My original title for this post was "Don't Panic, You Can Do This. Really, You Can," but I feel like that sentiment gets through anyway.
For those of you not aware, we at Moon Belly are absolutely elated, delighted, and thrilled to be hosting the esteemed Suhaila Salimpour in Columbia, Missouri, from October 19-20, for an all-levels workshop. If you're in town-- or in state-- a month in advance, we do have a preparatory workshop, led by our Artistic Director, Kandi, and yours truly, and we'll hope to see you there, too.
If you have never attended a Suhaila workshop, or who have before and found it harder than expected, or who are just way, way too intimidated by the war stories you've heard to even think of signing up for anything from the Salimpour School, this post is for you.
I don't claim to be an expert on preparing for workshops led by Suhaila, but I've been in the school for 9 years, and am Suhaila Level 2 and Jamila Level 1 certified, and I have some tips I'm willing to share on preparing for a workshop.
The 4 Most Important Things You Must Do to Prepare for a Suhaila Workshop
1. Don't panic.
2. Make yourself a plan and stick to it as much as you can. This includes forgiving yourself when you miss a day, so that you can start again fresh the next day.
3. Trust your body and its limits, but don't let fear dictate your training. If you need to stop, stop. If you need to pause and do the movement more slowly so that you can understand it, do that. If you are struggling and have a question, ask. Just do not stop because you gave up on yourself. Understand that these workshops are hard and that you're going to have trouble with the material and that's okay. Pause to take a breath, get a drink of water, do the movement half-time a few times to make sure you've got it, and pick up and start again.
4. Rely on your local Salimpour School community. One of the things I love about Suhaila's method of teaching (one she's transferred to her students) is that we are all a community working together. Ask one of us if you need help, we're happy to provide it!
I am not going to lie: these workshops are hard. But what that means is that they are hard for everyone. No one will think less of you for struggling-- that's what we're all there for!
Now, specifics: I recommend you read the information Suhaila has at her website on preparing for a workshop (https://www.salimpourschool.com/workshops/about-workshops/), especially under the "Physical Preparation" and "Technique" portions of the page. She recommends stamina training at least 2 weeks away, at about 20 minutes of cardio 3-5 times per week, and familiarizing yourself with Salimpour School nomenclature.
Okay, don't pa...you're panicking again. Hang on, let me get you a paper bag to breathe into...
I can recommend this schedule from experience, and what's more, it's very simple to do. Do you know the eight basic movements of Suhaila format? Great! You have the beginnings of a training plan. Try doing one those movements half time or quarter time while walking, your feet half time, to the front, back, and to each side for 5 minutes.
Congratulations! You've just done 20 minutes of drilling. Want to mix it up some more? Here are some things I use:
If you want something more comprehensive, under the "Resources" portion of her website (https://www.salimpourschool.com/resources/), there is some good material on building a training plan that I strongly recommend you try out. I've literally used it for years.
And finally, do you have a question? Email me. Let's work with Suhaila to make you the best dancer you can be.
This song, (which is sometimes transliterated into English as "Shati ya donya") is one of the songs I always associate with spring. Performed by Fairouz, who has one of the most distinctive and beautiful voices in popular Arabic music, it is a call for rain, for growth, but also a song about a burgeoning love.
English translations of the lyrics can be found at Shira.net (thank you to Shira and to her contributors!)
You can purchase the song from Amazon, or via iTunes.
In January of this year, MOON Dance Company put on its most recent show, "The Golden Era of Belly Dance." Each member of the company was assigned a famous dancer from 1930s to 1950s Egyptian film and directed to research her, teach other company members about her, and create a choreography in her honor.
This was an amazing and magical process. I was privileged to watch seven fascinating, brilliant, compelling women truly embody the spirit of all of these legendary dancers, creating works of art that helped us all, for a little while, to appreciate the rich and varied history of belly dance.
I was assigned the role of Badia Masabni. It terrified me and I loved it.
About Badia Masabni
Badia Masabni is responsible for how we know belly dance today: full stop.
Born in 1894 Damascus, Badia and her family were compelled to emigrate to Argentina after 7-year-old Badia was raped by an adult man. By fleeing the shame and stigma that came with having a daughter who was no longer a virgin, the Masabni family hoped that the attack would be forgotten by the time they returned to Syria, so that their daughter could marry and have a respectable life. Sadly, Badia and her family found that was not the case, and were unable to arrange a marriage for her.
To support herself, Badia entered show business, as she had loved acting, dance, and music during her childhood in Argentina. Beginning in theater troupes, she eventually found work in a nightclub, where her act of folk songs, local dances, cymbal-playing, and poetry recitations were wildly popular. She met and married her husband, Egyptian comedian, actor, playwright and director Nagib El Righany, at this time, though the marriage proved to be a stormy one, with frequent separations and reconciliations.
