Turkey Day happiness...

by Thursday, November 25, 2010
Here in Seattle, we are having a white Thanksgiving. I don't remember one since I was a wee little girl, so it is magical. It will turn to rain soon, and get slushy and yuck, but hubby and I are enjoying the winter wonderland immensely for now.

I have begun cooking, and the house is already filling with delicious smells. Honestly, we really began yesterday morning when I cooked up the brining liquid, filled our cooler with salt/suger/stock/allspice berries and plopped our 20lb bird in to float around for 18 hours in said cooler set up on the snowy back deck.  About five years ago we started brining our bird in a simple water/salt/sugar blend, and two years ago we began to bypass stuffing our bird and instead using aromatics as recommended by our beloved Alton Brown--we will never ever make a turkey any differently ever again, and it even informed how we bake whole chickens throughout the year.  In a word: YUM! This year we're going whole hog and using Alton's full recipe from brine to finish, and I am completely confident it will be the best bird yet! I am searing the skin now, will tent it and cook until our family arrives this afternoon. Chris' sister and her husband, and Bapa will be joining us this year.

It's a bittersweet holiday this season, not having Pat here. I find myself trying not to cry now and again, so I cannot even imagine what is in Chris and Steph's hearts as they face the first holiday without their beautiful mother.  It makes me reflect on my family, on how little I get to see them, how much I miss my father and my grandmother... but it also makes me feel even closer to my new family I married into. Getting to spend time with them has become such a joy for me as I have gotten to know them better in recent years, and we are even closer now after what we have gone through this summer.

To sum it up, this Thanksgiving, they are my greatest blessing. I am so thankful for my family, and how warm they are in my heart this season in particular.  I am thankful for their kindness, their humor, their generosity, and their love.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May yours be as sweet and full of love as mine is today.

Q&A: How to smile in performance.

by Monday, November 22, 2010
Q. So, I was watching Kami Liddle's Tribal Fest 8 performance again today...one of the (many) things I have always liked about this performance, and her performances in general, is her lovely smile! It looks so wonderful!

How do I get that (or any) smile? Yes, I do smile when I perform and practice, but it looks nothing like that. When I ask a friend after I am through with a performance, "did I smile?" Their response is typically a variation of "Yes, you had this cute little smirk smile." What? I was smiling! I felt my face moving and forming smile-type pose. And when I look at a performance on video, I see that, indeed, it is more of a "smirk". So, I then go "drill" a smile in front of the mirror. But I don't like the way I look....

Any of you have this issue? Any tips for working on a better smile?

A. Smiling in performance is just one facet of "emoting"--a difficult but valuable skill. And yes, you can learn it!

For one, don't expect your smile to look like anyone else's. That will bum you out in the long run. But more importantly...


Actors know this--to convey an emotion with the body/face for a performance takes work!  It seems like it should be so "natural", but more often than not it ain't. It feels really goofy to smile in a mirror, but it helps you learn how it looks. Then try the same thing away from a mirror and feel how that FEELS. Keep working back and forth between mirrors and feeling it. Then try performing for video with that same smile and see how it looks and feels.

Another consideration: don't just smile. Think of things that make you feel like smiling.
A fake smile looks fake. A genuine smile radiates beyond where you think you could possibly reach.
Genuine smiles come from genuine emotion, and not from "poses". So when you practice your faces, and practice dancing, bring joyful thoughts to your mind which induce genuine smiles, and the audience will not only see it, but *feel* it.

Daily Gratitude: A Day of Rest

by Sunday, November 21, 2010
Daily Gratitude: I am thankful for the choice to take a day of rest. Many people on our planet work nearly all day, every day, and barely make ends meet. A day you can choose to do almost nothing is a blessing indeed.

Wayback Machine delivers memories...

by Sunday, November 21, 2010
I was searching for an old web page of mine today, and took a little walk down memory lane in the process.

A December 2001 performance by Gypsy Caravan at the Pink Door. They are wearing costumes I created for them. I remember when they used to come up a few times a year, and how magical it was to see them, to dance with them...*sigh*

My first trip to Breitenbush for Ancient Echoes:

My old vending tent at Med Fest, vending with Zanbaka:

My first Med Fest performance, with Veils of the Nile. Bet you can't tell my beloved Fat Chance bra is on upside down!

My old class page, on one of my oldest web site designs back when I first started learning HTML:

I love seeing these old pages and pics!

Music Monday: Latin-y!

by Monday, November 15, 2010

Article: Tribal Fusion Bellydance on Gilded Serpent

by Thursday, November 11, 2010
Have a read, and let me know what you think:


"The “fusion” in Tribal Fusion Belly Dance makes this dance genre elusive and tricky to define. Two dancers could have nothing in common except a few core movements and a couple costuming pieces, and yet both could define themselves as Tribal Fusion dancers. While this can be confusing, both to outsiders and to Tribal Fusion belly dancers, the freedom that fusion grants is exactly what makes the genre so attractive.

The other side of the coin is that sometimes Tribal Fusion Belly Dance is interpreted to be completely open-ended. This can lead to dancers changing or ignoring technique, musicality, and proper training. 

