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.
Ah, daily dance practice. My old enemy.
I want to push myself to be the best dancer I can conceivably be - I want to move as effortlessly as Samantha Emanuel, be as jawstopping as Zoe Jakes and to capture my audience like Anasma. And to get somewhere near thise guys I need to practice every day, lots and lots and lots and lots.
Self-discipline has always been my weakness, and I have always found it really hard to commit to a daily practice or routine of anything. After a visit to see Samantha Emanuel last week I've decided to up my game in the practice stakes and do the work needed to craft myself better.
From usually putting in about an hour a day, I've upped my aim to one to three hours every single day, hitting the three hour mark as often as possible.
I'm gonna be honest here, it's really flipping tough and I don't enjoy a lot of it. I get really easily distracted, I feel like I am getting nowhere, I get grumpy, I end up doing hours of yoga and no actual dancing, my arms get sore, I check Facebook every half hour and I get bored real quick.
Dude, it's hard. And I figure that, if I really wanted to be a dancer, it would be easy.
I've got a very loud internal voice who loves to beat me up about my practicing habits. I'm not doing enough! I'm not doing it properly! I need to do more! I mustn't get distracted! And the biggie - I should enjoy it, because dancers love dancing! And if I don't enjoy every second then obviously I am not supposed to be a dancer and I should give up, right?
I think I figured something out the other day.
Training and daily practice isn't meant to be fun all the time. It's not meant to be easy, either. It's training. It's supposed to be hard. If it was all rainbows and giggles, the world would be chockablock with Samanthas and Zoes and Anasmas all over the shop.
When I was at university I remember going to the library reading every book related to chapel architecture, no matter how dull, boring or useless it turned out to be. I remember spending literally DAYS painstakingly building up a wash on a painting. That wasn't fun either. It was work. But I still loved art and architecture, even if I wasn't enamoured of what I was up to right then.
I think my big challenge right now is getting myself out of the hobbyist, I-dance-for-fun! brain and into the professional I-show-up-for-work-every-day-no-matter-what brain.
I've been reminding myself that just because you find something tough, it doesn't mean that it's not for you. It just means it's tough, and that's ok.
Last week I completed 17 hours of dance practice, and I am damn proud of myself. Hurrah! Forward Ho!
I've just returned from a weekend training with my hero, Suhaila Salimpour. I bang on about how awesome she is all the time, so I will not repeat myself (except to say I got to cop a feel yet again of her amazing glute contractions) but there is nothing like a little training with Suhaila to pull you apart, blow your mind, and be inspired to train harder and more passionately than ever before.
(She's the greatest! Ahem.)
Anyway, a big focus in Suhaila's format is conditioning - every class she will do a 30-40 minute strengthening and conditioning warm up to prepare our bodies to be able to handle all the stuff we try to get it to do in the name of belly dance.
Here is my confession - I used to hate squats, sit ups, push ups, yoga, pilates and all those dull, dull fitness-related exercises - I just wanted to dance. I didn't want to do stuff I felt was boring.
Then I realised if I just spent 20-30 minutes working on my strength and flexibility every practice session I would be so much stronger, so much more able to train the way I wanted and more able to dance with grace and strength without cocking up or falling over mid poncy move.
Since I've been adding conditioning to my practice (and I do, every day) I really feel that my dancing has transformed - my posture is better, my extentions are more elegant, my balance rocks, and I can stay one step ahead of my students in a choo-choo shimmy-athon. I feel much more of a dancer than I did before, as I know my body is strong like a dancer's should be.
And on the plus side, my body feels stronger and fitter, more snakelike than ever and I love it. All my puppy chub has turned into muscle. Hurrah!
True Story: I never liked doing dance conditioning until four years ago when doing forced conditioning in a thrice-weekly hip hop class, and I realised I could touch my toes for the first time in my life. It was a hallelujah moment. It was amazing. I told and showed everyone I met for about three weeks.
I feel conditioning is an incredibly important part of dance, and something we don't often get in a regular belly dance class - I think (cynically) because we are scared that putting anything non-dancey in our class will make our students go running for the hills.
Honestly, I still hate sit ups, because I suck at them. But the other stuff I love, as I have a goal in mind - strengthening my body so it's able to become the best dancer I can be.
