tribal fusion

Dear Student,

So this is the delayed part 2 of my “Dear Teacher” blog post from much earlier this year. I have been teaching dance since about 2010 – beginners classes at first (I LOVE teaching beginners!) and now I occasionally teach our intermediate and advanced classes. In this time, I’ve learned a lot about being a good student and being a good teacher. It takes more than just knowing the material to be either. I can obviously write an entire long list on how to be a better student, but I think that would come out as a bit condescending and maybe a bit mean – so I think this is a gentler approach.

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Dear Students,

I love having you in my class! Thank you for coming and being a part of my little dance world!

First, I just want to say that having you in my class is a big deal for me, so when you don’t come it really is frustrating. I totally understand work commitments (sometimes I can’t make class either and need to get a substitute teacher in), sometimes it’s impossible to find a babysitter and other issues come up that prevent you from coming to class. I have had students come to class who work shifts and can only be there every second week, so I am flexible when it comes to missing class. However, missing class because “it’s cold” feels like a lack of commitment. Trust me, when it’s raining and storming outside, I don’t want to leave my house either! 🙂 And on that note…

I can only put you in a choreography if you attend class. I know you pick things up quickly – and that’s awesome for you! – but that doesn’t mean you don’t need practice. Working as a unit takes time and it is very obvious when a student doesn’t come regularly and tries to slot into a choreography.

There are soooo many reasons for being chosen for a choreography. I would love to put everybody in, every single time, but it’s not always possible. Sometimes we have to pay to perform and our studio happily carries that cost, but we can’t carry the cost every time for 15 students to be in a dance, sometimes we need to work on stage space and sometimes it’s just about aesthetics! But often times it comes down to: Who attends class, who has the costuming, who is doing the dance well, who is doing it ON TIME with the music, and (for me at least) it’s also about giving equal opportunity to perform. You may have been dancing for years and are really good, but if I am always putting you in every dance, it means one less spot for somebody who may also be really good, but with less experience. Everybody needs performance opportunities and sometimes it means cutting the more experienced dancers out of a dance to give less experienced dancers a chance to perform. 🙂 (If you are unsure how your teacher chooses people for choreography – just ask! 🙂 )

Want to dance more? Do a solo or choose a dance sister to do a duet with! I am thrilled if students want to do their own thing! You are an individual dancer as well as a group dancer, nurture your individuality by dancing alone! I am happy to help you with a choreography/solo/duet piece if you’d like help or want feedback. Dancers doing choreography without me makes me proud!

Please listen when I talk in class. Goodness knows I do a lot of talking, but it’s because I have so much information to share that everything I say is useful. If you can’t use it, discard it and keep dancing. On top of that, listening in class means you don’t miss important information – about performances, payment info, holiday breaks, etc. I really do say it all in class!

Ask me to repeat myself – I love getting feedback like that! I can easily barrel right through an entire exercise in a few minutes, but it doesn’t help I speed things along if you’re not getting the first part of the exercise, so just ask. (please!)

I know that sometimes it’s been a particularly shitty week and you’re not absorbing anything in class, so don’t worry – I do understand! Even with teaching, I sometimes have days where I need to check my notes 20 million times in a lesson to check that I know what I’m doing! (I am sure all my students can attest to that!) You’re allowed an “off” day – what’s more important is that on these “off” days, you’re still in class!

Turn your cellphones off/on silent and don’t check them during water breaks. It’s a huge distraction for you (I don’t really get bothered) when your phone is always going off. You’re always wondering who is on the other end and it just keeps your mind off the dancing.

Lastly, be on time! It’s such a simple one, but often overlooked. If class starts at 18:30, don’t be there at 18:29. Aim to be there 10 minutes before class starts, that way if you do run late or get stuck in traffic, you’re at least not late for class. Arriving early means you can have a chat, say hello to your classmates, settle your account with the teacher and generally just settle in. If you are late, just warm up at the back and join in as soon as you’re warmed up.

 

I love having all of my students in class, I love their input, I love their dedication and their crazy ideas. I want to keep up that level of closeness, but I need help sometimes to make class awesome. 🙂

Keep on dancing and keep on being inspired!

Love,

Your overly-enthusiastic teacher.

Racism in Belly Dance

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RACISM IN BELLY DANCE

*warning: this post contains my opinion. If you don’t like it, stop reading and go and look at photos of puppies and kittens* This is also a wordy post with no photos.

