Nov 19, 2014 - Costumes, Humor    No Comments

10 Signs You Should Start Belly Dance Classes Now

Guest post by Amy Danielson of The Eye Atelier, reprinted by permission

This list was compiled from the comments of lots and lots of belly dancers, and from the life experiences of Alexandra Moehagen and Amy Danielson.

1. You already wear all your jewelry at once.
2. When you listen to *any* music, you secretly want to dance. Or you just do. In the living room. In the grocery store. Wherever.
3. You have body issues, and are SO READY to face them.
4. You’re going through a major change.
5. You need a bigger social life. A lot bigger. But one you can pick and choose from so that it fits your lifestyle.
6. You find yourself going into bohemian shops and saying things like, “But I would have nowhere to WEAR this…” while sadly fingering the jewelry and clothes.
7. You already do yoga, zumba, and anything else that comes along to your local studio. Maybe all of the above.
8. You have at least 2 cats.
9. You have a lot of very strong opinions and are well read.
10. Three words. DRAMATIC EYE MAKEUP

from, used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license

Jul 15, 2014 - ATS, Performing, Personal    1 Comment

I Hate It When I Disappoint Myself

Northside Tribe spent the last several months preparing for our big student show, Bellies for Babies, in collaboration with Jahara Phoenix dance troupe and Sherar, their student troupe. Saturday night, July 12, all three troupes took over the Dancing Goats Theater in John’s Creek to benefit the March of Dimes.

Bellies For Babies 2014 Cast

Bellies For Babies 2014 Cast

I performed in three group numbers — two of our troupe’s choreographies, the Jedi Saidi to the Star Wars “Cantina” song and our new “Shashkin” tribute to John Compton and Hahbi ’Ru, plus our first ever troupe ATS® performance. With trepidation, I agreed to perform a solo by polishing up the improv I did at the Glow Dance Studios open house a few months earlier to Dinletir’s “Ice Queen.”

I had plenty of time to prepare, and faithfully attended classes and rehearsals. I constantly listened to the music and ran through choreography in my head, but I kept putting off practicing at home because other stuff just seemed to get in the way. I figured I’d “clear the decks,” so to speak, for the week before the show and really focus on run-throughs and polishing. You know, however, that the best laid plans go astray? Sure enough, they did. Saturday night a week before the show I realized at bedtime that I had what felt like a bad case of indigestion, with pain right under my diaphragm. I figured I’d just go to sleep and it would pass. It didn’t. It spread around to my mid-back and just got worse and worse through the night. I haven’t been in that much pain since I was in labor! I got no sleep because of it, and was at urgent care when they opened Sunday morning. Not that they could find anything specific wrong, so the doctor suggested Zantac, Nexium, and Gas-X and said if it got worse contact my own doctor.

Well, it wiped me out for all of Sunday & Monday. I begged out of Monday’s rehearsal for solos. Tuesday I felt better but going to work wore me out. Wednesday I had a second, milder attack. By Thursday night I could make it to rehearsal, but was way under par. Things weren’t much better for Friday night’s dress rehearsal, either. Adding insult to injury, my stomach was so touchy all week that I could not eat very much, so I had no energy anyway.

Saturday afternoon came. I and all my paraphernalia got to the theater, with me still sewing madly on the bra for my costume up until intermission. Then tech rehearsal, dress and makeup, and it was SHOWTIME.

Well, I did not bring my A game for this show. I did not bring my B game for this show. I’m not even sure I brought my C game. I had a very visible (I saw the video :p) brain fart on “Cantina,” even though I’ve performed that choreography, with the same partner, several times. I was okay, I think, for our ATS® number even though it wasn’t terribly polished (especially compared to the other two groups’ renditions of it). With “Shashkin,” I screwed up the part that has almost always given me trouble, a part which I should have down by now.  So I wasn’t prepared enough for any of the group numbers, which upsets me because it lets my fellow dancers down.

