Saturday, 16 November 2013

In nomine Babalon

This new year, Scarlet Lotus will be bringing something new and exciting.

I have decided to maintain my weekly Concepts and Contexts class, on Monday mornings in the Goddess Hall, but take a break from my weekly Thursday classes to concentrate on other projects. More specifically I will be offering a number of short courses, focusing in depth on specific styles, or preparing for and learning a choreographed dance.

These courses will offer a structured approach with specific objectives that will allow students to track their rapid progress in the chosen topic.

The first of these will run in February/March, and I am doing something I have never offered before in the context of bellydance classes.

I have previously taught movement - posture, deportment, gesture and ecstatic dance - to ritualists in the context of magic and ritual. Movement is a language that speaks from our very core, to that of others and can be incredibly powerful in a sacred context.

In the past I have always taught dance from the perspective of teaching the "language" so that dancers might go forth and use it however they will, but I have decided, for the first of my short courses, I am going to teach technically accurate and well executed bellydance (theatrical fusion style) in a sacred context.

So here's introducing:

Dancing with the Red Goddess.

Exploring and expressing the power of Our Lady Babalon, and associated goddesses (such as Ishtar, Innanna and Astarte) through moving meditation and devotional dance.

These extended classes will consider the initiatory and transformative nature of the Red Goddess, as the participants bloom, and through their dancing their interpretation of Babalon will be born.

Movements and technique will be learned through themes of that explore the nature of the goddesses. I am already building a beautiful collection of music to complement our dancing. Finally the course will culminate in learning a devotional choreography, that brings together all these aspects and may be performed as a solo or group dance in the future.

" I gather up every spirit that is pure, and weave him into my vesture of flame. I lick up the lives of men, and their souls sparkle from mine eyes. I am the mighty sorceress, the lust of the spirit. And by my dancing I gather for my mother Nuit the heads of all them that are baptized in the waters of life. " A. Crowley, The Vision and the Voice.

I am really looking forward to working on this project, and look forward to meeting the dancers who will accompany me on this journey.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Awesome arms- the science bit

I've just been teaching veil work, and once again, I'm harping on about how arm movements start from the back.

I like to talk about "energy" and originating the energy from your "centre" (a point in the middle of your pelvis, at a height half-way between your pubic bone and your navel) moving that energy up the spine, through the back muscles, and out through the fingertips.

It's all a bit airy fairy and artsy. That's OK, I'm an artist, I get to be artsy.

Sometimes I call the "energy" "intention". It's not the literal tensing of muscles, it is a confident relaxed feeling that the muscle is there, ready to do your bidding.

I have a little secret to share though, it's not really all artsy at all. We are going to have a bit of a delve into the anatomy that I don't really cover in lessons, as frankly, my dance students aren't there to learn anatomy (if you would like to learn anatomy though, I do tutor, contact me for my rates...)

Take a look at these lovely anatomical images.

Yes, I love anatomical images, because I am also an anatomist.

See in the top one. Can you see how the bones of your arm and shoulder attack to the bones of your "body"? They barely do. The only bone that joins your arm to your torso is that skinny little clavicle, lightly kissing the sternum. It might as well not bother. The clavicle doesn't carry weight, or move the arm, it's just there for stability. Four-legged running types don't even have a clavicle.

So take a look at the bottom one. Meaty huh? All that muscle on your back? That's what keeps your arms on. That's what bears the load, and that is what makes the movement.

OK, so I expect that those of you who don't enjoy looking a drawings of dead people as much as I do probably would like a point. So here it is:

When you hold your arms in basic dance positions, they are supported by the large muscles in your back. Mostly the trapezius (the bright red one). That is where the strain is. If you are trying to use your arm muscles to hold your posture, it will ache, your muscles will tense, you will end up looking like a chicken. Chickens don't bellydance. It's sad, I know, but we can get past that, you are not a chicken, so you can. Consciously bear the weight of your arms with your upper back. Instant improvement.

When you move your arms, again it is those muscles on your back making it happen (they have some friends in other places, but they do plenty of the work). Much like when you move your fingers it is the muscles in your lower arm working. If you envisage the movement starting at the shoulder, you create an artificial disconnect. Reach from your spine, let the movement flow out and down through to your fingertips. Isolate when you need to, but sweeping, fluid arm movements, involve the torso too.

So that's the science bit.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Concepts and Context

Approaching dance through creativity, interpretation and communication.

In September I will be trialing a new format of bellydance class, and I am very excited about it!

I want to shift the focus of my teaching onto the "soul" and artistry of the dance. We will still be working on good technique, but approaching the dance very squarely from the perspective of an artist and performer. In fact this format very closely resembles my own process in putting together a performance.

This is my logical next step from my policy of introducing improvisation from lesson 1, so that improvisation becomes a natural and integral part of my students' dance - I'm taking that principle and applying that to expressiveness, stage presence and storytelling.

The lessons will be themed around a fairly abstract idea in dance. It might be a technical aspect, like "Fluidity", an expressive one, like "Joy" or a stylistic one like "Earthiness".  There will be variations in style, for instance a "Serpentine" themed session with a strong Tribal Fusion leaning.

Technique will be broken down and drilled, with a focus on expressing the theme through the movement. Some lessons will involve combinations or short choreographies, and some will involve improvisation.

Each lesson will stand alone, and be open level. Beginners will be able to learn the basic techniques with no pre-requisite, while more experienced dancers can focus on the style and expression, building extra layers and variations to challenge their technique too!

Dancers who aspire to perform will be tapping straight into the key skills that make a performance vital and interesting. Those who do not will experience a full and layered class that truly takes the dance beyond the physical movements.

This is not a brand new concept. It is fairly common for open level workshops to focus primarily on an artistic aspect, I am simply attempting to bring this into a regular class, in the hope that my students come away with a touch of that post-workshop inspiration and fulfillment, every week.

There is enormous scope for diversity in the classes, and I expect a dancer could revisit a theme multiple times, each time taking away new skills and inspiration. With over 30 strong themes already in the pipeline however, I don't expect a lot of repetition.

Working on these themes has been immensely inspiring for me, as a teacher and dancer, and I hope that my students will share in this.

Fitting in your practice

This is an article I wrote for Yahoo, all about how to fit your workout or training into your busy schedule.

A costume post

This post catalogs the process of making my teal bra and belt set...

Take one bra

Sew a reinforced band along the bottom (I also modified the straps here, but later decided to cut them off completely)

Cover the top half of the cups with large rectangles of fabric. Also pictured is the strip that will cover the bottom half of the cups.

The band is covered with fabric

Which is pleated. I am trying to create an illusion here that the band is broad to disguise the size of the cups.

The belt is a wide strip of upholstery fabric, covered with the pleated silk, which is pinned, pressed and stitched on.

The back bra fastening is removed and replaced with large rings

Then I sew an awful lot of beads on.

The shoulder straps are replaced with strong webbing, that is covered in the silk. The straps cross over at the top of the back, then pass through the opposite side ring before tying together centre back. This gives the look and support of a halter without the neck ache. The fabric on the top half of the cups is gathered and sewn onto the straps.

This is what it looks like on

The photos don't do it justice, the gems sparkle so much I am like a human discoball

The inevitable

I didn't plan to have a blog for my dance life, but I have found myself short of an outlet for in-depth comment on this subject. So here it is!

Watch this space for practice tips, costume making tutorials and news about my classes and events.