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!!

What Is Art? What is an Artist?

by Monday, October 19, 2009
From http://www.artnewsblog.com/2007/06/what-is-art-what-is-artist.htm

"I have been thinking about the word "artist" and what it means to be one. Obviously it's a person that creates art, so why do we have to still get into debates over whether a person is an artist or not? Why do some people still believe that only the chosen few should have the title of "artist" stamped to their forehead?

The confusion naturally leads to the word "art" which is probably where all the mix-up starts. If a person has his/her own definition of art narrowed down to include pretty paintings and realistic sculpture, they may not classify a lot of artists as "artists".

It's a bit like my dad's definition of God (which he thinks does not exist).. it's narrow minded. Just because there's no white bearded man in the clouds looking over us with a judging eye doesn't mean there is no God, it just means that God might be something else. God might be the wind or spirit or the breath we breathe or he might even be the bum on the street that we always look down on. Perhaps my dad's God is skepticism or science."

"The struggling artist is such a negative myth to cling to and having a narrow view of what art is can be almost as silly as clinging to fictional interpretations of what an artist is. Last time I checked what art is in the dictionary, it told me that it was a subjective and hard to define word.

So I start with classifying everything I see as art and that way I don't miss anything that could be interesting to me. Of course I put things into different categories of art, but everything I see goes into the art box. There's people as works of art, silly art, nature's art, easel art, word art, ugly art, toilet art, car art, rubbish art, realistic art, crazy art, money art, shit art, and so on. Everything is art, just different types of art.

It's a great way to appreciate the things around us that we pass by everyday too. I can get just as excited over a shape in a bathroom tile as I can over a good painting. A pile of old shoes can interest me as much as a bronze Rodin sculpture.

I would rather include too much in my definition of art than not enough. I sometimes feel like I'm walking around in a giant art museum, which can be a little over-stimulating at times, but at least I never get bored..."

Let's talk...

by Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On the first night of every Level 1 session, I do some orientation and introductions. I tell them about sign-in procedures, tell them where the bathrooms are, what I suggest they bring in their dance bag, and the like. I also tell them about the class culture, and what to expect--nuggets of advice such as reminding them to not compare themselves to other dancers in the room, but instead focus on their own growth from week to week, month to month, and so on. In closing, I talk about my open door policy, and drive home an important pillar of my teaching: that I consider class to be a conversation, not a lecture. That the more they ask questions, contribute ideas, give me feedback, the better teacher I can be for them. That interaction is the key to making our classroom a safe and powerful space to work together.

So today, I am watching 'Art in the 21st Century', a documentary on PBS focusing on artists in various modern mediums. One artist says that all her life, she has wanted to be the center of attention. She tried ballet, and diving, and other forms of performance, and then got into ceramics and eventually painting. She goes on to say:

"In the beginning, the art enterprise was doing something important, beautiful, sort of all by yourself. As I got into it and matured, I saw that the most important thing about doing artwork was communicating, and having something like a conversation through the work. I thought about making pieces partly for their formal values, but also very much for the kind of a response I would get."

And I said HELL YES!

I realize the same philosophy of "conversation" I hold to in my teaching, is how I approach my performance as well. I venture that this is largely why many other dance and performance forms I pursued in the past didn't stick with me like tribal bellydance has. There is an interactive quality to tribal bellydance, both between we dancers on the stage, as well as we performers with our audiences. It is not a stock set of moves, set up the same way with the same energies each time. Instead it is a conversation right there: between us as we negotiate the ins and outs of our choreography, and then in turn is interpreted and adapted based on the stage we are on, the energy of the event, and the *response we are getting from our audience*.

I find this kind of interactive "art in the moment" to be infinitely challenging and fulfilling in a way that a choreography doesn't quite reach. Not to be misunderstood, I still love choreography, and find there is a sort of energetic freedom of expression that choreography feeds in a way that improvisation doesn't which is still key to my approach to dance, but that sense of conversation...that chance to express a feeling and share a presentation that is unique to that moment...a presentation which invites a response and morphs as a result of interactive feedback from the audience (whether they are aware of that or not) is like nothing else I have experienced. Yes, one could say that when I did any improv back in my theater days it was in a similar vein, but that is in an overt way, and one which required me to take on a different persona, be someone else. The beauty of tribal bellydance is that it is all an unspoken understanding--we don't ask the audience for the name of a place and an object to get started for one--and throughout I need be nothing other than a conduit of self and my family of sisters! Our greatest goal is to give of ourselves, and hopefully get a positive, supportive response in return, feed on that, and give it back yet again. Building and building with each moment, in a feedback loop of positive energy!

