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Belly Dance Podcast A Little Lighter
56 minutes | 9 days ago
Rachel on Darkness, Dance and the Medicine All Around Us – 053
Healing yourself is possible, even in rich dark nights of the soul. Find out how Ceremonial Botanical Bodywork practitioner Rachel Fisher heals, how she became friends with Rachel Brice, and hear how she got 250,000 followers on social media and then let them go. Exciting update! A Little Lighter is ranked as #2 in the Top 10 Belly Dance Podcasts You Must Follow in 2020! Thank you to all of our amazing listeners and guests. And congrats to Iana of the #1 Belly Dance Podcast Belly Dance Life. Iana was a wonderful guest on A Little Lighter as well. Iana on Being an Artist AND Making Money as a Dancer - 045 Find out how podcast host Iana Komarnytska has made her passion for Middle Eastern dance into an abundant business, get tips for creating a clear website, and hear why it is so important for belly dancers to study folk dance styles. Alicia: Rachel Fisher is our first guest who does not currently identify as a belly dancer. Rachel is based in Boulder Colorado. She has been focusing on inner work the past couple years, and she decided to let go of a belly dance blog on Instagram and Facebook that had about 250,000 followers. We’ll ask her more about that later in the show. Rachel studied with Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes, and I think Zoe Jakes even follows her on Instagram now. The healing work that Rachel practices is Ceremonial Botanical Bodywork which she created weaving acupuncture, Chinese medicine and earth centered shamanism where the focus is working with non psychedelic plant spirit medicine in ceremony with bodywork. Compassion is a way of life. I am not above or beneath you. We both share darkness and light. I understand the darkness with you. I am not here to heal you. I am here to be with you. I started dancing at 39, and I was on track to become a professional dancer. I was so in love with dance that I wasn’t sure about who I was anymore. Showcasing the Diversity in Belly Dance Back in the early days of Instagram, I was so impressed with a dancer on Vine named Amymarie Gaertner learning from Michael Jackson videos in her basement. Community was my intention. I learned how to make clips of amazing dancers on youtube and reposted clips after reaching out to the dancers. I loved that people wrote to me to tell me that my posts inspired them to become a dancer. https://youtu.be/vSPIP4w6m-g And I made a clip of an amazing Russian dancer named Kremushka that was viewed 25 million times. It was a phenomenon. I woke up and my blog had 200,000 friend requests. My love of belly dance clicked around the world and resonated with people and they saw the beauty in it too. https://youtu.be/uNrKlOpFuJg?t=21 Social media in general is a neutral thing, but how we related to it can be good or bad. For me, it became a sickness. A way to check out. I had a spiritual awakening when my daughter said “Do you remember when you put down the phone last night and you were with me? Remember you loved that?” It crushed my heart. I realized I wasn’t present and I needed to have a different relationship with social media. I realized that I prefer being in real life. No followers and no amount of likes is ever going to make that better. Those followers are not going to be at your death bed holding your hand. The social media world became empty for me. I only wanted to connect on social media if it came from a place of connection or if I was of service in some way. When I do feel inspired to post now it’s coming from a place of intuition. This might touch someone. Someone might need to hear it. I had to make a choice between being in the social media world and being present in my own real life family and inner work. Devoting my life to dance in a technical way with blogging and being part of the circus as a working mother, I had to make a choice with how I balanced my life. We would do a disservice to say that women can do it all. What that looks like is a very personal choice. Alicia: …And not enjoying the pipeline of amazing moments in our lives because we think we should be doing more. Sometimes we go through these dark nights of the soul, and that’s a rich beautiful place to be. How Did Your Family do with Covid Quarantine? It was intense. My daughter went through a lot of grief. She is an extrovert, so there was a lot of loss for her. But there was a lot of beauty in it too. We realized that we like being just with our family. But it made us realize we want to live more off of the grid. Alicia: The morning prayer dance videos posted Instagram as CompassionateDancer are beautiful. It’s just you in your living room, or bathroom dancing with sunlight coming in. You seem to be a woman who is very in touch with ritual. Do you have a Danceable Ritual you would like to share? Danceable Ritual: Brush Yourself with Plants Before You Dance Find a plant that speaks to you. Make it an offering and consciously break off of branch or a leaf. Brush yourself with the plant. Hold it to your heart. Crush a leaf and smell it. This can be profound. It can change your mood or open something in you. Sometimes inedible plants have a healing property from just putting them on your body. Compassionate plant spirits grow near you for a reason. There is medicine everywhere. Even if it is just an herb garden you grow in your house. This is accessible to everybody. We can become our own healer. If you pay attention to the plant, you can observe what it’s healing nature would be for you. Make an offering of a stick or stone to the plant before you cut it. Cut the plant in a way that will not hurt the plant. Whisper your gratitude to the plant. You can go deep with what you think is a weed growing outside your door. For me, dance has become more of a prayer than technique or performance. This may seem a little out there, but there is legitimate medicine available in little simple practices. Learning From Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes Alicia: You got into Rachel Brice’s 8 Elements and Zoe Jake’s Dance Craft right when you started dancing. What are a few things about dance that you have learned from Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes? The Elevation Dance Festival has an ambassador program. We take the visiting teacher food shopping, pick them up, etc. I was Rachel Brice’s ambassador. This is Elizabeth Ashner’s creation. It’s important to have integrity, humility and to honor your teachers. And have a sense of humor. And even Rachel Brice, one of the world’s best dancers, still gets anxious before performing. If you want to be a dancer at that level, you have to practice. Zoe’s dance drills are the dance drills you practice for forever. It’s like eating your vegetables before you can access the fun parts. They are both very dedicated to their craft. And you don’t get to that level without working your ass off. And they have been doing that for 20 years. They have a lot of grace when they openly make mistakes. And they work their asses off. Can it still be meaningful if you are not a star? I feel in my soul that I am a dancer. But what if suddenly you are not evolving in technique or practicing to perform? DANCEABLE SONG: Buddaham by Nextro The lyrics of the Ethnic Trap song Buddaham by Nextro are a sacred chant to Shiva. Offering Shiva a beautiful seat and gifts of jasmine and magnolia flowers, gems and incense from the heart. It says “You are an ocean of compassion”. We can make offerings to a higher power before we dance and as we dance. Ratnaih Kaliptam-Aasanam Hima-Jalaih Snaanam Ca Divya-Ambaram Naanaa-Ratna-Vibhuussitam Mrga-Madaa-Moda-Angkitam Candanam Shaakaanaam-Ayutam Jalam Rucikaram Karpuura-Khanndd Jivalam Taambulaam Manasa Mayaa Viracitam Bhaktyaa Prabho Sviikuru Who is Nextro? Nextro is a 22 year old artist living in Russia. This video of Kira Habibi from the Ukraine dancing to this song went viral and brought the song to many of us in the dance world. https://youtu.be/lb3SBpr_p7g https://open.spotify.com/track/7CmXcH5JadTJfImJsZEeOT?si=Mx3YhnypRHKYIH872elfEw Here is some popular Arabic Trap song to give you more of a feel for another branch of the trap genre. This artist Freek from UAE says it’s all about creating a vibe for the listener to get lost in: https://youtu.be/r9jga1O4lM8 DANCE MOVE: Pranam Link to dance ritual: “Pranam” on Datura Online described by Colleena Shakti. Pranam is a sanskrit word for a reverential salutation or greeting. It is a gesture that all Indian dancers perform, regardless of their style of dance. Make an offering from the heart rather from the head I am trying to find my connection to a higher power that I lost. You can pay $2 for one month of renting the Pranam video from Datura online. https://daturaonline.com/programs/pranam-with-colleena-shakti https://youtu.be/lkVI_XlZs4k Belly Dance for Healing Alicia: You started belly dancing when you were 38. And belly dance has helped you with postpartum depression and anxiety and disillusionment with motherhood and healing sexual trauma. I have seen you write about embodiment and soul loss and soul retrieval. Would you like to talk about belly dancing as a tool for healing? My son was around 1 and a half when I went to my first belly dance class. I was so shell shocked from motherhood. I thought I would be this earth mama who loved it. And I didn’t love it. Where do you go with that? And then the chemistry on top of that. Belly dance made me remember a part of myself that I had forgotten. Sensual, sexual and free separate from my baby. My teacher told me I was not moving my hips. There was a disconnect. In my mind I was shaking like crazy. I still had a lot of disconnect from the lower part of my body. That is our sexual chakra where we feel safe in the world. I was still disconnected from a history of sexual abuse that I have had to heal throughout my life. Constantly unfolding and changing and working with. I started to connect with my abdomen and pelvis and hips. To feel my feet on the ground and breath from my head to the lower part of abdomen and feet. To feel all of the feelings that were literally being shaken up. In shamanism, it is called soul loss when a piece of your soul scatters from life’s traumatic events. How do you retrieve those pieces? Belly dance helps us become more embodied. If we are dissociated, we lose touch with a lot of the truth of who we are. It’s about finding a safe place to connect with what is already stored in our bodies. The only way to truly heal is working with mind, body and spirit. All of those levels. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Belly dance is an amazing tool for that. There is a lot of healing that can happen in the movement of the hips and belly. Belly Dancing in the Circus Alicia: You belly danced professionally in a circus! It looks like an artsy and beautiful circus, similar to Cirque du Soleil. I want to watch a circus with fusion belly dance in it. What was that like? It looks like an artsy and beautiful circus, similar to Cirque du Soleil. I want to watch a circus with fusion belly dance in it. What did that teach you about performance? Natalie Brown is the director of Phantom Circus. She is a very skilled dancer, musician, singer and aerialist. Being around these extremely devoted people was amazing. It was a very demanding practice schedule. I think there was only one other member who had a child. It was amazing to have my children come and see me. I loved how it pushed me. I had never done sword dancing before. I had to learn it for a performance in a 3 month time frame. To work with a sword is powerful. I had to make a choice between devoting my time to performing or my family. It is hard that you put all that time in and the performance is short. You are on stage for maybe 5 minutes. Rachel Brice teaches a lot from The Little Book of Talent. If you practice something very focused for even 2 minutes a day each day, you can master it. It may even be better than practicing something for hours at a time once a week. Featured Healthy Delicious Whole Food Vegan Ingredient: Watermelon Watermelon is used for cooling in Chinese medicine. Watermelon frost is used for sores. You pack the watermelon rind with salt and a frost grows on the outside of the rind. Watermelon Shake & Shimmy Perfect for 2 people. Takes 5 min 2 cups cubed watermelon with seeds removed 1 tsp almond butter 1 tsp real maple syrup Combine in a blender. You won’t believe how good this is. Fun variations: Add a little ginger and/or rose water! Belly Dance Costume Tip: Send a Message with a Headdress Headdresses are powerful. Wearing a headdress is a timeless statement. You don’t want to wear a Native American war bonnet, but you can create other adornments for your head. You can find small artists on Etsy who sell head adornments. You can incorporate animal qualities. Think of Zoe Jake’s deer antler headdress. There’s something magical about it. Zoe did a dance at the Illumination festival where she plucked out the feathers one by one. I saw a woman dancing with an animal head completely covering her eyes. I can’t get it out of my head. It’s a great way to become something else in the dance. Feel Good Look Good Habit: Massage Your Abdomen There’s a whole world in the abdomen. In many practices there is a focus on the abdomen for healing. It is like a second brain. Energy centers. It can be very releasing, and very scary for some people. People often have a lot of feelings in their abdomen. There’s often emotion stuck there. I believe that we hold emotions in the tissues, and if we do not create flow it can lead to disease. Belly dance can create flow, as well as breathing into the abdomen. https://youtu.be/Nnq–UA6ptw Plants brushing on the abdomen can de-armor the abdomen before touching. It feels safer. And warm rocks can be used as a weight on your abdomen. You can choose an essential oil that moves you, and castor oil, which moves stuck energy and tissue and creates flow. Certain areas correspond to different emotions. The sternum between the breasts is one of the grief points in acupuncture. Using weight, plants and/or oils there can release grief. Under the ribs responds to liver energy. That’s where we can hold a lot of anger, frustration, and unfulfilled desires. Moving in a circular pattern over the abdomen can help digestion. Right above the pubic bone is an energetic space where work can be done on menstrual issues, pain, sexual trauma, or even lack of faith in life. A lot of our security comes from here. Any way you connect with that part of the body can be powerful and restorative and healing. You can connect with the truth of who you are. The messages that connect you to your soul’s path. There’s so much online that can help you with this. For dancers, when we massage our abdominal muscles we increase flexibility. We can go deep. Even just a little oil on your finger tips or even cornstarch can make your fingers more slick enough for massage. Lemon balm is great for plant brushing. You can also make an elixir out of lemon balm. Put fresh lemon balm in a mason jar. First fill the jar half way with brandy or vodka, and then fill the rest up with local honey. Shake it and leave it in a dark place for 6-8 weeks. It’s a great tincture for anxiety and grief and healing the nervous system. You don’t need to wash the lemon balm first. Honey and alcohol will preserve it. Strain out the lemon balm after about 2 months before you put it in a tincture bottle. You can take it with droppers throughout the day and see how it works for you. Take a spiritual plant bath. It’s like the dance move pranam! Cut up the lemon balm into small pieces while whispering a prayer and give yourself a foot bath with the lemon balm in it, or take a bath with it, or pour it over your head like a baptism. It is a transformative experience. Beat your stomach with a bunch of lemon balm like a drum. www.compassionate-medicine.com Instgram: @compassionatedancer
14 minutes | a month ago
The Dance Floors That Heal Us: A Tribute to Erin Sharp – 052
I met Erin in my first belly dance class in 2000 at Cornell. For 20 years we danced together on stages, streets and around fires. Erin passed away in May 2020 during the Covid Era, and I continue to seek a dance floor that can help heal the pain. I saw this quote from writer Hope Alocer posted in a Facebook group for dancers: “Behind every dancer there’s someone that broke her, a song that moved her, a moment that inspired her and a dance floor that healed her.” – Hope Alcocer How can we make the floors of our homes into a dance floor that heals us? Even with loneliness and frustration and sadness sometimes choking us until we cannot breathe, we can take another breath. We can move our feet. We can turn on a song and dance, allowing the floor to hold us until our breath again reaches our bellies and stirs our soul. I miss you Erin. I love you, and I always will. Belly Dance Podcast Interviews Coming Soon Carmine Guida This musician adored by so much of the belly dance community in the US and abroad, Carmine Guida is a party-making machine, and he is also a very talented and versatile musician. He teaches percussion and plays melody instruments including Jimbush and oud. Amanda Hart An award winning smiling shimmy queen from Kansas. Rachel Fisher A former circus performer who now practices Ceremonial Botanical Bodywork which she created weaving acupuncture, Chinese medicine and earth centered shamanism where the focus is working with non psychedelic plant spirit medicine in ceremony with bodywork. Eshe Yildiz A dancer who was given her name by dance legend Sema Yildiz. The name “Yildiz” or “Star” in Turkish after she performed at the famed Gar Casino in Istanbul. Brenna Crowley Brenna Crowley is a belly dance artist in NYC who is known for her commanding stage presence, intensity and one-of-a-kind performances. Sometimes fiercely whipping her red locks around and shooting daggers out of her eyes between smiles. Spoiler alert: Brenna knows how to moonwalk. Carolena Nerricio Founder of FatChanceBellyDance® in the 1980s, and she is the creator of the worldwide dance phenomenon known as FatChanceBellyDance®Style or FCBD®Style. We used to call this American Tribal Style®, ATS for short. How to Be Unstoppable Years ago… I learned how to scream. I was in a circle of trees, staring into the scorching summer sun. Someone was beating a drum. My teacher kept shouting. I didn’t even know I was resisting until he asked, “How can you get the benefits of this if you don’t really scream?” I realized I had never screamed before. I was limiting myself for no fucking reason. It made me angry. I screamed uncontrollably. I screamed from my gut, doubling over until all of my fear rode tears down my cheeks and disappeared in the dust. For a moment there was no […]
42 minutes | 2 months ago
Helen Blondel on The Best Workouts for Belly Dancers – 051
Singing belly dancer Helen of South Florida gives us some tone-at-home fitness tips we forgot about and shares how she moved past fear to create her own online dance program and write “Belly Dance Business 101”. https://youtu.be/GWMhaUvEcwM Interview with Helen Blondel Making an Online Belly Dance Course Belly dance is a beautiful art form, but it is niche. A lot of people don’t know about it. I was teaching classes at Florida International University that were capped at 50 students and had to turn people away. I wanted to teach worldwide, so I created BellyPOP I looked up whether the name “BellyPOP” was trademarked, and it just took 24 hours to trademark the name with a lawyer’s help. You can look up trademarked names on https://www.uspto.gov/ Fear keeps most of us from acting on our ideas. This quote has helped: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield I was afraid that people would see that I’m filming in my living room instead of a gorgeous studio or resort, and they would want something else. I let go of that fear. Everyone has a unique way of teaching. I have my own way of teaching, regardless of whether I am filming in my living room, or my backyard, or a beautiful castle. https://youtu.be/0D2VMEz5Q74 What are the best workouts for belly dancers? Belly dancing can be strenuous! Especially for teachers and performers. Pilates and High Intensity Interval Training are great workouts for belly dancers. Ciana Ariel on Art, Athleticism, and the Future of Belly Dance - 047 Flashy Floridian Belly Dancer Ciana talks about the difference between dance cardio classes and straight up belly dance classes, the importance of foundational strength for preventing injury and aiding expression, and how much fun it is to wear big drag lashes when you dance. Pilates is the #1 fitness training for belly dancers, because you are using your own weight to get fit. It gives you strength in your core and calves and other parts of your body that are important for belly dance. If you condition your body, it can give the illusion of ease when you belly dance. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is great for endurance, and health of your heart and your energy. Burpees and then squats or lunges with weights are great. You do the cardio to bring your heart rate up, and then you target your muscles, wait 20 seconds, and do it again. It’s like doing a combination of weight training and cardio. This can help you get into great shape in a short period of time. Burpees are exercises that target your core, glutes, hamstrings, abs and quads. You are in a plank, and then using your momentum, stand right up into a squat position, jump up really fast, and then go back into a plank. It’s very hard at first, but it targets many muscles at once. Check out Cassey Ho’s videos on different kinds of burpees. https://youtu.be/QBjSL8zNVjQ?t=54 Sing for us Helen! https://youtu.be/EMDwDuMbsGY Isabella Salimpour on Body Empowerment & Legacy - 041 Third generation belly dance star Isabella shares what she learned from Suhaila and Jamila Salimpour, talks about the magic of Bal Anat, and reflects on dancing illegally in Egypt at 8 years old. As Belly Dancers, we are Immersed in so Much more than Dance Belly dancers are dancing with history, culture, music, culture and fashion. Belly Dance Fashion is the coolest thing. Go to a belly dance convention and see all of the beautiful costumes and makeup. It’s so beautiful. https://youtu.be/-F8aqAsU3-g?list=RD-F8aqAsU3-g&t=90 5 Lessons from Helen’s Book “Belly Dance Business 101” Here are a couple lessons from Helen’s book “Belly Dance Business 101: The Beginners Guide to Being a Professional Belly Dancer”. Buy the book to learn more! #1. How to Start Getting Belly Dance Gigs Sign up on an entertainment platform! Some examples are Gigsalad and The Bash / Gigmasters. Use your most professional photos and make your own profile including whatever sells you as a performer. When people are organizing an event, they often don’t know entertainers to call. Some of these platforms are set up so we can transfer reviews from their platform to our personal website. #2. How Much Money do Belly Dancers Make? Research the going rate for belly dancers in your area. Do not undercut the going rate in order to get gigs. If belly dancers in the area have the same rate, then event planners will choose the dancer they want because they like their dance, not because they are cheaper. Change your mindset from wanting to perform to knowing that others want you to perform. #3. How to Create Your Belly Dance Brand Oxana Bazaeva is a great example of a belly dancers with memorable personal branding. Her long red hair. As all of us entertainers must do, we find our brand and we stick to it and keep reminding followers what our brand is. https://youtu.be/2tuRd9n1dNQ?t=134 #4. Join a Belly Dance Troupe You’ll get sisterhood as well as knowledge on local rates and other information that will help you dance and even become a professional dancer if you have that goal. Great Song for Belly Dancers: Ala Wadaak (Stand Up) اغنية “علي وضعك ” احمد سعد It’s a happy, motivating Arabic song with good beats by a great singer Ahmed Saad. Egyptian audiences love it. The song Ali Waddak Ahmed Saad from the movie Aly Wakeel. https://youtu.be/sVPQED6i-cI Oxana Bazaeva is in this video! The English translation of Ala Wadaak by Ahmed Saad is something like this: You’re so wonderful, I salute you. I take my hat off to you. Stand up. You’re the #1, the king or the queen. (*This is a different song than Ala Wadaak by Algerian singer Hakim). https://open.spotify.com/track/0ADAMHFnD7Bah3YuBRHOqk?si=qzHhh6lyTEqkqDe0CQybDw Dance Move: Hip Lifts and Drops Through Energy Transfer Hip lifts don’t come from the hip. It’s the transfer of energy from your knee to your hip. It’s the transfer of energy from the floor. Having intention with your energy. Delicious Vegan Whole Food: Bananas Bananas give you energy! Good for calming your muscles after workouts and great for dancers on the go. Banana Rice Breakfast Coating brown rice with sweet banana makes it sticky and wonderful. Sprinkle nuts and seeds on top and you have a hearty and delicious whole food vegan breakfast ready in minutes. Velvety Avocado Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse This rich vegan chocolate mousse is super easy to make, and absolutely divine. Thank you to California-based belly dancer Cera Byer for sharing the ingredients of this recipe! Should Belly Dancers Accept Tips in Their Bras? Helen says: No. Belly dance already has the reputation as a sexual dance. By accepting tips in our bras, it makes belly dance more like a sexual dance rather than a sensual dance and artistry. There are other ways to accept tips, like money showers and accepting tips in our hands. Teach the audience see how to treat you. Costume Tip: Use Safety Pins to Keep Your Bra from Popping Open Use 2 big safety pins in the back of your bra and connect your skirt to your underwear with safety pins. That will keep your costume from popping off. And wear glitter cream! A little sparkle adds a lot. It makes you glow. On your legs, your arms. Where ever you like. It’s nice in the sunlight. Feel Good Habit: Stop Comparing Yourself to Others Look in the mirror every day and tell yourself that you are beautiful. Danceable Ritual: Do Dynamic and Static Stretching to a Non-Belly Dance Song Before Performing Static stretching is slower and meant to cool down your muscles, often after dancing. Dynamic stretching is more active, and usually done before dancing. Kickbacks are an example. Something exciting coming up: Releasing a new song! Helen will be able to dance to a song that she wrote and sang. Twitter: helenblondel www.helenblondel.com Tic toc: https://www.tiktok.com/@helensingerdancer?source=h5_m
58 minutes | 3 months ago
Maëlle on How to Dance for a Middle Eastern Audience – 049
Veil poi innovator Maëlle shares belly dance secrets from the Lebanese night clubs of Brussels, palaces of Dubai, and Suhaila Salimpour’s dance studios. Hear her story. Alicia Free: Like many of us, Maëlle was looking for just a new dancing hobby when she started belly dancing. She took her first classes more than 20 years ago…and she fell in love. Maëlle was the featured dancer of a 5-star palace in Dubai, performing with a live band. She is currently based in Brussels, Belgium. She is the third European belly dancer who has also performed in the Middle East that we are featuring on this podcast, and she is also part of the worldwide Salimpour community. She is level 4 certified in both the Jamila and Suhaila formats, which is both prestigious and rare. Even as a high level performer, Maëlle is still devoted to learning more. Danceable Ritual: Dance with your child after dinner Before you calm down for the night, dance together. Danceable Song: Mawoud by Abd El Halim Hafez https://open.spotify.com/track/6WKsKqFKGUWLRzC9UlzxY9?si=a5K7TKJvSpGz9QKBk4oucw Mawoud is the first song by Abdel Halim Hafez that I fell in love with. Music is what made me fall in love with Belly Dance. I used to listen to Arabic music all the time. I recommend the free Arabic Music website Melody4Arab to check what’s new but also to listen to more tunes by an artist you have identified and that you like. Exploring is important. There are often many different versions of songs, and you can pick one that speaks to you. Dance Tip: If you want to dance a classic song with a live band, know the ENTIRE original version. You don’t know what parts a band will play! Listen to a catalog of the classics over and over again. There are cues in the music that are important for belly dancers. https://youtu.be/I4anLcOCZdk Choreography Tip: Plan where you will project your energy into the audience. (Suhaila’s technique 🙂 This is part of the Suhaila grid technique. You can imagine people in all different parts of the audience. It could be your parents behind you, or your past self in front of you. The audience feels it. Since belly dance is a live art, so you can’t feel what the audience felt when you are watching a video. https://youtu.be/DGTrkGBzHgA When you are watching a belly dancer, clap any time you feel connected to the song or what the performers are doing or when you want to enhance with is happening. Not just at the end! Dancing with a Moroccan Dancer Farah Bakkali Farah Bakkali is “the Tina Turner and the Marilyn Monroe of belly dance, an explosive mixture of wild energy and distinct glamour.” https://youtu.be/SkdsOfezF-s?t=474 Farah was self-taught and a wild artist. She danced throughout the Middle East. Very proud and beautiful woman. She is Moroccan, so she is from the culture. Farah has had a very difficult life, so she is a survivor. Farah’s method of teaching was a bit like “I’ll throw you in the water to teach you how to swim”. What is the difference between Belly Dance and Danse Orientale? Belly dance in English sounds like just one singular thing, but of course it is not. “Danse orientale” is in French and it is plural. Belly dance includes and is influenced by many styles, like Raqs Sharqi, Raqs Beledi, Saidi, Debke, and Khaleeji. Maybe it should be called belly dances! Dance Move: Belly Dance with Veil Poi “Voi”! Check out the voi poi veil for belly dancers class available with a monthly subscription to Salimpour Classes Online. https://youtu.be/HPFZV0HHGxY Maëlle mentioned Akai Silk Veils How to impress a Middle Eastern Audience With Your Belly Dancing Respect the women in the audience. Make eye contact with the women and avoid flirting with the guys Don’t dance Zumba Belly Dance. Express the music Smile when you dance Show your knowledge and love for the music and culture when you dance Keep improving your technique Vegan Whole Food Ingredient to Love: Chickpeas Garbanzo beans are amazing in couscous, hummus, and falafel. Replacing the egg white with canned chick pea water to make fluffy chocolate mousse How to Get Out of Your Head & Into Your Body - Cera Byer - 039 California belly dancer and twerking instructor Cera Byer talks about fearless improvisation, clear choreography, and taking "exquisite care" of ourselves. Dancing in a Five-Star Palace in Dubai Know the classic songs! The audience in Dubai was mostly Arab men, not like the families in the Lebanese and Persian restaurants in Brussels. Sabriye was also dancing in the Middle East at the time. Sabriye is a live music addict 🙂 Designer Costumes & Belly Dancing in the Middle East: Sabriye Tekbilek Interview - 048 For 12 years Sabriye performed all over the Gulf and North Africa. Hear her tips for keeping the soul in Saidi and how to do Khaleeji hair throw moves safely. Costume Tip: Wear costumes that fit your level of dance Bella Costumes has a shop in Ghent, about an hour away from Brussels. Once you experience the best, it is harder to go for cheap stuff. Bella doesn’t actually have many costumes on their website on purpose. They don’t want people to just copy them. You need to go to their shops. The costumes don’t really have price tags on them. They are often between $500-$1000+. You can see dancers in Bella costumes on Instagram because of the hashtag #bellabellydancecostume. They are unique, they usually don’t make the same costume twice. Even comfortable. Nothing is glued. The beads are all sewn on. You can put them in the washing machine in a pillow case on delicate and they don’t fall apart. So you can sell them after you are finished with them. Have costumes that fit your level of dance. Sometimes great dancers wear amateur costumes, and it doesn’t match. It’s like a painting where the frame can either ruin or make it even more sublime. And costumes contain memories. Where people were sitting. Colors from different parts of your life. That can make it hard to sell your costumes! And classic style costumes are often the best. Many styles go in and out. Feel-Good-Look-Good-Habit: Check your breasts regularly and lower your stress levels Maelle was diagnosed with breast cancer March 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic. She is a healthy weight, eats healthy food, and has no history of breast cancer in her family. Know Your Lemons is a cancer education foundation with the mission to “Help you find breast cancer as early as possible.” Know Your Lemons is an app that you can put on your phone to help you check your breasts regularly. https://youtu.be/nkPR4ar1EQ4 But she is an adrenaline junkie, and never really stopped. Stress is a common denominator in women who are young and healthy and get breast cancer. Stop before your body tells you to stop. If you are stressed, figure out how to stop and reduce your stress levels. People who have had cancer often say it creates a before and an after, and the after is often much better. Slow down your mind, slow down your body, slow down your life. Meditation can work wonders. Insight Timer is an app that helps people meditate. Listening to teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron can also be very helpful. How to Start Meditating in 4 Fun Steps Creating a meditation practice can be a lot of fun. Choose an inspiring thought leader who meditates like Oprah Winfrey or Thich Naht Hanh and use these tools to start experiencing the benefits of meditation. Looking forward to Bal Anat in Prague in March 2021!
