I'm introducing a brand new class to the Serpentine School, so if you are wondering if it's the right one for you, here is everything you need to know about Level 2!
What is a Level 2 Class?
A Level 2 belly dance class is the love child of a belly dance party and a belly dance bootcamp!
We start with a warm up designed to up your stamina and get your body dancer toned and strong, then we start dancing! We’ll then crank up the music and have an amazing time upping our dance skills by drilling movements, adding challenging layers and travelling steps to anyone who wants to be pushed, and then learn short fun combos of moves and practice them tons too. We end with a relaxing cool down.
It’s a bit hardcore, but you like it that way, right?
Every week has a theme that we work with (for example, shimmies, arms, body waves etc) and it usually corresponds to the topics in beginner’s class – so if you have been doing Beginner class a while and would like to do both classes, it would work perfectly for you!
Who is a Level 2 class for?
Level 2 is for belly dancers who have graduated from beginner’s class (usually I recommend staying in beginner’s class for two terms before moving up) or for dancers who want a full on practice session to challenge them, get them stronger and have lots of fun!
I myself am a tribal fusion dancer, so I take the stuff I cover in this class and apply it to my art in a tribal fusion way, but this class is also absolutely brilliant for middle-eastern style dancers wanting to improve their layering, travelling moves, stamina, technique and precision.
What will Level 2 do for me?
· Drastically improve your technique and your mastery of belly dance
· Improve your fitness levels hugely!
· Get you more flexible
· Give you a fun weekly belly dance practice
· Get you travelling with your dance movements
· Teach you how to layer movements on top of each other
... in other words, make you a belly dance ninja!
About my inspiration for this class
I’ve really wanted to run a drill class for a while – I love drilling, it’s so much fun and it’s really the thing that pushes your dancing to higher levels and gets you that dancer body. My students have kind of had to go straight from beginner classes to Level 3 classes, which are seriously tough and complex! They've done really well and taken to it like ninjas (because they are determined and awesome), but I wanted to make it a little easier for you guys to learn without being overwhelmed by all the complicated stuff we do in Level 3.
This isn't your regular belly dance fitness class – I don’t do soft core, and we will be learning strong technique. You will have the best time and feel so GOOD seeing how quickly you progress and feeling your body getting stronger and leaner.
When is it?
Level 2 runs on Thursdays at 8:30pm at the Centre @ St Pauls, Hills Road.
It’s in a converted church, so don't be surprised if you turn up and get confused cos it looks like Jesus lives there. We're in there rockin' out upstairs.
COME AND TRY A TASTER SESSION for £5.50 and see how much you like it.
Plus, you can save £25 if you wanna take the Level 1 and the Level 2 course together.
I've been slowly crafting a post about the Tribal Massive the last few weeks, but it's not finding completion somehow. I've been trying to process it and what went on there, and I wanted to tell you as honestly as possible my experience.
The Tribal Massive is a boutique, high-level belly dance training intensive - 49 hours with the best of the best, (Zoe Jakes, Kami Liddle, Sharon, Mira...!!!) every day, for 8 days, plus a show featuring the top dancers in the whole world. It's run by lovely, lovely people and attended by amazing friendly dancers the world over.
I loved the Massive - I loved the training, I loved dancing all day every day, and we learnt so, so, so much. It was so worthwhile, though I didn't tear up much (like I did at Suhaila last year and when I met dolphins in Vegas, when I was crying all over the shop and was so glad I had my celebrity sunglasses on).
Coming back from the Massive was a little weird - you go from this environment surrounded by dedicated dancers and non stop dancing back into my little office, trying desperately to catch up all the stuff you couldn't finish before you left and push work through. It's back to normal life - my Facebook addiction returned (For shame!), and everything felt frustratingly normal again.
I think I kind of expected to go to the Massive and for my heart to be so utterly broken open by all the dance stuff and be so so so much in love with it and for my well to be totally full and to come back and magically be some kind stamina ninja and be waking up early to fit in four hours of practice a day.