Which of course got me thinking about some of my favorite performances which demonstrated this: my first magical moments watching Gypsy Caravan with their familiar welcoming energy, my vicarious experiences watching Wendy and Sandi and Carolena who dance with a playful comfort and connection that is unsurpassed, watching my students take their first steps into performance and seeing them light up with recognition of the power they hold between them. I find that some of my favorite soloists also harness this interactive energy--Cassandra is always so connective in her dancing, bringing you into the moment with her; Aziza has the amazing ability to make you feel she is looking right at you when she dances, even in an audience of hundreds; and so on. These dancers make me feel like I am part of the conversation, I am not being "lectured" to. They are engaging me, and inviting a response from me, not just up there to tell their story whether I want to hear it or not.

And that is the mark of a great *entertainer* to me. The desire and ability to not only be giving so much of themselves, but asking we in the audience, "What can I do for you? What do you think?" Dancers who take time in their rehearsals to really consider what their audience will enjoy, what they want to give to their particular audience, and what they hope to receive from them in return to feed off of and interpret back to them...dancers who have an interest in that relationship, those are the performers who thrill me to the core. I am left cold by the dancers who are only up there for themselves and care only about their experience on the stage (public masturbation), or at the other end of the spectrum dancers who only care about getting some kind of contentious reaction out of the audience--trying to get a rise out of them, through shock or schtick or some other contrivance. The most innocent of these are the newer dancers who don't know there is any other way. Dancers who were raised on a steady diet of antagonistic performances know only how to deliver the same. They don't know what it means to cultivate a conversation with their audience, and for some once they discover this option, it sounds like too much work.

Because it is a lot of work, and it can be scary! What if you go in with one hope or expectation, and the audience doesn't grok what's going down? Anyone who has been performing even a short period of time has likely run into the "why the hell are these dancers interrupting my conversation?" crowds, and being able to still deliver an energetic performance can be a difficult proposition. You may walk away feeling a bit empty--you brought your part of the performer contract, but the audience didn't deliver on their end of the "deal". But haven't we all had these experiences in everyday life? You smile and joke with a checker who barely registers your presence. You join a conversation at a party which quickly deflates when you arrive and you are left wondering if it was something you did or said (or didn't do or say). You and your partner who are usually stellar at hearing one another fall into a week long rut where you can't seem to understand or make yourself understood, and vice versa? It happens (and the old "Mercury in Retrograde" has become such a go-to for the blame!). But it doesn't mean you suddenly shift your mode of communicating so you just talk talk talk and never listen or respond. You get through those rough moments, and go on communicating, and build on your relationships into the future. It truly is a two-way street, and we learn new ways of expressing ourselves more effectively, and ways to adapt to different personalities and situations. So, too, with our improvisational performances. It takes practice, patience, and trust.

Is your performance a conversation? Is your classroom a conversation? In what ways do you find this to be true for you in your dance, or not? Would love to hear more from you, as always!

What makes a good choreographer?

by Monday, October 05, 2009
Earlier this year, a fellow dancer on the Tribal Bellydance tribe asked about the skills it takes to be a strong choreographer, and asked some really key questions. Here is the majority of her post:
I'm wondering how those of you who do a lot of choreographing set yourselves up for it. I don't know if there are training programs out there, but the good, great, and wonderful choreographers I've worked with over the years all seem to have a few things in common:

*a steady sense of "the big picture": the ability to know how the audience is going to view, and react, to the whole dance as seen not from onstage or from within the troupe;

*lyrical sense: familiarity with the music that allows the choreographer to convey meaning to the audience through the dancer(s) without beating them over the head with it, so to speak;

*a good understanding of their dancer(s) ability and potential;

*a prodigious movement vocabulary.

Thing is...how do you GET that? Is it an ability that you have to have an affinity for, like drawing or music or math? Is it something you can learn--and if so, how? Does it come more easily with experience?

And what are some other qualities a good choreographer needs?

My thoughts after the jump...

"What makes a good artist a good artist? Impossible to answer. It is the convergence of interest, training, and natural propensities.

I am of the strong belief that not everything is for everyone in this life. I know that is not a popular belief, particularly among my generation where we were told we could be anything we wanted. I think it's important to pursue our passions, but that doesn't always mean we will excel at it. I think the most important message is that even if we are not great at that which we love, we continue to do it for the love...what brings us joy, we must honor....but I digress.

