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.
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!
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.
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.
I was checking my Facebook feed at lunchtime and found that Mary had found and shared an incredibly geeky bellydance video from the Chicago Raks Geek event last month. After giggling through watching the first one, I had to find the rest of the videos from the event, put them into a playlist, and share them with you:
Ah, ATS®, familiar territory after four months of classes with Lacy & the intensive General Skills workshop. But what is this? Baskets with it?? Yes, baskets. Jaki Hawthorne, director of Jahara Phoenix Dance Company in Lawrenceville, has adapted some of the traditional moves and added a couple of new ones to allow you to create improvisational choreography with a basket on and off your head, and she was in Athens to share it with us.
First, you have to have the right kind of basket, wide and shallow. Jaki recommended a basket around 15 inches in diameter (give or take a few) and not more than about four inches deep, like this:
The first step, of course, was to practice balancing it on our heads. With the right basket, it’s really not much of a problem…at least when you’re just standing still. Then Jaki demonstrated how to hold it. The mantra: “The thumb goes INSIDE the basket!” This turns out to be very important for being able to maneuver the basket.
Then we worked on moves to show off the basket, holding it out, sliding it down beside us, turning with it, drawing circles with it. Lucky for me these are very similar to moves you do with a sword, so it was just a matter of getting used to holding it properly.
Of course there’s more to it than just holding the basket. You need to combine that with ATS® moves. Not all the standard moves will work; in fact, you have to be pretty much limited to the slow moves. Can you imagine doing spins with a basket on your head? Some moves can be very effective with adaptation, like the Barrel Turn, so that was our next step. Barrel Turns are not tough by themselves, but they take on a whole new dimension when you have to manipulate a basket along with it.
Finally, Jaki showed us a couple of moves she had developed specifically for the basket dance. Then it was time to put it all together, get into groups & formations, & just dance. That’s where it gets fun, with the improvisation and the brightly colored baskets enhancing your movement.
At the end of class, we posed as a group with our baskets!
(continued from Part I)
After a quick break, Christy Fricks introduced the 9/8 musical rhythm, a staple of Turkish Romany dancing, to us. To a Westerner brought up on the standard 4/4 time signature and its variants, 9/8 seems a little, well, odd! If you were counting it out, you would literally count from one to nine at a steady tempo, and then start over immediately. As a drummer, you would most likely play the basic Karsilama (the most familiar of the 9/8 rhythms) as:
Dum (rest) Tek (rest) Dum (rest) Tek Tek Tek
If this doesn’t quite make sense, here is a Basic Karsilama rhythm.
Our first step, of course, was to drill the rhythm by clapping, stationary and then while walking in time with it. With the Karsilama, there’s this little “pause” in your walk on the 7-8-9 which just begs for a hop or skip or SOMETHING. Once you get that, you’ve GOT it. Then we started practicing some of the unique steps and movements of Romany dancing, including “belly throws” where you just let it all hang out and bounce and JIGGLE in time to the music. For us Westerners, that is a hard thing to let ourselves do!
It was obvious that some of the moves were a bit much for the older, less limber members of the class, like me:
You can see both me and Andrea standing there watching our classmates try the Romany backbend. For me, at least, getting down wouldn’t have been that much of a problem, but getting back up without losing my balance would be another story!
With this taste of a very different style of dance, we wrapped it up and headed back to familiar territory with the last workshop of the day…(to be continued)