This summer I did another stint with Suhaila Salimpour in London.
Every time I train with Suhaila I am completely blown away by how much I love her and her work, and how what she teaches is JUST EXACTLY what I need.
This was my third intensive weekend with Suhaila in as many years, and I spent the 6 months previous to the weekend working with her excellent Online Classes to prepare. Finally, this year, I COULD ACTUALLY DO STUFF! I could do the glute squeezes properly, I could layer full time things on half time things and do them walking backwards, I (mostly) did all the warmups without wussing out, I could do the undulations fast enough without hyperventilating... it was IMMENSE.
The thing about Suhaila's format is that it takes a hella-tonne of hard work, and I think it takes a different amount of time for everyone to grasp, because everyone's body is different.
For me my white whale was glute squeezes - I have an old IT band injury (which Suhaila helped heal two years ago, cos she is awesome like that) I sustained from STEPPING ON A TRAIN (yes) which really messed up my right side and whenever my baby learning glutes tried to squeeze, the right side would pull on my IT band and aggrevate it further. I couldn't get into the straddle position Suhaila encourages to practice glutes in - it's kind of a sitting on the floor with your legs wide apart and leaning forward move, and when I started I could barely sit up straight on the floor with my legs together in front of me, let alone some crazy ass splits-ish nonsense! It was one of those movements I just felt I was doing wrong all the time, as nothing was happening and I was paranoid about bothering my IT band.
Also, glute squeezes are just f'ing difficult. It was not a natural movement to me.
Finally over Christmas last year I cracked it: I've learnt that if you just keep trying to do something, eventually, when you've kinda forgotten how much you care about it, it just happens. I could sit forward in straddle and my glutes were UNLEASHED. Literally, as I spent the next few months proudly showing everyone I know that I could sit on the floor and rhythmically squeeze my bum and telling them how long it took for me to be able to do this. Three years people.
So this year, I felt awesome. It was still hard, there was still a huge chunk of stuff I couldn't do, and I was still sweating and frowning like a mother, but I had progressed so far from where I began and I was so proud of myself!
During one of the drills, Suhaila actually looked at what I was doing and gave me a big thumbs up and "You got it, that's great!" and then I was incredibly chuffed and proud and pleased forever more.
Just being in that ridiculously hot (heatwave in London folks) classroom, with non-stop dancing and drilling and being so challenged and learning from one of my ultimate bellydance hero's, maybe my ultimate bellydance hero, and grinning so hard because I loved every second... I actually teared up a bit. Well, quite a lot really. And often. But no-one could see because I was so disgustingly sweaty everywhere, thank Christ.
This year I left knowing that this is what I need and who I need to train with, who inspires me, and that I freaking love Suhaila Salimpour and the Salimpour Format.
I'm doing Level 1 training in London next year, then saving up to go to San Fransisco in 2014/2015 to do a weeklong with Suhaila. Bring it.
Lets talk about Anasma's performances.
For the Anasma World Fusion Showcase on Saturday 13th October, we have over half an hour of performance in total from our star headliner. Wowzer. That's a crazy opportunity to really see the reportoire of a international dancer and really immerse yourself in her performance style. I can tell you are super crazy excited about this already, and about to click over to the booking page right now... right?
Now, I mentioned this to one of my circus friends and she said - Woah, isn't that a bit overkill? Won't that get boring?
You know, if it was anyone else, I would agree. I get bored pretty easy. I think even watching a half hour of Mardi Love or Rachel Brice would get dull. But not Anasma.
I have never seen a performer like her. I remember watching her at International Bellydance Congress a few years ago alongside such great artists as Randa Kamal, Fifi Abdou, Sadie, and all these other guys I've forgotten, and Anasma was the one who got a double standing ovation, Anasma was the one who completely blew everybody's minds, fusionistas and traditional bellydancers alike, and Anasma was the one everybody couldn't stop talking about the next day. She was in-freaking-credible.
