Thursday, September 11, 2008

Report from the Double Trouble Workshop

Life has been keeping me so busy that I haven't had the opportunity to post about the Double Trouble Workshop hosted by the ladies of Dancers' Oasis on August 24th. It was exactly what a workshop should be in my opinion: a few hours packed with a whole lot of fun and knowledge.

The first segment was dedicated to double veils. Going into the workshop I wasn't sure exactly how this topic would be explored since I've seen different types of double veil performances, all I really knew was that it was involving two semi-circular veils.

I have a rather ambivalent attitude towards the use of veils in bellydance. On one hand I think they are fun to twirl around for my own personal amusement, but on the other hand I'm typically not fond of veil performances. I'm drawn to bellydance by the technique: fluid undulations, sharp and percussive pops and locks, precise muscular control and isolations, and reverberating shimmies. Honestly in most veil performances the focus ends up being on the veil itself and less on the movements of the dancer, although ideally they should be equal partners in the dance. Sometimes I think veils and other props are used to try to distract from or even hide poor technique. Veils can be very pretty, but for the most part I don't find veil dances to be engaging on a personal level.

The two sorts of double veil pieces I've encountered have either been languid, slow dances where the two veils were used almost like Isis wings: each veil comprising a "wing" by being tucked into the belt while the other end was held with the fingers as in single veil work, and a decidedly more energetic dance à la Petite Jamilla of BDSS fame. Her double veil performance on the Live in Paris at the Folies Bergere DVD was the first one to really catch my eye and show me that veilwork can be fast-paced and exciting. Thankfully the workshop focused on the second sort of double veil dancing. Unfortunately, my spinning tolerance is extremely low and I have practically no experience spotting. Suffiya mentioned that it took her three years of practice to be able to spin for three minutes straight, and I think it may take me even longer. Surprisingly (at least for me), I did fairly well with the techniques which were taught. The class was co-taught by Suffiya and one of her troupe-mates (I cannot remember her name offhand and I feel badly about it, I'll have to check my notes again!) who is acclimating to spinning for longer periods of time, and they were really great.

I went into the double veil workshop a bit uneasy, but left with a higher regard for these flowing sweeps of fabric. I even purchased a set of matching silk veils in gorgeous peacock colors. Too bad my small apartment doesn't afford me with enough room to really spin to their full potential.

There was a break after the double veil workshop for a yummy Middle Eastern lunch, and then the double fan-veil workshop began. Suffiya was the first dancer I had seen to perform with fan-veils so it seemed appropriate that my first instruction in their use was taught by her.

I purchased two fan-veils prior to the workshop but unfortunately they ended up being both right-handed* so I could not use them. Luckily Suffiya had matching sets to borrow. My borrowed set proved to be a bit unwieldy and did not like to open and close cleanly, but despite that I was introduced to a lot of great techniques. I really appreciated the information provided on troubleshooting and what to do when the fan-veils get stuck or are otherwise misbehaving. There doesn't seem to be enough instructional material or advice available on what-to-do-when-something-goes-wrong on most DVDs, books, etc. I've been exposed to.

I really wanted to take classes with Suffiya prior to the workshop, but now even more so. Her enthusiasm is really contagious and I miss Cabaret style classes. I just need to find the right niche in my schedule which always seems to be in flux.

* I figured out a way to easily convert a right-handed fan-veil into a left-handed one, so not having a matching set no longer an issue now. I hope to post a little tutorial on how to do it for those with a similar dilemma!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Drum Solo in Blue - ACEO

I've illustrated some Tribal style bellydancers, and I thought it was time to turn my attention to a more traditional Raks Sharqi theme and draw inspiration from lovely Cabaret style bellydancers.

This dancer in a blue, turquoise, and teal bedlah displays some of the exuberance I've seen in live performances where the dancer is truly enveloped in the music. As the title indicates, it's meant to illustrate my favorite type of bellydance pieces, the drum solo. The powerful rhythm of the doumbek becomes a visual pattern emanating from the drum, and nothing exists but the beat and the dance.