Yeah, that's not what happened.
I've been trying to process my experience, as it was brilliant, but it didn't affect me in the way I thought it would. I wasn't weeing myself with excitement every class - I really enjoyed EVERY CLASS (maybe except the one at the end where I had no brain left) but it's not like every class was like, say, meeting a dolphin. (Which is the best thing. Ever.)
So I came home a little disappointed in myself. Why didn't I feel it deeper? What's wrong with me? Maybe I don't deserve to be a dancer at that level.
But I have been thinking and planning and re-branding like a machine since I came back from Vegas, and this morning doing my daily journalling I realised something.
I feel like before the Massive I was in some kind of limbo waiting for permission to become the dancer I wanted to be and to work on the projects and dreams I wanted to work on.
Now I feel like I don't need permission and I can just get on with it, cos there is so much stuff to be done!
Seeing Zoe's House of Tarot show at the Massive Spectacular (which was in-freaking-credible) and hearing the stories of how these incredible ninja dancers got to where they are today really inspired me. I saw so much stuff that I loved and wanted to be a part of, saw things I wanted to create back here in the UK, met so many beautiful inspiring people that I thought, why am I always telling myself no to doing this stuff? Why am I endlessly waiting for the "right time" to do the stuff I am dreaming of when I could just be doing it?
So there we go, that is the big impact from the Tribal Massive for me. Nor more waiting - it's time to make stuff happen.
As we are starting a new course this term all about playing finger cymbals (And this time it's not just for tribal fusion dancers!) I make a little intro video on youtube all about how to play them and introducing you to a couple of simple rhythms to play at home on your real zills, or maybe on your imaginary zills for some bad ass air zilling.
- How to hold and play the zills
- Different ways of playing the zills
- Three basic patterns: 3's, 31313, and 4's
Places to buy zills and how to choose!
As I said in the video, the bigger the better! You are probably looking at £10-£15 for a decent pair - for an awesome pair, it's somewhere between £20 and £60.
What you want to make sure you get are zills with two holes for elastic, rather than one hole. One hole makes them really flimsy and wobbly on your fingers and they will be harder to play - they sell these kind in Nomads in Cambridge and I have a few if you want them, but try to get ones with two holes.
You can get some pretty good ones from Zara's Zhouk here , they are about £14 all in with postage.
Aladdin's Cave (http://www.aladdinscave.com) are an awesome shop based on the Welsh Border who usually stock Saroyans (see below) - they don;t seem to right now, but you can always give em' a ring and see if they are getting them back any time soon.
Saroyan and Turqouise International are the top zill makers, based in America: They are pretty difficult to find a supplier of in the UK right now. Saroyan had a little closing up shop drama, but that seems to be all lies. On their site ( http://www.saroyanzils.com ) they have a cool bit where you can listen to each zill and see how it sounds.
The zills in the video come from Fat Chance Bellydance: they are sold out at the moment and are horrifically expensive to ship to the UK!
Other zills I am in love with are Suhaila Salimpour's zills: they are made and designed by Turquoise International and are proper high end and sexy.
If you have found any great UK suppliers of zills, let me know in the Comments below!
The other weekend I performed at the wonderful Curious Cabaret in Norwich, run by the Gossamer Thread Vaudeville Co. Other than having a great time performing my Spellbinder piece and sneakily watching the other acts (who were amazing! Though I must admit, even though I have seen a lot of it by now, I'm still not used to razor blade swallowing or my pal Bendini going through a tennis racket).
The Outline Online published a very nice review of the show - you should check it out here complete with lovely pictures .
So. For the past couple of months, I've been travelling to north London to cook up a (dark and moody) duet choreography with the ridunkulously skilled Darkstar Dance. We met properly earlier this year at one of Hayaam's Bellydance Showcases in Piccadilly, and it was Hayaam's idea that we duet. So we did!