I saw her do another longer set in London a couple of years back - maybe half an hour, maybe less? I really don't know - I and everybody else completely lost track of time. She took us on this seamless story through dance, alternately heart-wrenching and hilarious, perfectly matched to the music, beautiful, and when it ended I realised I was sobbing like a crazy woman. So were almost half the audience I think - I'm not sure, because I was too busy trying to get a hold of myself. It was the most incredible and most beautiful thing I have ever seen on a stage. Or maybe anywhere.
More non-Anasma-ry about the World Fusion Showcase
We've got some amazing other performers supporting Anasma at the show: International performers Alexis Southall and Mari Pia with her Flamenco Band, Egyptian dancer Clair McGregor, Bharatnatyam dancer Apoovra, me and other acts to be confirmed
The venue is stunning - a performance space in a newly converted church, with a stage directly under a beautiful stained glass window, right in the centre of Cambridge, and a simple five minute walk from the train station.
You can book your seat here on the Showcase page!
belly dance company Bellyqueen, and creator of the interactive dance show "On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!" which has so far been presented in 3 countries. Phew! She's a busy lady.
(I remember working with her Bellydance Hip Hop Fusion DVD every night for about three months - and I remember seeing ticking, popping, waving and specific Anasma combos from that DVD at every Hafla I went to for a while after the DVD came out!)
So now we've established that she's very cool and well travelled, lets talk about her teaching style. Anyone who has seen one of her story telling performances can see that this is a lady who does not shy away from a good time. Her workshops are such fun, and that comes from her personality - Anasma is so warm and open, and ready to have a great time at every opportunity. She takes the time to do personal corrections in workshops if they are needed, and makes you want to try your hardest to be able to dance as cool as she does. She will always challenge you, give you new ideas to experiment with and stuff to take home and master.
And now her content.
Anasma takes fusion to a new level: she fuses many different art forms with skill and integrity, always creating something beautiful, awesome and seamless, where you can clearly see all the art forms used - no mean feat! It's so flippin' difficult to do that! Her skill as a creator of innovative and creative bellydance fusion is incredible, I believe in part because of her commitment to fully studying each style she is interested in before fusing it with bellydance, and partly because she is not clinging on to the label of bellydance so strongly it strangles her innovation - she frequently refers to herself as a World Fusion Dance artist rather than just a bellydancer.
She doesn't create bellydance with a touch of hip hop, or with a touch of salsa - she creates a proper 50/50 blend, and she shows you how you can create that strong seamless blend in your bellydance too.
(At the Intensive Weekend she will be teaching workshops in her signature style of Hip-Hop Bellydance Liquid Fusion (which rocks) and her Wushu/Bellydance fusion workshop, which is a martial arts/bellydance fusion workshop not to be missed!)
And I always without fail leave an Anasma workshop feeling inspired, wanting to create, become more bendy ('cos she is like a plasticine woman) and be a Dancer.
When I first started studying with Anasma I completely fell in love with her hip hop fusion dance style - somehow it was ladylike and elegant but very hip-hop at the same time. Her work in turn made me feel free to turn my dance into what I really wanted my dance to be - to not worry about labels, to experiment to blend influences, and to explore hip hop more fully and bring it into my dance practice. Seeing what Anasma was doing made me feel like I had permission to look outside the bellydance box for inspiration, get excited about it and bring it back and play with it.
As promised, Intermediate students, here is a link to the Gothic Fusion Choreography video for you guys to practice to. And beginners, you can get a sneaky peek of what the intermediates are up to.
Yesterday was the first class of my winter 10 week Intermediate Tribal Fusion course, and I just wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who came along: it felt like coming back home, and I STILL have a massive grin on my face today! Oh I have missed teaching! It was so great saying hello to old students and meeting new students, being back in the studio teaching again, and looking round at the start of class to see all of you, waiting, ready to have your ass kicked... :D
As our class is a bit more mixed level now, I'll be trying to keep the classes more accessible than our previous intermediate classes (so hopefully no more deathly difficult layering, but class veterans will know I am not the best at keeping things easy!) but if you want me to up the game for you, just let me know.
See you all again next week, and bring your shimmies!