Although it cannot be appreciated in the digital version of the artwork, there is a special treat which can be experienced when you see the original. I used touches of slightly metallic acrylic paint to highlight some line work in the image, so that when you see the original from different angles it has a pretty shimmer effect. This touch seemed really appropriate for a Cabaret style dancer to suggest the glitter of the sequins and the sparkle of the beads their costumes.

Media: pen and ink; watercolor; acrylic
Size: 2.5 x 3.5 inches

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vintage Exotica

My paternal grandfather, Richard Isphording {pictured at left}, was in the US Army during the time period of the Second World War and was stationed in various far-away and exotic places including the Middle East, the India/Burma theatre (as it is described in one military document), and likely the Far East as well. A well-worn, leather-bound photo album is all I have remaining of his ventures in those foreign lands. There is a scene embossed on its cover which speaks of the album's origins: dancers and musicians of ancient Egypt, arranged in registers with convolted attempts at hieroglyphic script to accompany them. The album is filled with many photos of his travels along with a few typeset letters relating to his military service and an old map of Germany.

I wanted to post some images from this album, specifically those which I know are and those which I believe to be from the Middle East and Northern Africa, in this blog because of their beauty and hopefully to as a way to gain more information about the people and scenes they depict. My grandfather passed away more than a decade ago so unfortunately I cannot ask him for details myself. If you have any additional information regarding these photos, for instance anything regarding the culture, location, or content depicted, I would greatly appreciate it if you could comment on this entry or e-mail me.

You can view the photos in the slideshow in the left column of this blog, or visit:
Vintage Exotica

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ruminations on Learning Tribal Style

I’ve come to the end of my 12 week session of Level 1.5 Tribal Bellydance, and I made the decision to retake it. Could I handle Level 2? Probably, but it likely would not be the smoothest of transitions and I would prefer to solidify the current Tribal vocabulary I have under my belt before being introduced to a new set of moves and variations. I knew going in that Tribal would not be easy, but not being personally familiar with the improvisational format meant that there are some aspects that I simply did not know how to anticipate.

There are many trains of thought which need to be harmonized in order to make this form of dance flow beautifully as it should, to make it seem to the unknowing observer like a choreographed piece. I imagine many of those separate threads become like second-nature in time, freeing the dancer to be more enveloped in the moment, responding almost subconsciously to the subtle cues of her fellow dancers and to the nuances of the music, but I’m not at that point yet. Right now those various trains of thought are on fairly distinct tracks and I have to make sure they keep pace with each other without colliding in a gory tangle. This is especially the case for me when leading. Keeping pace with the 8-count phrasing in the music and cueing appropriately, prying my brain for a different move to cue while not messing up the current one, paying attention to technique so the movement actually looks like it should be part of a dance and not a half-hearted aerobic routine, and desperately trying to keep my dyslexic tendencies* in check among other things is not an uncomplicated thing. I would love to hug the person who invented the masmoudi rhythm as being able to recognize it is extremely helpful with counting and cueing (that was a figurative statement, by the way. I realize that the specific person, or more likely persons, who "invented" the rhythm are lost to the sands of time).

And yet, even with the slight panic caused by attempting to keep all those trains on track, it’s bizarrely enjoyable and invigorating. Gods know, I need the exercise too.

* Although I’ve never actually been diagnosed, after doing some research it seems pretty clear to me that I have dycalculia or something closely related (, I have always had difficulty with basic arithmetic and mental math skills like addition, subtraction, etc., yet I did very well in my math and science classes (I was even given an award in High School for outstanding performance in my Probability & Statistics class). From a very young age I also have had serious trouble confusing my left and right (don’t ask me to give you directions) and writing letters backwards; I had to have a paper with the alphabet taped to my desk early in elementary school to help me remember which way letters and numbers properly faced, and I still sometimes find myself staring at the numbers 3 or 7 and the letter z perplexed, feeling that they should face in the opposite direction. It also takes me an inordinate amount of time to read an analog clock, and asking me to give someone change in a monetary transaction is pure torture. I get easily disoriented in places I’m not familiar with (and sometimes in places I know) which makes me mortally afraid to drive to places I’ve never been to before, even with a map. Alas, I also have difficulty with following and imitating a series of movements, especially when mirrors are involved, which can make learning to dance very challenging. That, along with my distaste for the music, was why I only took ballet for about a month or so when I was very young. When I could mimic the teacher, it was usually in a backwards fashion. Thankfully I've been blessed with a number of great bellydance teachers who can manage to teach a bass-ackwards person such as myself.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Upcoming Double Trouble Workshop