We came up with it pretty quick - this year I am finding duet choreographies so so much faster than solos to create (when you forget all the hours invested in chatting and tea drinking and video watching when you get together to create stuff or course) - and we were to perform it at Darkstar's show Dark Britannia on the 27th September, alongside all these dance ninjas from all over the world. Darkstar put us as the second to last act - right behind the Lady Fred herself! No pressure then.
The show was really great - I was so thrilled to see a bunch of my Cambridge students and their friends in the audience! - and it had great dark fusion performers from all over the UK and the world - Israel, New York, Denmark, Italy - who had flown in just to be a part of this show. I didn't see all of it, as because I was performing twice I spent a chunk of time backstage cramming in sandwiches and changing costume and spraying everything and everyone with glitter (which I have just discovered - genius. Though my boyfriend still has glitter on him and the show was three weeks ago), but what I did see was awesome. I think my favourite pieces were Elizabeth Zohar's vampire dance, cos as an avid True Blood fan I definitely have a thing about vampires, and her skills were immense, and Ginger Cupcake's tap dancing zombie apocalype was awesome too. I think a special mention has to go to Dud Murrmand, for her really awesome and creative piece, which was my partner's favourite.
I'm still crazy thrilled that I got to work with Darkstar on a project because, dude, she's another level of awesome, and really excited and surprised that she's so keen on working with me. We are working together on another project, the touring Aladdin theatre show, so bring it :D
Here are some pictures, because if there are no pictures, according to the internet, it didn't happen:
Off the back of our Bal-Anat inspired workshop yesterday, here are some vids for you to enjoy.
Jamilla Salimpour is a mega influential American bellydancer - she started teaching bellydance in the late 40's in the bay Area, and nowadays gets reffered to as the Mother of Tribal, as decendants from her students from her troupe, Bal Anat, created ATS bellydance (That would be Carolena Nericcio through Macha Archer) and tribal fusion bellydance (mainly through Jill Parker, a student of Carolena's), though at the time, there was none of this "I Am Creating Tribal Bellydance" stuff - it was just Jamilla teaching dance the way she knew how and presenting a glorious theatrical fantasy to an audience.
So, let's get learning about our dance history. First up is a biography vid about Jamilla Salimpour - it's fascinating man. Give it a whirl.
And here is a video of Bal Anat in the 70's - I love it! So much energy, and colour, and even though it's really simple, it's really vibrant and interesting to watch.
I wanted to do a post dedicated to the chaps of the Tribal Fusion scene. It's inspired by my friend's request for male tribal bellydance costuming, as it's near impossible to find anywhere.
Bellydance is always thought of a ladies-only art form, when of course it derives from the folk dances of the middle east, which was performed by men and women. In Egypt being a male bellydancer is a reputable profession, whereas being a lady bellydancer brings shame on the family.
Fusion may have been pioneered by the ladies, but there are some stellar chaps out there doing some amazing work, as I discovered whilst doing costume research. Here is a wee selection.
This chap has to come first. John Compton started dancing with Jamila Salimpour back in the day, and watching his dancing and his ethnic vibe and prop trickery, his troupe Hahbi Ru really keeps the spirit of old school Bal Anat (Jamila's Troupe) alive. He was absolutely beloved in the bellydance community, and he passed away last year.
Warning - This clip is really mizmar heavy - a perfect opportunity to learn to love it for those who don't already :D
This chap is like a snake boy. I first saw him on youtube a few years ago - something about him really reminds my of Rachel Brice
An awesome French dancer who has trained and danced with loads of cool people (including a duet with Rachel Brice!). He is but a whippersnapper at 20 years of age! Sigh. I wish I was that awesome at 20. He was the golden boy of last year's Tribal Fest, and is coming to teach in Milton Keynes next year - see here for deets.
