Ooky Spooky 2014

As soon as I got home from Canada (literally the very next day), the dance company that I am affiliated with (Boheme Tribal Belly Dance) hosted their big 2-day long Halloween-themed event: Ooky Spooky 2014. I assist Sarah Schneider Koning (Boheme’s Artistic Director) with event planning and promotion, and I was in charge of getting people signed in for their workshops and helping dancers find the bathrooms, dressing rooms, etc. I am glad that I didn’t take any workshops because I was completely and utterly exhausted from my train travels!

There were some really great workshops available this year!

  • Raks Incendia taught a “Character Dynamics” workshop (how to go dark without making it *too* awkward). Raks Incendia are from Traverse City, Michigan.
  • Lesley Inman showed us how to use our arms, hands, and face to bring drama to your dance in her “Adding the Magic” workshop. Lesley joined us from Twin Cities, Minnesota.
  • Kelley Holder taught “All of the Skirts, All of the Drama,” where she offered tips in combination to help the dancer create flow, dramatic choreographies or improvised numbers. Kelley is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Belladonna Boheme taught one Saturday workshop and one on Sunday as well. “Rattled Your Bones” was a challenging technique-based shimmy workshop that was full of drills. She worked everyone HARD! I was not there for her “Dancing with Ghosts” workshop, but the concept was facing your inner demons, past life experiences, and thinking about your connection to your ancestors in order to discover your true self to encourage confidence and goal setting to benefit your dance. I am told that it was beyond excellent. Belladonna was our star guest instructor and she joined us from Washington DC.
  • Carrie Meyer discussed how to get great performance photos and give the audience your best in her Sunday “Picture Perfect” workshop, which I also regrettably missed due to exhaustion. I have done several photo shoots with Carrie and have also purchased performance pictures of myself from her. She definitely knows how to make belly dancers look great in photos and how to capture the best moments forever in time! Carrie is based in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the owner and photographer of The Dancers Eye – Fine Art Bellydance Photography.

On top of all of these great workshops, there was an evening showcase. I danced in three different numbers with my Boheme Tribal family and had a lot of fun watching the other performances. Belladonna closed out the night with a mesmerizing Maleficent-esque dance complete with lots of shimmies, a crow that looked quite real, and a beautiful set of purple wings.

The first number that I performed in the showcase was Kali (with Ash Boheme and Hannah Boheme). It was the first performance of the show and I think it went very well despite Ash and I being very tired. Remember…I had just returned home from Toronto via 30-hour train/bus trip around 3 pm the day before Ooky Spooky. Ash had been in Uganda for a month and had also returned home the day before. Regardless, this is one of my favorite choreographies and I always love to perform it.

 

The second number that I performed in the showcase was with Boheme Tribal’s improv student troupe. We danced slow ITS (Improv Tribal Style) to “Scorn” by Portishead. This is a very sexy song that all of us really connect with and I am told that we danced beautifully. Here is a picture of me leading the troupe in this performance. I am very proud of this picture because I chose not to have it photoshopped or retouched. This is how I look and it makes me feel beautiful.

(ME LEADING PIC)

Melissa Decker at Ooky Spooky 2014. Photo by Carrie Meyer of The Dancers Eye – Fine Art Bellydance Photography. All rights reserved.

Boheme’s Student Improv Troupe did a mini-session with Carrie Meyer and I LOVE the picture!

(GROUP IMPROV PIC)

Boheme Tribal Belly Dance Student Improv Troupe at Ooky Spooky 2014. From left to right: Front row- Kate, Melissa. Middle row- Bex, Rachel. Back row- Hannah, Ash, Khalima, Cristine. Photo by Carrie Meyer of The Dancers Eye – Fine Art Bellydance Photography. All rights reserved.
The final number that I danced in was “During Hast,” a skirt number choreographed by Boheme’s Artistic Director, Sarah Schneider Koning.  Ash Boheme,  Bex Boheme,  and Hannah Boheme danced it with me and it was a lot of fun! The song was a cover of Rammstein’s original song by a Ukrainian band called Subito.  Listen to the song by clicking here (it will take you to the YouTube video) and imagine us dancing around with our 25-yard skirts!

