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!