Friday, 24 June 2011

Videos of the Week - In The Beginning!

This week we've actually got not one but several videos for you! Someone was asking a few weeks ago if I  knew of any footage of the original Bal Anat or Jamila Salimpour - and here, lurking amongst my You Tube favourites, I found some gems.

Firstly, a bit of background information. In the 'Tribal Bible' Kajira Djoumahna traces the roots of Tribal style to  San Francisco in the late nineteen sixties:

'(Jamila Salimpour) is credited for beginning this eclectic fusion approach to Mid-Eastern Dance in her presentations at the Northern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire with her seminal group, Bal Anat' 
Tribal Bible, 2003

Our first video gives an overview of Jamila's life and work:

The footage in this video really gives a flavour of the dance as it was then, and in particular, as Kajira points out, of the 'feeling' evoked by Bal Anat, in blending past and present cultures, with the costuming and facial markings, whilst not laying claim to being truly authentic, still recalling that sense of 'tribal' that is in turn reflected by many of today's dancers. The family tradition as continued by Jamila's daughter, Suhaila, and her grandaughter, Isabella, is also outlined here - and thus we can see how Jamila's folkloric work not only gave birth to tribal as we know it now, but also to the Suhaila dance format.

Our next video is the first of a series of three and shows more extensive footage of Bal Anat :

Here Jamila gives us an insight into what she believes to be the origins of bellydance; whether you agree with these or not it still makes for interesting viewing, although sadly the sound quality on this video is not wonderful. It's also interesting to see the foundations of some of our common tribal moves, such as the Egyptian - and to see her teaching drops to a class of students!

If you watch this on You Tube you will be able to link into the other two videos in this series.The second one features examples of sword and finger cymbal work, in addition to some snake dancing (whick kicks in at around 2:50 until 4:10, just in case you either don't like snakes or are not a fan of snake dancing). In the third you will see some dancing (including floorwork) with some very impressive looking pots, and also will notice the way in which other troupe members (apparently there were at one point as many as 40 of them!) support the main dancers, for example by drumming. I think one of my favourite parts of this video is the little blonde girl in the audience (at around 4:15); she has such an expression of awe and amazement at what she is seeing. It makes me wonder what happened to her. Was she inspired to go on and dance herself as has happened to so many of us? If anyone does know any more about her please do tell!

Our next video, from the seventies, features some double sword work :

This was an eye opener for me! I had always blithely presumed that dancing with two swords was a recent development; that as dancers in general became more proficient over the years with one sword they had begun to challenge themselves by adding a second - but this video from forty years ago completely disproves that assumption!

Finally, some footage of a male dancer, Ricky, with Bal Anat in the early 1970s:

In the 'Tribal Bible', John Compton (probably the best known Bal Anat male dancer, who went on to form 'Hahbi Ru') tells the story of how Jamila at first refused to accept him as a student, saying that she would not teach a man. However, eventually his perseverance and commitment won through, and the rest is history!

Well, there you have it! Of course, the story of tribal evolved much further from here, with one of Jamila's students, Masha Archer, going on to teach Carolena Nericcio. I really uaven't tried to give you a full history here; there are lots of sources far more qualified than me which can do that! What I have tried to do is just to give you a flavour of Bal Anat's style which lies at the very roots of tribal (Jamila never termed her style tribal - she merely called it 'bellydance'; the 'tribal' label came later as synchronised group improvisation was born). I think you will agree that these videos certainly strongly evoke that feeling of the early days. I would so love to have been there - if Doctor Who ever comes calling for me my first Tardis request will be a trip to an early Bal Anat performance!

You can find out much more about the Salimpour legacy at There is also information on there about the current Bal Anat, restarted in 2001 by Suhaila, in addition to an online shop which includes a variety of dvds featuring old and new footage.

I do hope you've enjoyed our little touch of time travel - it's always good to know your roots!

Until next time, happy dancing!

Unfortunately I have had these photographs on my computer for some time and cannot remember the original source. Please accept my apologies!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Videos of the Week - Make Up!