(GROUP PIC)

“Du Hast.” Bex, Melissa, Ash, & Hannah of Boheme Tribal Belly Dance at Ooky Spooky 2014. Photo by Carrie Meyer of The Dancers Eye – Fine Art Bellydance Photography. All rights reserved.

(OOKY SPOOKY LONG PIC)

In addition to the workshop instructors, dancers from near and far performed in the evening showcase. Other soloists and troupes included Deana, Jhessail, Jinx, Steel Lotus, Jenny of Boheme, Hipnotik Elements, Celeste, Mosaic Bellydance, Calliope and students, Revele Bellydance, and Khalima Ali.

 

It was a fun and successful event!  In addition to all of the guest instructors, performers, my fellow troupe mates, and my Artistic Director, I would like to thank everyone that came out to watch the show. Special thanks go out to two members of the Boheme Tribal family: Thanks Kate for building the gorgeous stage backdrop and thanks Rachel for designing the awesome show poster (P.S. Rachel McGuffin is available for commissions!  Check out samples of her work at her website by clicking here.):

Finally, I would like to thank the members of my family that came to the show to support me: my Grandma Peggy, my mom, my dad, Aunt Jeanne, Bud and Margie, and Tim. Special thanks to my dad for supplying the sound system and being our sound guy…you’re the best! And the biggest thanks of all to my husband Tim for all of your patience and support leading up to the event, for helping with event tear-down, and for being my number one fan. I love you, baby!

Ooky Spooky gets bigger and better every year and I can’t wait to see what Ooky Spooky 2015 and 2016 (the 10th year!!!!) will bring!

Happy New Year 2015!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015 for all! I spent some time yesterday thinking about my 2014 goals (I did pretty good on them!) and writing down my dance goals for 2015. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Practice ATS® belly dance and Tribal Fusion at least twice a week outside of regular classes.
  2. Assemble a complete, professional quality ATS® costume.
  3. Perform ATS® solos at events in order to draw new students and increase visibility.
  4. Teach ATS® belly dance classes up to 3 days per week at various locations.
  5. Complete the annual continuing education requirements for FCBD® Sister Studio re-certification.
  6. Plan on applying for FCBD® Advanced Teacher Training by the end of 2018.I also read a blog post that inspired me to choose a word for the year. I was looking for a nice image to accompany the quote found in the post, but had to keep reading from the beginning after seeing the author’s thoughts. The quote that led me to the blog post:

    “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” ~Brad Paisley

    After some consideration, I chose #GROUND to be my word. The word has multiple meanings to me and it is perfect for describing what I will be doing and what I want to focus on. It is my goal to be grounded mentally so that I can maintain that precarious balance between work and play. I am also laying the groundwork for my career as a belly dance instructor this year. While doing so, I must always remember and honor my roots because I would not be where I am today without my mentors, friends, family, and muses that supported me along the way and inspired me to become who I am.

    What are your goals for the new year and how do you keep yourself on track throughout the 12 months? Which word would you choose for yourself for 2015 and why?

The Journey Has Begun! ATS® Dream Toronto

Today, I began my 30 hour Amtrak train journey from Kalamazoo to Toronto, where I will attend ATS® General Skills and Teacher Training! I’m currently sitting in the food court at Chicago’s Union Station. Why, you may ask, am I in Chicago if I am going East to Toronto? For some reason, that was the only option for this part of my trip. My next stop is Buffalo, NY and then on to Toronto. On my return trip, I get to bypass Chicago and travel from Toronto to Buffalo, Buffalo to Toledo, Toledo to Ann Arbor, and Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo. Continue reading “The Journey Has Begun! ATS® Dream Toronto”

Preparing for Toronto

I did some grocery shopping today for my Toronto trip. After conducting online research and talking with a few people that are familiar with Canadian border crossing customs (Thanks Jim Boz and William Davis!), I’ve decided to take some breakfast and snack foods with me across the border to save money and time. I would rather not have to go shopping for food too much while I’m there and I can’t afford to eat out for every meal. I’m happy with what I came up with.

