Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gem show and classes

No rest for the wicked -- I went right from Unmata weekend into gem show week! Yesterday was a little shopping and vendor-visiting, and today was 5 hours of grueling labor setting up the Beyond Beadery booth -- which actually takes a lot more than 5 hours, I just got to leave early because I had a dentist appointment. Lucky me?

I was bad last night and skipped class in favor of hanging out with beading friends, an awesome local beader has a few out-of-towners staying at her place and I was invited over to eat chicken and bead, which seemed like a good way to rest my sore Unmata leg ;)

Tonight I went to class, but I only did 101 and skipped drills -- I have a ton of stuff to do tonight and I couldn't really justify staying out until 9:30 for class when I need to be in bed no later than midnight! Class was challenging, even though we were doing some basic-basics. There was a lot of balance work and my legs were tired from schlepping beads so it was hard to stand on one leg at a time! But we also did some practice on being graceful and focusing on intention, so that was nice -- more emotional and mental challenges, less physical ones.

Sadly, that was the only class I get to take this week! I have to work the show until 8 tomorrow, which means no Fonda, and driving to Tempe on Thursday is just plain out of the question.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


What a weekend! The Unmata workshops kicked my butt! Lots of high intensity, fast-paced dancing in a crowded room on a really warm weekend. I had an amazing time and got a serious workout. I got to see dance friends from Tucson, Phoenix AND Bisbee, too!

If you get a chance to take workshops with Unmata, go for it! They have a really unique tribal language and they're just so much FUN to learn from. I like how Amy Sigil runs her workshops, it felt like there was very little wasted time and the way she switches back and forth between doing things quickly and slowly allows you to catch back up if you're struggling. Plus she just breaks things down really well, drilling the separate parts and then sticking them together.

The show was also great. Anaya Tribal and Anaya Tribe were the opening acts and I think we did a good job of kicking things off :) Cari and Tiffany did a badass sword piece and then we all did some fast tribal with zills to a fun song to perk everyone up. After that was a variety of Tucson and Phoenix dancers, cabaret, tribal, soloists, duets, troupes, student groups, and then a long set from Unmata to cap it all off!

If this post feels a little disjointed and full of run-on sentences it is because I am totally exhausted from 8 hours of workshops and staying up too late after the show last night! But it's a happy exhaustion!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Homework and classes

Lots of dancing today! I did my homework from Jolie's class... chest lifts through three songs. SO BORING! It was hard not to slip into other moves, or to let my mind wander and my moves get sloppy.

Then I drove to class at Plaza and had two hours of Anaya goodness, with lots of zills and an exciting new variation of Sunanda that's still in the works. (Sunanda is a move Anaya borrowed from ATS, I really love it).

Now it is time for hot chocolate and popcorn, then SLEEP! I need to rest up the next two nights so I will be ready for Amy Sigil to kick my butt.

Teacher Profile: Anaya Tribal

When I decided that I wanted to make the weekly commitment to go to Plaza de Anaya for belly dance classes, I then had to decide who I was going to study with. I knew I wanted to learn tribal, but there were group tribal classes on THREE different nights! Which to choose? I ended up settling on Anaya Tribal over ATS or Domba, because Thursday was a good night for me and I saw that Cari and Tiffany used to dance with Nawari at the Ren Faire, and I LOVED that group!

I'm happy to say that I made the right decision -- although there probably wasn't a wrong decision. Learning from Cari and Tiffany has been a treat! They have a very polished and exact style of tribal, with a lot of the basics that you'll learn in any class but also a lot of unique combos. The vocabulary is staggeringly large and varied, and ever changing, with new moves occasionally added and old moves dropped out when they fall out of favor. This ever-evolving style means that after over 2.5 years with them, I still don't have the entire curriculum committed to memory and there's always more to learn and room to improve.

In addition to teaching beginner, intermediate, and advanced ITS, Cari and Tiffany occasionally offer classes in sword and skirt. They travel to many belly dance festivals and SCA events to teach workshops and vend their costuming wares. Oh, did I not mention the costuming? I did now. They have the best pantaloons and the cutest vests, not to mention gorgeous bras at affordable prices. You can learn more about Anaya and do a little shopping at the Anaya Tribal website.