Sarah with full hair and make up
Yes, a bit of a change for our Video of the Week this time around! Inspired by her success on the false eyelash front, Cayte has decided it's time for her performance eye make-up to get an overhaul in general, and has been trawling both old favourites and new finds on You Tube for a bit of inspiration (not to mention the photo galleries on - in particular the Make Up and Hair for Dancers tribe).

Cayte - pre-false lash days!

Do you have any idea how many make up demo videos there are on You Tube? Thousands! It's a maze out there! With that in mind we've just chosen a few examples from the channels we like the most, to point you in the right direction. However, first of all it's time for a Very Special Video :

False lash success!
This, my friends, is The One. This is the video that helped Cayte to conquer false lashes once and for all. Bending the lashes before you put them on certainly helps, and putting glue on your hand helps you to get exactly the right amount (We did find a video that advocated putting glue straight onto your eyelids - eek!!). Cayte uses a cotton bud to press the lashes down, rather than a pointed object (!) but other than that, this method really does seems to work (well, it only took Cayte a couple of minutes to apply her lashes on Saturday, so something was going right!). Yes, this video changed Cayte's life!!

Now, onto more general make up. Whilst most of these videos could be useful to any dancer we have of course chosen them with tribal in mind - because that's our style. We couldn't believe our luck when we found this one - specifically aimed at tribal dancers :

Our friend Jo in full
make up
 This is a more general sort of video - she doesn't go into precise details, for example, about how to apply your eye make up - but it's particularly ideal for dancers who maybe are just dipping a toe into the water and need some inspiration. She also does a few tribal markings - but of course you can play around and do even more elaborate ones - swirls, spirals, the only linit is your imagination. Her final look is beautiful! We also like the colour-corrector tip (many moons ago Cayte used to use a lilac coloured corrector which really helped brighten up her complexion. It was a Body Shop one, but she hasn't seen it lately. Do any of you know if there's anything similar available now in the UK?).

Now - it's all about the eyes! Cayte has a bit of an obsession with green, so with that in mind :

  This look would just go so beautifully with Cayte's green pantaloons! The girl in the video goes into lots of detail about the products, tools and techniques she uses, which is great. However, although we LOVE the glitter effect on her lids, we think we'd be a mite more comfortable using a proper glittery eyeliner there rather than going for her 'eyelash glue and craft glitter'option! She does have a blog with more ideas - check it out here.

Now, having satisfied Cayte's green yearnings it's time for a bit of purple for Sarah :

This video is from Misschievous' channel; she has lots of other inspirations, both more dramatic and more subtle on You Tube and on her blog. Once again she goes into lots of detail, including about what colours to place where - and gives us a demonstration of the 'sticky tape trick' to ensure you get clean lines. And once again the finished effect is beautiful!

Believe us, we've only touched the tiniest tip of the iceberg as far as You Tube make up videos goes - just have a look for yourself. Try typing in 'Smoky Eyes' or 'Arabic Eyes' - the results are quite overwhelming and it's hard to know where to start. If you find any really good ones please feel free to point us in their direction! One other channel deserves a mention here - take a look at Lauren Luke's Panacea channel. Lauren is a Geordie lass who shot to cosmetics fame through her You Tube videos, and her demonstrations are well worth checking out. She has also written a  make up book which is really readable and useful for all types of make up. And of courseif you're wanting some tips specifically for when you're under those bright spotlights, Princess Farhana is bringing out a stage make up dvd later this year too!

So, there you have it - a few inspirational starting points for you to go away and have a play with. Of course, these are just our favourites and you may prefer a different look. It's also important to remember that not all shades suit everyone, and depending on the colour, shape and size of your eyes you may need to go lighter or darker so that they don't disappear when you're under the spotlights. Although these videos name specific brands and shades of make up, you don't need to stick slavishly to those- just have fun!
And above all, please don't be afraid of make up. It really is an important part of your overall look (together with hair and jewellery of course!) and is so much more than just the icing on the cake. Mess around with it, play with it, enjoy it!

The next Video of the Week will be back to dance -- but there may well be blogs coming up about hair, bindis, jewellery ---- shiny things!
Until then, happy dancing!