I know for myself, I was ALWAYS choreographing dances, from the time I was a little girl. From when my brother and I would make up dance and acro-balance routines together in our living room, to when I was writing plays in elementary school and staging them for school productions with my friends, to making up floor and balance beam routines with my friends on my gymnastics team, to high school when I was choreographing dances for my cheer squad or dance/drill teams, to learning dance in drama productions in high school and college, to making playful choreographies with my friends in a public park just because we felt like it, to college when I skipped out on registering for classes toward my major to take ballet, jazz, and modern and making routines with my dorm-mates, and well beyond into my adult life in various dance classes eventually culminating in a love of Middle Eastern Dance... Even without always being in formal classes, I was always dancing, always thinking of ways to compose movement to music or characters. And when I couldn't find outlets for these instincts, I was frustrated.

Frankly, I wish my Mom had put me in more formal dance classes throughout my life, because in retrospect, I was ALWAYS DANCING, even when I wasn't officially dancing... But even without always having formal training in it, something in me was always calling me back, and I found I had a natural knack for hearing music (I did casually play some instruments, as well as choir and musical theater throughout as well), and for understanding how music could drive movement.

Not everyone has these same experiences and memories, but I think it is through this constant exposure to music dance in various forms it simultaneously seeped into my being, and was welcomed heartily by my natural tendencies for dance and music.

I think some people have to try a lot harder and train their instincts more diligently. And I think some people are far more skilled than I am with less formal experience than I have had. Frankly, there is no one formula for success in any field, and certainly this is true for art.

But if you are asking how someone who is just starting out might begin to hone this instincts much later in life, that might be another approach to the discussion entirely...

I would add that the best choreographers I have ever experienced in all fields of dance were not necessarily the best dancers, but they:
a) were fantastic at "telling stories"
b) possessed a strong spatial sense (being able to visualize spaces, movement, and shapes)
c) for group choreographies, were articulate and charismatic leaders (this does not always mean *nice* or *friendly*, but possess charisma and language skills which transcend these virtues to drive dancers to new heights)
d) had a grasp of energetic flow: both between the performers onstage, and between the performers and the audiences they were intending to reach.

I have found that some great choreographers are also great judges of movement and choreography of others (like dance critics), as well as having a great eye for art, design, decoration, fashion, etc. It is the capacity to observe the elusive elements of balance, texture, color, energy, flow, white-space, connection, pulse, rhythm; and tie it all up in a package of intention and message that makes a great artist in any genre. And oftentimes these skills overlap between many disciplines."

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts on choreography and how one trains to improve choreographic skills!
by Thursday, October 01, 2009

Some great advice from the queen (princess!) of glamor. If she can pack light and look so great, then you know we mere peons can!


Class Newsletter October 1, 2009

by Thursday, October 01, 2009

Hello lovellies! Here is the latest class news!

Just a notice to Monday night students that we will NOT be taking our field trip to Pyramid Lounge next week as previously planned. Renee has been struggling with an injured back, and was forced to pull out of the performance, and inFusion along with her. So class will be held as usual next week.

On a related note, Renee will still be teaching the Skills n' Drills class tonight, though she will be taking it a lot easier in her demonstrating than usual. You will still get a great challenging workout, and some new tricks under your belt for isolations and strength building. Each class has a series of drills focused on certain muscle groups, and the class wraps up with some movement drills, bringing your technique back around to common tribal movement concepts.

Level 1 is beginning to rock basic finger cymbals/zills beginning this session. Week 3 of each session will be an introduction to finger cymbals and some simple drills to build your dexterity and sense of rhythm. If you are any level student who would like a refresher on zill technique, and would like to spend a full class practicing your foundations and working to improve your skills, then for only $12 drop-in you can join us next Monday or Wednesday and really dig into your zills!

If you are a Level 1 student who still has not purchased your finger cymbals, get your order in ASAP!
My favorite are the Afghanis: http://dwp.bigplanet.com/saroyan/tribalperformances/
(Fat Chance Signature Afghani Zills can be purchased here: http://tinyurl.com/y93aj6g )

Much dance love,

Autistic Basketball Player

by Thursday, October 01, 2009
If you need a reason to feel really good today, watch this video. It's a bit old, so maybe some of you have seen it make the rounds already. I had not, and let me tell you....made my week!


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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