Posts Tagged combinations

Skirt Flare-kick step breakdown

Step Right, step Left, repeat.

Here’s a quick video clip on the “Flare-kick” skirt combination from the Tribal Skirt online course. The full tutorial goes into more detail but this should be enough to get the gist of the 16-count sequence.

Teaching this particular skirt combo is always an adventure. With only two steps in 8 counts, that leaves 6 whole counts where students are going, “huh?!” Of course, ANY combination that includes facing away from the instructor is a challenge in class because students continuously try to “check in” while dancing – which is why I often sit down and watch. At some point you have to cut the cord and see what happens!

So here it is for you to try on your own – can you get it?

Have you ever noticed that sometimes the simplest combos are the trickiest?

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easiest way to learn finger cymbals in tribal improv

I’m a very linear thinker in some ways, but in others, totally holistic. Every now and then these two tendencies cross, and one takes precedence… I’m a pisces, so that’s my excuse!

Recently I was thinking about this as it pertains to playing cymbals in Tribal Odyssey Bellydance versus Oriental style, also known as Raks Sharki, nightclub, or cabaret bellydance.

The videos I put online a couple of years ago (the ones in the free playlist on “how to play finger cymbals”) follow the linear method, starting at the baseline and working up little by little. BUT, in TOBD we learn by doing – a very different method. I think it’s more fun, and actually much easier!

Whenever my newer dancers put on finger cymbals for the first time, they can just dance along as usual, without playing. Since they’ve already been dancing our format for at least 6 months by this point, they have developed muscle memory. Another plus is that they may have been hearing cymbals playing while they danced if other more advanced dancers are with us (or even just me).

When they’re comfortable with how the cymbals feel on their hands, they can start adding the “Muted Beledi Accents” on the two slow combos, Small Hip Circle and Reverse Flat-8. That is plenty to do right there. And of course, whenever they lead the group they don’t have to play their cymbals. It’s much more important for them to do the movements correctly so we can follow them easily. So the rest of us (or just me) can keep playing cymbals while they lead.

It’s a FABULOUS way to learn finger cymbals! As their playing skills grow, and they’re able to play and dance at the same time, we add other cymbal patterns, usually the Singles on the Large Hip Circle; and the 2-2-5 on the Back Undulation and Rolling Hips. It really works well!

screenshot of video

follow-me drills

Another plus is that the cymbal patterns help anchor the movements in time, hooking the combinations onto the beat. Especially the patterns that actually start on count one, with the combo – kind of hard to explain unless you do group improv. But what this does, is make it easier for people who have trouble hearing the beat in music, or don’t understand counting time, to grasp what this means, and what it feels like. I think it makes a big, big difference!

I’ve added a Drill Video on my channel for new finger cymbal players here. It’s taken from behind us as we dance so you can follow along; and just listen to the cymbal patterns, or add them in a little at a time. You can follow this Drill Video  playing finger cymbals with the Slow Combos (the easiest to start); and next I’ll add a Drill Video on the Fast Combos with cymbals. Stay tuned!

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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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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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