Regarding Piracy

To the People of the Free World

I found a 9gag post today about piracy. Here it is:

I read some comments left and right and it just struck me as weird that so many people indeed agree: downloading wares illegaly is theft. I’ll explain to you why I thought this was weird:

I’m from the age where buying albums was the only thing you -could- do. A long, long time ago. And back then, there was no intarwebz. Can you imagine? We’d hang out in record-stores for hours and hours after school, trying to find the best tunes. We used the headphones at the store, stood for hours behind a counter, asking people to play you a certain record. And if the album was good enough, we’d spend our pocketmoney on it.

There are alternatives to piracy. Like Spotify, for instance. But when entertainers don’t provide alternatives or revoke rights for services like Spotify, there are no alternatives imho to the old fashioned record-store headphones and services, but piracy.

So if you really don’t like it; come up with a solution instead of beating down those who want to get to know you but don’t have money growing from trees. You don’t buy a car without a testdrive, you can’t judge on the quality of a movie based on a brilliantly marketed teaser or trailer, you can’t judge a game on 5 minutes of gameplay and you can’t judge how good an album is on listening to 3 songs.

Yes, I do know stores like Amazon.com offer free listening services. And I know there are trials to games and programs. But again; in times when money doesn’t even seem to be growing from bushes anymore, how can you expect people to pay for stuff they don’t know?

Assuming anything different, acting upon those assumptions and expecting people to pay the full load -before- knowing the entire deal, is theft too.

I think someone needs to be the first one to say; “Hey guys. This going back and forth obviously isn’t working and we’re just accusing one another of theft, being greedy, being assholes, being bitches, whatnot. How about, we find a solution to this issue that works for both parties?”

The man who’s going to come up with the answers, is going to be rich. 

Those things really can hurt.

So a couple of weeks ago I’ve made a blogpost about all the fabulous things you can do as a bellydancer with poi. Remember that post? Fire poi, LED poi, sock poi, all sorts. If you have missed that post, you can find it here.

The beginners set I ordered
The beginners set I ordered

That day I instantly had to order my own. So I started browsing a bit on the internet and found some youtube video tutorials on what to do and one of the things they tried to teach me first was; make sure to hit yourself in the head a couple of times because once you know how it hurts, you’ll also know what not to do.

Silly advise, right? Sound advise too, or so I found out later.

With all that in mind I bought a beginners set from poipoi.info

Yesterday I was having a bit of a bad, emotional day. I went home and called the boyfriend. Basically I begged him to go get me food from the stores because I just wanted to go home and cry my atypical depression away into a pillow. When he got home, with pizza and quiche, he patted me on the head and reached into his bag with a smile on his face. “This should cheer you up,” he said and he kindly gave me a post package. My packages are usually delivered at his work, because nobody’s home during daytime.. and the cats don’t know how to unlock doors. Which in itself is a good thing!

Anyways. I opened it and blimey was he right; finally my brand new LED poi had arrived. Through the tears and sobs I managed to force out a smile and for a moment the world had some purpose again. A couple of hours later I felt a little better again, through eating some quiche and much couch-calming-therapy. And I decided to give it a swing.

My poi, my poi, my lovely new poi!

Now, I’ve never handled poi before. I just read about it and saw some instruction videos. I began spinning. Soon it became dark and I could actually spin with the LED lights on, which was amazingly cool. I kept concentrating on not hitting anything in our relatively small, crowded livingroom and tried not to hit myself in the head too often. Of course I hit a lamp (it didn’t break), a table (the poi were still okay) and my knees quite a few times but none of it really mattered until I HIT myself in the HEAD with the METAL bits! Oh god, I thought my head was going to burst right then, right there. It didn’t but I could’ve sworn I was going to have to make due with everlasting scars and deformation. They weren’t joking when they said you needed to know about the pain. I know very well what not to do now and I’ll be looking out to find some cloth to bind around these hinges because that’s not anything I want to do again.

But hey you know what? I practiced with my brand new LED poi. And they ROCKED. It cheered me up to practice with them; I felt real good for the time the spinning lights captivated me and it felt quite nice to do something that pretty. So absolutely worth it 😉

A quick escape back in time

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon an advert for a Vintage Fair at the Year Fair (an exhibition and convention center in Utrecht, NL). Since both me and the boyfriend are avid lovers (or at least fairly eager enthusiasts) of old, dusty things, we decided that we should go there. We’d never been at a Vintage Fair before and were both quite curious. He was going to have a look for old cameras, I was going to look for old jewelry and potential belly dance gear.