supplies for Toronto belly dance conference

I bought relatively healthy foods that are high in protein and energy. I will be dancing for 5-6 hours a day for 6 days straight, so I need to take good care of myself and I tend to skimp out when it comes to eating well, so this time I am making a strong effort. I also bought a few supplies that I will need for my trip. I spent about $70. Here’s what I got foodwise:

  • Quaker Warm & Crunchy Granola (Apple Cinnamon)- 8 packets/box, will make for a lovely warm nutritionaly-sound breakfast.
  • Carnation Breakfast Essentials Complete Nutrition Drink (Milk Chocolate)- 10 servings, for extra calories and protien (bonus: lots of vitamins and minerals).
  • Tiesta Tea (Passion Berry Jolt)- CAFFEINE!, makes 15-25 cups.
  • Applesauce (mixed berry)- 6 cups. Mmmm.
  • Pistachios- 1 lb. For my salty food cravings, Also a good source of fiber, protein, & vitamins & minerals.
  • Brookside Dark Chocolate Acai & Blueberry. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
  • 4 Larabar Fruit and Nut Bars (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Blueberry Muffin, & Peanut Butter Cookie)
  • 3 Cliff Bars (Peanut Toffe Buzz, Sierra Trail Mix, & Oatmeal Raisin Walnut)
  • 1 Luna Nutrition Bar (Chocolate Peppermint Stick)
  • 1 20oz. Coca-Cola- for my second day on the train heading to Toronto (so I don’t have to pay and arm and a leg for one on the train).

I also bought the following non-food items:

  • A sleep mask
  • Aleve
  • Icy Hot
  • A soap case
  • Burt’s Bees Milk & Honey Body Lotion (my psoriasis has been flaring up and I have been told that this works well for a friend)
  • Travel-sized spray bottle- for an essential oil body spray that I’m going to make (25 yard skirts can get stinky after hours of sweating in them!)
  • A clutch purse

It is hard to believe that I will be on my way to Toronto in 4 days! I have so much to do before then…tomorrow is my husband’s company ball, where we get to get dressed up and party overnight in Grand Rapids at the Amway Grand Hotel. On Sunday, we drive home from GR, return Tim’s tux, and pick up our chickens that we are adopting from a friend. My brother is helping us transport the chickens and their coop back to our house. After making sure that they are good to go and that my husband can keep them alive for the 10 days that I will be gone, I will start packing for my trip. On Monday morning, I have to take my dog to the vet (she has Kennel Cough and needs antibiotics) and then I can spend the rest of the day making sure that I have everything in order. I leave on Tuesday. Whew! Adventure does not come without a certain level of stress, but it is going to be worth it!

1 Week Until ATS® GS/TT in Toronto!

Next Tuesday, I depart for Toronto to attend ATS® General Skills Classic and Modern as well as Teacher Training with Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman and Megha Gavin. I am excited beyond words. I can’t wait to meet Carolena and Megha, immerse myself in American Tribal Style belly dance, meet my roomates and other intensive attendees, and explore Toronto!
Today, I picked up my Amtrak tickets. My voyage is 30 hours ONE WAY and I have EIGHT separate tickets for it! This experience is going to be *epic*.

train tickets

Stay tuned for lots of updates! I’m taking my camera and tablet with me, so there will be pictures, blog entries, and maybe even some video.

2014 Michigan Middle Eastern Dance Championships

​A couple of weeks ago, I competed in the Michigan Middle Eastern Dance Championships (MMEDC) in Wyoming, Mi. I won a free pass last February and thought I would perform with other members of the dance school that I attend, but everyone was tired of performing after a busy summer, so I decided to go solo. It was an incredibly stressful and terrifying experience,  but I am glad that I did it and I may even go back next year to defend my title!

Why was it stressful? Well, I am a bit of a procrastinator and, even though my performance was to be mostly improvised (I competed in the “Open Tribal” division), I would have liked to be a bit more prepared. I had a really busy week before the competition,  and I didn’t choose my music until two days beforehand. I didn’t dance to the music much until the day beforehand and the competition started at 11am in a city that is about 2 hours away from my house, so I didn’t get to run through it much before performing. When I arrived at the studio, I got into costume (I had already done my makeup earlier that morning) and attended the competitor’s meeting, where I tried to warm up my muscles while listening to the details. I’m not a morning person, so it felt strange to be performing so early…something for me to keep in mind for the future.