From September I will be introducing more conditioning into my Fusion class warm ups - just enough for us to work the core muscles we use in bellydance and for us to nudge our bodies into becoming lean, mean dancing machines. Hurrah!!
I recently returned from Berne in Switzerland, where I completed my General Skills with the creator of the ATS format, Carolena Nericcio!
I am super rubbish at writing about awesome experiences worth writing about (fail!) so here is a handy bullet point list!
Five Awesome Things about my General Skills Workshop Experience
Five awesome things about Berne:
Completing my General Skills was amazing, and was the best birthday present to myself ever!
I'm doing an advanced dancer course with Charlotte Desorgher in London at the moment. I haven't been in regular classes for quite a while, and it's great being back into learning.
We've been working on grace and on a concept I'd heard of before but never really integrated into my brain - every second of every movement being beautiful.
Something a friend posted on Facebook this week really illustrated this for me.
If you pause this at any second, whatever the chap in this is doing it looks beautiful. Every second. From this I also learned that when I get re-incarnated, I am going to be a male ballet dancer because I want to be mega muscly like him and do that crazy jumping scissor kick thing.
Checking back on my own grace and gorgeous:graceless ratio, a great way I've found is to have a snap-happy person photo you as you perform, and then you can measure the ratio of graceful dancer to gremlin/limp zombie arms/grimacey dancer shots you have at the end. I've checked mine. Owch.
So this week in my choreographing I am really working on the details: body positioning, finishing my arms with beautiful fingers, shoulders and arm paths, so I can start my journey of being graceful all over rather than being graceful generally.
It sucks watching yourself on video or looking at the non-best photos of you performing - I really really don't like watching myself on video, blegh - but since we are all super critical of ourselves, we generally can find our biggest weaknesses and the areas that we need to fix to make ourselves better dancers. Like a lot of dancers, I need to keep working on my shoulders and my insane possessed left hand, who always likes to move around and join in with everything else I am doing.
I think this concept and awareness of grace is super important and will make a huge difference to my dance. Maybe one day I'll be good enough to don some near-invisible pants like the chappy in the video and prove my grace to the world.
The other weekend was Ed Adams weekend. How excited was I? Very.
The workshops were being organised by my boyfriend Guy so Ed was staying at our house. You will be surprised to hear I cooked dinner (I'm a bit allergic to kitchens, apparantly a lot of us active dance ladies are) and that it was DELICIOUS. Nut roast, yum!
He taught workshops in Body Awareness, Slow motion, Waving and Contact Juggling. My favourites were the Slow Motion and Waving ones. In slow motion, after choosing a foolishly dynamic pose, Ed made me stay in it unmoving for 15 minutes. My thighs were vibrating by the end of it, and trying to do slow stuff the rest of the workshop often set my crazy tired leg vibrations off.
Doing stuff really slowly is my favourite - as my ATS chums can verify. We also brushed up on some video editing techniques, like rewinding, looping and fast forwarding. A whole chunk of stuff that I have always, always wanted to learn.
The waving workshop was really different from the way I had been taught waves. I'd initially been exposed to waving through bellydancers teaching it and breaking down the technique, but Ed was having none of that. We we worked with up, circles travelling through the body and waves controlling us, rather than us telling the waves and circles what to do. It was totally different to what I had learnt before and I loved it.
I really learnt so much from this weekend, and it was great fun hanging out with Ed - the dude literally practices non stop all the time. So right now I'm looking out for a track I can use so I can combine all this precious knowledge with some awesome belly dance. Fzzham!!
My ATS Tribal ladies and myself popped along to a local event called Fulbourn Day of Dance a couple of weeks ago, to watch the dancers go. There were two local bellydance groups (we are like a plague - we're everywhere) some kickass teens doing irish dancing, some very stoic scottish dancers, morris dancers and a 45 minute flamenco set with live flamenco guitars. !
Mouth gapes, tounge hits the floor. Wow.
One of my Tribal ladies is an ex flamenco student, so after seeing the dancers at it and thinking "holy frijimole I need to learn this" she introduced me to her teachers who invited us to one of a series of monthly Flamenco workshops held with a dude called Felipe de Algeciras who pops over from Spain once a month to tour our fine English cities teaching Flamenco.
I was totally up for that.
