Good teachers do homework, too: Teaching Journals

by Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's back to school time, so it seemed a timely opportunity to look at our lesson plans, class structure, studio/class environment, and the like. First up: teaching journals!

If you are just getting started teaching, or even if you have been teaching a while but want to get your weekly and session format a little more solidified and consistent, may I suggest you start a teaching journal.

Where to begin...

When I began, mine was simply sheets of printer paper on which I had typed up:

~ session start date, and night in session (say "Class 2/6")
~ a simple warm-up series in the order I wanted to do them
~ moves/concepts I hoped to teach that night
~ some songs I wanted to use in each part of the lesson (back when it was on CD's, knowing the album and track number of the songs that were a good pace for the concepts I was teaching helped keep the class running smoothly--no fiddling and digging for the right pace music).

Underneath this or on the back I left a big blank space for writing notes and journaling. I put these lesson plan sheets along with my class sign-in sheets into a simple peechee type folder and put it in my dance bag along with my CD's, water bottle, and pen.

At class, I kept the sheet near the CD player for reference, and checked off each thing as it got covered, and jotted any side-notes as they came to mind. At the end of every class when I got home, I sat down right away while the class was still fresh in my mind and used the large blank space underneath/on the back to journal briefly about how things went--how many students came that night, what the vibe was like, how I felt I did teaching certain concepts and how students responded, questions students asked that I didn't know the answer to and promised to look up, analogies I came up with in the moment that I thought were successful in conveying the concept and wanted to remember to use again...

At the end of each session, after reviewing the notes and making any tweaks or changes to my lesson plans for the coming session, I would put the previous sheets into an archive folder along with the sign-in sheets for business record-keeping and future reference, and then print out the freshly updated ones and start again.

I found this simple system a great way to fine-tune my teaching in the short-term, and a great way to look back and see how my teaching evolved over a longer period. If you have a mentor you are working with, you can share details of these journals with them, which will help shape questions you may have for improvement and give them more detailed information on how best to guide you to the next steps in your teaching growth.

If you are of a crafty persuasion, you could three-hole punch the pages and put them into a binder you decorate with imagery that inspires you and your dance life--magazine cutouts, painted designs, postcards or pics of your favorite teachers and troupes, etc. Make one for each year of your teaching. You could also go one step further and include scrapbook-type pages with praise and thank you letters and cards from students, pictures from classes and workshops, etc. to chronicle all the steps and memories made on your path to being a better teacher.

I highly recommend dance journals for students as well, but that is a topic for another day methinks!

Making art of our very world...

by Friday, August 28, 2009
"It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do."
Henry David Thoreau

Name correction!

by Thursday, August 27, 2009

I managed to muck up Megan Hartmann's name, despite even going to check to make sure I had it right. *smack forehead* Sorry Megan!!

So make sure you pop over and visit to bear witness to her bloggy awesomeness! She is linked in my blogroll at the lower left sidebar of my blog as well.

Computer programs for dancers

by Thursday, August 27, 2009

Megan Hartmann recently posted a great blog entry on things she has had to learn as a professional dancer, which included detailed information on software she uses to edit music and video. Thanks, Megan; great post! Head over there to see her recommendations (and I heartily second her "Audacity" recommendation for music editing. I have been happily using it for years now). And all of Meghan's offerings are freeware, which is even greater! I would like to add a few of my own, if I may. Not all of mine are free, but they are some of the best you are going to get, and are in my opinion worth the money!

WHAT I NEED TO DO: Edit Photos
COST: Free

Picnik is actually an online service for photo editing, so you can do it anyplace anytime. It allows you to open photos directly from anyplace you keep them, including your desktop, Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and more. Using Web 2.0 technology, you can edit them then and there in a myriad of ways, simple to complex. Use the incredibly intuitive interface to crop, tweak colors, sharpen, and more, and then save back to your desktop. You can even add captions, frames or add artistic effects via simple pre-sets. There are lots of simple pop-up descriptions and tutorials to help walk you through each step of the process, and even some auto-editing options in case you don't trust your own skills just yet. If you upgrade to premium, there are some truly amazing Touch-Up options available now, from wrinkle, blemish, and shine removal; to highlights in your hair, punching up eye color, and even "sunless tanning" (with the right pre-sets, it looks natural!) It's no Photoshop, but it's much simpler to use, and also free compared to the $999 reaming you will get from Adobe.

WHAT I NEED TO DO: Edit video
PROGRAM: iMovie (for PC's, Microsoft Movie Maker)
OS: Mac
WHERE TO GET IT: , it is part of the iLife suite
COST: $79

While this is not cheap, you will get your money's worth out of this suite of programs if you want to edit video. It is very simple, intuitive, and has lots of options for making your video interesting--with different transition effects and titling. Since iLife comes with iDVD, it is also one-click simple to burn your videos to DVD to pass out as demos or bring to friends and family to watch footage. As of '08, there is even an option to send your video straight to YouTube. Just sign in to your YouTube account, and iMovie will compress and upload your video in one step. The output isn't always the best compression for YouTube available, but it certainly is simple if you don't also want to learn all about video compression condecs (You don't! Trust me!)