42 minutes | 3 months ago
Designer Costumes & Belly Dancing in the Middle East: Sabriye Tekbilek Interview – 048
For 12 years Sabriye performed all over the Gulf and North Africa. Hear her tips for keeping the soul in Saidi and how to do Khaleeji hair throw moves safely. I am pleased to feature another leader in the Salimpour school and community, Sabriye Tekbilek. What a lovely Turkish name. Sabriye is the daughter of renowned Turkish musician “Haci” Ahmet Tekbilek. Her uncle Ömer Faruk Tekbilek is also a famous musician, and her mother Lisa Djeylan is known for pioneering belly dance in Sweden. So Sabriye grew up with Middle Eastern music and dance in her home, and she also formally studied Middle Eastern dance, flamenco and ballet. Sabriye studied with both Suhaila and Jamila as a college student at Berkeley, and she began teaching belly dance after that. Like Abigail Keyes, another amazing dancer we have featured on A Little Lighter, Sabriye is also one of the few dancers in the world to hold level 5 certification in both the Suhaila and Jamila formats. She has taught and performed all over the world. https://youtu.be/n5osROZMs_c?list=UU7Idcn9LIP63Wd4PcCl7zzw In 2005 Sabriye began a 12 year run of dancing all over the Gulf and North Africa. She worked at the 5 star nightclub Haroun Al Rashid in Cairo alongside the legendary Dina, and she regularly performs all over the world for dignitaries and with other Arabic music stars. https://www.instagram.com/sabriyetekbilek/?hl=en Danceable Ritual: Visualize Yourself Dancing Even When you Can’t Dance It is just you and the music when you drive or ride the subway. The more you visualize, the more reality will become what you visualized. Just like professional athletes. And give yourself time to do your hair and makeup before you perform so you can clear your mind. Danceable Song: Zay El Assal https://open.spotify.com/track/6WL468M0cawkNfDIXMsjPK?si=paYCFz75Q8GxEGkDM01kDQ It’s a love song about a rare love, unlike anyone else she has ever met. The singer compares the love to honey. The crescendo is “Like honey!”. Exuberant. Innocent. The translation of Zay El Assal is “His love comes over my heart just like honey.” Modern mono-rhythmic music doesn’t offer the dancer a chance to highlight different parts of the music like this song does. https://youtu.be/tl4fm1jTsEs This song could be about a love for another person, or even a love for something. For example, the sweet pure joy of dancing at that moment. Like getting to dance to live music. It can mean different things at different points in your life. Like Suhaila said, dancing to live music can be an addiction. Suhaila Salimpour on Bal Anat, Jamila, and their Legacy - 038 Find out why Suhaila walked off the nightclub stage at 28, how we can show respect for the cultural origins of belly dance, and how her mother Jamila Salimpour danced her cooking. I think every venue has merit and it’s always good to perform. But if you have a great band and audience that is culturally aware, it makes it more enticing. But I do enjoy dancing for workshops and other dancers. I know they are appreciating it in a different way. What was is it like to be the daughter of a famous Turkish musician? I had a pretty unorthodox childhood. My dad took my toys and turned them into instruments. Like my bouncy horse that he turned into a bagpipe. My father is always in the pursuit of music. Now I also have a love for music. Going to my father’s gigs was part of growing up. We have also worked together at gigs. And my mother would perform with my father, so I went to a lot of gigs. They met because she was a belly dancer and my father was a musician in Sweden. (Sabriye’s uncle Omar Faruk Tekbilek was in the vintage belly dance band The Sultans) https://open.spotify.com/track/22XsTUssqAHoN1I0rpgA8t?si=KO5kI75fRP2G-R8R_qh6DQ https://open.spotify.com/album/0ISK83uor7IH6kmGzhmsvR?si=5by4zSO7QtWlp3zdAQ9zGw They also played Sufi music. How do you know if a song is appropriate to dance to? If music has lyrics that are religious, don’t dance to it. But many songs say “Oh my God”. The word Allah is in there, but it’s not religious. And artists like Mohammad Ramadan have religious names, but their music is not religious. The song Mevlana, for example. Mevlana is another name for Rumi, but it has no lyrics and its origin is unknown. Is it appropriate to belly dance to the song Mevlana? We don’t know. What has your mother taught you about belly dance? Seeing my mother (Lisa Djeylan) living and working as an artist was a valuable lesson. It’s gutsy. You see the work ethic that it takes to do that. I could see what living and working as an artist full time really meant. Being a full time dancer. It’s not relaxed and just practicing your art. It’s a hustle. I did not have romantic notions of it. She had stopped dancing by the time I wanted to start dancing when I was 13, so I only got her to teach me for an hour. She studied with Jamila and she told me to go take classes. My mother is from California. I was born in Sweden, but my mother and I came back to California when I was 9. Damn Sexy Dance Move: Algerian Shimmy The hardest part is giving it a loose quality and keeping it relaxed when it actually is hard and fast. The footwork for the Algerian Shimmy: Feet up in relevé (on your toes) and parallel to each other, then step forward a little with one foot, then back with feet parallel, and then step forward with your other foot. There are similarities between Tunisian and Algerian dance moves. https://youtu.be/9cIGqlWQffU https://youtu.be/-PjmARhTavE (And there’s the move Sabriye does where she turns but her hair keeps going. That move was featured in the interview with Anna Horn…) Suhaila Salimpour's Former Assistant Anna on Dance Secrets & Snuggles - 036 Suhaila's student and friend Anna Horn shares some of the surprising elements of Suhaila's format, reminisces about Jamila Salimpour's finger cymbals, and shows us how the pets we love can inspire us to dance. You can take music into your whole body and interpret it rather than thinking of doing dance steps. It is full body expression. I want my whole body to be open to interpreting the music. My hips might be interpreting the rhythm and my arms might be the melody. What do you feel when you are doing Saidi dance style? Fun and earthy. Grounded. Soul music. How are Egyptian style cane dances and Lebanese style cane dances different? https://youtu.be/Y55S8AQna9g?list=UU7Idcn9LIP63Wd4PcCl7zzw As far as I know, there is not a traditional Lebanese cane dance. In Egypt, sticks are used as weapons and Sa’idi can be play dancing. And with Sa’idi, it’s hard to know what Mahmoud Reda may have created and what was traditional. Lebanese and Sa’idi music can sound similar, with mizmar and davul being played. Sa’idi can mean so many things. A song can be from the Sa’id region but not in Sa’idi rhythm. And a song in Sa’idi rhythm could be from another place besides the Sa’id. And there are other things called Sa’idi, because it means anything coming from the Sa’idi region. This included Sa’idi dialect, and people from the Sa’id. Tips on Including Khaleeji Moves in Belly Dance https://youtu.be/e9j_QnpiRVc?t=178 Pronounced “hah-lee-gee” in Egypt because they don’t pronounce the “j” sound. Use your whole body as a counter-weight. It is not just coming from your neck or head. Work out of the floor. You are shifting the weight in your feet. Don’t hurt yourself. It’s still not great for your neck, but if you are going to use Khaleeji moves make sure it’s motivated by the music. Everything you insert into your dance should be motivated by the music. Tips for Doing a Debke Like a Local Each genre has a certain weight placement and groove. Grooves like ruts on a track. Find the ruts so you can stay on the track. There’s a bounce to it. The bounce goes into the floor instead of coming out of it. Carry your weight low in your body. And mimic it, just like kids learning a dance. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3zGRD__fExatJN99IvF_KsTao7da5EBk&fbclid=IwAR0AnS69pkc8uVLg5G9xE22PMVDOCgy2D2Fl32A6J-naT7rEAEkmHKs-dys What does Tekbilek mean? It means one-wristed. Sabriye means patient. Vegan Whole Food Ingredient: Kale Kale sauteed with a little garlic. Sometimes I blanch it first and then saute it. Super Simple Miso Soup with Brown Rice and Kale This is a great way to use leftover cooked brown rice. My husband grew up macrobiotic, and miso soup is one of his favorite healthy breakfasts. This is the best soup for colds, too. Miso has healing properties if it is not boiled. 15 min. Serves 2 tags: gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, whole food plant-based, macrobiotic, oil-free Ingredients 1-2 cups cooked brown rice (short grain is my favorite) 3 cups of water ½ onion coarsely chopped 1 tsp ginger coarsely chopped 1 Tbsp dried seaweed that is good in soup (alaria, kelp, shredded nori, etc) 3 dried shitake mushrooms 1 coarsely chopped carrot ½ […] Costume Tip: Get Rid of Costumes that Inhibit You If you can, buy a bunch of costumes and wear them until you figure out which ones are comfortable. I call those “Pajama Costumes”. Gravitate toward those. You don’t want your costume to inhibit your dance. And know your body shape and wear designs that flatter your shape (Here are some of Sabriye’s favorite belly dance costume designers:) Bella in Turkey Eman Zaki and Hoda Zaki in Cairo Feel Good Look Good Habit: Be Grateful for Your Body Our bodies give us so much! And a pedicure feels pretty good too. Our feet take the hardest beating. Try dipping your feet in paraffin wax. Belly Dance Night Life Trips to Cairo Go out to the night clubs of Cairo with Sabriye! Trip info here. Now there are more seedy mid-level venues than the 5 star venues. It’s hard to do a more artistic show in the seedy venues because it’s more geared toward tips. There are still huge bands in the mid-level venues. The 5 star venues are dying out, but there are still people who want to see them. Touristy venues are often watered down, tableau, sometimes hokey shows, small bands.
51 minutes | 4 months ago
Ciana Ariel on Art, Athleticism, and the Future of Belly Dance – 047
Flashy Floridian Belly Dancer Ciana talks about the difference between dance cardio classes and straight up belly dance classes, the importance of foundational strength for preventing injury and aiding expression, and how much fun it is to wear big drag lashes when you dance. Art and Athleticism Ciana Ariel Boetius (“Bo-EE-tus”) started dancing around 2009 in Southern Florida. After a series of back injuries, she has added functional dance conditioning including barre, pilates, and functional flexibility to her class offerings. There needs to be foundational, functional strength in your body for you dance to grow. A fitness background helps with body awareness. But if you are just doing cardio and strength training, you need to balance yourself with flexibility and posture and fluidity. I need the pilates I need the endurance to stay in releve a long time. I want strong lines. We want to get to the dancing part, but if we invest time into conditioning we will be able to do so much more with our dance. We want to be able to express ourselves, reach goals, and keep improving. That doesn’t mean thin. It means conditioning your body in a way that gives you strong internal core muscles Why am I going to commit this time to training and fitness? Why am I going to do this not-fun workout? Because I want to be able to dance like this. Because I don’t want back aches The dance moves are just the moves. The foundation and body awareness allows you to pick up the stylization. Having strength prevents injury A lot of people start belly dancing just because it’s fun. But it can be physically demanding, and you want to be able to hang. How do you keep the energy high in your studio? It’s hard. It’s a ball and chain. It has to be a labor of love. Know what is important to you and how you want to impact people. It was easier to fill studios back in 2010. The last few years with the technology and internet boom, the business has shifted. It is very saturated. Shift with the times. Everything is moving online. It doesn’t make sense to have a big overhead. I wanted to focus more on entertainment. We closed in 2019. Now with the pandemic, everything really is online. I really like having less overhead but still being able to connect with students. What is the future of belly dancing in restaurants and at private parties? Ever since Covid, people don’t really want you dancing around sweating in their food. We will not be dancing between tables like we were. We all have the desire to create art, and we don’t necessarily feel fulfilled with doing it as a job. You are doing what sells. You are making a living that way. It is not your fun hobbyist side. I think the pandemic is a big opportunity for the us in entertainment industry to reset some rules. To showcase the quality of our shows. Social distancing shows lose that element of audience participation like we have done it in the past. In the past dancers were just there to have fun and get people up to dance. Now people can’t even request an Hora Loca crazy hour. We have to work on our craft and give a different offering. We can’t just go in and improv. We are going to get even more creative. We’re going to have to demand rates that are fair. And spacing boundaries and social distancing. To demand a stage or a 10′ x 10′ dance floor where people can’t just come up and dance with the belly dancer. Restaurants are opening, and we’re wearing masks, blinging them out so we can still actually breathe under there. Have a plan of action to stay in character and stay safe when people come into your dance space. Why am I doing this super akward show when the audience is on their phone and treating you like a lamp? This is an opportunity to train. This is not a hobby. It’s not something that I will ever give up. How has Zumba changed the belly dance industry? Dance cardio is not a dance class. They both have value, but there are different. People might expect repetitive movements 4 and 8 counts when they come to a dance class, but that’s dance cardio. That is not a dance class. Learning to spot and do a turn and conditioning at the barre is a dance class. If you want to have fun and blow off some steam, that’s dance cardio. If you want to improve as a dancer and say something deeper, slow down and learn it. Take a dance class. Some people just want to do the fun fast pace stuff, but slowing down and getting in touch with your body will help you with the following the cardio dance class too. Some people just take dance cardio, and then they burn out or get bored or get injured and blame the class. But you need balance. Not just dance cardio. Have a foundation and improve. If you don’t want to improve, don’t call yourself a professional. 3 Danceable Rituals 1. Vibrate and shimmy in public any time Anywhere. Shaking my tail feather in public 2. Practice isolations in bed 3. Run through choreography in your head…in bed If I ran out of time to practice, I’ll just do it in my head as I’m falling asleep. Don’t feel guilty that you didn’t practice dancing and then do nothing. Just do something. Sometimes we eat super healthy and train and do workshops, and sometimes we don’t. If it’s a life style, forgive yourself and get back to it. Identify when you are just being indulgent. We can’t feel guilty for not having a daily practice. Make it work for you. Danceable Song: Mahragan Bent El Geran https://open.spotify.com/track/2vSLxBSZoK0eha4AuhZlXV?si=54OupytDTaC4zidjXZK3rA The hip hop of Cairo. This is about the girl next door on her balcony. It’s a softer side of the gangster rap of belly dance. It’s repetitive enough for American audiences to enjoy, and it’s groovy. I like the hip hop and the beat. This song is lighthearted and poppy. We love the classics, and I always include those. But Mahragan is a big wave now. When Mahraganat (“festival music” or electro sha’abi) first started, older people probably didn’t want to hear it. It probably bad words in it. Now it’s more mainstream. There are also more hardcore songs by Mohamed Ramadan, for example. Bum Bum was featured in the interview with Cera Byer How to Get Out of Your Head & Into Your Body - Cera Byer - 039 California belly dancer and twerking instructor Cera Byer talks about fearless improvisation, clear choreography, and taking "exquisite care" of ourselves. Dancing to the Song “Strange Fruit” https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10157383587021485&id=138857076484 Palm Beach is where Trump lives. It is the south. Recently with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, it’s raw right now. There are now clients that I won’t work with any more because we are so fundamentally different. It has been soul crushing for me to see. Colorism. Being a woman of color who also is a woman who is “a more acceptable” skin tone. I usually express happy emotions. More cabaret and shiny entertainment. I value the fun entertainment side of it. But it feels raw. It heightened and changed something in me. A choking burning shaking sensation. With the foundation I have built, I now want to say something else. Dance Move: Upper Body Inflections and Release A well-placed rib cage lock down, and shoulder rolls and shoulder shimmies. One foot in relevé, and one foot flat, at an angle, shoulder shimmy. You see a lot of that in golden era belly dancers too. With Suhaila it’s the hair whip, the upper body release, the breathe. Vegan Whole Food to Celebrate: Mangoes Coconut milk yogurt with chia seeds Green mango salad And avocados of course! Costume Tip: Big lashes, big earrings and big hair Enormous drag lashes. No costume is complete without big lashes. I don’t want to look like myself when I am performing. I want to look like something shocking and dramatic. And Rhinestone everything. And big heels! Put on big eyelashes and it will transform your dance. Weave glue is an entertainer trick, because your lashes will stay on when it’s humid and you are dancing all night. Feel Good Habit: Just say no without an explanation I am sick of biting my tongue with certain clients. I don’t have to take work that doesn’t feed my soul and actually drains me. I don’t need to burn bridges, but I also don’t have to explain myself when I say no. I don’t have to be busy. I am carving out space to gain clarity for my goals. I am creating space to attract the clients I want and the people I want to dance with. There is so much noise. How can I be the clear beacon of what I want to say? Being Part of the Salimpour School Alicia: I see that you have studied at the Salimpour School of Dance and you are part of that wonderful community. Suhaila and Isabella Salimpour have been on this podcast, as well as Salimpour School instructors Abby Keyes and Sabriye Tekbilek. What teachers and dancers have inspired and guided you to become the fantastic dancer you are now? Suhaila Salimpour on Bal Anat, Jamila, and their Legacy - 038 Find out why Suhaila walked off the nightclub stage at 28, how we can show respect for the cultural origins of belly dance, and how her mother Jamila Salimpour danced her cooking. Can Belly Dancers Still Use the Word "Tribal"? Thoughts from Abigail Keyes - 046 What should we call tribal fusion now that Indigenous leaders have spoken? Professor Keyes from the Salimpour School hashes out what educated belly dancers should know. Yvonne of South Florida Something exciting: Developing an online presence Staying home has motivated me to do what I always wanted to do. To revise my offerings to fit this new life. Covid put a fire under me.
60 minutes | 4 months ago
Can Belly Dancers Still Use the Word “Tribal”? Thoughts from Abigail Keyes – 046
What should we call tribal fusion now that Indigenous leaders have spoken? Professor Keyes from the Salimpour School hashes out what educated belly dancers should know. Abigail Keyes (pronounced like “eyes” with a K) is one educated and informed belly dancer! Not only is she one of just 5 dancers in the world to hold dual certification in both the Suhaila and Jamila Salimpour formats, but she also studied at Near Eastern Studies at Princeton and Arabic at Georgetown and she is currently an adjunct professor out in California at Mills College. Abby actually teaches a course on the history of modern dance in the US. And she is a published author as well as the Director of the Berkeley Salimpour Collective. In show #38 of this podcast Suhaila Salimpour speaks on cultural appropriation, politics and community. Suhaila Salimpour on Bal Anat, Jamila, and their Legacy - 038 Find out why Suhaila walked off the nightclub stage at 28, how we can show respect for the cultural origins of belly dance, and how her mother Jamila Salimpour danced her cooking. Abigail is also what I would call an expert on these topics as well as a big part of the Salimpour community. She is one of the dancers most closely connected to the Salimpour family and school. Abby continues to enrich our minds and our American belly dance culture with thoughtful perspectives and often actionable findings bundled in kindness and the understanding that we are all in a different place in our learning journeys. Welcome to the show Abby. It is wonderful to have you here.” If you open the “Connect” page on Abby’s website akeyesdance.com, you can sign up for her newsletter, which is one of my favorites, as well as connecting with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube. Danceable Ritual: Breathe. Get connected to your breath before you teach or perform. Danceable Song: Mafi Noum (No sleep) by Najwa Karam This song with Lebanese singer Najwa Karam has Latin dance vibes, debke flavor and also hints of India music influence. She vocalizes the rhythm, the doums and teks like musicians do sometimes in Indian music. https://open.spotify.com/track/6q20OD7qI68txdhBwzDudI?si=E-2nBrinTByL91swnNthVQ https://youtu.be/tHu9cs1lfZs And a shout out to Shashkin and Ya Ayn Mawlaitain! Modern Standard Arabic vs Dialects of Arabic In academia they teach modern standard Arabic, but no one speaks it! Choose a dialect that you want to learn based on what you want to do with it. Dance Move: 123& (single, single, three quarter) It’s a move from the Salimpour Format, Jamila vocabulary. It’s a chasse. It’s right at :49 in this class combo video: https://youtu.be/38r1SE-fcp8?t=49 The way you think is sexy. It’s not the move. It’s the reason behind it. Why are you moving the way that you are moving? Ex: Just learning a move? Refining your technique? Ego driven (look at me! look at me!)? Or really feeling it. When you do a move, how and why are you doing it? Even if it is just an arm wave. When the move is paired with eyes, expression and intent, that is when it can get sexy. Fifi Abdou owns it. She’s not doing acrobatics. She has feeling when she dances. https://www.instagram.com/tv/CCrkxyrgxkl/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet https://www.instagram.com/tv/CCEjm2tg5am/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet The Salimpour method gets accused of just being moves and technique. But then you get to level 3 and above, it becomes about your truth. Your expression. Being able to own it. Suhaila Salimpour's Former Assistant Anna on Dance Secrets & Snuggles - 036 Suhaila's student and friend Anna Horn shares some of the surprising elements of Suhaila's format, reminisces about Jamila Salimpour's finger cymbals, and shows us how the pets we love can inspire us to dance. Zumba vs Belly Dance With Zumba you have no cultural responsibility. It’s fun, but it’s not a dance form. You don’t need to learn anything about a language or culture. If you learn a dance form, you are responsible for culture. Ballet is an ethnic dance. It has origins. It has roots. This is always going to be a big struggle for belly dance. People want to exercise and have community and have fun, and we all love that. But the people who are going to stick around are curious and interested in the context. One of my students said “I’m going to finish up my dance card and then go back to Zumba”. Ok, so this isn’t your thing. How do we negotiate being guests in a dance form where we are not from the culture of origin? How would you want a guest to behave in your house? I got injured and had recurring issues. I tore my hamstring in grad school. I was getting a dance degree. “Your injury is a gift. It will give you information about how to take care of your body.” Even if you are injured and you can’t dance, go to class and take notes. Watch the instructor. That will inform how you will return to the dance class. Sometimes it takes something terrible to help you realize how to make it better instead of just limping along. My glutes were not balanced. Doing belly dance to rehabilitate after an injury. Traditional Chinese Medicine has really helped my body Feeding the yin and yang in your body. It isn’t just about exercise. Vegan whole food: Potatoes and Mushrooms Starches and sugars have been getting a bad rap in the media. But they are good for you! Whole grains are different from refined grains and sugars. Potatoes are versatile. Root vegetables feel good. Things that are grown in the earth give you extra bacteria and vitamins from the soil. Russet potatoes are great for baking. Slice potatoes like British chips and bake on parchment paper, and then add salt, paprika or cumin. Sweet potatoes are so good. Portabella, Pear & Tempeh Bake (Vegan and Gluten-Free) Sweet baked pear is the perfect compliment to balsamic marinated portabella mushrooms and protein-packed tempeh. This recipe has very little prep time, but takes a little time to marinate and bake. Serve with millet, red quinoa or another whole grain. Baked Tempeh (That's Way Better Than Bacon 🙂 Tempeh is the ideal vegan party food that meat eaters also love. When baked, it’s great finger food for gatherings. Baked tempeh is also easy to pack up and take as a snack for a festival or camping trip. Tempeh is great in sandwiches. Protein-rich, nutty and delicious. Marinated tempeh is also a wonderful food for a vegan Halloween party because the fermented soy beans can masquerade as boils, warts, and other gross stuff. Consider making a big batch that you can enjoy all week or just cut this recipe in half. 40 minutes Feeds 8 people when served with vegetable and grain […] Food anxiety. Allergic to wheat! It is grounding to sit down and eat dinner together. Something to look forward to. Can belly dancers use the term tribal? Words can change meaning depending on how they are used and who uses them. We are seeing more indigenous communities speak up against the use of the word “tribal” by non-indigenous people, saying that it perpetuates stereotypes and racism. The use of this term has been causing harm. Even if we did not know that before, we can know that now. https://www.nevadacurrent.com/2020/02/05/forum-highlights-pain-caused-by-cultural-appropriation-in-festivals/ It’s hard to realize that the word we have been using for this dance that we love is racist. Being able to adjust what you are doing is growth. Sometimes growth is realizing that we have caused others harm. We are guests in the belly dance culture. Each of us has to come up with our own answer to what that means. Each of us comes from a different background and experience and experiences of institutional racism. Sometimes the way that we present is not reflective of our family or cultural history. Everyone is in a different point in their learning. Public shaming and public callouts are ableist. Call in. Don’t call out. What terms can belly dance use instead of tribal? ATS (American Tribal Style) is now called Fat Chance Belly Dance Style Amy Sigil changed from ITS (Improvisational Tribal Style) to Individual Team Sync There’s a difference between making mistakes and being new to belly dance and being experienced and digging in your heels and not changing just because you feel threatened. Dance community leaders talk about emotional labor. How much uncompensated work should leaders in the community do to educate people? There is a balance. Just have a list of resources you could share. How has your formal college education influenced your dancing? Theory, history, and context. Context is everything. Understanding how things happen and how that can affect the future. I had a history teacher in high school who asked, “What is the significance of this event?” They weren’t asking about dates. What were the effects of this event? Why do we keep talking about it? Where is this taking us? And also, understanding sources. I also worked at the CIA for 8 years. And a source can make or break a claim. If your source material is weak, like a lot of the historical material on belly dance that we have, you don’t want to base your education on it. The same is true for teaching. If your source is just hearsay or rumor, or, to use a current term – fake news – then you lose credibility. Be comfortable with ambiguity. Be comfortable with disagreeing. Be aware of “Wishery” – Wishful history Is belly dance ancient goddess dance? We hear that belly dance is ancient goddess dance, and it’s for women only. But if you dig into historical record, you find out belly dance is not just for cis-gendered women, and it’s not ancient goddess dance. It is ephemeral and always changing. You don’t have to agree with everything that has been written. But be responsible about it and know your why. And have your why based in sources and reliable reporting. What is the definition of belly dance? Is belly dance an ancient birthing dance done by the bedside of a woman giving birth? Maybe. If belly dance is just a collection of movements with no cultural or performative elements, then sure interior hip circles and undulations would be helpful for birthing. Is belly dance a performative dance? Are you performing your birth? We don’t even have a good name for what we do. Belly dance is just make up by Sol Bloom in the late 19th century, and that came from French. And Raqs Sharqi, the Arabic term for performative belly dance And Raqs Beledi, the Arabic term for countryside folk dance. But what about Turkish belly dance? And American belly dance? Non-dancers understand the term belly dance. If you say “oriental dance” to someone they might think East Asia. So what do you call belly dance? There is not an agreed upon definition of it. It keeps unfolding and becoming more and more. It’s an exciting endless process of learning. 11 Arabic Words Every Belly Dancer Should Know Abigail Keyes of the Salimpour School teaches us 11 words from popular Arabic dance songs that will help us understand our favorite belly dance songs. Learn more on the belly dance podcast A Little Lighter episode 46 Some Arabic words every belly dancers should know 1. “‘Omr” (pronounced “oh-mrr”) means life https://open.spotify.com/track/0uQ6cs4nEV0EWJTJOoeXSv?si=0feVZTjYR-aza_ew1gL7_g 2. “Hayat” means life 3. “Qalb” means heart 4. “Hobb / Hubb” is related to love https://open.spotify.com/track/0qMQdy1gDqLF233XXPO3uv?si=Jr5LC113Q3-Dz_NtELgdQA 5. Bahebbek means I love you 6. Layla means Night 7. Nar means fire https://youtu.be/W_5tfVKDnY4 8. Qamar means moon https://open.spotify.com/track/0WcFWvjYOAEFJn1LuvqX7F?si=wRyJ5Ci0Q4eRxxY35gHpDQ 9. Beled means the land you come from 10. Raqs means dance 11. Taqsim means solo improvisation https://youtu.be/2ExL9ILPPeY While learning a language we can slow down songs and other sound files with the app Audiopo Check out Abby’s articles: https://www.akeyesdance.com/arabic-basics-for-belly-dancers/ https://www.akeyesdance.com/dancers-dont-do-these-things-with-arabic/ https://www.akeyesdance.com/a-brief-guide-to-arabic-transliteration/ How do you find translations of belly dance song lyrics? Post on a related Facebook group asking for help translating a song! You can offer to pay someone to translate it. There are a lot of native speakers in the belly dance scene who could help you. You don’t need to do it on your own. Be curious. Everyone’s translations will be different. Try to find a translator on Fiverr and other platforms for finding translations. And Google translate is helpful at first. Costume tip: Don’t spend more money on your costumes than you do on your training. And make sure your costume matches your performance and style of your movement! In fusion forms, sometimes dancers are wearing a lot of stuff and doing modern and contemporary movements. But the costume hinders their music! Your presentation should be a whole picture. Movement first, music, then what you are wearing, hair and makeup. Not just a bunch of things you like that don’t actually go together. Feel Good Look Good Habit: Eat Well, Feel Well, Look Good If I don’t eat a whole food plant-based diet, everything else feels icky. It’s very personal. For me it’s all about the food. Many people have complicated relationships with food and their body. I also acknowledge and honor that. What is something exciting coming up? The 2020 Prague Bal Anat show was postponed to March 2021, and I’m really excited about that. Now there is more time to prepare and more time to get costumes together. There will be a time in the future when we can gather and dance together and not just see each other on the screen.
48 minutes | 4 months ago
Iana on Being an Artist AND Making Money as a Dancer – 045
Find out how podcast host Iana Komarnytska made her passion for Middle Eastern dance into an abundant business, get tips for creating a clear website, and hear why it is so important for belly dancers to study folk dance styles. I am very excited to feature fellow belly dance podcaster Iana today! Podcasters unite! In addition to hosting the podcast Belly Dance Life and the online Iana Dance Club, Iana is an award winning international performer and belly dance instructor. https://youtu.be/dTlcmGTVrSU?t=42 She was the first choreographer to use triple isis wings, and she is a sought after Persian style dancer as well. That makes me miss dancing in the Persian dance troupe in my city. Iana teaches Persian Classical and Turkish Roma style too. Iana also lectures and writes on historical connections between belly dance and ballet. We’d love to hear more about that! Iana is originally from the Ukraine and currently based between Canada and Ukraine. I follow Iana on Instagram because her photos are full of light and gorgeous. You can find her on Iana_dance on Instagram and ianadance.com. I am on her list serve because she keeps it really positive and practical. When Iana sent out an email with Books For Entrepreneurial Dancers that included books that have changed so many of our lives like Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad” and Tony Robbin’s “Awaken the Giant Within”, I had to get her on A Little Lighter. Especially in 2020 when so many of us are in scarcity mode, we can still grow our abundance mindsets and help more and more people dance and feel good, starting with ourselves. Danceable Ritual: 3 Minute Morning Washroom Drills When you are still sleepy and you walk into the bathroom in the morning, do your 2-5 minute drill. If you do it first thing, you will stay on track. Don’t leave the washroom until your drill is done. Decide what you want to improve and develop a drill you can do daily. For example, you can do a sequence of 10 diaphragm and belly muscle drills. Upper belly, lower belly, together, diaphragm, up and down. Or use a timer and work on shimmies. One minute on one hip, then one minute on the other, then both at the same time. Do the same drill for a couple months so you see the difference in your dance. You don’t necessarily need a mirror to see what you are doing. It’s more about using the space to keep you on track. You don’t need to dedicate an hour each day, but everyone has 4 minutes to practice each day. Iana’s Danceable Song: Afghani song Yak Qadam Pesh All of the featured songs are from previous episodes are also on the Belly Dance Body and Soul playlist It’s not a belly dance song, but it is upbeat and gets us dancing. If you are feeling unmotivated, dance to any music that is upbeat. It doesn’t need to be belly dance music. https://open.spotify.com/track/26wcC7QeqEKPEQNb52Cje5?si=w2_iV7FtQKqs0ShEVnSynQ Yak Qadam Pesh lyrics English translation from google translate: One step forward, one step back Nazanin gives you a dance Raise your shoulders The drunkenness in your eyes is a note One step forward, one step back Nazanin gives you a dance Come on in, take a look and enjoy yourself! Vari Let's sing a couplet like a nightingale Vari This high height, God forbid Is Sprinkle hair spray like lavender One step forward, one step back Nazanin gives you a dance Another Afghani song by a singer that Alicia loves from the 1970s Ahmad Zahir: https://open.spotify.com/track/4hcE1xdGGYMvSP9EBfgpZ7?si=UHCdbB7ORcqGSYdrKGE8eQ Best Practices for Belly Dance Websites Your website is not your biography. It is not a description of all of your activities. It does not need to tell everything about you. It serves a certain goal. Your website is a tool. If you have more than one goal, you may need more than one website. For example, the goal of your website may be to attract clients to hire you to belly dance at their event. Only include the information relevant to the goal of your website Do not confuse visitors You can acknowledge other services you offer, but think from the perspective of the visitor and keep it clear and clean If your website is confusing and has too much information, people will just close it. Structure your website conveniently for the user. There is no problem with having a lot of information on your website, but it should be organized and relevant information. For most of us, activities change and projects add up, so from time to time look at it from the start and remove things or start from scratch. Make it easy for the visitor. Make sure there is space for the visitors’ eyes to rest. How to Make Money as a Belly Dancer Alicia: So many of us dancers think we can’t make good money from teaching and performing. It’s a scarcity mindset. There aren’t enough gigs, customers, students, venues, etc. I feel that way with our band. When you recently shared links to Rich Dad Poor Dad, Tony Robbins, and other abundance mindset and business resources, I was thrilled. Tell us what books and/or teachers have helped you see the belly dance business as an opportunity rather than a struggle. Iana: The moment that you think someone else took your place, you are limiting ourself to think you only have that place. We are competing based on improving our skills or our services. And you can learn so much about business for artists from podcasts like Don’t Keep Your Day Job. It is about transforming passion into work. Anything can bring you abundance. Any idea can be transformed and there is space for everyone. To develop this abundance mindset, listen to the stories of others who have already done this. Don’t let your own scarcity barriers stop you. This helped me see belly dance as an abundant business. You cannot just stay in your dance studio and hope someone will discover you and come give you a bunch of money for staying in your studio. It’s not just about leaving your job and saying everything will be fun. Some people dream about being a full time performer, but even if you get all of the gigs it’s not enough for a full time job. So be more creative. Add something more to your offerings. Create your own unique opportunities. We can support our competitors. We can refer gigs we cannot do to other dancers. We want the gigs to stay in the professional belly dance community. Other people also work hard to get gigs. Focus on improving our own skills and services. Alicia mentioned the Blue Ocean Strategy Cirque du Soleil example and nurturing the desire for people to have belly dance at their restaurants and events. How to Get Out of Your Head & Into Your Body - Cera Byer - 039 California belly dancer and twerking instructor Cera Byer talks about fearless improvisation, clear choreography, and taking "exquisite care" of ourselves. About Iana’s Online Classes and Dance Club It started with a Patreon account. The Iana Dance Club added social exploration of belly dance to prerecorded classes that are available at any time. So we feel that we are dancing and learning in a group, rather than alone. Every week you get a 20 minute technique video. It can be used as a daily workout, or as the beginning of training session to get you ready to dance. When we start each training session, we can be confused about what is the most useful thing to do first. This takes away the decision making task that often stops us from starting a training session. Every week you get an addition motivational message that makes the club more social. And club members share their videos and comment on each other’s videos. Some people just want access to videos. Some people need social support and the feeling like they are moving on in a group. Detailed individual feedback on participant videos is another option. Photo by Pedro Bonatto. https://www.ianadance.com/photo What Damn Sexy Dance Move would you like to share? There is no move that can be sexy without expression and emotion. Shoulder rolls are so close to your face. Bring attention to your face. Juicy slow motion shoulder rolls combined with emotion on your face is sexy. Think Marilyn Monroe. The intention in the upper body, shoulders and face. And Samia Gamal. Her tiny but juicy shoulder rolls that bring you to her face and emotion. https://youtu.be/DzG20oCSsX0?t=71 A Short and Sweet History of Belly Dance from 1900-1960s: From Folk to Fame - ALLAF 023 From Badia Masabni's night clubs to belly dance movie stars like Samia Gamal, and from Suhalia up through the Women's Rights Movement. The 2nd show on the History of Belly Dance. You are a big proponent for learning folk dances. What are your favorite folk dance forms and why? Uzbek folk dances have a unique dance vocabulary. For example, in the Khorezm (a region in Uzbekistan) Lazgi (shiver) folkdance style there is legend of a woman who was picking cherries and she fell and broke her arms and legs. Her husband was a king. She was known for her dancing. When they had visitors, he asked her to dance for them. She danced with broken arms and broken limbs. Yeah, I have broken arms and broken limbs. But I still dance. And I’m still playful. https://youtu.be/kHJnojTzFT0 (Here is a video that explains Khorezm Lazgi more) Folklore teaches not only different dance vocabulary, but also character and acting skills. Each folkloric style has it’s own moods. It gets the mood into your body. Some folkloric styles are more moody, or focused on the people around the dancer, or more inward. You need to get into the character of this folkloric dance and mood. This teaches us acting skills that we can bring into our belly dance. Vegan whole food to love: Black dates stuffed with fresh strawberries Inspired by a Farmer’s Market vendor in Brazil. Black dates are more moist. They have a texture more like very thick jam. This is better than chocolate. They are different color than fresh dates. They are not white. They are dark wet dates, sometimes from Iran. Strawberry Stuffed Dates This simple and fancy vegan dessert has no added sugar, but so much sweetness. It is great finger food for parties or an after dinner treat. Try peaches, cherries or other fruit wrapped in a delicious soft date. Belly Dance Costume Tip: Sew velcro onto your undies You want your costume to be as secure as possible. Add hooks, snaps, and/or velcro so it all stays in place. You can even sew velcro onto your underwear and skirts/belts so they stick together and the skirt stays in place and does not go around you. Your technique and connection to music is exceptional. What do you think has helped you the most on your journey to becoming the award winning performer you are now? The title “award-winning dancers” does not determine our dance journey and passion, but it can become great motivation to improve and grow. Competition is a tool. Use competition as a way to improve. Do not put too much emphasis on the results. Mistakes are opportunities to improve your dance and diagnose your weakness. Feel-good-look-good habit: Put on some light make up and do an interesting hair style even if you are just at home. It can lift your mood. Dress up and put on makeup. Performers often are sparkling on stage but in pajamas at home. Do makeup for yourself. Do crazy experiments. Something exciting coming up: Iana’s Business for Belly Dancers Course How to get belly dance gigs, prepare for gigs, etc.