Cari and Tiffany also direct The Anaya Tribe, a student troupe of various levels of dedicated students. I spent several happy, albeit frenetic, months as a member of Anaya Tribe performing at a variety of shows. The Tribe is a great way to improve your dance, get performance experience, and make friends. I'm sad to be leaving it at the end of this month!

By the way, Anaya member Danna was also helping with the classes for a while but then she had to take some maternity leave. Her daughter Zoey was born yesterday! Congratulations, Danna!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lotsa dancing!

Tonight's class was not a lot of learning and a whole lot of dancing instead! We did learn one new move, but it wasn't a very difficult one, so we were able to focus on really dancing, which there hasn't been as much time for in class lately. We also got to critique each other a bit.

I also had a massage today, which was nice because I had a lot of tension from all the dancing and beadwork that I do!

Teacher Profile: Fonda Hamilton-Insley

If you're in or around Tucson and you want to learn improvisational group tribal style belly dance, you cannot go wrong with Fonda! With years and years of dance experience under her jingly belt, including ATS certification, sometimes it seems like Fonda knows everything about dance and has taken workshops from every teacher on the planet. She's full of knowledge and funny anecdotes, too! Her classes have a very fun and welcoming atmosphere and are especially good for newbies who might be intimidated by all the crunches and layering of Jolie's class.

I started studying with Fonda at the start of 2011 because she was going to teach some veil moves and I wanted to give veil a try. After that she taught some sword, then some zills, and by then I was hooked! Although we spent some time on props at the start of the year, Fonda's main focus is on group tribal improv, with a very easy-to-understand vocabulary of moves and queues, as well as some time spent on basic belly dance skills like isolations and shimmies and traveling moves.

Currently Fonda teaches at The Dance Loft on Wednesday nights. There's a beginner class and an intermediate class, so newbie students have something to work towards. She's also leading the Tucson Tribal Belly Dance Collective, a newly re-formed troupe that will soon be dancing all over Tucson.

Random cool fact about Fonda: She also does taiko drumming!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Back to basics

Tonight's classes were all about going back to basics and making sure they're not sloppy. We worked on walking, and then walking with mayas, and then layering mayas over weird foot patterns. Then in drills class we drilled arms and chests and hips, saving the crazy layering for last instead of making it the focus of class.

We even got some homework! Every day for a week, I need to pick one thing that I think I'm good at and drill it to several songs in a row. This is going to be hard for me, simply because I hate doing anything for a long time. I get bored! I do have to admit that I might not end up doing it over the weekend, too, since I have the Amy Sigil workshops and show. I should be able to fit in one song each day, but not necessarily a good 10-15 of solid drilling. I probably won't have the energy, even if I have the time!

Teacher Profile: Jolie Roberson

A few months ago, Jolie Roberson blew into town from Chicago and turned my dance life upside down! There I was, wanting to branch out from ITS and hone my solo skills, and also wishing that I could take a drills class to really perfect some basics. There she was, ready to make me regret my wish by making me layer half-boxes over a tick-tock shimmy.

Jolie's classes are the perfect thing for the dancer who wants to be challenged. They start with a muscle-building warm-up (which usually involves crunches, push-ups, and other forms of torture... I mean exercise) and then move on to the dancing! The focus is on tribal fusion, with elements of ballet and modern dance.

The Choreo class usually focuses on some aspect of dance within the choreography -- whether it's expressing certain emotions, or traveling, or directing movement with your arms, there's almost always some central lesson to take away and apply to other dances.

Bellydance 101 tricks you with its name, making you think it will be easy. It is not. The moves may be basic, but Jolie focuses on training you to do them muscularly, with control, at various speeds, and layered over things that you don't think they should be layered over. Sometimes she comes up with layering ideas that even she struggles with, and we all get to be frustrated together.