The suite of programs in iLife (which comes free with every Mac) is one reason enough to become a Mac lover. I was a PC gal all the way, die hard, never gonna change me no sir for my entire life...until about 4 years ago when hubby convinced me to get a Mac Laptop. It really was perfect for my photo editing, video editing, graphic design, and pretty much everything I have to do for my dance work and beyond. Now I have a second laptop and a 24" iMac. I adore them all with the passion of a thousand suns, yes I do. But I digress...

WHAT I NEED TO DO: Track mah moneh! $$
PROGRAM: Quicken Home and Business
OS: PC (I use it on my Mac using Parallels, you can also use BootCamp)
COST: It is $79 on Quicken's site, but Amazon sells it for $49 and the XP version can be downloaded! Use the Quicken site to read more about it, then buy on Amazon.

I used to be an office manager for a small software company, and for a few years we didn't have an accountant, so that was my bailiwick. I had to learn to use Quickbooks for that job, which is incredibly robust. When I left the rat race and came home to start my own business, I bought Quickbooks because I knew it, but it always felt like using a sledgehammer when tweezers would do. I have never EVER been good with accounting--it is the bane of my existence. But the fact is, as a business entity, you MUST keep good records, and so I struggled through.

Skip ahead 7 years into my business, and I realize I want to keep better track of my home finances versus my business finances--they were often getting quite muddled. And I was kinda sick of the data-entry part of filing receipts. Enter Quicken Home and Business. Not only could I keep two separate accountings, side by side, of my personal expenses and my business expenses, but it also interfaced with my bank *directly*, inputting all my transactions, and I simply had to click each one to assign it a category and then "approve" it for entry into the permanent database. It even remembers regular transactions and automatically assigns it to different categories (tax line items), so you just click "Approve" and it's done. I WISH I had known much earlier about this program, and recommend it to any small businessperson!

WHAT I NEED TO DO: Create a website
PROGRAM: Blogspot/Blogger
OS: All
COST: Free

I create websites as a side-job, so I am pretty in-the-know. I have many websites of my own that I think are beautiful and intuitive, which I am proud of having created. I am completely self-taught (with help from hubby at times, and lots of reading and experimentation). For those who are interested, I use Dreamweaver for my coding, though I code almost entirely by hand now and don't really use the WYSIWYG any more, since I design for the Drupal CMS. But I digress...

This blog started as a way to bring forward more of what I have to teach to students around the world, and get to share my thoughts and experiences as a dancer and a teacher. My FAQ on my website was getting obscenely large, and I realized I had a lot more I wanted to share than I could share in just a one-hour class, and my website where people just want to find out when class starts wasn't the ideal place. I already have a LiveJournal, but it was more personal. I wanted something focused on the business of dance.

Enter Blogspot. It is so very simple for the most basic blogs, and robust and scalable for the more tech savvy who want to really dig in and make it their own, as I have. As a blog alone it is a great way to stay in touch with your students and fans, and keep yourself in their field of vision from a marketing standpoint. But did you know it is a great way to have essentially a free hosted website? One can use Blogspot as a sort of content management system, and with a little know-how you can tweak the templates to create your own look and feel. You can even buy a domain and have it point to your blog so the domain name is rather than

Combined with Picasa and YouTube, I can also link friends and fans up to the latest imagery and video of performances, and whet their appetites for future performances and events I am participating in.

One of the best parts is that if you use a blog for your website, people can "Follow" your current posts through either the interface built into the blog system, or through various RSS feeds, such as Google Reader or Friend Connect. So you don't always have to reach out and tell them when something new has been posted, they will be automatically notified.

It's far too much to go into in this post, but I encourage you to do some research and see what can be done with a little effort and careful following of step-by-step online tutorials. Oh, and when working directly with the HTML templates, when they say ALWAYS back up your code before editing, they mean it. DO IT. ALWAYS.

WHAT I NEED TO DO: Create an opt-in mailing/notification list
PROGRAM: Twitter
OS: All
COST: Free

If you're reading this, you already know how Blogspot is working for me with keeping in touch with students, friends and fans (and if you're reading this on Facebook or LiveJournal, you can see how RSS reeds can spread your message even further without any regular additional effort to your part). Twitter has also been a great way to reach a wider audience, and it is entirely "opt-in". Meaning I am never spamming someone unsolicited, which I try very hard not to do. Instead, whomever is reading the content has always chosen to voluntarily, and they can stop following me anytime they wish to opt-out. Combined with my blog here, it can become an opt-in newsletter quite easily. I just post a Tweet to my "distribution list" notifying them of new content here on my blog. Since on my blog I tag my class-related info as "newsletter", with a mouse-click my readers can hop over and see what the latest news is.

Twitter also creates dynamic content in the moment that keeps your audience engaged. I have had friends and fans live-blog/tweet from performances, combined with Twitpic so folks around the world could experience what we were doing right then and there. I sometimes Tweet from workshops or rehearsals, again putting my friends and fans "in the moment" with me, engaging and including my audience in my dance experiences even if they can't be there in the flesh.

So if you are not on the Twitter bandwagon because you weren't sure what it's really good for, let me assure you it has been a quick and powerful asset to my business in just the few months I have been using it. Oh and if you want to opt-in, I am @TheTribalDancer

PROGRAM: Google Calendar
OS: All
COST: Free

Google has revolutionized so many parts of our lives that we don't even think about. I mean, the very name is a household word for finding everything we want to know But have you been using the calendar?