Last weekend I was super honoured to be part of a theatre show run and directed by Darkstar Dance as a part of the Camden Fringe Festival in London, dancing alongside Darkstar herself, her performance troupe Team Darkstar and the delightful Kathy Pearlson.
Darkstar's vision for the show was to put fusion bellydance in a place and position to be seen by peeps NOT already a part of the belly universe - to get it out to people who haven't seen it before, and where better than the Camden Fringe, where people like to take a chance to go try out some weird new stuff. In the bellydance community we seem to spend forever winging that we don't get the same respect and venues as other dance forms, but to get that kind of respect and venues we do have to put ourself out there first.
We had the tiny baby Ecetera Theatre to dance in and three one-hour shows in three nights to fill. Our dressing room was a teeny tiny sweaty box filled with stressed-out dancers looking for missing bras and getting glitter everywhere. It was so black in the blackouts I'd be groping on the wall at the side of the stage looking for the stage door, hoping I'd find it before the lights turned on again (though it would have been hilarious if I hadn't). Team Darkstar provided group pieces, and Darkstar, Kathy and I did solo pieces plus a cool little trio together. It's a really cute little theatre, you can see all the audience, which I like, though the sound system is definitely not used to the amount of bass and dubstep we Tribal Fusioners like to crank up.
It was really amazing to be dancing alongside such freaking stellar dancers - Darkstar is ridiculously awesome and cool and Kathy is just absolutely magical - I'm still pretty amazed I was asked to dance alongside those guys.
The show was a SELL OUT, every single night baby! It was received really well by the general public (and we definitely had a strong non-bellydance audience!) and by the reviewers who came along to watch and write stuff about us. Hell yes!
Big respect to Darkstar for pulling this off! And you know you want to do a dark fairy-tale one with a story at the fringe next year, you know you do.....
Here are the reviews - Check em out!
Views from the Gods Review of The Bellydancer
Female Arts Review of The Bellydancer
When I'm doing dance practice, particularly when I am either concentrating hard or am just not fully present in what I'm practicing, , I get a really tight tense jaw. It gets all tooth-grindy, and makes me feel tense and stressed and spreads the tension to my shoulders and neck. I also get grumpy dancer face. it sucks all round, and it hurts.
Recently I decided I've had enough of that, and felt it was time to learn how to fix it.
I asked my friend Sandra at Free-from-stress.com any tips she has on relaxing our jaws.
1. Keep reminding yourself to do a jaw scan - asking yourself if your jaw is relaxed every now and again.
2. Keep a half smile: you can't tense your jaw when you half-smile.
3. Take the tip of your tongue, and rest it just behind your top teeth. Get used to doing it and do it lots. It's another one where you can't tense your jaw if your tongue is in this position.
There are a few more things I've found we can do to try and relieve jaw tension. Usually there is a bad habit that is contributing to hurty jaws, such as an insatiable pen-nibbling habit, chewing food super thoroughly, grinding your teeth, keeping time to the music with your teeth (I do this), gum chewing, and shitty posture - having your head forward of your spine like a turkey vulture puts tension in your jaws, so sit up straight y'all. Figure out out if you have one of these bad habits, and start trying to catch yourself doing it
Another jaw exercise I've found for releasing the muscle where the jaw bone joins the spine next to your ears (this guy's called the Temporomandibular Joint and it's the bit that sometimes can feel all clicky and crunchy when you open and close your mouth) is putting your thumb on your chin and putting a slight bit of pressure up, so you are gently pushing your chin up into your face. Nice and slow, open your mouth all the way and close it around 10 times, using your thumb to gently offer resistance.
I also find a trip to the osteopath to click and evil-pain-massage out all the crap in my neck and shoulders really helps relieve my stressed face. Body bits love bothering their neighbours, so if you have knotted up shoulders, chance is they are trying to tell your neck and jaw about it and get them involved. My osteo lives here - his name is Mojo, he is a bit intense but he is excellent.
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.