28 June 2013

Here are a few more notes! I'm off to Gay Pride weekend in San Francisco. I'll be back next week to expand on the class notes. Cheers!

27 June 2013

I thought it would be interesting if I posted some class notes. This one is from last Saturday, I taught Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. The L1 Fundamentals class was a review of Week 3-Zils! The next two classes featured the use of certain steps and gestures using Egyptian music, and really understanding what makes belly dance so intoxicating-ly Egyptian.

11 June 2013

Larissa Archer interviews Carolena on the Huffington Post

Carolena Nericcio (right) dances American Tribal Style belly dance with Megha Gavin
We talked with Carolena Nericcio, artistic Director of FatChanceBellyDance, about American Tribal Style belly dance and FCBD's upcoming show, Devotion. The large, yearly production is a departure from FCBD's generally more intimate performances, and features her own troupe as well as notable guest dancers of other folkloric and modern dance styles, including Tunisian, Odissi classical Indian, and Turkish.
Since American Tribal Style is an improvisational dance form, what are the challenges of producing (and choreographing?) a show like Devotion?
ATS is improvisational in its original form, but for the theater we encourage choreography to ensure a high impact show. Improv works best when the audience is closer to the dancer, in a cafe setting for instance. The viewer is drawn in and included in the interaction between the dancers, taking in the ambiance of the venue and the other viewers. On the other hand, in a theater setting the viewer is observing a "total package," sitting alone if you will, in a sea of darkness that doesn't allow interaction. We have to create the whole experience for them. Also, the stage is more limiting than a cafe, as we can only face to the front and the viewer can't move around us. In a cafe setting we can turn to face our audience, being seen from multiple directions. That means that when the same thing repeated, it's not redundant. On a proscenium we have to change the steps more frequently, in a way that gives the viewer the feeling of the whole stage turning, if that makes sense. The result of the choreographed version is the same for the viewer, but we know we have omitted improv cues or added extra people to a formation.
FatChanceBellyDance. photo by Taboo Media How do you incorporate the other dance forms you showcase alongside ATS?
It's actually easier to incorporate the other forms! In this case; belly dance fusion, Odissi classical Indian dance, Turkish and Tunisian dance and Indian dance fusion. They create variety for the viewer and help to define ATS. The tricky part is having several ATS numbers in the show, presented by FatChanceBellyDance and Devyani Dance Co., our business partner and Sister Studio from Alabama. We have to work together so that we don't overlap ideas as we are all thinking the same way.
How do you decide what other dance forms and dancers are complementary to what FCBD does? How did you choose the other acts in this year's Devotion show?
Devotion started out as a dialogue between several dancers of different backgrounds: myself (ATS), Colleena Shakti (Odissi), Rakadu Gypsy (belly dance fusion) and Devyani (ATS) So, the stage was already set with several complimentary forms powered by the artistic vision of each director. Each year we include Collleena, Rakadu and Devyani and we select a few guest artists. This year we chose Wendy Marlatt for her Turkish inspired work, and Malia for her experience with both Tunisian and Oriental belly dance.
Colleena Shakti of Odissi classical Indian Dance Some of the cultures in which bellydance developed do not celebrate the female form, at least not publicly. Yet as you have remarked, bellydance is the ultimate celebration of the female body. How do you think that contradiction arose?
Oh, that's a very deep question that would take a lot of time to explore! You'd have to look at it through the lens of each cultural, not just Western eyes. Some traditional cultures hide the female form in order to deter losing her "value" or "honor" meaning that in a culture where men and women are separated, there can be mischief if her beauty is made available to the public. But that's almost like appreciating it, in a closeted sort of way. I think the American culture is the least appreciative of the female form, sending the message that all women should be thin, vilifying the very nature of the mystery of her curves. I claim "ignorance is bliss" on my end, as I think the female form is so beautiful that I'm sure belly dance was created when a drummer watched a woman walking down the street. The sway of her hips was intoxicating and pulled the rhythm right out of the drum.
Megha Gavin of Devyani (America Tribal Style) There are many contemporary dance forms that are more overtly sexual than bellydance. Why do you think there is still a stigma attached to bellydance (if you do think so)?
Unfortunately yes, I do believe there is a stigma attached to belly dance. There is a theory about what happened when the dance was brought over from the Middle East for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. One train of thought poses that some of the dancers stayed behind when the gig was over and sought jobs at the only available venues, burlesque clubs. An alternate theory supposes that it was American dancers that simply took up the form and found success in the burlesque clubs. Whatever the actual story is, "belly dance" ended up being categorized as "exotic dance." Why it persists, I have no idea. How pole dancing gets better press than belly dance is a mystery to me.
Teresa Tomb of Rakadu Gypsy Dance Many of the now-popular fusion dance styles are modifications and combinations of different Middle Eastern and African folk dances, and evolved to their present versions and popularity in the West. Do you respond to accusations of "cultural appropriation" with regard to the folkloric dace styles from which ATS is derived?
In my experience, the only people who criticize our dance form are Americans (again, seeing it only from Western eyes.) People from the Middle East, India and North Africa are delighted to see aspects of their music and cultural being enjoyed by Americans!
Malia DeFelice, Tunisian folk dance Devotion, with live music performed by Helm, will be performed at the Julia Morgan Theater on Friday, June 14th, at 8pm. Tickets are $25.
2640 College Avenue, Berkeley, CA, 94704