I started using it this past year, and it is not indispensable. I can access it anywhere I can get internet access, including on my smartphone. I can keep separate calendars, color coded, for my personal appointments, class schedule, performance schedule, and internal schedule for my troupe. (Even my husband has his meetings and on-call schedule in there, so I can see with one glance what our combined availability is.)

I have a regular class schedule, which students can subscribe to and add to their own calendars. This means anytime I make an update to the schedule, it can be reflected on theirs immediately. Class canceled? They can get a notification on their calendars. Schedule shifted? No problem. (Of course I also make announcements on my Twitter and my student newsletter on my blog...) I also keep a public calendar of our troupe performances, including location, cost, and any other pertinent details; as well as other workshops, performances, and events in the area I think would be of interest to my students.

For troupe, we keep an internal calendar, which shows rehearsal times, and performance details such as who is booked to dance, the music we decided on, costuming, and what time we need to be there (which is of course different from the start time on the public calendar). We also keep member birthdays and holidays/vacations on there so we know everyone's general availability at a glance.

We have combined this with our own GoogleGroup--a discussion area only our troupe is subscribed to, where we can discuss anything we need to. The great thing is that no one can lose an e-mail or say they couldn't find the details--they are all on the group, archived for all time for everyone to access at will. So it's a permanent, stable record of our communications as a troupe. We can also exchange documents, such as event flyers, music, set lists, and choreographies, which can be downloaded by any member at any time.

Google is a great way to centralize your communication, and again create an opt-in network of students, fans, and friends to stay appraised of your comings and goings as a dancer. Completely scalable and personlizable (is that a word?) to your needs.

Okay that is my short list, if you can believe it! I would love to hear about these or other technologies you have used in your dance business/life that has enhanced, improved, or simplified things for you!

Nervousness when leading improv? Glam it up!

by Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Here is a question from a student regarding how to feel more confident in the lead. Letty always asks really great questions, and she agreed to let me share this one, and my answer, with you all!

I find myself getting rather nervous/anxious at the prospect of leading. Often, this translates into me forgetting moves other than the ones I really know well (like basic Egyptian, hip bump, and Arabic) when I get into a lead position. Sometimes, I even forget the move we've been focusing on just a few minutes before! Do you have any suggestions or advice for dealing with the anxiety that comes with leading?

Hey Letty,

Right off the bat, let's get one thing clear: EVERYBODY gets nervous and anxious at one time or another! So you're not alone at all. :) The good news is, in class is the time to make mistakes and feel stuck, and is also the time to work through those moments and be supported by your fellow dancers who know exactly what you are going through! So give yourself permission to be forgetful, feel stuck, and struggle whenever and however as a student. That is what class is about, that is what learning is about. Enjoy the process!

Part of why we drill combos at the start of class--the move(s) of the day mixed with another move that compliments it--is to get into our bodies new ideas and ways of moving--to help not only to learn and practice the new concept, but to break us out of patterns we may normally fall to, and get some new ideas into our minds and bodies. But the fact is, not everything "sticks" with everyone. We tend to gravitate toward the moves we know best or *like* best and those come to us most naturally. That is natural. At the end of class, you may not be ready to pull out that move confidently in the lead yet. But it's there, as an option, for when you do feel ready for it.

So when a student says they feel they keep going back to the same moves, I like to talk about fashion. :) Some moves are like your favorite pair of jeans, or that necklace that goes with everything. They will always be there for you, always comfortable and just plain right on your body, feels like "you" and your friends recognize those elements as "you". But when you are ready to glam it up, you don't need to take all your old clothes off and replace them with an entire wardrobe of new clothes. You can keep some comfortable old pieces, and just add a new piece here and there and accessorize the hell out of it with whatever is in fashion right now. Our movement vocabulary is the same way. Our Level 1 foundation moves are often the comfy foundation pieces of our movement wardrobe, and as we add new ideas into the mix, we fit them in as they make sense and appeal to us at that time.

With fashion, each season we get a new collection of clothes into the shops--new colors, new shapes, new ways to accessorize that are "in vogue" right now. Like right now, school is coming up and the fall line is in. Our ability and propensity to access certain families of movement is seasonal, too--we go through fluctuating trends where we seem to always bring out move A sometime during our lead now, and later this year move B will be our favorite frequent move. And those moves become somewhat our "signature look", if you will--our sisters can begin to recognize the pattern and predict some of your instinctual choices as "your favorite moves". Sometimes this happens organically, and sometimes it can use a nudge!

So how to give it a nudge? Start to plan your fall line now for the "runway". What moves do you like but never seem to remember to bring out when you are leading? What moves would you like to see come up more often, but nobody else seems to be pulling them out these days? Drill these movements into your brain and body, and have them at the ready whenever you are going to be leading. Don't try to memorize an entire list of movements--that is overwhelming and self-defeating. Nobody has every single move in their vocabulary ready to lead perfectly at all times. To follow, sure, but to lead, most performers tend to have a few key "seasonal" moves that are at the forefront of their subconscious minds, and the rest flows from those as the music and the moment dictates.

For instance, let's say I love Turkish Shimmy these days, and I make a mental vow to bring that move out when next I lead. I practice it, and put it firmly in my mind when it comes time to jam. Then really, not only do I have Turkish Shimmy at the ready, but then the variations start to follow from that--1/4 turn and reverse. And from that perhaps it feels really natural to flow into a whole shimmy series, so now my shimmy 1/4's and 1/2's come into play, and ooh, shimmy hop hop comes to mind, and that flows right into Arabic shimmy...and pretty soon you are dancing half the song in the lead because you kicked it off with one movement that really felt "right" to you that week, or month, or "season".