As for my solo, calling it a “hot mess” would probably be kind. Gary and Andrea both told me I did well, but they are biased…and no one else has said a word about it to me. *I* know it wasn’t up to standard. *I* know I didn’t put enough work into it. The picture below is fine, but I am praying that there is no video of it anywhere out there, or if there is that the person who took it will erase it unseen and never, ever tell me they took it.

Bellies For Babies Solo Performance 2014

Bellies For Babies Solo Performance 2014

So yeah, I screwed up. Big time. And I have to own it, and admit responsibility. I feel embarrassed by my own performance, or lack thereof, but far more I feel humiliated for letting my teacher and my troupe mates down by not giving it my very best effort. Getting sick the week before the show isn’t a good excuse, either. If I’d been decently prepared before I got sick I might not have been at peak level, but I would have been okay. (Any of you who saw this show and are reading this, it is not necessary to tell me my performance was fine. *I* know it wasn’t so you being kind and saying it was won’t make me feel any better. Honest critique is far more useful anyway.) To my troupe mates, especially Mary and Jeanette, and to Lacy, I’m sorry. I will do better in the future.

All I can do is learn from this. Don’t ignore actual practice time no matter what!!! Maybe improvisational choreography, at least solo, is not a good thing for me yet. Don’t leave things until the last minute (a lesson which I should apply to my entire damn life). Don’t be afraid to get feedback beforehand.


Jan 6, 2014 - ATS    No Comments

27 Reasons (Plus a Few of My Own) to Love ATS® Bellydance

I ran across the original list given here by Cherie Dawn on her website, Cherie Dawn Loves Fire.

  1. Dancing barefoot
  2. 20-yard skirts
  3. Tapping into mysterious roots of feminine movement
  4. Using ankle bells, coin belts and coin bras to contribute to the music/percussion
  5. Attending classes to learn new combinations
  6. Bindis and tribal markings
  7. Earthy, heavy drum beats
  8. Incredible melodies from string and wind instruments
  9. Community – close/local and national
  10. Individuality through personal costuming
  11. The spirituality, akin to yoga practice (the focus/be here now)
  12. Zils
  13. Sword work
  14. Sweat
  15. Haflas
  16. Sewing miscellaneous jewelry onto belts and tops to create costuming
  17. Ankle bells
  18. Playing with eyeliner
  19. Communication with other dancers and musicians
  20. Coming or going during any song as you please
  21. It just feels good!
  22. Finding, using, training new muscles
  23. Using intuition while moving to improvisational music
  24. Masculine (usually musicians) and feminine (usually dancers) energy, balanced and combined
  25. All the color seen while dancers twirl and move
  26. Dreadlocks and tattoos
  27. Learning to breathe with the movements

It got me thinking about other reasons I love ATS® specifically and bellydance in general:

  1. Working seamlessly within a group
  2. It’s all about the flow
  3. The women with whom I dance
  4. Laughter!!
  5. Losing my fear of performing
  6. Making my left brain & my right brain work together
  7. Having something to fall back on during open dancing at haflas & parties
Jan 3, 2014 - Performing, Uncategorized    1 Comment

The Year I Became a Dancer

I think 2013 will stay in my memory as the year I actually became a dancer. Just a very amateur, baby bellydancer, mind you, but a dancer nonetheless.

I upped the learning with my weekly classes. Lacy’s regular classes remained the foundation, with several new choreographies and semi-regular ATS® classes. Jenny and Nawar’s intermediate tag-team technique classes started to be too much physically and travel-wise, though, so I decided they weren’t the best format for me. Instead, I learned that Aziza Nawal, she who I want to be when I grow up, was teaching on Wednesday nights in Sandy Springs, right on the way home from work. After nine months I know I’ll never BE Aziza, LOL, but she’s an excellent person from whom to learn at this level. That gives me a routine of two to three classes/rehearsals a week, which is about what I can take.

I challenged myself with workshops — sometimes TOO much. Anasma and Amy Sigil are both admirable dancers but they are so far above me that I could not absorb, much less implement, what they had to offer. Frustrating!! I couldn’t keep up with Zoe Jakes’ classes at TribalCon, either. At 56 (now 57) and not exactly superb physical condition, I see these twenty and thirty-somethings and wish, oh wish so badly, that I had discovered bellydance much, much earlier in my life. On the other hand, April Rose at TribalCon, Jaki Hawthorne’s ATS® combos workshop, and two Athens-bound road trips for workshops with Amani and Aziza were well worth it.

