Monday, October 7, 2013

It Isn't Just A Job...And I Love It

When you find something you become passionate about, you immerse yourself in it completely. Maybe you read about your new obsession, take a few classes...for me, I've submerged myself in every aspect I can get my hands on.

When I began bellydancing (not exactly counting the young me, only because she also had hot wheels and Stars Wars collection to occupy her...I mean, who didn't want to be Princess Leia?), I searched for music to practice to outside of class, dvd's to further my at home study, and relentlessly searched YouTube for new inspiration. My teacher was full of life, possessing a spark that I could somehow feel igniting in myself, deep down inside. But, after a while, the classes started to feel stale, and I was stuck.
Then I discovered workshops. Instead of learning the same thing over and over in a class setting, workshops offer a guest teacher who covers either a specific subject or choreography over a few hours in an intense format.

As I learned more and more, I began to share my love of bellydance with those around me. Which eventually evolved into teaching.

But lately, I've noticed a trend suddenly surrounding me. A few people I know are teachers...not your typical school teachers, but people who have taken their passion and turned to teaching others. And these people, as it turns out, are suddenly doubting teaching what they once loved. Because now, it feels more like a job or a chore. A few have stepped away to take a break then come back feeling re-energized and begun teaching again.

I haven't had these feelings of my passion turning into a chore, something I no longer enjoy. I hope I never do, but there are things I've noticed that maybe I've done differently.

Never stop learning. I try to take classes, workshops, or even incorporate a new dvd program. Knowledge is power, and there is so much to seek out that you really will never run out of things to new know.

Diversify. Find other subjects that relate to your main passion. For me, that includes yoga, costuming techniques, music, and even teaching and meditation methods. I've found that yoga really connects directly not only with Tribal Style Bellydance, but enhances other aspects of my life (bad knee, ankle, migraines, even morning sickness).

Don't forget why YOU loved something in the first place. Incorporating my practice in a way that makes sense for me, and I always make a place for keeping my creative moments alive. That either means choreographing a new number, or after drilling myself silly letting it all out with a five minute improve session, all for myself.

Finally, accepting that making my passion seem like a job may allow odd and ends that aren't creative attach themselves to it. Like planning, scheduling, and even business aspects that aren't necessarily my forte. But, knowing that these things don't have to become the bigger part and take over.

For me, teaching is sharing my passion with others. It isn't a job. The joy in sharing is just another part of that...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Journey Of Tribal Bellydance

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But when that journey is filled with many different ways to take that step, is the destination the same?

The style of bellydance that I embrace, love, and am obsessed with has its roots in what most people know as bellydance (or what is known as Egyptian Cabaret), but really was born out of a need to make something that empowered women in such a way that had never been done before. Where women accepted one another, and became their own tribe, dancing with and for each other with their own language of movement.

My own roots began in cabaret at a young age, and still to this day, my heart has a special place for the style.

But, I'm starting to realize a few things as I travel along on my tribal bellydance journey. The true beginnings of tribal bellydance stems from American Tribal Style, created by Carolena Nericcio and Fat Chance Bellydance, drawing from tribal ideology with a strong flamenco influence. Tribal fusion is based in this style...but, lately, I've noticed that there's a sudden influx of "my style of bellydance/belly danse/tribal bellydance" being taught.

Which leads to me wonder what is the true tribal fusion style?

As a dancer of this art form, I feel that I should be true to the authentic style of the dance, and even as I use the word "fusion", I hesitate to teach "my style" to beginning students. Because, honestly, I feel as if everyone is suddenly teaching things differently, and there may no longer be that common ground that really created the whole tribal movement. The language of the dance seems to not have different dialects, but entirely different languages being created. From using the words "gypsy", "Bohemian", and even changing the spelling around to stand out, the true meaning of tribal bellydance seems to get foggier every day.

Personally, I have only taken a scant few ATS classes (and stalked YouTube), but I strive to keep the roots true to my dance and teaching. To keep myself current and constantly learning, I take workshops and intensives from the most well known dancers who define tribal style hoping to keep the authenticity intact. Hopefully, this will include finishing Rachel Brice's Eight Elements intensive series...because, truly, in my eyes, she is the tree trunk that sprouted tribal style as we know it.

I can't speak for other dancers, but knowing and respecting the history of what I love is incredibly important to me. And I truly hope it shows.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Review...Icons By Margaret Stohl

When an author who has written a book I loved comes out with a new novel, I find myself like a kid on Christmas morning. Excitedly staring at the cover, wondering what I will find inside.

When I finally received Icons in my hands, I excitedly made it my current read...especially as I've been on a dystopia kick lately.