For anyone in the Quakertown or Upper Bucks County area, Suffiya of Dancers' Oasis is hosting a 4 hour workshop called Double Trouble this Sunday the 24th. Below is some basic information:

Date: August 24th 2008
Time: 10:00am - 4:00pm
Location: Slim & Tone/Simply Fit 641 S. West End Blvd. (Route 309) Quakertown PA 18951
Price: $50.00 pre-registration before August 20th
Description: 4 hrs of class + Free Yoga class + Free Light refreshments. Double Veils 10-12pm | Double Fans 1-3pm, start and end the day with Yoga. Limited to 15 participants. Fans & Veils available for purchase along with other boutique items.
Contact: Suffiyah at

I was advised by Suffiya that the Double Veil workshop would focus on dancing with two semi-circular veils, but that the same techniques could be used with a single veil and that a rectangular veil could substitute for a semi-circular one if need be. The Double Fan workshop will be utilizing fan/veils but normal fans would suffice.

I'm not sure how many spaces remain, but apparently she ran an ad for it in this week's newspaper so I imagine there must still be some space available. I'm attending of course :) Luckily this workshop is actually on one of my days off.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sword Dancer - ACEO

This ACEO is inspired by some Tribal bellydance sword performances I have seen recently, namely a double sword piece that Belladonna performed at the BellyJam last month. I've seen dancers use swords before, of course, but none of the previous ones I've seen were that dynamic; the other performances I've encountered typically followed a formula of "pick up sword, balance on head for a few minutes while doing some slow moves, remove sword and continue." I was so impressed that I bought Belladonna's DVD Sword Stylizations to try to incorporate a sword into my own practice. It would help to actually have a sword though - and I'm working on that part! I purchased a lovely copper-colored saber from Audrena's International Bazaar and have been patiently (okay, maybe not so patiently) awaiting its arrival for a few weeks. If the blasted doorbell for my apartment was actually functional, I believe I would have received it today but alas I have to wait until tomorrow when DHL redelivers it, but I digress...

In this image, a dancer decked out in her finery of cowries and coins displays her saber. This piece's subtitle is "brought to you by the number seven." My boyfriend noted while this piece was in progress that the negative space around the dancer is in the shape of a seven.

I really love the color scheme of this piece. I've been obsessed with orange as of late, and this piece provided me with an excuse to indulge in that color family. A delicate line of nearly florescent orange traces its way around the figure and sword. Elsewhere in the image there are rich vermilion, burgundy, and gold tones.

Media: pen and ink; markers (highlighter and Sharpie); watercolor; acrylic
Size: 2.5 x 3.5 inches

Saturday, August 2, 2008

An Introduction

My bellydance-related entries, reviews, etc. have up until this point been strewn in various places across the web: on my Tribe account, in my personal Livejournal, etc. I have decided that they should have a place all their own, hence the creation of this blog. Although it is a very new creation (I set this blog into motion only yesterday), I have been adding entries which were formerly in alternate locations and I've been back-dating them to reflect the time of their original posting.

As I mention in my profile, I've only been involved in bellydance for approximately two years, and I do still consider myself a beginner or "baby dancer." In that relatively short time though bellydance has become a cherished part of my life and I hope this blog will exude that sincerity of interest and my passion to learn more about this art form.

The blog description reveals a general idea as to how I plan for this blog to evolve, and its current contents provide a taste of the varieties of entries I intend to include: personal experiences; music, book, and DVD reviews; artwork celebrating bellydance; opinion pieces, and information on the local bellydance scene in my geographical area.

