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    No Comments

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.

Why do I bellydance?

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!

Mar 5, 2013 - Class stories    No Comments

Tempest in Town!!

Sometimes good things happen on very short notice. In November, Lacy found that Laura Zakroff, aka Tempest, would be in town for a few days with The Ghost Project. Well, let’s not let THAT opportunity go to waste! Time was short and money was tight for many people right before the holidays, though, so two days of workshops was condensed down into one out at Amani Jabril’s little home studio. It turned out to be just the right venue for an intimate and fun workshop.

The morning was devoted to THE FABULOUS FORBIDDEN ART OF FLOORWORK. Floorwork is never, ever going to be my strong point, or much of any kind of point at all, not with my 56-year-old knees, but it doesn’t hurt to learn what I can about it. Tempest was good at showing us variations and how to modify standard moves to make it possible for almost anyone, even me, to add a little floorwork to their dance.

After lunch, which I contemplatively ate alone in Amani’s studio while the others ran out to grab food, Tempest shared her way of connecting traditional Oriental dance with Gothic dramatic aesthetic to produce her powerful expression in dance. I’ll never be a Tempest-type dancer — I don’t have her sense of drama, either — but I can certainly take what she taught us and adapt it to my own way of dancing.

Mugging for the camera with Tempest


“Work That Skirt” Workshop

When I found out that my new friend from ATS GS, Lara Baker Whelan, was giving a workshop up in Chattanooga, I immediately went to the website to sign up, even before telling Margali. Skirts and Romany 9/8 rhythms, what’s not to love??

Luckily Margali was all for the road trip with me (again, skirts and Romany 9/8, what’s not to love?). So early Saturday morning we met at my place for the not quite two hour drive to Chattanooga. After getting only a little turned around in the unfamiliar environs, we pulled into the parking lot of Barking Legs Theater right behind Lara herself.

The 9/8 Karsilama rhythm is not unfamiliar to me, thanks to earlier workshops this summer, but it takes a little time to get used to each time I work with it. Fortunately we spent the first half of the workshop sans skirts working on the steps and moves. After a brief break, it was time to don the yards of cloth and add in the swishiness, along with giggles and general laughter at the odd moves of Turkish/Romany style dance (belly throws, anyone?)

Once the workshop was over, we had plenty of time to kill before the evening show, so we headed up through downtown and across the river to Manufacturer’s Row and the interesting shops there. Late lunch/early dinner was at FoodWorks — yummy in general, and the bread pudding was OMFGINCREDIBLETODIEFOR!!!

Back at Barking Legs Theater, we claimed the best seats available for the show. I, at least, had very mixed feelings about the show. Some of the dancers were very good; Lara, of course, was exceptional. Others were definitely not to my taste, such as the “I Dream of Jeannie” number, and at least one group really was not ready for performance. Margali & I agreed that, based on what we saw, we were certainly at the point where we should put something together for the next performance opportunity. THAT, my friends, may have been the most important takeaway of all.