Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Eeeeeeeeee Elbows!

American Tribal Style is a dance form which prides itself on excellent posture. We create elegant lines with our bodies that show strength and grace. From the soft but strong curve of our arms, slightly bent knees, to keeping our pelvis tilted and lower abs engaged so we're never sticking our tushies out - ATS posture conveys stability and confidence.

A crucial element to remember when keeping correct ATS form is our elbows. How many videos have you seen on youtube where you see the dance but you don't feel the strength? If you look at their arms you might have your answer. All too often elbows are let dangle and droop where they are not meant to.

Granted, there are a few exceptions - Ghawazee Shimmy, Shoulder Shimmy Hip-Drop, etc. but generally these principles apply. Let's have a look at how elbows should be - engaged and elegant. EEE!

The first thing to remember about elbows is (except for a few select moves) they should be perpendicular to your body - never drooping. here are some examples:

You can see these dancers emanate strength and poise - and their elbows never fall below the yellow line - the arms are held up so they are perpendicular or even higher.

The other way we display strength through our elbows is by keeping them engaged. This is slightly different when we have them up (as in the Egyptian) or down (right arm in Reverse Turn).

If the arms are up as in an Egyptian, Arabic, etc. the elbows should be gently pulling backwards - away from the audience. In this way we show the soft curve in the arm - rather than showing the elbow pointing directly ahead and the arm looking straight or falling forward.

If the arms are down, we want to pull the elbow forward, toward the audience. Again, to elegantly show the full side and soft curve of the arm.

This is a little bit harder to explain, but here are some examples I hope will clarify:

In the first picture, especially in the dancers left arm you can see how she has a soft curve in her arm and the elbow is pointing out, almost back - not to the front. The lovely ladies to the right all show how the arms curve and elbows flex slightly backwards as well. Beautiful engaged, elegant elbows. EEE!

At first it takes great awareness of your body to remember to hold your elbows in this way. It may take time to drill into your head but eventually it will become automatic.

Chorus is an important time to remember your EEE as well, especially during slow songs. When performing taxeem or ribcage rotations our arms are in a soft curve, but down by our sides. We can show strength even then by pulling the elbows forward.

Hope this helps you look strong and elegant while dancing!! Just remember: EEEEEE!

I am NOT a dance teacher nor professional. I do not claim to be a perfect dancer or perfect advisor in dance technique. This is just me passing on what I have learned in my classes in hopes it will help you!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Style Inspiration: Vintage Belly Dance

Belly dance is an ancient artform, and as we all know trends tend to repeat themselves. Let's have a look at these beautiful dancers of old and be inspired by their costumes and grace. :)

Friday, 19 August 2011

100 Reasons to Belly Dance

1. It's FUN. 2. You meet awesome people. 3. Muscles grow in places you didn't think you had them. 4. The jewelry. 5. Endless colour combinations. 6. Shimmying. 7. Decreased stress. 8. Improved flexibility. 9. Better sex. 10. Festivals and performances to go to. 11. Finally a place other than the beach or pool to show off tummy rings or tattoos. 12. Increased confidence. 13. Great reason to dress up. 14. Crazy Eye-liner. 15. Weight loss. 16. Lean muscle gain. 17. Your posture will improve. 18. Backaches and feet problems might be averted by better posture. 19. Self-awareness. 20. Self-confidence. 21. Learning to trust others. 22. Better sleep. 23. Reduces anxiety. 24. Lower risk of heart disease and cancer. 25. Alleviate and reduce depression. 26. Strengthens your immune system. 27. Makes you more graceful. 28. Better self-esteem. 29. New friendships. 30. Wearing jingly items - coin bra's/belts etc. 31. The music. 32. Learning about other cultures. 33. More smiling. 34. Good preparation for birth. 35. Increased flexibility. 36. Improves muscle control. 37. Getting to wear super bright/dark eye make-up. 38. Your spouse/partner will like it. 39. Humility - it's a lot harder than people might think. 40. Huge earrings. 50. Sense of community and connection grows. 51. Learn how to spin without getting dizzy. 52. Feel more feminine. 53. Improves oxygen intake. 54. Playing with swords. 55. Perform. 56. Sense of accomplishment. 57. Facing your fears. 58. Improves endurance. 59. Endless outlet for creativity. 60. An addiction that is good for you. 61. Learn how to wrap a turban. 62. Flowers galore. 63. Beautiful fabrics. 64. Sparkly things. 65. Expand your comfort zone. 66. Henna - and showing it off! 67. Bindis. 68. Haflas! 69. Learning a musical instrument - zills 70. Dancing with friends. 71. Stay in shape. 72. Fun blogs to read ;) 73. Shopping! 74. Increased muscle tone. 75. Increased energy. 76. JOY. 77. Acceptance for others and ourselves grows. 78. Increased spirituality. 79. Relieves PMS. 80. Improved social life. 81. Shock ex's and old classmates. 82. Better circulation. 83. *Can* be a relatively inexpensive hobby. 84. Hobby that can eventually bring income and even become profession. 85. Self-expression. 86. Increased passion for life. 87. Better balance. 88. To feel alive. 89. Improved concentration and focus. 90. The endorphins. 91. Deeper connection to women all over the world, past, present and future. 92. Something to do when music moves you. 93. Decreased cynicism and negativity. 94. Longer life. 95. Travel to places you might not have otherwise gone. 96. Treasure hunting in thrift stores. 97. Creating new costumes or accessories. 98. Introduce friends and family to more cultures. 99. Impress others and feel great. 100. Did I mention it's FUN?

