Random Thursday & Beni wa Benak

Today is Random Thursday. Since I don’t have any quilting news, I thought I would finally get around to posting this choreography. This is my former dance troupe, Saba Middle Eastern Dance Ensemble, performing Beni wa Benak at the Yukon Arts Centre in March 2011.

I originally choreographed this piece as a tool for the advanced class to learn and practice particular movements & combinations (among other things such as being aware of facial expressions, theatricality, embellishments etc).  The choreography itself is not performance art, but it has its place. As a performance piece it is best suited to an outdoor event such as a street fair or other event where the audience is milling about and stopping to watch the dancing for awhile before moving on. In this type of venue it is a perfect piece. Lots of movement, lively music, flash & glitter and the audience loves it. However, I included it in the Rockin’ the Casbah show mostly because I needed a filler piece. I adapted the dance to suit the theatre stage as best I could by having dancers join in from the wing mid-way through, adding variety and interest. Someday I’d like to revisit this piece with a troupe – I have ideas for the choreography that I simply didn’t have time to play with when getting ready for this particular show.

These costumes were well-suited to the piece and I love the way the skirts flare out when the dancers twirl.  And get a load of Doug, our MC in the beginning of the piece. The audience loved him!

Linking in with Random Thursday over at Live a Colorful Life.

Bellydance after Retirement: the beginnings of a plan!

I have been pondering my upcoming retirement and what I want it to look like. Who do I want to be? What do I want to do?

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Ironically, it was my illness that gave me the opportunity to examine these questions. It was a devastating time for me.

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For a while, I couldn’t even go to work, and I had to give up every single thing in my life in order to concentrate on simply getting up in the morning and getting through the day.

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Dance felt like a raggedly amputated limb, and it hurt so much to lose it that I actually packed up my gear and put it away where I didn’t have to see the dust raining down on it like tears.

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Gradually, though, creativity began to clamor for an outlet and I began to quilt and knit and write and explore avenues of creative expression that I hadn’t had time for when I was dancing.

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Fortunately, part of my wellness journey has been re-learning to pay attention and listen to my body and to my heart. And, happily, what my heart is telling me is that the dance is still there, just not in the same way as before.

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I’ve discovered that I love quilting. I love knitting. I love baking and hiking and gardening, and I no longer want to pursue dance to the exclusion of all else. In future, dance will be only one of many ways to express myself instead of the only way.

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On another happy note, I have been thinking lately that I would like to teach when we get to Salmon Arm. Did you see that coming? I didn’t.

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Ideally, I’d like to focus on teaching women my own age. Middle-aged women who have “been there and done that” and have women’s bodies; luscious or lean with bellies full of life experience and stories to share simply because they have lived half their lives or more already.

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Maybe I can eventually direct a little troupe of 4 or 5 women, dancing with the assaya, baskets or zills… dancing joyful, dancing our stories in the old way.  A small student dance troupe like the Allspice dancers of Arabesque Academy: “dancers who celebrate the female spirit at its most glorious time in life… a group of Bellydancers who have lived a bit and revel in their wisdom, uninhibited sensuality and zest for life.”

Group01I could also hire out to work with other troupes… teach a choreography or perhaps come into the studio and rehearse them in preparation for performance. I could do that on a charge-by-the-hour, workshop style basis.

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I am very good at troupe direction, if you don’t mind my saying so.  My dance troupe Saba and all the accolades we received over the years is proof of that. I’m tough but fair (and a helluva lot of fun). Just ask these gals, lol!Saba 1 by M.Collins

As far as teaching goes, my preference is to work with intermediate and advanced students. Because I don’t want to tie up my time year-round, I envision teaching occasional themed master-classes and workshops instead of on-going classes.  I’d like to revive the Special Topics classes that I had started to develop before I was interrupted by illness.

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It can be a tricky thing to carve out a niche in a new dance community, but I’m not a political person, and I’m generally easy-going. I’d really like to be a positive-minded contributing member of Salmon Arm’s dance community, if they want me.

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I’ve also come to understand that while I will always be a student, I have also stepped out onto that first rung as a master instructor. Yes, I dare to say that out loud. My peers and my community have designated me as such, and it is time for me to acknowledge it. I am still an affiliate instructor with Arabesque International, and that means something.

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As for my personal performance practice, I have come to understand that my dancing heart lies right in the roots – the very guts – of Egyptian dance. In the baladi.  My mentor, Yasmina Ramzy, saw it in me when she called me “little mama baladi” and urged me to pursue that direction several years ago.

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I look forward to finding myself back in the bubble of joy that always overtakes me when I am truly dancing without care.

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This is Baladi. This is the rich flavor that sets my artistic taste buds on fire.

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This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

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Baba Mama

I first heard this song at a show in Saint John New Brunswick in late 2000.

I was sitting in the audience, having finished both of my performances, all settled in and enjoying the show when this fabulously energetic music boomed out of the speakers, and in bounced this little dance troupe from Maine.  They were 4 or 5 young women wearing yoga pants with matching fringe skirts and choli tops, and I was completely mesmerized.  So mesmerized, in fact, that I actually still remember it, 13 years later! 🙂 They were beginner dancers, their choreography was simple and teetered on being over their heads, and yet they outshone many of the performances that I saw that night in sheer joy and enthusiasm. What they lacked in crispness and accuracy was more than made up for in the energy and excitement that they shared both amongst each other and with us in the audience. I no longer remember their choreography, with the exception of two movements: a cute little chest drop while pulling the hands down the front of the body, followed by pelvic drops with the same hand movement, which I changed around a bit and incorporated into my own repertoire.

Fast forward to 2010. I bought a CD at a workshop I was attending in Calgary, and just about fell off my chair when I heard that song start to play!  According to the CD, the song was called Baba Mama. I was so excited that started to choreograph it right in that very moment.

Here it is, performed by Saba Middle Eastern Dance Ensemble. Choreography by yours truly. Watch for that little chest and pelvic drop with the pinch pull-down: I incorporated it into the choreography as little tribute to those lovely young dancers from Maine.