Welcome to Cervid Dance!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Unmata Workshops & Belly Jam

Amy Sigil of Unmata kicked my ass this past weekend. I knew this was going to be the case, and I knew that as a "baby dancer" (I hope at this point I'm more like a toddler dancer and less like an infant one!) I was probably in way over my head taking two Unmata workshops, but the opportunity doesn't present itself every day so I figured I would take the workshops despite my shortcomings. If I could learn something from the workshops, then it would be worth it to me. Seeing Unmata perform live at the Hipnosis Belly Jam the day prior really heightened my own apprehensions though. They have some amazing endurance to keep up such fast-paced, intense dancing for so many songs on end.

I got to the first workshop on Sunday about 10 minutes late due to traffic. I felt really bad about it, not only because I was missing the class, but because I did not want to seem disrespectful to the instructor or other dancers. I tried to slip in as quietly as possbile so not to disturb anyone. Unfortunately, the music was so loud that I could barely hear Amy over it; most of the time it was just watching and imitating her movements as best as I could. When the music was not playing, I could hear her just fine, so it wasn't an issue with her volume or my position in the room. I was exhausted after the first session, practically decimated after the second, and it was not helpful that the studio where the workshops were taking place had large windows which overlooked a tranquil indoor pool below. Even with the profuse sweating and post-workshop aches though, it was very enjoyable and it provided a unique perspective on fusion bellydance. I don't plan on trying to utilize the exact combinations we were taught (not that I can remember them in their entirety) but I will definitely be trying to apply some of the principles from Unmata's combination construction to my own experiments.

The evening before was a BellyJam hosted by Hipnosis at the same location as the workshops, the B&R Fitness Club in Feasterville. I was not expecting it to be such a large, highly-organized gathering - it was like a mini-Rakkasah! I was really impressed and enjoyed all of the performances. Hipnosis and their student troupes Daughters of the Hip and Tribal Spirit performed, of course, but there were also solos by out-of-state dancers like Tempest and Belladonna and other great troupes like Fringe Benefit (bad website, great dancers) of New Jersey who danced to "These Boots Are Made for Walking". The final act was Unmata, and as I mentioned previously, it was an extremely high-energy, charismatic performance. I am really looking foreword to the next one!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Arabic Journeys: CD Review

a collection of downtempo electronica laced with Middle Eastern samples | 2 out of 5 stars

The cover states that this two CD set is a "journey into the world of global beats" which indicated to me that it would be a collection of down-tempo, contemporary electronica with some hint of Middle Eastern inspiration throughout, and that is exactly what this set is. It is not intended to instruct on genuine Middle Eastern rhythms, and in fact some of its content is very weak in Middle Eastern influence (a lot of pieces, especially on the second CD, actually seemed to have an Indian rather than Middle Eastern inspiration), but that was my impression when I bought it, so I cannot claim I was misled into purchasing it. However, if one is not familiar with what terms like "global beats" often implies I can completely understand how someone would be disappointed with this album because they were expecting Arabic drum solos or more traditional Middle Eastern pieces. I believe it would be extremely helpful for the publisher to place some sort of descriptive blurb on the packaging clarifying the contents of this set.

With that being said, if you do understand the type of music actually included in this compilation and enjoy ambient, chill-out style music with an international or ethnic flair, you will probably enjoy this collection. Each of the two CDs contain twenty songs apiece, so you do get a lot for the purchase price.

However, I do have to mention that there is some sort of error on the first CD in the set. Songs number 11 and 19 are exactly the same (Amazon reflects this in their sound samples so my copy must not be a fluke), even though they are labeled on the packaging as different songs by different artists, so in reality the first CD has only nineteen songs. I thought song 11/19 sounded extremely familiar, and in fact it appears on Putumayo's CD World Lounge as the tenth track: "Trance Dance (DJ Krush Mix)" by Hamid Baroudi. Arabic Journeys is evidently doubly in error because it not only has the same song twice but it is labeled incorrectly on both accounts!