Drills and Technique is like a more advanced version of 101, with more layers and doing things for longer. One night we had to spend two entire songs layering belly rolls over vibration shimmies. It's a great class for discovering what your strengths and weaknesses are then working on how to improve them.

Jolie teaches a couple of other classes that I haven't taken yet, and has more classes coming up on her schedule in February. She's also available for private lessons. For more information, you should visit her website Skirt Full of Fire.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Unfamiliar Material

Combinations & Choreography class was challenging for me tonight because there was a lot of non-bellydance material in it and my brain and body were just not. getting. it. It didn't help that my right foot is a little sore from dancing on concrete and didn't really appreciate doing turns on releve, but that was no excuse for me to not be able to keep up with direction changes and stuff. Just an off night for me, really, but I did my best and had some successes so I really can't complain.

I'm getting excited for UNMATA this weekend! Woohoo!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Big Dancing Weekend!

My goodness did I dance a lot this weekend! Hours and hours of dance, in fact!

Last night was a big birthday bash for Kimberly, owner of Plaza de Anaya and all around awesome lady. Not only was there live drumming to dance to, but Spiritchaser (the Dead Can Dance tribute band) played a live set, too! That was SO much fun to dance to. I enjoyed getting my Anaya on with Tiffany and No-El to beautiful live music.

Today I had not one but two troupe practices, each two hours long. First, my last troupe practice with Anaya Tribe, where we did our usual general practice and crazy layering warm-up, and then we worked on our piece for the Unmata show next weekend. Second I came back to Tucson for the Collective's practice, in which we talked about what we were going to do, practiced a bunch of dancing and made a lot of noise with zills.

Now I am ready to relax for a bit before I have to tackle another class-filled week!

Friday, January 20, 2012

First and Last

You should come to this show!!!!

Reasons why you should come to this show:

It's Amy Sigil's first time performing in Tucson. She's pretty freakin' awesome and it's rare for Tucson to have a big name dancer like her come to town.

It's my first performance of 2012!

It's Anaya Tribe's first Tucson performance.

It's my last performance with Anaya Tribe.

Yes, I am sad to announce that I will be leaving Anaya Tribe at the end of January. It's an amicable parting, caused entirely by the fact that between rising fuel costs and my increasing dance commitments in Tucson, I cannot continue to make 6-8 trips to Tempe a month. I will still be taking classes with Cari and Tiffany of Anaya Tribal every other week, and I look forward to continuing to be friends with my classmates and former troupemates.

This was a really hard decision to make, and has been behind a lot of my angst and brief blog posts lately. Dancing with Anaya was my main goal for much of the time I've been taking dance classes and it was hard to admit to myself that I simply could not continue doing it anymore.

But anyway, you really should come to the show on the 28th because the lineup is phenomenal! I hope to see you there! Visit the Facebook Event Page for more information!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Back from Class

Another long Tempe night. I had fun seeing my friends in class and getting my dance on, and meeting a new student or two and buying yet another "Rukie" style overskirt, because 3 is not enough. Got some homework to work on between classes, too!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thanks Brandye!

Tonight Brandye substitute-taught Fonda's Dance Loft class, even though she had messed up her back and couldn't, y'know, dance. Instead she observed and coached and corrected and encouraged, and taught us a quick combo when her back eased up a bit. We also worked on belly flutters, which is something I really need to dedicate some time to developing.

Somehow I got nominated to lead the warm-up, though, which is pretty funny because I am the world's laziest warmer-upper at home. But hey, it was all good fun and we were all warm when I was done.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Just got back from Jolie's Monday night combinations and choreography class. Time really flew tonight, and for the most part I really got into the choreography and had a good time. It was a good way to start off the week!

I'm trying to learn to enjoy choreography. I'm such an improv girl at heart, and I'm not sure that I ever see myself being too interested in developing my own choreos, but it is good to be able to learn them to dance with a group, or to be able to semi-choreograph an improv performance if I feel the need to.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dancin' by the swimming pool!