49 minutes | 5 months ago
Suhaila: Popping & Locking & Birthing her Belly Dance Format – 044
Find out how Suhaila, Jamila and The Salimpour School have shaped the history of belly dance and fused elements of hip hop dance with traditional Middle Eastern Dance. Great Suhaila Salimpour Quotes From This Podcast Interview: “And that’s how we have all these hard contractions in belly dance now, pop and lock…People just think that always been a part of belly dance, like Cleopatra brought that in…It’s because of me and Walter Freeman.” “I can create and teach the strongest possible dancer in each person” “I made a choice to focus on my school and my students. There is only so much energy and time…I’m not on stage any more, but I am on stage. Thousands of people have a piece of me in them.” “Get Belly Dance into Dance Departments in Academia.” “We have to be able to have conversations with other dance forms in their language…We have to be able to talk about the body, about the history, about the anatomy and physiology, about the culture, about the music.” “Bal Anat is this whisper inside all of us…of our ancestors.” “With Bal Anat, we are not just entertaining. We are a part of you. We come through the audience, we grab your spirit, and you dance with us.” The whole transcript of this podcast interview with Suhaila: Alicia: In episode 38, Suhaila dove into the politics of all dance, not just belly dance, and the changes in dance in the Middle East over the past few decades. Cultural appropriation, the trends that continue to fragment the belly dance community, the lack of foundational training ground that all belly dancers agree on, and much more. Well, Suhaila is back. And we have another great interview coming your way. Just in case this is your first time listening to A Little Lighter, I will introduce you to the belly dance legend that is Suhaila Salimpour. Suhaila Salimpour on Bal Anat, Jamila, and their Legacy - 038 Find out why Suhaila walked off the nightclub stage at 28, how we can show respect for the cultural origins of belly dance, and how her mother Jamila Salimpour danced her cooking. The Salimpour School, format, and name have influenced so much of our belly dance in the U.S, as well as worldwide. The mother of tribal belly dance Jamila Salimpour was also the mother of our guest Suhaila. Born in the ’60s, Suhaila, grew up with her mother’s format, and the groundbreaking troupe Bal Anat. Suhaila has studied an array of Western and Eastern dance forms. She spent 10 years performing to live music in fancy night clubs in the Middle East, and Los Angeles. In the ’90s, she began the Suhaila Dance Company, started directing the troupe her mother started Bal Anat, and created the very widely respected Suhaila Salimpour Belly Dance Certification Program. Both Suhaila and Jamila have done an unbelievable amount of work to raise belly dance up as an art form. This lineage of dancers and teachers, Suhaila and her mother Jamila, has given us so much, including pop and lock, and glute isolations that we all know and love in belly dance today. This is another chance for us to hear Suhaila’s story. How Suhaila Developed the Salimpour Format Suhaila: Well, my format found me. So, I am my mother’s daughter. I’m such a good soldier, and I took it for granted. My mother was the first person to put names to steps in a comprehensible pathway of learning and developing in this dance form. And so, growing up in all of that, I thought everybody trained this way in belly dance. But at the same time, simultaneously, I was also being trained in other dance forms. So, I was born with really bad scoliosis. I was severely pigeon toed, and would trip over my feet. And I had those Forrest Gump braces on my legs, where it was like this metal brace around my hips, and these rods down my legs, with these Frankenstein shoes. And that didn’t work. And my scoliosis, and my pigeon-toedness were not getting any better. So, my mom had this really brilliant idea of throwing me into ballet, and Western dance forms because she saw that ballet dancers walked in a turnout. And she was like, “Well, maybe that will help.” Right? So, my mom threw me into all different kinds of dance forms. But I was really lucky because I was exposed to really great, brilliant ballet teachers. And the dance teachers that I had were speaking muscularly. So, not just, “Okay, heels together, turn your feet out.” And not just like, “Bend your knees, and then straighten.” They were talking about what muscles to use, how to wrap the body, how to hold your posture, the internal mechanics of all of this. So, as I was getting older, I was really confused why in belly dance we would say things like “hip drop”, or we would say like “twist like the inside of a washing machine”. Where maybe in its day that breakdown was major. Like I remember in the ’50s and ’60s where my mom would say “twist like the inside of a washing machine”. It was revolutionary to get any direction at all. But as movement was maturing, and we were heading into the fitness era, this kind of explanation like “hip drop” was just not comparable to the way I was being trained in other dance forms. So, the other thing that happened during this time was that … Now, we take things so for granted, we have iTunes. We have Shazam. Literally, at a fingertip, we’re exposed to music from all over the world. And it’s incredible. But back in my day, this was not the case. So, sometimes things would take a decade before it would even go from the Middle East and get to the United States. And also people were way more protective of their property. Now, there’s just no boundaries. You have a phone, you flip it out, and you press record, and you feel entitled to have access to anybody’s image, or behavior at any time. In the ’70s, this was not the case at all. So, one day, my mom had a student that called her. And she had just come back from being in Egypt where the student had seen like all the top dancers in Egypt. And she had illegally, not law-wise illegally, but illegally by the artist’s request, recorded her show, her music. So, she had a little teeny tape recorder, which was … Now, when I show my daughter what a small tape recorder it was, she laughs because it’s the size of her laptop. So, she had this little teeny tape recorder. And she put it in her purse, and she left her purse open, and she pressed record. And she recorded Nagwa Fouad’s live show. So, when she came back to the states, she called my mom and was like, “You are not going to believe what I heard.” And so, my mom called all her top students from that day … So, this was like the mid to late ’70s. And we all sat around my kitchen table, and the tape recorder was placed in the middle of the kitchen table. And we all hovered over this tape recorder like magic was going to come out. The History of Belly Dance Starting with the 1970s: Feminism, Flights & Stigma - 028 Celebrate 1970s Strictly Belly Dance records by Eddie the Sheik, admire the moves of Egyptian belly dance star Mona Said, and take a peek into stigma and the gritty lives of many belly dancers in Cairo now. And it was one of those defining moments of my life. Like I can feel it today. I can smell the smells of my mother’s cooking in the kitchen like today. And she pressed play. And out came this music, this orchestra, we could tell it was at least 35, 40 pieces. It was just so grand. You could hear the size of the audience, and the vibration, and the excitement. It was unbelievable, to this day, I was really lucky, and I didn’t know it, of course, but I grew up in Bal Anat. And I grew up going to nightclubs with my mom as a child all the time, but they were American, and they were Americanized. And so, there was a little bit still of that orientalism and fantasy. And so, hearing this music, I really put into context what’s happening in the Middle East, what’s happening here. But what happened was that my mind, my fantasy self was dancing to this music. And fantasy me, the dancer in my head was fantastic. I was killing it. And then there was this moment where my heart sank. And I was like 12. My heart sank because I realized I could not do what the dancer in my head was doing. And this killed me because to this point I had been on stage for a decade, by the time I was 12. I was my mom’s top student. I was her muse. I could do anything. I was already innovating within the Jamila format and contributing to the Jamila format under the umbrella of the Jamila format. And I had had years of other dance training foundation, and other dance forms. I was feeling confident dance-wise. And I was like, “Wow, I am not the dancer in my head.” This experience changed everything for me. I realized that I needed to break apart, and redo absolutely everything in belly dance. And try to figure out how to integrate it intellectually, like with basic anatomy and physiology as that foundation of every single belly dance move that I do. So I could become the dancer in my head and do the things that I saw in my head. And so, that’s when I pulled out anatomy books, and I was looking at the anatomy coloring book that everybody used. It is still fantastic. And I dug my fingers into my body. And I would look at the anatomy book, and be like, “Okay, well, is that this muscle?” And then as I would move, I would feel where the contraction was, and I’d make notes. I was making notes like, is this movement with this muscle? Is this movement in this muscle? And then I took all my notes into my doctor. And I said,
27 minutes | 5 months ago
Art of the Belly’s Naimah on Goth & Modern Belly Dance – 043
Hear Naimah’s tips on great eye makeup and how to get your dance costume to stay in place. And find out how modeling and studying burlesque can help us belly dancer better. Naimah is known for her mystique, theatrical performances and gothic flair. She is a drop-dead gorgeous Baltimore-based visual artist who started belly dancing back in 1999. She has performed at many festivals including Tribal Fest and Bellypalooza, and other events with great names like Belly Horror and Raven’s Night. She has judged and danced in competitions, and been featured in a music video, and also been on the news. She’s a very interesting dancer that you are going to love meeting virtually in this interview. Naimah on Instagram Naimah on Facebook Naimah’s website Naimah’s Danceable Ritual: Practice Belly Dance sword and cane moves with utensils in your kitchen when you take them out of the drawer Alicia: Like many of us belly dancers, you started by learning Egyptian style cabaret. Now a lot of your performances are very theatrical, sometimes dark with gothic elements and you describe your niche as Modern belly dance. Tell us about that. https://youtu.be/lG_yzvxXrAA?t=258 What does Modern Belly Dance mean to Naimah? Naimah loves Arabic music and costuming, and also loves to belly dance alternative, industrial and gothic and dark wave. In Naimah’s dancing and photos, you can see this conflict. A lot of what she does it experimental in a modern art sort of way. There are still cab (cabaret) elements in Naimah’s costuming and dancing, but then there’s the dark stuff that comes in every now and then. Naimah belly dances to the music in the goth clubs. Naimah’s Danceable Song: Poison Drop by Maduro The “Electribal” music artist Maduro was married to a belly dancer, and a lot of Maduro music is very danceable. This is great dubstep for sword dancing! https://open.spotify.com/track/6DoJ7suV04xz5x6l7cs0WG?si=TqYMyQx4QjGXy5t3eBaBug The Black Room is another great Maduro song to belly dance to (it’s on Bandcamp, but not Spotify) Naimah is a co-director of Art of the Belly, an annual belly dance festival in Ocean City Maryland. What makes “Art of the Belly” special? Naimah: It was originally a place for local dancers to get together and perform, and it has exploded from there. It is a home for the belly dance community to showcase what they have been working on, be around other dancers and be immersed in everything that is belly dance. It is a way to give back to the community. On Saturday nights there is an after party that explodes through the hotel. It’s so much fun. Jo Boring is one of the party planners! ITS Instructor Jo Boring on Authenticity & Contagiously Fun Shows - 035 Hear how murder mystery writer Jo loves the process of preparing for a performance even more than the show and values sharing experiences with other dancers more than perfection in the spotlight. And she likes to set drinks on fire... What do you enjoy about belly dancing to live music? Naimah: I enjoy the challenge of it. I enjoy being more my vulnerable self…It doesn’t always go as planned…It’s nice to be up there with other people. You are part of them, and they are part of you… It comes together as a collaboration of art. Ishtar Pittsburgh’s BellyRock Band Naimah’s Dance Move: Belly Flutters and Bicycle Hips into upward undulations https://youtu.be/EPVHJFjCJ8Y Has modeling influenced Naimah’s belly dance style? Naimah: Yes. It adds to the variety of poses. What I do with my arms and hands and facial expressions. Make pauses in the song juicy with a nice pose. How does studying Burlesque help belly dancers? Naimah: Burlesque helps with bringing out the character in both posing and performing. What is one vegan whole food that you love? Rice. And Furikake. Naimah likes Nori Komi Furikake made by Ajishima. There are so many kinds. Some just have sesame seeds and seaweed, others add salt and or sugar and other ingredients. Some have bonito, which is made from fish. Furikake is similar to gomasio, which is a condiment my family eats often. Toasting sesame seeds makes a kitchen smell like heaven. Then we grind them gently with sea salt. Adding some nori or other sea vegetable to that is such a good idea! Nori is packed with calcium, minerals, vitamins. It’s amazing. It’s too bad we don’t incorporate more sea vegetables into American cuisine. There are different edible sea vegetables that grow on coasts all over the world. Ireland, Maine. It’s not just Asia. Belly Dance Costume Tip #1: Sew big snaps onto your costumes where you have been using safety pins. Stop getting stabbed by safety pins! Add sew-on snaps on your bra on the side without the hooks. Add snaps to your belt, and your skirt and your shorts or underwear. Then everything snaps together and stays in place. Try using snaps that are the size of a quarter. You don’t need that many. Just one will keep most belts in place. Belly Dance Costume Tip #2: Use automatic pencil eyeliner under matte black liquid liner. And use an eyeliner base. Experiment! Work with the shape of your eyes and eyebrows. Try using an eyeshadow base or eyeliner base if you have more oily skin so it stays on. Create albums of eye makeup ideas and looks that you like from Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook and add something to different to them based on the shape of your eyes. The eyeliner pencils that you need to sharpen can cut up your eyes. https://www.instagram.com/p/CA6eMt2FDvm/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet https://www.instagram.com/p/B_0K9c5F1N0/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet Naimah’s feel good look good habit: Be creative. Dance. Do your makeup. Be creative. Plan projects a day before or a week before. What is Naimah looking forward to? The Old Skool Anthology Show 2020 hosted by Glenna of Shimmy Sista and the super shiny costume that Naimah is making for the show! https://youtu.be/h0bgZlzeEsE
59 minutes | 6 months ago
Kaeshi Chai on Bellydance Superstars and Bellyqueen – 042
New York City Belly Dancer Kaeshi talks about touring the world as a dancer, screaming when dancing, and Beauty Reimagined. And her doumbek playing husband Brad Mack gives us tips on how to become a better performer. About Kaeshi KAESHI CHAI of New York City has performed in 39 countries with names like Natasha Atlas, INXS, Belly Dance Superstars, Raya Brass Band, on Conan O’Brien and many more screen and stage appearances. She is also a theatrical director, teacher trainer, and award winning designer. She has extensive training in contemporary dance, physical theatre (mimes, clowns, storytelling through dance, Lecoq) and Silk Road dances spanning the Middle East to China. She was actually the first US-based belly dance teacher that ever taught in mainland China. I saw Kaeshi belly dance to live music a few years ago, and it was gorgeous, classy and memorable. You can see much more of what Kaeshi has to offer on Kaeshi.com. Kaeshi co-founded the professional dance company and school, Bellyqueen, which looks like it sometimes takes place in Ubud in Bali, one of my favorite places. Kaeshi also co-founded PURE (Public Urban Ritual Experiment), a global community focused on healing and social change through dance and music. www.pureglobe.org One of her all time joys is dancing to live music so, in 2007, she set up Djam NYC, a weekly event that has been running since 2007. This event was a chance for dancers and musicians to create and play together. Kaeshi has also performed with one of my favorite bands, Djinn. (Also spelled with a silent D). I’ve mentioned Carmine Guida and Melissa the Loud in previous episodes, and they were part of that wonderful group as well. Drum Solo Tips & More from Dazzling Lady Drummer Casey Bond - ALLAF 020 As a drummer in some of the best belly dance bands in New York, Casey teaches us about the soul of belly dance rhythms in the belly dance classic song Laylet Hob, what drummers like to see in dancers, and how to fully enjoy dancing and life. I believe Kaeshi has also performed with the adorable smiley drummer Casey Bond that I featured in episode 20, and Dalia Carella who was featured in episode 18. World Fusion Dancer Dalia Carella of NYC Tells us Like it is - ALLAF 018 Discover Dalia's secrets on doing belly dance fusion well, find out why she dances Flamenco Arabe on beautiful angles, and know what to do next time your inner voice says, "I'm not sexy enough". If you enjoy this show with Kaeshi, please pop over to aliciafree.com, subscribe to this podcast, and check out previous podcast episodes that just might give you just what you are looking for. Kaeshi, do you have a Danceable Ritual you would like to share? Shower dancing. Choreograph in the shower. The water falls, your mind goes blank, and you get inspired. What are some common improvements belly dancers can make? Percussionist Brad Mack answers the question: Be yourself on stage. Don’t worry about wearing someone else’s smile or playing a character who is a dancer. It is so much more compelling when someone is just themselves with all the glorious imperfections. Take the ultimate risk of being seen. Become a master of your expression. How do you become a performer that others want to work with? I would rather work with the person who shows up with joy in their heart than the person who is really technically sound but may be difficult to work with. – Carmine Guida If you show up and you maintain positivity, the more opportunities you get. The more opportunities you get, the better you get. – Brad In a way we are all kind of emulating something. Not being of this culture, unless I dedicate my life to it, I will probably never be a truth to the way I play. Because I did not grow up with it. So I have to give myself permission to be myself. – Brad To live life without comparison is to live life with integrity. – Krishnamurti Part of taking lessons with somebody is learning about possibility. They are expanding your perspective on what is possible through vocabulary, transition, music choice, patterns. – Kaeshi Great vegan whole foods: Oatmilk and peanuts Have a glass of oatmilk with a sandwich or put it in your coffee. It’s so creamy. Add peanuts to anything. Marinate peanuts in soy sauce, cayenne, and a dash of sugar and stir fry them. Invigorating Vegan Matcha Milkshake Make yourself a fancy matcha latte at home and feel that caffeine make you want to shimmy 5 Minute Vegan Pizza with Avocado Sauce Whole food vegan pizza you can whip up super fast with tons of protein from avocados and fresh vegetables including red cabbage and carrots. Add some Indonesian flavor with dry roasted peanuts and enjoy. Feel good habits: Meditate, journal, exercise Exercising at home every day. It sets me up for the day and I look forward to it. I feel my best right after I do it. It’s almost a form of meditation, and it makes me feel good. It’s addictive at this point. My workouts are like treats. – Brad I meditate, shower, make the bed, journal, and reward myself with a cup of coffee. – Kaeshi Danceable song: Bone Dance by Deya Dova https://open.spotify.com/track/7Dlv5YXdRueoirHmJb0rEC?si=nAd3AuXQRd64UVjskmTY_A https://open.spotify.com/track/44GFw2XFGbBSVBUO88ZHYp?si=8M105PQ3TxKBcx_iz00dpA https://youtu.be/DrMSCEoTfmc Deya Dova is sometimes breathing with a volcano. “I love anything with an audible exhale, where you can hear the breath. As dancers, that is a powerful tool we can often forget about. How we can use our voice. Sometimes when I perform dance, I scream… Try using your voice when you perform because we realize how powerful it can be…I love watching dancers sometimes just dance to the sound of their breath.” – Kaeshi The PURE Reflections: In the Beauty Reimagined Tour, the premise of the show is learning to accept our reflection. Becoming our most whole self. The patterns that we fall into when we don’t feel good enough varies. It’s a shared experience with others. https://youtu.be/e9ShXmEe4eY https://youtu.be/aQiRa8yhjjs The Impure Conference World Fusion Dancer Dalia Carella of NYC Tells us Like it is - ALLAF 018 Discover Dalia's secrets on doing belly dance fusion well, find out why she dances Flamenco Arabe on beautiful angles, and know what to do next time your inner voice says, "I'm not sexy enough". The sensation of dancing in front of a large crowd. The power of a mass of people and how that can really fuel you. Some people say that when they climbed to the statue of Liberty they can feel the power of all the eyes looking up at her from the ground, ferries, and sky scrapers. When you are in front of a mass of people and you are the focus of their attention, all of this energy comes out of you. – Kaeshi What was it like to be part of Belly Dance Superstars in 2003? Touring with Belly Dance Super Stars was a test of endurance. It looked so glamorous on the outside. When you looked a little deeper…we’re sweating our asses off. We’re airing out our costumes. We had our bras suction cupped to the bus windows. It was a dream come true. In many ways I felt like an imposter, but I felt privileged that I could witness this. Along with the other co-founders of Belly Queen, I dreamed that there would be a professional company that could perform on stages that were shared by companies like contemporary ballet, flamenco, all of these other dance forms that are celebrated by the main stream. We wanted that for belly dance too…I am sad that there is no company that is still touring around regularly. There were opportunities for belly dancers from people like Bobby Farrah and Serena Wilson. It seems like a lot of these opportunities are no longer there. I feel like this dance form that we hold so dear does deserve a platform that enables it to be more seen. The 2020 Super Bowl Half-Time Show was Good for Belly Dance But recently in the super bowl J-Lo and Shakira were donning their hip scarves and shimmying up a storm. Are there links between meditation and dance? Meditation helps me thrive under pressure. Finding stillness in the eye of the storm. Do you have any tips for dancing confidently to live music? When I first moved to New York I saw so much live music and belly dance together. Some of the live music and belly dance venues in New York City were Cedars of Lebanon, Mezzo Mezzo, and Grisly Pear. A lot of the live music has disappeared. These days a dancer will dance to her iPod. If there’s a musician, they will play by themselves. Maybe 2. When I first came to New York, you had full bands. You had musicians playing all night. I think that what I witnessed was a scaled down version of the hey day in the 60s and 70s on 20th street, where they had music every night until 4 am. I learned so much from dancing to a band. Djam NYC ran for 10 years. This is an age-positive, body-positive, color-positive, gender-positive event for dancers new to dancing as well as professionals. It’s important for the younger generation to have the opportunity to dance to live music. Not only for the dancers, but for the musicians too. The musicians are aging as well. The ones who have experience are older. I am witnessing a split where not as many younger musicians have the same opportunities. Maybe it’s a budget thing. Venues are fast disappearing. It’s easier to have the dancer alone without the band, and the band without a dancer. Djam is now at the Secret Room in Midtown on 8th Ave between 44th and 45th Street. It’s every two weeks. I did not always enjoy dancing to live music. When I was a younger dancer I wanted everything to be perfect. Not knowing what the musicians would play…terrified me. When you want to look good and do a good job and you are not sure what is going to happen, it’s scary. Now I definitely prefer live music versus recorded music. And improv over choreography as a soloist. Have a regular practice of dancing for fun. Practice listening to music so you can start to anticipate where a song is going to go. I am not afraid now to get up and dance to a song I have never heard before. How have you grown from your Burning Man experience? I happened upon the Melton John Art Car, with world class pianos. I met a Turkish pianist. Since I went to Burning Man, I have been listening to more piano music and performing to it. Damn Sexy Dance Move: Inward Figure 8 It’s a foundational movement, so it’s not unique. When you twist one hip forward and you draw the hip bone in toward your sternum, to your heart, and then you shift your weight to the other foot, and twist the right hip front into your sternum. It’s like melted chocolate. It’s about slowing down and taking your time and savoring. That’s what makes it so sexy. Like outward and inward leg circles in ballet. The rond de jambe. That’s sexy too. You are tracing the floor. Your foot is a paint brush with wet paint. Take that same principle and apply that to your hips. Costume Tip: Put on your costume first even if you already know that it fits you. Maybe the elastic stretched out or some beads fell off and you forgot to fix it. Things happen to costumes. Sometimes velvet will stretch. Something exciting: The online Bellyqueen platform includes musicians. Bellyqueen Journey Along the Silk Road toured the world for 5 years I commissioned a professional animator Pete List… That’s my way of getting around having a bulky set. Drum classes with Rami El-Aasser
27 minutes | 6 months ago
Isabella Salimpour on Body Empowerment & Legacy – 041
Third generation belly dance star Isabella shares what she learned from Suhaila and Jamila Salimpour, talks about the magic of Bal Anat, and reflects on dancing illegally in Egypt at 8 years old. Learn more about the Salimpour School: SalimpourSchool.com SalimpourSchoolOnline.com About Isabella Salimpour: Isabella Salimpour is a third generation multidisciplinary artist, dancer, singer, and actress. Daughter of middle eastern dance instructor and performer, Suhaila Salimpour, and granddaughter of Jamila Salimpour. Isabella has been on stage since the early age of two, and assisting in her mother’s workshops since the age of eight. She learned Middle Eastern dance the traditional way, by watching and following at home. In addition to Middle Eastern dance, Isabella has studied a diverse range of movement and performance forms. Including ballet, jazz dance, tap, lyrical, musical theater, music composition, and vocal studies. She has been a featured performer in several of her mother’s evening length dance productions. Including as a soloist in Enta Omri, a contemporary Middle Eastern dance ballet. https://vimeo.com/72530689 And in Bal Anat, which we all know, the world’s longest running Middle Eastern dance company. She also has a passion for teaching. And has taught workshops to both children and adults at some of the world’s largest Middle Eastern dance festivals. Isabella lives in New York where she’s earning her BFA in music and jazz vocals, her bachelor in fine arts, at the renowned New School. She’s currently producing her forthcoming extended play, or EP, as we call it, which incorporates Middle Eastern motifs with ethereal melodies, and lyrics. Isabella, welcome to A Little Lighter. It’s so great to have you on the show. Isabella Salimpour: Hi! Thank you. I’m so happy to be here. Alicia Free: Do you have a danceable ritual that you would like to share? Danceable Ritual Isabella Salimpour: Yeah. I mean, I do it all the time. I dance when I’m cooking, when I’m watching TV, when I’m painting. Really any time I can incorporate it. I’ll be on the floor painting, doing my glute squeezes. It’s kind of not even on purpose, just happening. And then I’m like, “Oh, I’m in mid-dance move. Got it.” And before a show, I would say for me, I just have to listen to the music. I like having my own little private dress rehearsal before going on. Just to get my energy pumping and preparing for everything that’s about to happen. Alicia Free: So you like to be a little bit away from the other people in a production, having some of your own time before you get on stage? Isabella Salimpour: I do. Yeah. It really depends on what kind of dance I’m in, though. If I’m in a group dance, I’ll definitely want to be with all the people in the dance first, and kind of get our mojo running. Because it’s really about the energy and connecting, to make a good show. More than it is about I feel the choreography. Of course the choreography will be tight, but without the bond and the excitement, it lacks the sort of magic. So I think that’s super important. Then when I’m alone, I try and get my own little magic going on. So I’m like, “You go, girl.” You know, the usual. The use. Tell us more about glute squeezes… Alicia Free: Nice. Now, you were mentioning your glute exercises. Will you talk a little bit more about that? Because I think you’re the cover girl for the online program, and you’re doing some glute squeezes in the pictures. Is that right? Is that you in that picture? Yeah? Isabella Salimpour: Yeah. I do glute squeezes. I love them. I do them a lot for my friends. They think it’s very funny and awesome. And you can do them on beat with pretty much any song. But yeah, it’s just something that I notice I don’t even do on purpose. It’s just like, “Oh, okay, got it.” Alicia Free: It’s just incorporated into your everyday life, some glute squeezes. You’re on the floor and it’s glute squeeze time? Isabella Salimpour: Exactly. Yeah. It’s never planned. They just want to appear. They’re really excited. Alicia Free: You are certainly Suhaila Salimpour’s daughter. I love it. That’s so awesome. Danceable Song Alicia Free: Is there a danceable song that you would like to share? https://open.spotify.com/track/2fAX3QCiWLBaRxciJyq1Zi?si=G0-NUHnURqKKvrMgMr44rg Isabella Salimpour: Honestly, the songs that get me pumping or the cheesy Arabic songs that everyone makes fun of me for absolutely loving. Habibi Ya Aini, just gets me pumped. I just want to dance. Yeah. I’ll just never get over those. Alicia Free: Cool. Habibi Ya Aini. Our band used to play that. Isabella Salimpour: It’s so good. Alicia Free: Yeah. I want to learn all the lyrics and be able to sing it. What did you learn about dance from your mother Suhaila and your grandmother Jamila? Isabella Salimpour: I would say they taught me everything about dance. I grew up watching them dance and watching them teach, watching how they teach, even in their language. The most important thing that I learned was actually incorporating my own emotion, and phrasing to dance movements to really make it unique. For example, just specific little arm movements, and how you can move your head with that. And how that changes the emotion of the song, and things like that. Which I found important and helpful, just because it really helped me connect with the dance and the song. Each of us, we all have our own different phrasings. My mom, she didn’t really teach me her phrasing, but I know her phrasing. She does a lot of head backdrops. She does a lot of quick arm waves that lead to like a exterior hip circle, or like a specific undulations. It’s a little hard to explain, but it’s always very her. They never told me how to dance, or like how to get a movement, unless it was technique wise. And they felt I could be doing it better, or I wasn’t getting it. One way that I really enjoy that my mom teaches, is when she teaches her choreographies. She always teaches it by talking about the emotion of each movement. So like when you hit out and you’re in straddle, then you come back in, she talks about what you’re feeling. So not only is it that movement, but it’s the energy that goes with it, and how you’re incorporating a moment. And then of course you come up with your own moment, which comes with the emotional prep of working with the song, and the dance. I always enjoy the choreographies that she does that with the most. Like Enta Omri, we did that a lot. And that show, I was really emotionally connected to. Alicia Free: In episode 36 of this podcast, Anna Horn was talking about being part of the creation of that show, too. When your mom was first birthing it, if you will. Suhaila Salimpour's Former Assistant Anna on Dance Secrets & Snuggles - 036 Suhaila's student and friend Anna Horn shares some of the surprising elements of Suhaila's format, reminisces about Jamila Salimpour's finger cymbals, and shows us how the pets we love can inspire us to dance. And she’s talking a lot about the emotional aspects of it, that’s pretty amazing. I haven’t heard of other people choreographing like that. So I think that’s really special. When your grandmother, Jamila, was nearing the end of her life. She lived with you and your mother. What was it like to have three generations of dancers in your house? Isabella Salimpour: For me, it was normal. I’ve always been super close with my family. And my grandma was practically at our house every day, no matter what. And she was a huge part in raising me. I can’t imagine really a day without her involved. So it felt complete. It felt really nice. I was raised by both of them and we had such a special bond. So it was just beautiful. And I’m so thankful to have been home during that time to share that moment with her, and to share that moment with my mom. it was really beautiful and really genuine. Alicia Free: Yeah. It’s special. I’m asking my mom to come live with me over and over again. And she’s not into it yet, or maybe never will be. But I just really admire when a family enjoys spending time together, and can be together. It’s really wonderful that you guys could do it. Isabella Salimpour: Yeah. Oh my God. We’re all super close. If anything, maybe a little too close. Alicia Free: What do you remember about belly dancing on stage illegally in Egypt when you were only eight years old? Isabella Salimpour: I remember my mom first off mentally preparing me. And then I remember getting to backstage and trying to go backstage, and I was in a coverup, but I was in my costume. He could tell. And the security guard would not let us back there. And my mom said, “Go.” And I snuck behind the curtain, and I went back and she was talking to him. And supposedly he actually quit after that. Because he thought he was going to be in so much trouble. But of course, technically we weren’t doing anything illegal just because we were under American protection in that certain aspect. But yeah, it was crazy. And then I got on stage and people were shocked. The news showed up, everyone started recording. People had never seen something like that. And even the next day we were walking on the streets, and people would come up to me. And there was a bunch of news articles about me, and pictures of me dancing. And everyone was just shocked. It was a huge deal. People could not believe it. And some people were like, woohoo! And some people were like, hell no. You know what I mean? Yeah. That was interesting. Alicia Free: Because kids in general are not allowed to perform on stage in Egypt. That’s the law at the time at least. Right? Isabella Salimpour: Oh yeah. It’s super illegal. I think also because in the Middle East, dancing, people view it differently. Like in America I noticed people have a different perception about it than in the Middle East. It’s a little more serious in the Middle East in terms of a role. So I think when kids do it, people freak out. Or at least they used to. Alicia Free: Baby Fayrouz, they were comparing you to kind of a Shirley Temple figure in Egypt at the time. Pretty cool. So yeah. You were causing serious controversy at a very young age. Congratulations. Isabella Salimpour: Thank you. Alicia Free: So you weren’t scared? Isabella Salimpour: Honestly, everything we do is different. Growing up, I couldn’t really relate to anybody. So someone’s telling me that’s weird, or that’s wrong. I’m like, well, I don’t get that. It just doesn’t click with me. So I think at eight years old, I was like, well, I’m doing my thing. Y’all do your thing. Social Media, Pressure and Expectations Alicia Free: And your mom also mentioned that she kept you out of social media until you were about 18. Isabella Salimpour: Mm-hmm (affirmative). She never wanted me to feel pressured into this life, in terms of holding the legacy. Which I gladly want to do. And I’m excited to do. And I’m super thankful to be a part of. But just in general it can be a lot of pressure just because there’s stigma around my family, which creates external preconceived notions from people. And then there’s people who expect a lot from me like, “Oh, what are you going to create?” And I think she didn’t want me to have that kind of pressure at a young age. Because that’s something that she felt immediately growing up, because she started really early. So yeah, she just wanted me to do what I wanted to do. And express myself how I wanted to express myself. And then she wanted to wait until she felt I was old enough, which I really appreciate. I think that’s a great way to do things. I will do that with my children. Alicia Free: She did mention a conversation with you when you were 11, where you felt pressure. People were saying, “Oh, what are you going to create? Your mother created this format, your grandmother created this format. What are you going to create?” And I think that was part of her decision with social media. Isabella Salimpour: Yeah, definitely. I mean, as a kid, I had a lot of people coming up to me like, “I can’t wait until you create your format.” And that all comes from love. Nobody was trying to put pressure. They just kind of assumed that. But as a kid, that’s a little bit of pressure. Because I’m also like, well maybe I want to play soccer. I think that’s why she decided to do that. Alicia Free: Even as an adult, we don’t realize that we’re saying the same thing to people over and over again. The person that receives it knows that the same thing has been said to them over and over again. Isabella Salimpour: Yeah. Alicia Free: It’s like when someone’s in fourth grade, everyone says, “Oh, do you like your teacher?” It’s like, they get so tired of hearing this question over and over again. What’s your favorite subject in college? Like we have these canned questions that we ask everybody at a certain stage of life. At least in American culture. I could tell you what those questions are. And so you had this lineage. These expectations coming from all kinds of people, and you had to keep on hearing these questions. So it sounds like you’ve really come to terms with them. Like you’ve been given the tools, and you’ve done the work to figure out how you respond, and what you really want. Isabella Salimpour: Oh yeah, definitely. This is something I love, and I want to be a part of. And I’m thankful that people associate me with the lineage. I’m happy to be a part of it. But also as a young girl, you don’t reach that stage yet where you’re like, “Oh, I can do what I want to do. The pressure doesn’t necessarily matter. I can do what I want to do in life.” And so as a young kid, you’re like, okay, I got to start… I even got a little notebook and I was like, okay, kick ball change. What’s the next move? Add a little figure eight here. It’s very funny. Alicia Free: I think that’s just helpful for us all to hear to realize what question we keep asking people that they might not want to answer anymore. You spoke a little bit of this already. I’m going to ask you just for a little bit more. So you’re in your early 20s. Do you think ballet dance is just part of your life now? Or do you think you’ll be belly dancing your whole life? Isabella Salimpour: This is definitely a life thing for me. I’m definitely going to be doing this for the rest of my life. And this is definitely going to carry on throughout my family. Whether, let’s say my kids are going to be immediately involved or not. I definitely want to keep this alive. This is such a unique lineage, and it’s something that really made me who I am. I feel like the reason I was able to grow, and mature, and be comfortable with myself was because of this format and the way I was raised. And yeah, I’m really excited to do all that; to dance, to teach, to direct. I think it’s just so beautiful. It’s a huge way for people to connect. I’ve seen so many people benefit from it. And I just think it’s wonderful. Alicia Free: She’s a lifer. I love it. If we belly dance for 10 years, we get so many benefits from it. But if we dabble in it for six months or a year, like it’s a Zumba class, or a step class or just one piece of your dance vocabulary, we miss so much. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. But there’s so much that you never get. Isabella Salimpour: Oh no, definitely. In terms of movement, in terms of choreography. And then also in terms of community. The belly dance community is one of the best communities I’ve ever been involved with personally myself. Everyone’s different, everyone’s from a different place. Everyone looks different. And I just think it’s beautiful. It shows you like, wow, we don’t need to look or be a certain way. And then it also shows you that people from different places can connect, which is beautiful. Also, it’s really body empowering. Just being able to move your body in that sort of way. And have that kind of control over your body, whether you’re using it in a sensual way, or whether you’re doing technique, whatever you’re doing. I think it’s beautiful that you even have that kind of control over your body. Alicia Free: I agree that the belly dance community is just so much fun, and interesting, and funky people with very different perspectives. A lot of very alternative kinds of mindsets, and it is pretty fantastic. Isabella Salimpour: Definitely. Alicia Free: And another thing too, I mean you’re studying music. And have been exposed to so much Middle Eastern music. If you put the time in as a dancer, you’ll get the music so much more. There’s so much available there. That’s not available to most people that listen to the top 40 radio in the US. Isabella Salimpour: Oh yeah. Sometimes I’ll be talking to my jazz friends because I studied jazz. And they’re like, jazz, Arabic music has the standards, the classics. And they’re also important to learn on top of the top 40s and things like that. Because they’re done by all different types of musicians, and they’re all done differently, and they will have a different style and feeling to them. But it’s the same lyrics. And also the lyrics are, at least in Arabic, so poetic. It’s just gorgeous. Alicia Free: Do you want to talk at all about any similarities you see between jazz and different middle Eastern music? Genres or composers, anything like that? How are Jazz and Middle Eastern Music Similar? Isabella Salimpour: Sure. What I really love about jazz, and what I really love about Middle Eastern music is that they’re both really, really complex, and profound. And possibly in different ways. I connect mostly with Middle Eastern music through intervals and melodies. Like the scales they use, and the mode they use, and just specific things that they use in their music, really move me. And it’s something that I incorporate in my music. And then with jazz, jazz is just so complex because it’s so intellectual. It’s really hard to understand or connect with jazz. For some people, not all people. Unless you’re really understanding what’s going on, because it can be overwhelming at times. Just everything that’s happening. Because it’s like classical music, but improv. Both Jazz and Middle Eastern Music are really complex and profound. They both make you think and reflect. Which I think is interesting, because not all music makes you reflect. And not all people want to reflect when they listen to music. Alicia Free: Great point. So your mother mentioned that you have been the finale dancer in Bal Anat. What was that like? What does Bal Anat represent to you? Isabella Salimpour: I love being the finale dancer I’ve been doing Bal Anat my whole life. So I’ve done a lot of dances, and I love all the dances. What I love about the finale dance is that it’s supposed to symbolize the transition from tribal to cabaret. And not like so literal, like, Oh, we went from tribal to cabaret. But the immersion of a new subculture of dance in our lives, which is why Bal Anat is very tribal. Each dance is their own community. So you have the pot dancers, and they’re from a specific community. You have the Moroccan, you have the Algerian. And the finale dancer is the person who represents everyone, emerging into this new world. So that’s been really beautiful for me to express. And I’m really honored to represent everyone at the end of the show, and represent the show itself; and my grandma and my mom. Bal Anat is magic to me. It’s one big community of people from all different places, all genders, all sizes, everything. Nobody feels uncomfortable. It’s just kind of one big family. And it’s really, really beautiful to see. There’s probably like 60 to 90 people in the cast, which is insane. But everybody is bonded. It’s like a little circus. Alicia Free: Did your grandmother tell you anything about when she was a circus? Jamila Salimpour in the Circus Isabella Salimpour: Yeah. The only thing she told me was how much she loved the elephants. And how she thought was so messed up, that they were so cruel to them. Because, she used to ride elephants. That was her surface talent. And then how she got sent home because everyone got lice. And that’s why she stopped working at the circus. But she tells me that it was intense, in that community. And it wasn’t necessarily all positive, but it wasn’t all negative. It was just like an experience. Alicia Free: Everyone got sent home because of lice. Isabella Salimpour: Yes. Because they were like, what? Everyone’s itching? Go home! Alicia Free: So interesting. Jamila Salimpour was the elephant rider. Isabella Salimpour: Yes. And that’s why elephants are actually her favorite animal. That’s why for her birthday, we always donate to the elephant charities. Because she used to ride elephants and she used to be so bonded with them when she was in the circus. And she hated how cruel they were to the elephants, because she was part of Ringling Brothers. Damn Sexy Dance Move: Down to Up Figure 8 https://youtu.be/5GAoYfmOgqA Alicia Free: What damn sexy dance move would you like to share? Isabella Salimpour: I am a figure eight girl. I love figure eights. I would have to say my favorite figure eight is a down to up figure eight. With our movements that follow the hips. I just think that is so cute. And it’s like, you’re moving through lava. I love doing it slow, too. It’s a down up figure eight. Let’s say your right hip starts down and your left hip starts up, and you scoop up through the side. Kind of like how you do normal up to down figure eight, but it’s a down up figure eight. Alicia Free: Okay. So it’s on a vertical plane. So is it also called an up Maya sometimes? Isabella Salimpour: Yeah. Alicia Free: Because you’re not really moving forward or back. You’re really just scooping up. Like you’re between two panes of glass kind of thing. Isabella Salimpour: Yes. Alicia Free: Cool. And when your arms follow, are they snake arms? What are the arms look like? Isabella Salimpour: I actually liked to do like little ice cream scoop arms. I mean, it’s a little snaky because they have to be loose. It can’t just be like chop, chop. But I like to scoop up with the hips and have the arms a little bit in front of the body. And a little bit of a shoulder movement with it, like a shoulder roll back. Alicia Free: Is it like you’re coaxing the hips up? Isabella Salimpour: Kind of. It’s like you’re hypnotizing someone. It’s like a hypnotic thing. Where everything’s kind of moving at the same time. A moving tick-tock clock, but not really. Alicia Free: Cool. I remember my dance teacher teaching one of these up maya’s, the up down figure eight, as you’re calling it. There was a little like scoop at the hip. I always thought of it as coaxing the hip up, and helping the audience, ask your hip to lift. I’m wondering if it looks like that. Isabella Salimpour: Yeah. Alicia Free: It was so great interviewing your mom. And her saying probably every belly dancer in North America has been touched by her format. And I just went, Oh my God, that must’ve been so much of what I was learning, with my first teacher. Suhaila Salimpour on Bal Anat, Jamila, and their Legacy - 038 Find out why Suhaila walked off the nightclub stage at 28, how we can show respect for the cultural origins of belly dance, and how her mother Jamila Salimpour danced her cooking. Isabella Salimpour: Yeah. Alicia Free: So pretty cool. Because I haven’t gone into your family’s format. Isabella Salimpour: Oh my God. No way. Alicia Free: Yep. I haven’t started any of it yet. So it’s been really fun to learn all about it this way. Learning about you guys first, actually before. So I’m hoping a lot of listeners will feel that same way. Where they’re getting to know you and your mother first, and then stepping into the format. Isabella Salimpour: I feel like that’s really important. There’s a lot of, like I said, preconceived notions about many things, either positive or negative. So it’s always good to get to know the family behind the training, for sure. Alicia Free: Yeah. Especially because you guys are so community oriented. And so much of what you do is for this bond and this relationship between people. Isabella Salimpour: Absolutely. We’re huge on that. Featured Lighten My Body Food: Nutritional Yeast Alicia Free: What is one vegan whole food ingredient that you love? Isabella Salimpour: My roommate in New York is super vegan. So she put me on to a lot of vegan things. And every time we eat popcorn, she sprinkles nutritional yeast on top of it. Because it kind of tastes like Parmesan cheese. So you’ll put vegan butter in it and then you’ll put nutritional yeast on top and mix it in. And it’s so good. It tastes like one of those nacho cheese sprinkle, popcorn things. Alicia Free: Have you ever heard it called nooch? Isabella Salimpour: No. Alicia Free: Yes. Like a slang term for nutritional yeast. Which I also love. Isabella Salimpour: I love that. Alicia Free: And a lot of it is fortified with B12, which is something that vegans can’t get from plants. Vitamin D and B12, are the only two things that we can’t get from a whole food plant based diet. So I also love nutritional yeast very much. And it’s unknown. So many people are living their lives without having it on their pasta. And it’s just such a delicious thing, especially on popcorn. https://bellydancebodyandsoul.com/millet-rounds-italian-style/ Isabella Salimpour: I put my mom onto it. Because usually we eat popcorn, we put olive oil. I know we’re so Italian for this. But we put olive oil on our popcorn and then we put garlic salt. And I was like, Oh my God, mom, we have to try to nutritional yeast with our garlic salt, olive oil popcorn. It’s so good. And now she’s obsessed. Alicia Free: Nice. I just made a sauce that went with a quinoa salad that I made. And it was nutritional yeast, and tahini, and garlic all blended together. And fresh lemon and some olive oil, and it was so good. It was from the Oh She Glows cookbook, this amazing vegan cookbook. It was my first time mixing nutritional yeast, and tahini, and lemon. And it was just on the moon delicious. Good one. Make You Shine Costume Tip: Wear Nude Colored Underwear Alicia Free: What is one costume tip that you would like to share? Isabella Salimpour: Wear nude underwear, because you are always bound to accidentally flash. And if you’re underwear’s a different color, or if you’re not wearing any underwear at all, the audience gets a surprise. So yeah, it’s always good to wear nude underwear. Because then nobody really notices that it’s a costume slip. They just think, “Oh, I saw a leg,” or something like that. But when it’s a different color, people definitely know. Alicia Free: Good one. I think I have one pair of nude underwear somewhere from some Cleopatra costume I made. Isabella Salimpour: Oh. Also, sewing them into your costume is helpful. Alicia Free: Right. Because some costumes don’t have the sides for any underwear. Have you done that before? Isabella Salimpour: Sewn them in? Alicia Free: Yeah. Isabella Salimpour: Yeah. Actually my Bal Anat costume, my underwear is sewn in. Yeah. Because that skirt is crazy. If I didn’t have them sewn in I would be a mess, girl. Alicia Free: Yeah. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. Isabella Salimpour: Yeah. For real. Feel Good, Look Good Habit: In the morning stretch, drink water and listen to the birds Alicia Free: Do you have a feel good, look good habit that you want to share? Isabella Salimpour: Yes. I do. The routine that actually is ingrained in my life, is just having a cup of coffee, taking my vitamins with a big glass of water. And stretching while I’m drinking my coffee, and listening to bird sounds. It’s just what I love to do in the morning. It clears my head, because it’s really easy to wake up in the morning and be like, “All right, I have this to do. And I have this to do. And I have with this whole plan today.” But yeah, I would say mornings are my favorite time to really decompress. Because, at night I do decompress too. But I’m also like, well, I’m going to go out, too. And I get distracted at night. So morning is great. Alicia Free: So drink a cup of coffee, drink a whole glass of water with your vitamins, and stretch, and listen to the birds. Isabella Salimpour: Yeah. Alicia Free: That’s lovely. Tell us about something exciting that you have coming up. Isabella Salimpour: Well, I would say my EP, is very exciting. This is something that I started working on a year ago actually. And I taught myself everything. So this being done is like a huge accomplishment, at least internally, just for me. Just the fact that I was able to get this done. I’m just really, really excited for this. This is actually what’s keeping me alive during the quarantine. Is just creating, and exploring. And knowing that at least I’ll come out of this with something that I would have had on my checklist, even if this wasn’t happening. Alicia Free: Feels like forward movement. Isabella Salimpour: Yeah, definitely. I don’t feel like I’m sitting still. Because I go to school for music. And so my goal is to release something that I created, and I’m emotionally connected to. And I’ve been wanting to do that for a really long time. So this is awesome. Alicia Free: Great. And just so you know, this is being recorded during April of 2020. You might be listening to this years down the road, but this is being recorded during the coronavirus epidemic, of 2020. Isabella Salimpour: Yeah. Alicia Free: Isabella, thank you so much for being our youngest guests that we’ve ever had on a little lighter. And representing the 20 somethings out there. Really appreciate it, and having your perspective. And thank you so much for what you have done and what you’re going to do for the arts. And what your family has done for the arts, and that you’re part of it. And it’s a beautiful thing, and let’s just keep on expanding and growing the arts in our lives. Isabella Salimpour: Thank you so much for having me. This has been such an honor. Alicia Free: Best of luck with your music education, and with your career in the arts. Isabella Salimpour: Thank you! Learn more about the Salimpour School: SalimpourSchool.com SalimpourSchoolOnline.com
25 minutes | 7 months ago
Sexy Floor Work with Belly Dancing Mom Zobeida – 040
New York City belly dancer Zobeida on Anahid Sofian’s floor work, how to dance to 9/8 Turkish Roma style and how to find time to dance when you have kids. Alicia Free: This one goes out to all you mamas out there. This interview really spotlights some of the struggles of being a mother and being a belly dancer. We recorded it way before coronavirus and I waited to release it around Mother’s Day to make it really special. That’s why we don’t talk about coronavirus at all and why the guest, Zobeida, has a fun workshop coming up. I apologize for the quality of the recording. She had her kids chasing her through the house and was going to different rooms to get better reception. The sound quality is not great, but what Zobeida says is really a gift to all of us who have moms, are moms, want to be moms, respect moms, so please enjoy. https://youtu.be/h_fG3AQYjwI https://youtu.be/_cWUvYV6fVE Alicia Free: Zobeida Ghattas is a fabulous dancer based in New York city, and her beautiful name and her heritage is Arabic and also Russian. She has studied with Anahid Sofian and Morocco and started dancing when she was only seven years old. Zobeida started working as a professional belly dancer at the age of 15 in clubs and restaurants. Zobeida has been teaching since she was 16. She actually put on belly dance showcases when she was still in high school. Do you have family that danced? I see you have an Arabic background. Zobeida Ghattas: No, I don’t have anybody else who dances except my daughter now. She says she wants to be a belly dancer when she grows up. I’m like, “Oh, honey. Okay.” I’m pretty sure she’s only doing it because she wants the sparkly costumes, but we’re going to continue her training and continue the legacy. Hopefully, she’ll be able to avoid a lot of the mistakes that I did when I first started out in the business and hopefully she’ll have a more solid foundation in the gig world than I did when I started. My father is Palestinian and so I grew up just always having Arabic music playing in the house. He’d start his mornings with Umm Kulthum and Fairuz, and Warda. It was just always Arabic music. My favorite tape when I was six was Sammy Clark, a Lebanese singer who was totally disco Arab pop. You look at some of his videos and it’s totally 70s. His was my favorite tape when I was growing up. It’s always been a part of my life. Alicia Free: You grew up with great music in the house? Zobeida Ghattas: Yes. Danceable Ritual: Dance to Whatever Music is Playing in Your Home Alicia Free: In each episode, I have a danceable ritual and that could be shimmying while you wash your hair. It could be you do shoulder shimmies while you’re driving and you see a sign that says shoulder work. Just random times in life where it’s not a dance context, but you feel like dancing and you add dancing. Do you have anything like that? Zobeida Ghattas: I really gave this question some thought, and I realized I have absolutely zero ritual because life with three children is just that chaotic. The only thing that I think of is that I have kids songs playing on cartoons, on anything and sometimes I’ll just dance along to Mickey Mouse clubhouse or Pop Goes the Weasel. And I’ll do a pop and lock to Pop Goes the Weasel. Tip for Belly Dancing Moms: Pop and lock to Pop Goes the Weasel or whatever you kids music you are listening to That’s as dance ritually as I can get. Basically, my one suggestion would be to just dance whenever and wherever. I actually started 100 days of dance at a Facebook group to get people dancing more and becoming more engaged with dancing outside of a studio. Some of our daily dance practices included write your name using dance. Another one was go out in nature and listen to the sounds of nature and dance to the sounds of nature. Just trying to find dance in every single thing and every single day. Alicia Free: That’s the exact essence of the danceable ritual. You just nailed it because so many people have kids and feel like there’s no space in their life for ritual. Survival’s more what you’re thinking about at most points, but you got it in there still. That’s very cool. How to Look Authentic When Dancing Turkish Roma Style Alicia Free: You look so natural and authentic when you’re dancing Turkish Roma style. Do you have any tips for that? Zobeida Ghattas: Get out of your head. Generally when you’re dancing, it’s a social dance. You don’t have an authentic dance training to dance socially, especially Turkish Roma. You dance from the heart. You dance to have fun. You dance because there’s joy around you because the music inspires you. You don’t dance because the steps say one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, pause. You dance because music moves you and if you mess up, nobody cares. I don’t overthink when I’m doing Turkish Roma, especially when there’s a live band. The music is there. You just have fun. Just get out of your head. Not forget the steps that you learned, but don’t overthink the steps that you learn and just let it come out. Alicia Free: Now a lot of us learn the steps first in the studio. Then, what do you do? Do you practice them a lot? Do you go into video world and see what’s going on in the real social dance world? What do you think is the next step? Zobeida Ghattas: The next step I would say, just put on as many 9/8 songs as you can. Blast them really loud. Feel the beat in your chest and just go. This is a tough one because it’s just always been in me. Having started dance when I was seven, I just learned things and I didn’t think about them. In a way, that’s also really hard for me to teach beginners because I have to break down steps that I’ve been doing for 20 years that come automatically. Zobeida Ghattas: For Turkish Roma, I would just say blast the music and start with a slow 9/8, so that you feel the nine eight and you get the steps and then speed it up. Find a little faster nine eight, then find a really fast nine eight and just go with it. That’s the thing about dance. You’re not going to ever get better if you don’t practice. Now, whether you practice in the privacy of your own room or at a hafla or jamming out with musicians, if you’re learning a 9/8 and you don’t get up when the band is playing a 9/8, you’re never going to get better. Alicia Free: That’s great. Zobeida Ghattas: Also, so many dancers never let go. Especially with a 9/8, you have to let go. Be loose. Alicia Free: One of the best videos I’ve seen of just pure joy, Roma, 9/8. There’s a video of a guy dancing on the highway and he picks up a shoe. You know what video I’m talking about? Zobeida Ghattas: Yep. Yep. I’ve been tagged in that multiple times. Alicia Free: It’s pure joy in that video. It’s letting go. It’s so obvious in that. He has no inhibitions at that moment. Zobeida Ghattas: No. Not from your dancing by the side of the road with the shoe. Nope. There are zero. It’s all about being free, being in the moment and having a good time. Even if your steps are not correct, the feeling has to be there. The feeling is what it’s all about. Pick up a shoe, dance by the side of the road if you’re so moved, or pick up a hip scarf and practice in your living room, whichever. Alicia Free: Nice. With nine eight, I first learned choreography and it never felt quite right to me. I was really happy that it was being preserved and presented to me, carried on, but I never felt that I was truly in it. I wanted to be in it, but I think part of it was that I was doing choreography. I keep thinking I need to nail this choreography in order to then nail it. Zobeida Ghattas: As dancers, we learn choreographies and that is one tool we have in our arsenal to learn a dance that is not necessarily our own because I’m not Turkish Roma. I just feel it. I don’t dance it the way a Turkish Roma person would dance it. With the choreography, you’re trying to keep on beat. You’re trying to stay with your dance mates. If you’re going to practice a choreography, you have to add character. Add your own spice to it. Add your own freedom to that choreography, and that will essentially help you to improvise because all it is a vocabulary that you’re learning. Then it’s up to you to put your flavor onto it. Alicia Free: Beautiful. Your own emphasis, your own emotion onto it, your own accent, if you will. Right? Zobeida Ghattas: Your own personality really, because that’s really all it is. Your personality is on the stage. There are timid dancers. There are outgoing dancers. The barest you’re ever going to be is when you’re in dancing because there’s no faking it. Alicia Free: Right. In US, a lot of dancers are very choreography-focused and they can’t imagine life apart from that choreography. But just practice the choreography with your own personality. I think that’s really, really helpful for people. Zobeida Ghattas: I think in a lot of belly dance today, everything is very much choreography based. But I was raised on a generation of completely improv dancers where, in one band, you could have an Armenian guy, a Greek guy, a Syrian guy, an Egyptian, and the drummer was Israeli. It could have been any combination of nationalities playing, and you never knew what you were going to get. For me, everything is all about improv and being in the moment and feeling that moment. So you could be having a crap day – and I’m not saying your dancing is going to be crap – but the crap day is going to come out. Whether it’s going to be released, whether you’re going to be a little bit more somber in how you dance. If you’re having a fantastic time, you’re at a festival, the vibe is great, the music is awesome, you’re going to have that much more fun jamming out to improv. Just to complete my thought… There’s a point of improv where you just let go. Let go of everything you’re thinking about and you are completely in the moment. Now, in a choreography, you’re always going to be inside your head. You’re always going to be thinking, “What’s the next move?” Even if you’ve rehearsed it 27 times, you’re always going to be, “What’s my next move? What’s my next move?” With improv, everything just flows completely naturally. That’s a really important aspect of our dance since throughout the ages, it’s always been an improvised dance and only in its entrance to the 20th century, really with the advent of film, companies, troupes, has there been more emphasis on choreography. But improv is where it’s at. I firmly believe that every dancer should know movement so naturally that it just flows. That’s when you get true art, because you express yourself in the moment. Alicia Free: I interviewed your friend, Johanna Zenobia in episodes 26 and 27 and she was saying that too, that the beauty is in the moment and being in the moment. Yogi Belly Dancer Johanna Zenobia on Music, Magic and Moving Past Perfection - ALLAF 026 Johanna of Hip Expressions helps us stop and take a breath, tells us her secrets to building great dance music playlists, and she shares some very fun and surprising danceable songs that you will love. Zobeida Ghattas: I firmly believe that and having studied with so many people who emphasized improv. That’s just stayed with me throughout my whole entire career, which is now 20 years. Alicia Free: Nice. Danceable Song: Allah Eilek Ya Sidi Alicia Free: Do you have a danceable song that you would like to share? Zobeida Ghattas: I do have a song that will always get me up out of my seat, which is Allah Aliek Ya Sidi. It’s been one of my favorite songs for pretty much since it came out. It’s got a great beat. It’s uplifting. It’s fun to dance to. It’s very Egyptian. It’s always fun. Alicia Free: This is a fun song that I hadn’t heard before and the chorus is really catchy and it has saidi in the chorus. Dt DD t That double doom in the center, saidi has the double doom in the center and the words are cool. Well done, my master. Your heart melted in my hand. He says, “Your love is not normal.” There’s hiding and there’s passion. All the good stuff. Alicia’s transliteration of the chorus of Allah Aleik Ya Sidi: Ahl-lah ehl-leek yah see day Ehl-behk dehb fee ee-day https://youtu.be/7OwFSsMdG_g Zobeida Ghattas: Then, if you’re going to go with a nine eight Rampi Rampi is always a good thing. Alicia Free: Oh, yeah. Rompi Rompi, yeah. I featured that one in another show. Our band plays that song too, and I love it. (aka Cadirimin Ustune) https://open.spotify.com/track/0NpF0JPaZvZAOOV2Zh9K71?si=P9_aKhqBRyCpx8FEOo8vxQ Zobeida Ghattas: It’s so much fun and it’s predictable enough for a novice. However, there’s layers to get into and it’s just super fun. Rompi Rompi, any version you can find will be perfect to do a nine eight with. It’s not the most authentic Turkish Roma song, but it has entered the belly dance lexicon. A lot of the shows in the 1970s and 80s and 90s closed with Rompi Rompi, or another nine eight of that caliber. That was the way you ended a five-part set. Alicia Free: That’s the way we end a lot of our shows too. I didn’t even realize that. We’re being vintage. Zobeida Ghattas: It’s a 9/8. You just go. Alicia Free: Wonderful. I was in a band with Harold Hagopian, the son of Richard Hagopian who was the Armenian-American oud player that made it really famous in the US. You’ve probably heard the recording, but it was fun to band with the Hagopian’s. Damn Sexy Dance Move: Flatback Floor Crawl I do. This is something that I learned from Anahid Sofian who is legit the queen of floor work. This is a knee crawl that you do while you’re in flat back. I don’t know what it is. There’s something about it that is just so “rer” (cat noise) when you’re in flat back. Your arms are up above your head. The goal in this is to let your upper body be very, very loose. As you’re in flat back, that your upper half counterbalances what your lower half is doing. You’re in flat back and you start walking with your knees, so you’re essentially crawling across the stage in flat back. Alicia Free: Flat back means your head is against the ground, your whole up to your butt is against the ground. https://youtu.be/_JcpvVZl1Fo?t=63 https://youtu.be/y6soIItWJnU?list=UUklSSzlDfQa2UYeLAnzmNLA&t=354 Zobeida Ghattas: You’re on your knees. Essentially, you’re in the end of a Turkish drop. You’re inching across the floor in flat back. I swear to God, it is one of my favorite moves to do when you have a beautiful big clean stage. It’s fun and it’s unexpected. It’s not your usual floor work move, but I think essentially any kind of floor work is sexy. Any kind of floor work. Alicia Free: Zobeida, I just had a memory of you at super fun dance camp under a limbo stick with your hair all over the floor. Were you doing that move to go under the limbo stick? Zobeida Ghattas: Under the limbo stick, that’s the move I was doing. Alicia Free: I was like, “Oh my God, she’s totally going for it on this floor.” You just went under that stick. Zobeida Ghattas: Yes. Alicia Free: I wish I had filmed it. Zobeida Ghattas: Essentially, any kind of floor work is fun. When you do anything coming from flat back into like a figure eight while lying on the floor and there’s just something about connecting to the music. For example, a chiftitelli. Whether you’re listening to the clarinet, it could be a nice long clarinet note and you ooze with that clarinet or you’re on the floor and you’re shimmying because the oud is trilling. Anything floor work-related is right up my sexy galley. Alicia Free: It is such a treat when you have a place where that can work out, where people can see you. If you’re elevated and the floor is full of glass and beer and it’s special. Zobeida Ghattas: It’s no fun doing floor work on somebody’s spilled mixed drink. Alicia Free: That’s a good segue into a vegan whole food ingredient that you love. Lighten My Body Food: Egyptian Koshari and Palestinian Mujadara Zobeida Ghattas: I’m going to highlight koshari, which it’s koshari in Egypt, or mujadara in Palestine. It is basically rice and lentils, which together combined, make a whole protein and a whole nutritionally balanced meal. In Palestine, basically mujadara is just rice, lentils and perhaps some fried onions. In Egypt, koshari is rice, lentils, a thin vermicelli noodle that is like fried and then put into the dish. Then, it’s like tubettini, the pasta on top. Then, it’s tomato sauce that goes on top of it, spiced and vinegary. It’s vinegar and/or lemon juice that goes on top of it and then the fried onions. In Egypt, koshari is a bigger production. Jadara is pretty much just rice and lentils with some fried onions and that’s the way I grew up eating it. Jadara, great food, even kids eat it. It’s quick, easy, throw it all in a pot and you have a meal that’s good for a couple of days if you make a lot of it. Alicia Free: What kind of lentils do you like to use? Zobeida Ghattas: The little flat brown ones. Oh, that’s the other difference between Egyptian style and Palestinian style is that the Palestinians use the bigger, broader lentils and Egyptians use the smaller brown lentils. Use whatever lentils you have in your kitchen cupboard. Alicia Free: I love lentils. Zobeida Ghattas: They’re very under appreciated. They’re really filling and you can make a lot of stuff with them. Belly Dance Costume Tip: Have an assortment of safety pins in your gig bag Alicia Free: What is a costume tip that you’d like to share? Zobeida Ghattas: Hands down, I will have to say have an assortment of safety pins always. People who know me know I hate sewing hooks and everything I own is on safety pins. I will safety pin everything because it’s I never saw on hooks. Safety pins, big ones, little ones, medium sized ones, strong ones, flimsy ones. You need to have a ton of safety pins in your gig bag because I have also had mishaps where safety pins are your friend, your very good friend Alicia Free: Holding you together. Zobeida Ghattas: Pretty much. Feel Good Look Good Habit: Dance as much as you can because dance will always make you feel good. Dance will always make you look good Alicia Free: Do you have a feel good, look good habit that you’d like to share? Zobeida Ghattas: Feel good, look good. That’s a tough one because I never feel good and I never looked good unless I’m getting ready for a show. Try to shake off as many children as you can while you’re putting on your makeup and then get your butt out the door. I have literally gotten dressed and ready for the gig while giving my kids a bath. I have been gig ready, in costume, ready to go out the door and then my daughter was like “weh” (crying). She needed to nurse. There I’m sitting in my costume on my couch, full gig attire, praying she doesn’t spit up on me. Dance as much as you can because dance will always make you feel good. Dance will always make you look good. I always feel my best when I’m dancing. Otherwise, I’m a hot mess. That’s really all I can offer. Once I have eyeliner on, I feel good and it’s game time. Alicia Free: I get ready with my kid putting all my jewelry on too, and I’m like, “I got to go,” but he wants to wear all my jewelry. Zobeida Ghattas: Tip for Belly Dancing Moms: Put out a decoy veil that your kids can play with and possibly ruin so they don’t mess up your gig veil. I always have a decoy veil out when I’m getting ready because my youngest will pick up the veil that I need to take to the gig and dance around and get yogurt on it. I have a decoy and I’m like, “Oh, look at how pretty my veil is.” “Oh, I want to use it. I want to use it.” “Okay. Here you go.” Get all the yogurt you want on there. Yeah. So much for ritual. Alicia Free: This is going to be very mom focused. Is that cool with you? Zobeida Ghattas: That’s absolutely fine because essentially, that is who I am. I’ve danced through all of my pregnancies. I’ve gone to gigs with a kid in tow, having to have a friend sit in the car while I go do my gig. I’ve had some gigs where I need to bring my kids. They’re like, “Okay. Great.” I’m very much a dancing mom. I also have a blog that I keep meaning to devote some time to, which is Belly Dancing Mama. I have a Facebook page up about it, but of course, I haven’t posted anything to it in like three years because I have three kids. It’s really just about momming hard and trying hard to find time for dance in between because I feel like my whole identity is a dancer. Mom is like a shirt I put on to cover up the dancer inside. I can’t wait to shake the kids off and go dance, but momming takes up a lot of time and you always need to find time for yourself to dance, to refocus that energy on you because as moms, we give out so much of our energy to our tiny people. It’s really important to take some time back for ourselves, whether it’s doing pop and lock during the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Pop Goes the Weasel is really good for accents. (singing) Everybody knows the song. Alicia Free: Cool. This is beautiful. Tell us something exciting that you have coming up in your dance life Zobeida Ghattas: In my dance life, I have a couple of workshops coming up. I’m teaching the gooey shifty at this fantastic little festival in Vermont called Shimmyathon. It’s the 10th anniversary and Amity is doing all live music in the classes, so that’s really, really going to be fun. I’m teaching the gooey shifty and it’s going to be all about connecting to the specific instrument for the length of the note, which is something that I talked about earlier. Zobeida Ghattas: Coming up, I also have a ballet for belly dancers workshop. Ballet was a part of my life for a really long time. I think it’s important that people – not cross train but – have some fundamentals of ballet to clean up lines. Probably is the foundation for so many types of dance. While it might not be the foundation for belly dance, it’s still very helpful in belly dance. I fused my ballet knowledge, my belly dance knowledge, and the experiences of both art forms to create a very unique workshop. That’s something I’m looking forward to. Each time I teach this course, it develops into something different. While the inessentials remain the same, there’s layers that I always add onto it, and I myself learn something each time I teach this course. Alicia Free: Nice. It’s a really fun workshops, very creative workshops. All live music festival. That’s so good. Zobeida Ghattas: Oh, I can’t wait. It’s going to be a lot of fun. That’s one of my favorite little festivals. Everybody is just so wonderful and Amity really tries to put together a great group of instructors and she always does a really wonderful job and I’m really happy to be a part of it again. Alicia Free: Nice. How would people find you online? Zobeida Ghattas: Everything I do is really through Facebook because I’m so professional. 20 years in the business, I still don’t have a website. Find me on Facebook. You can friend me or follow Zobeida Belly Dancer NYC or Esme’s Closet also on Facebook. The story of Esme’s Closet is that it’s actually named after my cat who would hide inside my closet and knock all of my belly dance stuff off of my shelf to sleep up in there. When I started the business, it just felt only appropriate to name it at her, my cat Esme. People sometimes ask, “Oh, are you Esme?” I’m like, “I wish I had that life. But no, that is my cat who slept, ate, and purred.” Alicia Free: Well, Zobeida, I want to thank you so much for being a wonderful guest even in the midst of the chaos of life. Thank you so much for making time to share what you’ve learned with our listeners and your wisdom as a mom and unstoppable dancer. It’s really wonderful. Thank you so much for being on the show. Zobeida Ghattas: It was my pleasure. Thanks.