Your seasonal moves need not be just one move or movement family; it can be a small collection of 2-4 moves that you are really digging on now, and you feel confident leading. From that, you can create a whole landscape of movement that flows from one or two favorite elements, and before you know're transitioning out and your lead was varied and powerful!

Jamila weeklong, here I come

by Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's finally in the works. My registration is in, and I am going to the Jamila weeklong next month. Booking flights and hotel next, along with Renee who will be a TA that week so we are traveling together. I love these bonding travels with Renee, where we get to dig into our passion for dance together and share in it on a deeper level than the day-to-day grind of teaching and running a troupe.

The workshop itself? As soon as the first one was announced, I knew it was just an absolute "must do" for me. While I don't agree with the claim that Jamila was a "tribal dancer" as we understand it today, her influence is completely and inarguably inseparable from the evolution of tribal as we know it--her aesthetics and fusion of cultures was the inspiration for tribal and fusions of our day--and I am eager to dig into those roots and see how it influences my dancing today. It was that kind of "faux-kloric" dancing that got me excited about bellydance in the first place (studying with Aleili, from old school Yaleil) and I am excited to explore those roots in greater depth!

A little bit about Masha I hadn't read before after the jump.

Interesting note from a Gilded Serpent Article by Najia

Masha Archer
"Masha Archer, one of Jamilla Salimpour's ex-dancers, always had a booth at the Alameda Flea Market. She had become a teacher of Belly dance and had a very large San Francisco dance troupe. Masha was friendly with me, and she could be dramatic and intimidating! She was decidedly artistic, and had split away from Jamilla Salimpour's group. She had her own dream and followed her dream. She and her husband sold exotic and ethnic jewelry at the Alameda Flea Market. They held large dance parties at their house. Although, she invited me to come to her parties, I never went because I knew it wasn't my kind of scene, and probably, I would not have fit in with her other guests."

"I saw Masha recently at a museum opening in San Francisco. She looked fabulous and even remembered me! Her hair was dark and slicked back like a Flamenco dancer. She was wearing large hair ornaments and her make-up was flawless. The artistic scene had won her over, and she went into fashion design; she had a real flair for it. If you saw her troupe, you witnessed something like Fat Chance, except that it was more elaborate. It was an original. There was enough Afghani jewelry on those women to sink a battleship! Fat Chance Belly Dance seems more limited in concept and almost dispassionate.

Masha had a social organization like Jamilla's. However, it seemed to me that Masha had a sexual-revolution outlook on life then. I heard rumors that her parties on Minna Street, San Francisco, were very "free-spirited." When dancers performed, they'd look intently into each other's eyes, and we'd laugh because it made it seem that there might be an orgy-happening soon. Belly dance was more sexual in nature back then; that was precisely why a lot of us took it up in the first place! Many dancers, musicians, and performers of the time were famous for their mantra: Smoke a joint, dance, then, go make love, not war. There were no serious thoughts about disease as is necessary now."

The Gates of Speech

by Monday, August 24, 2009
Over on Asharah's blog, Flissy made the following very astute observation:

"I like to apply the gates of speech when I teach and give adjustments.

Is it true? Is it kind? Is it beneficial? Is it the right time?

I think many times, if we observe “Is it true?” with real honesty, we find that maybe it is a strong impression or personal opinion and it takes a lot more digging to find the truth of the statement.

For me, the last gate takes the most effort. There are some times I can see in a student’s face that he/she is just to beat-down to be pushed with a lot of adjustments. Likewise, a student may not be physically able to achieve the fullest expression of an adjustment. In these cases, it’s important to praise the effort to help build students to the point where they are able to advance more completely."

I had never heard of this philosophy, but I really really liked it and wanted to share it. So thanks Flissy!

Related to this is something I call "doing the wrong thing in the right way." In my experience, a student does not always need correction, is not always ready for correction, is not always mentally or emotionally prepared for the correction at all times. Sometimes, if they are doing some detail of the move wrong, but in a way that indicates they are trying for the right result, a correction can actually set them back. It is difficult to describe how I see this, but it is a combination of knowing the movement inside and out and how the "wrong" look on the surface now is actually leading to the "right" result in the long run, mixed with knowing the student and reading their body language and/or knowing their personality and recognizing their signals. It ain't exactly a science, and of course if the student continues to struggle in the same manner over time, I make the correction--at the right time for them to receive it.

The Invitation

by Sunday, August 23, 2009

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Last night at Crave Summer Dreams at Teatro Zinzanni

by Thursday, August 20, 2009

Got to perform on stage at Teatro Zinzanni last night as part of CraveSeattle We haven't performed at a Crave party in years, and this was just too delicious to pass up, under the Speigeltent! What a fun time!

Hopefully there will be more photos soon from the pro photographers who were flash flash flashing away all night!

Get AMBUSHED Tomorrow Night!

by Thursday, August 20, 2009
I know what you are doing this Friday night...

Bellydance Ambush Pubcrawl in Greenwood!

7pm @ Pig n' Whistle
8pm @ Naked City Taphouse
9pm @ Gainsbourg
10pm @ Snoose Junction, part dieu.

