After years of ballet and aerobics, I was looking for 'something different' as a way to keep physically fit and as an outlet to relieve the stress of work, and I turned to belly dance. While dancing does all that I had hoped for physically and mentally, I wasn't prepared for the way it completely took over my life! I often find myself running through routines in my head while I'm driving, waking up to internal music in the middle of the night, and looking at items in stores thinking "could I make a costume out of that?" And no matter how stressful my day has been, I'll go dragging off to class or troupe rehearsal, and I'm always rewarded with a feeling of accomplishment and inner peace as the problems of the day are replaced by an overall sense of well being.
Being part of a troupe elevates that feeling to an even higher level. We all come from different backgrounds and circumstances, with various likes and dislikes, as well as different strengths and weaknesses. But dancing together, we become ONE … for that short time, we're all working together for a common goal and the energy generated amongst us while we dance makes us part of a whole entity. We're aware of each other's feelings and abilities, and with an unspoken communication, try to work together for the good of the group, not as individual dancers, but as one dancer with many parts. There's nothing like the feeling you get when we're working on something together and it really clicks into place. And we cheer each other on when we solo as well, give each other advice on costumes and colors, and work through the bad times, too, because … well, because we're a troupe!
I've played piano since I was 10 years old, and I'm trying to channel some of that ability into learning to play a doumbek and riq. I think it would be really great to perform somewhere and when I've finished dancing to move to the side, pick up my drum, and accompany someone else. Unfortunately, there's just not enough time to do everything, but now that I've retired from my "day job", I'm hoping be able to devote a lot more time to music and dance (in-between magazine deadlines!).
I try to attend every workshop I can that's in my local area (which I guess extends from Greensboro, NC to Richmond, VA!) and my troupe has traveled to workshops in Ohio and Florida as well. I believe that if you have an interest in something, you should take advantage of everything that's available to you. I know I can't do it all, but by going to workshops I pick up a lot of new ideas and it also gives me a chance to meet people from other areas. And how could I pass up a chance to take classes with instructors like Mahmoud Reda, Mesmera, Nadia Hamdi and Suhaila Salimpour?
My husband, Doug, has been very supportive of my dancing and comes to all of our performances to cheer us on and to videotape for us. In fact, we refer to him as the Official World Tribe Roadie because he always seems to be the answer to those questions such as "who's going to go out and get the baskets we left on stage?", "who's going to go pick up ________?" and "how are we going to get all this stuff back to our cars?" And, most important, in every aspect of my life, when I say, "I just don't think I can…", he always says, "why can't you?"
Bakhiit is a beautiful dancer and has lots of creative and artistic ideas about costuming, staging and creating new steps. World Tribe had four dancers, which was a good size for a tribal troupe; but when 2 of them (Ramia and Zuhairah) moved away within a few months of each other, Bakhiit and I had to regroup and learn to work as a duo. It might seem like this would be an easy transition, but in tribal style a duo has a lot of interaction and at first we had some trouble even being able to look each other in the eye without laughing! We've now been performing as a duo for 3 years and we have really grown in our style, technique and presentation. Our ideas and troupe vision are very much in synch and dancing with Bakhiit has been a lot of fun as well!
World Tribe Alumni
Photo credit: Bill Setzer
Photo credit: Bill Setzer