Archive for props

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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Tribal Veils in action!

You would not believe (unless you’re a bellydancer!) what a workout you get by dancing with a veil! Especially in a group, doing follow-the-leader! Not only is it challenging to keep up with the leader, but when YOU are the leader you better be on your toes, so to speak… those veils are always moving.

Unlike other types of tribal improv combinations, veil dancing has practically no “resting” combos. It’s go, go, go, all the time to keep those veils flowing. Maybe I should’ve added some “veil pose” combinations where we could catch our breath! Well, that’s something to think about for the future. For now, we’re all getting our arms toned by practising the veil combos for our annual recital at the end of the month. The advanced dancers will be leading the whole group onstage during our Tribal Veil song, to dance with veils downstage while the rest of the group is in a Chorus Line upstage. It’s fun having a large mixed-level group onstage together!

Meanwhile anyone who wants a challenge can add these Tribal Veil moves to their troupe repertoire by following this Playlist on my YouTube channel.

Here are some photos from past shows with Tribal Veil dancing:


Dancing with purple veil!

veil dancer

Veil Toss!


Tribal at First Night!

veil dancers

Street Tribal!

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six Veil Combos for Tribal Improv

Yes I was hot, yes I was sweaty, but I did it anyway! The Veil Combinations are on video ready for viewing on my YouTube channel Dance Eternal.

Veil dancing is harder than it looks, as anyone who’s ever done it knows! I have a very particular technique for holding and handling the veil, and anyone who follows my method achieves success, while those who stray from the path soon find themselves fighting with their veil! I’m just sayin’…

tribal veil dancing

Anthea’s veil magic in action!

That photo’s a great shot of my “veil hold”, with finger cymbals at the ready. I’m using a large two-tone veil, slightly rounded at the bottom edges and trimmed with gold ribbon.

What type of veil to use really makes a difference. In Oriental dancing we use all different shapes, sizes, and fabrics for veil dancing; and the type of fabric, the size and shape, and any decorations like trim or sequins, all change how the veil moves.

For these group improv combos though, we needed a veil sturdy enough for constant use. I’ve also always loved the way circular or half-circle veils move. I finally found the perfect veil, and it even works well in a light breeze! The Tribal Veil combos are developed especially for this particular fabric weight, shape, and style of veil. Some of my students have made their own veil complete with the trimmed edges, but most of us get our tribal veils from Ganesha Bazaar. Both the large and small size works and we’ve used both. Usually we use the larger size, and save the smaller ones for tight performance spaces.

I’m sure the Veil Combos can be done just fine with other types of veils, I’ve just never tried it. With all the costume layers of skirts, sleeves, tassels, plus big flowery hairdids and whatnot that us tribal dancers like to use in our costumes, I want to stick with what works!

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Swords with friends!

We’re putting the finishing touches on the Sword Combos!

It’s been so much fun adding this new element in our dancing. We’ve been refining the basic blade moves after class, at rehearsals, and even in a couple of shows this spring! The dozen combinations we have right now are a great start – with the lead changing to add another layer of interest, they’re just enough for an entire song-length performance using swords.

Refining tribal moves takes some time because there are so many transitions, they all have to be clean and clear; and the only way to really work them out is in real time, with real dancers (and swords!).

Meanwhile I had some time to create a teaser video clip from our latest show, at the local multicultural fair. Enjoy!

Video intro: Tribal Sword Combos

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beginning blades in bellydancing

What a whirlwind start to 2013! My PRISM Dancers and I have been working hard to refine a basic handful of group improv combinations using Swords! And we’re loving it!

Recently two of my dancers and I were able to debut the new “Tribal Odyssey Sword” at an out-of-town venue, the beautiful Alhamraa restaurant in Charlottesville (VA). From my point of view it went well, but having never actually seen it except in practise videos, who knows!

I’m still trying to keep these group improv combinations SHORT – eight counts – as much as possible.  If you don’t do group improv, it’s hard to explain; but I don’t feel that music can be interpreted very well with LONG combinations of 32 counts or more. Group Improv dancing should use shorter combinations so that dancers can adjust the movement quality to the music. But anyway…

The performance space was challenging: we were dodging a pole in the middle, and also trying to face, in effect, TWO audiences. The seating arrangement at Alhamraa actually splits the audience in half: the two seating sections were facing each other – half the people were on this side, and half on the other side; and nobody was in front or back. That’s odd, but not really unheard of.  Many restaurants that double as “dance venues” sacrifice much of the middle space to a dance floor, and thus end up with the audience lumped into two side sections. And when it’s a big room, it can be like dancing for two separate audiences! But I actually prefer it over dodging up and down in-between tables, in venues that are rectangular in shape. A dedicated dance space is something to be coveted – even if you have to put up with trespassing waiters!

So in our first set, which was all TOBD Group Improv, we opened with a Tribal Sword performance. We danced together using our dozen “Beginning Blade” Sword Combinations to my slow, ethereal chifti-telli song, “Streaming Winds”, about 4 minutes long. I really LOVED finally using that song in performance – it may be my favorite Tribe O song ever… well, up to now at least!

I’ve got to say it’s ironic we’re using that particular song, about a friendship gone cold (lyrics thanks to Shakespeare), when we’re finally dancing Tribal Sword… But that’s all I’m saying about that at this point. I only used it because I wanted to use my music to avoid copyright issues if we videotape; and also, that song is the perfect tempo. Although we didn’t videotape that night, we will be videotaping soon so I can offer the Sword Combos online as streaming videos – and I want my dancers to be as familiar with the music as possible.

Anyway, that’s my favorite Tribe O song at the moment. I’m glad we’ll be using it again this week, debuting our Beginning Blades IN TOWN! Yes, we’ll be dancing – with our blades – at the University of Mary Washington’s Multicultural Fair Saturday; a short show featuring mainly Egyptian dance and derivatives. I’m really loving Tribal Sword! It’s SO fun having new things to work on!

This is our Sword song, Streaming Winds.

album cover

celestial winds

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creating tribal sword improv

The Tribal Odyssey Sword Dance Combinations have been “on hold” for a while…

Originally the task of developing the Sword Combos for our group improv format was Miramar’s (of Winchester VA). My energy was going into creating the Skirt and Veil Combos, and since Miramar is adept at Sword dancing, it seemed a good way to divide our time and talents.

But in 2011 when the Sword Combos were still just a goal, Miramar decided to dissolve our partnership; so the Sword Combinations went on the back burner for me. I kept the idea in mind while my performing group rehearsed for one show after another…  Our own Sword Dancer, Pixie Fae, would remind me from time to time “are you still going to do those Sword Combinations?” meaning, let’s get those Tribal Sword Combos done! But it wasn’t until a few months ago I could begin seriously formulating ideas on how we could incorporate the sword.

So here we are in early 2013 – after our New Year’s Eve show I found myself with some extra time before our next gig’s rehearsals (of course a few snow days didn’t hurt either). It’s finally time!

Anyone who’s developed “group improv” combinations knows there are certain considerations you have to keep in mind:

  • you need clear sight-lines so the dancers can see the Leader;
  • the “cues” ALL have to be unique enough to be quickly recognizable;
  • the combinations should flow into each other with smooth transitions;
  • AND last but not least, the technique level of the performers needs to be considered.

I feel safe in putting the Sword Dance combinations in Level Four, as by the time dancers get to this level they will have developed adequate skills or at least, they’ll be able to develop sword balancing skills fairly quickly.

Now, you just can’t be certain the moves will work until you try the combinations on real bodies! So during our recent Rehearsal Club meetings in the studio, we’ve been refining the Sword Combos. It’s wonderful to have my PRISM Rehearsal Club serve as guinea pigs, going through all the proposed Sword Combinations to help figure out what works and what needs to change.

It’s a unique, collaborative, creative process, just how I polished the original Tribal Odyssey combinations years ago with my old troupe Pearls of Rhythm. This project’s gone much faster than I anticipated, and we’ll actually debut our Sword Combos at a show later this month! We’re concentrating on a “short list” of about a dozen combinations, divided equally into “Sword Play” and “Sword Balancing”… I can’t wait!

bellydance practise

rehearsing in the studio

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new songs – the right tempo for Tribal cymbals and sword?

The New Year brings new ideas…

Last year we danced to a lot of fast tempo songs (including “Sandstorm” in our New Year’s Eve show) which makes for some exciting dancing, but now it feels nice to slow down a bit. I’ve chosen some new tracks for my students to dance TOBD to that are slower than what we’ve been using, and everyone seems to like them (including me)!

PRISM Dancer Pixie Fae suggested the first one:

Ja Vidi by Christophe Goze, which has a lovely clarinet(?) part as well as guitar; here it is on Amazon. Great tempo especially for playing finger cymbals.  The next song I found is:

Gardens of Delight by Electric Oasis (on Amazon) sounds a little more electronic so I dig that; and the tempo is perfect for cymbals too – I can really hear if my students are playing clearly at this speed, that’s really helpful. This song has several places where the percussion drops out but it doesn’t lose any beats so it still works fantastically for group improv.

And for Tribal Sword I pulled out some really slow-tempo songs that usually my students don’t like dancing to: everyone knows it’s harder to dance slowly, because (ahem!) you have to actually use your muscles instead of just throwing your body around. At first I thought we could use Dance Dolphins Dance (from Dolphina’s Goddess Workout music) but the even slower tempo of Ocean Depths will be easier while we balance the swords. You can find an online list of musicians who played on this album in the Amazon listing (including the wonderful John Belizikjian on oud and violin).

There may be some tracks we can use for Tribal Sword in the Serpent’s Garden cd by Mosavo, that’s next on my list to check out.

There seems to be a very fine line between just the right tempo and too fast! If you have a recommendation on a SLOW song good for sword balancing (keeping in mind this is group improv) …and not one that everyone is using, please let me know!

PRISM sword dancers as oil painting

Sword Dance, from the PRISM Dancers show at the UMW Multicultural Fair

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