15 March 2015

argurotoxos: a lizard with striking blue and white marks (lizard)
I signed up for my first 'gym membership' last week, except that the membership was for a dance studio. This dance studio is actually the most expensive of all the local belly dance classes, but they also offer the most variety, including the only American Tribal Style (ATS) belly dance class in the region. By paying a membership, I can take as many classes as I want each month. I debated over signing up; when I started taking dance classes again, I set a rule for myself at the very beginning that I wouldn't take more than one class a week, out of consideration for time, money, driving, and energy/commitment level. However, even if I continue taking just one class a week, paying for a membership is still the cheapest option.

The classes:

Tuesday - Tribal fusion belly dance
Wednesday - American Tribal Style belly dance
Thursday - Beginning flamenco; belly dance basics

I've been to the tribal fusion and ATS classes twice each. Thursday's classes I've yet to try; the basics class sounds like it's more Egyptian cabaret style.

So, what's up with all the different types of belly dance? I don't know that I have enough experience to write a thorough response, and even though I've grown enamoured with tribal fusion and ATS lately, I still have the most experience with Egyptian cabaret classes (and only about six months of those).

Tribal fusion belly dance was my first belly dance exposure. The performance was set to a techno/electronica song and incorporated various dance, and even acrobatic, moves. Tribal fusion seems to be the most open and creative of all the belly dance styles; dancers use all kinds of different music and costumes and blend in whatever other styles or disciplines interest them. The teacher at this studio sometimes throws in hip hop moves, which are challenging to me as I've never learned that style. Even two of the most well-known tribal fusion solo dancers, Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes, have quite different styles. Tribal fusion often has a strong focus on isolating different parts of the body, grounding, and sharp pop/lock movements.

ATS belly dance is quite different. It's not the type of dance I would have though I'd like, but it's currently my favourite class. ATS teaches set patterns of moves along with cues. The dancer in the top left corner takes the lead and the rest of the group read her cues to keep in time. In this way, a group can dance together on the spot even though there is no choreography. It can be challenging, especially when I'm still learning a move, to focus on the moment and on the dancers around me. In a way, I could think of ATS as the extroverted side of belly dance. During my first ATS class, I was under the idea that it would take months to learn just a few of the set patterns, but only two classes in we've covered at least 15. (The patterns seem to be split into slow and fast moves, and fast moves are usually performed while playing zills [finger cymbals].) Having other belly dance experience, and practicing with zills on my own, have been hugely helpful.

Oddly, I find defining Egyptian cabaret difficult. It's probably the most widely known and taught style in the US, is usually done to Middle Eastern music, and often features glittery costumes. Personally, Egyptian cabaret feels more airy and playful to me. When I started taking tribal fusion classes, one of my teachers explained that, while there's often some bounce in Egyptian cabaret movements, tribal aims to minimize bounce as much as possible. Most dancers I've talked to started with Egyptian cabaret before moving into other styles, which was also true for me.

I've done a couple flamenco DVDs from the library, but that's the extent of my experience. I was surprised to learn that my ATS teacher (who actually started with ATS belly dance first) was also in the intermediate flamenco class. Unfortunately, I must have sold or donated the black character shoes I used for plays in high school, so I'm hoping the black shoes I bought a few years ago at Salvation Army that look sort of like flamenco shoes will suffice and not be uncomfortable. (Real flamenco shoes often have 2" heels and nails hammered into the soles to emphasize the sound, but aren't required for the beginner class.)

Wednesday's ATS class is the one I'm most committed to. I don't plan on spending three nights a week at dance, and actually prefer to take dance classes on days I work so I can dance on my own on my days off, although I sometimes wonder if I'll have the energy to go right from work. However, since I have the membership, I feel I should take advantage of it and maybe alternate Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as Wednesdays. (I never signed up for Netflix or the YMCA for similar reasons -- if I have a membership, I feel I should take advantage of it as much as I can to get my money's worth, but on the other hand, I don't want to just sit and watch things/be in the gym during all my free time. And if I'm just watching a couple things a week, well, I can just go to the library for that.)

I have some guilt that I'm not going back to the studio I was at in the fall. Several things motivated my decision: the studio was farther away, classes ended later and I often wasn't home until 9:30 or 10 pm, I'm not as interested in Egyptian cabaret as tribal, and I felt that most of the time would be spent putting together and rehearsing choreography for the end-of-year performance, which I wouldn't be in. Sometimes I leave for class at the new studio right from work, eating a quick snack and changing in the bathroom, but the advantage is that I'm home by 8:30 pm at the latest. (The Thursday class ends later.) One disadvantage of this new studio is that traffic is often quite heavy when I drive to class; even when I take the back roads, it still takes longer to get to class than to get home.


argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)

March 2016


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