Now, we get to the terrifying part! I realized fairly quickly that my mind was not at it’s sharpest that early and I kept forgetting which moves I wanted to highlight. Luckily, I had listened to the music a bajillion times in the two days prior to the event, so I knew it very well. I told myself that, if my mind went blank while dancing, just do some 3/4 shimmies until I think of another thing to do. I did not feel prepared physically or mentally when it was time for me to dance in front of the four judges (Ruby Beh, Sarah Mayne, Sarah Schneider Koning, & Ziva Lynn) and the audience, but I arrived on time to wait my turn (something that some other people failed to do) and told myself to do my best with what I had to work with.

Once I was dancing, most of the terror disappeared,  but I became frustrated with myself because I kept going back to 3/4 shimmies A LOT. My mind was giving me a big “F-YOU!!!!,” but I tried my best to maintain a look of confidence. My number was over before I knew it and the audience was very supportive, clapping along to the music and cheering at the end. I took home the first place trophy for my division…my first trophy from anything, ever!

I received the judges’ score sheets afterward and got a lot of great advice and encouragement from all of them. The biggest messages that I got from them were to add more variety, make more eye contact, and clean up my technique. My mom videotaped my performance for me, so I got to watch myself later and give my own critiques. I agree 100% with the judges and I am making a conscious effort to do better.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I wasn’t excited about doing it at first…I don’t care much for titles and accolades, but I learned a lot about myself, my dancing/performing, and how dance competitions are done, all of which will help me to become a better dancer.

Preparing for ATS® General Skills & Teacher Training

I recently did a Kickstarter to fund a trip to Toronto this October, where I’ll complete FatChanceBellyDance® General Skills (Classic and Modern) and Teacher Training sessions over a period of about a week. I wanted to give you an update on where I am at with the project.

I have registered for the event and found a group of women that are renting out an apartment less than 5 minutes away from the studio. I’ll be staying three other ladies, one from New York, one from LA, and one from Spain. I’m excited to meet them in person and I’m really happy that I was able to find such an inexpensive option for lodging. There is only one bed in the apartment, but there is at least one futon and I can always bring a cot or air mattress if needed. There is a full fridge and nice bath tub. Hopefully we don’t fight over the bathroom Haha! I was hoping to be in a hotel by myself with a hot tub and/or pool, but I saved a LOT of money going this route. Staying at the apartment for 8 nights cost me less than what I would have paid for two nights at the cheapest hotel that was close enough and that fit my standards (I found some really cheap ones online, but there’s no way that I would stay at them, and I’m not incredibly picky).

I have also purchased my Amtrak train tickets. I compared all of my travel options and train was the cheapest by far. The trip is 30 HOURS ONE WAY! There are layovers and I actually have to travel in the wrong direction for several hours to go to Chicago and then over toward Canada. All of the sleeper cabins were sold out, so I’ll have to sleep in a seat, but I can bring a pillow and blanket for no extra charge and I plan on bringing my own food so I don’t have to buy it on the train or near train stations. Because it takes so long to get to Toronto from Kalamazoo, MI, I am leaving two days before the event starts. One of those is a travel day and the other is a day to relax and get acquainted with my surroundings.

Now that most of the major planning is done, I am spending lots of time preparing my mind and body for this experience. I know that it is going to be overwhelming but awesome. I am brushing up on what I already know and getting a basic familiarization with the other dance moves that I should know about. I’m also thinking about what types of things I’ll need to do for myself to rest and relax when I’m there. I tend to push really hard constantly until I finish something, not giving myself time to replenish and I know that I cannot do that in this situation, so I’m going to bring along non-belly dance related magazines to read and think of some other stuff to do. One of my favorite ways to unwind is to take a really long hot bath, but I don’t think that will be possible with 3 other women in the apartment. I’ll bring my iPod, maybe a few of my favorite movies. Anyway, I definitely need to think about that more.

Well, I think that is enough on this subject for now. Can you tell I’m excited?!!!!