In 1926, after a final separation from Nagib, Badia opened her own nightclub in Cairo. Over the next 25 years, she built an empire of nightclubs, the most famous of which were the Casino Badia and the Casino Opera. She featured Arabic music and polished forms of the folk dances that would become the raqs sharqi, or belly dance, that we know and love today. Legendary dancers of the era, among them Tahia Carioca, Samia Gamal, and Naima Akef, had their start at her club, and went on to successful movie careers. So influential were Badia's nightclubs that practically every nightclub scene-- especially one featuring dance-- that took place in any 1940s Egyptian movie was filmed at one of Badia's clubs. She developed the bedleh, the bra-and-belt set that we associate with belly dancers today. She became the richest woman in Egypt.
In 1951, Badia fled to Lebanon for tax evasion, where she purchased a dairy farm and lived, by all accounts, a tranquil life, aside from a brief marriage to a 25-year-old man. She died in 1975.
Preparing for the Role
You can see why I might be a bit intimidated by this.
Fortunately, I had a method for preparing for a role that I used-- I'd just never danced the role of a legend before. This method was going to be put to the test.
First, I educated myself about Badia and her life, and the world she grew up in. There are some very good essays and resources by the belly dance community out there, which I will list below. As I was doing this, I selected music and costume for my performances, working from surviving images and videos-- because Badia was of an earlier generation than most Golden Age dancers, my costume had to have a slightly different look. I settled on a piece of instrumental music entitled "Raqs Badia," which featured her cymbal playing. And, while I marinated in all of that, I collaged-- pulling together in my mind a picture of woman who was determined, independent, tough as nails, and yet used all that grit and fire to create art, glamour, and beauty, and nurture it in others, leaving a legacy, that, hopefully, I can start to honor today.
I don't know, in all honesty, if I can ever do justice to Badia Masabni-- she is too critical to belly dance, and my knowledge is so limited. But I'm so incredibly grateful to her, and I hope that gratitude is what makes me a better dancer and artist.
-Posted by Jennifer Parsons
The following articles were very helpful to me in preparing for this role:
A rare 1934 advertisement for the Casino Badia, featuring the lady herself. This video was adapted for YouTube by Jalilah at GildedSerpent.com, whose article on Badia Masabni was a source for this post, and provided by El Hami Hassan, film professor in Cairo.
"I can't make a dance class. I'm booked up!"
"Sorry, I can't fit that into my schedule this week."
"That looks like it'd be amazing! But how will I ever find the time?"
Believe me, I hear these all constantly-- sometimes from my own mouth. I imagine they sound familiar to you, too, and I sympathize. It's a busy world we live in. Work needs to be done, bills paid, kids hugged, dishes washed, walks shoveled, and so on down the line. The work we do is important and needs to get done.
But why is it that our needs and wants are always at the end of that line? That barely enough time is left for us to rest, and no time at all is left for our creative, spiritual, artistic, and mental development?
It's always a question of priorities.
All I suggest, in the aftermath of this new moon, in this time of sloughing off the old and welcoming the new is that you make yourself a priority. Move aside time devoted to some of the more never-done tasks like laundry. Carve out a little space for self-care.
That might mean that occasionally, the floor doesn't get swept, because you got a good 10 minutes of practice in. Or that the household can survive off of a dinner of sandwiches once a week while you make the trek to class, to exercise your body, feed your soul, and enjoy the special community that is a belly dance class.
Think about it this way: for all the necessary and vital tasks that you must fulfill in your life, which are so important to you and those you love, why are you not important enough to maintain? Why isn't the body you use for working, cleaning, hugging kids and helping with homework not strong or beautiful enough to share in dance? It is, I promise you. Come and enjoy your ownership of it.
It's just past the threshold of the New Moon-- a time of emerging from darkness. A time of beginnings and renewal. A time of waking from dreams, so that dreams become reality.
I hope you'll come and dance with us.
-Posted by Jennifer Parsons
The Golden Era of belly dance began in 1926, when a well-known Syrian dancer named Badia Masabni opened the Casino Opera, the first European style cabaret on the banks of the Nile in Egypt. This hard headed businesswoman single handedly transformed the art form as we know it today. The famous dancers of her club were each fabulous and unique cabaret artists of the last century. I, Kandice Grossman, designed and taught curriculum that engaged in a deep study of this era and its legends. Students were assigned a particular Egyptian dancer from this era to work on a detailed character project. These studies involved history, character, film and movement and evolved into a series of solo choreographies. The photos below are photos from their performances this January 2019. I am so proud!
In 1949 at age 25, Samia Gamal was made the National Dancer of Egypt by King Farouk. Her relationship with her public could possibly be considered her greatest true love — and they reciprocated wholeheartedly. As a belly dancer Samia embodied joyful femininity executed through soft, fluid dance moves. Her alluring dance style, iconic smile, and sincere connection with her audiences will forever hold the hearts of Egypt and the world.