50 minutes | 7 months ago
How to Get Out of Your Head & Into Your Body – Cera Byer – 039
California belly dancer and twerking instructor Cera Byer talks about fearless improvisation, clear choreography, and taking “exquisite care” of ourselves. https://youtu.be/DSVdmNo01Ok?t=87 Alicia Free: I am so happy to share with you the amazing, the edgy, Cera Byer. Cera Byer is a dancer, choreographer, movement coach, and an author. Look out for the book, “The Six Pillars of Body Love” coming out soon. Cera has been teaching dance since the year 2000, so as of now that’s 20 years. Some of those years Cera was directing the Damage Control Dance Theater that our recent podcast guest Tessa TrueHeart was part of out in California. Cera has been a life, movement, and business coach since 2016. Cera also integrates much bigger teachings about life into her dance studio. Cera’s mission is to help people break free from doubts, fears, insecurities, and traumas that block them from being the most authentic, fully expressed version of themselves. Whether that’s in life, in business, or on the dance floor. When I looked Cera up online I found her very inspiring website intuitiveedgecoaching.com. Here’s one quote that will give you more of an idea of what Cera does in her dance, teaching, coaching, and probably many other aspects of her life. One of Cera’s many coaching clients has said that, “Cera will push you out of your comfort zone and into the fire so you can burn off all the old BS and live your best damn life.” Cera, thank you so much for being on the show. Cera Byer: I’m so excited to be here, thank you so much. Alicia Free: We’re going to jump right in to a danceable ritual. Danceable Ritual: Dance while making breakfast Alicia: Do you have one that you would like to share? Cera Byer: I am obsessed with rituals and almost everything in my life is ritualized in some way, so for your listeners if you haven’t read “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp she talks extensively about how important rituals are for creative people and that the more things in your life you have ritualized, the more of your mind is freed up for creative thoughts. I hate to even say “improvise” to belly dancers, and we can get into why later, but I usually will play through a song every morning as part of my morning practice and it’s usually the last part of my morning ritual. I usually dance while I’m making breakfast, so dance around the kitchen and the living room to whatever song either allows me to move through and express any stuck or crunchy emotions that I have in my body. This morning I wanted to be really pumped up and so a bunch of really hype excited songs. Whatever I need for a state change to get me ready for the first thing I need to do in my morning. That’s how dance ritualizes into my life. Improvising: In collaboration with the music Alicia: Beautiful. I have got to know… Why don’t you like to use the word “improvising” when you talk about belly dance? Cera Byer: My experience in teaching belly dance is that belly dancers are a lot like ballerinas. They’re uptight, and you say improvise and all of a sudden everyone’s arms go into a perfect position and they’re doing moves that they know and trying to make sure that their belly dance improvising correctly. Whereas improvising to me is more like jazz, where you’re in a collaboration with the music and you’re experimental and you’re free form and it might not be pretty and you might mess up. And it actually doesn’t need to be this incredibly complex display of all the moves you know. Audiences do not care about the moves you know. Audiences want to feel the music through you. One of the things that I got most known for in the belly dance world, it was the most throwaway moment for me and I still to this day have people come up to me and talk about it. I think it was 2007 maybe, at Tribal Fest. I taught an improvisation workshop. I taught one of the things that I would teach my classes, which was how to improvise using a traveling step, a shape, and a gesture. Those were the only three things that you were allowed to do, and that you could do that for a whole song and the audience would be completely enthralled. In order to put my money where my mouth was, that was what I did as my Tribal Fest performance. I got up on stage and let the audience pick a traveling step, a gesture, and a shape. I got a triangle, a grapevine, and the middle finger. I did it to a song I had never heard before. I let Aubrey Hill make me a mixed CD of music. I had never heard anything on it and I let Pixie Fordtears pick a song at random. I had never heard the song. I didn’t know what I was going to dance to, and I didn’t know what movements I was going to do at the Tribal Fest stage, which at the time was one of the biggest stages in belly dance where people prepared for a whole year. I was like, “This is what I’m doing.” And it’s so funny. To me it was nothing. It was an extension of my workshop, and still to this day that video still gets views and I still have people come up and talk about it. Alicia: I don’t even know what a triangle looks like, a hip triangle? Cera Byer: Well you have three and a half minutes and triangles are the only shape you can do, so I got real creative. Alicia: A triangle everywhere. Cera Byer: Yeah, literally everywhere. I was like, “Well let me try to see what a shoulder triangle would be. Let me try to see what a chest triangle would be. Let me try to see how many different ways I can make a triangle because it’s all I can do.” Alicia: Well Cera you can hear how you’re in it to play, even more than to impress or to do it right, you’re in it to play. Cera Byer: I can’t control whether or not I’m impressive to anyone ever because that’s what goes on in someone else’s brain. And trying to manage your own life in a way that’s designed to elicit reactions in other people’s brains is a lot of extra work for something you literally can’t control, no matter what you do. The only thing you can ever control in life is whether or not you’re having fun and feeling good, that’s it. How to Get Your Choreographies Done: Rent studio space & pair it with something more fun Cera Byer: I have a standing studio rehearsal now, it’s on pause because we’re all in quarantine, I don’t know when this will come out. But if for the next five years we’re all in quarantine this was the beginning. But I have a standing studio rehearsal for two hours on Tuesdays. And I put out an open call to all the dancers I know who have unconventional schedules and I was like, “This is when I make up choreography’s for classes and anybody can come.” I find it easier to choreograph on other people, and my two best friends almost always come. I have two hours in the studio and I teach two classes a week, sometimes three. My goal for myself is I have to choreograph everything that I will teach in all of my classes in those two hours, and it’s literally our favorite time of the week. We started calling it recess. It’s the most fun. It’s such a great break in the week and in the day. I look forward to it every week having this time to go play in the studio, and having the time limit on it and not doing it at home means that I’m much less precious about my choreographies. I just have to get three dances done. Alicia: I imagine a lot of dancers put off preparing for their class and put off choreographing, and there’s a pairing. Pairing something that you would procrastinate doing or dread doing or make excuses in order to not do. When you pair it with something you really enjoy it makes this magic thing happen. I’m not saying you don’t enjoy choreographing, I’m sure you do, but you might find reasons to do other things if you hadn’t set it up like that. Cera Byer: Absolutely. I have a little dance practice space in my home. I have a little open spot in my living room with some mirrors and I would always be like, “I should choreograph here. I don’t need to pay for a studio space. I have space, it’s ridiculous to go pay money and rent a studio for something that I can do at home.” But I would always put off choreographing. And then it would be this looming, nagging thing I knew I had to do in my head all week that I hated. And no matter how many times I wrote in my schedule that I was going to choreograph on Monday because my class is on Thursday and Friday, I didn’t do it. It was always last minute and would throw off anything I did need to do on Thursday or Friday because I had to choreograph something for class. It didn’t feel good. I think it was last year. I made a bunch of big changes to my money mindset and one of them was about investing in myself and doing whatever I felt like I needed to do for my art and for my business. And really sending the signal to myself that I was worth it and that my work was worth it. $40 a week was what I needed to have set studio time. What I was really paying for was the peace of mind of not having something lingering and stressing me out and unfinished hanging over my week. When I plunked down the money and started doing it, first of all my choreography got better. And I got done with stuff way faster because there was a signal to myself that okay, you’re paying for this room so you’re going to get down to business and get some work done. Cera Byer: Whereas if I’m choreographing at home I might noodle for a little bit and then make some food, and then noodle for a little bit and do some dishes, and then noodle for a little bit and take a phone call. Let something drag on for hours and hours and not get it done. But the fact that I was paying for a studio made me buckle down a little bit more, and setting the goal that I had to finish all my choreography in this two hours helped me not be quite so precious about things and make a decision and stick to it and be like cool, it’s this. Which also started to clarify my voice because I was being more immediate. Alicia: And you invited your friends to be part of it and other people to be part of it. Cera Byer: Yeah. Alicia: In that way you’re accountable to them in addition to you putting a price tag on it and setting it on your schedule. You also have accountability partners that are going to come to the studio when it’s time to do it. Cera Byer: Yeah, the reason I really like choreographing on other bodies, and I’ve heard dancers be like, “Oh I don’t want anyone to see it until it’s done,” which I think is a little bit of insecurity. But what I found with choreographing on other people’s bodies is that it makes you clarify things faster. If I’m dancing by myself I might change it every single time. If you’re dancing with other people you can’t do that. They’re like, “Is it this or is it this? Is it on the five or the seven? What are you doing?” You have to make a choice because there are other people who are trying to do it with you. I feel like with dance it’s one of the only pieces of art that you can make where you are the art. So you can’t step back and get objectivity from it unless you video. When I’m dancing with other people I can set something and then step back and watch them do it. And make some decisions about how I feel about it, and if I want to change things because I get a little bit of distance and objectivity from the piece. Alicia: Great point, having other people do it in front of you. Cera Byer: Yeah. Alicia: It doesn’t even have to be a formation. Of course formations you’re going to want people in addition to the diagrams or whatever, but to try moves on other people. That’s a great point. Cera Byer: Yeah, I mean these are class combos. They’re simple. There’s no formations, it’s not anything like that. And I think another thing that really changed for me… Maybe it was this year. But thinking about building choreography’s really as teaching tools. I live in L.A. now, and I moved here a few years ago. I think when I first got here I got sucked into the L.A. dance studio culture mindset, which is really that a lot of professional choreographers in L.A. use their classes as showcases for their work and less about nurturing development in students. There are a lot of studios here where all the dancers who come to your class are already professionals, so they’re coming to you trained and you’re giving them choreography that’s designed to get a cute video for YouTube or a cute video for Instagram. We’re in a weird time with dance, because that’s never what dance was about. What made me fall in love with dance had nothing to do with video. We didn’t have that when I was coming up. You went to class to have a teacher pour knowledge into you and pour technique into you. And they were there for you. For your development to train you. To give you everything that they knew. I had this realization that if all I’m doing in class is using it as my own choreography showcase and going in and trying to have the best combo so that I can get the best video, that’s about me. As a choreographer, that should be hiring professional dancers and filming a video separate from your class. Class is for my students, and my teachers now are elders. Many of them are 60 and older. Some of them aren’t teaching anymore. Some of my teachers have passed. So if I’m not passing along their teachings, their teachings die. And we become the last generation of dance teachers who had knowledge poured into us if we lose that way of teaching. Pouring Knowledge Into Students This year I really made a shift in how I thought about my classes. What I was doing, and really making sure that even if adults were coming to me and they were already trained that I was pouring knowledge. That I was quoting my teachers. That I was giving what was given to me in my classes. It got way stickier because I’m not competing with the way that L.A. teachers teach anymore. And I started noticing a much higher retention rate in my classes. I started noticing much more improvement in my students. I started really being able to see technical depth, because I was giving in a different way that had way less to do with me and my ego and: Am I making cute dances? And way more to do with: Am I thinking about them and what they need? And how to teach that to them in a way that they now have it as a tool in their arsenal and that they can use it. Danceable Song: Bum Bum Alicia: Cera is there a danceable song you want to share? https://open.spotify.com/track/2wRE6NbULFrM16BIYp6ymE?si=UvWiYveiRsqAfzHD8xR62Q Cera Byer: Yeah, the song that I’m obsessed with right now is called BUM BUM and it’s by Mohammad Ramadan. It’s a Shaabi song and I love Shaabi music, it’s my favorite. It’s Egyptian pop street style. This song, if you look up the lyrics, is about going to a bar and having someone give you a drink and you don’t know what’s in it. You drink it and then you start hallucinating and you can’t find your phone. And you think the ninja turtles are calling you, and you’re asking everyone you know to loan you a lighter. It’s great. Alicia: In the video too, I’ll put a link to the video in the show notes for sure. There’s all of these lighters surrounding his head. https://youtu.be/fyMtQbr_17g?t=40 Cera Byer: It’s so funny. Alicia: He’s got some really good hip circles. Everybody’s doing this hands on hips, deep hip circle action too. Cera Byer: Yeah it’s so good. Alicia: Yeah, and you have a choreography to it. You’ve shared on- Cera Byer: Instagram. Alicia: Yeah. Cera Byer: That’s where I mostly hang out on social media is on Instagram. Alicia: Gotcha. So if you want to hear the song, check out the Belly Dance Body and Soul playlist on Spotify, I’ll have it on there. I’ll be in the show notes with the video and Cera has, on her Instagram channel, the choreography that she made for it. Cera Byer: I’m still working on it. I’m chasing it a little bit but I’m going to get there. Alicia: What’s your Instagram again Cera? Cera Byer: I have two. My all dance Instagram is C-E-R-A gohellahard, all one word. @ceragohellahard, and then my coaching Instagram is @intuitiveedgecoaching. I realize that everyone here in the dance world uses Instagram like a business card. No one exchanges any other contact information at a dance event. Everyone says, “What’s your Instagram?” When I moved here my Instagram was normal, it was a mix of everything and pictures of food and stuff like that. Then I came down here and everyone in dance has a dance only Instagram so I separated it out. There’s a lot of twerking on my @ceragohellahard Instagram. I want to warn people because sometimes belly dancers are like, “Oh it’s your ass cheeks.” If you go to my Instagram you’re going to see my butt, sorry slash you’re welcome. Alicia: Yeah, you’re welcome. And I did see there was something about Coronavirus, you were doing something with your friend? https://www.instagram.com/tv/B95RgmAlOjJ/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet Cera Byer: Oh yeah, so Cardi B made a video at the beginning of this where she was saying, “Coronavirus is getting real,” and it was pretty funny. Then a guy named DJ Mark Keys I believe made a one minute trap song mixing Cardi B’s voice. I love the internet. The fact that all of these happen. That Cardi B made this video on her Instagram. That someone found it and turned it into a song and that we were able to turn it into a dance video made me very happy. Alicia: Awesome. You go into lyrics. You research the lyrics that you dance to like you were saying with the BUM BUM song. You knew what it was saying, and then you’re able to do some lip syncing in it. Cera Byer: Well I’m a lyrics person. And I think I was in college when I had a choreography teacher who was like, “Oh yeah, I don’t listen to lyrics,” and I was shocked. It never occurred to me that people don’t listen to the lyrics of the songs, but especially in belly dancing it’s a really common thing to see in Middle Eastern dancers lip syncing to the songs. And you’ll see a lot of western dancers do it but sometimes they don’t necessarily know what they’re lip syncing to. So I do think it’s a good practice always to look up the lyrics to the songs that you’re dancing to. Sometimes it gives you great insights for what you should be doing in the choreography. Alicia: Great. The video link that I’m going to post to the song BUM BUM actually has the lyrics karaoke style on the screen so you can see what Cera’s talking about there. Cera Byer: It’s so funny. Editing Music with Garage Band Alicia: Cera, you’re talking about editing music and the beauty of all this social media and being able to take a quote from somebody and put it into a song. You use GarageBand when you’re editing music that you want to be different? Cera Byer: I do. And I don’t do it that much, but it’s the only program I know how to use. It’s not fancy and I can’t do anything fancy with it but sometimes, oh I love the intro to this song and the first verse and the chorus but the I want to go straight to the bridge or something. I don’t like the second verse or something like that. Usually if it’s a pretty straightforward song, I can cut things out with GarageBand. For gigs if you have two or three sections of different songs that you want to put together into one track or fade in and out, I can usually do that with GarageBand. But I’m not fancy with editing. Alicia: Do you do it on your laptop or on your phone? Cera Byer: On my laptop. I don’t know how people do that stuff on their phone. Alicia: I was going to be impressed if you did. Cera Byer: People are amazed. I leave my phone at home all the time when I go out on purpose. I don’t want it. I miss having a home answering machine. Leave me a message and I will get back to you when I feel like it. I don’t like the idea that people have instant access to you all the time and they get upset if you don’t answer a message within 20 minutes. I’m not into it. Alicia: You got it all set up Cera. Cera Byer: I don’t like it. I’m old enough to remember when we had home answering machines. Alicia: That’s right, you sing a little song on the recorder. Cera Byer: I had completely forgotten about this recently. A friend of mine reminded me that back in the day I had a voicemail question of the week. I used to ask funny questions on my answering machine and my friends would call and answer them. The only one he remembered was, “Would you rather be reincarnated as a tube top or a mini skirt?” I was like, “That’s a great question.” Alicia: Yeah, post that on your social media. I bet you get a whole bunch of responses there. I don’t know where it’ll take you but wow, that is a good one. Damn Sexy Dance Move: Shimmies Alicia: Cera, what damn sexy dance move would you like to share? Cera Byer: I think shimmies are the sexiest dance move of all time. I’m obsessed with shimmies, all of them. Alicia: Do you have a structure for practicing shimmies or a list of all the shimmies you love or anything else you want to say about shimmies? Cera Byer: Oh my gosh. I think it’s a shame when people get set on only having one way to shimmy. And it happens a lot. They’re like, “I only glute shimmy,” or only knees. People get set in their shimmy ways. If you’re dancing to a really emotional Middle Eastern song that has a really beautiful taksim, you can do a shimmy on the violin or on a really emotional vocal sound. You can shimmy on a drum, but if you’re doing a drum solo there’s going to be a difference between the drummer hitting the big deep chunky sounding rhythm to that sound where they roll their fingers on the drum. Be able to move between different textures of shimmy. And not just be up down shimmy, but a twisting shimmy or a front back shimmy or rolling your shimmy up to your shoulders. The thing where you bounce your heels so fast that all the fat in your body jiggles like an earthquake. Shimmies are about getting all your juicy bits to jiggle. That’s all it’s about is about getting your fat to move around. There’s such a luscious thing about opening up to feeling all the different ways that you can jiggle your body to music, it’s so good. Alicia: Cera wrote “Shimmies, always shimmies, only shimmies, every texture of shimmy, every direction of shimmy, world with out end, amen.” Cera Byer: Yes, going back to what I said way at the beginning about people making it way too complicated. You’re like, “Oh you step like this, and then you do it like this, then it’s this combo.” No just shimmies, just shimmies forever. You’re never going to be done perfecting your shimmy. Baryshnikov said, “No matter how big you get in your ballet career you could be the biggest prima ballerina in the world and you still start every day with plies at the bar.” That’s what shimmies are. You will never be done exploring your shimmy. It’s is f*ing yoga. There’s no end to how deep you can go in shimmies. Alicia: Beautiful. Lighten My Body Food: Avocados Alicia Freedman: What is one vegan, whole food ingredient that you love? Cera Byer: I’m addicted to avocados. I’m a Cali girl through and through. Everything in life can be solved by avocados and the beach. I love avocados so much. I’ve been making an avocado chocolate mousse. For people who have not used avocado as a sweet thing, avocado will take on the flavor of whatever you put it with. And it’s so creamy and rich, and it makes such a good base for all different kinds of desserts. A whole avocado with a couple tablespoons of either cacao or 100% chocolate cocoa powder, sweetener of your choice, I usually use agave, and then I like to put in a little cayenne pepper and little cinnamon, give it a little kick. I’ve also put in half a banana, I’ve put in peanut butter, and then you blend it up. I use a Magic Bullet and put it in the fridge for a couple hours. And I’ve put coconut cream on top, it’s so good. It the most rich, delicious, amazing chocolate mousse. Alicia: Sounds so easy. All whole food ingredients, it’s beautiful. Cera Byer: It’s so good. Alicia Freedman: Cera inspired me to test out the avocado and chocolate combination, and I created a killer vegan chocolate peanut butter mousse recipe. https://bellydancebodyandsoul.com/velvety-avocado-chocolate-peanut-butter-mousse/ Make You Shine Costume Tip: Use double sided tape Alicia: What is one costume tip you want to share? Cera Byer: Tape everything. Okay I’m just going to say this. I don’t know if anyone else has an escape boob but mine is my right one. It tries to escape from everything. It escapes from an everyday bra. I can’t tell you how many day to day conversations I have with people where my right boob is out of my bra in my shirt, and I can feel it and I want to adjust. I don’t know why, but every single sports bra I have when I’m teaching, no matter what. I warn people. I’m like, “Oh my gosh I can tell the first moment class starts I’m going to end up flashing right nipple at you.” It changed my life when I realized that I needed to double sided tape myself into every costume no matter how secure it felt. Even if I practice without tape and it felt okay for stage, you don’t want to have that worry. So taping yourself in to everything is the way. Alicia: Now you’re talking about regular clear double sided tape? Cera Byer: Yeah. Alicia: You tape the bottom or your bra or the top? What parts of your bra do you tape? Cera Byer: Well it depends on the costume. You can get lingerie tape. Now you can get it at Walgreens, I see it at the grocery store, usually next to where they have hair stuff sometimes they’ll have lingerie tape. But double sided clothing tape, fabric tape. For me my right boob especially likes to escape out the top of costumes. Depending on the shape of your breast, so my boobs are not super full on the top, they’re fuller on the bottom. So if I’m wearing a costume where I want to have that lovely over the top of the costume cleavage shelf, I’ll put a rolled up sock underneath my breast against the pushup part of the bra to fill up the cup a little bit and lift my boob up so that it’s sitting up high in the cup. And then I put tape above my nipple on the inside of the bra. I get it where I want it and squish it and hold it for 30 seconds so that the tape gets warm. Then it looks like my boobs are bigger, and also that they’re sitting up really high in the cup where the cleavage is all sitting up top. Then if you bounce a little bit you get that really lovely top of the cleavage shimmy. A little bounce up there. A sock underneath inside the bra cup. Also I have had a sock come out of a bra. You never want that, so sometimes you might need to pin it in or tape the sock itself, the rolled up sock into the bra. Or I’ve cut a little hole in the lining if there’s room for it where the bra padding goes, and I can shove something inside so that it won’t come out the bottom of you bra while you’re dancing. Something that makes your boobs stack up on top of the cup and then taping the crap out of them to keep them in there. I’m also crazy athletic. I do all kinds of weird stuff that a lot of standard belly dance doesn’t do. If you’re doing transitions where you’re going to the floor, you’re doing any floor work, you’re doing any rolling around, there’s always a risk that a boob will escape. Or if you have a tie bra, I’ve seen this happen, it’s happened to me, that it’ll come untied in the back. But if you’re taped to high heaven in the front, even if it comes untied, it’s not coming off. Alicia: Just keep dancing. Cera Byer: Oh yeah. You can do a shimmy while you face the audience with your hands behind your back tying your bra, and they’re none the wiser. Feel Good Look Good Habit: Invest in your own happiness Alicia: Do you have a feel good look good habit that you want to share? Cera Byer: Invest in your own happiness. Nothing looks better on anyone, but especially on a woman, than happiness. Literally nothing. Nothing looks better on you than happiness. It’s an inside out glow. It makes your skin look good. It makes your smile look good. It makes your eyes look brighter, just have something about you. This is an interesting thing I’ve noticed. The happier you get, the more people will start insisting you’ve lost weight even when you haven’t. It’s really weird. There’s no framework that people have. “Have you changed your hair?” You’re like, “No.” They’re like, “Have you lost weight?” You’re like, “No.” They’re like, “You have.” I’ve had people get mad and insist I’ve lost weight. I’m like, “I really haven’t, I just look happy.” Don’t know what to tell you. Alicia: Especially with a woman, the softness of it. It’s so magnetic. When you see a happy woman you want to be near her. Cera Byer: It’s so good, and it’s an inside job. Alicia: That’s right. You said something about your shift in your money mindset in the last year or so. Was there something that did that to you? Did you go to a conference? Did you find a person online or read a book? The Importance of Identity Cera Byer: I think it was a handful of different things all at once. One of the biggest things was my age. I’m almost 40 and I have never owned a house and I have never had savings. I’ve been self-employed almost my entire adult life, but I left home very young and I worked jobs as a teenager. Some of them were really good jobs. I worked in marketing research. I had a $70,000 salary when I was 17, and I hated it. I was like, “Okay, I did what you’re supposed to do. I got a good job and I’m making a lot of money and I’m miserable.” The freedom it gave me to have that experience at such a young age was to realize that all the things that were supposed to make me happy didn’t make me happy. So I didn’t need to pursue them anymore. I needed to figure out what made me happy. I realized that I had to be working in the arts. I didn’t want to work for other people, and I never wanted to do anything for work that wasn’t directly tied to my passions. That was all I cared about, and my goal for myself was as long as I can pay all my bills that’s good enough. I did that for almost 20 years, and it was good enough. I never want to make it seem like I wasn’t happy. That was part of why I stayed that way for so long because that was my goal, and I did it. I always made enough money to pay all my bills and be okay only in the arts, and that was all I wanted. If you looked at my bank statements for almost 20 years they would reflect that because every single month I got just enough money in my account to cover everything. And then the last three days of the month I had $3. And it went all back up again, enough to pay all my bills, and by the end of the month I had $3. My financial statements reflected this mentality, this rollercoaster of I just need enough to get by. Then I started being like, “I think I need more then just enough to get by. I need enough to save. I need enough to buy a home. I need enough to retire someday. I need enough to travel and to take time off and live a different lifestyle.” The biggest thing for me – and this is what I work with a lot of clients on – is it has less to do with behavior and more to do with identity. I thought of myself as a scrappy DIY arts hustler. That was my identity, and I was happy with that for a long time. And there’s nothing wrong with it. It was good for me at 20, and it was good for me even at 30. But I also started to think, well what would the six-figure CEO version of me be like? How does that person show up to work everyday? How does that person approach business? How does that person invest in herself? How does that person deal with her finances? How does that person save? How does that person live? I made out a list of what I thought the six-figure CEO version of me would be like, and then I made a list of all the ways that that was different than how I was showing up now. And that was my to do list. I started showing up as the version of me who was making six-figures. I figured I was much more likely to make that kind of money if I started living as that person now. I had my first five-figure month in my business within two months of that. The first thing I did was I invested a bunch of money that I would always tell myself I couldn’t afford as a scrappy DIY arts hustler. I can’t afford to get a business coach. I can’t afford to get a fancy microphone. I can’t afford to get a nicer phone to make nicer videos on. I can’t afford a web cam. I can’t afford help. I would always tell myself I couldn’t afford help. But the six-figure CEO version of me understood that investing in my product would make me more money, and that there was no hesitation for investing in things that would expand my business. Immediately I enrolled in business coaching, I got new equipment with money I didn’t have yet. I quit my part-time job. I put in notice. And I had no idea how I was going to make up that income, but I do think that all of our big internal transformations start with a decision and an identity. Those were the two biggest things that shifted for me. I’m on track to have a six-figure year. Might be a high six-figure year this year. Alicia: I love that. There’s so many limiting beliefs among the belly dance world especially. I mean in the arts of course. That you can’t actually flourish financially as a belly dance teacher, as a belly dance performer. Only a few do it we think, but I had that same limiting belief. “Oh, I’m not going to teach classes, nobody’s going to come, I’m not going to make any money.” I’m always thinking about it too, but I love to hear the hustler in you, the unstoppable hustler in you say, “No, I’ve got so much more to give, and this is how I’m going to do it.” Cera Byer: It’s also funny, because it feels like I’m less of a hustler now than I’ve ever been. Once I stepped into the identity, there was no more hustle. Hustle came with the idea that there was never enough. I was in this scarcity mode like, “Got to make it work, got to grind.” So masculine, so fire-based. So much push. And once I shifted into no, I’m a six-figure CEO of my life. I work less than I’ve ever worked. I keep track of the money that comes in and I look at it and I’m like, “I have no idea how I made $10,000 this month. I don’t even know. I don’t feel like I did anything.” At the same time, I’m serving on a really high level, because you have to be an energetic match for that level of service. So that’s a question you want to ask yourself. Are you an energetic match for $5,000 a month worth of service? Are you showing up for your people at an energetic match of $5,000 worth of service or $10,000 worth of service or $20,000 worth of service? I