Tonight I was fortunate enough to be invited to the home of local bead artist and social nexus Kate McKinnon, to hang out at a party and watch her friend Sandy dance next to the swimming pool. It was a fun evening, and I was happy to finally meet Sandy and see her dance, as we have been FB friends for a few months now. And I even got to get my shimmy on by the pool when she pulled me out of the audience for the end of a song :)

Anyway, Sandy danced beautifully, coming in with a veil entrance and then later breaking out the zills, which had a beautiful sound that really carried through the back yard. I hope some of the photographs from the evening turn out because her green costume and mottled silk veil looked beautiful against the gently glowing swimming pool.

Then I came home and did finger waves while watching TV. I had a small handicap for a bit in that Daisy felt like my hands could be put to better use by petting her. Silly dog!

Now I'm worn out from all the excitement!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lazy day

Pretty much only stretched today, instead of actually practicing. Had a couple of important things to get done today -- Bought new curtains to spruce up my blah living room, and finally finished the beading project I've been consistently working on since the 21st.

I did have a nice dance-related surprise -- I got a scarab bindi in the mail today, courtesy of my friend Meghan! Plus I got a crystal bindi that I ordered for myself. This brings my total number of artist made bindis to... a lot. I haven't actually counted. I'm a little afraid to! Dance pants aren't my only addiction.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Back to Anaya!

The New Year Session at Plaza de Anaya finally started this week, so it was time for fresh Anaya classes. Had a good time, enjoyed seeing my Phoenix friends, swapped out some of my retail items and collected my earnings... But dang am I tired out from the drive and the dancing!

Have to say I did feel good in class... I "got" some things that I've had trouble with in the past. Studying with other teachers and practicing more has done well for me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shoulder shimmies and belly rolls

Had a good night in Fonda's class. Lots of practice, including working on synching up belly rolls in a duet. Not that I really wanted to do more belly rolls after how many I had to do in Jolie's class yesterday! If I get to Anaya class tomorrow and I have to do them there, too, I might just throw in the towel.

We also learned the shoulder shimmy/hip drop combo, which I already knew from Anaya. In fact, it's one of my fall back moves, so I'm glad to finally be able to fall back on it when dancing with my Tucson friends, too!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

So much layering!

Oh my goodness. Lots and lots of layering and stuff at Jolie's classes tonight. Lots of leg work. Lots of shimmies. Lots of belly rolls. I am utterly and completely exhausted, and sore in numerous places. I definitely got my money's worth tonight! I'm going to go die now.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Today I added another place to the list of unusual spots to practice dance! I had to get my first (and hopefully last?) root canal today, and I spent some time while waiting between steps to do glute squeezes, finger waves, and floreos! I found that doing little isolations helped to distract me from the discomfort of having my poor jaw forced open for almost an hour. Then to distract myself from listening to the drill, I tried to replay favorite belly dance performances in my head, but unfortunately I don't have a very photographic memory. Sadly I ended up having to skip Jolie's class because of the root canal -- once the Novacaine wore off, my jaw started throbbing in time with my heartbeat. Yuck! The pain seems to be tapering off so I should be ready for two hours of dance fun tomorrow.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekend-y weekend

Got some dancing in this weekend! Zill practice on Saturday because I couldn't remember the last time I'd played them. My lack of practice really showed, ouch. The pets definitely did not appreciate the cacophony.

Today was the first official meeting of the newly-resurrected Tucson Tribal Belly Dance Collective. WOO! I have a troupe in Tucson! We had some visitors from Bisbee, which was fun. We danced for them and they danced for us and then we danced together, and then Fonda taught them some of our moves based on what we wanted to be refreshed on. Plus we discussed Collective business. I am excited to finally see things picking up here in my own town, since I am getting a little worn out on having to travel to Phoenix to get a dance fix.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2011 Year in Review

Dilara Sultan posted these Year in Review questions on her blog Dilara's Diary, and I figured I'd indulge in a little introspection to answer them. Also, a random picture. It's so weird to look at pictures of myself from before I hennaed my hair! Who is that brown-haired woman wearing my Assuit panel skirt? Without further ado, questions and answers!

