It's funny… in making up potential things to try for my 50 New Things list, I find myself adding on all the ideas and events I've wanted to try for a while, but never got around to doing. Some of them are bigger, like "climb Halfdome," but some of them are small and simple. I guess what makes the difference is they're full of meaning for me personally. I like that. :)

So in that vein I decided to try something I've found vaguely intriguing for a while: I looked into getting pretty feathers and tinsel in my hair. Anna, the lady I decided on, is very good — I highly recommend her! She runs Hair Tinsel and Feathers by Anna, and she's patient, very reasonably priced, helpful, and just a generally nice person. Because she's not in a salon I feel she's much more attentive to you as a customer. Also, the cool thing about "tinsel" is it's really silk, which means you can wash both it and the feathers with your hair, with no problems. It was astonishingly easy to have put in, it lasts for several months, and I've already gotten several compliments (yay!), and handed out all the extra cards Anna gave me.

Anna also teaches both Zumba and pole-dancing, so if you go to her and are interested, don't forget to ask about them. I'm considering pole-dancing as something I've never tried before, although I confess I'm waffling a bit due to its "reputation." Then again… it would certainly be different and new for me.

Any moving's from the Mover
Any love from the Beloved

— Rumi

Here's another first for me: my first American Tribal Style belly dancing class! Ever since I learned about it I've wanted to learn ATS belly dancing, or American Tribal Style — I've just been a little shy of doing so. Thanks to Janice, a good friend, I've finally located a good teacher in an excellent local dancing group! This last Saturday I attended my first class with Natalia of Persephone Dance Company, and very much enjoyed myself. Admittedly, the next day my arms and lower back were yelling at me, but it's definitely worth it. I'll be doing my best to regularly attend the Saturday morning classes.

I've been asked why ATS in particular. Here's my reply from a paper I wrote a few years ago:

[T]here's a small, contrary part of me which flatly refuses to spend time, money, and effort learning a dance which nearly pleads for (male) audience approval; as far as I knew both belly dancing and burlesque did that, and those connotations turned me off intensely. I'd had enough of the archaic and damaging mindset which organized religions try to foist off on women; why would I dance something which reinforced it? Dancing helped me rid myself of that sort of nonsense, and made things graphically clear….

I had assumed all bellydancing was what I now know is called cabaret style: danced alone with an audience expecting to be entertained and titillated, with gauzy clothing that highlighted the body, where "even the moves tend to be smaller, cuter, flirtatious" (from a personal interview with Zuza [not her real name]). It was a shock and a joy to find ATS was not that at all — that in fact it was, in its own way, everything I'd been looking for! I discovered ATS is a completely improvisational style of dance; there is no set choreography. It is group-oriented, a style where power is deliberately shared: leadership is passed from dancer to dancer, with the others following the lead of the current leader. Cues are given through a shared somatic vocabulary, which has several fascinating side effects. For example, if you are an ATS dancer, you can dance with any ATS dancer you ever meet! This delighted me — but even more encouragingly, I believe it is a dance form which emphasizes the focused attention required for the blend:

The dance is always different. You always have to be paying attention to your leader; you always have to be aware of what's going on. That means the energy is sort of between dancers, and there's really not much time for the audience, you know? The focus is not, "here we are, we hope we please you," it's more, "we're dancing together and you are lucky that we are letting you watch us!"'
— personal interview with Zuza

According to Zuza, the style is quite intentionally unlike cabaret, with movements that are "very grounded, very earthy, not really delicate and fluttery [like cabaret style], but very deliberate and very powerful." She also mentioned the costuming with enjoyment… Jewelry, make-up, and clothing are worn with an eye towards personal strength and beauty rather than seduction: "Wearing layers of clothing is like putting on armor. We become impenetrable in a sense, and formidable" (Djoumahna, The Tribal Bible, 108).

At this point my sole worry is that the classes are $15 apiece. I'm going to try bartering website work for the clothing, at a local belly dancing equipment store, so with luck that cost will be denied or seriously reduced. It is my hope to practice and learn enough to attempt performing before the year is out, as well. Either way, I'm enjoying myself tremendously, so we'll see how it goes!

Similar Posts: