Reflections on Breitenbush 2003

by Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An old post about my experiences at Breitenbush in 2003. To follow soon, reflections on this year, if and/or how my view has changed...

"I love attending this retreat every year. It is a touchstone I have for myself, where I can spend a few days in the company of my sisters in dance and really delve into this passion of mine. The activities at Breitenbush can be broken down into three categories, as I see it--discussion/introspection, dancing/drilling, and relaxation. The relaxation, to me, is just icing on a very thick and delicious cake. Soaking in the tubs is socialization time, time to soothe aching muscles, to breath the air deeply into myself, to fill myself with nothing but peace and laughter. The dancing is a chance to absorb new skills. Dancing there is a challenge to my body and my mind as I learn to execute new moves and incorporate familiar moves in a new way into my dance. Since the Gypsy Caravan style is my main study and focus in both my performance and my teaching, this is a chance to develop my core vocabulary in a supportive space with others who share my deep appreciation for this format. Lastly, the discussion/introspection time is an opportunity to examine where I am at this point in my dance life, and consider how it fits into the larger community. It's a chance to look ahead and set goals and to look back and appreciate how far I have come. It is the time when we all get to share our accomplishments and our frustrations, and find connectedness in the common truths we find among us. When I come away from Breitenbush, not only do I have new inspiration, but more than that I find a centering of myself in my dance. I find validation in my own growth and challenges, and come home with a newfound motivation to create. When I return home, I am newly grounded in my community. "

The quality of a teacher...

by Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Posted by Ali of n.o.madic tribal, taken from a yoga blog kept by a Jivamukta:

Thanks for sharing this wonderful sentiment, Ali!

"Teachers are extensions of their masters. Average teachers are merely mimicking their masters. The great teachers have found the master within from which they project.

Teachers are not measured by what they know. They are measured by what they can instill. True teachers are supposed to enable their students to become self sufficient, strong and independent people who choose to be with them. Quality teachers remove codependency and or attachment from the relationship. The ultimate goal of teachers is to make students into masters. By doing the latter the student is free. Students who experience this should never forget where the direction came from.

The quality of the teacher is defined through the student’s practice. As the student grows so does the teacher. Thus the student’s progression is the teacher’s top concern."

And now for something completely different

by Monday, April 27, 2009

Digging your own roots...

by Friday, April 24, 2009
RE: historical dance, ethnic dance, authentic dance, etc

I definitely feel tied to the idea that what I am doing has roots in something larger and older than myself. There is some romanticism in it, sure, but for me, it is not about legitimizing what I do with that connection, but instead honoring a legacy of art and community, and at the same time making it relevant to my own art and community today. I am not interested in re-creating something from the past in my dance (as a former SCA member and costumer, I do like studying the details and recreating historical costume and such as a hobby, just not in my dance)

I definitely feel a lack of historical context in my own ethnicity, and there is something grounding in feeling like I have taken something passed down from history and molding it into something current and relevant for myself and my audiences. That's my two cents.

Retro: July 2003

by Thursday, April 23, 2009
I have been weeding my old journal, tagging old posts for future reference (didn't really use tags regularly until this past year), and generally reading up on old memories. I came across this one, when I had been teaching about 2 years, and it made me smile. If you teach, you know what moments like this feel like:

"Last night I think I got the biggest compliment I have ever received as a teacher.
My Thursday night classes have been picking up again, and while the class itself still feels warm and friendly, I have had to wonder if everyone is having fun. There are a lot of concentrated looks, and my students are more quiet in that class than any class I have ever taught--not much feedback. I ask questions and they just look at me. So I have been a little off-balance all session trying to figure out if I am giving them what they need, since they aren't telling me. If it weren't for a few outwardly enthusiastic students, I would wonder if anyone was having fun.

So last night was about the same. It was week 6, which is always a fun night to just jam. There was more smiling last night than usual, but still pretty quiet. It was dress-up night, and only a few people dressed up (not a requirement, but it's fun, so when so few people do it...).

It was hot as sin as usual for summer in the Firehouse, and when we finished, I was walking around feeling sweaty and a little run down, closing windows and getting ready to leave, when a student walked up and tapped me on the shoulder. I honestly didn't remember her name, since as I said above, I have had so little interaction with this group this session. I turned around to hear what she had to say. And she told me a story:

She said that the night she came to her first session class, she didn't know she was coming until the day of. That was the day she broke off a bad relationship of 2 1/2 years...a really bad one. She was feeling more awful than she could remember, and her friends talked her into coming to this belly dance class with them. She said within 15 minutes of class, she was smiling and didn't even realize it. She felt truly good on one of her worst days. She said over the next six weeks, life was really hard recovering from this bad relationship, but she is in such a great place today. She said that belly dance class was the highlight of her every week, and contributed to her being in such a good place now. She said it makes her feel "beautiful AND strong...BOTH!" she exclaimed. She said that class has made her feel so good about her body, about herself, and everything, and she has looked forward to it every week, and thanked me for having such an awesome class and being such a great teacher. I started to cry a little and gave her a big hug, thanking her for sharing this with me. It meant so much to me that she came and told me this, and even moreso that she "gets it" (the power of tribal) and it helped heal her.

Here I wasn't sure if anyone was getting what they needed from the class, and I find out they were getting more than I even hoped to help give them. It meant the world to me. I did get her name...and a big smile from her. I flew on little clouds all the way home. I think I still see a little cloud under me today. I feel really great about next session, now..."

Artist's Way snippet...07 vintage...

by Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I have been going back and reading old Artist Way journal entries lately (timely, what with the Breitenbush Retreat being themed with journaling this year). Here is one from fall of 2007.