By Lori Ann
A teenage Lori Ann Yanis accompanied family on a vacation to India, where she began belly dancing with a beautiful Greek instructor. Once back home her experience in the art form included occasional training in Missouri and a costuming career in California that connected her with the dazzling belly dancers of the region. Lori also spent several years traveling the Middle East, where the music and organic belly dance celebrations of the women furthered her adoration of the dance. In 2013, Lori started dancing with Moon Belly Dance Studio and never left, lovingly referring to it as her “sanctuary”. 🙂
Leila Jamal’s story is intertwined with her sister Lamia Jamal (together called the Jamal Twins) that took the Helmieh Palace nightclub by storm, becoming a favorite of King Farouk. They were known for matching the choreography to the musical repertoire and moving in harmony with each other while in sync with the music. Their extraordinary performances at the Helmieh Palace nightclub led to movies and international stardom. Their peak was in Singapore and India in the 50s.
By Belinda Fox
I started dancing in April of 2018. Learning to belly dance had always been on my bucket list and I decided it was finally time to cross it off the list. What started as a simple goal to accomplish and a way to de-stress from work turn out to be so much more. I discovered a warm, welcoming, and empowering group of ladies guided by our amazing teacher Kandice Grossman. Where women not only learn how to dance but are encouraged to grow in all aspects of their lives. I’ve come to love the beauty and strength of belly dance and will continue to pursue belly dance to experience the wonderful journey it will take me on.
Katy was born in Alexandria, Egypt. She had a Greek father and Egyptian mother and spent time in both Egypt and Greece. She acted and danced in Egyptian film from the 1950’s through the mid 60’s. She had to leave Egypt in the mid 60’s and return to Athens after being implicated in a spy plot involving a double agent Refaat el Gammal. When in Athens, she continued to act and sing in films. Katy brought a lot joy through her dancing especially with her fun and flirty stage presence.
By Layla Padgett
I am originally from Southeastern Kentucky, but have lived as far away as Micronesia in the Pacific. I have always loved to dance, from the time I was a child. I find dancing to be an empowering act for women to connect with confidence and resiliency. I am also a social worker and I find joy in painting, hiking and traveling.
Why moon belly?
Moon Belly is a safe and nurturing environment to learn belly dance technique. It is unique from other dance schools in that it focuses on the relationships between dancers as a central component to both the culture of the school and to personal health and well being. It is more than a dance school, it is a way ti connect with both self and others.
Why belly dance?
Belly dance is an ancient and beautiful art form that makes women feel sensual, powerful and magical. It also creates happy chemicals in the brain, makes you smarter, is a cathartic release of old baggage, and is actually a fun workout. Check out Kandi's blog post on 10 Reasons to Belly Dance.
Do i need to preregister for classes?
No. New students can start classes at any time. You just simply show up.
do i have to have previous dance experience?
Absolutely not. We pride ourselves on teaching adults who have no previous dance experience. Many women who claim "they cannot dance" or "have no rhythm" are amazed at themselves after committing to 16 weeks of classes at Moon Belly.
do I need to be in shape? or a certain age?
Absolutely not. You will get in shape by coming to belly dance classes. Belly dance is a grounding and safe art form and we encourage women of all shapes, sizes and ages to join us.
do i have to perform if i start taking classes regularly?
Absolutely not. The option to perform is always just that: an option. Some students never decide to perform and maintain belly dance as a personal practice of fitness, beauty and empowerment.
What do i wear to class? do i have to show my belly?
Please wear comfortable workout pants and a tighter fitting top. No shoes required. We dance bare foot. You do NOT have to show your belly to do belly dance.
what do i need to bring?
A water bottle, a good attitude and sometimes finger cymbals, if specified. There are many online sites for purchasing finger cymbals that range from very inexpensive to very expensive. Once committed to the art form, they are an absolute necessity and we encourage a quality pair from either the Suhaila Salimpour Belly Dance Store or Turquoise International.
how much does it cost and how do i pay?
All classes at Moon Belly are one-hour in length and cost $10.
Sometimes intermediate/advanced will expand to a 1.5 hour and cost $15. Advance notice is always given when this is the case.
We accept cash or check only. We do NOT accept payment via credit or debit cards.
what is the curriculum?
Every class teaches posture, hip movement, an upper body movement, some form of travel and a short combination. You will learn something new every class and you will re-learn something old every class.
Hip movements are offered on a 10-week rotation:
5 figure 8's: vertical
6 figure 8's: horizontal
7 pelvic contractions
when am i ready to start intermediate?
Typically after a beginning student has taken classes on a weekly basis for approximately 16 weeks, she is ready to move forward. However, this varies student to student. If you think you are ready, simply show up and try it out! If you are unsure, talk to Kandi about it. She can help determine if it is time to move up.
When am I ready to perform? how do i join moon dance company?
Dancers interested in joining MOON dance company should attend weekly classes consistently and take the choreography classes offered in 2016. The option to perform the choreography in the 2016 recital will be given at the end of the session.