Since Tribal Fusion Belly Dance is a relatively new dance form, it is especially important to treat the genre with a level of professionalism, or else one runs the risk of discrediting the work of dancers who have dedicated their lives to creating and elevating Tribal Fusion Belly Dance."

Sirloin Steak with Carmelized Onions and Butternut Squash Puree

by Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Made this delectable recipe on Monday night, and it was a hit!

Sirloin Steak with Carmelized Onions and Butternut Squash Puree

1 medium-large butternut squash, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Olive oil
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 large onion, sliced into strips (sweet onion is best)
2 servings of sirloin steak (our serving sizes are 4-5oz in our house)
salt and pepper


Squash Puree
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the split halves of squash face up on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with some brown sugar, drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and break up bits of the butter over the squash halves. Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Scrape the inside of the squash into the bowl of a food processor/blender, and pulse until the squash is a smooth consistency. You can add a little more brown sugar, or butter, or both to your desired taste. Sometimes a touch more salt helps to pop the flavors, but don't overdo it.

Note: I recommend getting a nice large butternut squash and making more than you need for this recipe. Then you can use the leftovers for other meals or soups. It makes a great filling for home-made ravioli, too!

You can make the puree ahead of time, if you like. It can refrigerate for a couple days, and you can scoop out what you need and warm in a saucepan over medium heat before serving.

Caramelized Onions
Add 2 tbsp of olive oil and the onions to a large saute pan. Toss the onions to coat with oil. Cook the onions over medium-low heat for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so to allow the onions to brown, but not burn. You can add butter to this as well, and/or add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the onions for a little sweetness and to help in caramelization.  For another layer of flavors, add a dash of basalmic vinegar to the onions in the last 5 minute of cooking. Remove onions from heat when they are dark brown and sweet.

Sirloin Steak (Alton Brown Method)
Prep the sirloin by setting on the counter at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Coat all sides generously with kosher salt and let sit another 5 minutes. Rinse off salt with cold tap water.

Once you take the butternut squash out of the oven, while the onions are finishing carmelizing, continue to prepare the sirloin. Set oven on broiler setting. Make foil 'snake' out of aluminum foil to use to keep oven door slightly ajar so that broiler won't turn off if it gets too hot.

Brush steak with oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Place a piece of foil on the bottom rack as a drip pan. Place another rack in the position above this and put the steak directly on this rack. Cook steak in this position for 5 minutes.  Flip steak and cook for another 5 minutes. Move rack with steak to top position in oven, moving rack with foil and drippings just underneath, and cook for 3 minutes. Flip 1 last time and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer steak to wire rack and rest for 3 to 5 minutes. (These times are for medium doneness. Adjust cooking times up or down as desired.)

Once rested, cut steak against the grain in 1/4" slices.

Scoop a generous mound of butternut squash puree in a line down the center of the plate. Lay sliced steak on top of puree, and top all with a mound of caramelized onions. Tucking some celery leaf or basil leaf into the end of the golden butternut puree tops this plate off colorfully and beautifully.

Music Monday - Moody Monday

by Monday, November 08, 2010
I love iTunes for the way it can organize my playlists. I have ones for my classes, divided up by different levels of skill and paces of music. I have ones for performances, and for styles of music (Spanish, Bhangra, etc). And for personal music, I also have ones divided up by mood or feel. I have an Upbeat playlist, as I shared last week I have a Meditation playlist, a Chill playlist, and this week, I am sharing some selections from my Moody playlist.

As I come down from the high that was the Tribal Dreams Festival weekend, and I sit in my grey, quiet living room alone, I feel a little moody. Why is it that when we're in a sad mood, sometimes the only cure is sad tunes? Well, my  Moody List isn't necessarily sad songs, but just songs with lyrics or general feel of...well...a little bit blue.

Moody Monday
Save Me                                   -Aimee Mann            -Magnolia Soundtrack
Hide and Seek                          -Imogen Heap           -Speak for Youself
Watching You Without Me      -Kate Bush                -Hounds of Love
Feels Like Home                     -Newton Faulkner     -Hand Built By Robots
Call and Answer                      -Barenaked Ladies    -Stunt
I Know Why                            -Sheryl Crow            -Wildflower (mine is an acoustic version)
Sea Dreamer                            -Sting w/Anoushka Shankar and Karsh Kale    -Breathing Under Water

"Can you teach me to dance like _______...?"

by Friday, November 05, 2010
Most every teacher I know has run into this question in one form or another from new students--some of us hear it many times a year. "I saw 'The World Famous Debbie Dancer' on YouTube. Can you teach me to dance like her?"

The short answer? No.
The only slightly longer answer?
Neither can she!

No teacher can truly teach you to dance just like them. What they can provide you is tools for your own dance--tools perhaps they themselves used to arrive at their own personal style, which you can then take to create your own personal style.

