Posts Tagged tribal bellydance

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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who put tribal bellydance in the Nutcracker?

We did! And we were practically the only grownups in the show too! Four of us took an afternoon this past weekend to participate in MFA Studio‘s holiday spectacular (which I wrote about here), featuring oodles of little girls and boys in adorable costumes – the cuteness factor was over the top! We were able to sit in the audience for the first half, and could barely contain our enjoyment. The sweetness of the tiny Sugarplum Fairies brought tears to our eyes!

For our turn in the second half’s “Nutcracker” sequence we dressed in flowing chiffon skirts with sparkly bellydance belts and tops, and danced with veils of red and green. Our color scheme seemed to fit right in with the decorated Christmas tree onstage!

Our number was so short (less than 4 minutes) that we barely had time to settle in and get our dance on, but we did really have a good time; and there even seems to be a video up already on facebook (I shared the link on the  TOBD facebook page) taken by someone in the audience.

I appreciate how we were invited to participate in this show;  the studio owner, Mayeisha, has been very welcoming to my bellydance class this year, and seems to be instilling wholesome values in her studio’s young students, who were all so polite and welcoming to us backstage. This dance studio is a treasure to have in the local area and I’m so grateful we’ve been a part of it.

after dancing

backstage at show

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tribal skirt combinations… without a skirt!

We all love the thrill of new costuming! When my performing group had two shows coming up featuring TOBD, I wanted to change up our look, just for fun. Basically, I wanted us to wear pants instead of skirts! Well, we always wear pants under our skirts, but I mean costume pants like Melodias or something similar – NOT those blasted “harem pants” that I loathe like the devil. So good, we’ll wear pants.

The problem is, we have lots of Skirt Combinations I wanted us to be able to do when we’re dancing. So the idea came to me to re-purpose some small circular veils I have but don’t use very much. Now, these aren’t any old kind of veil, these are rounded rectangles with gold ribbon trim – similar to the veils we typically use for Tribal Odyssey veil dancing, but smaller. The fabric has a nice weight to it, a bit heavier than chiffon but I’m not sure what it is, perhaps organza.

I had a heck of a time trying to explain this to my dancers – they couldn’t seem to imagine it… so I made a couple sets of these “Skirt Panels” and took photos. Now, here are the details:



veil ready to be cut

1. This “half-circle” veil (really a rounded rectangle) is folded in half on the floor; the extra folded material that’s ‘folded over’ will be removed. The straight edge (with the gold trim) will hang from hip to ankle when finished, so that’s the first measurement. Here’s a close-up view of what I’m cutting:

close up

removing extra 5″ from top edge of fold

After I cut along the fold, the leftover material will make a scarf. The panels  would’ve been too long if I didn’t take those 5 inches off.

2. Can you believe some people don’t know what a casing is? That’s okay! The casing is where the elastic goes. (I always use elastic, I HATE drawstrings!) The edge that I just cut is now folded over and sewn, which forms the casing. Folding over twice will keep the cut edge from fraying.

Here you can see how I’m sewing the casing on my antique sewing machine  (who needs pins!):

sewing is easy – you can do it!

3. See the purple elastic? Just make sure your casing is wide enough for the elastic to fit in easily. Attach a large safety pin to one end of your elastic (which should be cut to fit snugly around your hips) so you can slide it easily through the casing from one end to the other, making sure the “right side” of the material is facing out (so you don’t have one panel inside-out). Sew the ends of the elastic together.

If you’re still not sure what we’re doing here, this photo might help make it clear:

hanging skirt panels

now it’s starting to make sense!

That was easy, right? The straight edge goes in front, and the curved edges go in back, at least – that’s how I like it. I think they rock! What do you think?

PRISM dancing in separate duets

we’re dancing in separate duets here. the duet on the right is getting ready to do skirt combos (and yes they’re wearing finger cymbals)!

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does Tribal serve you?

Every so often, when my performing group PRISM is planning a show, we’ll use Tribal Odyssey in a slightly different way than usual; we’ll deviate from the standard format to better serve our performance needs for that particular show.

For instance, to make our performances flow better, or because we have limited number of dancers, or a limited time to change costume we’ve done things like:

  • enter with the Tribal Veil Walk (seen in this video on youtube) instead of having the Veil Dancers come out from the Chorus Line as usual;
  • or we may already be dancing onstage and have a couple of dancers go pick up Veils from the wings to immediately go out as Center Veil Dancers, instead of coming out of the Chorus Line with the veils already tucked into their belts;
  • or we might begin our Tribal Odyssey set with a Center Duet while the other dancers put on their cymbals, adjust or even change costume and then join us as we’re already dancing onstage;
  • or we might have Duets or Trios dancing at the same time in separate places (if it’s a large room or outdoor space), with no Chorus Line at all;
  • or we use the Chorus Line as a background for a choreographed solo.

My point is that this group improv format is made to serve us – we’re not made to serve the format.

The rules are there to help the dancers know how it works – what the “default mode” is. This should be followed closely while students learn, when they’re dancing in class, or when they first join in performances.