MOON rotates every other year with a large staged performance. In 2015, MOON successfully produced "Mother Nature." All large staged productions require auditions at the beginning of the year. The next scheduled audition is in January 2017. In 2016, MOON will be performing a fundraising recital and is open to new dancers.
Why should i take private lessons?
There are many great reasons to take a private lesson. If you are a beginner, this is a great way to introduce yourself to the technique. Many students start with a private lesson before they start the group classes simply to feel more comfortable when they show up. If you are a more advanced dancer, privates are a great way to hone your craft and fine tune movement. Privates are also great for creating and cleaning up choreography. With more than 20 years dance experience, Kandi will be able to tailor each lesson to your specific needs. Lessons are usually available on most Saturday afternoon's between 1-5pm and cost $40/hour.
WQ & CQ are contrasting queens, but paradoxically, the same.
I'm totally in love with both roles and can't intellectualize either one of them as hard as I try.
Verse is the only way to describe them:
WQ's snake honey thaws the frozen ground
and brings the chalice of mother milk to your lips.
I love you. I love you.
Trust me. Trust me.
Transmute the poison.
Peace and goodwill.
CQ's silent screams the mother fuck song
and steals life for your vice.
Hurry up. Spit face.
Hold that pose for me.
Back wings crushed.
Enter with fear the gates.
Ashley Harrison, originally a farm girl from Paris MO, got her start as a tot sewing costumes for her barn cats. After perfecting this particular brand of feline torture she went on to earn her degree in fashion and theatrical design from Stephens College. Since then she has been designing for various productions of dance, theatre, and film as well as holding positions in costume shops as a patternmaker, cutter/draper, and shop foreman. In 2008 she helped start the Kansas-City based children's theatre company Bellenwhistle Productions, which went on to create an original production of Alice in Wonderland that preformed at the Off Center Theatre and the Nelson Atkins Museum. Currently, Ashley is on her 5th year as a patternmaker and designer for the talented competition dancers at the Columbia Preforming Arts Center and spends her summers as the costume shop manager and designer at the Okoboji Summer Theatre. She also teaches beginning sewing at Stephens College as an adjunct professor and on Saturday nights you can see her hosting at the lovely and local Sycamore Restaurant. This is Ashley's first venture into the realm of belly dance costumes and she is very excited to be working with such an amazing group of women as the Moon Belly Dancers!
Nicole Hawkins-Beasley is the Resident Costume Designer for TRYPS Institute at Stephens College. She holds a BFA/Technical Theatre-Costume from Missouri Valley College. She has designed for TRYPS, Stephens College Dance and Theatre Department, Battle High School, Columbia College. Nicole has been assistant designer for the Straw Hat Players, Moorhead Minnesota as well as seasonal costume staff at Columbia Performing Arts Center. She has worked as Costume Consultant for MOON Dance Company. She has worked as Wardrobe Mistress for MU Concert Series, Lyceum Theatre, Chautauqua New York and Stages St. Louis. Nicole is also the director of the T.H.R.E.A.D.S. Costume Academy at TRYPS Institute.
Jennifer Luchau is a largely self-taught seamstress who loves to dance. Her first design work was for her middle school production of The Wizard of Oz at the age of 14. Since then, she has done costumes for the stage productions of Tom Sawyer, Sabrina Fair, and The King and I. Jennifer also creates original costumes for Candace Grossman’s solo shows. For this production, Jennifer has created the costumes for the dance pieces entitled Demon and War. Jennifer would like to thank Kandice Grossman and Nicole Beasley for giving her this amazing opportunity, and for their friendship. She would also like to thank Sharon Hanson for her assistance with the manufacturing of the pieces for the Mother Nature performance. Jennifer is a manager at JoAnn Fabrics, and would like to invite you to stop by anytime for assistance with your own costuming needs!
Lisa Carlos’ love of sewing began nearly 40 years ago, with the gift of a new Singer sewing machine (one that she still uses today), and a summer filled with sewing classes. From designing American Girl doll clothes for her granddaughters, to quilt tops, baby bedding to wedding dresses, she loves to create items with character and function; letting the recipients personality and use be her guide. She enjoys exploring color, texture and drape to keep her work fresh and exciting. Born with a love for all things arts and crafts, she also enjoys paper quilling, making jewelry, crochet, and occasionally turning her kitchen into a laboratory for making bath and body products. Lisa also has a passion for belly dance, and draws from her own experiences as a previous Moon Belly Ensemble dancer to create unique costumes that blend expression and function for the performers.
Jessica Hawk grew up surrounded by the arts, although she has pursued science as a career. She received a degree in Physical Anthropology from UM-Columbia with an emphasis on forensic science. Currently she is employed as assistant lab supervisor for the diagnostic molecular biology lab division of IDEXX Bioresearch. She has been a member of the CoMo Derby dames since 2007 and serves as League President on the Executive Board. She has formal training in oil painting, and has dabbled in 3D paper art since childhood. In her non-derby time she enjoys painting, crafting, drinking wine, pole fitness, and reading with, not to, her cats. She is honored to have been invited to be part of such dynamic woman-centered artistic project.