Virtually all of the songs in this set are rather dreamy electronic pieces which utilize Middle Eastern samples. Some of the weaker songs are just layerings of canned electronic beats and rather cheesy synthesizer effects. The most common type of samples used are either of percussion instruments, typically the doumbek, or of Oriental style string arrangements. I recognized some of the samples from other CDs in my collection, and on the second CD, I heard the same oud piece sampled in two different songs. Most of the songs are probably not dynamic enough to use for bellydance performance pieces, even by fusion style dancers, but I think this set might be useful as a backdrop for warm-up exercises, slow movement drills, and stretching in a bellydance class format.

If you enjoy this particular CD, you may also like Chill in Arabia because it contains very downtempo electronic music with the occasional Middle Eastern samples thrown in. Chill in Arabia also features female vocals and definitely leans in the direction of trip hop. If, on the other hand, you're looking for robust, upbeat electronic music with a more significant Middle Eastern influence, I would highly recommend Arabesque, Arabian Travels: A Six Degrees Collection, and Electric Oasis: Exotic Arabian Grooves.You can also view my Listmania list Traditional-Modern Fusion Music for Bellydance for other suggestions.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Modern Orientalism - ACEO

This is an ACEO, an acronym which stands for Art Cards, Editions and Originals and denote small pieces of artwork 2.5 inches x 3.5 inches in size, I began late Sunday night and completed Monday. It's a homage to contemporary Tribal Fusion belly dancers and to the Orientalist trends in art over the past few centuries, particularly in Art Nouveau style pieces and in the art of people like Erté.

I really enjoy the theme and hope to explore it a bit further in future ACEOs. I don't think this is my best work, but I wanted to show that I am in fact still alive and making artwork! While this particular piece has been purchased, I do have other bellydance-related ACEOs in progress.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Humility, New Beginnings, and Dance

Coinage Galore
I feel that cultivating a sense of humility is important. By humility, I am referring to its definition in being unpretending, unpretentious, not arrogant rather than to self-abasement, humiliation, and being deemed low in importance or status. The sense in which I am utilizing the word is perhaps closer to its etymological origins in the Latin humilis which literally means "on the ground." Humilis was in turn evidently derived from humus or "earth." There was a time when I felt this so strongly that I was blind to my own virtues and found that nothing I was capable of doing was of any worth (i.e. the negative aspects of humility as listed above). Needless to say, it was a period in my life where I was wading through a deep depression. Thankfully, those times have past and I can acknowledge some of my strengths and feel fulfilled in my work, however, I still believe that it is dangerous to become complacent. To be smug and overly self-assured is to invoke a type of blindness, a sort of sensual suicide, which I feel is antithetical to the soul of Art. If you don't realize that you are capable of improvement and are closed to the ever-unfolding world, you are likely not to improve and just stagnate in your current position.

Humility, in my own view, is highly associated with sensitivity. Being humble indicates an openness and a willingness to accept new information and reevaluate what you think you know. In a previous incarnation of this blog, I included the statement "sensitivity is a double-edged blade" in a prominent position because I believe that phrase encapsulates something significant about myself and my own understanding. It's not a coincidence that the parts of our bodies through which we receive the most sensation are also the most delicate: our eyes, ears, tongues, the soft tissues of our fingertips and erogenous zones. What allows us to experience a world of sound is a fragile membrane. It will vibrate with the low purr of a bow being drawn across a cello's string, but it is easily ruptured.
Man is not to be an intellectual porcupine, meeting his environment with a surface of spikes. Man meets the world outside with soft skin, with a delicate eyeball and eardrum, and finds communion with it through warm, melting, vaguely defined, and caressing touch whereby the world is not set at a distance like an enemy to be shot, but embraced to become one flesh, like a beloved wife. After all, the whole possibility of clear knowledge depends upon sensitive organs which, as it were, bring the outside world into our bodies, and give us knowledge in the form of our own bodily states.1
To be sensitive to beauty and pleasure is to be sensitive to ugliness and pain. "Is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knifes?2" Humility and sensitivity thus inherently involve vulnerability, to understand and be aware that there is a risk involved in honestly encountering the world, including oneself and one's own skills.