Last saturday The Day had arrived. We decided to get up at a reasonable time in the morning. Even though it would sincerely intrude on our sleepy-saturday-rituals, we figured it was going to be worth it. So we went and took that chance with a couple of moans and puffs and soon we were on our way. After having driven for about an hour or so we made it into Utrecht. Parked the car and headed for the entrance amid thousands of other people, all out scavenging for the next addition to their cabinets of memories.

Inside we found 4 big halls stuffed with centuries of clothes, table silver, colonial finds, toys, music and even -cars-. It was massive and we spent the entire afternoon slowly wading our way through a huge, lovely and gorgeous variety of goods.

A quick snapshot overview of what it was like:

From left to right, top to bottom:

  1. Old Cameras! The boyfriend had serious issues keeping his wallet closed here.
  2. A puppet-show! Can you imagine the fun kids have had watching someone play with this?.. The thought alone brings a smile to my face.
  3. Old fashioned exotic dancers gear. Do you see that blue thing hanging on the right side of the doll? I tried to unfold it and see what it exactly was. Turned out it was quite an explicit leotard. Only blue strings of garment (elastic bands with sequins) that were drapped over the body with tiny, see-through ladies panties attached. Talking about hot, huh?
  4. This thing was too expensive for my wallet, but that’s another thing I would’ve loved to get. A vintage Afghan tribal belt. It was -stunning-.
  5. Dedicated to my sister and her husband, who’re genuinely addicted to anything related to the Japanese culture. And old fashioned Samurai armor. Not entirely sure if it’s ever been used or not, or if it’s just ornamental. 
  6. A Jean Paul Gaultier skirt. It was gorgeous, half transparent and I’ve not very often seen colors this bright and luminescent on clothes. A wonderful find. It wasn’t my size, but I would’ve definitely thought about buying it if it had been! 
  7. Travel gear! I showed this picture to my aunt and as I showed it her eyes lit up and she nodded in acknowledgement. That’s how it was, apparently!

After having spent 5 hours wandering about we went home again. Tired, but satisfied. If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Utrecht and there so happens to be a Vintage Fair I completely recommend going there.. We had an awesome time.

History of Dance: The Serpentine Dance (1896)

During my adventures of diving into the world of belly dance and its history, the following has left me quite breathless today. I stumbled upon a movie made in 1896 by the Lumière brothers; a frame by frame hand coloured stunning piece of art.

Click this link to see the film -> Danse Serpentine

Background information

The Serpentine is an evolution of the skirt dance, a form of burlesque dance that had recently arrived in the United States from England. Skirt dancing was itself a reaction against “academic” forms of ballet, incorporating tamed-down versions of folk and popular dances like the can-can. The new dance was originated by Loïe Fuller, who gave varying accounts of how she developed it. By her own account, which is widely reported, having never danced professionally before, she accidentally discovered the effects of stage light cast from different angles on the gauze fabric of a costume she had hastily assembled for her performance in the play Quack M.D., and spontaneously developed the new form in response to the audience’s enthusiastic reaction upon seeing the way her skirt appeared in the lights. During the dance she held her long skirt in her hands, and waved it around, revealing her form inside.

The Serpentine Dance was a frequent subject of early motion pictures, as it highlighted the new medium’s ability to portray movement and light. Two particularly well-known versions were Annabelle Serpentine Dance (1894), a performance by Broadway dancer Annabelle Whitford from Edison Studios, and an 1896 Lumière brothers film of Fuller performing the dance. Many other filmmakers produced their own versions, distributing prints that had been hand-tinted to evoke (though not quite reproduce) the appearance of colored light projection. (Source Wikipedia)

I think -this- is what genuine, bedazzling entertainment looks like. Isn’t just everything gorgeous about this?

I didn’t know Belly Dance was -this- old.