But once these rules are ingrained in our brains and we can easily fall back on them when in doubt, then we should be able to adapt the format (and bend some rules) to make performances easier for us.

Don’t be a slave to the dance, whether it’s ITS, ATS, or choreography!

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tribal veil improv to Raquy live – as a duet

Several years ago my former student Adara Janaani and I performed in Charlottesville (VA) to Raquy and the Cavemen. I have to commend AJ with having the guts to sign up for a performance to live music, which was something she had never done before! Below is a shot from our Drum Duet:

Kawakib and Adara Janaani dancing to live music

Duet to live drumming

A few weeks before the show, we picked Shashkin and Caravan for our music and choreographed a set that included an Entrance piece, Veil Dance, and Drum Duet. Rather than go with choreography for the whole set we decided to use Tribal Odyssey for the Veil segment.

Check out the video below: at 2:22 we go from choreography to duet improvisation. Actually, we knew we’d use the Veil Walk, a traveling combination, to circuit the stage etc. during the song’s transition from slow to fast tempo. So that’s partially choreographed; but from about 2:50 on – when we get in the “lead-and-follow” position together – it’s duet improvisation. We decided ahead of time that we’d each do two or three veil combos then change the lead… as you can see the Veil Walk is used for lead-changing too.

Tribaret Veil Duet (video)

This demonstrates something I tell my students: Tribal should serve us, not the other way around. TOBD has rules and guidelines, yes. But the format is meant as a path to follow, as a means to an end – the “end” being a joyous group dance experience. The format is not an end in and of itself. We’re not here to solidify it into something inflexible, written in stone. It’s to be used as we need it, and adapted to the different performance venues, locations, and contexts that we face.

This show is from 2005, before we started using Miramar’s formation of the Circle in Tribal Veil dancing. We began using that option a couple of years ago and I really enjoy having that extra element of variety in the format.

Of course this wasn’t the first time my students and I danced Tribal Odyssey to live drumming, but it WAS the first time we used TOBD in a professional showcase with live music.

And yes, we got paid!

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audio explorations…

I’m not one of those teachers who insists on only using music SHE likes, I often invite input from my students. So right now I’m working up a setlist of Solace tunes. His music is usually not my first choice, especially for my students – simply because of the many rhythm changes that happen in his songs.

For solo bellydancing, it’s great stuff, and some of his simpler original pieces are also usable for group improv. When he covers* songs they sound good too.  *I’m guessing about the cover songs because the titles don’t ring a bell for me. I feel like I’ve heard “Two Gypsies” before but can’t place it, at least not by that name. Same with “Ophelia’s Dance”.

For my students to excel at group improvisation, they need clear beats in a steady, even tempo’d song that’s not monotonous… and that’s not always easy to find on Solace albums. I admire Mr. Soto’s talent greatly, it’s just that his music doesn’t usually meet our particular needs.

BUT – I can’t be the only one picking music or we’ll fall into a rut. I am open to new and different input! My students like the sound of his music and since I have several of his albums, I’m checking them out again.

The playlist I’m working with right now uses songs from his album Shawaza. Sometimes I feel like pulling out a magnifying glass and/or flashlight to read the track list! The tiny fancy font, in black text on dark brown graphic design background, is hard on the old eyes.

Shawaza back cover image

Using Roxio, I’ve edited “Rebirth” down a little from 9 minutes; taking out the 6/8 tempo section, as well as the faster tempo at the end. It still hangs together nicely. Then “Two Gypsies”, which sounds so familiar. It’s got a catchy melodic line over a strong, steady beat so is ideal for our group improv.

I realize that since I’m editing the tracks, students won’t be able to have their own practise versions that match what we’re working with in class. That’s a problem.

The set list is only 8 minutes so far; I want to add another short, slower tempo tune, and I’m determined it will be Solace! The search continues…

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creating that tribal feeling

I had all my Tribal Odyssey students dance together onstage at our annual bellydance recital this past weekend; that is, all the students who knew T.O. well enough to at least be in the Chorus Line – even a student who takes class in another town joined our performance.

My recital is designed so any of my students can perform – if they’ve been in class for at least a couple of month and have just a smidgen of bellydance under their belts.

In some recitals I’ve had each progressive level of Tribal Odyssey students dance their own song together (culminating with the most advanced dancers), but I knew that getting everyone onstage, even if the costumes didn’t match, would create that tribal feeling in a powerful way, and it did!

After Level 1 and 2 danced together (to “Sandstorm” by Farzad Farhangi) they moved back into an upstage Chorus Line and stopped playing finger cymbals so the Level 3 dancers and myself could go out front and do our set. I would’ve thought dancing in the Chorus Line for an entire 3-song set would be too boring but they all wanted to stay onstage and dance, and it turned out really well. It was great having them there… personally I loved the feeling that they were there with us as we danced, and we weren’t just out there onstage by ourselves. THAT is “the tribal feeling”!

Anthea (Kawakib)

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