1.  What did you do in 2011 that you’ve never done before?

Well, that's an easy one. I danced every day!

2. Did you keep your belly dance new year’s resolutions, and will you have any this year?

See above about dancing every day! I don't really "do" New Year's resolutions, but we had to set some for Anaya Tribe. Mine is to stretch every day, especially my problem areas, and to be raised to Level 3 in Anaya Tribe.

3. Did you introduce a newbie to belly dance?

I don't think so, not in 2011.

4.  What travels did you take, and did you involve belly dance in them?

As usual I went to NY and NJ to visit my in-laws. I kept up my daily dance practice but otherwise there was not really any dancing involved.

5. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

Perfect health!

6.  What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

January 1st and December 31st, as they mark the beginning and end of my year of practice. I'm not really good with dates otherwise.

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Besides the year of practice, getting into Anaya Tribe was big for me!

8. What was your biggest failure?

Not working on back bends at all.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?

SO MANY COLDS! And that mystery rash in July. But I shouldn't complain, since I didn't have any major health issues.

10. What was the best thing you bought?

Wow. That's a tough one. I buy a lot of stuff, and I'm fond of saying "This is the best $X I ever spent!" I guess for non-physical purchases, definitely the Deb Rubin workshops. As far as actual STUFF goes, I don't think I could choose just one thing.

11. What did you get really excited about?

Veils! I love them so much and I love dancing with them and people love to watch me dance with them.

12. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Stretching. I feel like I am too young to be so tight. Also I wish I'd spent more time learning from my DVD collection.

13. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Being lazy, procrastinating, and making excuses.

14.  What seemed to get in the way of your belly dancing?

Colds and laziness.

15. What was your favorite music from this year?

The new Azam Ali album was pretty good, otherwise I'm not sure I listened to a lot of NEW music. Discovered lots of good older stuff I'd never heard, though. The cover of "Ring of Fire" that I did my veil solo to was definitely my favorite.

16. What did you do on your birthday?

My husband took me out for the nicest steak dinner of my life!

17. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 

Going to Tribal Fest with all the cool kids!

18. How would you describe your belly dance style in 2011?

Still growing and taking shape.

19. What were the major influences on your belly dance journey in 2011?

Taking the Mira Mania workshops really gave me a kick-start when I was starting to doubt myself. Fonda's classes helped me branch out into more props and get more involved in my local community. Jolie's classes started rounding me out as a dancer.

Dilara left her list at 19 because she likes prime numbers, but I like round numbers so I need to add another one...

20. Best thing about being a dancer in 2011?

Getting the chance to watch so many other dancers, from amateurs to the top-name pros, perform. I saw so many amazing performances this year that totally inspired me!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fire fans!

So, I forgot to mention that my little brother gave me the coolest holiday gift -- spring-loaded fire fans! I've wanted them pretty much since I received my normal fire fans as a gift from my husband years ago. So anyway, now I have normal fire fans, spring-loaded folding fire fans, and glow fans. It's about time that I learn how to use them so I can perform with them, right?

I think tomorrow I'll put my DVD in and get down to the real learning, but for today I did 10 minutes of snake arms, wrist circles, and general playing around to get an idea of what I could do with them right off the bat. Just 10 minutes was enough to make my arms protest! Silly arms.

It's interesting... After a year of practicing every day, I now plan what I'm going to practice without even thinking about it. It's become a thing I do, just like washing dishes and brushing my teeth and checking my e-mail. I even did shimmies while I washed dishes, because that's also something of a habit now. I wonder what else I should keep doing until it becomes a habit?

(By the way, if you're wondering why I wasn't at Anaya Tribal class tonight, it's because the class session doesn't start until NEXT week! Long holiday break this year)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Go Mom!

Just got back from Fonda's intermediate tribal class, and I had a pleasant surprise when I got there -- my Mom had taken the beginner class! Go Mom!