Let's blow some minds together!!


by Thursday, August 20, 2009
"If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment."
Henry David Thoreau

Dance terminology chuckle

by Tuesday, August 18, 2009
One of my troupe-mates updated her status on Facebook today with
"...had to sit and think for a second after saying "I'm doing a camel" ....>_<"

LOLOLOL!! I knew y'all would appreciate that!

Powerful Percussion continues this week!

by Monday, August 17, 2009
We just finished a fantastic three week session bending our brains and building our agility and stamina in finger cymbal percussion. Thanks to Helene for a truly challenging and rewarding series of classes. Everyone is buzzing about what a fantastic font of information Helene was for us. But wait...there's more!!

(note flyer dates are off by one week due to heat wave cancellations pushing back the series)
Erik Brown - Middle Eastern Drums
Thursdays August 20, 27 & September 3
Phinney Neighborhood Center, Room 7
Bring a drum if you have one, but it is not required*!!

These classes are open to all levels, all styles!
Men and women, all ages, dancers, musicians and enthusiasts, all welcome!

$12 drop-in, or $30 for the full three weeks payable the first night of class.

More information at

A key to becoming a better dancer is to familiarize yourself with the intricacies of the rhythms we are driven by. So these classes will teach you not only some great new skills in drumming, but will also enrich your dance!

This special session is open to all levels and all styles--there is no minimum experience requirement on this session. Drop-ins are welcome, but please note that the series will build weekly on previous lessons.

Erik's classes
"The Middle Eastern hand drum is sometimes called a tabla, dumbek, darbooka. It is a goblet shaped drum that is at the heart of the middle eastern music. It's a relatively inexpensive instrument to learn and an easy instrument to carry around places. Learn from the beginning the correct habits, so you can progress efficiently (and of course practice)."

Erik is a patient and effective instructor. He studies with drummers all over the world, and performs with beloved local band House of Tarab. Drumming is great for all ages, and is a fun way for the significant others of belly dancers to take part in belly dance world.

*Please bring a dumbek or similar hand drum. If you have any spares to loan, please bring them as well. ***If you do not have a drum, you will still be able to get a lot out of this class, and can bang on a pot or practice on your lap and the floor while you learn the rhythms and technique this class series has to offer.***

Classes are $12 drop-in, or $30 for the full three weeks payable the first night of class.
More information at

What to expect as you progress

by Thursday, August 13, 2009
Last year I began teaching occasional comprehensive workshops in which we cover all the movement vocabulary and concept material for each of Level 1 and Level. In that workshop, we also defined what are the skills students are expected to be learning at each level. Here is a copy of my expectations at each level as it pertains to my classes in tribal group improvisation. How do they compare to your expectations of yourself? Where do you or your classes fall in this kind of continuum of expectations?

This is also included in my large and ever-growing Student FAQ on my website, which is divided into multiple sections of information covering everything from what to wear to your first class, to what it takes to perform, and everything in between.
Details after the jump...

What should I expect to know before moving from Level 1 to Level 2?

Goals of a Level 1 Dancer:

  • have FUN! Smile and laugh often

  • get "into" your body and in touch with new muscles and ways of moving

  • attain greater grace, strength, and physical control

  • understand that your personal development will be in your own time in your own way - never compare yourself to others, only to how you are progressing each day, week, or year

  • learn to isolate and smoothly execute foundation movements

  • begin to refine transitions, advancing from individual movements to "dancing"

  • develop a "tribal mind" - to be able to organize and access individual movement information

  • connect with other dancers and together create an environment of joy and safety

  • learn that dance is a journey of many challenging and rewarding steps, not a goal to be chased

  • ask questions as they come up, and did I mention "Have fun!"

What should I expect to be learning in Level 2?

Goals of a Level 2 Dancer
In addition to Level 1 goals, a Level 2 dancer strives to...
  • keep having fun! Never take yourself or the dance too seriously. It should always be a source of joy first and foremost.

  • further develop grace, strength, physical control, and increase endurance

  • refine foundations through continued classes and study in Level 1 material

  • develop greater confidence in leading and following

  • integrate new Level 2 concepts with courage and patience with yourself as you learn new things. Sometimes going up a level feels like "starting all over again"; but accept this challenge with an open mind and you will grow exponentially in your dance

  • learn to hear the music and respond to the phrasing and emotional pulse through appropriate movement and staging choices

  • learn to really "see" your fellow dancers and connect in the moment--be fully present both physically and mentally, and learn to share in that with your fellow dancers

  • develop deeper connections with your fellow dancers through mutual kindness and encouragement

  • understand that determination, humility, enthusiasm, and patience are the hallmarks of a strong student, and we are all of us students throughout all our lives. Never rush the journey.

Also important, a committed Level 2 dancer should consider the following...
  • develop a home practice, with as much discipline and regularity as you feel capable of

  • start a dance journal with class notes, thoughts, ideas, etc. If you have never done one before, ask your teacher for ideas on how to begin.

  • explore the history of the dance, past and present. The internet is an amazing tool--use it! Your teacher is also a great resource, so ask questions when they arise for you.

  • explore other styles of dance, through classes, workshops, and online research such as YouTube (but a strong tribal dancer must keep their movement within their chosen format pure - a unique challenge!)

  • become more actively involved in the dance community through attending workshops and shows

  • understand that confidence paired with simplicity is a powerful combination in a dance and a dancer. Less truly is more.

