today perusing some back issues of the staff blogs and columns, and came across this brief article below, I felt it was worth posting for my chickadees over here. It was written with regard to knitters and crocheters specifically who have family and "friends" who make demands on them at the holidays for creating gifts that take much more time and money than the requesters may realize. After a brief paragraph about that phenomenon, and the importance of learning many ways of saying "no", she launches into what she terms her "yearly rant". May it be a reminder to all of us of how holiday gift giving should and should NOT be:

Whatever the reasons for engaging in the exchange of gifts over the winter solstice may have been, they are now long long lost. This is only sadness to me. It’s become a social construct, a tool, a weapon, a threat, a device, a reward. No longer are gifts given freely and without reservation...
On one side we have receivers who request specific items, who argue the validity of their gifts, who compare the values of each gift and rank the givers. On the other side we have the givers that punish the giftees for perceived infractions over the previous year, or who knock themselves out trying to buy the perfect gift for someone who will not appreciate it. People receive gifts that they do not want givers wrap gifts they cannot afford.

And in any given group on any forum on any website you can find gift related arguments and flame wars raging.

This has got to end. Really! This is pure insanity. It starts with you!

Gifts that are given under any duress are not gifts. Gifts that are given with expectations of valued return on investment are not gifts. Gifts given with reservation or hesitation are not gifts. Gifts are by definition not obligations.

Gifts that are opened and judged, weighed, valued or compared are not gifts deserved.

What was once a small tradition meant to bring light and celebration into the darkest part of winter, a way to share meager holdings among the community so that all might benefit has become a race to the bottom.

As the holidays approach I implore each of you, my little chicken butts, to find a way to change your thinking even a little bit on the subject. For each gift you give, make it a give that has meaning and heart behind it. For each gift you receive, be truly grateful, do not compare or judge the gift, only accept and love the gift.


Leave your worries behind...

by Wednesday, October 28, 2009
A quote about yoga practice, but really about any classroom...

"When you're burdened with a million errands and anxieties, what your well-being requires is an exercise regime that, first and foremost, leaves no room for mental wandering."

This is exactly why you students must challenge yourselves in class. When it's easy, your mind wanders right out the door into the past, into the future. When you are working your limit, if your mind wanders, you fall, you lose the pose. Keep your practice interesting enough to stay in your body and on your mat. When your mind has the luxury of drifting in Yoga class, you are not working hard enough. Take the next advanced variation. There is a deeper place waiting for you.

How do you know you're working too hard and need to back off? If you're straining, if you can't quite catch your breath, time to take it down a notch. Find the place in yourself where you are embodied, grounded, connected to deep, slow, rhythmic breath."

--Michelle Myhre

What do you want on this blog?

by Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Dance Shay or Personal Shay? Or Both?

Hello lovelies!

Okay, I could use a little feedback here!

Starting this journal, my intent was to keep it strictly dance and art related, with a few sillies thrown in here and there for fun. I have a separate personal journal that hasn't seen much action as of late, except to put up some of my knitting and crocheting patterns and projects, and recipes I have been using or creating. Occasionally I will talk about personal life stuff there as well--family, vacations, home improvement, etc. Now I am having some people asking why I don't post those things more here, and on Facebook by RSS.

So what do you want? Would you prefer this stick to a dance/art only format, or would you like other creative or personal endeavors blogged about here as well? I don't want to clog up anyone's dancey reading, for those of you who subscribe to my journal presently. But certainly all of those things fall under the Adventures of THIS Tribal Dancer, so I can see them melding somewhat as well. I could perhaps even make a few tags to separate them out: "personal", "recipes", "knit/crochet", that kind of thing to help sort them.

So which would you prefer? I would like to hear from y'all to make a decision.

Thanks for reading, everyone! I love hearing from you, as well, so please post feedback and comments anytime!

Music for ATS practice/performing?

by Sunday, October 25, 2009
Q. Slow Songs? Fast Songs? Folkloric Songs? Techno? Can we dance to anything with tribal bellydance?

A. While yes, you can step to the beat of any song and dance tribal style movement, some music is better suited to a more powerful overall look and feel of tribal bellydance. Having some funky modern music in your practice, jamming with friends, and even in some appropriate performances, is a lot of fun to play with. But some of the more traditional tunes out there really drive the dance to another level, lending it that air of "exoticism" and accentuating that multi-cultural pulse that draws us to tribal in the first place.

Carolena Nericcio, who created and codified American Tribal Style Bellydance, has some wonderful information for us on the topic of music, which you can find here. It's a great read! And then you can shop their music store to read more about the music and make some great purchases, or go to iTunes and find individual downloads if you prefer!

From Sharon's FAQ at http://www.mandalatribal.com

CLASS NEWSLETTER, October 22, 2009

by Thursday, October 22, 2009
Hello lovely dancers!

I am so excited to be back teaching this week! Being sick sucks, and I have missed you all so very much. Looking forward to seeing everyone and jamming together!

Here are some announcements:

inFusion Tribal is donating two performances at this event for a worthy cause at Derby Salon in the Roosevelt area. Come zaghareet for BOOBIES!

