Mar 01

C4ward March Blogathon Day 1

On a whim I decided to participate in this challenge — blog every day for two weeks, with prompts given, about my creative journey. I’m doing it here, on my personal site, rather than on Copper Dancer Designs or Thursday Nights at Windy Hill, because I choose not to limit myself to one aspect of my polymath life for this project.

Today’s prompt:

Tell us the big “why” behind the creative work you do.  Here are a few questions to consider as you write:

  • Why do you exist?
  • What is your purpose here on this earth?
  • How would you express the “why” behind your creative work in a few short sentences?
  • What do you want to be remembered for?
  • Can you think of three or more key words that embody the reason why you create art?
  • If you were to write a short, memorable, and inspirational t-shirt message about the purpose or mission for your creative work, what would it say?

Well, I suppose I do my creative work because I can’t NOT do it. I’ve always created, even if it was just somewhere inside my head. My hands, especially, always have to be doing something, whether it’s creating program code, jewelry, socks, words, pound cakes, or drum beats. Creating stuff brings me inner peace and seems to bring others little bits of beauty and enjoyment — not a bad thing at all!

Why do I exist and what is my purpose here on earth? I don’t know that yet, and honestly, I don’t think it really matters to me on a day to day basis. Especially as I get older, I try not to spend too much time getting all existential about my existence. I’m here, I’m learning and growing and doing the best I can, trying to share what I learn and provide an example that perhaps others can find helpful. As I get older, I’m learning to be more in the moment and less about the unknowable. How people remember me after I’m gone is the same as what people think of me today — none of my business and out of my control. So I don’t spend energy being concerned about it. I’d rather create and just put it out there.

“Create for yourself; share it with the world.”


Jan 06

27 Reasons (Plus a Few of My Own) to Love ATS® Bellydance

I ran across the original list given here by Cherie Dawn on her website, Cherie Dawn Loves Fire.

  1. Dancing barefoot
  2. 20-yard skirts
  3. Tapping into mysterious roots of feminine movement
  4. Using ankle bells, coin belts and coin bras to contribute to the music/percussion
  5. Attending classes to learn new combinations
  6. Bindis and tribal markings
  7. Earthy, heavy drum beats
  8. Incredible melodies from string and wind instruments
  9. Community – close/local and national
  10. Individuality through personal costuming
  11. The spirituality, akin to yoga practice (the focus/be here now)
  12. Zils
  13. Sword work
  14. Sweat
  15. Haflas
  16. Sewing miscellaneous jewelry onto belts and tops to create costuming
  17. Ankle bells
  18. Playing with eyeliner
  19. Communication with other dancers and musicians
  20. Coming or going during any song as you please
  21. It just feels good!
  22. Finding, using, training new muscles
  23. Using intuition while moving to improvisational music
  24. Masculine (usually musicians) and feminine (usually dancers) energy, balanced and combined
  25. All the color seen while dancers twirl and move
  26. Dreadlocks and tattoos
  27. Learning to breathe with the movements

It got me thinking about other reasons I love ATS® specifically and bellydance in general:

  1. Working seamlessly within a group
  2. It’s all about the flow
  3. The women with whom I dance
  4. Laughter!!
  5. Losing my fear of performing
  6. Making my left brain & my right brain work together
  7. Having something to fall back on during open dancing at haflas & parties

Jan 03

The Year I Became a Dancer

I think 2013 will stay in my memory as the year I actually became a dancer. Just a very amateur, baby bellydancer, mind you, but a dancer nonetheless.

I upped the learning with my weekly classes. Lacy’s regular classes remained the foundation, with several new choreographies and semi-regular ATS® classes. Jenny and Nawar’s intermediate tag-team technique classes started to be too much physically and travel-wise, though, so I decided they weren’t the best format for me. Instead, I learned that Aziza Nawal, she who I want to be when I grow up, was teaching on Wednesday nights in Sandy Springs, right on the way home from work. After nine months I know I’ll never BE Aziza, LOL, but she’s an excellent person from whom to learn at this level. That gives me a routine of two to three classes/rehearsals a week, which is about what I can take.

I challenged myself with workshops — sometimes TOO much. Anasma and Amy Sigil are both admirable dancers but they are so far above me that I could not absorb, much less implement, what they had to offer. Frustrating!! I couldn’t keep up with Zoe Jakes’ classes at TribalCon, either. At 56 (now 57) and not exactly superb physical condition, I see these twenty and thirty-somethings and wish, oh wish so badly, that I had discovered bellydance much, much earlier in my life. On the other hand, April Rose at TribalCon, Jaki Hawthorne’s ATS® combos workshop, and two Athens-bound road trips for workshops with Amani and Aziza were well worth it.

Hafla at Hendershots

Catherine Olson & me at the Hafla at Hendershot’s in Athens after Aziza Nawal’s workshop.