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Last night was time for an outing for one half of Sakura! Sarah had only just returned from hols so I was off on my own (well, with my sister, who's a bit of a tribal groupie!) over that well worn trans-Pennine track to Keighley for a gig with Arcomnia (I just feel so down and wiv-it saying 'gig'!). Tribe of Leodis are a new improv project headed up by Chris Ogden and this was our first outing together (for some of us at least - last night was a busy night event-wise) - improvising to live music!

I've got to say, from the minute I walked into the Small World Venue I felt right at home! My social life now seems to revolve entirely around dancing, but this place - dark, laid back, friendly, atmospheric  - was exactly where you'd have found me when I did get out and about more!

There was time for chilling and a quick drink whilst listening to local singer/songwriter/folk guitarist Spence before Arcomnia took to the stage and it was all systems go for Leodis (Chris, Clare, Debbie & Cayte). For those of you who don't know, Arcomnia  play ancient music with sympathetic modern grooves using English Border Pipes, didgeridoo, clarinet, percussion, keyboards and programming.  On their Facebook page they describe their musical style as :

"combining influences from many areas including Sufism, the Breton tradition, European Paganism, native Australian musics, 12th & 13th century Galician/Portuguese song and early Judaeo-Christian chant. In the pieces based on pre-existing material the melodic contour of the source is retained as much as is practically possible, then rhythmically adapted to a sympathetic deep hypnotic groove. In using these melodic structures as a point of departure, we are exploring an ancient substratum in which resonant musical archetypes can be approached and mixed in meaningful way. These themes are designed to be expanded upon in performance - every time they are played is a unique experience."

Put quite simply, Arcomnia are fantastic - great to listen to, and fabulous to dance with! If you're not familiar with their music you need to check them out NOW - on Facebook, MySpace and Reverbnation. They have a couple of cds out now, and tracks available for download, and you really do need to get along to some of their gigs (see, I did the getting-down-and-wiv-it thing again!). They've a couple of videos up on You Tube; this one is from last year's Singing Sticks which I believe is a didgeridioo festival (how exciting is that? If I wasn't away doing some dance training I'd be seriously tempted to go this time around!) :

So, how did the dancing go? Well, I loved it! It was fabulous, laid back improv - just so much fun dancing with you all, ladies! Improv is all about that connection - to your fellow dancers, to the music and to the audience, right there and then. It's about how you feel whilst and after you dance and it's about how the audience feel. All of that was there last night, and we got some great feedback.One person commented on how our dancing and style really complemented the band perfectly - which is exactly what we were aiming for! I would like to do it all again tonight please!

I know the other Tribe of Leodis girls would have loved it too, but ain't it the way that the best events always clash? Hopefully there will be more opportunities in the future.

Until then, happy dancing!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Video of the Week - Wendy Marlatt!

This week we have a real dance treat for you all, in the shape of the fabulous Wendy Marlatt! As some of you may know we were privileged to have here with us on this side of the Atlantic when she was based in Dublin for several years; it was then that we fell in love with her dancing, and spent many happy hours watching both her and the other wonderful dancers on our 'Magic Caravan' dvds (still one of our favourite dance performance dvds - just a really happy 'watch'!). She's back in California now, but is continuing to spread the joy both with her fusion solos and with world fusion performances with her troupe, 'Rashani'.