In my previous post about Greek Folkoric Belly Dance – Tsifteteli my newfound friend and master at digging up history Miriambatshimeon refered me to the following document: Dance in the Ancient Mediterranean: the Roman Period – Part One (by Ruth Webb)

Reading it, I was instantly very impressed and slightly overwhelmed. To be practicing an art that’s been dated way back to the 1st century AD, is quite a strange but powerful feeling. To be in a line of so many women that have danced, lived and breathed belly dance before me, is something I can’t quite comprehend. It’s massive and I’ve only begun to discover what it will mean to -me-.

Veiled Dancer - Alexandria, Egypt 3rd-2nd century BC, Metropolitan Museum of Art

It shows that there’s much to learn. Especially with me being Dutch and belly dance absolutely not being part of our culture, it makes me wonder how much else is out there that would’ve passed me by if I hadn’t finally just given it a go with all these other cultures. It also shows that it just takes time to develop. Back in those days it was mostly arabic, egyptian, you know.. those sorts. But look at it; nowadays ATS for instance is a relatively (understatement much?) new concept in belly dance, but it’s certainly a recognised form, right? So I think I’m going to introduce a whole new thing in the belly dance world. Belly Dance – the Dutch Way. And I’m going to call it Raqs Clog. Maybe in 19 centuries from now someone will find out about that age old tradition that once appeared so long ago in the Netherlands… Dum-dum-DUM! Think I might have found the path to Eternal Fame there?

But on a more serious note; finding writings like these and expanding your mind a bit more is also just another way of realising that we’re here for only a brief moment but that we’re never alone. And that many have gone before us and many waiting to follow.

Thank you lovely belly dancers from the past for giving me something to do! 

On a bit of a tangent but not completely irrelevant: I ordered Demons and Dancers: Performance in Late Antiquity, also by Ruth Webb. Can’t wait to have a look. Once I’ve read into it I’ll let you know what it’s like; maybe other history-slash-dance-freaks like me would enjoy it too.

So: to be continued!

Greek Folkloric Belly Dance – Tsifteteli

In about 5 weeks from now I’ll be making my way to Crete (Greece) to spend 8 wonderful days with the boyfriend on one of the biggest islands of Greece and the Mediterranean Sea. I can’t begin to explain how excited I am for this; it will be the first longer holiday we spend together and we’re both very much looking forward to just being the two of us and nobody else in this world.  A bit of breath in hectic times; we can use it!

We’ve already begun doing the regular preparation: bought a little booklet and a map and we’ve browsed sites left and right to see which sight-seeing-spots are likely going to be on our to-do-list. But as a belly dancer I have more work laid out for me than just that. Because aside from digging up old sites and owning up to having the prettiest landscapes, Greece covers its piece in belly dance history too. And their specific style is named “Tsifteteli”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the wiki page:

The Tsifteteli (Greek: τσιφτετέλι, Turkish: Çiftetelli), is a rhythm and dance of Anatolia and the Balkans with a rhythmic pattern of 2/4. The dance is probably of Turkish origin and in the Turkish language it means “double stringed”, taken from the violin playing style that is practiced in this kind of music. However, there are also suggestions that the dance already existed in ancient Greece, known as the Aristophanic dance, Cordax. However it is widespread in Greece and Turkey, but also in the whole former Ottoman Empire region.

Chryssanthi Sahar dancing
Chryssanthi Sahar dancing

I’ve looked it up a bit to already have a taste of what I’m going to delve into and found Chryssanthi Sahar and her love for Tsifteteli. She’s a native Greek dancer and through the love of her grandparents for folkloric dancing and Tsifteteli she’s been practicing Greek native dances and belly dancing from early age on. And she’s written quite an elaborate explanation on Tsifteteli. Aside from describing the history (which I’m not going to go into a description of what the history behind this type of dancing is like but after having read a bit into it I think it’s needless to say that it roots from a deep, dark history.. Much unlike the music (or the dancing) in many cases would make it appear like maybe!) she also describes quite a detailed how-to.

This is an excerpt from the same website for your (and my own!) convenience about the more practical side of Tsifteteli:

Tsifteteli is mainly a social dance. People dance it together and mostly in pairs (man and woman, woman and woman, man and man, mainly though man and woman). They improvise together, they communicate through the dance. And if a man and woman dance together they even flirt through the dance. This is one of the reasons why Tsifteteli is immense popular also today and it will probably never stop being popular. It is the expression of the soul and the game of love.