*If you would like to get riled up; read this: http://www.salon.com/2014/03/04/why_i_cant_stand_white_belly_dancers/ *

Wait, what?! This blog is supposed to be about all the light and fluffy stuff, right? And RACISM in BELLY DANCE?! How on Earth do those two go together? (This is what I imagine you all to be thinking, when in reality I’m sure you’re just a bit nosey 😉 )

 

So a few weeks ago, one of the top belly dancers in South Africa was tagged in a video on Facebook of her dancing at a workshop, alongside a drummer. A comment was made on this video that said: “How about giving other cultures a chance too.” Followed by this, when asked to elaborate:  “There are many unique lovely cultures here but belly dancing belongs to easterners and westerners. We don’t dance with our bums out instead of in. Brutal but true.”  (Spelling errors fixed, but otherwise copied-and-pasted)

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The dancer in the video was a black woman. Now, why didn’t I mention it at the start of the story? Well, because it simply. doesn’t. matter.

The statement made by the dancer shocked everybody in South Africa, to the point of her being banned from performing at some events all over the country. Dancers all over rose to offer words of support to the dancer who was attacked and it does make me quite proud of our community – to see that we are not tolerating those who think like that. Not only are there incredibly inaccuracies in the statement/insult, but it’s just plain racist.

But this whole incident got me thinking about who is “allowed” to belly dance and who isn’t. What makes it more acceptable for one person, and not another? Mere skin tone? Because if that is the case, as a pale white African, there is probably a lot I shouldn’t be doing! (Like calling myself African? 😉 )

Cultural Appropriation

So cultural appropriation is a topic allll on its own, and if I were to go into a lot of detail here, I think I’d end up with pages and pages of info. Basically, cultural appropriation is when one culture adopts elements of another culture. I believe that this isn’t inherently bad, but it can be a slippery slope. This has been done (especially in art) for thousands of years.

How does this tie into belly dance? Well, there is a school of thought that belly dance should only be performed by those of Middle Eastern blood. Now this will exclude a lot of people in the world (there are 1.3 billion people in China who “aren’t allowed” to belly dance by that logic) and quite frankly I think it’s a bit ridiculous. Belly dance has a notoriously dodgy history and I have never read a single article that can pinpoint its exact country of origin. There are assumptions, yes, but there is no proof.

This whole thought of belly dance not having a specific country of origin (Turkey? Egypt? Morocco? *insert country here*?) has an appeal to it, in that it is a dance form that allows for everybody. We often hear “anybody can belly dance” preached from the rooftops by dance teachers as well as statements like “belly dance at any age!” and “size and weight irrelevant!” and I think that is part of the appeal for a lot of people.

I think the key to doing it correctly is honouring and understanding the cultures it comes from. Although I believe there is no clear indicator as to which is the country of origin, we do have a general idea of where it comes from. And let’s face it – if you’re performing Egyptian style belly dance, then you should understand and appreciate the culture of Egypt. Even more so if you are performing folkloric styles that feed entirely off the cultures they come from.

This ties into race because a lot of people believe that it shouldn’t be performed by people who simply aren’t of Middle Eastern descent. They also tend to view it as an insult when non-middle easterners perform belly dance. (we are “stealing their cultural heritage”) I totally disagree with that.

I think belly dance has made the shift from being a cultural dance (originally) to being art. I think that this changes how it should be viewed. Women in the USA performing cabaret belly dance are not doing the “cultural” side of it, but I think rather the “art” side of it. So I think it’s evolved past the point where it is just for one culture or country.

I think that people who believe that it is insulting for a non-Middle Easterner to belly dance are trying to hold onto the art form and essentially not allow it to grow. Art is something that grows, changes and shifts into different directions. Wanting to keep it “pure” just holds it back and I think actually hurts the art form far more than it helps.

I don’t think that just because somebody else is doing it, that it takes away from what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you allow it to bother you that somebody out there is doing something that you love to do and that you associate with “you” or “your culture” or “your family” – I believe there are deeper problems than just “That’s mine! You’re not allowed to do that!”

In essence, belly dance is a SOCIAL dance and from all the history we’ve seen, it’s always been that way. I have never heard of it being a spiritual dance (historically, that is) and I was always told that it was performed in social settings.

I don’t see why this can’t transcend cultures and be a “world dance” rather than belonging to X or Y or Z.

What we get out of dance is universal.

We get body acceptance, a sisterhood, a feeling of unity, fitness, confidence, focus, memory, creativity and coordination. These are things that transcend race and culture.

