Live Music is Magic

Dancing to music by Ritim Egzotik last weekend was such a treat! If you haven’t checked them out in Portland, you should. The bonus? They are usually playing for a bevy of beautiful belly dancers, as was the case last Sunday night at the Hawthorne Theater Lounge. Here’s a little video from my performance. I have not danced to live musicians regularly, but I hope that will change now that I’m living in Portland. It really changes the dynamic of my dancing and keeps me even more present in the moment. It’s magic, really.

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The Belly Dance USA Competition

I’m still gathering my wits about me after and amazing weekend of belly dancing at Mezdulene’s Belly Dancer USA competition in Canyonville, Oregon.  It was my first solo competition, having won the Duet category back in 2009 with Samara as The Bijou Project.

I have so many thoughts to share about this weekend that Samara and I are considering writing an article for Jareeda magazine about the challenges and rewards of competition, especially in an area outside of your comfort zone (that’s were the magic happens, right?).  Below you can see my solo performance from the competition on Sunday night.

It was an amazing event and I met several new dance friends and reconnected with many, many others I only see a few times each year.  Congratulations to the new Ms. Belly Dance USA, Cassondra Rose, and all the other participants and winners in each category.  I look forward to seeing you again next year!

P.S.  The Bijou Project was honored to bring home the 3rd place trophy in a very competitive Duet category.

Oh the Community!

Dancers gather in a circle.

Participants gather at the High Desert Bellydance Guild Spring Workshop Sampler.

Dance, from its earliest roots, was social in nature.  As ritual, as entertainment, or as part of a celebration, dance was performed in the community, within tight knit groups such as families, friends and religious practitioners.  As a dancer who started out as a student in American Tribal Style, one of the most appealing things to me was the group nature of the dance.  The classes and my fellow students felt like a community and gave me the confidence to start performing since we were all doing it together!

Improvisation at Azura Salon with Tribal Moon. Photo: Nils Eddy.

As I continued to dance and my style evolved to one more focused on Tribal Fusion¸ my preference for dancing with others remained.  A decade later, I am feeling called to the solo realm and my recent move to Portland is accelerating that transition.   Still, I remain connected to my groups: The Bijou Project, Kamilia, and most recently Nagamani—oh the joys and pains of successful group dancing!  At its best, it can be magic.  At its worst—a nightmarish hell where egos battle it out and no one agrees on anything.  You see, group dancing involves a constant give and take, sometimes sacrificing flash for conformity or having to give up your brilliant idea because someone else has a better one.  Like any relationship, having a successful group takes vision, maturity, commitment, communication and the willingness to let go sometimes.

Dancers at Bend Roots Festival

Kamilia Bellydance at the Bend Roots Festival. Photo: Nils Eddy.

Over the years I’ve collaborated with duets, trios, quads, and larger groups, but what about the relationships between dancers in a broader dance community?  Having recently left my tight-knit community of dancers in Central Oregon and moved to a city ten times the size, how will I transition into this new community?  I don’t have an answer for that yet.  It’s a bit like moving and starting a new school halfway through the term.  Groups are established, no one knows who you are, and everyone already has their own thing going.

There are also the distractions of a new city, or just living in a real city to contend with.  There are so many classes to choose from, so many events to attend, so much good food to eat, and my life outside of dance to balance and blend in.  It is overwhelming and I am surprised that choosing has been so daunting.  Isn’t this why I moved here–to build a career for myself as a massage therapist, to grow as a dancer, to pursue more cultural and spiritual paths?  I feel down on myself some days for not having taken advantage of every last drop of dance and live music to date, but deep down I know this is not realistic.  I can see now that achieving my goals will take focused intention on my part.

Dana, Erica, Leia and I pose for a photo at the Blush party, a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood. Photo: Mod Fox Photo.

Right before I moved to Portland, a co-worker told me that the three most stressful situations in life are moving, taking a new job, and the loss of a loved one, not necessarily in that order.  Since I’m tackling two of the three on that list, dance has slipped a bit in the life/time rankings, but I do want to be a part of the thriving dance community here in Portland.  I am thankful for the dancers who have graciously welcomed me into their circles (you know who you are) and I look forward to deepening my participation in the community as time goes on.

Step out of your comfort zone and discover the magic of belly dance.

For me, discovering belly dance was a wonderful thing.  It was a form of movement that spoke directly to me.  I couldn’t get enough and ten years later, here I am.  I Circlesmention this because over the years LOTS of women have told me that they wanted to try belly dance classes.  Are you one of them?

Have you ever considered taking a belly dance class, but weren’t sure what classes were offered in central Oregon or what style to take or what type of teacher you would like?  Lucky you!  The High Desert Bellydance Guild is offering their yearly Middle Eastern Dance Workshop Sampler on March 4th at Gotta Dance, featuring mini-workshops by many local teachers.  Good stuff!  For $10 you can try out 7 or 8 different teachers and styles of belly dance, all in 3 hours.  Really, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Workshop Flyer

Beats Antique is Coming to Bend!

I’m beyond excited that Beats Antique is coming to perform in Bend this Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012.  As a dancer, I love their music, and as a belly dancer, I love that they have some of my favorite belly dancers performing during their show!  Hello?  Zoe Jakes and Kami Liddle?  If you don’t know who they are, who cares?  Just check out the show–you won’t be disappointed!

Here’s a recent performance of mine from the High Desert Bellydance Guild’s Winter Showcase at Joolz Restaurant.  Both of the songs I’m dancing to are by Beats Antique.  The first song is Alto from their Elektrafone album and the 2nd is Waisted, from The Trunk Archives.  Don’t forget to check out their show on Saturday night!

Inspiration and Aspiration

The sunset that inspired me on my walk home in January.

The sunset that inspired me on my walk home in mid-January.

“The supreme prayer of my heart is not to be learned, rich, famous, powerful, or good, but simply to be radiant. I desire to radiate health, cheerfulness, calm courage, and good will. I wish to live without hate, whim, jealousy, envy, fear. I wish to be simple, honest, frank, natural, clean in mind and clean in body, unaffected, as ready to say I do not know, if it be so, and to meet all men on an absolute equality, to face any obstacle and meet every difficulty unabashed and unafraid. I wish others to live their lives, too – up to their highest, fullest, and best. To that end I pray that I may never meddle, interfere, dictate, give advice that is not wanted, or assist when my services are not needed. If I can help people, I’ll do it by giving them a chance to help themselves; and if I can uplift or inspire, let it be by example, inference, and suggestion, rather than by injunction and dictation. That is to say, I desire to be radiant – to radiate life.”

Elbert Hubbard

*And to that I would add, amen.*