The movements of Tsifteteli are a lot simpler than the movements of the Arabic Raks Sharqi. But this doesn’t mean that Tsifteteli is easier to dance. For non-Greeks it may even be more difficult to dance then Raks Sharqi, because it has no rules and it depends very much on the feeling for the music. In order to dance Tsifteteli right, one has to become very aware of the Greek Tsifteteli music. This is especially important for the traditional (Rembetiko) Tsifteteli.

The most common Tsifteteli movements are:

  • Shoulder Shimmy
  • Vertical backwards figure 8
  • Hip circle. Hip semi-circle
  • Rotating around oneself with hip circle
  • Hip lift to the front
  • Hip lift in circle
  • Half camel step
  • Hands stretched out to the sides
  • Sniping with the fingers
  • Hands put at the back side of the head
  • Bending backwards
  • Belly rolls (sometimes)
  • Hip sway forwards\backwards
  • Hip shimmies and particular steps are not used in Greek Tsifteteli.
Want to read the whole article? Link here. And here’s a link to a video she made:
If you want to see more of her moves; she made loads more videos. Check out the video section on her website. Talented lady, isn’t she? I love the loose playful attitude and bounciness. Looks too easy but I’m sure it’s quite some effort to make that look so effortless! As usual with the greatest dancers, of course. But hey, they started practicing at some point too so I suppose that if I start like they did once, I must be able too do this too at some point 😛 So I should really have a look into finding a workshop whilst we’re on Crete anyways. Would be great to add to my future repertoire, don’t you think so?

Stage presence – stop belly dancing and start show dancing

I was looking at some youtube videos today and as per usual I wasn’t agreeing with a lot of the fan-boys and the fawn-girls liking and commenting their praise because:

  1. someone is a superstar
  2. someone is part of their troupe
  3. they were family
  4. they were being paid to do so

One of the videos had a question posted that got me thinking a bit. It went:

This is a serious question. How does one differentiate between a good belly dancer and the best belly dancer?

And it was posted at this video: Shahla Belly Dancer at Saqarah Jan 2010

I’m sure she’s a great belly dancer and all that but if you ask me; she’s not as awesome as the comments predicted.. and that’s partially because she lacked the Show-Dancing aspect. She’s belly dancing ON STAGE without understanding show-dancing. Argh. Let me explain to you why this in my modest opinion, is wrong.

Warning: incoming pet-peeve:

I might be a complete, utter noob to belly dance but as a 6-year old girl I was dancing show dancing solo’s when none of the other girls dared to do so. I’ve had my share of performances and contests whilst I was growing up and was taught really well how to perform for an audience. Which stuck with me very well. Partially because I was so young when I learned it, I think.

Now with recent events, the auditioning and the upcoming Halloween performance all the old teachings about stage presence the parts to dancing of finishing moves and coming across to an audience seems to bubble all the way up again from that deep, dark place within where they were kept silent for years. And from that perspective I do not understand the praise to that video. I don’t care how Turkish you are; I don’t care how well you do belly rolls; I don’t care about the clothes you wear and I don’t care about the make-up you put on:

When you’re sloppy and don’t finish your moves, you’re a sloppy show-dancer. And when you’re a sloppy show-dancer you shouldn’t be on stage.

When you’re a sloppy show dancer, it doesn’t matter which sort of dance you dance, you’re not going to look pretty or convincing. You’re not going to entice your crowd. And you will simply not look like you’re good at what you’re trying to get across. They might cheer but it might not be because of what you think it is. Until you are able to dance -and- finish your moves you shouldn’t be on stage. Stage is for performing and entertaining. So make it count. You’re going to have only one chance to make that mind blowing impression so take it.

I’m sorry for sounding harsh there. But that’s just how it is. Not just for my stress levels but also for anyone who takes this advice. If you want to improve your dancing, do not underestimate stage presence.

Anyways!

After I’d done eye-rolling at all awkward comments, I luckily found this video that completely restored my faith in show-dancing.

Drum solo, Asena – Akustika, Dovile from Lithuania

Do you see what knowing your music, adapting your choreography to your music, listening and playing with your crowd and actually getting out of your shell can do for you?