Belly dance is a universal dance form that belongs to all of us. I think as long as we treat it with respect, don’t go out of our way to insult the cultures it comes from, it will continue to grow and belong to us all.

 

*warning again: this post contains my opinion. If you didn’t like it, go and look at photos of puppies and kittens* 🙂

 

(as a side note: is it “bellydance” or “belly dance”?)

 

Bellydance Bra: A How To Tutorial

First post of 2014! One I promised to do nearly 5 months ago… oopsy!

Life got in the way a bit in 2013, but I’ve promised myself that I’ll write blog posts more often. I need to get into it for my photography site as well, so it’ll be a year of blogging!

So this post is a bit of a tutorial on how to make a bellydance bra. I don’t promise that this is perfect or the only way to do it. If you do something differently to the way I do – let me know in the comments below so I can try out your methods! As they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (ew.)

First, you need to find a bra to work on. This means doing a bit of shopping. Try on different shaped bras to see what suits you best. I find that this “sweetheart” styled bra fits me quite well and makes me feel very secure, which is really important since you’re going to be (hopefully) flinging yourself around in it.

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Check that the back of the bra isn’t riding up. That is a sure sign that it doesn’t fit properly! A good bra should sit relatively low in the back (as this lifts the girls up in the front), the straps shouldn’t dig into you & you should be able to do the “arm test” (scroll down to see that)

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When I try on bras, I do this silly looking test that I call the “arm test”. I lift my arms in front of me (as illustrated below) and I see if the bra gapes. If the bra gapes, then I usually don’t buy it. Simply because if I am in the middle of a choreography and want to lift my arms in front of me, I won’t be able to do so without flashing the audience. (Not sexy)

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Like I said, silly looking. 🙂

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I encourage you to always buy bras that are “multi way”. This is because if you want to make halter straps, the bra is already designed to be able to move that way. If you buy a bra that doesn’t have the multi-way function, and you make a halter neck, it will distort the bra and make it gape.

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I recently bought bra cups at our fabric shop. I still want to try them, but stuck with what I knew for this tutorial.

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What you will need:

* Fabric of choice

* Scissors

*Thread (in the same colour as the fabric, unlike me. Don’t do as I do…)

*Pins

*Needles

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And optional: A sewing machine.
This was the first bra I have ever sewed using my machine. I just used it for the straps, as other parts of the bra are too thick to sew through and I didn’t have the right needles.

It just means it goes faster and is slightly neater.

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Not optional: Delicious snacks to get you through the process.

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* Interfacing

Below I have a photo of a bunch of different types of interfacing. From top to bottom:

* A reasonably thick vilene. Doesn’t bend when it’s folded & is not the iron-on stuff.

* Buckram. Very hard & difficult to sew through. Best used for reinforcement.

* A thin vilene. Thin like tissue paper. Not ideal for building straps.

* Thin buckram. Flimsy & soft. Not ideal for building straps, but useful for extra reinforcement.

* Denim (not pictured) I used this for AGES for building my bras & belts. Soft, long lasting & easy to work with.

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STEP 1:
I cover my bra. I usually take a corner of the fabric and try pinning it in different ways before cutting it. Cutting is very final. Buy extra fabric if you’re worried about it.

I first pin the top and then the bottom. The top will always be pinned the same way, but at the bottom you can either use a dart (folds sewn into the fabric to give it a 3-dimensional shape) or ruching (gathers of fabric used to form ruffles.)

I spent a good 2 hours pinning my bra. I wanted to show you how a dart would look, as well as ruching (which is what I went with in the end)

Pinned at the top:

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A very messy dart:

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Ruching Pinned: (lots of pins!)

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Ruching sewn.

With ruching, I just sew at the bottom of it. I don’t sew further up the cup because I don’t want stitching on the cup as it will be visible. I don’t know if this is the correct way to do it, but it is the way I do it.

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STEP 2:

Cut out straps. I used the first Vilene mentioned above to make my straps. I had a pattern from straps already lying around that I had cut out of the thin buckram.

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Placed the pattern on the Vilene. I folded it to end sooner because I wouldn’t be making straps that connect in the back. This is up to you. I

I folded my vilene in half and drew one pattern. I then cut through the 2 layers so that they would be perfectly equal. It also saves time.

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I used this handy little pen to draw on my vilene. It fades in 48 hours or so, so it’s perfect for mapping out your pattern on fabric.

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I place my strap onto my bra to see if it fits. I made a mark with the pen to show where I would need to cut it.

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Before making a commitment to making the straps, I check out my stash of loops & rings that I’ll be using for the straps.