"On Sunday October 25th Derby Slon will be hosting the third annual Beautify for Breast Cancer charity event. Most services and retail proceeds will be donated to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research foundation and Peyton Piper's benevolent fund. There will be a cake walk, live music and raffle to follow in the tradition of the previous two events. This year we also have the exciting new additions of a silent auction and circus themed performances.

We will be unleashing our wildest creative talents under our “big top” to bring you a dazzling hair and make-up show. If you can't make the show please purchase a raffle ticket for $5 you don't have to be present to win! Join us to raise awareness of Inflammatory Breast Cancer and honor the memory of our dear friend and co worker Stacey Piper.

Show begins at 7:00 pm
Services are available from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm for haircuts and waxing as late as 5:45 pm."
At Derby Salon
6315 Roosevelt Way Seattle, WA 98115

Level 2 and 3 dancers are invited to join Nomaditude in a performance at this year's Phinney Winterfest, the afternoon of December 5th! Sharon's students have upheld a tradition of performing at this wonderful community event for many years, and we would love to have you share in the joy. More details coming soon. Mark your calendars if you are interested in participating, or of course if you simply wish to attend and cheer them on!
More info on the festival at http://www.phinneycenter.org/events/wf.shtml

The next session is the last session of 2009. Can you believe it?

The session begins the week of November 2nd. We will have no class Thanksgiving week, and then we finish out the session before the holiday break. Registration is open NOW!

In 2010, we will have some drills classes coming the beginning of January to ring in the new year, then the next session of classes will begin after MLK Day, the week of January 25th.

Yours truly will be back in the saddle teaching drills drills drills next session of Level 2b on Thursdays. We'll be dancin', we'll be zillin', we'll the thrillin'! Join me to get your groove on, and push your dance to new levels.

Then in 2010, get ready to get your hula on! My hula teacher, whom I only got to study with for a short time before her schedule had to change and I couldn't attend any longer, is coming to teach a 6 week session on hula and Polynesian dance, hopefully beginning in January. I am very excited at this possibility and will keep you posted!

Much love,

Q&A: No teachers in my area!

by Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I have often been asked by dancers in small towns or remote areas about the dilemma of not having a teacher in their area, and what they can do to learn and dance with others as they would like. Particularly for us ATS/Tribal dancers, you can't really dance without a group to dance WITH, so it can be frustrating to be stuck without a community to draw from. Many times they think their only option is to start teaching themselves. And in some cases, that may be true...IF the student has prepared themselves to teach either through extensive experience studying under another professional teacher, and/or done a teacher training program with a trusted mentor.

There is often this impression in the bellydance world that a teacher is just the person with the most experience, or essentially: "in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is King." I don't agree with this sentiment, and feel strongly that one should only teach when they have trained appropriately, not just because no one else has studied much either!

So what is there to do when one finds themselves in a town or region without a qualified teacher, and they themselves are not yet prepared to become a teacher themselves? Form a dance collective! Read on...

For dancers who find themselves in an area where there are no qualified teachers, or no teachers in a particular style you wish to study, I recommend creating a Dance Collective or Club. Find other dancers interested in the dance, and meet once a week, or once every other week, or once a month--whatever works best for everyone. Meet at someone's house or rotate meeting at different dancers' houses, or if the group is too large or no appropriate free space is available, chip in $ to rent a space together. Then everyone take turns bringing a lesson, a video, a costuming project, something to share with the group. Then everyone explores that concept together for the duration, playing with it and turning it over and around to learn more about it, and end with some jam time. Keep rotating the responsibility of bringing the lesson. Don't let people just be hangers-on--everyone needs to contribute, so no one becomes a de-facto teacher or leader. Keep it equal and democratic as much as possible. Having one or two people to facilitate is good, to manage communications on where you are meeting, collecting money for rent, etc; but they should not be expected to teach or lead more than anyone else in the group. This keeps the group on even ground, and makes it so no one burns out on trying to keep things afloat while others are just taking advantage.

You can make it even more fun by rotating a snack-master! Or a wine master! Everyone takes a turn bringing a nibble or a drink to share with the group. You may choose different themes to work on each month or each quarter, such as different dance styles, geographical regions, music styles, troupes or dancers you admire and want to study, or what have you. This will keep things fresh and give you all a way to focus your energies and try new things.

As it grows, you can pool your energies and finances to host instructors in your town, sharing the financial burden with everyone benefiting from the chance to study with a professional teacher. You could put on community haflas or parties, and other networking opportunities to expand your group. The possibilities are endless. So no one is a teacher, it isn't a troupe...it's a collective, if you will. Everyone contributes, everyone benefits!

Guitar Slapping - It's (not) All Been Done

by Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Anytime you think it's all been done, and there is no way to truly innovate anymore, go out and seek those who are making new art and new ideas every day. Be moved by them.

Those who have seen the movie August Rush have already been introduced to Guitar Slapping, but for those unfamiliar, or those who love it and want to hear more, check this out.

I wanna take a class!!


On this blog I share my personal posts about cooking and knitting, travel and other musings; while I will blog about dance-specific topics over on the Deep Roots Dance blog:

I hope you will enjoy both my sites. Thanks for visiting!
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