Follow Larissa Archer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Larissaarcher

10 June 2013

Too "ethnic" to be modern dance and too "modern" to be ethnic dance.

2011: We had found the perfect theater for Devotion: the Julia Morgan Theater in Berkeley, CA.
Location: check, Date: check, Performers: check. Light and sound tech: check. Looking good.
Our theme was The Home.

For the past three years I had tried to stay on a tight budget. This included all of the artists and staff offering to work at reduced rates and staying with me or with friends. Sound and light equipment at the previous two theaters had been under par, and that meant rewiring and redoing all sorts of things to get it anywhere near right.

This time I decided to go wild; whatever you want was my motto. I wanted to see how much this show was really going to cost, if we were going to continue with it in the future. A bit of a risky escapade for a Capricorn, but there's another side to me that likes to roll the dice and see if I can double my money. After all was said and done I was $14,000.00 in the hole, a big black hole. The show was amazing, the artists were top notch, the back stage crew hit every nail on the head. The tickets soldout...and we still came in $14,000.00 in debt. And that's with the $5000.00 or so that the tickets brought in. So, my experiment yielded that we needed a budget of $19,000.00 per year to float this boat

So, do you see this equation?
$19,000needed to produce a show in the Bay Area
-$5000 possible in ticket sales
=$14,000 has to come from some other non-revenue source

This makes my brain hurt. As a business person, it makes no sense. Any self-respecting business would flag and tank with this sort of scenario, but it is de rigueur for the Bay Area.  I wracked my brain trying to figure out how to get the money. First, I took a year off from production; after talking with Colleena and Megha we decided that we'd have to take a year to plan the next show. The art of the show we can plan in a few months, but this sort of budget fiasco needed some serious thinking. Plus we all had very full travel schedules, we needed a break. I let the other cast members know that we were looking at 2013, and we secured the date and location for the next Devotion.

Then I dipped my toe into the murky waters of grants...and pulled it out again quickly. Grants for the arts are a mystery to me. We are too "ethnic" to be modern dance and too "modern" to be ethnic dance. We don't exist as far as the granting establishment is concerned. All of the dance support organizations that I spoke to said that the fact that I had established a profit-making business of DVDs and dance supplies was preferable to non-profit status. But that money is my livelihood. I don't have a spare $14,000 to throw down a black hole every year. Weird.

Enter Jennifer Nolan of Tamarind Tribal in Milwaukee. We have been friends and business associates for many years. She has hosted both General Skills/Teacher Training for ATS® and brought the whole FatChanceBellyDance® troupe out for shows, twice. She's smart and sweet and easy to work with. Jennifer mentioned KickStarter as a funding option. At first I thought it sounded shady, but as she encouraged me to look into it I saw that it is indeed and very savvy idea: crowd-funding.

So we set to work on the campaign. Deanna Freeman from Devyani hopped on board and we took off into the world of self-sufficiency. And, if you have been following the Devotion KickStarter from the beginning you know that we proposed $20,000 and received just over $30,000 in 30 days. Wow. That's all of you showing your support with donations from $10 to $2500. I can't begin to describe how grateful I am for that. We had to pay around $6000 in fees, but that still left us with $24,000 to work with. We've already ear-marked all of the $24,000 but hopefully the ticket and merchandise sales will kick us back up to break even. Break even, not show a profit. Amazing, no?

Well, as I have learned to chant, "It is what it is." We are four days from show time, the guest artists begin arriving tomorrow at 2pm. We'll get to the theater tomorrow at 2pm so start hanging the lights and calibrating the sound; full-cast rehearsal starts at 4pm. On Wed we'll all rehearse our separate pieces and convene at the theater for another all cast run through 4-8pm. And then...dress rehearsal at 1pm on the day of the show...and then...SHOW TIME.