With this, you want to make sure that your loops aren’t much bigger that your straps. If they are, they tend to move around and can end up not fitting quite right.

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I added grosgrain ribbon to my straps for extra reinforcement. This is a new thing I am testing out. Seems to work well!

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Now, take a break and eat one of your snacks. Hmmmm. Chocolate.

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This is the bra with the straps covered & one of them pinned onto the bra. Covering the straps is as simple as putting the fabric over it, pinning & sewing. Nothing fancy or difficult there.

Note that the original bra straps are still on.

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The backs of my bras are always insanely messy. I have started lining my bras (you will see why in a bit) but that can only be done once it is totally decorated.

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One half of the bra has a top decoration on it. This is just a silver lace I bought, and folded over the top of this bra.

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The inside again.

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I used my loops on the back straps of the bra, and pin in place. I hand sewed this because my machine can’t get close enough to the loops. (I tried & broke a needle in the process)

At this point, you can cut off your side straps. You can see in the picture above where I cut mine off. Usually where there is a bit of boning in the strap.

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Next, make your top straps. Using vilene (or your base of choice) and grosgrain ribbon, sew them together & cover them in your fabric. Pin to the bra & sew in place. (Again, I did this by hand)

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Ta-da! You now have straps!

NOT PICTURED:

Adding the loops to the top straps & sewing in place.

Then go outside and take some photos in your fabulous new bra!

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Below you can see the reason why lining is so important. the tiny bits of fabric will sneak out of the bottom of your bra and show. (I have no idea how to line stuff – I just make it up as I go along!)

Harem Pants & Necklace: Also by me! 😉

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Back of the bra:

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You can see that it is still very rough, but I am fine with that, as I will be covering all those seams.

I know some of you like to pin my stuff, so I’ve done this picture below that you can use as the pinned picture:

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If you cant seem to pin it, find my pin here (click click) and feel free to share! 🙂

If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know in the comments below! I love to hear from you!

xx

New Costume

In the last week, I decided to make a new dance bra. My older ones don’t fit as well as they should and I felt like they weren’t very adjustable. We have a performance coming up in October and I wanted something that I at least felt comfortable in.

So I went to the fabric shop, saw awesome fabric and bought it. I then realised I needed faux suede to go with my new fabric and bought some the next day. I spent my evenings making and embellishing this bra, and finished it in a couple of days!

Here is the bra I have been working on:

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This is also the first time I’ve ever lined a bra!

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I realised half-way through that my last bra “how-to” got pinned on Pinterest a couple of times and it had brought lots of people to my blog. Since I was half way through and hadn’t taken any photos of said bra, I decided once the work craziness has died down a bit (October-ish) I will do a tutorial for my blog. With prettier pictures and proper step-by-step instructions. (After all, prettier pictures means getting Pinned more often!)

In this upcoming tutorial, what would you like to see discussed? 

I also have some cool ideas for blog posts, so hopefully after the tutorial and work-craziness I’ll be able to post some more. 🙂

x

New video

So here is a video, of me in studio last night. I love this song by Beats Antique and I finally decided to just try a bit of improv!

I obviously see a lot of mistakes and things I can do better in. I like improv though and I’d like to try and get better at it. I am actively working on dancing more and doing yoga more often, so I want to document any progress I might make.

Seeing yourself on video is a double-edged sword. It’s cool that I can see what I’ve improved on, but at the same time it shows me what I still need to do.

I’m trying to see that in a positive light – that I have never learned it all and that there is always so much for me to do! It’s a never-ending journey! 🙂

Casablanca Nights & Oriental Dreams

It’s already March, and I’ve failed to post these photos and videos from November last year. Oopsy! I kept meaning to, but thought that perhaps I should write something interesting instead of just posting videos and photos.

I have since failed to think of anything interesting to write, and while there are a few vague ideas for blog posts in my head, most of them are rubbish and I get sick of thinking about them for a while.

So instead, I’m going to post tons of photos and videos from the 2 performances in November. I’ll start with Casablanca Nights.

Casablanca Nights was a dance showcase hosted by Anita from Moondance Studios. Anita asked our troupe to perform 3 pieces at the showcase, and of course we were happy to do so! Anita is really a wonderful woman and I always enjoy spending time chatting to her. Our troupe performed 3 pieces, 2 of which we have on video. The third piece we performed was our choreography from the Oriental Festival, which you can see in my previous post.