Prepare to have your mind blown: THREADCAKES!

by Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Okay, so there is something called "ThreadCakes", which is cake designs based on Threadless tee shirts.

In case you don't already know and love Threadless:

And here is Threadcakes:

So not only did this person make an AMAZING ThreadCake, they videotaped themselves creating it every single step of the way, then edited together a cool video showing it being done!!


I found this via the blog Cake Wrecks that a friend linked me to.

Upcoming Performances with inFusion Tribal Bellydance

by Friday, August 07, 2009

Here are a few of inFusion Tribal's upcoming performances in August. We hope to see you out and about celebrating this gorgeous Seattle summer!!

Totally Tribal Hafla
Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ottoman Trading Company
at Country Village Shops
826 237th St SE
Bothell, WA 98021

"Hosted by SABINE....Starring GYPSY CARAVAN Workshops in the morning, Dance Show 4-7PM, Belly Dance Bazaar all day, Henna all day....

Workshops and souk in the studio, dance show on the stage in the garden, Henna artists, Tarot card readers, and and of course...FOOD. Country Village, where we are located is a family-friendly artsy shopping mall with shops, restaurants, train-rides, play grounds, gardens and our famous ducks, chickens and rabbits wandering about to entertain you and be fed."

More info HERE.

CRAVE Summer Dreams Party
Wednesday August 19, 2009

Teatro ZinZanni's Spiegeltent
222 Mercer St, Seattle
Cost: $35 (includes fab food)
inFusion Tribal will be performing in the 9pm hour

inFusion Tribal Bellydance will be part of the evening of indulgence and entertainment at Seattle's next CRAVE Party. And this one is going to be incredible--it's being held under the Teatro ZinZanni big top!!

Salsa dancers, live musicians, tarot readings, henna tattoos, contortionists, gourmet food, raffles and door prizes, and of course TRIBAL BELLYDANCING! This promises to be one of the best CRAVE Parties yet! (see the lineup at ).

"What is a CRAVE Party?
A CRAVE Party is an exclusive, festive, glam-gal gathering of fun, entertainment, personal pampering, specialty shopping, sippin' and noshin', and just hanging with the girls. CRAVE Parties are about girlfriends getting together. It's about connecting, having fun, indulging, learning more and empowering yourself! Enjoyment, enlightenment, indulgence, health, fashion and above all sophisticated, feminine fun!

We could all use a getaway, and at CRAVEparty we believe that you don’t need to be a jetsetter to have a little adventure. There’s so much to explore right in your hometown. At CRAVEparty we believe in acknowledging, celebrating and passionately supporting locally owned businesses.

We know that when encouraged to thrive, neighborhood establishments enhance communities. These spots are original and quirky and provide rich experiences not usually encountered in mass-market chains.

Indulge and splurge (you deserve it!) on spa treatments, massages, manis & pedis, fashion shows, entertainment, irresistible boutique shopping– all in a spirited and carefree atmosphere.

Bring your Moms, your sisters, your best gal pals, your daughters, your bridesmaids!"

Bellydance AMBUSH!
Friday, August 21, 2009

Various locations

inFusion Tribal is taking a neighborhood near you by storm this summer with their unique campaign to bring public performance art to...well, the public! Next stop: Greenwood! We will be Ambushing several pubs along Greenwood Avenue all night long, so get ready to be Ambushed, then join the parade from pub to pub and BellyCrawl with us! We will perform a brief set at the top of each hour at each of the locations listed, we'll stick around for a drink, then zills blaring we will parade to the next location*. We will finish the night at the last location with one final performance and the option to order a delicious meal or snack!

7pm Pig n' Whistle
8pm Naked City Taphouse
9pm The Gainsbourg
10pm Snoose Junction Part Dieu*
All locations are open to all ages.
* we will drive to Snoose Junction for the finale, as it is further up the road

Take this opportunity to support local businesses by visiting some truly great pubs, and support public performance artists in their mission to spread creativity and joy in Seattle neighborhoods and beyond.

Want us to Ambush! your neighborhood or business? Contact us at

Hope to see you there!
inFusion Tribal Bellydance

Seth Godin: Why tribes, not money or factories, will change the world

by Friday, August 07, 2009
When you choose to lead a movement, key questions:
Who are you upsetting? Because if you' re not upsetting anyone, you're not changing the status quo...
Who are you connecting?...
Who are you leading?...

Qualities of leadership:
Leaders challenge the status quo.
Leaders build a culture.
Leaders have curiosity about the people in the tribe and those outside.
Leaders connect people to one another.
Leaders have charisma -- you need not have it, being a leader *gives you* charisma.
Leaders commit--to the cause, the tribe, to the people.

Tell a story: Connect a Tribe: Lead a Movement: Make Change

Check out this great TedTalk about how tribes are the future...the present!

SYTYCD: Final Four video and thoughts on Evan

by Thursday, August 06, 2009
Last night my Tivo, based on some bogus program data, missed the first hour of the So You Think You can Dance finale. Facebook to the rescue, one complaint later (bracelet moved to other wrist) and I had friends telling me their online sources for the videos. Hooray! For those of you who missed it:
check it out here.

Over on Bhuz, there is a thread about this season, and some talk about why Evan has made it this far on the show. After the jump, have a look-see at my thoughts on it. What do you think?