So, please stop hiding behind all the techniques you learned during your dance classes. They might get you far but they will not do it for you. Technique and skill is one thing but believing what you do and making sure your crowd believes you is something entirely different. Don’t just dance to show how awesome you can move your body, dance because it’s the only thing you can do. Study your choreography like you are studying a new language. Learn to dance with the music instead of just with your body. Don’t be afraid of what I just said; don’t let it intimidate you. Don’t let any of this hold you back. But take it to heart before you decide to make your belly dancing performance a show dancing performance. Because it’s entirely something else to do.

When you decide to perform make sure you are prepared, get out there and knock. them. dead. Your crowd deserves nothing less.

Eager to see more another good belly dance performance? Look at this gem:

Cihangir Belly dance Parody as Sibel Istanbul

Do you see the difference between the first link and the last one? Apart from the obvious? Because -that- is the difference between belly dancing and show dancing.

Of course… if you’re solely dancing to display your techniques or aren’t interested in ever performing, then of course please completely disregard this entire post… 🙂

Coming to you from DancingSnobInc. this was Kim. Over and out.

Sufi whirling is a mystical stress-away

Last summer I took a workshop at Halima’s Bellydance School in Eindhoven about Sufi Whirling. I didn’t quite know what to expect but it was something new to experience so it was harder to say no then to go ahead and enter. The workshop was part of a set of three workshops that were given to pass the summer whilst lessons were laid off until the end of summer. I never heard of Sufi Whirling before but little did I know I was about to experience something that’s quite literally a life changing experience for many people. As I walked into the room the teacher invited us to sit down on the pillows and armchairs in the Morrocan styled room. Christmas lights were sparkling brightly, soft humming music in the background. And she started to explain what we were about to do.

Sufi whirling (or Sufi spinning), (Arabic: الرقص الصوفي‎) is a form of Sama or physicaly active meditation which orginated among Sufis, and which is still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. It is a customary dance performed within the Sema, or worship ceremony, through which dervishes (also called semazens) aim to reach the source of all perfection, or kemal. This is sought through abandoning one’s nafs, egos or personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning one’s body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun.

As explained by Sufis: “In the symbolism of the Sema ritual, the semazen’s camel’s hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt represents the ego’s shroud. By removing his black cloak, he is spiritually reborn to the truth. At the beginning of the Sema, by holding his arms crosswise, the semazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to God’s unity. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive God’s beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth. The semazen conveys God’s spiritual gift to those who are witnessing the Sema. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the semazen embraces all humanity with love. The human being has been created with love in order to love. Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi says, “All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!”

"All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!"
"All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!"

The quote above kind of says it all.. but I didn’t know that back then. To illustrate in motion what it is that I’m talking about, here’s a link to a youtube video: Sufi Whirling Dervishes

Prior to the workshop we’d gotten the information to bring 2 sets of clothes; one completely black and one completely white. Bit of an issue for me because I usually don’t wear a lot of whites but after some effort downtown I managed to obtain a lovely set consisting of a long white skirt and a wrapped top. The black was alright; it didn’t have to be quite all black so I just had to reach into my closet and take something out.

So there we sat with our clothes at hand. As we enjoyed some homemade delicacies and tea we got to understand that what we were about to do could look a little bit weird at first but it would be worth the experience. Some women in the group had already been to the workshop once before and nodded their agreement. The teacher explained it was a spiritual thing to do that could reach into the deepest of your soul and bring out all emotions if you were able to let go and go with the spinning motion and the music that would play in the background.

Then she explained the rules of the game we were about to play. Half the women in the room had to wear the black sets; these were going to be the accompanists, watching over the other half of the students dressed in white as they took their first steps into whirling.

We dressed up and got into appointed places, one accompanist matched with one spinner, neatly arranged across the floor. What the accompanists were supposed to do was help the spinners stay up straight. With both hands held out wide and facing towards the spinner they were going to send their energy and directions to support the spinner and help them to continue.

The women in white were explained what was expected of them too; they were told to hold one hand faced up towards the skies and one hand faced down towards the earth. As they would advance spinning, their focus should be on a ring on a finger or any other spot that would make focusing on one spot easy. And to find their own rhythm in the music. They didn’t have to be afraid but they did have to make sure they were doing it in their own pace for as long as they felt comfortable.

