There are only a handful of things that I find more satisfying than enjoying a long, warm bath on a cold winter day after a whirlwind weekend of travel, belly dance, friends, and fun. That’s what I’m doing this very moment as I reflect upon the past few days.
I am beyond blessed to have been able to take eight hours worth of FatChanceBellyDance® Sister Studio Continuing Education workshops with Kristine Adams (hosted by Valizan) on Saturday and Sunday *plus* attend the Shades of Araby 10th Anniversary Show.
After working my day job and then teaching my ATS® dance class in on Friday evening, I loaded up my car, kissed my husbeast goodbye, and drove through the night to Hamilton, Ontario. Six and a half hours and 330 miles later, I arrived at dawn and attempted to familiarize myself with the area. Hamilton is a pretty cool city. Being the ignorant American that I am, I had no idea how large the city is. I was expecting something similar to the size of my home town (~75,000 people). Hamilton has a population of over 500,000. Whoa. Choc-full of interesting old brick buildings and a fantastic food scene, I was in traveler heaven.
I was in traveler heaven except for the driving part. Yeah, let’s talk about that. I’m comfortable with driving in big cities like Chicago and I am used to the above-average number of one-way streets in my home town of Kalamazoo, but Kalamazoo’s streets are on a grid pattern and you can count on being able to easily circle around if you have missed your destination on a one-way street. Hamilton is made up almost entirely of one-way streets and it is not safe to assume that after making a left turn onto a one-way you will immediately be able to make another leftie onto the next one-way, and so on. I ended up driving around for two additional hours in attempts to find and park at the workshop location because of the seemingly willy-nilly layout of the one-way streets in Hamilton. It’s okay though. I got to see more of the city this way.
(ZILL ELASTIC PIC)
Once I had successfully located The Spice Factory, I realized that it was quite close to the Hamilton Farmer’s Market, which excited me because the last time that I was in Canada (ATS® GS/TT Toronto in 2014), I found my #1 favorite cheese in the whole world…one which I discovered in France and have not been successful in finding in the states. I was hoping to get lucky again and, wouldn’t you know, I found my cheese again!! Morbier. Check it out. It’s a bit on the pricey side at over $25/lb, but worth it. Semi-soft, complex fruity flavor, a tad tangy, just plain yummy. I bought a little over a quarter of a pound and ate all of it for breakfast.
Okay, so you really want to hear about the dancey stuff, right? Four workshops with Kristine Adams of FatChanceBellyDance®, who has spent the last three and a half years traveling the world to dance with as many American Tribal Style® dancers in as many different countries as possible. Check out her website/blog at fromthebellyofatraveler.com to read her stories and look at pictures and videos from her travels. The event that I just attended was her very last international one before she returns to the United States and tours the country, continuing her mission of ATS® world domination.
Saturday, 20 Nov 2015, workshops:
- The Usual Suspects – Sticking to the Basics: “Refine and finesse the backbone of your dancing with dynamic combinations and their proper technique. Learn to ‘WOW’ the most critical audiences with simple and clear communication.” We focused heavily on establishing/maintaining good posture and then fine-tuned basic moves like the Taxeem, Arm Undulation, Torso Twist, and Camel.
- The Ginger-Ro-Shambo: “Extreme combinations. Use these exciting combinations to pump up the thrill factor in your performances.” We experimented with creating interesting shapes and textures with moves like the Egyptian Step, Egyptian Half Turn, Triple Egyptian, Shoulder Shimmy Hip Drop Combo, Calibrated Spins, Re-Shamka, and Wet Dog. We also learned a dramatic slow combo for entering the stage from the chorus.
Sunday, 21 Nov 2015 workshops:
- Go With the Flow – Smooth Transitions: “Make the moments between the movements count. In this workshop we will focus on how to bring an elegance and refinement to the ‘and’ to give your dance a polished, educated look.” Using the Barrel Turn, Barrel Cross, and Rainbow, we tried to create seamless transitions to avoid surprising the audience unintentionally.
- Every Shimmy Under the ATS® Sun: “Learn to shake and shimmy in every way possible! Keep your audience amazed with this continuous movement. We will study closely the mechanics of what makes up the shimmy, and work on making your shimmy bigger, bolder, and more reliable.” After drilling almost every shimmy in ATS® existence, we drilled several zil patterns (RLR, Military, Baladi, & Alternating) and then looked closely at the Basic Shimmy, Arabic Shimmy, Turkish Shimmy (and Turkish Half Turn), Ghawazee (and Ghawazee Quarter- and Half Turn).
