Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bad week followed by a day of Pure Awesomeness!

Image shamelessly stolen from Levant al Sonora's Facebook page.

If you're wondering why I've been so quiet for the past week, it's because all I would have been able to blog about was the tedious list of annoying things that happened to me. None of it was truly awful on its own, just the little trials and tribulations that an adult must deal with in life, but they came all together in one week and piled on top of each other until I felt quite irritated by it all, paranoid about what would happen next.

But then I had two wonderful days. The first was Thursday, the blissful retreat of my evening full of belly dance classes. I delivered a custom octopus necklace to one of my classmates (unfortunately, I didn't have time to photograph it before I gave it to her), had a good time in all of my classes, and got some much needed ego-boosting compliments from my teachers.

The big blast of refreshing happiness was yesterday, however. Our local chapter of the Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association (MECDA) brought workshops and a showcase down to Tucson (they're of course based in Phoenix, which has an unfairly high concentration of amazing dancers). The rundown:

Warning! Belly dance nerd content ahead!

I started the day learning American Tribal Style moves from Lenay of Kamalah (Arizona's only true ATS troupe), and then Shannon of Divine Chaos turned them into tribal fusion combos, complete with cues, so that any troupe could add them to their repertoire. I really liked the dual-teacher system here, and Shannon's combos were really cool.

What struck me as I thought about this class today is how different the belly dance world is from the beading world. At one point, Shannon said (I'm paraphrasing) "So, if you take this back to your troupe and teach it to them, you could do it this way or this way..." There was a clear expectation that dancers would want to share these moves with people who did not take the workshop, and that was OK. In the bead world, it's a big faux pas to take a class and then use the handout to teach your friends who didn't take the class... and that's just fine, I don't blame a teacher for wanting people to pay for the fruit of their labors.

Next was zill class with Mahin, a dancer that I admire very much because she sends out these great "belly dance quickie" e-mails every day, with a new tip or technique or inspirational video. I love people who give to their community like that. We learned three new-to-me zill rhythms, and she taught combinations to practice them with. I had some trouble with the moves and combos because they were pretty alien to my world of 4-count tribal moves, but I look forward to practicing the rhythms.

After a lunch break, Shannon came back and taught a short bonus workshop on double fans! This free class was actually my favorite, because I've always wanted to learn fans. Shannon taught us how to open and close paired fans with natural movements of the arm and wrist, and a few tribal-fusion style combos that look really pretty with paired fans. She even covered dramatic ways to come on stage with the fans. Afterwords, we all posed with our diverse fans for the photo above. Isn't it pretty?

Later in the evening was the Spring Showcase, featuring the teachers from the workshops and other talented Arizona dancers. It was being held at a shop called People's Imports, which seemed like an odd choice to me... dancing in a store? Would there be enough room for the dancers to move? Ample seating? Turns out it was awesome. The shop itself is old brick, decorated with imported rugs and furniture and cool stuff, and they even had a raised stage which the musicians occupied. The dancers performed in a wide open space, half-surrounded by low seats.

I loved seeing a lot of the tribal troupes that I know from the Phoenix area actually performing -- so far I'd only seen them on video, or in informal party-type settings. It was also fun to see some local Tucson dancers that I didn't know putting on some great shows! And Mahin gave a show-stopping glitzy cabaret-style performance in a costume that I'm pretty sure had aurum 2x Swarovski crystals all up in its fringe (there's a little something for my beaders!). After the performers, Divine Chaos's live band played a number for the audience to get up and dance, the perfect cap to the night.

The only bad part is knowing that this won't happen again until NEXT year! Oh sure, I can travel to workshops, but having MECDA bring the fun to me (and my fellow Tucson dancers) was a nice treat!


  1. Wow! Lots of dancing! And that's a great picture of you!

  2. That does sound like you had a lot of fun! :D

  3. Marilee, I'll do even MORE dancing in July, when I'm taking a full weekend of workshops.

    Meri, it was SO much fun :)

  4. Sounds like we both had a wonderful weekend!

    As for sharing dance moves, that's not unique to the belly dance world. It's part of the dance world in general.

    MECDA also sponsors a weekend of workshops and shows in Phx. sometime in November.

    I was rather surprised that they did Tucson again this year. Last year the turn out was so poor that they had originally decided not to do it again. Was there a good turn out at the workshops and show?

  5. SaraBeth, I saw some pictures from 2009, and yeah, it did look like almost no one was there and the class space was really dark and uninviting!

    I think there were about 15 people in the tribal class, maybe a dozen or so in the zill class, and I don't know how many were in the cabaret class. As far as performers went, there were enough that the show was about 1.5 hours long. Mostly troupes that had come down from the Phoenix area. I was surprised that there were only two Tucson dancers!

    The audience for the show mostly seemed to be students from the workshops and people who were with the students or knew the performers, but I think a few people came in off the street. I'm bad at estimating but I think there were 30 people in the audience.

    I do hope that it was enough of a turn out that they'll come back in 2010... and I'm definitely planning to go to the November one in Phx :) Not sure about the Summer one in Flagstaff, I think it's the weekend after the FCBD workshops.