Reason for the teacher explaining this is that Sufi Whirling is a way to release stress or reach far into your deepest sense and emotions. Some people experience quite hefty emotions when they start spinning. Some may be merely impressed or in awe, others may be very thoughtful for a while. At the workshop I saw a woman who was completely distraught after a while. So distraught she broke out in tears and sat in one of the armchairs for a good half an hour just trying to recuperate. Heavy stuff, right?

Once everything was said and done the women in white started whirling carefully but quickly grew accustomed to their spinning trances. I say trances because it really is just that. Once you let go and start trusting your accompanist to guide you through, you can let go of fears and inhibitions. You concentrate on one spot on your hand and the world around you starts to face to grey with every so often a black spot flashing by in a clear moment. When you continue spinning, the entire room will become visible after a while quite brightly and though you won’t be looking at it, you will be aware of everything that’s going on. And at the same time, it will not matter. All that will matter is the motion of spinning, of the trance you find yourself in and how wonderful it feels to turn around so often and keep turning, keep spinning.

I spun for about 10 minutes after I gave up; I wasn’t entirely able to let myself go. My usual tendency to keep control at all costs interfered, unfortunately. But I tried it a few weeks later at home and it went a bit better there.

My friend whom I was accompanying spun for about 45 minutes. She didn’t feel it was that long, at all. That’s the strange thing in being in that trance; you don’t notice time anymore. You just get lost and let go.

Sufi Whirling at Mawlānā Rumi's tomb, Konya, Turkey
Sufi Whirling at Mawlānā Rumi's tomb, Konya, Turkey

The longest a woman spun in that class was one and a half hours. When you look at a video of Sufi Whirling it’s hard to imagine that this motion is so strong and captivating but to every one that is interested, I completely recommend visiting a workshop. Please be careful when you want to practice this at home though; without at least the first few times being accompanied, you might genuinely hurt yourself. It can be real hard not to slam into a wall.. Especially when you try to stop spinning! The women who spun for one and a half hours had serious issues stopping the whirling. She just couldn’t figure out how to do it. I know it sounds weird but that’s another truth of it; she genuinely couldn’t do it by herself and had to be helped by two others to come to a stand still. Partially because she’d gotten so used to the whirling motion but I think also because she simply didn’t really want to stop. Feeling good is addictive.

Once everyone had stopped and we’d all gotten our turns we sat down in the armchairs and on the pillows again and spoke about what had just happened. Unanimously we decided that this had been a mind altering experience. Words like “amazing”, “liberating” and “emotive” were used and we just couldn’t really grasp how it had played around with our beings. Once the daze of the trance had faded we drank some more tea. And eventually we returned to our homes again, feeling content and relieved of our stress.

Whenever I practice Sufi whirling at home these days I dance to “Semaname” by Mercan Dede (link to youtube). Obviously it’s not as quick paced as the music in the video I linked earlier but you have to use whatever you feel most comfortable with and I feel that if I’d use quicker music I’d literally spin out of control. I love how the narrator explains what Sufi Whirling does to him; it reminds me to why I do it too. His entire album “Sufi Traveler” (2004, link to amazon.com) is a wonderful musical journey to take. As I am not Turkish I don’t know about a lot of native Turkish music and I’m sure that some of my friends in that side of the world would be able to direct me to far more songs just as beautiful or far more beautiful. But until that happens I’ll recommend this! Coming year I’ll definitely join this workshop again to practice. I can’t wait.

If you are looking for more info on the history, the use and the idea behind Sufi Whirling please find out more on this wikipedia page.

One video to close this blogpost with: Sufi Whirling. Do you see the smile on her face and how relaxed and at ease it makes her feel? 🙂

Belly Dance Props – Poi

In a number of posts I will investigate a variety of belly dance props. Props are a wonderful way to add something special to your dancing, designed to dazzled and awe your audience. Aside from that they will force you to try out new ways of enhancing your dance. Different props have different effects and might require a different sort of dancing, a faster or slower rhythm or different costumes. In these posts I will explore where the to-be-described props originate from, how they are used and where they are used most commonly.

This entry is about Poi.

One prop I’ve been very interest in for a while and want learn to play with even more than the veil or the fan is the poi.