In my estimation, one of the best ways to keep humility intact is to try something new, to accept the profound task of being a beginner again. Dance is such an endeavor for me. Although I've now been studying bellydance in various forms for about two years and apparently have at least some of the basics down, the nature of my personal journey in learning to dance is a constant revelation. My only previous experience in dance was about a month's worth of ballet classes in kindergarten or thereabouts, and though I attended but handful of social "dances" in middle school, I was far too self-conscious to do more than tap my feet along with the music. Bellydance has given me a sumptuous vocabulary of movement for expression, and in that way has increased my self-confidence, but at the same time it offers a humbling perspective on my whole Art practice. I have always found that you cannot truly comprehend the distance exceptional artists have traveled without setting foot on the path yourself, and I think this is why non-artists sometimes easily dismiss good (and often deceptively simple) work by claiming "even I could do that!"

I attended a Girls' Night Out Halfa with my current bellydance teacher back on May 2nd which took place at the Casablanca Moroccan restaurant in Warrington, PA. There were two bellydancers, one female and one male, providing the entertainment that night, Matika and Omar {photos of these dancers and the event can be found on my Flickr page}. At one point after standing up to tuck a tip in Matika's bejeweled belt, I actually danced for perhaps a minute or so in front of an entire room full of people, including my mom who I had brought along with me. For that brief flash of time, it was just the music and the dance and I was so totally enveloped that self-consciousness was not an issue. Of course, when I realized that I was not self-conscious I immediately became self-conscious and went to sit back down. I now have a better appreciation of what it must take to allow yourself to be one with the music and movement, engage the audience, and continue in spite of a welling of self-doubt. I am reminded of how far I have come as an artist and human being, and acutely aware of how far there is yet to go.

Footnotes and Bibliography

1) Watts, Alan. Nature, Man, and Woman. New York: Vintage Books, 1958. 81.
2) Gibran, Kahlil. The Prophet. Sydney, Australia: Phone Media. 29. ISBN 0-646-26642-X.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tribal Bellydance in Art

I discovered the following lovely drawing on the blog of Portuguese illustrator Joao Lemos. It features a sequential art/comic book format line drawing of some tribal bellydancers (judging by the costuming and coordinated movements at least, but you never know) balancing swords in the lower panel and a dancer in the upper panel who, I think, is working with a veil. On close inspection, one of the dancers in the lower panel is also playing zils! Yay for beautiful representations of bellydance in the graphic arts!

You can see more of Joao's work by visiting his blog.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Diving into ATS Waters

Today began my official foray into the world of American Tribal Style (ATS) Belly Dance. My first introduction to belly dance was actually through a book/DVD set authored by Carolena Nericcio, the founder of Fat Chance Belly Dance, so I suppose maybe that predisposed me to seek it out. I'm still continuing with my Cabaret style classes with Shoaleh which I really enjoy, but today I started some private lessons with the lovely Vikki of Hipnosis to hopefully get me up to speed with their Level II group classes beginning in June. There wasn't a Level I group class which was going to fit into my current schedule, so the theory is to catch up with a higher level group class which will fit my schedule.

Today we basically went over virtually all of the faster moves in the Level I repertoire. It was quite a workout, to say the least. Essentially everything we covered involved basic movements with which I was already familiar, but he format, timing, associated arm positions, etc. were new to me. Tribal places so much emphasis on the arms being in very controlled, yet graceful, positions which usually means that they are held in arcs at ribcage level or above. If you're not used to holding your arms in that position, and I'm certainly not, it doesn't take too long for them to want to fall off at the shoulder joint and crash to the ground. It's comparable to continuously holding up a veil (they seem so light and diaphanous - don't be fooled, that's what they want you to think!). The different movements are also generally set to a particular count, generally 8 beats, which is a bit of an adjustment for me, especially concerning the rotations and turns. I've already started to draft my personal cheat sheet (I discovered one person's cheat sheet online a little while ago and it seemed like a great idea. I want to have my own version based on my understandings of the moves) with descriptions of the movements and arm positions, etc. and I hope to flesh it out a bit more as lessons go on.