I performed a solo piece, and I must say, I’m getting quite into performing solos. They may not always be as interesting to watch as group choreographies, but I find such a creative freedom when I perform solo – mostly because if I mess up, nobody knows! This choreography was a piece I created a while ago, and I posted a video of me performing it for the first time. Since then, I’ve forgotten the choreography and now mostly improvise with a few set moves thrown in for stability.

Anyway, here it is, and a SUPER HUGE thank you to Paula for taking the video and to Kash and George for the photos! ❤

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Behold my abs! Seriously though, I’m super proud of my stomach for coming to the table and showing everybody what I’ve got. Yay abs!

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The troupe also performed our 2012 creation, Lunar. Every year we try and learn a very difficult choreography from a dancer. This year we chose to learn from Sera Solstice, and did her choreography from her DVD, Lunar. Sera doesn’t teach the choreography on her DVD, but does all the combos on the DVD and then a performance at the end, so there are some changes that we made to suit us, but roughly followed the choreography.

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Later in November, Leoni (Firefly) and I performed at Layla’s Oriental Nights Hafla. We had a really great time there, and I performed a new dance that unfortunately didn’t get recorded. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll be doing it again, so I’ll have something to show you. 🙂 But there are photos!

Firefly performed a fire dance with her poi and the crowd really enjoyed it – it’s definitely something different and adds an element of danger to the performance!

Crappy cellphone photo before the show!

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And I think that concludes my looong blog post. I hope you enjoyed the photos and video – I’d love to hear your thoughts. Hopefully a better blog post soon. 🙂

x

Miscellaneous Catch up

Welcome back!

I know, I’ve been absent for 2 months, but a lot of dance related drama has been going through my head and I’ve had a bit of stuff to deal with. But it’s all sorted now and I can look forward to 2012, which is already looking better than 2011!

I have been doing a fair bit of costuming, I made a new Tribal Fusion bra from bits and pieces bought at Geka and lovely faux suede fabric in a chocolate brown colour – ooh! I realized how many things I have in browny shades for my bottom half and that I only had 2 black fusion bras, but nothing brown to go with my brown pants or cream coloured wraps. Below is a very bad photo of this new bra – just taken with my phone. I will find and upload a nicer photo at some point.  I still want to do a bit of work to it, without overwhelming it with things. The problem is that it looks full and great up close but when I wear it in the studio it doesn’t look like much from far away. Hmm. Ideas? Also, the dark brown lace on the sides is insanely itchy which is great for keeping my arms up and not letting them drop but it does leave ugly marks on me after I take my bra off. Ah, the joy of sensitive skin!

In other costuming news, I have taken apart my blue cabaret costume. I realize I never posted photos of the finished product, but I have one or two from our show that I will post. After seeing the DVD of the show, I realized that there was too much wrong with it. Firstly, I am a rather short person (1.58m = 5 feet 2 inches) so having a belt on that was so wide just didn’t suit me and made me look shorter, especially with such long fringing! Then the bra had collapsed and gone soft so it didn’t fit properly, the straps were badly designed for my body type… I could go on. I’m sure you understand now why I decided to take apart the old bra and belt and make something new. Also – the shiny fabric was awful to work with and I wouldn’t mind working with just a plain cotton fabric.  So that is a future project… I have ideas of what to do with the long fringe because it’s too long, but I don’t think I’ll say what the plan is until it’s done. Otherwise I might fail miserably and then be the laughing stock of all belly dancers ever.

In other news – Kash from Rhythm Nouveau Dance Company is hosting Heather from Tribal Angels up in Joburg for a few ATS workshops! I am unfortunately dirt poor so I can only attend ONE of the workshops – boo! – however, Maya has also been asked to perform at the hafla which is being hosted on the Saturday night. I will be performing my solo from the BellyRing Hafla last year and Maya will be performing Lunar which we also performed at the Oriental Festival last year. I just need to wait a bit of time and then I can upload our performance of Lunar at the Oriental Festival. It’s an amazing dance and we loved learning and performing it.

In preparation for the hafla and workshops, we are doing ATS  every week until the end of February. We haven’t done ATS in a while, and I had forgotten just how much I love it. I am the first person to admit that it’s not always exciting to watch, but performing it and doing the moves and having great interactions with the other dancers is AMAZING. I might be in love all over again! 😉

Well, that’s all for now. Hopefully I will be posting more and more… if there is a topic you would like me to cover or an argument you feel like having me rant about, then please email me or leave a comment! At the top of the page you will find a “contact” page and you can find my email address there. 🙂