I have felt two ways about this season--I love watching the dancing, yet I less often find myself truly moved. And I think it's because I *expect* them to be good..does that make sense? Part of the excitement of reality TV is seeing the humanity! I want to see them struggle and yes even fumble, so that the successes seem so much more epic. This season has had so many incredibly strong and talented dancers who came with all the tools to succeed...where is the challenge in that? Yes I KNOW this is incredibly difficult, and they are being pushed and challenged incredibly, but we're not getting to SEE that so much this year. You know the old addage, "Justice must not just be done, it must be SEEN to be done"? I think the struggle to succeed must not just happen, but must need to be SEEN to be happening.

This year, I feel like everything has been either good or great, never regular-guy/gal so-so or bad; and the things I didn't necessarily like were mostly due to the choreography and not a failure by the dancers. Well, that is not entirely true. Sometimes I felt like what was lacking was emotional expression, but almost never was it a lack of actual skill in the dancing itself. It's like the dancers were TOO GOOD. Sounds crazy, I know. But it gets blase if you're like "okay here comes another flawless routine by amazing dancers..." and then it becomes more a competition between choreographers rather than the dancers, which I am not interested in.

Essentially I think that Evan has had the personality to carry him, and has shown us enough of the "underdog" struggle to keep us wanting to see what he can do that we *don't* expect him to be able to do. Everyone else I EXPECT to be wonderful. But Evan is the only one left who amazes me because I am not confident he will be able to do what they ask...and he keeps doing it! That plus his undeniable charisma, and it makes you cheer for him! We are seeing him struggle and grow, and succeed despite his obvious limitations, which makes him more human, relateable, and interesting (to me). I don't think he should win, but I look forward to seeing him dance each week in a way I don't anticipate with the other three. Part of that is charisma, and the other part is his humanity.

This apathy toward an ever-increasingly skilled group of dancers is certainly tied to Modern Media Killing the Organic Process, wouldn't you say...?

Performance makeup

by Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Applying dance makeup is part necessity, and part ritual. The necessity is in making sure that our entire look is effective for performance--the expression in our eyes can be seen, the balance of our colorful costume with our hair and makeup is considered, etc. But while there are practical concerns with makeup, there is an emotional component as well. The act of getting "made up" is part of putting ourselves "into character", if you will. Even if we feel we are entirely ourselves in performance, there is still a different aspect of You that must be drawn out for stage that is different from the everyday grocery-shopping-laundry-doing You, right? Putting on our makeup, and of course costume, is a way to step out of who we are all the time to become the polished performer we wish to present to our audience.

Good performance makeup takes practice! Just like we don't just go through the motions of dancing, but instead build our skills through regular study and rehearsal, good makeup also takes repetition and experimentation to build our confidence and skill. Performers trained in other forms of dance and theater learn this from very early on, but sometimes we bellydancers seem a little behind the curve in understanding the need for strong makeup to create a more powerful performance.

To be fair, we bellydancers tend to be in a unique position when it comes to make-up: we have to have a lot of different looks because our performances are done in so many different venues! One week you will be up close in a dark restaurant, next week you will be outdoors in a sunny festival, the next dancing in a living room for a birthday party, and the next your are on a big stage with full stage lighting. And each requires different considerations when it comes to what we do with our makeup to give the most KAPOW! to our face! For today, let's consider stage makeup techniques, since much of these elements can be built up or toned down for various venues; but the individual elements are still key components to any performer's makeup repertoire.

For stage make-up, we have an opportunity to really enhance our face shape and color, and increase our ability to express ourselves by highlighting and boosting our most expressive features--our eyes (including brows and lashes), our lips, and our cheeks.

While I have never tried their products, JAM Cosmetics is a company committed to makeup specifically for dancers! Their web page has some really great resources, with online tutorials, videos, and a dance makeup blog. I recommend popping over and taking a look. It will become quickly apparent that the techniques employed are for traditional stage makeup for western dancers, and is based in their specific product line, but consider each of the elements as a jumping-off point for experimentation of your own. Remember, it should look very intense up close, but will be effective from a distance and with bright stage lights.

Here is a blog post of theirs I found to be really clear and valuable: Top 10 Stage Makeup Mistakes and How to Fix Them. Do you see any mistakes of your own in here?

A couple gems:

MISTAKE: Black pencil eyeliner on the inside of the lower lash line. On stage, it makes the eyes look smaller. This is a great makeup technique for TV, fashion shows, print ads, and in person but not for stage performances.

FIX IT: Use JAM cosmetics White Highlighter Pencil on the inside lower lash line and on the outside corner of the eyes to open and brighten the eyes.


MISTAKE: Not enough makeup. Because of the intensity of the lights and the distance from the performer to the audience, the facial features lose their dimension - they “flatten” out without enough makeup on.

FIX IT: When you go into a new theater/auditorium, do a “makeup rehearsal” before you perform. Have someone go out into the audience and look at you on stage to see if we can see all of the emotion and dimension in your face.

I would also add too dark lipstick! We often imagine that darker is better, but in fact if we choose too brown and dark a lipstick, our lips recede and become a blackish line that looks very severe. Instead, go for a mid-range color: something rich enough to define the lips, and light enough to keep the lips looking lush and plump. It should be brighter and richer than what you might wear everyday, but still be complimentary to your skintone, so there is no one color that is best for all situations.

