Ladies I Love: T is for Ever-So-Talented Tribal Fusion Bellydancers

Bellydance used to be a big part of my life, and for today’s T-related A to Z Challenge post, I am going to talk about a couple of Ladies I Love, my favorite Tribal Fusion Bellydancers.  Just before I moved to Portland, I started taking beginning bellydance classes in San Diego, so when I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I had a good foundation to explore the many types of bellydance that are out there.  I’m certainly no expert on various bellydance styles and I haven’t danced in a few years now, but I’d like to give you a taste of some of the bellydance styles you may encounter.  You might have seen solo bellydancers perform when you go out to eat Moroccan food; those are typically Egyption cabaret style dancers – lots of colors, scarves, jingly shiny accessories, and they often perform to more traditional middle-eastern music (see the photo below, left).  American Tribal Style (ATS), another another form, borrows traditional bellydance moves and is typified by multiple dancers performing the same movements at the same time.  While there is some improvisation in the choreography, complex movements are signaled by a leader to other dancers in the troupe with subtle movements so that all the dancers know what step is coming up.  ATS dancers borrow a lot of their dress and makeup styles from Eastern Europe (think gypsy!) and Africa to create a unique and recognizable look (below, right).

But let’s get back to tribal fusion bellydance!  I first saw this style at an Offbeat Bellydance show at the Blue Monk, in Portland, Oregon.  A dancer named Endymienne took the stage and I had never seen anyone dance like her before – I was absolutely transfixed!  In fact, here’s a picture from her performance that night, way back in 2010:

14 - Endi

All bellydance is about muscle control and isolated movements of the ribcage, hips, stomach, arms and head (among other parts), but tribal fusion includes so much more.  It’s an off-shoot of ATS, but has elements of cabaret, hip-hop, popping, flamenco, burlesque and breakdance.  Movements can be slow and controlled, or fast and percussive.  The style is a beautiful combination of tribal, old 1920’s and 30’s flapper and burlesque, vintage circus, and modern elements (lots of tattoos and piercings, too).  To me, it’s utterly mesmerizing!  Here are a few more photos to help you picture what I’m talking about:

The two women pictured above are probably the most well-known tribal fusion bellydancers in the U.S., and for good reason.  First, there’s Rachel Brice (the two pictures to the left, above), based out of Portland (here’s her wiki page, too).  She has her own studio called Datura, and teaches classes and workshops there.  She has performed and toured both nationally and internationally since 2002 and has a lot of accomplishments to show for it!  Here’s a fun performance she did a few years ago at a Le Serpent Rouge show at the Tractor Tavern up in Seattle (I like it because a bit of her personality comes through in interacting with the rather adoring audience):

Next, there’s Zoe Jakes (two pictures to the right, above), who is part of a musical group called Beats Antique, which formed in San Francisco in 2007.  She and Rachel Brice often perform together, and Zoe Jakes is a guest instructor at Datura, along with having several instructional DVDs of her own.  She has been bellydancing since 2000, and like Rachel Brice, has a ton of accomplishments under her belt.  Instead of a performance video, here’s one of my favorite videos from Beats Antique (called “Revival”, released back in 2011), which will give you a taste of their music (which seems to be a favorite among tribal fusion dancers…I don’t even know how to describe it!), as well as a peek of Zoe Jakes who performs in it about halfway in.

I could go on and on about these ladies and there are a ton of videos of their performances on youtube, so if you’re interested in viewing more, they’re easy to find.  Was it what you were expecting from bellydancers?  Let me know what you think!

A few more bellydance pics for you…

About a week ago I did another photo shoot for Darcy, for her henna business. Here are a few of the better pictures…who’d have thought that it’s actually quite fun getting all painted up with sparkles and henna and then fluttering about in jingly costumes?!

In case you’re wondering, the Photoshop skills are all mine, baby! Darcy’s going to blow up the photos to poster-size for her booth, which she brings to festivals and fairs. Neato, huh?

Superstar!!!

Much like Molly Shannon as her Mary Katherine Gallagher character, I have secretly yearned to be a superstar: worshiped by audiences, adored by fans, and lusted after by teenage boys who have posters of me above their beds. And yes, dear admirers, that day has come – for I have survived my very first bellydance performance.

Ok, I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous. I’ve been taking neo-tribal bellydance classes at Euphoria Studios for a while now and about a month ago we started rehearsing for the annual student show. There are three beginning 2 neo-tribal classes (which is the one that I take) that performed together to do a veil and improv piece; I had my doubts as to whether it would all come together or not because we hadn’t all practiced together in the performance studio (no mirror to watch everyone else!). But in the end, all of us coalesced into a colorful veil-spinning group that made it through the performance without anyone tripping on a veil or passing out. And I didn’t even get blocked by anyone trying to hog the spotlight from *me*! As if they even could…hee hee hee! :oP

Chris took some really nice pictures of our group and the other performers, and I was happy to have him in the audience cheering me on. Yes, I had my concentration face on, but I tried to remember to smile and shake it like the best of them! It really was a lot of fun and I hope that I get another opportunity to perform for such a supportive and enthusiastic audience.