Class was fun, we did some drills and learned a couple new moves and practiced dancing and even had a few minutes of free-style solo dancing to get people used to the idea of solos. Of course, some of us were already more than comfortable with that ;)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Oh geez

I am hurting today! Rough dance classes and too much time bent over beads. I think I pulled or strained a muscle in my butt yesterday. What a dumb place to hurt myself! And my shoulders hurt from all the beading. And my abs hurt from all the coughing. I am a list of stupid complaints. However, I had a good time dancing tonight, and I even did crunches and push-ups and stuff. Gotta get back into shape, you know! It was also nice to see more people in the classes.

Now for chai and baklava!

Monday, January 2, 2012

My lungs!

I'm going to do away with the "Day X" of practice now, since I've completed my year of practice.

Today was my first dance class since getting sick on the 22nd. I'm still a little sick, still coughing mostly. So doing an intense choreo was maybe not the best way to get back into class! But I'm happy I went to class, because it was nice to kick the year off with Jolie and Brooke and challenge myself.

I'm still trying to decide what my goals are for 2012, and I'm reconsidering a lot of what I'm doing as a dancer, and trying to decide what my overarching goal for my dance career is, and what I'm doing with myself. You know, all that existential angst stuff. But enough of that. I'm going to go buy myself a shiny thing!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

How did I do?

So, how well did I do with my goal of a year of practice? I did miss some days -- maybe a week total. It's one thing to say that I'll practice even when I'm sick, and quite another to actually do it. I am a bit disappointed that I didn't truly practice for half an hour every day, but I realize now that in some ways that was an unrealistic goal for me.

That said, there were days when I was perfectly healthy and I still slacked off a lot. I practiced, but it wasn't honest, dedicated practice that would really improve me as a dancer. In 2012 I think I need to focus on quality more than quantity, especially if I want to move past some of my current obstacles.

Before I started 2011, I posted 5 things I wanted to work on in my year of practice. Let's see how I did with them!

1: Get better at group dancing.

I must have succeeded with this one, since I'm now in a troupe! Spending time in Fonda's class, which is smaller and more prone to having newbie dancers, forced me to spend more time leading and get more comfortable with it. I've also been working on my peripheral vision so I don't have to stare at the leader!

2: Hone my solo technique.

Thank goodness for Jolie's classes! I'm definitely a much more well-rounded soloist.

3. Improve my zill playing.

Anaya gave me no choice on this when they decided that we had to play rhythms other than a gallop! If you've been following my blog for a while you know that at one point I was zilling every day to try to get a handle on what Anaya was throwing at me. I'm still not good enough to comfortably zill solo, but I do better in groups than I used to.

4. Revisit props I learned this year but never practiced at home.

I revisited sword, which I've used twice in performances with Fonda's class, and I learned veil, skirt, and skirt & fan. I did not, however, revisit my palm flames. Not bad!

5. Backbends!

Somehow I never got around to this! I guess I just got too busy with classes and life and things.

I also went above and beyond my goals in some ways. I pretty much expected that I would spend 2011 continuing to take whatever classes were offered on Thursdays at Plaza de Anaya. I had no idea that I would end up taking Fonda's class, and that Jolie would come to Tucson and rock my world two nights a week. Unfortunately this level of classes is not sustainable given how much it costs, and when Jolie moves away I probably won't be able to replace her classes with something else, but it's been fun while it lasted.

And then there's the workshops. I said I was going to take less of them in 2011, to save some money and maybe get to go to a festival instead, but Kim wouldn't stop bringing amazing people to Plaza! My goodness! I had workshops with Mira Betz, Deb Rubin, Rachel Brice, Silvia Salamanca, and Elizabeth Strong. That's just the visiting teachers at Plaza. I also took a couple of workshops from local teachers. I studied sword with Miriam Amaya at the Desert Shakedown. I had workshops with Anaya and Jolie down here in Tucson. 

I was also able to perform a lot. I performed as a soloist, I did a duet with Jen/Sata, I danced in student recitals and I joined Anaya Tribe and danced at numerous events across the Phoenix metroplex.

All in all, 2011 was an amazing year. I'm going to have to work hard to top it in 2012!