Classes and workshops weren’t what made me actually become a dancer, though. That credit goes to the Northside Tribe, Lacy’s student troupe that finally came together in the spring of 2013 after some urging by me and several of her other students. ATS® was one reason — it IS a group dance, after all, and having a consistent group with which to dance does help make you better. The other? We wanted to perform, but not necessarily solo. Plus Lacy herself was pretty psyched about having a group of dancers to play with, create for, and dress up like her personal dolls, if you will. Shimmy Mob 2013 started the ball rolling in May; then she resurrected “Habibi Min Zaman” with a low-key appearance at the Mountain Park Swing-a-Thon.

Atlanta Shimmy Mob 2013

Atlanta Shimmy Mob 2013

We made our real Atlanta debut as Northside Tribe at the July Night in the Oasis!

Fall turned into a real performance boot camp (Lacy referred to it as our “hazing”), and that’s what did it. Samora’s student showcase at Nicola’s Restaurant, Halloween in the Oasis, the Awalim Halloween Carnivale, and the Jendayi/Jahara Phoenix Dia de los Muertos show in a four week span was an exhiliarating endurance test that did a lot to get me over my previous overwhelming stage fright.

At Awalim Halloween Carnivale 2013

At Awalim Halloween Carnivale 2013

Jedi Cantina Halloween Carnivale 2013

Northside Tribe performing “The Cantina Song” at Dia de Los Muertos 2013.

Two more December performances, one with Inara and  her troupe and the other at the Global Dance Holiday Party, ended the year.

Performing "Habibi Min Zaman" at Global Dance Holiday Show 2013

Performing “Habibi Min Zaman” at Global Dance Holiday Show 2013

Northside Tribe Cloudlight 2013

Northside Tribe performing “Cloudlight” at Global Dance Holiday Party 2013

Northside Tribe Habibi 2013

Northside Tribe performing “Habibi Min Zaman” at Global Dance Holiday Party 2013

What will 2014 bring? I’m not sure yet, but Northside Tribe has two performances scheduled for early January, plus we’ll be making our TribalCon debut (OMG!! SQUEEE!!) in February. With that kind of start it has to be promising!

Photographs used courtesy of Larisa Gilbert, Barbara Smith, Heather Payne Davis, and Jaki Hawthorne, copyright © by their respective photographers.


Dec 31

Insight Video from Malin Dang

ATS Belly Dance – Insight video from Malin Dang on Vimeo.

Aug 27

No, it isn’t!


Aug 08

So, What D&D Character Am I? (meme)

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Wizard (6th Level)

Ability Scores:

Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard’s strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Jul 02

Celebrities vs. Politics

Last Tuesday night I had been one of the 180,000+ viewers, via YouTube, of State Senator Wendy Davis’s epic filibuster against the Texas abortion regulation bill. Wednesday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court had issued its rulings overturning California Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, two days after they gutted major provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In other words, the past few days had seen some very significant political and judicial action.

Wednesday night after dance class I was chatting in the parking lot with several classmates and our teacher. They barely had any idea of any of the political news of the past few days — in fact one of them flatly stated that she never listened to the news any more because it was too depressing. What were they completely up to date on and animatedly discussing? Paula Dean’s woes and Kim & Kanye’s baby.

Paula Dean. Kim Kardashian. Seriously. In no way are the behaviors, and misbehaviors, of any celebrity likely to ever affect our lives.  True, abortion rights and gay rights may not ever directly affect my classmates, or those close to them. But there is a far greater likelihood that those legal actions will be personally significant  some day.

We need to devote our attention and energy to the important things that affect the world, not the train wrecks of people that just happen to be Famous (with a capital F).



Jun 25

ATS® Meme

took the lead

Apr 11

Why We Dance in Perry, GA

Perry Belly Dance has been invited to perform in festivals and events all over middle Georgia. But this year they were specifically asked NOT to perform at the Perry Dogwood Festival this weekend — there was “no appropriate space” for them, and when they asked about doing street performances, they were told “We’d rather you didn’t”. No other explanation was given for being unwelcome in their own hometown, on the street where their studio is located.

In response, Debra Cooley created this gem, very much worth sharing.

Apr 08

What Is ATS®? — another view

Sam Brenneman posted this today in the Fat Chance Belly Dance group on Facebook. I loved it so much I had to share it.

…just for the record: American Tribal Style® bellydance is a subculture of the general bellydance culture. It tends toward an American stance in a number of areas, one of which is a foundation of feminism, woman power, acceptance; we do not discriminate based on body type, age, or even gender. We do everything we can to accommodate people with disabilities. We are very much about the joy inherent in dance, not so much about a glitzy image… more folk roots than Vegas entertainment.

I am a troupe director and teacher. Please be assured that I personally do not discriminate along those lines, not in class and not in my troupe. If you have the chops, you are in.

This old feminist gets behind the whole agenda. There is no wrong way to have a body. Come move it with us, and find your joy.

Thank you, Sam!