Ella Folkerts is a 20 year old Columbia native, who has been heavily involved with the theater scene for almost a decade now. She graduated from cosmetology school in April of this year, and is currently working at Red the Salon here in town. She enjoys spending time with her family and her boyfriend, watching Netflix and eating lots of unhealthy snacks.
WT Bryan grew up on a farm in mid-Missouri and is a lover of mother nature. He has more than 15 years experience in construction and woodworking and is the owner of Against the Grain Woodworking, based in Columbia, MO.
To really get into the mindset and feel of a natural disaster, I write this barefoot. Just as my feet desire to be freed from the confinement of footwear, a hurricane refuses to be confined in any way. Going barefoot feels natural, wild, laidback, and informal. There is nothing formal about a hurricane. It causes destruction if it makes landfall, it affects the weather hundreds of miles away. It makes a big dent in many ways.
There is a calm before the storm, and then small waves begin to mix with high winds. As heat and pressure builds, the storm intensifies – with the eye of the storm as the control center in the middle of chaos. This is what I keep in mind in my role as the Eye of the Storm – an almost calm and calculated expression even as the cyclone continues to spin faster and faster. All control lies in me. I am powerful and strong. I make the decisions. Taking all of this emotion and choreographing a performance piece on a new (to me) apparatus is a fun (and dizzying) challenge.
The scene begins with ocean waves beginning to mix with sudden temperature changes and increasing pressure. The eye of the storm then awakens and begins brewing a briny concoction of the fear, intensity, and destruction. As the finale piece in a show about the state of the world that we live in, we are portraying what is to come next if we don’t begin to make changes in the right direction. This piece speaks not only of environmental degradation, but also of current human rights issues such as immigration from Syria into Western Europe and police brutality against minority groups here in our own country. If we let these kinds of issues build and build, we can only expect a hurricane-like ending.
Image from Golden Spiral: Complex Geometries in Nature
Delving into this role and what "Warrior" represents to me has been a challenge but I have started to form some questions in my mind: What enemy is she up against? What is this rage burning inside her? Seeing all of the pieces coming together during practices and watching the story of "Mother Nature" unfold, I have started to find some answers of my own translation and found more than one story. "She," this warrior spirit, is waging a war against a society that is killing the planet, and destroying all of her natural resources. All in the name of, what? More, we want more! More things, more property and prestige, more wealth, and more power. This beast of "more" is tearing down forests, killing innocent living creatures, and poisoning her to satisfy its hunger, but the hunger is insatiable. The beast grows and requires more to get its fill and it will never be satisfied. Warrior is raging for Mother Earth- she is her protector and a soldier in the battle against her.
Warrior also represents to me someone who is angry with society about the expectations placed on her as a woman. She is expected to be pretty, thin, and sexy. She is hounded relentlessly by media all around her with images of perfectly fit, perfectly manicured, "flawless" women and made to feel less than or unattractive if she does not possess these traits. She is objectified and mistreated by men and is taught by a large percentage of society that this is "ok" and normal. She is filled with rage at this and wants to show other women they are beautiful in all of their shapes and sizes. But also that they are more than just their beauty! We are strong, we are powerful, we are fierce, we fight as one, and we are warrior!
"Warrior" collage by Kandice Grossman
In MOON Dance Company’s upcoming show, Mother Nature, I perform in a piece which focuses on female objectification and its negative consequences on the individual and our society.
Exploring my role led me to think a great deal about female sexuality and how it is perceived in our culture. Certainly there are some women who are strippers or sex workers by choice. They feel empowered by using their sexuality to their advantage, and find it rewarding to provide that form of companionship or entertainment for a living. But they are the minority. For every woman who feels empowered by this chosen profession, how many more are sold into slavery via human trafficking, or coerced into this life out of desperation? I personally believe that sexuality is healthy and beautiful, in the context for which God created it, as an act of love and complete devotion between married adults; the sex industry (and our hyper-sexualized culture, more in that in a minute) distorts sex into a commodity, which cheapens it.
I've also been thinking about female sexuality in a broader context. In our society, it seems that the female body is always on display. Consider the countless overly sexualized models you’ve seen in advertisements, female movie characters without any traits other than their looks, or the commonplace occurrence of women harassed and cat-called on the street. In daily life, female sexuality is a double edged sword; women are criticized for being too sexy and women who have "let themselves go" are ridiculed for not being sexy enough. A women’s body is not simply her own, but is society’s to be consumed and judged. The everyday dangers are that women are seen, at least on a subtle level, as objects, or that none of us can live up to unrealistic standards. At its most destructive, objectification contributes to sexual assault.
In this piece, I portray a character caught in a situation and culture in which she is used and valued only for her body, which makes her feel that she has no value at all. I hope my performance will inspire consideration of how we as individuals and as a culture perceive and respond to female bodies and female sexuality.
