Archive for group improv

tribal – now with fan veils!

Tribal Fan Veils are EASY! Who knew?

It’s funny that it took over a year for me to try it – maybe two years – after Pixie Fae’s original suggestion. I thought it would be difficult to create group improv for fan veils, so kept putting it off when she’d periodically bring it up.

Well, one day this past September I invited her over, and came up with about 8 combinations right off the bat! I shared them at our performance group rehearsals, and also in class – the students all love seeing all the beautiful fan veils in the mirror – it’s such a treat.

So after a couple of months now of using them in class and rehearsals, it’s all coming together. I’ve got about ten short combinations of 8 counts each, and when we dance them together it helps get all the details sorted out for turns, traveling, changing leaders, different formations, etc. It’s really fun!

My performing group PRISM Dancers felt so confident that we performed them in October, at an outside festival in Fredericksburg. In fact, Fairy Fest may have been part of my inspiration for finally tackling these combos. Fan Veils just seemed perfect for a Fairy Festival! But there was no lead-changing that day, it was too soon, and in the wind we could only face one direction. Yes, it was a challenge, but we kept the wind at our backs, and it worked!

festival in fredericksburg

tribal improv with fan veils

Dancingly yours,

Anthea Kawakib

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hips in action again

Some of my PRISM Dancers and I did a bit of TOBD in our show at the local multicultural fair yesterday. We used Sirocco’s “Intro” track because it fit in so well with the rural Egyptian music we used for our folkloric choreographies. And of course playing the finger cymbals fits right in too.
I was happy to see my hip moves coming back, I’ve been working on getting them big and clear enough; so I was happy to see this little video, courtesy of Siyala’s family.
We’re all in beledi dresses: no costume changes because it was a short 30-minute show. This also demonstrates how well Tribal Odyssey synchronized improv fits into a show that includes other styles of belly dancing. We began with this TOBD number, then went right into Ghawazee, Raks Assaya; American Oriental; slow TOBD and Tribal Sword; American Belly Dance again; then Interpretive (a fun basket dance). The dresses are a compromise between glitzy and folky – we all stayed onstage through the entire show. So convenient!

by Anthea (Kawakib)

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we take care of each other

Tribal wisdom is gained by experience

We help others create good memories when we dance together

Each performance is a chance to create good memories, and build trusted connections between each other.

In Improv Tribal Style each performance is different – anything can happen; often we have a brand new experience with a certain turn, or move, or transition between moves – you never know! That’s one of the reasons I love tribal improv so much. It’s fresh and different every time.

A group choreography works with any dancer, interchangeably – as long as she knows it and performs it correctly; whereas each particular dancer impacts the entire group in “follow the leader” dancing. Each dancer can express her personality freely. She can lead gently, wildly, do the same moves and transitions each time, or put odd combinations together; always include turns, or lead-changes, circles, etc.

So I love the feel of different energies in tribal bellydance, the various looks, faces, bodies, personalities that make up a tribe. We’re recognizable as a group yet each person has their own unique way of going.
In tribal society the older care for the younger, guiding them and showing them how to handle the world – or the performance; protecting them until the younger are strong enough to pull their weight as a leader.

“Elder” is not just a term of age, but signifies someone who “knows much” in a tradition; someone who can answer questions because of their earned knowledge.

This performance trio of widely differing experience levels tickles me because I see Galiyah calmly carrying on and gently leading the other two, who are still “young” in terms of performing. In fact, neither of them are playing cymbals during this performance, yet they’re dancing to ONLY finger cymbals. Only Galiyah and I are playing – this is something new for the others and they seem quite comfortable because they trust the leader.

When I watch these dancers, one very experienced and comfortable in Tribal Odyssey, having danced it for over a decade, with the two others with much less experience, I see an elder taking care of the tribe.

It’s natural, comfortable, and ageless.

I also love the family feel of hearing the kids (and dad) during filming!
Is this like your tribal experience?
by Anthea Kawakib
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drills for zills

On your own?

you can still drill your way to zill skills

My regular students get to pull out their finger cymbals every week, and that’s one of the reasons they all learn to play. Playing cymbals isn’t something you can do just now and then and expect to get any better. You need regular practice to really get it!

To make it even easier for them, since we only get a few minutes in class, I filmed the dance combinations that include finger cymbals, for both slow and fast combos.

Several years ago my original partner Miramar created a choreography called “Zill Drill to Fulfill” using our tribal combinations to engage her own students and develop their skill at playing cymbals. More recently, the fantastic Nina Amaya’s troupe Aubergine also created a drill using these combinations to increase their own “zill skills” as well.