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

My Beginning in Dance: Part Three

So I kept going, week after week, loving the dance in spite of my inability, lusting after those costumes even though I felt I was no where near deserving of them. The zilling came naturally to my musical side and was a redeeming feature when the Egyptian - and by that time, Circle Step - was driving me a bit too crazy.

Then came the shimmy.

My flat little butt remembered it's long-forgotten Shakira-induced desire to shake. Our teacher diligently showed us 6 different ways for our bodies and brains to understand the shimmy, making us laugh the whole way. Gradually, it came. And it was So. Much. Fun! All of us ladies were beaming. The trust we had gained from each other during our many bumbling group dances strengthened and we were dancing improv together! Pivot bump! Egyptian! Arabic! Shimmy shimmy shimmy!

I don't think I decided for sure that I wanted to continue dancing in a new session until lesson 6 - the very last class. We worked on our shimmies more, on our zilling and then at the end we did a shimmy drill. For seven minutes we shimmied! We turned our shimmies and walked our shimmies backwards and forwards and turned again. Our teacher motioned for us to get into a circle, and like good little dance students we giggled and found our places.

We danced and shimmied and turned in that circle - connected to one another and yet each of us dancing with her own unique style and confidence. It was possibly the most joy I had felt since my life had been catapulted into chaos that past February. There was no way I was letting that feeling escape. I haven't stopped dancing since then.

When think of the first time I danced in a group, stressing over not understanding the Egyptian, and the few discouraging moments where I thought I couldn't keep going, I can't imagine what my life would be like now if I had let that stop me.  Most things worth doing are difficult, and learning to belly dance is no exception.

If I had let my failures and self-doubt keep me from going back to class, I'd be missing out now on one of my greatest joys. Now I love improv in groups with my dance friends - we laugh at our mistakes, congratulate our improving skills and zaghareet after! The Egyptian eventually did succumb to my will, and I've learned many more moves since.

I hope this encourages you, on bad days, to keep going. Whatever you're up against today is no match for your perseverance. One day you can look back and see where you've been, and look forward with excitement and joy at what's yet to come.

'On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined!' ~ Lord Byron

If you'd like to share your story, please email me at thetribalway@gmail.com

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

My Beginning in Dance: Part Two

I was excited and also very nervous about venturing into this unfamiliar territory. My first belly dance class arrived on a Tuesday evening, and the ice was broken as we stood in a circle and said our names. I wore a tank top and black yoga pants - others were in beautiful full skirts and these adorable little crop-tops I had never seen before. They had very ornate looking earrings, and antique belts - but even better was the joy they radiated! They couldn't wait to start dancing and their enthusiasm filled the room, permeating even my shakey nerves with assurance.

My new teacher began by explaining the basics of ATS, how it is a language of moves and each has a cue. She described how ATS dancers from different corners of the world could meet, and even if they could barely understand one another, they could perform a beautifully improvised set with no rehearsal whatsoever. This concept was new and intriguing. Even moreso was my teacher, as she spoke with such passion about the dance. She proceeded to show us the moves we would be going over that evening. She moved with such skill and grace, it was mesmerizing. Suddenly I found myself coveting her skills and passion for dance, and I knew I'd do whatever I could to develop them.

As she taught us the moves my clumsy body did it's best to cooperate. My left/right dyslexic tendencies did not make things any easier, and my general lack of coordination would have been a hilarity to observe I'm sure. I think by the end of the night, I could successfully do the Pivot Bump! Lovely and simple and my sole ego boosting (preserving?) move for the rest of the session - particularly after the dreaded Egyptian, which my brain could not comprehend. So, I thought, she wants my feet to move a certain way, while my hips take turns bumping up and forward - and she has the nerve to ask my arms to move as well? Don't forget the count - and then adding a turn?