Mo’ Modeling, Mo’ Modeling, Mo’ Modeling!

In case you’ve been wondering how the whole belly dancing thing has been going, it’s been great! I’m taking a couple of classes each week between a few different instructors, all different, all amazing dancers. Ziggy (below, red hair) got me into modeling for an online belly dance clothing company; we did a couple of photoshoots in May, and it was a lot of fun getting all fancied up in clothes I would otherwise never get to wear! Here are a few shots of me doing my thang.

Ok, this last one didn’t make the catalog; I was just goofing around and the photographer snapped the shot. Dang it! That will teach me…maybe…

Uh oh…boobies and bellies ahead!

I had some reservations about posting these next couple of photos on my blog, but I figured that if you’ve been reading Marcilicious this long, well, you probably have a pretty strong stomach and/or good gag reflex control. Don’t worry – you won’t get to see my actual boobies, just my bra, er… bellydancing costume, complete with belly. I started taking a new bellydance class and met a woman (Darcy) who has a henna tattoo business (Lady Henna – check it out!) and she asked if she could henna me up and put the pictures on her website. Woo hoo! Free henna and pictures! So, I headed out to her house and got all fancied up and Darcy applied henna goo to my tum tum and hand, which took about 2 hours. The pictures were taken on Fairview lake, and it was FREEZING (good thing that bra was padded, y’all, or you would’ve gotten to see even more of me than I’d be comfortable with). But I got a couple of good pics out of it, and Darcy is super talented and nice. If you’re in the Portland/Vancouver and want some henna work done for your performance or whatever, please give her a call!

PS – I’m still working on a post for you about spring break, but it’s long and there are a lot of pictures to sort through. And there will be video even! Of chickens and goats being milked! I know you’re excited…I’m working on it, so keep your shirt on (or at least your bra).

The Big Three-Six!

Well, I know that turning 36 is a big deal for most people…it’s such a benchmark in one’s life…so when my friend Cecily from Denver wanted to come out for a visit over my birthday weekend I said “woo hoo! Let’s do it!”. And in fact, it was nice to see not just Cecily, but my friend Andrew from San Diego, and Chris (of course). It was an action-packed weekend, which I will attempt to briefly (or not so briefly, it’s all relative) fill you in on here.

Thursday morning (Feb. 25th, my birthday), Chris presented me with a very nice bottle of wine, two gorgeous hand-blown wine glasses, and a fabulous orange Jersey Shore towel (GTL, that’s what happens at the Jersey Shore, baby) (update: a week later he also gave me a purple/magenta dance top that I wanted – so thoughtful!). I had to go to work that day, which was also incredibly awesome (heh heh heh, rolling eyes now), but after work I met Chris at Melt on 21st right by my house for happy hour. Tasty tots and falafel sliders…yum! But that was just an appetizer really – we swung by the airport and picked up Cecily, whom I hadn’t seen since our adventure in the Chiricauhuas, Thanksgiving 2008 (check out pictures here). Of course, Cecily looked exactly the same as always. Chris researched a few dinner places and we ended up at Siam Society – tasty noodles and hand-ground curry all around. When we got back to my place Chris revealed that he had purchased an angel food cake from – wait for it – a bakery. No cheesy grocery store cake for me! It was soooo good – it had a very light buttercream frosting with raspberry glaze over it, and it even said Happy Birthday Marci on it! What a sweetheart Chris is…awww…

I decided to take Friday off so that Cecily and I could try to find trouble exploring the fine city of Portland. We hopped on the streetcar right outside my apartment, which we rode to Powell’s Books. I subsequently spent way too much money there, but then enjoyed some yummy pizza at Rocco’s for lunch. We then got back on the streetcar and rode it down to the aerial tram, which we rode all the way to the top of the hill – even though it was kind of rainy out, the view was still amazing. We rode the tram back down, got on the streetcar again, then looped around and did some shopping at Buffalo Exchange (start: the Great Fedora Quest). We eventually did the entire streetcar circuit, ending up back at my place mid-afternoon.

Chris picked us up and we drove back downtown where we met up with my friend Andrew, who I used to work with in San Diego. He was in town for a conference so it was good to see him; the four of us walked to Henry’s Tavern for dinner and a sampling of their amazing beer menu (over 100 taps!).

One of our prime objectives for Saturday was to find a fedora for Chris to wear that evening. We decided to hit a thrift store on Mississippi Avenue before my dance class, but alas – they were closed until noon. WTF??? Closed until noon on a Saturday? We waited at Fresh Pot in hopes of a surprise early opening, but that did not happen, so I outfitted Cecily in some bellydance garb and dragged her to my Beginning Neo-Tribal Bellydance 2 class. I think she may have been a bit nervous about it at first, but she has a strong dance background (ballet, tap, swing) so I knew she would have no problem…in fact, I envied her belly-roll skills! I just have belly rolls, no skills. But we had a good time there, nonetheless.