It’s true that these TOBD combinations featuring cymbals are the easiest way to help students learn to play. If you want to learn to dance with cymbals try the Slow Combos drill:

if you’re familiar with playing cymbals and just want to hone your strokes or increase your speed, follow the Fast Combo drill:

Try it yourself and see – follow-me drills are the easiest way to get better at playing finger cymbals!

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Birds of a feather… are dancing together

separated by design

By their costume you shall know them

At our Tribal Hafla (Food Drive) in Fredericksburg VA this past weekend, all the dancers danced together in one large group.

Now sometimes, we’ll separate the levels by songs, and have one level dance at a time. At this event though, I just wanted to flow to go on and on, and not worry about which song was on.

The upper level dancers did “take over” a few songs for our specialty prop numbers though: the dancers using Veil, Sword, or Candles did use the entire song, leaving the others to stay in the Chorus Line, but overall, most of the set list was Mixed. Just the way I like it!

It just so happened that the upper level dancers all recently acquired a particular costume style, and we used that to help everyone remember “who to dance with”. Since the event was a “Hafla” – meaning Party – the basics level students were allowed to wear whatever costume they wished, because wearing what they want is part of their fun. So we all were able to tell right away, when anyone went out front to dance, whether to go out with them or not. This way the levels stayed separated, and no newbies were nonplussed.

I don’t know if we’ll have another chance to use this “separated by costume” criteria, but it worked just fine this time, so we’ll keep it in mind.

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I like this game!

Games that help students learn

Last night in Basics class we focused on Duets because we’ll be dancing at our Tribal Hafla Food Drive tomorrow, with other dancers who have a wide range of skill levels. So of course, Chorus Line and Center Dancers is the way to go. This way dancers can stick with others who have the same repertoire, and feel more comfortable when they’re out onstage.

And at this particular performance it’ll be even easier for dancers to know who to dance with because the Advanced dancers will be wearing a particular costume; the Basics students will be wearing whatever they like. That also provides better photo opportunities!

So anyway, last night I was staying in the Chorus Line to let the students keep rotating in and out as Center Dancers, and we used all the songs we’ll be playing at the Hafla. They all did really well: they kept switching leaders, changing the staging, using different moves, and were really fun to watch.

In class I often like to take a few minutes after each song, drill, or set to have the students talk about anything that happened during the dancing. These little discussions are really helpful to clear up issues they may have when following other dancer’s cues, fix timing mistakes, sight lines, or get clarification on timing, moves, etc.

There’s a pair of sisters in the class who get together to practice quite a bit. I heard one of them say to the other, “I knew you were going to play ‘Throw the Leader'” and my ears pricked up! It turns out they have a game they play to see how quickly they can throw or change the lead, which I think is hilarious. And I love it! So that’s why their Duets went so well – they were active, interesting, and engaging to watch. I think we’ll be playing this game a lot!

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how do you rehearse group improv by yourself?

Missing too many classes?

winter weather woes

We’ve been happily preparing new costumes and rehearsing for our semi-annual Food Drive event later this month!

And this time our Hafla is all Tribal!

We’ll have a lot of our Tribal Odyssey dancing, and I’m putting a set list together featuring everyone’s favorite songs. We’ll also have a little “roots of tribal”, with live drumming as we dance our funky beledi combinations and play finger cymbals. We’re also looking forward to the lovely Tribal Fusion style performed by one of the local favorites, Souris.  And because we’ll be in a cozy, dimly-lit restaurant I thought it would be the perfect setting for our Pharonic Candle Dance – because of course Temples and Tribes go together like peas and carrots!

But there’s a fly in the ointment, and it’s this winter weather. Snow cancellations have already caused us to miss several classes and rehearsals; and now more weather is on the way this week. All I can do, with the Hafla only a week and a half away, is to count on my wonderful dancers to keep their skills sharp at home; which as you might guess, is hard to do for “group improv” format.
So my advice to my dancers is this:

  • watch some of our TOBD videos,
  • hone those favorite combinations they like to do when they lead,
  • and ALSO to drill the combos they don’t do so often.

Putting a favorite combo together with one of the ones they aren’t so likely to pull out when leading is not only a great way to get the transitions smooth, but become more self-confident about “those” combinations.
More Snow on the Way?

And – as long as we all have electricity and the internet – I’ll offer a Google Hangout class as an extra bonus for dancing at home. Even though group improv belly dance doesn’t really work for one dancer by herself! But it’s making the best of a bad situation.

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