At first, Doloria and her best friend Ro seemed like the typical beginning of a complicated teen angst triangle that seems typical (and not always in a bad way) but the back story seemed more interesting...The Day, as it is known, began as any other, until literally everything and everyone stopped. Except Dol, or so it seems. The Lords came to Earth and placed Icons in prominent cities across the globe, creating a net of Silent Cities that enslaved the human race under constant fear of The Day happening again. Out in the Grasses, the Mission seems to be exempt but still living under the shadow of fear. Until all that she has known is shattered and destroyed as the two are captured and taken to the Embassy. At which we find out there maybe more to things than it seems.

And that's about all we really get. I can't say I necessarily disliked Icons. To be honest, I felt a odd mixture of indifference, disappointment, and a struggling sense of hope. I wanted to connect, but every moment that started to hook me sadly became vague and lacking. Who were the Lords, and what are the projects going to become? What information is so dangerous that Dol's book is worth killing for? Did Dol's parents (and the others) knowingly participate in the mysterious program? What information did we have that precluded the Lords arriving? And the "documents" in between chapters stopped the flow for me.

I wanted to like Dol, and at times I did. But, other times I felt as if the whole story line gave just enough to spark interest then let it go that it was difficult to. Tima, however, I would have loved knowing more about. The other part of the triangle? Of course we see it coming, but sadly, I could care less if they had any love/angst conflict.

I'm not sure if this is a beginning of a series (it certainly felt as if it could be), but I would pick up the next book if it were, hoping to get a little more than we were teased with. There was just enough that I'd like to know more...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Making It Work

Where a movement is generated from changes everything, whether a chest circle that's muscular or originates from your ribcage, or a spiritual movement of taking control of your happiness.

Recently, I took part in an intensive that included bellydance, yoga and biomechanics, practice, and the history of tribal bellydance. But, beyond all of the hours spent dancing, drilling, conditioning, zilling for six plus hours a day, I found the parts of myself that had remained buried under the layers of what I thought I had to be, others thought who I should be, and some strange sense of how I thought I wanted to be.

The simple fact that we all seem to forget is that while we are essentially the same, the paths we take are drastically different. What makes me feel free and happy may be totally different from anyone else. And this is a beautiful thing.

It takes a long time to realize this, mostly because we are beaten over the head since birth to conform, yet be special, yet THIS is what is beautiful, be normal...but, when you finally find your own path, it is liberating. Not to say staying on the path is easy, or even necessary. Sometimes, the path is unmarked at times. This may bring out self doubt or a panic session, but I keep reminding myself to do what makes ME happy.

Needless to say, I don't drill/dance/practice for six hours a day at home. Life has many ways of complicating things, and sometimes I'm lucky to get forty-five minutes in four times a week. And that is okay. Could I be a better dancer with more? Of course, but I would be a broke dancer with a lonely puppy, tons of laundry and dirty dishes, miscellaneous unused vintage jewelry just wishing to be loved again by a bellydancer, a very unhappy lil man and supportive yet frazzled husband.

So, I choose happy, and make my life work for me. I just wish it hadn't taken me so long to figure that out.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Short And Filled With Panic

In which I attempt to calm the panic of not being yoga/Sanskrit perfectly proficient, and somehow practice to become more endurable (my new word...for not quite having endurance mastered).

In less than two weeks, my flight leaves for Portland. Holy three-quarter shimmies, Batman. For real. The flashcards are started (kinda). Here's the deal. I still am not sure I'll even understand the Sanskrit word/phrases unless the lovely Rachel Brice WRITES THEM DOWN.

This leads me to believe that perhaps some time spent on YouTube (you know, the place you go to stalk other bellydancers, cute kitten videos, and other unmentionables) might help with pronunciation.



And them there's the whole fitting in a few hours here and there of ACTUAL BELLYDANCE PRACTICE!!! AARRGGGHHHH. (Cry of panic, or is that the pirate in me sneaking to the surface? Hmmm...)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Preparation, Anticipation, And Not Being Perfect

In a little over two weeks, this mama bellydancer will be flying across the country to study with an amazing, and dare I say icon, of tribal bellydance, Rachel Brice. I've been in preparation mode for a few months, focusing on different areas to bring myself up another level, as well as just have the endurance to dance for five to six hours a day.

Have I succeeded? Yes and no.

The honest truth is a double edged sword. I have brought my technique to a new level, though not quite where I really desire to be, and have focused more on practice. Creatively, I've worked on a few pieces choreographed for my troupe which I've loved immensely.