I attended a beginner and a technique class. I was the only person there who had never done flamenco before, so I was the one Felipe wanted answers from when he asked stuff. Let me tell you, Flamenco 12-beats-to-a-bar compass is bloody confusing! I had my best Suhaila counting face on. But oh, it was incredible. Don't ask me exactly what I learned as I couldn't pick out particular names with Felipe's super Spanish accent and my absent knowledge of spanish, but it was gorgeous, it was strong, it was bad ass and it was stampy. I managed to keep up for both classes (thanks to my well trained choreography sponge brain) and I was invited to go along to Mari-Pia's classes, a truly lovely lady who was the flamenco dancer I could not keep my eyes off at the Day of Dance.
I was gushing about how wonderful the workshops were all night to poor Guy, who was grumpy that he'd been waiting 20 minutes in the car for me because classes had run late.
I've decided so far that Flamenco is like proud-horses/hungry tarantula dancing. I think Felipe looked a lot like an expensive pony when he was doing his moves. In a good way.
Once upon a time, I was solely a caberet dancer. I got Ariellah's DVD as it looked like it covered a lot of stuff, and it had yoga in it as well. Then I saw a video of Rachel Brice. I think there must be a whole sisterhood of dancers who are where they are today because they saw Rachel Brice.
I went to Majma for the first time just over three years ago, knowing nothing much about fusion or ATS or anything. I'd done bellydance classes for years, but I hadn't come out of the regular bellydance bubble. I did workshops with Isadora Bushkovski and Anne White and saw Carolena Nericcio dance and I thought - hot damn, this is what I want to do, I want to be a belly dancer.
I came back home, did my fusion research as that's what I liked best, and learnt that tribal fusion dancers draw heavily from ATS. So I looked around for an ATS teacher and found Nicola Atkin, and I started Saturday lessons with her.
I loved it. I loved the dance, the movements, the lead and follow, alls of it. I really loved most of all the fact that it was a dance class where you had to interact with other students. I would meet all kinds of lovely peeps from completely different spheres of life to my fresh out of university unemployed universe, and I would dance with them and laugh with them and get to know them better. In Nicola's classes, we would get introduced to dancing together and cuing right away, learning moves both from Nicola's teaching and from each other. I think it was awesome, as since everyone had to lead and follow at some point right from the off, we all go more comfortable leading, an since whenever we were at the front we had the support of all the lovely people we'd all gotten to know so well in class, it wasn't scary. Well, it was when your mind went blank and you could only remember the Arabic. Otherwise, it was fine.
Nine months later, I ran out of money (pesky post graduate unemployment) and decided I could no longer afford to go to dance class. You know it was dire when that's the action. When I got a job, I couldn't make the classes. By the time I got a better job, Nicola had stopped teaching. Sad face.
But dude, we missed it. A group of us would meet up in parks to do some ATS, or rent a hall for some practice. A few months ago, a lovely lovely lady who used to be a student with me at Nicola's ATS decided to set up weekly ATS sessions where we would all get together and practice and get better, sharing moves with each other and encouraging each other onwards.
Man have I missed ATS. And man is it awesome to be back with the ATS sisterhood, learning away, getting sore shoulders and listening to awesome tracks. I am determined more than ever to seek out Carolena Nericcio and complete my General Skills. Teach me sensei.
Hooray for ATS!
Last weekend I attended an AMAZING event run by Alexis Southall in Wolverhampton - 12 hours of workshops with Samantha Emanuel and Manca Pavli. We all know Sam is pretty damn awesome, but I had never met or learnt from Manca before, and I have left so crazy motivated and excited about being a Tribal Fusion Dancer.
Manca is not only crazy talented, but she's thumping in a theme I am finding in my adventures at the moment - everything has to be FUN, otherwise you just won't do it. I won't draw if it's not fun, I won't dance if it's not fun.
I tend to think that you won't get anywhere unless you work hard, and work hard = not fun. But as I am slowly learning with Art (ie only do fun art, duh) I have to do fun Dance, or else I will lose my love of it!
Other than completely refreshing my approach to dance (let's go!!!) I learnt loads of awesome moves and theories that I have already started appropriating into my own dances. Zing!
Manca better come back soon, otherwise it's off to Slovenia for me.