Your best bet? Go to your local Mac counter, tell them you are a bellydancer and ask for help finding a good all-purpose performance lip color. Better yet, make an appointment for an entire makeover to learn some new tricks, then buy a lipstick and an eyeshadow that you liked from the makeover to take home and play with!

Costuming for tribal dancers

by Sunday, August 02, 2009
This summer my students performed in a neighborhood parade, and some newer students had to invest in their first dance costuming to participate. One student asked some great questions, and I wanted to share my thoughts with her, with you!

Q. "How do you manage the colors and patterns and stuff? Do you go for the same color, or complimentary colors? How do you keep things looking put together and elegant and fun instead of looking busy and tacky? I mean, I don't want to buy a nice hip scarf only to find down the road that it clashes with everything!"

A. "As for how to purchase things so they make sense...well...tribal bellydancers consider their wardrobes their "dowry"--throughout history, a young woman would build her dowry over years, accumulating clothing, jewelry, and other accoutrements that were hers and hers alone. In patriarchal societies, it was important to a woman to have some things which were hers alone and no one could take away from her. It was expensive and took time to build up her dowry, it was never something one would go out and buy in a chunk. Her family and friends would gift her things as well--adding here and there where she needed more pieces to fill out her collection.

Tribal bellydance costuming is like that. Unlike cabaret costuming where bras and belts, skirts and cholis, even accessories often all come together as a matched set, tribal dancers build their costumes from individual bits and pieces over time, mixing and matching as they go along. Most dancers start with a few key pieces in their favorite colors. Like right now one of my favorite color combos is teal and red. So I might buy a teal skirt and red pantaloons, and get a top that compliments the combo, throw a hip scarf and belt on top and VOILA! A few thrift store pieces of jewelry, a hair flower or two or three...voila! Costumed! Then as you grow your costume collection, you add bits and pieces here and there. Another hip scarf, a second pair of pantaloons, maybe a simple thrift store skirt reworked as a colorful overskirt...sometimes they build off of the current color palette ("Oooh! Gold pantaloons would look so good under my teal skirt with my red choli!"), and sometimes you want to move in a new direction to branch out a little and you buy something in a different family of hues. Either way, as you build you start to develop an eye for how much is too much and how much is just right--learning to balance colors and textures to greatest effect takes practice.

While we all want each of our costume pieces to be a good investment, ultimately you can't worry too much about making sure everything you buy will be perfect for everything for all time. Of course as you build your dowry, you will discover some colors, shapes, fabrics, etc call to you more than others, and they will come together naturally. When you shop, you'll be able to recognize items which will suit your style (and your dance sisters will also start to see things that are "Oh, that's so Rebecca! And that is so Sharon.") and will jump off the rack into your hands to go home with you! But there will always be some duds--ones you thought would be good at the time but never really gets taken off the hanger much in the long run. That's just a fact of life, and you can always sell them to classmates or on Ebay to make room for more gems to come into your life.

One way to make sure your purchases are good investments is spending really good money on staples--don't go cheap on your skirts, 'loons and belts maybe, but seek bargains for your scarves and bracelets. Whatever you consider to be the pieces you will wear the most and will mix and match with other items, invest well. Then build from those pieces, and you will be golden!

Do a little Googling around to look at FatChanceBellydance, Gypsy Caravan, Awalim, and Heavy Hips--these troupes have some of my favorite tribal bellydance costuming out there! Colorful without seeming too Crayola-y or riotous, a little folkloric mixed with modern aesthetics--so there is an exotic appeal without seeming too 'costume-y', if you know what I mean. Also look at traditional costuming in Banjara and Rajasthan India to see how they mix patterns and colors with abandon...and somehow it comes out looking so wonderful! It's hard for some of us Westerners to learn not to be too "matchy matchy", yet on the other end of the spectrum to not look completely like you fell through a thrift store rack and came out with whatever! Experiment, take inspiration from other dancers, be creative, play, take risks, and you'll learn!"

Seattle Tribal Bellydance at Greenwood Seafair Parade!

by Saturday, August 01, 2009

A group comprised of inFusion Tribal, Nomaditude, and students of mine collaborated to perform in the 59th annual Greenwood Seafair Parade, and boy did we have fun! We have lots of photos from many different sources, so poke around these links to see how beautiful everyone looked! Thanks to the dancers, our Parade Pals, and the parade organizers for all they did to make this fun day possible!

Here is a collection of photographs from various sources around the web, from friends and fans!

In case you can't view the Facebook album, here are some other sources of images, some of which overlap the album above.

My Mother-in-Law took these pics while walking in the parade with us:

This was a photographer at the parade, posted on his Flikr account:

The parade was fun and a new challenge for us, and it was a beautiful day for it! Everyone looked so amazing, and rolled with the changes throughout this fun evening, which we capped off with food and drinks at Snoose Junction. We are already looking forward to next year!

Make-up tip: cheekbones glow, eyes pop!

by Saturday, August 01, 2009

A great way to make your eyes pop, and your cheekbones look more defined:

Apply a light dusting of light colored blush or bronzer just below the peak of your cheekbones. Then apply a lightly shimmery powder, beginning at your apples, along the cheek above the cheekbone below the eye (but not on the lower lid), and around the outer curve of your eye socket. Look closely and you can see this technique is applied in the photo to the side. Experiment with ideal placement for more dramatic or subtle effect.


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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