13 July 2015

Sister to Sister Project

When I was 10 years old, my mother asked me if I wanted a microscope or a sewing machine. After carefully weighing the options I chose the sewing machine. Little did I know that receiving that sewing machine was the equivalent of being given the keys to a rocket ship. It exploded the world where I felt trapped, and gave me the tools to a life of self-sufficiency.

By the age of 13 I had started to learn about the rest of the world. Ever an empathetic kid, I was shocked and sickened when I learned that there were cultures where women were forced to marry, work as slaves, experience rape, bear more children than they could care for and die in childbirth. I decided that I was never going to have children, out of solidarity with those women.   I knew that I was fortunate to have access to contraceptives that allowed me to make that decision for myself.

Fast forward to a conversation with Kelley Beeston in 2014. I couldn’t believe that she was supporting the women of Congo with contraceptives and sewing machines! Sewing machines that promise those same keys to self-sufficiency that I had received as a child.  When she asked if I’d help promote the cause I felt as if my life had finally come full circle.

I have always wondered why the universe chose a shy little girl from the suburbs to represent the world-wide culture of American Tribal Style® Dance. This was the reason: so that I could use my influence and connections to extend aid to women.

The Sister to Sister project will establish a sewing co-operative in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo to help women who have been tortured and raped to re-integrate into society.  Through sewing, the women can earn money and regain a place in the society that rejected them because of their suffering.

Kelly Beeston, Sister Studio and Advanced Teacher Training graduate, is working with local community leaders to make this dream a reality. You may have read the article “Sister to Sister” by Kelley Beeston on page 40 of the inaugural issue of The ATS® Magazine outlining how she and her husband set up a community interest company www.luminosity.org.uk  to support people in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are working to improve daily life and build businesses for the common good as well as their own.

I’d like to invite everyone in our dance community and beyond to participate in the Sister to Sister project .  We have launched a fundraising campaign through StartSomeGood  http://startsomegood.com/sistertosister  which fully explains the project. Sponsored a shimmy fundraiser,  ask for collections at the ATS® flash mob, organize a haflah or performances, or give generously.  We need to raise $15,000 to set up and run the workshop for one year.  The StartSomeGood campaign ends at 9.00pm EST on August 21st.

Thank you for making a difference.

05 July 2015

Sat 4 July 2015 L1,L2 & L3 class notes with playlists

Listed under music in the L3 class notes is Country Dance; it is on the Sirocco Vol. 1 CD, and is not available through iTunes.  You will find it available for purchase on our online catalog: http://catalog.fcbd.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=67_69&products_id=205.

30 June 2015

Why Folklorists (Should) Love American Tribal Style® Belly Dance

Why Folklorists (Should) Love American Tribal Style® Belly Dance

Carolena Nericcio, creator of American Tribal Style® Belly Dance, dancing with her troupe, Fat Chance Belly Dance®
I was recently chatting with a folklore colleague who was thinking about starting belly dance classes, specifically, American Tribal Style® Belly Dance classes (or ATS for short). It occurred to me if folklorists knew what made ATS different from other styles of belly dance, would be all over this as something interesting and neat to talk about with the concepts of our discipline.
Here’s why (in handy bullet point form):
  • ATS is an improvised dance form using an agreed-upon movement vocabulary to communicate and create within the moment. It shows us how artistic performers utilize the tools in their creative toolbox (in this case, the dance moves) to create an emergent performance, much like epic singers or fairy-tale tellers might also do, but with the body instead of with words and phrases.
  • ATS exemplifies tradition and variation at work. The way you’re “supposed” to do the moves is the stable current of tradition, while the “flavor” that develops in troupe worldwide (intentionally or not) is the dynamic of variation.
  • ATS is only a few decades old, so it represents a fledgling folklore genre and folk group that we can study as it moves through infancy into maturity. There are already offshoots (Improvisational Tribal Style/ITS, tribal fusion, and countless other takes on tribal/improvisational belly dance), which makes for an intriguing example of cause-and-effect and community-building in action.
  • Material culture galore! The costuming style of ATS is unique and rich in texture, color, sound, weight… so many things! I would refer anyone who’s interested in this particular aspect of ATS to my article, “’Whether it’s coins, fringe, or just stuff that’s sparkly': Aesthetics and Utility in a Tribal Fusion Belly Dance Troupe’s Costumes.” Midwestern Folklore 32 (1/2). (Terre Haute: Indiana State University Press). 83-97.
  • Because ATS incorporates dance moves from the Middle East (as well as from Indian classical dance, flamenco, and Gypsy dances to a degree), practitioners have an interesting relationship with the idea of “authenticity.” Most dancers agree that they’re not trying to recreate an actual tribe’s dances or costumes, but rather that ATS is a fusion that draws on these elements. But we could be having a conversation about cultural appropriation, too… is it all roses and sunshine in ATS-land? It’s a tough call, and more scholarship might be illuminating.
  • Verbal arts abound: personal narratives (how one got into the dance, transformative moments while dancing, funny run-ins with other troupes’ “flavors” that you didn’t pick up on at first), legends about origins of the dance, folkspeech such as naming practices, greeting and cheering (zagarheet anyone?), etc. Plenty of customary folklore, too: haflas, finger cymbal/zil practices, and obviously the whole body of dance movements that we collectively learn and perform
  • ATS dancers are an intentional community, a folk group comprised of hobbyists and professionals (and everything in between) who develop a shared worldview and esoteric understandings of the beauty of women’s bodies, the value of exercise in otherwise sedentary cultures, and the importance of clear and direct communication, among other things. I’ve seen ATS dancers develop greater body awareness and confidence/self-esteem, likely as a result of practicing this dance form. How is that not interesting to folklorists?
  • Perhaps you’ve noticed all the “®”/registered trademarks appearing in this post. That’s because the creator of ATS and founder of the troupe FatChance BellyDance® wants to protect her creative/intellectual property. Can you really trademark art? Or a dance form? Enough folklorists are engaged in these questions with other folk arts that I think we’d be interested in what makes this instance unique.
I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea. I really love this clip where Carolena Nericcio, my teacher and the creator of ATS, explains what it’s all about.
I’d love to hear from other dancers and folklorists on this topic!

21 June 2015

Father's Day

Here's a re-post of an entry from 2010..

I have been trying to start the chapter about my Dad, Carl Nericcio. There is so much to say, that I've decided to do it in small parts.
As some of you might know, he passed away a few years ago just after his birthday, at the age of 88. It was the closing weekend of Devotion 2008.
This morning as I was sorting through some of his things, I came across his driver's license and a hand written combination to a lock. I decided to use them to start an ancestor altar in my house. As I was setting it up, the thought came to me, "I wish we could try again, so I could weather the storm with you."
Our relationship was fractured, due to lots of things that will come to light in future posts. But suffice to say that when I was a child I was confused by his temper. Ever the Capricorn, I kept trying to figure out the pattern to his outbursts, so could stay out of the way. But there was no pattern, he was like a ball, ricocheting off any surface. There was no way to stay out of the way. It took more than 30 years for me to realize that he wasn't angry at me, (the ego gets involved even when it would be less painful to stay out of it!) he was just angry.
I try to live my life without regrets. I don't spend time wishing things could be different. But this morning I wanted to be able to go back in time, to a moment when he was raging and just stand there with him. If I could just put my little-girl hand into his and smile at him without being afraid or running away. Just be there to weather the storm.