"American Girl" collage by Kandice Grossman
When I was creating and tying together the concepts of this show - I realized it read more like a poem than a narrative. For example, dance 1 notes in journal read:
forest floor mushrooms bursting into morning light
flower girl prostitutes swaying out of puberty
These short lines then became motivations for movement. So, in many ways, Mother Nature is essentially an ecofeminist, postpastoral movement poem. Terry Gifford, in Pastoral (1999), describes the postpastoral mode of creative writing as possessing six interconnected characteristics, which Mother Nature possesses:
1) A sense of awe with respect to nature that comes from repositioning a subjective perspective from the anthropomorphic to the ecocentric. In other words, taking the human out of the center of the world.
2) An ethos that is neither myopic nor overly selective in what aspects of nature it chooses to represent. In other words, the mushroom and the compost pile have equal worthiness of attention.
3) An understanding of the internal and external influence of nature. In other words, the environment affects our emotions, attitudes and sense of well-being.
4) Recognition that culture is not opposed to nature, but rather is nature, just as nature is culture. In other words, by viewing the body as wild, we remove the division between body and nature. We are essentially animals. By viewing culture as a mere organization of the wild, we remove division between culture and nature. It is a breakdown of the hierarchy of intellect over body, culture over nature.
5) Embraces the transition from consciousness to conscience. In other words, aware of the life that surrounds us and in response are growing more empathic towards that life and our role as caretaker.
6) The postpastoral mode is ecofeminist in that it recognizes the exploitation of nature resembles and partakes of the same mindset as the exploitation of women and minorities. In other words, we are addressing environmental and social exploitation at the same time.
Adrienne Rich writes in "What Kind of Times Are These" in Your Native Land, Your Life:
And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about the trees.
I agree with Rich. We can't listen to sexism without talking about the trees.
"Iris" Collage by Kandice Grossman
Whenever I am given a role to play in dance or in theater I spend some time meditating on it. I turn its concept over in my mind. I gather books and articles, or even snatches of words and phrases that I feel are related; I compile playlists of music to get into a suitable mood. I halfjoke to my husband that this is a form of summoning magic. By surrounding myself with things I associate with a character, I begin to feel close enough to her to be able to communicate with her, to ask her: “Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want?”
When I was assigned the role of Demon in Mother Nature, it was no different. As I type this, a copy of Paradise Lost and a Bible are at my elbow, along with a pile of Alan Moore comics and William Blake’s works. In another corner of the of the Internet, a Pinterest board of my own working teems with body horror specimens, vaginas dentatas, and gaping, howling maws.
Sometimes, even despite all this preparation, I’ll struggle to grasp a character, and Demon was one of those problem characters. I thought I knew her, but I had trouble putting her into the music I’d been assigned. However much I reached out to her, she did not reach back.
At least, not until my first choreographing session when I stopped thinking about her and began to move her. In the early stages of building the choreography and fitting it to my body, Demon appeared, and very clearly told me who she was and what she wanted:
I am the fury and helplessness of the Captured Queen.
I am the alienation and desperation of the Workers.
I am the aggression and paranoia of the Warriors.
I am the pain and shame of the Sex Objects.
As you have sown, so shall you reap.
I am empty, I am hungry, I am devouring, and I am the end of your world.
So I have that to deal with. Yes, she’s loud.
For all her hatred of the body, the body was where Demon was residing, and that’s where I had to reach her.
But the more I dance her, the more it’s clear to me: of course that’s where I’ll find Demon. The story of Mother Nature is a story that brings the abuses of bodies especially women’s bodies into parallel with abuses of Nature and her resources. If the body is a gateway to the soul, it makes sense that the debasement of one would lead to the corruption of the other. And who is Demon but that corruption, in the flesh?
“But Parsons,” some might protest to me, “Why are you taking on this character, who is evil/Satanic/corrupt/unhealthy? Why are you talking to her, indulging her?” To that, I can only reply that every narrative needs an antagonist, and Mother Nature is no different. Demon appears in the show to pose the question, “Who is the protagonist Nature, who has been corrupted, or humanity, who must confront the world that it has made?” I don’t think that’s a question Demon can answer I don’t think she knows the answer. The character knows that she is an enemy, but she’s unclear on whose enemy. She is present in Mother Nature to tell us that as we have sown, so now we shall reap.
Or, perhaps, by looking on the face of evil, we may learn how to overcome it?
All collages by Melissa Menard in reflection of Mother Nature dance production.
"Mother Nature" is divided into two sets - the first being an exploration of women's bodies as metaphors of the planet earth. The second being an exploration into the exploitive relationship humans have with both the planet and women's bodies. As the artistic director, I chose to incorporate the mythological and religious symbol of Eve into the first set.
