Archive for performing

Our itty bitty demo playlist

Yes, it’s been a rough start to 2016 with a serious knee injury followed by the flu. I’m dancing again, gingerly because my knee isn’t quite right, but it’ll do. Coming up this weekend is the first public performance of the year! Tribal Odyssey is gentle enough that I feel confident enough to dance, and I’m looking forward to it.

Saturday in Fredericksburg I’m doing a 50-minute interactive presentation on bellydance for a local women’s event, along with some of my dancers. So at the end of this mini-class we’ll do a short dance demo featuring some TOBD.
We’ll use “Love Signs” for slow moves, arms, and Fan Veils; followed by “Come Dance with Me” for fast combinations with finger cymbals, ending with audience participation.
That gives us an exciting and diverse 10-minute demo that includes getting the class participants dancing too!


Fan Veils, with finger cymbal pouches at the ready!

Check out these tunes – they’re so different, but catchy and interesting:

  1. DJ Dimi’s Love Signs
  2. Shirley Horn/Sugardaddy remix Come Dance with Me

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return to the World of DANCE!

I’m back!

Last month I began bellydancing again after my second hip replacement! Not “full steam ahead”, of course, but more and more each week.

Now after a month of dancing, I’m extremely happy to be both dancing, and able to KEEP UP with my students! The skills came back really fast, though my left leg muscles do get tired quickly. It’s getting better though.

Side-steps are the hardest – who knew what a good exercise the “grapevines” were!? My dancers have learned to make their steps a little smaller when I’m dancing with them so I don’t get overwhelmed during the TOBD Circle grapevines. Previously, they’d be absolutely FLYING around the circle – and I couldn’t keep up! I don’t think they realize how very energizing it is to dance in a circle!

In mid-October I performed a little bit of our tribal improv at a camping event in North Carolina, with several other dancers who were there. That was my first time dancing in public since my surgery, and it was such a blessing. It was an amazing experience. I posted about it here: Camping at War of the Wings.

This past weekend, I danced my little butt off at our Warm Hearts Hafla (a food drive for the local food bank). My students and I did a tribal set of several songs, in a low-key party mode. It was so much fun! Then we had open dancing to funky Arabic pop music, and I just danced myself silly and had a great time.

photo of dancers at a hafla

Anthea surrounded by dancers

Tribal Odyssey has been a godsend for me as I come back to bellydance. The moves and steps are challenging but I can manage if I’m careful, and I know it will only get better. It gives me a pathway to dance, and to dance with my friends, where I don’t have to worry about doing the same repetitive routine over and over. The variety we have really works for me because I’m able to do the steps that suit me best at the moment. I’m just loving this dance journey right now!

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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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new playlist for the next show…

Finding the right mix of music

At our upcoming show “Sequins and Shimmies” we only have time for a short group improv set. 

We’re using a mix of traditional, American, and Egyptian pop music. With our mixed group all onstage together, we’ve planned to use each song a certain way:

  1. Chorus and Center Dancers, to “Lilith’s Groove Garden” (Dolphina’s Goddess Workout Music). This is a song we haven’t used before, but it has a good tempo and since John Bilezikjian is playing, it’s automatically awesome.
  2. Slow Combos and Sword, to “Isis” (Desert Wind). This is a short song so the plan is not to repeat anything. Good luck, gals!
  3. Chorus and CD, to Habibi Ya Albi (Ehab Tawfiq). But this time when the advanced dancers go out to dance together as Center Dancers, all of them will go as a group. I told them to take the lead playing finger cymbals since only two dancers will be left in the Chorus Line to “bookend” the Center Dancers. We like LOUD cymbals!

Do you think it’s weird to use such a song for Tribal? We love the feeling and it makes a good finale: Habibi Ya Albi

When you only have a short time segment for Tribal, what criteria do you use when putting a music playlist together?

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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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tribal, plus one!

During a recent show at an assisted-living community here in Fredericksburg, my performing group broke out another new TOBD feature. Well, it’s not really “new”… we just haven’t gotten around to doing it much even though it’s been listed for years on the syllabus as planned for Level Four: Solos! Yes, Soloists as Center Dancers – not duets, trios, but just one lone dancer. And because I love irony, I, of course, encouraged my dancers to approach their solo in the “tribal fusion” style. I’ll explain in a moment.

Now, my students all learn “regular” bellydancing of the Raks Sharki variety, which includes solos, either choreographed or improvisational. However, the music we dance to ALWAYS dictates how we will dance – at least, it does in my book. So in other words, if we are doing TOBD to Arabic Pop songs we can dance as Center Dancer Soloists in our standard Egyptian beledi home-style – we’ve done this before.

What made this time different was our music. This particular number just sounds more like Tribal Fusion to me: “Through the Rings of Saturn” by Tribal Soup (it’s on Amazon here). So I saw it as a great opportunity for my “beledi babes” to get tribalicious for a change!

Since we don’t do this style, here’s how I approached this: I picked a couple of good tribal fusion dancers so we could study their performances on YouTube, and I helped my soloists analyze and break down what made their “Tribal Fusion” style look different than ours.

Compared to our usual style, we saw that these differences

  • they use a lot MORE, as well as BIGGER isolations than we usually do (isolations of the hands, arms, shoulders, ribs, hips);
  • their dance “sentences” seem discrete and even disjointed, instead of flowing together smoothly as ours do; that is, their dance looks like it’s in “bits and pieces”;
  • their staging changes (i.e. which direction they are facing) are more abrupt than ours;
  • their torso positions are not always “upright” like in Egyptian dancing, but often go sideways and even forward and back;
  • the dancers use more drastic level changes, and they often do them very quickly.

I felt these key elements were plenty to work with in a short 30 – 45 second solo, since four of us were sharing the one song.

So in approaching this other style of Tribal Solo, I wanted to give my dancers IDEAS – not steps and combinations – and let them explore this style on their own. And of course get their feet wet immediately in a show – because there’s nothing like a deadline to get things moving, is there?

Here’s a shot of Pixie exploring Tribal Fusion style in her solo:

tribal group dancing

Pixie gets her tribal on in front of the group

What’s the ironic part I mentioned? It’s no secret that I’m no fan of Tribal Fusion! I especially dislike the T-Rex arms I see in almost every Tribal Fusion dancer as well as the ubiquitous hip-lift-and-arm-waving combo from a well known tribal troupe. Bless their hearts, but if I never see that move again it will be too soon! Of course there are some beautiful dancers I DO enjoy watching; but to tell you the truth, I have to grit my teeth to get through most run-of-the-mill Tribal Fusion performances. So that’s why this endeavor kind of tickled me – the fact that we were channeling tribal fusion dancers for even one song.

Just for the record, have I studied “tribal fusion”? Outside of a workshop with Sharon Kihara, and one of Sera Solstice’s DVDs, no.

But just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean I exclude it – as a matter of fact, as I wrote in the TOBD backstory, I originally didn’t like Group Improv style either. But I took Kajira’s workshop anyway, and the rest is history!

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not like we planned it, but just as good!

Mixed levels! Always a challenge, and only more so in a performance, when “stuff happens” and everyone’s excitement level is already high. We had the unexpected happen onstage recently, but my students rocked it anyway!

For our annual Recital, I planned to have all the students onstage dancing during our four-song Tribal Odyssey set (all music from Tribal Soup); this included levels 1 – 4, because there were only about a dozen dancers performing in the show.

The “plan” – and we know how antithetical “planning” is for group improv: it always proves true that the more a set is “planned”, the harder it is to dance in the moment. But anyway, the plan was that we’d have two Tribal Veil trios begin our set, with the rest of the crew coming out into a Chorus Line, ready for the next song. However, the best laid plans…!

I first noticed something awry from my post at the sound system when only a couple of Veil dancers came out – and no one else. I went backstage since I was joining them anyway, and found out what was happening: one of the first Trio dancers couldn’t get changed quickly enough, and was still in the dressing room.

So now we had a Tribal Veil duet dancing onstage all by their lonesome. This unexpected glitch (what other kind is there?) was casting some students into a frazzle, since it upset “the plan”. Oh well, what is it they say about the best-laid plans? Oh yeah – they don’t work so well with Tribal Improv!!

I quickly shooed everyone else out onstage to quiet them and continue the set; our struggling dancer came out of the dressing room and joined the next Veil trio. We resumed our Tribal set after this little hiccup and from the audience side I’m sure it looked fine – even if the entrance of the rest us was a bit out of place in the middle of the song. Whatever! Let’s just get onstage and get it on!

So it turns out we had a lovely Veil Duet, then an awesome Veil Quartet – it was great! I had a good time because I always enjoy dancing with the others, and it’ll be interesting to see the video! But meanwhile, the photos are looking gorgeous so far! Here are a couple:

tribal veil dancer

Galiyah leads the duet onstage

tribal dancers

…and the Veil quartet dances too

Have you had Tribal Improv plans go awry? Tell me in the Comments!

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