wasn’t before. I was showing up for my people at a level of a few hundred dollars a month worth of service that was couched in the fear that no one would come. And I wasn’t good enough, and maybe people wouldn’t take it seriously. When I shifted into: I’m going to put out stuff that I really believe in and I trust that the right people will find it. And I’m going to show up in a way that’s designed to serve people at the highest level and to think about them more than I think about my fear. To show up in service for my people more than I’m showing up in service with my own insecurity. Things started to flow, and I literally work less than I’ve ever worked in my life. Two days this week I turned my phone and my laptop off for eight hours. I don’t know. Alicia: It’s a dream. Cera Byer: I’ve had people say this to me. “Oh it sounds so romantic, but it’s not practical.” I don’t know what to tell you. Magic is not practical. There is an energetic component to this that sounds made up, and you can only experience it. You have to start to build your trust muscle with it, and I was like this forever too. I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, law of attraction, abundance, I get it. I like the idea of it.” When you’re an energetic match for wealth then your wealthy, whatever the f*ck that means. Whenever I shifted it to being an energetic match for that level of service, it changed. And I think that’s a really important thing to look at. Are you serving on that level? Are you showing up like you have a product that’s worth money? Alicia: Are you solving a problem for somebody, a real problem? Because when I see your videos too, you’re working on solving problems. Again about identity, what you’re talking about for people. Cera Byer: Yeah. When you realize that so much of life is completely made up, it’s so freeing. Alicia: It’s crazy isn’t it? Cera Byer: Most of your biggest problems are completely made up. It’s just you in your head alone in your living room creating a problem. Alicia Freedman: Or it was your mom, or that teacher that said one thing to you, and you’re holding it for God knows what reason. Cera Byer: Yeah, but God does know the reason and most of the time the reason is because there’s still a little part of you that think that if you join that person in their limiting belief you will get their approval. If I join my mom in her limiting beliefs about beauty and bodies and what women need to be, maybe she’ll stop judging me. And maybe she’ll love me and maybe we’ll be on the same team. If I join my family in the family story that we’re not the kind of people who can hold a job, then I get to start part of that. And that’s something bigger than me. Whereas if I let go of that belief, I am alienating myself in some way from the group. I’m rejecting that approval. I’m saying, “You know what? I no longer want to bond with you over this limiting belief. I’m no longer going to try to gain your love and approval by believing the same thing that you believe.” As an adult that might sound logical, but to the part of you that’s a little kid that learned that this is what we do and this is how I stay part of the group, it’s very scary. And there’s a lot of grief in letting go of the need to be a part of that team. Things change though. When you’re like, “Hey, you know what? Take me off the call list for people you call to complain about money. Take me off of the evite for the pity party, I don’t want to attend, and in fact never invite me again. I will never say yes.” People are like, “Oh you’re too good for us now?” You’re like, “That’s not how I would put it, but I still don’t want to come. Love you.” Alicia: Well and you’re creating something new that maybe they could be invited to. Maybe your family could be invited to that we make six-figures party. Think about what that’s doing for people. Cera Byer: Yeah, and if they don’t want to come you can’t make them. Alicia: No. Cera Byer: And that’s where things get hard for a lot of us. A lot of the time that’s where people turn back. Who you have around you is so important. Who you have around you is critical. Because if you start making those moves, and the people around you are not encouraging and they don’t want to come, you’re actually going to have to give up a lot of relationships in your life in order for you to grow and change. You have to have a pretty deep well of self-love to weather giving up those relationships. You have to have a lot of trust that you’ll find new relationship. And sometimes it’s family members and it’s really hard. Alicia: Have you heard the analogy you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket and one tries to get out and climb up the wall, the other ones will pull it back down. Cera Byer: Yeah. Alicia: Thank you crabs, because this is what’s going on! Cera Byer: Yeah, we want people to stay with us in our sameness. I mean not always and not everyone, but many times people’s attachment to each other is based on the conditions that you’re going to keep supporting me and my bullshit. Alicia: The collusion. Cera Byer: Right. And the day you start trying to change and grow and do something different and be bigger, I’m going to feel judged or I’m going to feel attacked or I’m going to feel threatened that you’re going to leave me. And I’m going to act out in fear. It takes a lot of strength and a lot of self-love and a lot of self-awareness to make a commitment to love someone in their expansion and in their growth. Because that means you have to be committed to your own expansion and growth too. Alicia: Yup. So if you guys are loving what Cera is saying right now, you got to check out her website intuitiveedgecoaching.com. Cera you do business coaching, correct? Cera Byer: I do. I do business coaching and life coaching both and they all end up merging together for me. Alicia: Right, so if you want more of this special sauce but put into your story, get a hold of Cera. I have this whole podcast episode number 32 that’s all about what I learned from Tony Robbins from Date with Destiny. How Dance Enhances Our Essence, Feminine Energy & Happiness - 032 Dance feeds our feminine, and the child inside of us longs for the freedom to play dress up and dance. But problems can stop us from dancing. Hear from Tony Robbins and his wife Sage how we can turn problems into gifts and create habits that make us happier. Cera Byer: Yes, I love Tony Robbins, he’s so fun. Alicia Freedman: Oh my God, right. He’s so amazing. What she’s saying about actually letting your femininity come into your business and not being so masculine about it, can do so much. You want more of all that check out episode 32. Cera Byer: I can tie this back into dance. Let me segue. Alicia: Oh yes, please do. Cera Byer: The whole thing about femininity, especially within belly dance, a lot of people are approaching dance from a masculine perspective, all dance, but a lot of people approach everything in life from a masculine perspective, because that’s the dominant culture. We are swimming in a patriarchal misogynist white supremacist, etc., patriarchal sauce. We’re raised in this country to believe that if we are feminine then we’re vulnerable big time. Second of all people won’t take us seriously. It makes you prey, it’s not safe. Most of the time women are walking around in a masculine posture. If you’re walking down the street you don’t relax into your pelvis and let your hips swing. That’s dangerous. People are going to cat call you. Somebody’s going to follow you down the street. You pull yourself up tight, you maybe pull your shoulders back and your chest out or you hunch, and you look straight ahead, and you march. We live in our bodies most of the time in a way that’s designed to minimize our femininity in order to be safe. Then you come into a dance space, and especially if you’re approaching it all from your head and all from okay, I have to learn these steps and I have to copy my teacher. There’s a felt experience of this dance form that’s about softening into your pelvis. And it’s about experiencing real feminine energy, which is about receptivity. About being a vessel for music. About being empty of yourself and your thoughts in order to receive sound and translate it through yourself. You can’t do that from a masculine approach of “What steps do I know?” Belly dance and all the dance styles that I’m really invested in, which are all basically African Diasporic forms, their root in Sacral Chakras. They’re all about a lived and felt experience and expression of your feminine energy. They’re from the inside out. All dance is from the inside out. But if you are a person who has trouble allowing yourself to tap into your feminine, notice how that’s playing into your dance practice. Are you approaching it all from your head? Is it all categorizing steps? Do you ever have moments where you feel like you’re completely receptive, or are you always calculating? Alicia: Beautiful. In episode 34 of A Little Lighter, Tessa TrueHeart mentioned that you want to be a woman who takes exquisite care of yourself. And that sounds delightful. What does that look like? Can you tell us more about that? BellyEsque Musings from the Voluptuous Tessa True Heart - 034 Want to feel beautiful and juicy in your body? Listen to this. Let's reveal what belly dancers can learn from burlesque culture and find ways to take exquisite of ourselves. Cera Byer: This is some of what came out of Body Love Lab, which is a coaching program that I created. It is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a program to help people, me too, figure out what it means to actually love your body, and be in a loving relationship with your body, and live in your body with love. Some of that includes examining your relationship to self-care. Self-care is a buzz word. So I’m not talking about bubble baths, but how we actually care for our physical self on a day to day basis. Many of us just replicate the standards for self-care that we were shown. Not necessarily told, but show. And usually by our parent of the same gender. My mom’s relationship to care, which I realized “Oh! That’s what I do,” was that she came last. What I witnessed was a single mom who was in college and had a full-time job, and had two young kids when she was younger than I am now – which I can’t even imagine because I AM children. I don’t know how people have children. I think about this a lot. My mom was younger than I am now. She was divorced with two young children. She was in college full-time and had a full-time job, so she came last. The thing that came first was work. Anything designed to bring in cash came first. After that would probably be people who needed her. Service, friends, community, if somebody had an emergency or a problem my mom was there. After that would probably be me and my brother. We were very much of the: you have a house and you have clothes on and you have food, so you’re fine. Then maybe the house. Clean laundry would pile up on the couch. Things wouldn’t be cleaned very much. And then maybe she would look around one day and be like, “Oh my gosh it’s disgusting.” Or company was coming and then she would clean everything all at once in a whirlwind. But she didn’t clean for herself, for her own enjoyment of having the space a certain way. Me and my brother did chores, but that was her relationship to keeping the house. Then her. She would work all day and eat frozen food. Exercise was really about an aesthetic thing, so she didn’t exercise for long enough to gain weight to the point that it bothered her, then there was a shame spiral, and then there would be a surge of exercise. I realized “Oh! That’s exactly what I do. That’s how I live, that’s how my house is. I put work before everything, I’m last. Is that what I want?” When I thought about it I was like, “No. I want to be a woman who takes exquisite care of herself.” Again, it’s an identity thing. I was like, “What does a woman who takes exquisite care of herself do? What does that mean? What does that look like, and what would I define as exquisite care?” There’s no external to that. It’s what feels exquisite to me, and that’s a high bar. Not just sufficient care, exquisite. What would exquisite care feel like? After a lifetime of the bare minimum of care and coming last to myself, it felt like suddenly being at the most glorious buffet with chocolate fountains. I was like, “Wait, exquisite care?” I can get hair trims. That doesn’t sound like a lot but I never got hair trims growing up. My mom cut our hair, so then I just trimmed my own hair. The idea of spending money to have someone trim my hair was like oh, I don’t do that, it’s fancy, I don’t need that, it’s too much, that’s too much for me. Getting my nails done, oh that’s fancy. Maybe once a year or something, but I don’t need that. Keeping fresh flowers in my house all the time because they make me happy. That’s an extra expense, I don’t need that. Buying the organic version of the food versus the cheapest version. Keeping my house in a certain way that looked beautiful to me. Keeping my desk cleared off. It sounds like a small thing, but my desk chair would be piled with laundry and my desk was a mess of papers. And what that signaled to me is A: my work is not important and B: I’m going to have to do 15 chores in order to sit down at my desk and work. When I started clearing my desk off every night so that when I walk out I see my space is ready for me to work, it’s a signal that my work is important enough that I deserve to have a clear space to do it. All of these little things all together create a feeling that I’m exquisitely cared for. Some of me was waiting for a partner to do it for me, which I think a lot of us do. The idea that I always want to have flowers, and I always want to have chocolate. All of these things. And it’s like, “Well somebody should do that for me.” Well maybe, but in the meantime you could still have flowers and chocolate. I actually have a little course called Be Your Own Bae, which is about giving yourself all of the things that you would want someone else to give to you. When I started doing all of those things for myself, it changed how I felt day to day and it changed how I felt about myself. I think that one of the things that happens with self-love and self-care is that people mistake love for a feeling. And I don’t think it is. I think love as a feeling is the resultant set of emotions that come from love as a verb. When we’re in a relationship with another person it’s really hard to fall in love with someone who never answers your texts and when they do talk to you they make you feel like you’re a f*cking chore. And they’re annoyed by you and they criticize everything that you do and they tell you that you’re not good enough. They never do nice things for you. They are never thoughtful. They never go out of their way for you. They expect you to do a bunch of stuff for them, but they don’t really do anything for you. They take you for granted. It’s really hard to feel lovey dovey towards that behavior, but most of us treat ourselves like that. Then we feel like oh, well if I can figure out how to feel love for myself then I’ll treat myself differently. How are you going to start feeling love for yourself when you treat yourself like that? It can be very outside in. It can be very much about starting to treat yourself the way that you would treat a beloved, and then noticing that all of a sudden you’re like, “Damn me, you’re awesome. Thank you for buying flowers.” Past me bought me chocolates. I love past me. That bitch is amazing. Oh past me took the time to clean up the kitchen and get everything for the morning so that when I woke up it was clear and open for me to have my coffee, and I love how that feels. There’s a feeling of being nurtured that flows through my life from me to me that makes me have a greater appreciation for myself. Yeah, it can go all from behavior. Alicia: When you said Be Your Own Bae, what does Bae stand for? Cera Byer: I think it came from babe, but then people started saying it was an acronym for Before Anyone Else, which I like very much. Alicia: There’s that saying that if somebody talked to you the way you talk to yourself you’d slap them upside the face. Cera Byer: You would never stand for it, especially the thing about treating yourself like a chore and criticizing everything you do. For so many women we’re like, “Oh you again.” Alicia: Automatic right, just keeps on coming in the mind. Cera Byer: Can you imagine if you were dating someone and every time you texted them they were like, “What do you want?” You’d be like, “We’re breaking up. You’re mean to me.” Or you’re like, “Hey babe I made this thing today.” They’re like, “Eh, it could be better. Why aren’t you like that other person?” We’re like that to ourselves, and then we wonder why we’re sad! Oh my God. Alicia: Tell us something exciting that you have coming up. Cera Byer: Well with quarantine… I want to shout out to the people who are still doing deliveries. If you have the means and you can just tip those people so, so well. Alicia: Oh yeah. Cera Byer: If I’m using any delivery services I’ve been really tipping people as generously as I possibly can because those people are taking care of us and risking themselves so thank you to those people if you’re listening. If you’re out there doing Instacart deliveries right now just thank you for your service. You are all our new service men and women. Thank you for your service. Alicia: Wouldn’t it be awesome if this quarantine shit was over when this aired in four weeks? Cera Byer: I’m into it. I’m a weirdo. But one of my favorite things about quarantine – and this is where it’s taking me in my life and in my work – is so many people I know, artists, movement professionals, teachers have dropped all of the perfectionism procrastination that has kept them from launching online classes and online offerings and sharing their work online and are doing it. My first thought was, “We could have all been doing this a long time ago.” So many people are like, “Oh I’m probably going to start teaching online, but before I start teaching online I need to research the best camera, and I need to figure out the very best platform for hosting, and I need to figure out how I’m going to accept payment for it, and I need to figure out studios.” Then it’s 18 steps and you’re overwhelmed and then you go watch Netflix and it’s five years later and you’ve never done online classes. It took this emergency for so many people to be like, “I’m just doing it on my phone and I’m going live on Instagram and I’m putting it out there and I’m offering.” I have loved seeing people take imperfect messy action. I did it too. The first week I was like, “Well I guess I’m going to teach online classes on Zoom and they’ll get better every time and we’ll figure it out.” I don’t think I want to go back to “normal” after this. There are so many amazing beautiful things that have shifted. We have suddenly figured out how to give unoccupied houses to the homeless. We have young healthy people running errands for elderly or infirmed neighbors, we’re more of a neighborhood in such a global way than we’ve ever been. All of a sudden people are getting out of their own way. They’re putting out art. They’re showing up for each other. I have friends who are DJ’ing live on Instagram and providing low cost services and coming up with ways to support the community. I’ve heard some people be like, “Well this is great but when quarantine is over I’m afraid it’s all going to go back to every man for themselves, business as usual.” The thing I’ve been thinking about is: maybe that’s up to us. Can we serve on this level continually? And how can we resource ourselves to keep being able to provide on this level and showing up for each other on this level? What’s exciting for me right now is the world is changing. We are potentially on the verge of an entirely new way of doing things if we’re willing to rise to that level and to really think about how we can use this to serve bigger. And to show up bigger and to be more present and more available. And to take more imperfect messy action. What can I do to help people do that and how can I do it myself? Alicia: Beautiful Cera. Our family’s been having a get dressed up in ridiculous costumes, wigs, the whole shebang and dance everyday like 5:00 and put it on Facebook Live. Cera Byer: I love it. Alicia: Everyday. We’ve been doing it for 11 days now. Since the first day that school was closed. Yeah, what you’re saying is why didn’t I have a dance party every goddamn day and get dressed up? Cera Byer: Right. Alicia: It’s the highlight of our day. Cera Byer: It’s so beautiful and that you’re doing it with your family and that you’re connecting and then that you’re sharing with others. Modeling permission to be silly and that you don’t need an excuse to put a costume on. Oh it’s so good. Alicia: Cera I have loved hearing all that you have to offer here in this short period of time, so please everyone, look Cera up online. Tell us the best way to connect with you online Cera. Cera Byer: I’m on Instagram. That’s my main platform. Oh I’ll share, I have a private Facebook group, that’s where you can get the most value from me. I do lives in there so every month I’ll ask the members what’s something that they’re going through or struggling with that they want to talk about and I’ll do a free live group coaching in there on that topic. I share a lot of resources in there and it’s called Unstuck. So I think it’s Facebook.com/groups/unstuckgroup. That’s where you can get the most access to me, and also anytime I’m doing courses or group coaching or I have space for a client I announce it there first, and members of my group get discounts on all kinds of stuff. That’s a really good way to connect with me a little deeper than just Instagram. Again my Instagrams are @intuitiveedgecoaching and my dance one is @ceragohellahard. Alicia Freedman: Woo hoo, thank you so much Cera. Cera Byer: Thank you. Alicia Freedman: Keep on doing the good work girl, I love it. Cera Byer: I appreciate you so much. Thank you.
46 minutes | 8 months ago
Suhaila Salimpour on Bal Anat, Jamila, and their Legacy – 038
Find out why Suhaila walked off the nightclub stage at 28, how we can show respect for the cultural origins of belly dance, and how her mother Jamila Salimpour danced her cooking. *Just to note that this interview was recorded in December 2019, right before the coronavirus outbreak. About Suhaila I am so honored to feature this belly dance legend of our time, Suhaila Salimpour. Suhaila started dancing at the age of two. The mother of tribal belly dance, Jamila Salimpour, was also the mother of our guest Suhaila. Born in the ’60s, Suhaila grew up with her mother’s format, and the groundbreaking troupe Bal Anat. Suhaila has studied an array of Western dance forms, as well as some Eastern dance forms. In addition to belly dance. As she grew, Suhaila spent 10 years performing live music in fancy nightclubs in the Middle East and Los Angeles. In the ’90s, she began the Suhaila Dance Company, started directing the troupe. Her mother started Bal Anat and created the very widely respected Suhaila Salimpour Belly Dance certification program. Similar to someone who tells you that they have a black belt in karate, when dancers say that they’ve completed any level of Suhaila’s or Jamila’s belly dance format, you know that they worked their butts off. And they grew so much from the experience, and both Suhaila and Jamila have done an unbelievable amount of work to raise belly dance up as an art form to be respected as much as ballet and modern dance. Suhaila, I interviewed one of your sweet students and our mutual friend Anna Horn the other day. Suhaila: Yeah, I love Anna. Alicia Free: Anna shares some great hair secrets in that interview, among many other treasurers. Subscribe to these amazing interviews and, they’ll keep popping right up in your podcast listening feed. While I have not yet started my journey into Suhaila’s format and certification program, Anna shared her experience and her admiration for the training that you’ve given her and so many others. So this is a chance to hear Suhaila’s story. I’m throwing the questions that I ask in every interview out the airplane window, and we’re taking a trip to Suhaila land. And Suhaila, just to start and honor, your family background, I read that your childhood was not easy, and that you and your mother were born to dance, but your Iranian side of your family often made that very difficult. And you’ve really turned that around for your daughter Isabella, the third in your family lineage of performers. So this podcast is all about what lights us up, and I can’t wait to hear what you have to share. So let’s begin. The Foundation of Tribal Style Suhaila: I just want to say that even though you say that you haven’t started your journey with my format, you probably have and you just don’t know it. I’m not sure that there’s anyone in the United States that has not been touched by the Salimpour Format. And I say that with all my heart and soul, because between my mother and Ibrahim Farrah, they really birthed belly dance in America. And yes, my mother was credited with being the mother of Tribal Style Belly Dance, because it was her vocabulary that is the foundation of the movement. My mother didn’t really identify with being a Tribal Style Belly Dancer at all, which I think is really interesting. But her movements and her vocabulary of course is what Tribal Style Belly Dance is based on. And then of course the Suhaila Format is, and all the isolations, and all of that work, is what the foundation of Tribal Fusion is based on. But my mom and myself, we consider ourselves classical oriental dancers, and we worked in nightclubs for years and years. Alicia Free: So interesting. The way that the world sees us, and wants to see us can be so different to the way that we feel ourselves and know ourselves. Belly Dance Style Fragmentation Suhaila: Well, yes. My mother was confused like, what happened to the belly dance world? Because when she started teaching in the 1940s, everything was based around of course the music, and the culture and that was the bond. And then later, on when we started having different terms like type of Tribal Fusion, Am Cab, Cab fusion, Dark Tribal, it’s like ordering coffee at Starbucks. It separated us as an art form. Does that make sense? And so this was something that my mom and I both really felt sad about. What we focus on in Salimpour school is making sure that everybody is trained the same, and there’s a really strong foundation. When you are trained well you can work with any stylization. So the problem is the industry. Now people come in and start learning a stylization right away, and there’s not the foundational training. The Stigma of Belly Dance in Middle Eastern Cultures But yes, my childhood was not easy. And it wasn’t easy for my mother either because my father is Middle Eastern. In the Middle East it’s not really something you’re proud of if your wife or if your daughter wants to belly dance. It’s the opposite. You can belly dance for each other in the living room. That’s what my aunts would do. They’d wait for the men to leave the house, go to work, and then they would move the coffee table over. And they would just spend all afternoon belly dancing for each other, and crying and cooking. And then when there was a sign that the men were coming home, they’d pull the coffee table back, wipe their tears, open up the curtains and act like nothing happened. But they were dancing for each other. But putting on a costume, and getting out on stage, oh no, no, no. That was for women of questionable morals. Alicia Free: Mm-hmm. Have you seen the documentary, At Night They Dance? I think it was made 2012. It was made fairly recently in Egypt. Suhaila: Yeah, I did, with her putting on her makeup, Right? Alicia Free: Oh yeah. In the little mirror. There was an interview you did where you were talking about getting ready in the basement with a mirror the size of a postcard. That’s similar to what you see in that movie. The women are getting ready with their daughters right next to them with this tiny mirror in their hand… Suhaila: I did see that documentary, and it’s funny because I didn’t really in my head register that as a film or a documentary. Because it’s so real. Alicia Free: Yeah. That was a great way for me to visualize what people have talked about. About the stigmatizing. I couldn’t really wrap my head around it until I saw that movie and I went oh, that’s what it looks like. That’s what it smells like. It’s something so foreign to me, because the way I came into dance was at an Ivy League school with a beautiful light filled studio, with very soft kind people. It’s so different than the way most of the dance has reached people. Why People Choose Belly Dance Suhaila: I think that that’s probably one of the more difficult things to bridge the gap. What belly dance means to so many people. It’s so different because what happens culturally is really different than what people take from it. As the director of the Salimpour School I’m always trying to handle the different reasons why people come to belly dance and make sure that there’s a platform and a place for all of that. Because culturally it’s not acceptable in any way to become a belly dancer. And like you were just saying, you came into it as a celebration and exploration, but you have the safety of being here without feeling that your life is in danger. Outside of the Middle East we have these wonderful communities. People come together and support each other, and we sit there and we clap and we yell for each other. “Oh, have you forgot your costume, you can borrow mine.” When I was working in the Middle East I had to be really careful not to upset other dancers. I remember one time walking off stage into my dressing room and every single costume I had was sliced up. Somebody was upset with me because I was doing well. It’s this competition. It’s not just like stardom competition, it’s livelihood. I need to feed my kid competition. But here, in this country and also in Europe and South America and Asia, these incredible communities have been built around this art form. And it’s really beautiful to watch. That’s what I try to focus on, definitely is the celebration of it. But I also want to make sure that people understand the history of it. I think it’s really important to understand the history and the culture because everything that you do is a variation of that. I feel we should feel so lucky. When I was younger my mom was prepping me for the next phases of my dance life. It was a no brainer that I would be trying to dance in the Middle East. Now it’s different. The situation in the Middle East is just totally different. The industry has changed so much. Alicia Free: I’ve seen an interview that you did about that. A lot of it seems to be the loss of live music, and venues that have a band. What do you see as the biggest change? Why Belly Dance is Declining in the Middle East Suhaila: Well, I think it’s political. And that’s why it’s so difficult to represent the belly dance community without popping everybody’s bubble. Dance is political, and this is the next wave of what’s happening. But what’s happening in the Middle East is not just the bands, but the reason the bands are being lost. In 2011 there was a revolution. You have this post revolution backlash. You see a lot of foreign dancers dancing in the Middle East now, and their over exaggerated Western expression is a backlash to the fundamentalists. It’s really intense, because you also have this whole generation of people that are influenced by reality shows and the Kardashians. So there’s that kind of image of beauty and success. And you know, in my day there was no plastic surgery. That’s kind of a new thing too. The view and the role in the image of women, are more extreme now than ever. So you have women that are really more politically involved, or religiously involved, and then you have this whole other backlash where the dancers represent almost the anti version of that political expression. It’s really a different industry. So the loss of the band is not just a loss of the band. It’s a loss of the arts. Even the music represents the melancholy position that the Middle East has right now. Like now, the music is so geared towards just it all being shaabi music. Shaabi, shaabi, shaabi, that’s it. And shisha. If you’re not playing shaabi music and you’re not smoking shisha it’s really hard to fill a nightclub. And when a classical song comes on, like an Umm Kalthoum song, almost a heavy cloud comes over everybody’s heart because it’s almost too difficult to hear. It’s reminiscent of a time that doesn’t exist anymore. So it’s not a simple answer. And we just opened Salimpour school in Egypt, but it’s underground. You can’t have belly dance schools. It’s illegal, and it’s word of mouth and it’s all very protected. It’s not as romantic as people think. We’re trying to fight to keep the arts alive however we can. Alicia Free: What made you want to come back to the U.S. after working abroad? Belly Dancing to Live Music Can Become an Addiction Suhaila: Well, when I was working in the Middle East, it was really difficult. There were no cell phones and no Skype, and there was no FaceTime. I was so lonely, and I was very isolated. You start to confuse reality. You’re working, and then you’re on stage, and then you have a band, and then you can have a bigger band, and you can have more costumes, and then you’re back on stage. And when you have a love for Arabic music – and I mean a love, like an addiction-love for Arabic music – the moment on the stage is magical. When you and the live band are one. And the hard part is when you walk off the stage. Then the loneliness and the isolation is so grand that you just can’t wait to get back on the stage. It’s the only place you’re able to communicate and feel alive. So I was really worried when I was in the Middle East. I wanted to have a family. I wanted to have children. And I remember one night sitting at the edge of my bed and thinking that I could close my eyes and open them and 10 years would have gone by. And I’d have more costumes, and a bigger band, but I was worried that I would have gotten so caught up in