In Judeo-Christian beliefs, Eve is a central figure in the creation story as told in the book of Genesis. Most interpretations portray her as the reason humanity "fell" from a place of innocence to that of sinly awareness. We all know how this version of the story goes: she was tempted by the serpent to partake in the fruit from the forbidden tree of knowledge - and she fell for it. Then she tempted Adam and he quickly followed suit. They were both promptly punished and all of humanity was doomed to forever live in the lustful state of original sin.
In my feminist artistic interpretation of Eve, I imagine her as a curious, intelligent woman seeking greater understanding of her innate sexual powers. Rather than a tempestuous relationship with the serpent, the serpent represents the goddess, rebirth, fertility and knowledge. The apple represents her opportunity to awaken to power. In this dance, Eve intuitively begins to recognize that her body can become a means to experiencing sacred communion with the divine. The divine in this story is not an asexual male god, as described in the Old Testament, or a sexualized female goddess. The divine, or ultimate reality, is incomprehensible and far beyond human attributes of femininity or masculinity. But, we work with what we got, right? Eve had feminine energy.
Ancient religions acknowledged that women's power arises from an understanding of the interconnectedness of all people and life, of the cycles of nature and the cycles of our bodies. Divorcing ourselves from from the natural world as we are now doing in modern culture, brings disconnection and violence to the planet and, essentially, our bodies. The dance of Eve is about tempting ourselves back into this ancient wisdom and power.
MOON dance company is presenting "Mother Nature" October 3-4, 2015 at Talking Horse Theatre in Columbia, MO.
Tickets go on sale online in August.
I’m from a generations-old farming family in central Missouri. Not exactly what you expect when you think of a belly dancer, right? Maybe...
The upcoming Mother Nature show excites me on many levels. I was a painfully shy child, it was extremely difficult for me to speak to people, much less get on a stage and dance. That didn’t happen until just a couple of years ago with this group. Stepping onto a stage felt like stepping onto a foreign planet. It was a new world there for my exploration.
I had an ideal early childhood with free run of hundreds of acres. Days were spent with little concept of time and surrounded by Everything Beautiful in nature: for me, communication with nature was easier than with people. Outside and alone was home. Missouri’s landscape and natural abundance is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Our little corner of the Earth is sometimes vastly underappreciated. It is fitting we do a tribute to Mother Nature here.
My first taste of belly dance happened in India at 18 yrs old. I took a class and from then on dabbled in and out of it throughout the years. From that age on, I spent a lot of time in the Middle East and in the Middle Eastern culture; therefore, the essence of the dance feels natural to me. This is my third year with Moon Belly and it’s an honor to be amongst such beautiful and dedicated women.
As I am learning, it’s one thing to train your body and showcase your physical movements. But this is not the end goal. The goal is to tell a story, expose the soul, and communicate beyond the realm of mind. On the stage, my body should be my words. The audience deserves a connection, not just a show.
Hi, I'm GG.I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but left when I was about five. I traveled all over the United States before settling in Jefferson City with my mom and siblings, where I lived up until last summer. Growing up I had no dance training or any kind of extra-curricular activities at all. My childhood and early adulthood was a whirlwind , moving around a lot and just trying to survive. There was no time or money. Unfortunately, that carried over into adulthood and life was stressful just trying to get through each day. I first saw belly dance in my early 20's at a Renaissance festival and it was the loveliest and most mysterious thing I had ever seen. I went to Renaissance Festivals JUST to see the belly dancing after that, but it never occurred to me that I could learn to do it. Because of many experiences I had growing up, the thought of improving myself or attempting to do something bigger, better, and more beautiful never once crossed my mind. I felt like my place in life was as a spectator, never a participant. I had my son at age 29, and that is when things changed for me. Finally I felt like I had a bigger reason for living. I was no longer just surviving day to day, but now I was really living. I was present in myself everyday and I loved being a mother. I started to give thought to my health. I became more aware of my body and what it could do. I became more active and started working out and actually started to like my body!
One day when I was watching some YouTube videos about another type of dance, I stumbled across a new type of belly dance video. It wasn't like any belly dance I had ever seen. The movements were slow, sensual, and strong. The costume was dark and mysterious looking, not like the brightly colored, sparkly costumes that usually come to mind when I thought of belly dance. The feeling I had when I watched this dancer was impossible to put into words. I was spellbound! As I watched more and more dances, chills rippled over me. A thought occurred to me: I WANT TO DO THIS! I had never seen a woman that could be so many things at once-strong, beautiful, graceful, and in control of her own body. She had such power and could be the shining light of hope for a person who had spent a lifetime feeling hopeless.
I found a class in my area and started going. My first class was magical, I was ecstatic and eager to learn. I filled my head with all things belly dance, and to be honest was obsessed! I scoured the internet for any and all articles related to belly dance. I borrowed books, movies, and music from the library. I was gladly taken by belly dance completely.