'Rashani World Fusion Belly Dance is the vision of Wendy Marlatt, a San Francisco based dancer, performer and visual artist.  Wendy's unique brand of World Fusion Belly Dance draws on influences from around the globe and across time.    
World Fusion Belly Dance is both ancient and contemporary, respectful to tradition as well as innovation.  
World Fusion expands the vision of what we know as Belly Dance.'
Rashani website
There are so many videos of Wendy we love that (once again!) it's been really difficult to choose. We're going to start with one of her most recent solos at Tribal Fest 11 in May of this year :
The first thing that really strikes us about this video is Wendy's incredible stage presence; your eyes are glued to her from the minute she steps onto the stage. Her beautiful posture and attitude - she exudes 'duende'! - really shine out, together with her brilliant smile, and you can't help but smile back. She moves with such grace and fluidity, and we are mesmerised by that half spin she does on her knees at the start of her floorwork - how does she manage to do that and still look so graceful?! She's also a master of layering moves, which really shows in this video, as does her spot-on musical interpretation as she switches the mood of her dance to fit perfectly with the different pieces of music. We love it!
Wendy also does some beautiful world fusion and improv with Rashani. We wanted to show you the full version of their recent Cues and Tattoos performance, but unfortunately You Tube have removed the soundtrack. However, we did manage to find a short excerpt from it, which the music moguls haven't got their hands on yet! Enjoy :
Wendy's skirt work is just divine - and once again there's that marvellous posture and presence. The ladies work so well together and are very obviously having a ball up there. Gorgeous costumes, fabulous dancing - great performance!
We just can't finish without singing Wendy's praises a little more! She is a fantastic teacher - patient, encouraging and inspirational. We know this not only from workshops we've taken with her but also because we had the privilege of having a private lesson at her home studio when we were in San Francisco last year. She not only welcomed us into her home and later shared a meal with us, but also gave us lots of tips on places to see and things to do. She did all of this with a huge smile on her face, even though she had only just got in from a day's work (we were literally waiting on her doorstep for her!) - and had only flown in from Dublin the previous day! She must have been shattered but never let it show for a minute.
She really is a very special lady - beautiful on both the outside and inside. Perhaps it's that, coupled with her fabulous dancing, that shows through in that amazing stage presence?
Huge 'Thank Yous', Wendy!
If you want to know more about Wendy, check out her website here. There are more videos on there too for your delectation!
Until next time, happy dancing!
Thanks to Wendy Marlatt for the images in this post

Friday, 3 June 2011

Video of the Week - Gypsy Fire!

Thoughts of zilling have totally and utterly consumed us this week! Following last week's 'Tribalation!' post both Sabine and Renee (of Amazon Heart) posted to share with us how they use different zil patterns in their improv, and they really inspired us - thank you ladies! Renee also pointed us in the direction of another video from this year's Tribal Fest, and we loved it so much that we've made it our 'Video of the Week'!

So here we are, off to the Pacific Northwest again (ahh, if only!) to visit the beautiful dancers of 'Gypsy Fire'.

"Gypsy Fire was formed in 1998 in Bend, Oregon, by director Quinn Donovan Fradet ...... While our roots are firmly planted in the structure set out by Carolena Nericcio and FCBD, we have begun to adopt movements of various dance stylings, and have adapted them to our troupe's dynamic, thus creatiung our unique 'voice', much like the Gypsies (Rom) we honor in our name ...... Improvisation is the key to creativity in a style which strives for uniformity of presentation. The soul of ATS is communication among the dancers which is expressed in the group nature of the dance. dancers often feel a deep connection with their dancing partners, a connection forged through dance, which creates a bond of sisterhood within the group. This trust and communication is often evident to viewers: many comment on the connection, the synchronous movement and the joy we share in dance!"
Gypsy Fire website

And so we hand you over to the lovely ladies of 'Gypsy Fire' :

Plainly and simply, just beautiful dancing! You can see the connection between these girls, and can feel their joy in dancing together - fabulous! All that spinning and twirling skirts just adds to the overall feeling of happiness and we love it. Particularly during the last track some lovely formations and passes fit perfectly within the whole mood of the piece. This is our favourite kind of performance, where the dance is allowed to speak for itself as opposed to being swamped by wild music, wacky costumes and out-there themes (We're not saying we hate these elements per se, but sometimes when you see one such performance after another or when you see a troupe that seems compelled to pull out one off-the-wall performance after another it does give us brain ache!).

Gypsy Fire also use a range of patterns in their zilling - Renee (Amazon Heart) explained after our last post that they work with different zill patterns for different movement families --- and Sakura are very excited about having a play with that!

Just before we close, there was another quote on Gypsy Fire's website, on Quinn's profile page that really spoke to us. She says :

"To say I couldn't imagine my life without dance is no over-statement. The joy I feel in dance, the connection to my dancing sisters and the creativity i am able to express are indispensable."
Gypsy Fire website

Amen to that! It really expresses how we feel about our dance too - which is maybe why we have chosen, coincidentally, the same quote to represent Sakura as Gypsy Fire :

"To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak"
                                               Hopi Indian saying

To find out more about Gypsy Fire, visit their website here.

Until next time, happy dancing!

Thanks to Quinn Donovan Fradet and Gypsy Fire for the images in this post