that addiction to the music, that live music exchange, that I would miss the opportunity to create a family. And not just a literal family like having children. I used to write in my diary every night and my morning pages. I wanted to create a safe and positive environment for people to grow in this art form. I wanted to direct the Salimpour school full time and really be able to nurture that. I knew it was my destiny and my future. Being on stage is really narcissistic. You have to find that balance of being healthy in the narcissism, but you’ve got to keep control of that beast. If I let the beast take over, how would I be able to leave the legacy? How would I be able to nurture my mother’s legacy in the Salimpour school? And so I had to make a conscious decision to walk off the stage and come back home and start the school and my family and the Suhaila Dance Company as well. But it was not easy. Alicia Free: And you’ve brought a lot of musicians into your school. Anna mentioned that you’ll hear that so-and-so an ouddist is in town and you’re like, “Oh, well then let’s get them in here.” So it sounds like even though you’ve left the stage in the Middle East, you have brought the music into your studio, into the space that you’ve cultivated for this community. Arabic Musicians Every Belly Dancer Should Know Suhaila: Yes. I think bringing Arabic music into the educational process within the Salimpour School was the key component. We are very responsible culturally. What has happened to the dance form, like I was saying is it was so separate. There are even factions of this art form that are so fused that they don’t even know what Arabic music is. It blows my mind. Like if I mentioned Oum Kalthoum, or Warda, or Farid Al Atrash, or Mohammed Abdel Wahab, I’d see dancers that have been dancing for years and years, stare at me blankly, like they have no idea. I’m not sure that would happen in any other art form. I think is important to always have the music and the culture that you’re fusing from, and you’re evolving from, as a part of the learning process. Crucial. https://www.arabamerica.com/the-greatest-arab-singers-in-the-golden-age/ Alicia Free: I honestly didn’t know the names of any of these artists, these composers, musicians, until I joined a band. Honestly I had been dancing for 12 years, I heard the music, and I loved music, but I didn’t know much about it. Suhaila: Well, it’s not your fault because it’s the educational systems that our students are coming through that aren’t focusing on this. And part of it is because I think in belly dance we’re always kind of battling these two things: One is, it’s an art form, and it has a culture, and history behind it. And then on the other side of the dance is for everyone and it’s all inclusive, and let’s just have fun and a kind of borderlines on the Zumba-esk, the Zumba vibe. And I teeter back and forth in that all the time, because I’m like, “No. You guys have to understand the culture, and you have to understand the history.” And then on the other side it’s like, “But be free and dance and enjoy yourself.” So I’ve had to make sure that the school has a nice healthy balance of all of it. Cultural Appropriation and Belly Dance In level one and in level two of the Suhaila Format, there’s no cultural context. it’s really just about understanding your body, and learning how to count music, and learning placement, and structure. Then it’s only in levels 3, 4 and 5 that we get into culture and history and musicality on a deeper level. I feel that it’s just really overwhelming. Especially now we’re talking about a culture that is in a crisis. Politically, spiritually, and emotionally, and I think that as non-Middle Easterners, you have to be very, very sensitive. To be careful not to just cherry-pick and just use the culture for your own personal benefit as a non Middle Easterner. And this is something I feel very strong about in my heart, because I remember years ago, my family, we are Middle Eastern and actually Kurds on the Turkish side. I grew up knowing my history and understanding my heritage really well. And when I’m in this country (the USA), I see groups using the word gypsy. This is not Halloween and you don’t just get to play dress-up. These are people, this is a culture, this is history. And now everybody’s like, “Oh-oh, cultural appropriation. We had better not use this word, we better not do this.” And I think yeah. Exactly. And this is what I was working on three decades ago. To create this foundation. Now I think a lot of non Middle Easterners are going, “Wait a minute, maybe we should know a little bit about the culture, and not just think the costume’s cool, and we can just put it on and dance to whatever we feel like.” Alicia Free: I interviewed a Hurdy Gurdy Player, and she’s sassy and fun, Roxanne Bruscha, and she was saying that she actually doesn’t believe in cultural appropriation. She believes in assholes, and I just love the way she says that. She says, “I believe in ignorance.” Sometimes the term cultural appropriation seems like such a vague big kind of thing. When am I in that realm? When am I being politically incorrect? And then you realize, “I’m being an asshole.” Bohemian Grind with Hurdy Gurdy Player Roxanne - ALLAF 031 Learn this essential tip for any dancer who plays zills, dance confidently to the droning medieval keyed fiddle we call the hurdy gurdy, and have fun hearing the wild Renaissance Festival times of musician and dancer Roxanne Dresden Bruscha. Suhaila: I think it’s brilliant, and I just try to be as gentle as possible. In the belly dance world there are styles that are based on cultural appropriation. So I have to just bite my tongue. Reliable Belly Dance Resources for Everyone I handle by producing educational material for everyone. Not just the Salimpour School. For anyone to be able to get the article book. For anyone to be able to get the Salimpour School compendium. These are all the educational materials for anybody to read, in any stylization, or working with any teacher. I just hope that the more educated people get, they will start to question what they’re doing. And I think that that’s really healthy. I have faith in people that the more they know and the more they want to know that they will make really great choices based on sensitivity and care and not ego. Alicia Free: I couldn’t agree more. It sounds so funny to say, the more you know, but really once you have a face to attach to this word, or this concept, or this move, and a story to attach to it, then you see the person there. Suhaila: And it’s hard because in belly dancing, we don’t have a training ground that we all agree on. So if somebody says, “I’ve been belly dancing for 10 years.” And somebody says, “I’ve been belly dancing for 10 months.” It means nothing. The one studying for 10 months might know more than the ones studying for 10 years. So we can’t agree on a foundational training ground. If we did and we all agreed on a language, and we all agreed on the same training ground, well then that would really unite us, and I think it would really be great for the art form. That’s what I’m working on with the school. Alicia Free: Just looking at your family, Suhaila, the way that you have made it accessible for all of us to tap into the wisdom that you’ve tapped into is unbelievable. It’s so rare, in the belly dance world, to have somebody who puts out a compendium online that you can download instantly that is that comprehensive. I just love that you guys have put so much work into making it easy for us to be part of it. Suhaila: Thank you for that, because it takes a lot of time and energy. And directing a school is a certain type of responsibility that I don’t take lightly. I’m very committed to the School. The School, and the educational material, and then of course the structure of the School, and the infrastructure of the School, is something that’s going to last way longer than just me. The Salimpour School Legacy And that was why when I walked off the stage I knew that it was important. Because, I could do another show, and then do another show, and then another round of applause, and another standing ovation, but at the end, who cares? If I can’t solidify this legacy in this School, I would really feel I’ve done nothing. And so it has been an expense at times, from my own personal expression. I don’t perform as much as I used to, not even close. Because of the amount of energy it takes to run the School. And of course, I was also a single mother, and I was the caretaker for my mother… My mother got ill and before passing. She wouldn’t let anybody touch her but me. So I bathed her and fed her and cleaned her for years. And I was doing that, raising a daughter, and then also running the School. To think of putting on eyelashes and lipstick and getting out on stage, no thank you. I would face plant by the end of the night. I was just dead. But I was so happy. And throughout the years I’ve made sure to withdraw myself and my name. Now it’s Salimpour School. It’s very rare that we even use “Suhaila” or “Jamila” at Salimpour School, and it’s not just my family, it’s the part of your legacy too. Alicia Free: I love that. I feel like it’s rare in the artists’ communities to think about something in terms of a legacy. Having satellite schools and creating a language that helps people communicate. It’s not a language for self expression. You have created a language so that the community can get that much bigger, and dance that much more. And I just have so much respect for the way that you’ve thought about all this and the way you’ve approached it. Suhaila: Well, thank you. And this year is the Salimpour School’s 70th anniversary, and last year was Bal Anat’s 50th anniversary. The school has been around a long time. There’s not many schools in any dance form, that have been around for 70 years. I think the Bolshoi Ballet. I really think that the Salimpour School, just as far as dance history, forget belly dance history, is very unique. And I’ve used the Alvin Ailey School model to create the structure in the Salimpour School. My mother passed away two years ago, and the School is strong. And someday I won’t be here, and the School will be strong. I want the School, and the vision of the School that my mother had 70 years ago to continue, and it will. But there’s a thought process that goes into that, yes. And our format has been around a long time. And some students that have been through the school, or have been influenced by the school will go and take a lot of the material, and then kind of change the names, and then create their own format. And that’s always been a little confusing for us, because it’s like, “Wait a minute, it’s always been there.” And that’s the other reason why we have online classes, and we have archives of our classes, because it’s important for people to be able to read, and view, and study, the history of the School and the Format. And they can see the value of everything that has been going on for the last 70 years. The First Online Belly Dance Class Alicia Free: Now, 2009 I believe is when you started the online training part of your program, is that correct? Suhaila: I think we launched in 2009, but I was filming in 2008 for it. Alicia Free: Were there any other belly dance programs out there at that time, that were online? Suhaila: Oh no. As a matter of fact, I had the idea years before. I’ve made a bunch of videos in my day. You’d set up this video and, you filmed this one hour thing and then it goes out, and then it’s an hour, whatever. Or choreography. But I was frustrated because I knew that for people to really grow, you have to be in a training ground. And so I wished the cameras could just be like a fly on the wall. And when I said that, I was like, “Oh my God, that’s what I need.” It was all really new. And I called my web guy and I said, “Listen, I have this idea and I want to online classes.” And my web guy was like, “Yeah, it can’t be done. I’m sorry.” I was like, “I need an hour, an hour and a half. I need 90 minutes at least, I need this.” And “Nope.” he said, “Unless you want to buy your own server, and that’s going to cost you a hundred grand.” And I was like, “Oh my God.” So I had to wait for technology to catch up with my idea. And I remember when he called me in 2008 he was like, “You know what? I think we can do it.” But YouTube, still was only doing it at this point, I think 12 minutes or 15 minutes. And so when we launched the online classes, there was nothing like it. Nothing in any form or platform. And so it’s been really interesting for me to see how the online classes have expanded. Not just mine, but now you have the yoga, and the Pilates, it’s everywhere. But I’ve had a lot of people contacting me, not in belly dance, outside of belly dance, and asked me to coach them and guide them on how I’ve done it, because it’s the future. And our online class program is just huge. If you took a different class every day, you would probably get through all of the classes we have in two years maybe. And we don’t recommend that. We recommend you repeating classes and concepts, over and over. Teaching Celebrities to Belly Dance Alicia Free: I saw that celebrities, like the famous comedian Margaret Cho, have booked private lessons with you, and they’ve learned from you. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Suhaila: It is so much fun to work with artists that are working at a high level because they really are trying to incorporate the big vision of what it is that I have to offer. Like I remember one of the first private lessons I gave Margaret Cho, the whole lesson was on breath. And integrating breath and movement, and that was huge. So it’s not just belly dancing, it’s really deeper than all of that. Alicia Free: And I love that you also have opportunities on your website, so if somebody is working on a choreography and needs feedback, it looks like you can have a Skype feedback session with one of your instructors, or you. Oh my God, what a great resource that is for people. Suhaila: Yes, I really want to make sure that the school is available to everyone. You don’t even have to be a member or certified in the Salimpour School. If you’d like feedback on a choreography or a show that you did, you can have a lesson just to have your performance watched and get feedback. And of course within the School, that’s something that we do a lot, because the dancers in the Salimpour School, they really do appreciate the feedback from the higher level teachers. And I think it’s great because you can have a Skype private, and then you can also get a Skype feedback, or you can go through the certification program. We have level ones available online now, and there’s just a lot that can happen, and you don’t really even have to travel, and I think that’s really important for people. We are so busy these days. But it’s been really interesting for me to try to figure out ways to create community globally, in this day and age. The Global Belly Dance Community I’m really proud of our Salimpour Collectives and Bal Anat. You can just even be level 1 certified in one of the formats. Like if you were just Suhaila Level 1, and you wanted to join a Collective near you, we put you in touch with other dancers in the School that are also Level 1, or 2, or higher in the program. And then you work together on choreographies that I assign, a different set for a season. A season is typically a year. You work on certain choreographies and we have costume kits and recommendations that we help you with. And you have a choreography captain, and you have access to all of the feedback. You’re not alone. And we have some Salimpour Collectives around the world that are a member of 1, and that’s fine too. They’re waiting for other dancers to play with. And Bal Anat is the same way. We call it the United Nations of Bal Anat. Alicia Free: Very cool. Suhaila: Because Bal An ant is global now. And so when you’re Level 2 certified in both the Suhaila and the Jamila Format, you are invited in to Bal Anat. The first piece that you learn is our finale piece that we do as a full cast. Bal Anat is literally global, and very high level dancers. Level 2 in both formats. It’s so inclusive, all ages, all shapes, all sizes, all genders. I’m just so proud of Bal Anat. I’ll assign people dances, and then they get their costume kits, and you have your choreography captains, and then we meet in the… We’re doing a Bal Anat show in Prague. And we will meet on Saturday, and the show is Sunday, and it will look like we’ve been rehearsing for weeks. Alicia Free: So cool. Because you got it set up. Suhaila: It’s really well structured, and I have a lot of help. I have a great team, and a great staff, and it’s very exciting. In Prague we have a cast of 90 people. Alicia Free: Wow. That’ll be quite a party on stage. Suhaila: Oh it is. It always is. You know what? We don’t even know if anybody’s in the audience, we’re having so much fun. We love it. Alicia Free: Suhaila, What do you wish someone told you when you first started dancing with Bal Anat, when you were a kid? Suhaila: I think that when I was a kid – I was on stage before my second birthday – it was my happy place. Our house was really intense when I was growing up. My mom and I would escape to the Renaissance Fair. Bal Anat was such a safe place, and it was where I felt like I could be free and open up my heart, and my soul. I’m not sure anybody could have told me anything different. I knew at a young age that there was a difference between what was happening at my home and what was happening with Bal Anat. I chose Bal Anat to be my spirit family. If somebody could have told me one thing, I think I would have appreciated it that age if somebody had said to me that, what is happening in my home will not define me, and I’m going to be okay. Alicia Free: Not to let our past define us. The parts that we don’t like. Right? Suhaila: Yeah. I was always scared to go home. So when I was off the stage and going home, the way I would deal with things is really go inside. I’m an introvert, so I’d really go inside and kind of protect myself. But if somebody would have said to me, Don’t worry. How you feel on stage, you will be able to feel that way in life. Alicia Free: The way you feel on stage, you can feel in life. That’s amazing. Suhaila: Yeah. Because it was the only time I was happy. When I was dancing was the only time I was happy as a child. I don’t think people understand what my mom and I went through. It is not what defines us, but it is a part of our history, and our past. Facebook right now does these really cool things where you can sign up for a donation, like a fundraiser thing. It’s kind of new I think. And so for my birthday, I decided to sign up for the Oakland Elizabeth House, which is a shelter for women and men with their children when they have to escape from domestic violence and restart their lives. And this is something that’s really close to my heart, because my mom and I had nowhere to go in the ’60s. My mom would just grab me with the clothes on our back and we’d run to the police station. And in the ’60s there was nowhere to go. Police officers would just say, “Well, what did you do to upset your husband?” And, “Well, just don’t do that, and he won’t get mad.” Or, “Don’t make him mad.” And we just stand there. And I was so young. So my mom and I would ride the train up and down all night, because we didn’t have anywhere to go that my dad wouldn’t have found us. And then my mom would hope that he would have calmed down when we went home. But there was nothing for us at that time. And so now to have these homes like the Oakland Elizabeth House. It’s so close to my heart. We raised $2,000 from my birthday, which was my goal. I was so happy because I really feel that it’s important that every human feels safe. Alicia Free: Especially at home, oh my God. Creating a Safe Space to Dance Suhaila: Yeah. I felt safe when I was on the stage and that was what was important to me. To be able to create a life where I felt safe off the stage as well. And you can hear the theme of my life. When I was in the Middle East my diaries were filled with me wanting to create safe places for people to be able to explore themselves creatively. That’s the theme. Alicia Free: Beautiful. So excellent that you can see your theme. Most of us are so steeped in it, we can’t see it. Suhaila: Yeah. I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to understand and see my theme. I think it’s because I’m an introvert. I can look inside and listen inside. I was 28 years old when I walked off the night club stage. And that was very difficult, because I was 28 years old! But I had already at 28 been working six nights a week, two shows a night for 10 years. So I was really very satisfied with my career, but I wanted it to be more. I wanted the school. I wanted the community. I wanted to be able to create the legacy and the foundation of Salimpour School for generations of dancers. And not just dancers. Margaret Cho just wanted to breathe with her movement. That is so important. MAKE YOU SHINE COSTUME TIP: Use an Amazing Bathing Suit as the Base Alicia Free: Love it. Suhaila, I can’t go any further without asking you about that costume, with all the lace up. What were you wearing in, the fitness fusion video in 2004? Oh my God, where did that come from? Suhaila: That’s hilarious. That costume really made an impact. You know, it was a bathing suit. Alicia Free: What? Suhaila: Yeah, it was a bathing suit. And I loved the sides so much. And what I loved about it is that it was so light. My movement is so intricate that you really can’t wear too much or the movement gets lost. And I’m very syncopated and I layer. So it was such a great costume for all that I wanted to do. It was so light, and I just kind of step into it and put it on. And it was funny because it made such an impact, but it’s very simple. It’s a bathing suit that we covered. Alicia Free: Wow. There’s a costume tip. Find a bathing suit you love and turn it into a costume. Suhaila: Yeah exactly. That’s all I did. Alicia Free: Right. And thinking about how much more forgiving that fabric is to subtle movements than a hard sequined top with the stiffness and the belt. I didn’t think about that. Suhaila: Yeah I like the softness and the fluidity. Then the woman who created the costume out of the bathing suit, her name is Alnisa, she is brilliant. She knows my body so well, and she just knew where to take out the tie strap in the back. I could do never have a costume that tied in the back. Oh my God. I would have been flying all over the place. So she put a hook, and BAM! So I could dance in it. I am a very aggressive performer. So the costume had to really hold on, and it did. It was great. Alicia Free: And be light. Suhaila: I know, I’m glad you like that costume. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve saved it for my daughter. Alicia Free: That’s wonderful. It’s almost got the – forgive me for using the term slave Leia – but it’s like in the Star Wars movie where princess Leia has that costume. I did that once for Halloween cause I’m obsessed with that costume. It’s just similar a little bit. It’s so much fun to hear where that costume came from. Thank you. Suhaila: Yeah, everyone identifies with that costume in a different way. And that was not the first video and time I wore it. The Suhaila solo video was when I debuted that costume. And I wouldn’t let anybody see my costumes, and when I walked out on stage the whole audience gasped. Literally when I walked out on stage with that costume, the whole audience just went (gasping). And I knew it wasn’t from my entrance. Alicia Free: That’s funny. FEEL-GOOD-LOOK-GOOD HABIT: Drink Water, Eat Avocados and Enjoy Each Year of Life Alicia Free: You’ve got this like gorgeous glow to your skin, to you and your daughter. Actually I was looking at pictures of you both today. I read someone comment about it on Facebook, and you said, “I just drink water, and healthy living.” Do you want to say anything more about that? Suhaila: I feel like I’m really lucky because my mom had great skin. Oh my God, she had the best skin. I feel like I’ve inherited her skin. So a lot of it is genetics. And we have a lot of olive oil and our cooking. We’re Mediterranean, and so it’s the olive oil, it’s the avocados, it’s the fat, that is just so good for your skin. And I drink a lot of water. But the other thing too, I think that what people see on the outside is what’s projecting on the inside. And my mom was very, very happy. She loved the dance and she loved her community. And my mom never made me feel that aging was stressful or bad. She always was proud of her age. And my mom used no facial products. She just used a bar of soap. Even the term anti-aging to me is just so negative because I’m aging, and I’m actually happy about it. I think that means that I’m making it. I’m surviving. It’s a test of endurance. I think if we set people up with anti-aging, then when we age we feel bad. I don’t know. That’s why I’ve started to let my grays come in. I want to make sure that my daughter – who’s 21 and really caught up in this whole era of social media – know it’s okay to age. We are Missing Positions for Mature Belly Dancers Alicia Free: Well another part of belly dance to me is, it that it’s totally acceptable for grandmother’s to dance. There’s a grandmother’s dance at the wedding. One of my friend’s bands (Journey West) plays The Dance Of The Grandmothers Raqsat Setti, and you just don’t see that in ballet. You just don’t see that in modern dance. https://youtu.be/yodxXpbSfa0 Suhaila: Well, you brought up a really interesting point because, here we go again with the two separate sides of belly dance. Yes, there’s the dance of the grandmother, and every age gets up and dances socially. At a wedding, that’s social dancing. So we don’t have people put on their point shoes at a wedding and start dancing. So ballet is a classical art form that is on the theater stage, and it is a professional art form. So in belly dancing, I think our problem is that we don’t separate being a professional from being a hobbyist. And so I think it’s so important that everybody has a recital, and that people can get up and learn how to belly dance in social environments. So if you’re at an Arabic wedding, you can get up and dance with grandma. But in belly dance, we actually don’t have roles on a theater stage in a professional environment for enough more mature dancers. Do you understand what I mean? Alicia Free: Yeah absolutely. There’s a folkloric context where I feel like you might see mature dancers, or you might see people that are 12 years old. Suhaila: I don’t think we’d have enough imagery for more mature belly dancers. I don’t think we have enough costuming for more mature belly dancer. I don’t think we have enough positions. I think more mature belly dancers are trying to stay and look younger instead of embrace their maturity and have a role. When you go see Flamenco, oh my God. The matriarch in the back in the center between the ingénues on her right, then the musicians on her left. I’m staring at this woman all night waiting for her to get up. Alicia Free: Yes. At the end of the show when they get up I get the chills. I love that part of the show. Suhaila: Yeah. And the matriarch would just stand up slowly, and I’ll just burst into tears. I just lose it. We don’t have that in belly dance. We don’t have enough of that. We don’t have the roles for maturing dancers professionally. Now in a wedding of course! It’s social dancing. They don’t look at it as belly dancing. It’s their dance. So it’s like you’ve gone to your friend’s wedding and everybody is disco dancing. That’s what it’s like for them. So it’s actually not a professional venue. So we need more of that. That’s why I’m so proud of Bal Anat. Because in Bal Anat I don’t just talk about it. I present it on the stage. Alicia Free: Mm-hmm. There’s a space for the matriarch. There’s a space for somebody who’s calling the mature dancers. Suhaila: Well, yeah. Not just a space, but a position. When you look at Bal Anat, the dancers are working at such a high level. And they’re all hobbyists, but they’re working at such a high level. Because they all come from the same schooling, and background, and training. And you really feel there’s relief in everybody’s soul in the audience when they see truly a position for all ages, and sizes, and genders, and shapes, and everything. Alicia Free: Beautiful. Suhaila: I don’t just talk about it, I produce it. That’s my personality. Alicia Free: Yeah. I can see that. Another one of your patterns. You’re like, “I’m not just going to dream about this.” Suhaila: Yeah. You know what? I’m not just going to say we need this. I’m going to do it. Alicia Free: Mm-hmm. In addition to Flamenco, that part of a Flamenco performance, are there any other dance genres you’ve seen where there is a position or role for more mature dancers? Suhaila: Oh, I think Indian dance, African dance, Tahitian. Almost every other ethnic dance form, other than belly dance. I don’t take ballet and modern, and all of that into consideration, because those are more Western dance forms. But when you look at other ethnic dance forms, every dance form has a position for a more mature dancer but belly dance. And here’s the problem, we have to create it. Because I’m a 53 year old woman. I don’t want to shove my tits into the same bra and costume, I wore when I was 23. Oh my God. I need new imagery. I need mature imagery. Alicia Free: Beautiful. LIGHTEN MY BODY FOOD: Lentils Alicia Free: We talked a little bit about avocados and olive oil and cooking. In all my shows I feature whole food plant based ingredients. Something that’s comes from plants, not from animals. Is there anything you want to throw in there that you love to cook with? Suhaila: Oh my God. Well, my mom had a restaurant. I don’t know if you knew that. Alicia Free: I did not know that. Jamila Salimpour in the Kitchen Suhaila: Yeah, she had a restaurant in the 50s in Los Angeles called “The Nine Muses”, which I just think is such a cool name. And my mom was an incredible cook. The smells in the kitchen. The way she would putter around in the kitchen. My mom never wrote a recipe down. She wouldn’t allow anybody to write a recipe down. If I would say, “Oh, I want to learn how to cook this,” she’d be like, “Well, you have to watch me.” Because she felt that cooking and movement were one. So I would have to sit in the kitchen, and I was her assistant, and chopping everything. But I had to watch her cook, and how she danced her cooking. And that is how the recipes got into MY body. So my mom was such a great cook, but if I was going to focus on one of her dishes that were more plant-based… I can tell you my mother made the most incredible lentils and rice. And she’d do kidney bean and spinach with brown rice and garlic. And the garlic, and the garlic. Oh, it was soul food. People food. Alicia Free: Lovely. Lentils are pretty magical, aren’t they? That’s one of the things I love ordering at Lebanese restaurants, and Moroccan, and Ethiopian. I want their lentils. I want to taste what they put in them. https://bellydancebodyandsoul.com/tamarind-lentils/ Suhaila: Right. And you know, the thing that my mom (and family), they came here with nothing. And I really believe that kind of cooking is probably the healthiest. My mom would say that they only had meat or fish once a week. Everything was lentils and the rices, and the salads. And that’s what you grew up on. And so she made sure that I got all of that cooking inside me. You just can’t beat it. Alicia Free: The Sicilians and the Greeks. I know the Greeks, they forage for their greens. That’s part of Blue Zones. So that’s something. Suhaila: And we were both. We’re Greek and Sicilian on my mom’s side. My great grandmother’s last name was Greco. Isabella, I asked her since she was eight years old, “What do you want to do when you graduate high school?” And since she was eight, she was like, “I want to go to Greece.” I was like, “Oh my God. Okay.” So we went to Greece for her high school graduation. And we ate our way all around Greece. And it was like nonna’s cooking. It was like my mother’s cooking. Alicia Free: That’s what we call my mom. She’s a Sicilian American. We call her nonna with my son. Very sweet. Suhaila, is there anything else you’d like to add? This has been so fabulous. Suhaila as a Speaker Suhaila: I would like to talk about something that I’ve been working on. I feel that our industry is in a really interesting place because of politics and everything that’s happening. I want to make sure that I’m able to reach people who are not just interested in belly dance and the Middle East. What we have to offer within the format is so much greater than that. http://www.suhailasalimpour.com/core-dimension/ I’ve started teaching a dancer philosophy that I call Core Dimension. So Core Dimension you’ll be hearing more about, because it is what I’m going to be bringing into my community, as well as outside of my community. Because it’s not based on culture. It’s based on movement, and breath, and overall health wellness and that need for that spiritual balance. But Core Dimension is something that I’m really excited about, and you’ll be hearing more about it very soon. Alicia Free: Oh, so wonderful. Suhaila, Thank you so, so much for everything that you’ve done for us. Even things that we don’t even know about yet. Things that have helped other people and reached us in magical ways. And the things that we will see and hear from you and your family in the future. I can’t wait to someday see a Bal Anat performance. Suhaila: Yes, I want to bring the Bal Anat to New York. Angelique Hanesworth just opened an art center in New Paltz and a Salimpour School in New York. Angie is level 5 certified in both formats. And I’m telling Angie, “Angie, let’s bring Bal Anat to New York.” And she’s totally into it, and we’re excited. So it’s going to happen. Alicia Free: Fabulous. Suhaila: Yeah, I’m working on it. It’s really exciting. Yeah. Alicia Free: Again, I’m so glad that Anna Horn, our mutual friend introduced us. Suhaila: Me too. It was great talking with you. I just love your energy and I love your mission, and I wish you all the best. Alicia Free: Thank you so much Suhaila.