Poi are basically things hanging from a string that you swing about. Back in the days when I was going back and forth between the UK and the Netherlands I met a couple of people who were heavily into juggling and one of them was completely hooked on swinging her poi, making intricate patterns in the sky all around her by dual-wielded long threads with balls on the end. And I’ve always thought the idea quite intriguing so I was very much pleased to find posts on Youtube that included poi in belly dancing. Even more incentive to start doing this!

To explain my interest in poi, maybe it’s best to first view some videos:

Do you understand my fascination?

So here’s the history

That's real tribal right there!
That's real tribal right there!

‘Poi’ is the Maori word for ‘ball’ on a cord. Poi is a form of juggling where the balls are swung around the body. Poi can take many shapes and forms from LED lighted glowing, fabric like veils or socks (not real socks! Kevlar socks!) on fire. From it’s beginnings Poi had the purpose of enhancing dance and rhythm. It was soon realised that Poi swinging had several other benefits from wrist strength, flexability and improving co-ordination to name a few. Mastering simple Poi moves can quickly improve self-esteem and gain respect from others. Hence the reason it quickly becomes addictive. And like all performance arts you are only limited by your imagination. (courtsey of homeofpoi.com)

Materials

From the wiki:

Originally, poi were most commonly made from harakeke (Phormium tenax) and raupō (Typha orientalis). Makers stripped and scraped flax to provide the muka (inner flax fibre), which was twisted into two strands to make the taura (cord) as well as the aho (ties). A large knot was tied at one end of the cord, around which the core was formed from the pithy middle of the raupō stem. Dampened strips of raupō stems were then wrapped around the ball and tied off around the cord, forming the covering . The other end of the cord was often decorated with a mukamuka, a tassel made from muka formed around a smaller knot. Occasionally, smaller tassels called poi piu were affixed to the base of the poi ball.[7]Construction and design varied widely depending on regional, tribal, and personal preferences.

Another variety of poi is poi tāniko. In this construction, the outer shell was made of finely woven muka using a pattern based on a fishing net;[8] these poi sometimes included strands that were dyed yellow to form a diamond pattern known as Te Karu ō te Atua (the Eye of God).

In the late 19th Century and the first half of the 20th Century, a cottage industry developed from the manufacture of raupō poi for sale to tourists, especially in the Rotorua area. Tourist-friendly variations included miniature poi that could be worn in buttonholes and as earrings.

Traditional raupō poi are less likely to be used by modern poi artists since traditional materials wear quickly with frequent use. Also, flax and raupō are becoming increasingly difficult to find as the wetlands where they are naturally found have been drained or made into conservation reserves (although traditional harvesting is, generally, allowed by law).

Today, most performance poi are made from durable and readily available modern materials. Cores are often made of foam or crumpled paper, while skins consist of plastic or loomed fabrics, such as tulle. Tassels are usually made of wool.

Does this look like bedroom toys? Or is it just me?
Does this look like bedroom toys? Or is it just me?

Though that’s all really cool and I would -love- to own a set of those at some point. But for regular practice I think any juggling-store poi would do to be honest. Poipoi.info has quite the variety of available sorts and though they may not have veil poi, it might be best to practice spinning with a poi and not hitting my face before I start adding veils and sorts. So I’ll be having a look into where I can get a set of normal poi.

Sorts of poi?

So I found a number of things to do with poi. The regular poi for normal practicing, traditional poi for when you want to be exquisitely interesting, single or double fire poi for dangerous a feral Mad Max kind of thing, single or double veil poi for more eastern dancing.. Quite a lot of variation; a versatile prop that leaves a lot to the be creative with, depending on what sort of choreography I want to have.  My personal favorites are fire poi, LED poi and of course veil poi. But there are plenty more different sorts to play with.

And what do you think of using LED lights?

For more info on which types of poi there are: homeofpoi.com. They give a very detailed and interesting description of the most commonly used ones.

I’m eager to start using these things and will soon be looking into buying some.. I even have the music I want to end up dancing too sorted: Juno Reactor – Pistolero. Just the right speed and bounce and not too boring.

If you want to start just like me to learn to use the poi to later on integrate it in your dancing maybe these videos on Meenik’s Youtube videos will help you out. Good luck and let me know how it works out!