But, in reality, I can't put as much time in as I'd truly like. I have a family, and the past few years have changed my love affair with bellydance. Gratefully, I believe that relationship has grown with me. Accepting that I can't be perfect and practice for two hours every single day has been hard. But once I did, a beautiful thing happened.

I became a better dancer, teacher, and felt joy in my practice. The planning of my time has allowed me to become focused and even spontaneous. Sounds strange, but true. Spreading out the components that put together my "practice" throughout my day lessens the pressure on myself. Bellydance happens now in my kitchen, while cooking or even *gasp*cleaning. Yoga flows don't have to be half an hour long. A morning practice of ten to fifteen minutes starts my day (as long as a certain cutie pie isn't up before me), and then at least one more session either at nap time, evening practice, or before bed. Yoga, for me is just as important as drilling.

For Eight Elements (the intensive I'll be flying across the country soon for!!), there's pre-work. Reading material and a bit of Serpentine review. The Yoga For Wellness by Gary Kraftsow has actually enhanced my yoga practice, and that "aha" moment carried over to my Serpentine (a very wonderful tribal bellydance practice companion that is on the top of my pile) time, as well. (In fact, I was so giddy over this, I had to tell the first person I saw right after. My husband is such a pumpkin for listening. Even if I bribed him with ice cream!)

And now, I look at every aspect a little closer to make sure it will enhance my practice, especially planning. Which, for me, includes scheduling, learning, teaching, and even creating costume pieces.

Hopefully, as the trip draws closer, this feeling will stay with me.

Or I can just have a breakdown once we land. (After the plane ride. No need to unnecessarily burden others with my tribal bellydance problems!)

The biggest learning so far? It is okay to be not perfect. No need to beat yourself up over what you can't do when you can focus on what you can do. Which may just be more than you think.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Celebrating...A Bellydance Journey

My most cherished part of the journey that the road (or mountain!) of bellydance has given me is the appreciation of myself as a woman, and the joy of embracing the differences of the beautiful women (and a few men!) I've had the pleasure of knowing and sharing the art of bellydance with.

Whenever I've had the pleasure of taking a workshop or class with a dancer I admire, this concept is passionately expressed, and a safe place is experienced by everyone. There is a simple and utter respect and trust that is shared. No one feels ashamed, body issues are checked at the door, learning is filled with wonder (and for me, the ability to laugh when my body has a mind of its own), and a sense of sisterhood appears.

Of course, there's always an exception. But, as sad as it seems when this happens, I always try to brush it off. The ability to not let others actions effect our happiness seems to be an easy choice on paper, but seldom as easily executed in action. But, the more you do make this choice, the more you begin to see others in a different light. No one is perfect, no one has everything figured out. The joy is in the journey, especially because this one, for me, has no end. It is the journey itself that brings joy.

Hopefully, everytime I dance, teach, learn, even blog, about bellydance, I bring that feeling to others. There isn't one reason we can't celebrate differences and enjoy the journey together.

Recently, I've seen many sides of people I surround myself with, good and bad. Sadly, I sometimes let the bad effect me more than I should've. And, even more sad is the fact that I didn't allow the good to really envelope me. But, everyday, I try. And that is what is important.

With this in mind, the reaction I've come to know may sound naive, but I don't feed into the negative. Believe in the good. Celebrate. And try not to live in the ugliness that tries to get to you.

The dance is as much for your soul as your body. Learning to feed it and feel the beauty is

Friday, June 7, 2013

Weekly Focus Update...Variation

Ah, the sweet feeling of success after a wonderfully challenging bellydance practice, which only becomes an explosive awesome feeling after a week.

Pushing myself out of my comfort zone (and technically into a long forgotten comfort zone that is now not as comfortable) was more rewarding than I hoped.

As a tribal bellydancer, my biggest weakness (at least in my eyes) has been my hands. Flopping around like gasping fish, or just plain ol' bleh, I always cringe with embarrassment when seeing videos or photos of performances. When I danced cabaret style, I always felt those long ago learned habits from dance class sneak its way into my adult brain. But, for some unknown reason, my tribal brain blocked those impulses.

But, allowing myself to dip back into those practices made my arms and hands unite in tribal hand movement bliss!! In fact, in an all levels drill class (a good teacher is ALWAYS learning), a beginner level student who stood behind me contacted me. She knew I also taught, and wanted to tell me how much she loved my tribal arms! She thought it had to either be natural talent (if only!) or hard work and wanted tips or lessons. (The teacher, BTW, is a troupe mate, so no tie stepping and she was cool with it. No bellydance drama, please.) This made my week, for real.