"Artist's Way, October 11, 2007

I always have high hopes for the day. I look at my beautiful guitar, Marilyn, sitting in the corner, languishing under a thin film of dusty neglect. I do brush her off, lovingly and longingly, every few weeks. But mostly that is to keep people from seeing how dusty my guitar has gotten, and rightfully assume that I am not the acoustic rock star it implies with its very presence in so prominent a location. Surely people walk into my home and as they scan the living room, so vibrantly and creatively decorated ("like the owner" they music admiringly), their eyes drift briefly over my guitar proudly propped up on its stand, and they think "This is the home of a rock star.: They briefly (almost as a subliminal flash) imagine me in my living room, guitar propped up on my knee, perhaps leaning over a over a sheet of music and strumming away at some indiscernible piece of musical prose. Perhaps their image of me goes so far as to place me at a gathering--not unlike one they have likely come to attend this very evening--and everyone is circled around listening to me jam a little. "Let me show you this cool new riff I learned!" (my very casual use of the term 'riff' being a badge of my rock stardom). Or maybe I have learned (or composed!) an irreverent or bawdy little tune about the latest political woes or Brittany Spears' latest breakdown '07. And they laugh and think how clever I am, and how does she find the time?
Yes, I am sure that is what people are likely to think to themselves as they notice my guitar. "This woman is a rock star."

At least, that's what I think when I look at it.

Quickly followed by some guilty realization that I should, you know, play it now and again to earn such an outrageous reputation."

Have you done the Artist's Way? Tell me about what you got out of it!

TEDTalk - the life of a Creative

by Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I posted this a few places not long ago, but it is worth another look. Really incredible talk by the author of "Eat, Pray, Love" (good book, by the way!) about what it is like to be a Creative, and the importance of accessing a "divine inspiration" to keep your work alive and relieve the pressures of being simply human.
I totally cried when I watched this, and again now as I re-watched it. Enjoy!

And Asharah does it again...

by Tuesday, April 21, 2009
So part of why I dug up my older kudos-post to Asharah is because she continually asks the tough questions, and gives some thought-provoking and worthy answers. Her most recent post about "Vintage Fusion Bellydance" is again right on the money with regard to the Victorian/Burly fusion fad. Here is a snippet to whet your whistle, then pop over and read the entire thing!

"What if someone from the general public came to see one of these performances? What if this person knew nothing about bellydance? Do we want to give the general public the impression that we’re only comic relief and slapstick acts that have no qualms about showing our frilly panties to strangers, particularly as we lose (or pretend to lose) our inhibitions through the imbibing of alcohol on stage? Is that bellydance, and, more importantly to me, is that tribal? And, I know that many of us bellydancers are trying very hard to elevate this dance into the realms of both popular and high art… and in order for that to happen, we must earn the respect of not only our peers but also the general public. How do we expect to be respected as an art form when we’re stumbling around on stage in our underwear?"

Honesty in dancing...a RLJ

by Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Can someone Re-LiveJounral, like we ReTweet? And can we RLJ ourselves?

I am building up some content over here on Blogger, and thought I would grab some recent posts from my LiveJournal that might be of interest here, where I plan to talk mostly about dance (that is the PLAN anyway). So here it is:

Asharah posted in her journal lastyear last year about "honesty" in dancing. And it just got me postin', so I thought I would post a bit over here.

I see a lot of contrived performances--in aesthetic and execution. I see a lot of inauthentic dancers. Dancers who are not being their authentic selves on stage. They are clawing and grasping at trying to be or do the next big thing. I remember one gal at a workshop I taught not too long ago saying she was going to take a hula class because she was excited about the possibilities of fusing it with her bellydance, but then she found out Unmata was already pretty famous for that, so she was going to try and find something else to study to fuse. I was stunned into silence.

That, to me, is the quintessential problem these days: reverse engineering fusion. So many dancers are shoehorning things into bellydance just to try and be new and different--rather than pursuing your bliss and letting that fusion organically flow in the process. The best of all worlds of classical or fusion bellydance forms is when someone is just dancing their own being and that which grows out of their experiences organically. Isn't that what we are always saying is a primary root of bellydance as we know it? Honestly and openly revealing something of ourselves in the dance, rather than trying to gauge what will get the best reaction or the most buzz, and chasing after that? Is not "dancing our stories" the very essence of bellydance?

This is part of why my troupe has taken a very conscious step back from the entire tribal "scene" in the last year. We were frankly exhausted with the frantic "lookatmeeee!"/"wannabeeee!" energy that flows through it so much any more. We really missed that familial warmth, the genuine baring of souls through dance, the meeting of like-minds, unaffected groove behind the community that drew us to it in the first place. We wanted to get back to our own roots and remind ourselves what we stand for, what we dance for, and what we want to communicate in our work; separate from the grasping expectations of tribal audiences who lately seem too easily bored and jaded by anything that has "been done". We didn't want to stay on that train of constantly trying to go to the creative well, and becoming artistically contrived when the genuine inspiration dried up.

So we slowed down, and it feels good. Really good. And our work feels more honest, more pure. We honestly haven't had any big new things come of it yet. We are on our own creative schedule. We turned our energy inward toward one another and the voice we want to speak with. We have been honing our most basic technique and revisiting our foundations to make ourselves stronger overall. And when we come back out "on the scene", if we have something new and amazing to show for it, great. And if not, we can at least be assured we are stronger, better, and being true to ourselves.

Asharah also posted a link to a blog post by Amy of Kallisti Tribal which explores her thoughts on "Fusion, Performance, and Skill," which I really enjoyed. Hope you do, too!


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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