(EVERYONE DANCING AT WORKSHOP PIC-Here I am (left side of photo) getting schooled by Kristine Adams on my foot/hip work for the Egyptian Step while others drill it. Photo credit: Valizan. )
Now, I’m only a private lesson and an additional hour of SSCE instruction away from FCBD® Sister Studio re-certification. Yip! In addition to learning from Kristine and dancing with a bunch of truly wonderful folks, I got to attend the Shades of Araby 10th Anniversary Show. This was by far one of my favorite showcases to date. I am always happy to see Shades of Araby perform and it was an honor to be there for their 10th anniversary. On top of that, the show was jam-packed with incredibly talented and passionate dancers/troupes that left me yearning for more. I see more road trips to Ontario in my future!
Of course, it was a real treat for me seeing Kristine Adams perform live…she embodies ATS® with every fiber of her being and her moves and aesthetic command one’s complete attention and awe at all times. Shades of Araby brings an unheard of level of energy and drama to each of their performances. Oh, and their costuming is fucking amazing. No, I’m not sorry that I swore there…I own my f-bombs and there is simply no other suitable way to state that fact. Fucking amazing. Anyway, I can’t begin to describe why Kristine Adams and Shades of Araby are so special to watch. If you have the chance to see them live, cancel your other plans and see them instead. Seriously. If they aren’t performing near you, at least follow them on YouTube. At one point, Kristine Adams and Valizan (the founding director of Shades of Araby) performed together. Like I said earlier, I’m a lucky lady to have been able to attend this event.
Okay, so I am trying to get away from taking photos at shows because it detracts from my experience as an audience member and can be annoying to others that are watching or performing, so I don’t have any personal photos to share from the show. Go out and enjoy a live show. And leave your camera/cell phone at home. Relax; fully take in the sights, sounds, and sensations by living in that moment. I promise you that it is much more indulgent this way and, although you won’t have any (let’s be honest….likely crappy) pictures or video from your experience, you will have felt it that much more deeply. ::steps off of soapbox::
(SOA BACKSTAGE- All of the past and present members of Shades of Araby performed together for their 10th anniversary show. Sarah, Sophie, Maral, Karina, Erika, Delice, and Valizan. I absolutely adore them!)
Besides Shades of Araby and Kristine Adams, it was a true pleasure watching the performances of Relativity BellyDance, Karimah Helou, Wild Orchid Bellydance, BellyUp’s Fusion Collective, Invoketress, Krisztina (Michigan respresent!), Serpentina North Ensemble, Lavish, Tribe MayaFire, Ala Nar, and Ishra. During the show, Valizan explained that the performers that were invited are the people/troupes that invited Shades of Araby to perform at their events in their beginnings. That’s how you do community <3
Alright, I know that I get wordy with things here. It’s difficult for me to give the important details without sharing some of the intricacies. Did I mention that I tried pho for the first time? I forgot to rant about the ridiculousness of the ‘Merca’s stubbornness to convert to using the metric system and the importance of familiarizing oneself with foreign road signs and basic traffic laws before taking an international road trip. Also, there appear to be no potholes in Canadian roads. Nice.
I must take a moment to give thanks. Thank you to Valizan for organizing this event, and for going out of your way to make sure that I had a place to sleep, food in my belly, and directions home. Thank you to Kristine Adams for spending many years studying ATS®, then devoting years to traveling the globe to offer top-notch instruction and outstanding workshop, show, and personal experiences to the world. Thank you to Shades of Araby for gracing this world with your powerful, dramatic performances for the past decade. You are one of my biggest influences in dance. Muah!
I can’t possibly thank everyone individually, but I do need to mention a few people that made my trip that much more special. Thank you to Karimah and Barb for inviting me to join you for lunch on Saturday. We don’t have affordable sushi of that caliber in Kalamazoo and it was lovely to chat with you about belly dance and life. Thank you to Barb for letting this strange tattooed, pierced American crash on your hotel floor, and for your company at the show and over dinner at that surprisingly awesome dive bar. You are a joy to hang out with, and an absolute sweetheart! Thank you to Jessica and Laura for taking me out for pho on Sunday! The food made me happy in belly and heart, and it was great getting to know both of you a bit. I ate my leftovers for dinner on the drive home, saving me from having to eat icky fast food. Jessica, thank you for buying my lunch! Next time, I’m buying and I learned my lesson…always exchange currency after crossing the border. Thank you to all of my dance partners! It was nice to see lots of familiar faces from GS/TT last year, and I got to meet a lot of beautiful souls too. Thank you to my mom, husbeast, and Travis for making this trip a possibility. And last, but certainly not least, and to Carolena for creating this beautiful dance style that draws all of us together.
And now friends, my toes are all wrinkly from soaking in the bath tub for too long, so it’s time for me to pull the plug. I hope that you all have a Happy Thanksgiving!