Photo credit: nccu.edu

The bigger picture.

In a few short weeks, I’ll once again be helping to run ATS® Homecoming, an event that gathers the American Tribal Style® community together here in San Francisco. I’ll be running the registration table with Cat Ellen and a few dedicated volunteers; please stop by to say hello when you pick up your name tag.

And come to my workshops! There’s three workshops over the course of the weekend, with room in all:

Many of you have asked after me, and I appreciate it. For me, this event will be bittersweet and hard. A few months ago I was coldly “suspended” from the FatChanceBellyDance teaching collective, with no advance notice or conversation, and with no clear or realistic path to reinstatement. Further, when I announced this, I was subsequently publicly gaslighted when representatives from the collective falsely told the community that it was my choice to leave.

As someone who manages people in my day job, I have a lot to say on how to fire someone with grace, class, and dignity, but for now I’ll say: this ain’t it. All of this bitterness and anger on both sides could have been avoided if someone from FatChance had simply reached out to me first.

But you know what? As a community, we have bigger problems than petty interpersonal crap. We are living in a scary political time, when global nationalism is sweeping the USA and other countries.

Our art form may be uniquely American, but it has its roots in social dances from the Middle East. In addition to the ongoing crisis in Aleppo, many in the Middle East belong to a religion that our incoming government has publicly maligned, leading to intensifying, more public discrimination and violence against our neighbors here at home.

These are frightening times.  The world is painful and scary, and many of us — especially white women — are only just now waking up to how painful and scary it is.

As artists inspired by the Middle East and India, we could just sit back and make art. We could send “thoughts and prayers” to Syria while we lavish ourselves with pounds of antique jewelry from that region. We could set our intentions for global healing as we make art and hope that somehow this changes the world outside of our own heads.

Unfortunately, the most effective currency we have to make change, even as artists, is still currency. Money. While it’s important to support the artists in our community who make costuming and jewelry, or the teachers sharing their knowledge, we need to act in other ways too. Here’s where I’m sending my currency: The American Civil Liberties UnionInternational Rescue CommitteeIslamic Relief USA. And there are so many other organizations worthy of our financial support.

If you have the financial ability to do so, I invite you to join me. The challenges we are facing as a community are bigger than any of us. And they are real, and tangible, and our response should be too.

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A new chapter: returning to my roots.

In the early 2000s, I was living in an unfamiliar town, without a lot of friends or family, and was profoundly lonely. I stepped into a group improv bellydance class and found — community. Joy. Support. It was life-changing. And so when I moved across the country to Maine, one of the first things I did was find a bellydance class; I knew exactly how to find community.

As I matured in my dance, and as I grew closer to the the source of ATS®, that focus changed, little by little. Distractions began to pile up.

First it was the obsession with the costume: not just a belt, but the right belt. Not just a skirt, but the right skirt. Ten yards or more, please. And then the makeup: not that lipstick, it’s too neutral. Your bindi isn’t big enough. You need to fix your eyeshadow. Paint your nails. Your eyebrows aren’t right. And the jewelry, oh, the endless jewelry.

(A confession: I despise wearing so much jewelry.)

And then it was the technique, even beyond the quest for perfection: am I doing this right? Is my elbow at exactly the right angle? Is her elbow at exactly the right angle? Should I dance with someone who doesn’t have great technique? Will someone tell me if don’t have great technique? Will someone tell me directly if I’m doing something wrong?

And finally, and most pernicious, the obsession with hierarchy. What are the guidelines for advancing to the next level? Who’s in the troupe, and who’s out?  What are the rules for getting in? Who’s good enough? Who has the wrong attitude? Who has the certifications, who’s approved to teach? Who can successfully intuit the ever-changing unspoken rules?

I’m ashamed and sad to say that I got caught up in this culture, because I thought it was necessary to support the ATS® brand. No more.

All of these distractions from the reason I started dancing have built up to this:

I’m no longer part of the FatChanceBellyDance® teaching collective. This was not by my choice, and I’ll save the story for in-person conversations. This heartbreaking shift has caused me to re-evaluate my relationship with dance, what I want out of it, and whether I will choose to continue.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: I want to remember why I started doing this in the first place. I want to go back to the beginning.

The most important thing for me in dance — beyond technique, beyond spectacle, beyond performativity — is connection. I cherish my connections with the worldwide ATS® community. That is the root of why I do this, and that is where I will focus as I move forward.

Speaking of roots: “community” and “communication” share the same linguistic root. We can’t build community if we are hesitant or afraid to communicate freely, honestly, and authentically. With open, compassionate hearts. Fearlessly.

I want to dance with people who are fearless communicators, on and off the dance floor.

I want to dance with people who are bighearted, generous, and kind.

I want to dance with people who only expect mind-reading when we’re dancing together.

I want dance partners who find the good in their fellow dancers. I want dance partners who open up communication instead of shutting it down.

I want to dance with people who don’t care about hierarchy. I want dance partners who prioritize joyful connection. I want dance partners who know that our art form isn’t a sorority, it’s a method of communication.