Check out this page for all things Devotion, including DVDs from past years and some limited edition merchandise that continues to fuel this year's endeavor. I thank you all again.

07 June 2013

Things are really heating up for Devotion 2013. Over the weekend we discovered that our @fcbd.com emails were not working. The server had been spammed or exploded or something and we were in the dark, as it were. So, our excellent web designer set us all (12 addresses) up on a new server. Much wailing and pulling of hair ensued as we worked to get our computers and phones updated. All is well now, save for a few ghosts in the machine, but we can communicate again.


For the last few nights I've worked at the FCBD® Studio until 9pm. This morning I slept until 9am and almost missed the party. Our graphic designer (who lives in AL, 2 hours ahead of CA) was trying to finalize the Devotion program and was trying to get in touch with me. I have a nifty new toggle on my iPhone that lets me sleep through all calls and texts, except for people on the A list. She wasn't on the A list and I woke to a frenzy of texts and emails, all needing my attention. It's 12:57pm PST now and all is well, the program is at the printer and we hope to pick it up on Tues 11 Jun, for the show 14 Jun.

Ok, where did we leave off? Devotion 2010 had just closed at Shotwell Studios and we were walking away without looking back. This was the third year and it was clear to me that if I wanted to stay sane, I was going to need a co-producer for the show. It's simply impossible, and very bad for your mental health, to try to produce the show and star in the show. I know many of you are nodding your heads as you read this. I started my search for a co-producer and was happily surprised when I was introduced to [name withheld] We got along and had the same ideas for bringing the show in above budget and allowing me to be more of the artist than producer. Time passed, we looked at a cool venue in Oakland that [name withheld] thought would be great for the show. To my taste it was rough but [name withheld] was sure it would be perfect. Being the Capricorn that I am, I wanted to sign the contract and drop the deposit that day, to secure the location.

You can't start on production until you secure the date and location of the event.

Neither [name withheld] or the manager of the Oakland venue seemed concerned about the contact or deposit, although the manager did make a note of our date on his calendar. I felt a bit uneasy without a contract and payment, but I was sure [name withheld] knew what [gender withheld] was doing.

Time passed. I sent emails and made calls to [NW] but no response. I tried to stay calm. We had started the process at the end of 2010 and it was now January 2011. Time passed. Finally [NW] contacted me to say that [GW] had been working overseas and was back and ready to roll. Time passed. Emails sent, calls placed, no dice. At first I wanted to cry from frustration, but my Capricorn kicked in and I said fuck it I can do this myself, and I did. With help from executive assistant, the fabulous Kristine Adams, we searched for a new venue. I did call the Oakland place, but low and behold the terms had changed and it was no longer an option. We sent emails and called every possible theater in the Bay Area. The problem here is that theaters are either too small; 50 seat black boxes or too large (500 seat unionized theaters.) The black boxes are in high demand so getting a specific date is tough, and they just aren't big enough to both house all the dancers, and bring in revenue from the door. The unionized theaters are very expensive, and while they have all the bells and whistles, the cost outweighs the advantages.

Time passed, but not much, I was cleaning the house on the Sunday after the Thursday that we had started the search and a call came in from a 510 number (510 is the East Bay.) I don't usually answer calls if I don't know the caller, but I figured oh, what the hell, why not. Then the skies parted and the angels sang and the voice on the phone said, "This is the Julia Morgan Theater in Berkeley. We would love to host your show in June." Now I really wanted to cry, tears of happiness. But I kept my composure and worked out the deal. Contract signed, deposit secured by the next day.

Oh, look at the time. I have to get to the studio. I'll be back in a few days. Cheers!
Here's a shot of me in my kitchen, a few months later when the guest artists had arrived for the show.

03 June 2013

a question before we continue

As you know, I always have multiple projects going at once.
Currently, we are getting ready to host our video downloads on our www.fcbd.com, so we can let go of www.getmpoix.com.

I have a few questions for you, and then we can continue with the Devotion story;

1. Do you prefer to buy a physical disc? Or do you prefer to download a video? Does it depend on whether the video is instructional or entertainment (ex. Vol. 1 vs Devotion)?

2. Would you prefer streaming videos that can only be viewed on-line? They load instantly if you have a solid wi-fi connection. You'd be able to see them anytime you log into your account, as many times as you want.

3. Do you prefer to download the video to your computer so you can view it anytime? Wi-fi not necessary after you've completed the initial download.

Thank you and please share this question with your dance friends. As soon as we hear from you we can start to configure the new video download page!
Just for fun, here's a photo of me with a snake friend in Australia.