After class we met Chris on Hawthorne for some thrift store shopping. Cecily bought a dress for the evening, but even after scouring 3 stores, we couldn’t come up with a fedora. We did, however, eat a slllooooowwww lunch at Por Que No which was quite delish (albeit a little stressful since I had to scarf as soon as the food arrived so I wouldn’t get a parking ticket).

Cecily and I left Chris to come up with a fedora (and other outfit components) on his own, and later that afternoon, my brother Paul, Anne, and Adelaide came for a visit to my apartment. That kid sure is growing fast…and Abbey knows it (or as Adelaide calls her, “Dabby”). Clearly, the biggest draw for her in coming to my place is Dabby and the choo choo (aka the streetcar that runs down my street every 15 minutes).

The weekend highlight for me was definitely Saturday evening. I’ve alluded to us getting prepped for the night…and for good reason…I purchased tickets for me, Cecily, and Chris to go see The Royal Tease, a burlesque show at the Bossanova Ballroom on Burnside. We had reserved seating with dinner, so we decided to get all dressed up for the event. And as The Baroness says, “any occasion to dress is an occasion to over-dress”. Following that advice, I went over the top, wearing a flashy red cocktail dress, short black wig, and very high heels. Cecily looked smashing in her blue dress, and Chris rocked it with a fedora he purchased at a non-thrift store – it was a combination of leather and striped material – an excellent choice!

The performance was pretty fabulous, with lots of tassels, pasties, T, and of course, A. I think my favorite performers were Charlotte Treuse (amazing tattoos), and Inga Ingenue, who did a really cool toy doll routine and an incredible performance with two giant pink feather fans. The only bummer of the night was that we were supposed to get dessert with our dinner (red velvet cake and cinnamon gelato), but that part of the meal never showed up. And my vegetarian polenta was kinda barfy too, but Chris shared his pork loin and yams so it was all good.

The following day was the last of Cecily’s visit, as she had to hop on a plane first thing Monday morning to return to Denver. We enjoyed a nice(?) brunch at Joe’s Cellar diner (mmm…egg yolk!), the ambiance of which was moodily enhanced by a non-stop musical marathon exclusively featuring Queen and Led Zeppelin. Chris then drove us via the Columbia River Scenic Highway to Crown Point State Park where we stopped at the Vista House, then to Multnomah Falls. It was a gorgeous day so there were plenty of people there, but it gave us excellent photo opportunities. We ended up back at Chris’s house for dinner where he cooked up a delicious meal of home-made crab-cakes and put us up for the night (he lives closer to the airport than me). What a sweetheart!

I’m glad I have such good friends, and that they made my 36th birthday one to remember. If you want to see more pictures, click here. Thanks for hanging in there and reading this not-quite-so-brief blog entry!

Bacon Makes Everything Better!

Wow – what a great bellydance show at The Blue Monk on Saturday night! It was quite the turnout to see the Offbeat Bellydancers strut, shimmy, and shake their stuff – Chris and I had a great time, and it was awesome to see my instructor perform along with many other dancers. Everyone definitely had their own style, and I must say that the white Russians were tasty as well.

But you’re probably wondering where the bacon comes in, right? After the show, Chris and I were almost home when we decided to turn back around and head over to Voodoo Doughnut, a Portland institution that I had never been to before. We had to pay $8 for parking (“but the sign says $2 for the first half hour!” “Yes, but that will still be $8, Sir”) and wait in line for about a half hour, but we finally got our donuts and left post haste so that we could devour them in the privacy of my home. Oh – question: do they make hair nets for facial hair? Just wondering…

Anyway, Chris dared me, yes dared me, to get a maple bacon donut, one of Voodoo’s most popular. And damn, if I didn’t take him up on it (and I didn’t even wait for the double dog dare!), although I was scared because the sample maple bacon donut sitting in the display case looked excessively old and crusty. But Beardy pulled out a “fresh”(?) maple bacon delight from the back, bagged it with Chris’ raspberry jelly donut (wimp!) and we were off.

Let me just say that many of you may know that I don’t eat mammals much anymore. For the most part I stick with chicken, turkey, non-mammal seafood, and anything else without nipples. However, sometimes I let my cravings get the better of me and break down when it comes to eating piggy products. Bacon and sausage, mostly, but sometimes ham. I just can’t help myself because it’s so friggin’ delicious. Regardless, I had a bit of trepidation when confronted by the maple bacon donut bar in my dining room. Granted, the bacon looked crispy and not overly fatty or chewy…and I do like McGriddles (my one yearly McDonalds breakfast purchase), so I crossed my fingers and chomped. Hey – it was pretty good! The taste was rather pleasing – a nice combination of salty and sweet, even if the texture was a bit surprising (crunchy bacon with creamy donut??? hmmm…). I’m not sure I’ll get it again, but it was at least an experience.

You should definitely check out the Voodoo Doughnut menu and perhaps try a taste adventure of your own. Or at least purchase a t-shirt that says “the magic is in the hole”. Yummy!!!