I want to work with community builders.

So, what does this mean in practice?

I’m still devoted to American Tribal Style® bellydance, as created by Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman and FatChanceBellyDance®. I love the strength, the beauty, and especially the connection that having a clear shared dance language enables. I respect Carolena and her brand, and will continue to support her artistic vision to the best of my ability, as I have for many years.

And I will still be teaching at ATS® Homecoming in January 2017, and offering SSCE at least at that event and perhaps beyond.

I will not be teaching regular classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are enough excellent teachers here, and I respect the local teachers who rely on dance for their income.

However, I will happily travel to teach workshops. I love working with the global community. It’s also important to me to keep the workshops affordable for the communities in which I offer them; reach out to me if you’d like to talk logistics.

Additionally, I don’t want to run my dance career as a business any more; I only want to support the worldwide ATS® community. To that end, any funds I earn will go to charity, or to support your local dance community.

And if you live in the Bay Area — or are visiting — and you share my goals, consider this an invitation to come dance with me. In my living room, in yours, in a studio, or in the street. Come back to the roots with me, and let’s focus on connection and communication.

Come dance with me in joyful community.

 

(Photo credit: Don Labit Design)

Massive closet-cleaning!

Folks – I’m cleaning out the dance closet. Please buy my stuff!

UPDATE: It’s a non-smoking home, but I do have cats. I’ll do my best to clean things up for you, but clothing items are best for the non-allergic.

Guidelines:

  • Preference will be given to local dancers or those visiting the Bay Area who can pick up (I’m looking at you, Advanced Teacher Training students). I don’t want to ship all this stuff.
  • I have loads of unlisted items (jewelry, hip shawls, miscellany) in my closet that are also up for sale — if you’re willing to arrange a time to come my house, look through my stuff and I’ll give you a deal!
  • Price includes shipping in the continental United States. Otherwise, contact me for a shipping quote.

If you would like an item:

  1. Comment on the post (here on my blog, not on Facebook) with:
    • the item(s) you’d like, and
    • whether you need it shipped or can pick it up.
  2. Remember, those willing to pick up get priority. If a local dancer expresses interest in the same item within 48 hours of an initial comment, it’ll go to them.
  3. I’ll respond to your comment via email. We can exchange payment details and shipping info (if applicable) over email.

 

Skirts: Skirts for sale

Pantaloons: Pantaloons for sale

Cholis: Performance cholis for sale

More coming soon as I post it — stay tuned! Thank you, and thanks for buying my stuff.

 

Performance cholis for sale

Mostly velvet and/or lace. Prices negotiable, especially if you buy more than one!

All are Flying Skirts size Medium unless otherwise indicated, and fit me well at a 34/36 B/C (depending on the day).

Forest Green long-sleeve velvet, $35

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Fuschia velvet long-sleeve, $35

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Fuschia velvet short sleeve drop shoulder, $35

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Sheer black lace short sleeve, $30

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Sheer black lace long-sleeve, $30

This one fits more like a size large.

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Sheer fuschia lace 3/4 sleeve, $30

This one fits more like a size large.

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2. Purple sweetheart short-sleeve velvet, $30 HOLD FOR VICTORIA

Technically it’s a Flying Skirts medium, but this fits me a little on the small side. Would be fine for a size medium or small dancer, but probably not larger than a B-cup.

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8. Silver lace lined choli, $40 HOLD FOR VICTORIA

Like-new condition. Lined – no need for a bra on this one.

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3. Silver drop-shoulder short-sleeve velvet, $40 SOLD

New, never danced in, though I did cut out the tag. Flying Skirts. Drop-shoulders are finished, not cut.

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4. Magenta cotton short-sleeve with mirror trim, $20 SOLD

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5. Magenta sheer lace short-sleeve, $30 SOLD

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6. Magenta velvet short sleeve, $30 SOLD

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7. White velvet short sleeve, $40 SOLD

Only worn once in performance.

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12. Sheer baby pink lace short sleeve, $30 SOLD

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Pantaloons for sale

 

1. Hot pink satin pantaloons

Made by BellyRoll. Nice heavy bridal-grade satin, with a great shine peeking out from under a skirt. Cotton yoke. Approx. 41″ long, waist stretches to 21″ flat – but there’s extra elastic so you can let out the waist if needed. $40.

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2. Dark magenta pantaloons HOLD FOR JACQUI

Approx. length 40″, waist stretches to 19″ flat. Lightweight lining material with cotton yoke. $30.

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3. Soft purple silky Debaloons HOLD FOR JACQUI

Made by D.Webb couture – these have great shine and swish, with the high-quality construction and attention to detail that characterizes Debbie’s work. Pleated onto a cotton yoke. Approx. 43″ long, waist stretches to 22″ flat, but there’s extra elastic to let the waist out if you need it. $50.

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4. Lightweight teal pantaloons

Made with lightweight lining material. Approx. 47″ long, waist stretches to 22″ flat. $20.

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