Wish me luck!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Catching Up

Suffiya with Fan Veils
There have been lots of upheavals and a handful of pleasant things to occur in my personal life over the past year or so, notably a tattoo apprenticeship that sadly had to be left by the wayside (not of my own choosing), moving into my first apartment, taking lessons on the Celtic harp, seeing my artwork appear on a book cover, and a very hectic few months at my full-time day job. I've already modified my profile to reflect some of these changes. My physical appearance has also been altered in that time. I now have a large tattoo of a traditional Japanese woodblock print depicting a geisha reading a scroll on my left lower leg, a cherry blossom on my right ankle which I tattooed on myself, and I have had my septum, navel, and upper cartilage pierced (I have had my left nostril pierced since 2002).

In that time I was unable to continue with my belly dance classes as my schedule was already brimming with other obligations, and my body and soul missed them sorely. I continued to study on my own, of course, but as one of the few things in my life that fills me with such delight, it deserves a more significant part of my life. Thankfully, I now have the time to devote to taking classes again and I jumped back in as soon as I was able. I had been taking classes with Simone at Cloud Hands in Ottsville for at least six months straight in 2006. A few months prior to that I was learning on my own with the aid of DVDs, books, and the internet. I used to live within a ten minute drive of Cloud Hands, but two months ago I moved from the Quakertown area to Sellersville, so I was looking for something a bit closer. Fitness Plus in Perkasie seemed to be the answer. Their website indicates that Simone would be teaching classes there, but when I called to register, apparently this is no longer the case (their website still hasn't been appropriately updated). So I signed up for classes with Shoaleh, and started two weeks ago.

It's interesting to compare the way two different teachers approach similar movements. Actually, I think it is beneficial to see their different modes of teaching snake arms among other things. The class I am taking currently is for beginners, so there is going to be a great deal of review for me, but it's always good to brush up on the basics again. I was a bit embarrassed during the first class when Shoaleh had me demonstrate some of the techniques in front of the class though, but since I'm pretty serious about belly dancing, I guess I'll have to get over dancing in front of others!

I really want to take some classes in American Tribal Style, but the closest place I can find, Hipnosis Studio, to learn is a good 45 minute drive away, and I would have to wait for their new sessions to start which I think will be early May. If they offer classes in their next session which would coincide with my days off, I think I'm going to take the plunge and sign up for them, despite obscene gas prices and my dislike of commuting. FatChanceBellyDance offers some DVDs, but I find that it's preferable to learn from a teacher directly if at all possible.

On to the Halfa!
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a halfa hosted by Suffiya of Dancers' Oasis at Casablanca Restaurant in Warrington, PA. I had a great time, and it's been so long since I've eaten there. The food, as usual, was delicious (my favorite courses are the first three: hummus, baba ganouj, the salads, and the B'stilla. I think those constitute whole meal!), and we were entertained by five different dancers instead of the usual single dancer. Suffiya herself performed both before and after the meal. She danced with various props including zils, Isis wings, and a saber. I've included a photo of Suffiya dancing with these awesome fan/veil thingies which I covet. They moved like liquid fire and were really expressive. Must get a pair for myself! I generally am not a huge fan (no pun intended!) of props, but those fan/veils were fantastic (again, no pun intended).

In between, four of the dancers of the Dancers' Oasis troupe did solos and a group performance (I didn't keep the program, so unfortunately I do not have their names offhand). I was only able to get photos of Suffiya since I was too occupied stuffing my face to grab a camera for the other performances! Three of the other four dancers danced to some interesting contemporary American music including selections from Fleetwood Mac, Justin Timberlake, and the Violent Femmes. The Fleetwood Mac piece was a veil number which was okay as far as veil dances go. The dancer really looked the Steve Nick's part though. The Justin Timberlake piece was actually really well done, and I enjoyed it enough for it to offset my internal cringe at the subject of Justin Timberlake ;-) The fourth dancer used a more traditional, Middle Eastern music selection, and despite encountering some technical difficulties at first with the sound system, she did a beautiful, slower piece. All in all, it was a fun time. I look foreword to returning to Casablanca for a girls' night out with Shoaleh! I have two more photos from this halfa at this location.