I am here in Lincoln, Nebraska getting ready to teach my first of two workshops at the Tribal Dreams Festival, and over breakfast this morning was chatting with Jawahara of Chicago about teaching and workshops and the culture of the bellydance world today as we know it. And one phenomenon we were talking about was the propensity for some dancers to come to classes or workshops wanting to be or dance just like another dancer. Jawahara was talking about dancers who would look at old footage of Taheya Carioca and Samia Gamal, and wanting to emulate every little nuance of those dancer's performances. For others, it might be like the many people who watch Rachel Brice or Aziza of Montreal, and try to make every single detail look and feel exactly the same.

It's a good jumping-off point, but the question is, are you trying to be them, or do you want to be you inspired by them?

Jawahara and I agreed on many points, but one that I want to share with you here is that every single teacher, every single class, every single workshop has something to teach you. Much like when we talked about the steady diet of fusion (Fusion As Dessert), if all you ever feed yourself is one teacher's interpretation, or one stylization, where is there room for you in the equation? And dammit, that's the juiciest, awesomest part! YOU!

Even if your ultimate goal is to devote yourself to one particular style, it behooves you to be open to many dance experiences, and always always be looking at how your personal flavor is being injected into the final product. When you walk into a workshop, don't just try to pick out finished ideas, sprung wholly formed from the instructor's forehead. Instead, learn to look more critically at what is being offered--at the individual pieces of information that make up the body of work the teacher is sharing with you--and learn to parse out bits that really speak to you personally. Look at the information as a tool bag, not a shopping list.

Tomorrow at Tribal Dreams, I will be teaching "Cook Your Own Combos"--a workshop designed for just this kind of thought process. Learning to break down movement into individual components which we can then remix to reflect our own style.  If you learn to see the dance as a collection of delicious spices and ingredients, rather than complete unalterable recipes, then you can cook up a new combo every day of the week and always inject your own flavor!  I can't teach you to dance like me, but I am happy to give you some tools to help you be your most fabulous self.

Inspirational Video: Hips n' Bellies

by Thursday, November 04, 2010
Sandi and Wendy of FatChance Bellydance are pure magic together.  Their connection is unique and inspiring. One of my favorite examples of their power as performers is in the following clip. Sure, there are some lightning-fast performances that take my breath away--the kind of speed only you and someone you know really really well, personally and professionally, can maintain together. But no other duet so far swims through my brain as such a shining example of the power of ATS arrhythmic slow as this one. None showcase the strength and grace inherent in the movements quite like this one; the way one can simply flow, like a really delicious yoga stretch, from one move to the next, luxuriating in each moment, never rushing, never pushing, but with palpable dynamic tension and oozing sensuality.

Perhaps it's the slightly gritty nature of the video. The dim, red-toned lighting. The guitar solo. The way the audience barely breathes. It evokes the feeling we're in some basement cafe in Spain, and someone with a home video camera is watching as the native dancers entertain us all.

Brief history of sword dancing

by Wednesday, November 03, 2010
From Mish Mish via BellyTalk, a NW discussion group for bellydancers. It is confirmed by what Jamila told us at her weeklong, that she was essentially the one who conceived the sword as a bellydance prop:

"In Turkey and Arabic countries, dancing with a sword is done mainly by men
as a display of skill in combat or to prepare for battle. My troupe used to have
a Druse from Lebanon who did a spectacular sword dance his father had taught him
and I have seen videos of a Persian dance troupe where the men feign battle and
dance in unison.
Dancing while balancing a sword on your head has become popular in the United
States with soloists and troupes but there is no such tradition in Arabic
countries where balancing something on your head is a part of daily life, so
it's no big deal The idea for this dance can be traced back to Jamila Salimpour and her
seminal dance troupe, Bal Anat who became famous performing at the Renaissance
Fair in California in the 1970's. Jamila was inspired by an Oriental painting
from the late l9th Century by French artist Jean Leon Gerome of a group of
musicians and a dancer, probably a ghawazee, dancing with a sword balanced on
her head and another held in her hand. The swords belonged to the Turkish
soldiers in the background who had undoubtedly hired the dancers to entertain
them. A replica of this painting appears on Aisha Ali's recording of "Music of
the Ghawazee" As Jamila's influence spread throughout the USA, so to did the
practise of balancing a sword on your head."

Music Monday - Movin' and Groovin'

by Monday, November 01, 2010

 Here's music that makes me bop around happily.  Movits! has a couple songs I love to use in high-action drills to start off my more advanced classes, and herein is one of them. Augustito 2004 is good for medium drills, with a fun spirit behind it (look up the lyrics). Louis Prima, The Beatles, Cherry Poppin' Daddies...yeah, we got a little bit of everything here.

Jump, Jive, An' Wail                Louis Prima             Collector's Series   
Fel del Av Gården                    Movits!                   Äppelknyckarjazz   
Ob - La - Di, Ob - La - Da       The Beatles             1967-1970 Blue Album\Disc 2   
Agustito 2004                          Ketama                    20 Pa' Ketama
Jump in the Line                      Cherry Poppin' Daddies          
Smile                                        Lily Allen               Smile - EP     

BTW, the Movits! video for Fel del Av Garden makes my day, too. Check it out!


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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