I always thought dancing was, well...kind of stupid, to be perfectly honest with you. I probably thought this because, when the Great Dice in the Sky were rolled for me, all of the points for "rhythm" were put into playing instruments and there were none left over for the body. Watching me dance has probably always been less enjoyable than a trip to the dentist without novocaine.
But all of that has changed, my friend! On a complete whim last year I decided I was going to try belly dancing. I figured if there was any kind of dance I might have a remote chance of being decent at it would be something that utilized my more than ample junk in the trunk. Sure, they call it belly dancing, but that turns out to be a bit of a misnomer.
The first style I tried out was Egyptian Cabaret with Alexandra. She teaches the class at Bally Fitness in Redmond on Thursday nights, so I figured there would probably be a good cross section of types joining in, and I was right. I was simultaneously hooked and dismayed right from the first class: we were doing hip circles, a super-cool belly dance move right in the first hour, but I watched in the mirror and thought, "I'm hopeless. How the hell do I do this? I look like an elderly snake with a broken back trying to get it on."
But I stuck with it. Alexandra is such a great teacher and so patient, with a really vibrant teaching style and sense of humor that makes you really want to stick with it. So I did, through two more sessions, and eventually moved into her Intermediate class where we learned zils, those little finger cymbals. Now those will make you feel like a real belly dancer.
But I'd been looking up belly dancing styles on the net and I kept finding these belly dancers all dressed up in the most incredible outfits -- jingly coin bras, huge skirts, tassel belts, coins everywhere -- and I had to know what it was. I was shamelessly attracted to a style of belly dancing based solely on the costuming, I admit it.
The style turned out to be American Tribal Style, a form of improvisational belly dance that focused on the group all performing synchronized moves based on a leader/follower method. Despite looking completely choreographed, the moves are actually done improvisationally, with the leader queuing the move so the followers will know what to do next.
I knew right away I wanted to try this style, so I looked up Katrina of Skin Deep, a local troupe of two and a dance studio that teaches the style. I began taking her classes in Issaquah on Friday nights alongside my Cabaret classes on Thursday until I found myself doing both level one and two in both styles.
Having been working on level two for a few weeks now in my ATS class, I know for sure that I want to actually stick with this and find people to perform with. Fortunately, my teacher Katrina is looking to expand her troupe and has added a level three class specifically for those who want to move into performing. These students will either form a student troupe or move up into Katrina's Skin Deep troupe, so I've made it my goal this year to do either of those two things, whichever comes first.
And I think I'll do it, too. Somehow I managed to be halfway decent at this whole belly dance thing, and at a weekend workshop recently, the Cues and Tattoos Festival in Seattle, my teacher introduced me to her dance partner as the student she'd been "raving about." I still have a lot of work to do to be performance-worthy, but I'm definitely getting there.
And of course, being the fiber and sewing geek that I am, I've already gone way too deep into the costuming. Fortunately we wear this stuff in class so it doesn't go to waste. The tassel belt you see in the photo is one of a couple of items I've made for my belly dance costume. The belt uses an old Uzbekistan pillow covering that I added a belt to and homemade tassels with beads to. It's layered over a green fringe belt, which is in turn layered over a silk sari petal skirt and a blank floor length skirt. I've already made a headpiece that I have yet to take some pictures of (coming soon) with flowers, shells, and more, and I'm working on some tribal hair falls with cowrie shells and wild colors to add to the headpiece.
So wish me luck on this whole plan to perform this year. If it all goes well, I may have some videos to post.