Belly Dance Props – Veils

In a number of posts I will investigate a variety of belly dance props. Props are a wonderful way to add something special to your dancing, designed to dazzled and awe your audience. Aside from that they will force you to try out new ways of enhancing your dance. Different props have different effects and might require a different sort of dancing, a faster or slower rhythm or different costumes. In these posts I will explore where the to-be-described props originate from, how they are used and where they are used most commonly.

This entry is about veils. 

 

Photo and design by A’kai Silks

 

Another lovely prop to use is going to be a veil I think. I’ve already enjoyed a workshop about using veils and have had some lessons with them so I’ve had a little bit of a taste about the weight, length, possibilities and sheer beauty of using a veil.

Usually veils are used whilst dancing on slower music. Drum-solos or folkloric music just doesn’t suit. The veil moves with the speed of your own movement so you have to be careful not to take a piece of music that’s too fast or too much staccato. Any sort of music will do. Movie score soundtracks sound good (check out James Dooley or Globus; both names create movie score soundtracks that have yet to be used in movies. Extremely epic. Can you imagine yourself dancing to this?) and bands like Nightwish, Epica and Within Temptation might provide you with excellent tunes.. Personally I think I’m going to be using music from Emancipator for the first time I integrate the veil into a dance. This music sounds so mystical and beautiful, without becoming a “chore” if you catch my drift. Lots going on will invite me to do lots with the veil. For an idea of what I’m thinking of follow this link. I especially recommend the song “Ares” which in my opinion is just hauntingly beautiful.. Sounds good, right?

So where does Veil dancing come from? 

Interested as ever in why things come about and how things develop as being a “thing” to do, I’ve had a bit of a look into where veil dancing originates from. And this is what I found:

The use of veil in belly dancing was made popular by Samya Gamal (one of the bellydance legends during the first half of the XX century) who used the veil to improve her arms carriage. Since then, more and more belly dancers started using a veil as a prop. However, nowadays, in Egyptian belly dance style the veil is only used briefly at the start of the performance during the entrance. American dancers instead, have made an art of the veil as a prop. In American cabaret style the veil is used in a lot of different ways. Dancers usually enter on stage with the veil wrapped around their costume, which is then unwrapped and made to spin with dexterity. American belly dancers have also invented the use of two or multiple veils at the same time. (courtesy of worldbellydance.com)

“Doing the burka” whilst making an entrance

So plenty of styles and techniques to look into. And over a wide spectrum of cultures too, which is always wonderful. The intro for a dance was already studied briefly during the workshop I followed. Depending on the effect you’d like to establish, you may start out with the veil being folded over your arms and face as if you were wearing a transparent burka. But there are also ways in which you make your veil to drape around you in a Greek-style dress over your shoulder, which you can then unwrap graciously during a subtle turning around. You can tuck the veil under your belt so it looks like just another addition to your skirt initially and suddenly; bam. Wings appear on both sides and there you are, ready to dazzle and stun your audience with your chin held high.

I’ve looked at many videos with gorgeous veil performances and these are some of my favorites:

Veil types and materials

There are various shapes, sizes and materials to choose from when you go buy yourself a veil. Depending on what you want to dance like or what you want to do, you should pick a different veil. The length of a veil is usually chosen according to the dancer’s height. Sometimes when the dancer is specifically trained to use veils he or she can use the extra long ones but more veil is more to handle so -I- not going to delve into that just yet. Maybe in a couple of years.

Veils can be rectangular which makes them more versatile in usage or semicircular which makes them a bit easier to use.

Now that’s working a veil like you mean it!

There are veils with sequined and plain hedges. I looked into that too and the difference is (plain logically to be honest) that the ones with sequined hedges don’t float so well. These veils are used in Egyptian cabaret style and are dropped after the first minutes of the performance. So not fit for spinning then.

Materials vary between silk, rayon chiffon, polyester chiffon or georgette. The cloth should be light enough to float gently in the air but they become more difficult to handle as they grow lighter so I’m going to have to make sure I know which cloth is a better beginners’ cloth. Silk is the most expensive type of of those but also the one that floats nicest. And of course the veil should be transparent enough to give the audience a glimpse of the gorgeous lady behind it.. To raise expectations to that which is about to appear.

That’s the entry about veils! It’ll be fun to practice with them. Next entry about props will be released soon but for now that’s enough studying in one day.