After a couple of years I decided I needed more. The class I was in was fun and laid back. I enjoyed it and was grateful for its teachings, but I knew what I really needed was more discipline, and a more serious dance environment. I found one thirty minutes away in Columbia called Moon Belly Dance Studio. When I went to my first class and met Kandice, I knew that was where I needed to be. I felt things click in my mind when I was there. My body could not catch up with my mind, however. I felt slow and clunky, not graceful at all! I found the environment supportive even with my struggling, so I went to classes and watched several performances. When I watched them perform I was absolutely positive I was in the right place! These women were exactly what I wanted to see in myself. They were beautiful, strong, sensual, and self assured. They seemed in control of their bodies and reflected the women I had seen in the videos two years earlier when my love of belly dance had first bloomed.
I have been coming to Moon Belly for about a year now and I have never been happier. I feel so lucky to have found them because they are the most fantastic group of women. The opportunity to dance with them and perform in “Mother Nature” has changed me in the best way possible I've found a place I belong, and people I belong with. Preparing for this show has been an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes I want to cry because my body doesn't do things quick enough, or I'm just struggling with things emotionally, that this process brings to the surface. Yet at other times I feel that I have resolved some issues through dance and feel such great relief to let those things go. I feel that this amazing dance is worth every step. Dance is therapy!!
Emma Brown is an aspiring aerial acrobat who fell in love with the performing art in 2012. She has been a lover of dance and movement for many years, and has found her artistic outlet in this unique performing art. Aerial dance allows her to combine her creativity, strength, and flexibility to formulate performance routines and lesson plans for beginning to intermediate students.
Emma first studied aerial silks under the direction of Jenn Rauscher of JennuineFire. She continues to attend aerial workshops and classes whenever she can to advance herself as a performer and teacher. Emma is a personal trainer and has a BS in Nutrition and Fitness, both of which she utilizes to promote a healthy balance of training, recovery, and longevity for herself and her students.
In July of 2014, Emma won the Intermediate Silks Division at the Aerial Expo Amateur Aerial Competition. She has performed at private parties for CARFAX and the True/False Film Festival. Emma has also performed with Quixotic Fusion, a Kansas City-based performing arts group.
In this lifetime we are given a few unique opportunities to discover who we are on a much deeper level. These opportunities tend to reveal to us our own capacities and inner resources in a way that nothing else can. For me, these moments have included watching death, giving birth, motherhood, attending births, and dancing.
I had taken dancing lessons from a young age, and my intensity and stage presence was something that was remarked upon for as long as I can remember. The pinnacle in my young mind was to reach the age where I could move en pointe in my ballet class. The summer before that milestone, I sustained an injury. Such that I was a goner for ballet. My love of dance cooled as I moved into my teen years - my family was watching my Father suffer from a long illness that would take him from us at the age of 47. I became hard, reckless, and angry in the face of that suffering.
Motherhood found me, quite unexpectedly, at the age of 20. My daughter, like her sister 5 years later, brought a light and sweetness that I never knew I’d experience. I became soft again - I became open. Through an incredibly fortuitous set of connections and determination, I began attending births and ultimately supported hundreds of women through their journey. In these years dance came back to me. Kandice and I began our belly dance journey together with the most incredible group of ragtag teachers and friends. We cobbled together different dance styles from videos and workshops - and hand sewed our costumes from whatever bits we could find or scrape together change to buy. We danced because it felt good. We danced for one another. We danced when the babies kept coming. We danced as mamas moved far away and then back.
When Kandice began Moon Belly in her home, I knew she was starting something special. Our bodies are older but better than ever. The technique has leveled up beyond what we imagined as young, unshaven, hippie mamas with babies strapped on our bodies. Dance, for me, is that core of softness, love, and appreciation for myself and my women friends - and Moon Belly is now the home for that.
My name is Brittney Banaei from Springfield,Missouri. I have been in love with dance my entire life. I love the way I feel when I'm dancing, I love the process involved in becoming a dancer, and I love the positive effect that dance has on people's lives. I began studying bellydance at age 14 with Troupe Sarab of Springfield, and continued my dance education with Arabesque Academy in Toronto, Suhaila Salimpour in Berkeley, and most recently Amy Sigil in Sacramento and Ruby Beh in Portland. This year I began the BFA Dance program at Missouri State University where my focus is on studying the transmutation of cultural dance in the age of internet, and how traditional art is merging with contemporary forms to tell new stories in an increasingly homogenized world. I direct the dance company 'the Phenomenon Ensemble' where I am developing a repertoire work that ranges from the classical/folkloric to the contemporary/experimental. I am also proud to be involved with the Springfield Dance Alliance, a growing not for profit organization focusing on creating a dynamic dance community. In addition to dance I am a Massage Therapist, have 4 cats and 1 dog, and love to bake and garden. Fun Fact: Kandi was the first person to ever host me for a dance workshop. I am so excited and honored to be a part of this production!
This blog is designed to provide information about Moon Belly and MOON dance company happenings. At times, it becomes an open journal of our various theatrical explorations. At other times, it serves as a source of education on belly dance culture and history.