By James Dungeon
[Editor’s note: The following interview was culled from conversations between the reporter and Lisa Hendrickson of Why Not? Bellydance. The troupe’s annual free “Beat the Heat” public performance is 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Holiday Courtyard, 150 Montezuma St., on Whiskey Row. Workshops are held Saturday at the Holiday Courtyard and Elk’s Theatre. Register for $10 plus $5 for each class at WhyNotBellydance.Com. Workshop space is limited and first come, first served.]
What is “Beat the Heat”?
It’s a weekend devoted to bellydance workshops and a public performance. This August will be the third year we’ve done it. The basic idea is to bring together different bellydance troupes throughout the state of Arizona so we can just connect and learn different movements and watch each other perform. The workshops are open to dancers, even those who’ve never done bellydance before. They take place throughout the day Saturday in the Holiday Courtyard and at the Elks, then, at night, we have the public performance. That’s so we can enjoy each other’s performances and expose the public, at large, to bellydance. That part is always free and open to the public.
That public part of this — what are some of the misconceptions surrounding bellydance?
Sometimes there’s a notion around bellydance that it’s very cabaret like, just a solo artist who’s dancing and often there are glittery and fringy thing. And cabaret is definitely one of the styles of bellydance, however a lot of bellydance is what we refer to as “tribal.” It’s done in a group and often times improvisationaly as opposed to really strict choreography. You learn that shared language. There’s also shared leadership in tribal bellydance.
How’s that work?
When you’re dancing in a tribal bellydance tradition, it often encourages shared leadership. You’re not always looking to one person but to each member of a the group. Sometimes you’re dancing in two lines and it’s what we call a double sider, when the woman in one corner is leading and then through an auditory cue, a yip, or a hand gesture, she indicates that leadership is going to switch, and it goes to the woman in the opposite corner. Then there’s also movements when the back line leads. There are also movements where we circle up. There are cues for all of this, and, often, with each one, the leadership changes.
As a bystander without experience, what’s something to watch for during a tribal bellydance performance?
One thing that’s exciting about bellydance and really good to look for is the different elements. In other words, see how all the parts come together. When you see hands moving in the air, it’s ethereal. We even have a movement called “pushing clouds.” When you see the shaking of hips, those hip shimmies, that’s more earthbound. That invokes the earth elements and also a sense of joy. Watch for the different elements.
For dancers, what do the workshops offer?
It’s a range of things and you really should deck out the website, WhyNotBellydance.Com for a list of them. Sometimes they involve props, like fans or skirts. This year we have one that includes drumming, so accompaniment can be part of it.
Why don’t you talk about the troupe that puts this on and that you’re a part of, Why Not? Bellydance?
We’re six local dancers and we all have day jobs. Some of us are artists, some of us are chemists, some of us work for the city, some of us are teachers, and some of us are bartenders. There’s a little bit of everything amongst the six of us. Anyway, we formed something like three or four years ago. There’s no leader, per se, and we work collaboratively. We meet and practice twice every week, Wednesday and Sunday and do several annual events each year. We perform at the Smoki for Day of the Dead, we perform at Acker Night every year, and we’ve done “Beat the Heat” for the past three years. We’re an offshoot of Troupe Salamat, which was headed up by Terri Walden for around 17 years.
What’s this year’s “Beat the Heat” theme?
Outlaw Dimensions Bubbles. That probably sounds a little strange, huh? Here’s how it came about: Every year, we meet in January in Mesa to do festival. We don’t sponsor it or anything — we just perform — but we turn it into a retreat. When we were talking about what our theme should be this year, the whole notion of outlaws came up and we started talking about cowboys and pirates, and those kinds of things. Then, as the conversation went on, it expanded to not just people who break the law, but people who don’t live within the conventions of what we deem as traditional society. Then we started thinking about the edges and boundaries of what we consider normal, and dimensions, and busting out of bubbles. So even though Outlaw Dimensions Bubbles sounds like a jumble of words, it’s all actually related.
Why Not? Bellydance’s annual free “Beat the Heat” public performance is 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Holiday Courtyard, 150 Montezuma St., on Whiskey Row. Workshops are held Saturday at the Holiday Courtyard and Elk’s Theatre. Register for $10 plus $5 for each class at WhyNotBellydance.Com. Workshop space is limited and first come, first served.
James Dungeon is a figment of his own imagination. And he likes cats. Contact him at JamesDungeonCats@Gmail.Com.