26 minutes | 8 months ago
How to Dance Through Coronavirus Chaos – 037
Here’s some treatment for Coronavirus depression: Join the Dancing with Myself Movement, try Belly Dance Chi Gong, and relieve stress by laughing like crazy Laughing Yoga style. Featuring music from Moontee Sinquah. https://youtu.be/7cfXYiKibF4 Fellow Americans, citizens of the world, now is sure enough a time when we need to feel A Little Lighter. Many of us are alone and scared and feeling trapped in a space and time where the clock is moving in slow motion. With frantic thoughts pumping through the media, even going grocery shopping can feel yucky rather than fun like it could be. And for many of us, money that we thought we had is disappearing really fast. Things we were looking forward to, canceled or postponed. March 2020 is a month we will all remember. I was going to release an amazing interview with internationally recognized dance visionary Suhaila Salimpour this episode, but it felt right to share this with you first. If you have already subscribed, that interview will pop right up in your podcast feed. And the episode 32 titled How Dance Enhances Our Essence, Feminine Energy & Happiness will lift you up too. How Dance Enhances Our Essence, Feminine Energy & Happiness - 032 Dance feeds our feminine, and the child inside of us longs for the freedom to play dress up and dance. But problems can stop us from dancing. Hear from Tony Robbins and his wife Sage how we can turn problems into gifts and create habits that make us happier. But this drastic turn of events also gives us the opportunity to do something fantastic. To start new habits of taking care of ourselves. Let’s consider the possibility of turning drastic into fantastic. That’s what this show is going to be about. Dancing our way through Decimation. Ok, that’s a little extreme. Feeling connected to each other and the earth and our passion even in isolation. I am so grateful that podcasting is the perfect entertainment for a world on lockdown. We can exchange energy and ideas without exchanging viruses. I can show you love from much farther than 6 feet away. So good. Thank you for tuning in. Check in with yourself for a moment. What are three words you would use to describe how you feel right now? Do you feel magnetic and light and peaceful? Or frustrated, heavy and chaotic? I have been cycling through the states of order and chaos a lot faster these days. And the heavy chaos often lingers more than I’d like. I live next to a creek. I was meditating there, and my eyes popped open. My skin electric. The Dancing with Myself Movement was born. Not dancing by myself. Dancing with myself. That subtle change in words makes it seem like a choice rather than a punishment or stubborn statement. So I turned on the song “Dancing with Myself” in the woods under a bridge and danced wildly for the whole song. I didn’t care what it looked like. It was all about the release, and giving others the permission to dance like crazy. People walking by, friends watching it on Facebook live. All of the sudden I was dancing for everyone on the whole planet by just dancing with myself. It was such a rush. Dancing with Myself can happen when you are all alone, or with family, when you are feeling great or absolutely terrible and lonely. Dancing with Myself is a gift. And I’ve been doing it every day since Monday March 17 2020. And I’m going to keep doing it until restaurants and bars and schools are open again. Until I can dance and drum with my band in public again. Until we can move freely and talk about something else besides Corona Virus and the impact it is having on our lives. The Dancing with Myself Movement is a movement for those feeling like they can’t move. When you feel like you really can’t do it, that’s when it’s time to dance. And it’s for people who can’t stay still. People who regularly seek feedback from others in order to navigate their lives, and people who would be fine if this quarantine period lasted for years. There’s a rush of energy that is always available deep inside of us. Don’t believe me? That’s just your mind and limiting beliefs talking. For real. People in India stand on one leg in a park for a month. Ultra marathoners keep pushing. Women delirious in the 30 something hour of child birth keep pushing. Warriors starving and freezing heading into battle can still fight with immense strength. Fire fighters run into burning buildings. You can get up and dance right now. If you are in public, it’s even more important that you dance right now. Wake up the people around you. Light them up. Feeling the freedom we have flowing through our whole body Protecting ourselves and others while safely fearing nothing Transforming fear into freedom So let’s dance now. I’ll be dancing with myself and I hope you are dancing with yourself. Dancing the fear out of our bones. Dancing the happiness back into our blood. Dancing health into our lungs so that when we breathe we are giving medicine to the world. The first song I am going to play for you by Moontee Sinquah of Arizona. His family dances together at the Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance every year. Moontee is a world champion hoop dancer, and his sons dance with him as well. Watching this man and his family dance brings me peace and wonder. With hoops, they create the forms of birds, earth and coyotes. Just when I think he has too many hoops circling his body, he adds more in handfuls and turns them into magical beings that disappear in a heartbeat as the hoops fall back together. Let’s start here. Move any way you feel. No choreography, no expectations or trying to look good. Let energy surge through you, replacing stagnant energy and contraction with newness and expansion. Giving your ancestors a chance to dance in your body for a moment. They lived through hard times, worse than this. And I’ll bet they danced too. This music will probably make you want to walk softly but powerfully through the room. Each time our feet touch the earth can be a blessing that emanates from the soles of our feet. Feel it. This virus is important, and it is temporary. Let the music lift you. Move through the space. Feel good again. The drums are enhancing your heartbeat now. Drums mark the universal heartbeat. We rise. Now another song played by a Batak family I stayed with in Sumatra in Lake Toba. I don’t know what it is called or who wrote it. They sang it for us one night, and I recorded it because it just feels. We need this now. https://bellydancebodyandsoul.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Rap-Batak-Song-From-Guesthouse.m4a Three is a magic number, so let’s keep dancing with myself to a recording from a jam late at night at Pennsic Medieval Festival. It’s another piece of music that just feels good. I want you to move to it. https://bellydancebodyandsoul.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Pennsic-2019-drums-hurdy-gurdy-singing20190808-013509.m4a Check in with yourself again. Do you feel different than you did before you danced? Remember when I asked how you felt? How will you answer that question now? Do you feel lighter? Dance does that. Dance is the ultimate self care. We need it now. It’s all about energy. So in the second part of this podcast, let’s drink a cocktail of chi gong and belly dance. It is really delicious, and the real payoff comes at the end. This is a video I have just posted on youtube. I am going to play the soundtrack for you here so you can get a feel for it if you are not able to click over to a video right now. If you can watch video now, please go to aliciafree.com, click on podcast, and then click on episode 037 to get the link right at the top of the show notes. Chi Gong originated in China around 4,000 years ago. Let’s think about that for a moment. These months of caution and fear are a flash. A mere moment in our lives, even if it feels longer. Chi Gong is a practice of syncing breath and movement that is believed to extend our lives and help our energy flow. In these times of contraction and panic, expansion and peace are so important. As Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figureoutable”. Let’s believe and trust that. Dancing and Chi Gong can help us create be the oasis of chill and playfulness that our loved ones and our community really needs especially right now. Do this outdoors if possible. As distanced from others but still public as possible. This is medicine for us and for anyone who sees it. Chi Gong Belly dance https://youtu.be/7cfXYiKibF4 https://youtu.be/3VMSIWunRlY Laughing Yoga
28 minutes | 9 months ago
Suhaila Salimpour’s Former Assistant Anna on Dance Secrets & Snuggles – 036
Suhaila’s student and friend Anna Horn shares some of the surprising elements of Suhaila’s format, reminisces about Jamila Salimpour’s finger cymbals, and shows us how the pets we love can inspire us to dance. Alicia: You guys are going to love this. I have Anna Horn in the studio. Anna is going to tell us all about what it was like to teach class with Jamila Salimpour and Suhaila Salimpour and work for Suhaila out in California. She’s going to talk about her whole belly dance career, dancing in restaurants, and the Suhaila and Jamila formats. You’re going to love this! Anna studied with Aida of San Francisco, who studied with Jamila, and that was what got her to leave everything in Ohio in 2007 and take off for California specifically to study with Suhaila Salimpour. Anna Horn: I took a workshop with Aida and that was my first exposure to Suhaila and Jamila Salimpour. I had a teacher in southern Ohio named Kathy Hennessy, and when I was leaving Ohio, she gave me a list of teachers to study with and she introduced me again to Suhaila and she said, “If you ever get a chance study with Suhaila Salimpour.” I was like, “Okay,” kept it in mind, tried to take her workshops. Things weren’t working out, so I was like, screw it, I’m going to California. I moved to California just to study with Suhaila. I was in California for eight years with her. Alicia: Anna actually started dancing the same year I did, in 2000, which is pretty exciting. We have the same dance birthday, if you will. While Anna was out there in California working with Suhaila for eight years, she was able to see the certification program develop. She actually saw the first level four group test. What levels did you achieve in both of those? Anna Horn: I’m currently Suhaila level three and Jamila level two. I’m still part of the school, so I’ll be more than that at some point. Alicia: There are five levels in both of those. Anna Horn: In both those, yeah. Alicia: How many people actually have level five certification in both of those? Anna Horn: I believe there are five people who are at the level five and I think there are a few people who are working on their level five right now. Alicia: For both? Anna Horn: For both, yeah. DANCEABLE RITUAL: Pet, snuggle, dance Alicia: Danceable rituals are a way to calm our mind and bring more dance into our lives without taking up any more of our time. This danceable ritual is unlike any other one I’ve ever included because Anna is so cute and loves her cats so much. This ritual is next time you are petting something, whether it’s a dog or a cat or snuggling something else, I don’t know, a teddy bear, consider dancing while you do it. Whatever you’re snuggling may enjoy it as well. Alicia: Do you ever dance for your cats? Anna Horn: All my choreographies, and they’ll have to watch me sometimes. What’s really cute is when I work out my cats want to interact with me. I find that when I’m doing my warmup to practice, my cats all the sudden want lots of love. Literally running around, meow, meow, meow, running between my legs, crying at me, wanting love. Sometimes I’ll do my warmup with my cats in my arms because they have to have attention right then. Alicia: Is this like a snuggle your cat and dance danceable ritual? Anna Horn: Yeah. They’re like, you’re doing squats, it’s time for you to pet me. Alicia: You’re not doing anything else, are you? Anna Horn: You’re not doing anything else. It’s definitely snuggle time, yeah. Alicia: Nice. If you’re not a cat person, maybe you can snuggle something else and dance. Anna Horn: Yeah. I think though, the cats, they appear out of nowhere. It’s like, oh, you’re warming up for your exercise and to do your rehearsal and practice. It’s time for cuddles. Alicia: Maybe this is actually a danceable ritual for cats. Anna Horn: Yeah. They dance around me. That’s right. How can I help but pick them up and love them? In Class with Jamila Salimpour Alicia: Episodes number 23 and 29 of this podcast are all about belly dance history. A Short and Sweet History of Belly Dance from 1900-1960s: From Folk to Fame - ALLAF 023 From Badia Masabni's night clubs to belly dance movie stars like Samia Gamal, and from Suhalia up through the Women's Rights Movement. The 2nd show on the History of Belly Dance. The History of Belly Dance, Famous Belly Dancers & Belly Dance Styles - ALLAF 029 Where did belly dance come from? Who are the most famous belly dancers? What are the different styles of belly dance? This podcast will answer so many of your questions, and you'll love it. I talk a lot about Jamila Salimpour and Suhaila and what this mother-daughter duo has contributed to dance as we know it. I also have an upcoming interview with Suhaila that is unbelievable, and that’s coming out really soon. Jamila passed away when she was in her early 90s. Jamila Salimpour was still dancing and teaching in her 80s, and Anna was part of her classes at some points. She was her model. Right? You were actually demonstrating the moves that she was describing for her classes. Anna Horn: I was her teaching assistant for a few years. I took her classes, also, but then I would help out as teaching assistant. When the move needed to be displayed, maybe a new move of the week, she would have us display it, and with the cymbals. She would tell us what cymbals to play and we would do it. The students would follow along. Her finger cymbals, I don’t know, I think it’s four inches, maybe more. They were really big. They were more clunky than tingy. They were very, very old. I believe they were a single hole. Suhaila Salimpour has cymbals modeled, almost replicas of, Jamila’s cymbals. They sound the same. Alicia: Would Jamila play those finger cymbals while you were helping her demonstrate a move? Anna Horn: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Alicia: Did she ever demonstrate any of the moves herself? Anna Horn: Sometimes she would. There was one time where I wasn’t doing something right. She didn’t like the way it looked on my body. She was like, “No, no, do it this way.” She was probably in her early, mid 80s and she’s doing move. She was doing the foot work with the hips and the cymbals showing us, like, “Do it like this.” I remember kind of disconnecting like, whoa. I hadn’t seen her dance in a long time. It was very beautiful. Being Part of the Creation of Suhaila’s Enta Omri Alicia: You were actually part of Enta Omri, one of the original cast members for that show. Could you tell us more about that? https://youtu.be/mbHDVI_qCC4 Umm Kulthum singing Enta Omri (unbelievably beautiful and powerful) Anna Horn: Yeah. Suhaila created a show called Enta Omri, and it was a really beautiful experience being part of that. We would come for rehearsal. She’d have a choreography in her mind, but she hadn’t yet worked it out. She would have us basically learn it in the moment. She would have the story and the choreography in her head. She had already maybe worked out some parts. Some of the songs were literally in that moment. After we had gone through a couple, we started doing collages and coming up with the creative process of finding our own voice and our own story for each song. Because it’s a two part album, every single song in there, we would find our equivalent song and our story that we would attach to that. Because we don’t know Suhaila’s story, we didn’t know what story she was portraying through her dance, so we had to find our own story and our own emotional perspective. Alicia: When you say collages, are you really talking about scissors and pictures and gluing together? Anna Horn: Yeah. Real collages. We all had our own dance journals and we would literally cut stuff out. I’m kind of weird about collaging. I don’t like just magazines. I will go on Pinterest and stuff and I’ll print everything out or I’ll have everything professionally printed in color and then I will cut. That’s kind of how I always did my collaging. Alicia: A big part of Suhaila’s format is collaging? Anna Horn: Part of the creative process. When you’re coming up with your own choreographies, you start doing that in level three, level four, you have the song and then you find the emotional perspective in the song, the appropriate emotional perspective. You might hear a song that’s really beautiful and you find out it’s a really sad song or an angry song. Or you might hear a song with sounds maybe not sad, but it might be a happy song about a past love or something like that. You need to attach that. You can’t be sad and think about something really traumatic when the song is really about remembering something that made you happy, but you’re looking at it from the past so it makes you sad too. Anna Horn: We had to find the meaning behind the songs and then come up with our own meaning and our own stories. Alicia: Very cool. Enta Omri is an album? https://www.salimpourstore.com/products/enta-omri-album Anna Horn: It’s a two part album that Suhaila produced. I believe she did have some friends from a long time ago who were her live band back when she was in her 20s working in LA. They went back to the Middle East and recorded the album, and they recorded some, I believe, in this country as well, but with old instruments. I think there was even very antique instruments. The instruments themselves had history. Yeah, it was very beautiful. It was a big creative project with many people, but it was actual musicians in the Middle East recording the music. Alicia: Enta Omri means
29 minutes | 9 months ago
ITS Instructor Jo Boring on Authenticity & Contagiously Fun Shows – 035
Hear how murder mystery writer Jo loves the process of preparing for a performance even more than the show and values sharing experiences with other dancers more than perfection in the spotlight. And she likes to set drinks on fire… Jo Boring: Let’s get ridiculous. Alicia: Ooh, what an invitation from Jo Boring. Now, Jo Boring, what an interesting last name for a gal like you. Jo Boring: Alicia Free. That is a fitting name for a gal like you. Alicia: Thank you. Jo Boring: I married into my name. I am one of the Borings now. We reside on a compound. That’s the truth. Over in Marathon, New York. It’s easy to remember if nothing else. And the students enjoy it. They have much fun at my expense. Alicia: She holds a degree in communication as well as a graduates degree in counseling. Throughout her varied experiences she found working with young adults to help them overcome their obstacles and achieve their dreams the most fulfilling. Jo Boring: Word. Surly teens are my favorite. Alicia: God bless you. Jo Boring: Yes, we all have to have our gifts. Alicia: Oh my goodness. So, all the while, Jo had a passion for dance, specifically belly dance, which she found as a young adult herself. Check out episode 34 of this podcast where I interviewed Jo’s business partner, Tessa Trueheart and we talk more about their fabulous dance studio, Belly Set Go. Jo and Tessa are quite the team. They have launched an online learning opportunity for all of us that includes classes on belly dance, burlesque, chairlesque, bellyesque, voguing and more on teambellysetgo.com. Just wanted to put that out there right at the get go. Belly, Set, Go! brings together Jo’s two loves: dance and helping others find meaning and purpose through self expression. DANCEABLE RITUAL: The Luna Hug Alicia: Jo, do you have a danceable ritual that you would like to share? Jo Boring: When I’ve listened to your podcasts in the past, I know that a lot of dancers or soloists who have specific rituals unto themselves, which has been awesome to learn about, but I didn’t really have anything that was similar and I’m kind of not a ritually person. I enjoy rituals, I should have more of them, but I kind of fly by the seat of my pants on a daily basis. I don’t really have a nighttime routine or a morning routine. Every day is a different grab bag. So, the one thing that popped to my mind first regarding dance and rituals is a ritual that The Lunachix have before they go on stage and I thought that would be worth sharing. I think as a group oriented person, it’s so important when you’re going into a performance situation to help everyone feel the best they can possibly feel and there’s so much stress and anxiety that comes right before performance because you have those nerves of course, and the jitters and you’ve been working on this thing for however many months, however many hours and I just always want the dancers to feel positive feelings at that time and not be feeling like, “Oh what happens if I mess up?” or “I don’t want to disappoint,” any of those types of feelings. So, the ritual that we have backstage, it can go a little differently each time, but it’s one of love and connection and just saying, “Hey, we’re here and isn’t that awesome and we’re going to go out and do this awesome thing. And it really doesn’t matter. All of the little things that could go wrong, it doesn’t matter.” So, we give a Luna Hug. Sometimes other people come into the circle if they consent, because there’s a lot of touching that goes on in there. You circle up and you hug all around and then you do the biggest exterior hip circle that you can and so it’s like this whole revolving circle of love with hips all a sundry, and you have to go like this… “Wooh.” And if you don’t, you’re not really doing a Luna Hug. We have scared people before with the “Wooh” and it’s a lot if you’re not used to it. So, we try to be gentle. Alicia: So, it’s a pre-dance. It’s a prelude to dance. Jo Boring: Yeah. For me, it’s just setting our minds in a good place before we go on stage. So, that’s one thing that we do every time that feels good and that’s the first thing that popped to my mind when you said Danceable Ritual. Alicia: Are you familiar with the term state change? It sounds like a perfect mechanism for a state change when people are nervous and thinking about themselves and then all of a sudden they’re touching every other dancer and doing something goofy and then it loosens them up. It’s a very different state of mind that that brings them into. Jo Boring: I wish I could Luna Hug before everything I do, really. Alicia: Nice. And The Lunachix is one of your troupes. Jo Boring: Yes. Well, I’ve been in troupes before, but it’s the first troupe that I was in charge of and we formed in 2013 by the light of a silvery moon. Alicia: When we were together at Super Fun Dance Camp, you stepped up to teach Jill Parker‘s choreography to a room of something like a hundred people when poor Jill got a stomach bug and you did it so well. I mean, people had come there to study with Jill. Jill couldn’t do it, but you made it happen still. You gave that choreography, you transmitted the wisdom. It was beautiful to watch from my spot. Jo Boring: I channeled Jill Parker. Is that what you’re saying? Alicia: You channeled Jill. Jo Boring: Oh, that is a great compliment. Alicia: Yes, you did. You really did. In your own way, of course, but you communicated what she needed communicated to the room and I thought the performance was awesome. It was amazing to have so many people doing all these different formation situations. I guess it was the clusters of formation. I’d never seen anything like that, to be honest. What are your secrets to being so clear and consistent when you teach? Jo Boring: So, first, I’ll talk about my two main teachers. I’ve had a lot of wonderful teachers, but I would say my biggest inspirations are Jill (Parker) and Amy Sigil and I think if I have anything to offer in terms of group facilitation and teaching clarity, a lot of it came from them. With Jill, I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time studying her format. She’s a very generous teacher. There are dance situations where I don’t feel the most comfortable or confident or knowledgeable, but I can think to myself, Jo, you have danced X hundred amount of hours with Jill Parker and if she thinks you can teach her stuff. Part of it for me, is the confidence in being given that permission or that blessing or having that mentor. When Jill first gave Tessa and I the class that she left when she moved away, I remember saying I can’t teach anything but ITS (Improvisational Tribal Style) because ITS was the thing that I had studied with Amy Sigil and that I had been certified to teach and given the stamp of approval and I felt like I needed that to teach something and that was really important to me at the time because going to Amy for a second, same teachable generosity, all of that is very much her teaching spirit as it is Jill’s. They have that very much in common. Alicia: Just in case this is new to you, ITS is short for improvisational tribal style. Amy Sigil of Unmata created it. It’s a dance language that was born out of ATS or American tribal style, where groups of dancers respond to cues. It looks like choreography, but it’s group improv. Jo Boring: So, I feel like ITS gave me that first bit of confidence to teach and then Jill gave me that next boost of I’m telling you that I want you to take this class and then I had to kind of do some work on my confidence to step into that and accept that, but that was a few years ago and having her friendship and support and mentorship through the years, yeah, I just feel like I know her vocabulary. I’m not saying I’m the best execution of it, of all. You know what I’m saying? I still always am working on my technique, but I can sit and confidently say that it’s something I’ve worked really hard on and her confidence in me makes me confident in myself. Jo Boring: Working in education, I think no matter what the subject is, no matter what the age of the person is, you just pick up stuff over time about how people learn what’s too much to throw out at once, what’s too little. People need appropriate challenges. Reading the room, where are people at, what are they struggling with? Being able to see that and integrate that information and then turn around and teach it a different way or explain it a different way, I think that’s just working in education for a long time. Alicia: So, one of them was you focused on a mentor and stuck with them for a while, two mentors, and so that gave you the confidence to stand up and transmit what they’re teaching. Jo Boring: Yeah, I mean I think I had a lot of self doubt when I first started teaching. Why am I qualified? It’s the same way I felt the first time I ever walked into a room as a professional counselor and I was supposed to have some sort of answers and I remember that my counseling advisor said, “You are enough.” Alicia: You are enough. Jo Boring: You know what I mean? If you’re a person whose intentions are good and you care about people, that’s enough. But all of that being said, I was very scared at Super Fun Dance Camp. I’m pretty confident in working with groups. So, the staging of the piece didn’t scare me as much, but I was worried because a lot of people traveled a long way to take Jill Parker’s class and I just didn’t want them to leave disappointed, but they were lovely, lovely, lovely about
29 minutes | 10 months ago
BellyEsque Musings from the Voluptuous Tessa True Heart – 034
Want to feel beautiful and juicy in your body? Listen to this. Let’s reveal what belly dancers can learn from burlesque culture and find ways to take exquisite of ourselves. Alicia Free : I am so pleased to feature Tessa True Heart, aka Tessa Myers, a friend of mine for years and years that I’ve had the honor of performing with in many occasions. We are recording in the town next to Ithaca where Tessa and Jo Boring, who I will also feature in another podcast, own a wonderful studio together, high up in an old factory building and there are corsets and undies all over the place because it is a corset company. How cool is that? So Tessa is from Ithaca, New York, and she graduated with a BA in Arts Education and a minor in dance from William Smith College, which is also an upstate New York. With nothing to lose after graduating, Tessa uplifted and moved across the country to land in San Francisco, California. An immense love for this art form and her adventurous and determined spirit quickly took her through the ranks. First performing with Damage Control Dance directed by Sarah Buyer and then teaming up with Jill Parker, the mama of Tribal Fusion Belly Dance, working as the co-director tour company, The Foxgloves Sweethearts and traveling the world as an assistant teacher. Tessa is now the co-owner of Belly Set Go Studio in Cortland, New York. Tessa strives for technical proficiency, artistic integrity and emotional strength. She is an inspirational, dynamic, gentle teacher. https://vimeo.com/291145299 https://youtu.be/aeJcZKOTCYo DANCEABLE RITUAL Alicia Free : Tessa, do you have a danceable ritual that you would like to share? Tessa: I do have a danceable ritual. It’s more something that I use before I perform and I guess it’s more something in my head. When I was in Middle East Music and Dance Camp in the Redwood forest, Sahra Saeeda (aka Sahra Kent) was there teaching and she gave this little story about how she was dancing with Farida Fahmy who is part of the Reda Troupe. She had first moved to Egypt and she was a young dancer there, and Farida watched her perform. And later that night, she told her that the next time you perform you need to be more like a cat. So Sahra got on the stage the next day and was acting like an American interpretation of what dancing like a cat might be so cute and kitten like and sweet. And when she got off the stage for Farida told her “That’s not what I meant at all”. And I apologize if I’m butchering this lovely story that she told her. Farida said, No, you must dance like a cat. Like a lioness who just got done eating her kill and is bathing on a rock and just fully satiated. And so now whenever I perform, before I go on stage, it’s just my mantra that I tell myself. It really helps me just be in my body. I think we can dance a lot from our heads, and you can have those moments where just satiated and full and needing of nothing in your body. Alicia Free : A lioness that has just eaten her kill and is sunbathing on a rock? Tessa: Yes. Alicia Free : Wow. I love it. I have loved watching you fuse burlesque and belly dance over the years. It just keeps getting better and better. It’s a whole realm that I don’t have any experience in burlesque and the way that you put it together is so beautiful. The first performances you were the featured belly dancer doing this beautiful belly dance thing that you do and then you kept bringing in the two dance forms, then bringing them closer together. What made you start performing with a burlesque troop in the first place? Tessa: So when I first moved back home to Ithaca after I was in San Francisco, I was looking for performance opportunities and a local burlesque troop, Whiskey Tango Sideshow had just started, I think they were a year out in their development, and they were looking for acts. Someone told me they were looking for acts, so I decided to audition and they took me on and then they used me as a guest so often I just became one of the girls of the troop, so that’s how I started. I had no intention of ever really dipping my toes into burlesque but Whiskey Tango was just a really amazing group. There’s between six and eight women who normally dance and I just was always ah struck by their creativity and their ability to make these essential interesting dances and the more I watched them, the more I just wanted … I don’t know. It was exciting and invigorating. I felt really connected to some of the movement that they did and just being a little more sensual in their bodies. And I actually my favorite, I call it bellysk. I know other people do bellysk out there. It’s kind of a generic overall term, but it’s kind of my favorite thing to perform right now and teach, because it’s fun. People can let go a little bit more than in belly dance because it’s less structured. Alicia Free : So cool. You were looking for a performance opportunity, the burlesque troop was an opportunity and then you started to get into it. Tessa: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I have to say the fantastic thing about burlesque is they always pay their performers. Alicia Free : Right. Because people will pay money to see all kinds of exciting things like that too, right? Tessa: Yes. Alicia Free : And that’s the beauty too of the audience in that particular night we’re talking about, it was all ages. Tessa: Oh, it was everyone. Alicia Free : There were all these teenagers, there were all these people that look like the season pass holders at the theater. They’re in their sixties and their seventies. There’s something about burlesque that I feel is being elevated more and I think there are less dance opportunities in general, performance opportunities. Tessa: Yes, unfortunately. Alicia Free : Yeah. And less venues for even live music right now. A lot more people are just experiencing things through a screen. I’m so glad that you’re part of burlesque and that they are paying you. Tessa: The other thing I really love about the burlesque world is the showgirl aesthetics. Belly dance has jaw-dropping costumes, and burlesque takes it to the next level. And who can resist that? I also, too, find that belly dance is a body positive world, but the most famous dancers that get shown over and over, really have the same body type, which is slender and white presenting with long dark hair. And in the burlesque world, you just see everyone of all shapes and sizes and colors and gender identifying being presented and it’s incredible on a really different level, I think, than belly dance. Alicia Free : There’s a much bigger spectrum. Tessa: Much bigger. Alicia Free : That’s presented and welcomed, I should say. Tessa: And welcomed. Alicia Free : Yeah. Tessa: And then really also headlined. Alicia Free : In a 2014 episode of the podcast, Yip, which is another belly dance podcast, the mama of tribal fusion, Jill Parker, mentions Tessa. You two have a beautiful friendship and I’d really like to thank you for introducing me to Jill and for organizing events with her, so that I’ve been able to meet her and see her as a teacher and get to know her and her style because she’s such a beautiful dancer with so much to share. Would you like to share some of the things that you’ve learned from studying with Jill Parker and performing with Jill? Tessa: Yeah, I love Jill. She’s just an incredible person and an incredible teacher and a really great friend of mine. And I don’t feel like I would even still be dancing right now if she hadn’t been my mentor through everything. I’ve learned everything from Jill. If you haven’t studied with her and you’re interested in belly dance, you should. She’s just a wealth of knowledge. But some of the most stand out things that I’ve learned from Jill is that It’s okay to just be totally yourself. Jill really emphasizes in her classes that everybody can have their own dance style and everyone should just be who they are as a dancer and really embody that and that no one needs to be a cookie cutter of her. And even when I watch videos of our company now, you can see that everyone still has their own kind of feel and take on everything, even though it is a cohesive look, to not get caught up in the trends. Jill has this old school, beautiful, juicy, grounded belly dance and of course she incorporates new things as she learns them, but her style is really grounded in itself and she is unwavering in the fact that it’s beautiful and that people appreciate it just for how it is in its simplicity, which I love about her. She doesn’t get into that more-is-more belly dance. She’s definitely a less is more belly dancer and just letting the movements speak for themselves. She’s a really, really thoughtful teacher and it’s always incredible for me to watch her explain something to a room full of all levels of dancers. It’s like uncanny, her ability to be able to teach four dance levels at one time and her ability to get people going and then help like singular people out along on the way. It’s definitely something I’m working on, but it’s really beautiful to watch. The Mama of Tribal Fusion Jill Parker on the Alchemy of Belly Dance - ALLAF 030 Jill Parker shares what she wishes she knew when she first started dancing with Fat Chance Belly Dance, talks about tattoos, beauty secrets, and the sorcery of dance. Alicia Free : I think I experienced one of your classes before I experienced Jill’s. I remember thinking, wow, Tessa is so clear with the way you explain things clearly. Tessa: Oh, thank you. Alicia Free : And yes, when you see Jill do that with a room of 60 people- Tessa: It’s unreal. Alicia Free : And that she ca
50 minutes | 10 months ago
New York City Nightclubs with Male Belly Dancer Tarik Sultan – 033
Find out what makes Egyptian dancers look authentic and what can make Western dancers look a little fake, what makes dancers sexy, and why belly dancers in the Middle East are still stigmatized. Alicia Free: I am so pleased to have Tarik Sultan on the show. He’s a fabulous male dancer out of Jersey City, and he’s going to talk about a lot of amazing parts of dance and history that a lot of us don’t know anything about. And I’m really excited to feature Tarik Sultan. Tarik, can you tell me a little bit about your background? Tarik Sultan: Well, I’ve been dancing now for, I think, about 30 years. I started in 1985 right after I finished high school. It really starts much earlier than that, because before I started taking dance classes, I was listening to the music and that was my attraction at the beginning. It was the music that attracted me. There were several radio programs at that point that played music from the Middle East and India and Greece. I used to listen to those, but I was more attracted to the Arabic music. So one year my cousin asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I told him I wanted a record of Arabic music. And he bought this album of classical Arabic music. And I used to listen to that all the time. I really loved it. So like I was saying, for me it was the music that caught my interest first. And I was listening to the music for many years. And then I started getting curious how to dance to it because in my daily life I love to dance. And so I wanted to know how to dance it, but I don’t know how to dance to it, and where would I find a class? And I remember I went to a concert and at that point, let’s see, I had finished high school, I hadn’t really started college, but I was taking some non-degree courses and I had a history class, history of the Caribbean, and I had gone to see this concert and I told the teacher, “Oh, I went to see this concert, and they had dancers and the dancing matched the music so perfectly.” And he goes, “Oh yeah, the men dance the same way too.” And I thought he was nuts, I didn’t believe him. He would go to Spain in the summertime to research the archives. And then afterwards he’d hop a ferry and go over to Morocco. And he’d hangout with all the barbers and he’d tell me stories about hanging out with them in the mountains and then teaching him how to belly dance. And I thought he was crazy. I kept hearing things like this. So eventually I found a teacher that allowed me to take classes. And so I started just learning basic movement vocabulary. Years later, I went on my first trip to Egypt, and that’s when I got to see the dance in person. Of course before that, at that time there were videotapes, so I had seen dancers, all the famous, Soheir Zaki, Nagwa Fouad, Fifi Abdou, I’d seen little clips of them on videotape and those were really hard to get at that time and now you can pull everything up on YouTube. But it was when I got to Egypt that I really made a really emotional connection with the dance. And so over the course of the years I kept revisiting Egypt, and I noticed there were differences and the nuances between the way western dancers interpreted the dance, and the way people actually dance there. And I we wanted to know what is it that when I see somebody dancing, I know that they’re from there? I know that they didn’t take classes in a studio, that they were homegrown. And so I began to just really watch it and analyze and not watching for entertainment, but analytically, and saying, okay, once again, what has been good to me. That’s how little by little I began to assimilate it. Alicia Free: Cool. And so that was in the ’80s? Tarik Sultan: I started out in the ’80s, my first trip to Egypt was in 1988. And I guess we’re talking about from the ’80s into the 2000s. Alicia Free: And how many times have you been to Egypt now? Tarik Sultan: Oh geez, that’s a good question. I’d have to do some math. So I’ve been there several times, but stayed three weeks to a month. Alicia Free: Do you speak any Arabic? Tarik Sultan: I do, but I’m really rusty. I’m better when I’m there because I really have to use it, I have no choice. One of my goals is to just really immerse myself and really learn it. Alicia Free: There’s something about context and language where when everything smells like that and looks like that and feels like that around you, I feel like it’s much easier for it to flow. Tarik Sultan, how did you choose your name? Tarik Sultan: Well, I was given that name, Tarik, by a teacher. Originally the name was Tarik Abdul Malik, and the Abdul Malik part was named after a friend of hers, and I met him and he was a real jerk. So I really wanted to change my name all together, but by that time, so many people knew me as Tarik, so I kept Tarik and I added Sultan. Alicia Free: It’s a great name. Do you know the Arabic meaning for Tarik? Tarik Sultan: Tarik, they say it’s like the road or the way. Alicia Free: Very nice. The way of the Sultan. That’s cool. You danced professionally for years. Can you tell me a little bit about how you started dancing professionally? Tarik Sultan: Well, I started dancing, because I really wanted people to know what the dance was really all about, because back then a lot of people still had a distorted idea of it. They thought it was something like stripteasing. And I wanted to show people I wanted to do my part because I was crazy about this stuff. I thought it was really wonderful and I wanted as many people to know about it as possible. So I figured, well, the best way to do that is to show them. My first solo was at a talent show at my college, and I did a solo there. And I was in a dance troupe, so I wouldn’t do things there. But as far as being a solo Oriental dancer professional, after I had gotten a certain level of proficiency, I went out to restaurants and I petitioned them to let me perform. The very first restaurant I performed in was a place on 8th Avenue called Fazil’s. It was a really old building. It was on Eighth Avenue, and forties in New York, and a lot of the Middle Eastern dance teachers taught their classes there. A lot of Flamenco dancers taught classes there too. That was kind of like the hub for a lot of people. And you walked up these really long stairs, and then the first landing there was a space where in the winter time was a Turkish nightclub called Fazil’s, Fazil was the owner of the nightclub and the studios, it was Fazil Studios. Fazil was a really great guy. Well, he still is. He would really give everyone a chance to show themselves. He was very much supportive of the arts in particular Middle Eastern dance community. That was the first nightclub I performed in professionally. And after that, I found my own venue. So there was this place called Nefertiti Cafe. It was one block West from Tompkins Square Park on St. Mark’s place. And I was walking by and I saw that they had this dancer, oh my God, she was God awful, and she was playing up to the worst stereotype. I think what made me go in there and ask about dancing is she was dancing and she couldn’t dance at all. And she takes this guy’s head and she washes her boobs in his face. And I was like, okay, you know what? If they’re willing to hire her, they’re willing to hire anybody. I can do better than that. So I approached them and they said to me, “Well, do you have a custom?” And I was like, yeah. So they let me come and try it out. And that was my first regular gig. And I would do the same thing with other places. There was a Moroccan restaurant that I went to and that lasted a little while. But the thing I would do with a lot of places, because of course I’m a guy and they’re not used to seeing that. So I would say, “Okay, look, I know it seems weird to you. I understand. I’ll tell him what, we’ll make a deal. I’ll come on Friday or Saturday and I’ll do a show. If you like it, if the customers like it, then I got a regular gig, we’ll talk about pay. If nobody likes it, you never have to see me ever again.” Good news is that the audience always enjoyed it. And so we’d talk about doing something on a regular basis. And after that, different nightclubs would call me every now and then. They wanted something different or if they were trying to get a new night started. So I pretty much performed in all of the Middle Eastern nightclubs in New York city, but the one that I was with for the longest was Le Souk, which at that point was on Avenue B. And it was really a great place. They had a lot of rooms. It was really big. But they came looking for me actually because at that point I was dancing in a Moroccan restaurant in Rutherford, New Jersey. I had a weekly gig there for about a year or two and they said, “We’d like you to perform for us.” So long story short, I ended up performing at Le Souk and the Avenue B location closed, but they opened up a new location where they are now on LaGuardia place. And so I was there for about 12 years, every Friday and Saturday. So I was there for quite awhile. And I still perform professionally, and I do private parties. I don’t really do nightclubs so much now. I went into a new direction. After I left Le Souk, I realized that I needed to have financial stability and dance was not going to be the thing to do it. So I went back to school, then I kind of put dance on the back burner. So I still do teach dance classes, not as many as I did before I started school. I had to give up most of my dance classes when I went back to school, but I still do private parties and occasionally I do workshops still. I’ve done a lot of workshops nationally, internation
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