Are you KIDDING me?!

Then came dancing in groups. Our dance teacher conceded that yes, this might be scary, but there has to be a first time! You can get through this! Well I did - barely. My anxious tears didn't fall and a sweet woman in a bright skirt brushed my arm with a motherly touch. She told me I did well, and that it'd get better. Maybe I did, or maybe she just saw my eyes glisten, still - she saved the day.

There were a couple nights I went home after dance and had a few self-pity tears. I felt like my limbs were in cahoots against me and I'd never improve. My emotions were also still very fragile from the anxiety and hurt that spring had brought me. And to top it off, my pride was hurt. Like I said, I'd never done anything like this before. I was used to being 'good' at art and music, not quite so challenged like this. But I was still determined to finish up the 6 weeks. I'd paid for them, and I'd promised myself I'd complete it, if just to say 'I tried'.

I had to keep going.

Part Three tomorrow :)

Monday, 15 August 2011

My Beginning in Dance: Part One


Oh Shakira. Really, you could say she was what got me started dancing. In spite of friends mimicking her by bleating at me like a goat, I've been a fan for years. In high school I remember watching her music videos and attempting a shimmy for the first time. Of course, back then I didn't know it was called a shimmy - I just tried to shake my booty as fast as I possibly could.  (This was usually done alone, so as not to frighten anyone...)

I  loved watching the dancing in Objection and the belly dance type moves in Whenever, Wherever. Such fun! I began to think belly dancing would be a fun way to get some excercise - little did I know what obsession was in store for me years later.

I tossed around the idea of learning to belly dance with a friend, but we didn't know where to start and schedules never seemed to cooperate. Dancing went to the back of my head.

Then in February 2010 my world turned upside down: in one day I moved out of my house, bought a car and said goodbye to the 4 year relationship I had been in. This caused more pain than I knew I could endure at times, and lead to months of struggling with depression, anxiety and a very skewed self-image.

Getting back on my feet included going out with friends, gaining my confidence - even beginning to date again. Still, I needed something for myself. Something that could bring new friendships, better health, and much needed joy. So finally a friend and I worked out a schedule and committed to going to 6 weeks of dance class.

Now I have to give you a picture of what I was like pre-dancing. I was one of *those* girls. You know, any excuse to miss gym, never been to a fitness class in my life, heck - the bowling balls at the local bowling alley hurt my arms! My hobbies had always centered more around music, arts and crafts.

Going into this class, I knew it was going to be difficult. I decided if I could just get through it, I could at least have that small sense of accomplishment. I had no idea at the time how much I was underestimating the challenge and the gratification that would come from these classes, or how they would change my life.

Part Two tomorrow! :)

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Tribal Fashion DIY

   Tribal style is everywhere this summer - wait, where have we heard that before?  A great way to update our wardrobe is with an easy to make DIY statement piece. Have a look and enjoy adapting these great ideas into your own stylish, tribal fashion!

Check out the tutorial >Here<

Tutorial >Here<

Just glue/sew on!

Sew super long feather onto a piece of fabric, glue to a clip and voila!

Tutorial >Here<

Info >Here<

Tutorial >Here<

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Video Spotlight: Silver Wolf Clan

   Silver Wolf Clan, or Clan della Lupa Argentea, is a FCBD sister studio located in Italy. Their student troupe is Tengri Tribe. 

Enjoy :)

They have a beautiful gallery of photos on their website as well, lots of outside shots which I love! Have a look here: http://www.erikadellacqua.com/Erika/Photos.html

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Healthy Summer Smoothies

My favourite, refreshing, light summer snack (or lunch) is a delicious fruit smoothie. Healthy and filling, it's a perfect post-dance practice treat!  Just thought I'd share how I make them! Enjoy :)

  • Half a banana
  • One cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1-2 cups milk - (I use almond or coconut milk)
  • 1-2 tblsp almond chunks/slices (You can find these in the bulk section of your grocery store)
  • 1 tsp icing sugar
  • Any health powder you want to add - protein/greens etc.

   Add all ingredients to your blender, mix and enjoy!

  • This makes one smoothie - just double it if you're sharing with a friend!
  • I use the magic bullet blending system, which is great because I can just make a quick smoothie for myself and there is very little clean-up. A normal blender works fine too.
  • The icing sugar is not necessary, so just eliminate it if you are avoiding sugar.
  • Use yogourt instead of milk if you want a thicker consistency.
  • You might wonder about the almonds, but it adds a nice crunch and good protein to the smoothie.
  • I usually add a tablespoon of my greens mix:

Hope you're all having a beautiful summer!
Please comment below with your favourite smoothie flavours and recipes :)