Hafla at Hendershots

Catherine Olson & me at the Hafla at Hendershot’s in Athens after Aziza Nawal’s workshop.

Classes and workshops weren’t what made me actually become a dancer, though. That credit goes to the Northside Tribe, Lacy’s student troupe that finally came together in the spring of 2013 after some urging by me and several of her other students. ATS® was one reason — it IS a group dance, after all, and having a consistent group with which to dance does help make you better. The other? We wanted to perform, but not necessarily solo. Plus Lacy herself was pretty psyched about having a group of dancers to play with, create for, and dress up like her personal dolls, if you will. Shimmy Mob 2013 started the ball rolling in May; then she resurrected “Habibi Min Zaman” with a low-key appearance at the Mountain Park Swing-a-Thon.

Atlanta Shimmy Mob 2013

Atlanta Shimmy Mob 2013

We made our real Atlanta debut as Northside Tribe at the July Night in the Oasis!

Fall turned into a real performance boot camp (Lacy referred to it as our “hazing”), and that’s what did it. Samora’s student showcase at Nicola’s Restaurant, Halloween in the Oasis, the Awalim Halloween Carnivale, and the Jendayi/Jahara Phoenix Dia de los Muertos show in a four week span was an exhiliarating endurance test that did a lot to get me over my previous overwhelming stage fright.

At Awalim Halloween Carnivale 2013

At Awalim Halloween Carnivale 2013

Jedi Cantina Halloween Carnivale 2013

Northside Tribe performing “The Cantina Song” at Dia de Los Muertos 2013.

Two more December performances, one with Inara and  her troupe and the other at the Global Dance Holiday Party, ended the year.

Performing "Habibi Min Zaman" at Global Dance Holiday Show 2013

Performing “Habibi Min Zaman” at Global Dance Holiday Show 2013

Northside Tribe Cloudlight 2013

Northside Tribe performing “Cloudlight” at Global Dance Holiday Party 2013

Northside Tribe Habibi 2013

Northside Tribe performing “Habibi Min Zaman” at Global Dance Holiday Party 2013

What will 2014 bring? I’m not sure yet, but Northside Tribe has two performances scheduled for early January, plus we’ll be making our TribalCon debut (OMG!! SQUEEE!!) in February. With that kind of start it has to be promising!

Photographs used courtesy of Larisa Gilbert, Barbara Smith, Heather Payne Davis, and Jaki Hawthorne, copyright © by their respective photographers.


Apr 11, 2013 - Performing, Uncategorized    No Comments

Why We Dance in Perry, GA

Perry Belly Dance has been invited to perform in festivals and events all over middle Georgia. But this year they were specifically asked NOT to perform at the Perry Dogwood Festival this weekend — there was “no appropriate space” for them, and when they asked about doing street performances, they were told “We’d rather you didn’t”. No other explanation was given for being unwelcome in their own hometown, on the street where their studio is located.

In response, Debra Cooley created this gem, very much worth sharing.

Apr 8, 2013 - ATS, Uncategorized    No Comments

What Is ATS®? — another view

Sam Brenneman posted this today in the Fat Chance Belly Dance group on Facebook. I loved it so much I had to share it.

…just for the record: American Tribal Style® bellydance is a subculture of the general bellydance culture. It tends toward an American stance in a number of areas, one of which is a foundation of feminism, woman power, acceptance; we do not discriminate based on body type, age, or even gender. We do everything we can to accommodate people with disabilities. We are very much about the joy inherent in dance, not so much about a glitzy image… more folk roots than Vegas entertainment.

I am a troupe director and teacher. Please be assured that I personally do not discriminate along those lines, not in class and not in my troupe. If you have the chops, you are in.

This old feminist gets behind the whole agenda. There is no wrong way to have a body. Come move it with us, and find your joy.

Thank you, Sam!