I thanked her, and said it maybe a small amount of talent, but mostly, HARD WORK. And I'd be more than happy to share my thoughts.

Weekly focus accomplished.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Pop, Lock, and Loaded With Kami Liddle Review

(Full disclosure: I have a bellydance crush on Kami Liddle. This may taint this review slightly, however I shall resolve to stay neutral.)

The hardest thing about learning from a dvd is often the actual breakdown, often given quickly and with the barest amount of information before you are attempting to repeat what you've seen. Which can translate to reversing, rewatching, and general confusion turning into a half-hearted execution (not to mention fiddling with a remote). Kami Liddle not only breaks down the movement, she does it in such a way that allows the visual of the movement to relate to her explanation that allows any type of learning style to understand it easily. Personally, I need too see the movement with a detailed explanation (muscles involved, and what the "linked" parts should be doing/not doing), which was perfect. Then, she drills the movement enough to actually feel like a practice (I hardly pick up my remote). You can choose to watch the breakdown or just the actual practice segment as well, or just press play.

Kami's lock explanation lends to her unique and elegant style, as well as extra tips to take the hits (and especially the shoulder movement) to the next level, even for an experienced dancer. She even takes the time to remind you what the rest of your body should be doing, whether relaxed in posture or in reaction/in conjunction with the movement. She also encourages you make the movement work for your body.

A choreography is included, which is challenging, but incorporates much of what you've practiced. I particularly liked the format for practicing the choreography. No need to keep grabbing your remote and break posture or momentum. Each part of the choreo is broken down into segments/combos that are broken down and practiced. Kami also has beautiful hand "posture", so for me, the morsels of hand content just added another delicious layer. The entire choreography is much longer than you would normally find in a feels as if you've taken a workshop with Kami.

The bonus content taken from a workshop available to rent online has the same feel (very genuine with a bit more complexity) but the warm-up was the same from the beginning (not a bad thing, but...). The performance of this bonus online available content was taken from Tribal Fest, so it goes without saying (but I have to) that it was gorgeous in all ways.

To say I would recommend this dvd would be an understatement. If your are brand new to this style, I would recommend watching it through a few times as it may he too challenging. For intermediate/advance tribal bellydancers...this is what you've waited for. I've taken a workshop from Kami, and this felt as if I was back there once again. The studio atmosphere with real dancers feels both relaxed and structured because there isn't an overstated set to distract from the content, and Kami's style of pops and lock entwined with her fluidity make this unique and a must have.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Weekly Focus...Variations On A Theme

Every moment we spend doing the same over and over often leads to one of two things, getting better (practice makes perfect) or stagnation (or the definition of insanity). Plateaus and the feeling of being stuck can lead to frustration, which can make your practice suffer.

The answer? Change it up. It's that simple, but we can get so focused we forget the simple things.

For me, that means back to my bellydance roots. American cabaret...the style that most people think of when they hear the word bellydance. The lighter, more ballet-esque movements peppered with playful shimmies that began my bellydance journey...and made me accept who I am.

This week, I'm peppering my practice with a bit of cabaret, and maybe a little modern dance thrown in...

Should be interesting ;-)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday Musings...Seuss-Style

"If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good." ~ Dr. Seuss

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Weekly Focus Update...Taking Time

Practice has been fast and furious these past two weeks, and it is finally catching up with me!

After almost two weeks of bliss, my body finally needed a day off. Which I spent in the sun giving my herb garden some much needed attention. (There was a mini boulder I had wanted to move for a long while, now...and I did. Well, I rolled it out of my herb garden. About a foot away. Where it is patiently awaiting its new home!)

Then, back on the horse!

I've come to realize over time that practice has many shapes and forms. And incorporating this idea in my daily practice has given me the flexibility to take away the guilt I would feel if I simply could not fit in an hour of bellydance every day. In fact, one of the easiest ways to get my practice in is in little doses.

Yoga flow in the morning, for about ten to fifteen minutes. Then, maybe an hour or two later, I fit in something else (squats/shimmy drill, jumping jacks with isolations, or even arm cycles paired with ooey gooey movement) for eight to fifteen minutes. Then, if the Universe cooperates, choreography focus! Working on new choreo makes the creative side of me blissful, and incorporates the little movements I play around with in the kitchen.

And keeping a notebook around so I can remember what works and what doesn't is a new practice I'm trying out.

So far, so great. This scenario allows me to keep those serious hour long practices focused, and fresh.

Mix it up!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Weekly Focus...Time

There's good news and bad news this week.

The bad? I haven't had the chance to post my bellydance weekly focus in the past two weeks.

The good? The reason behind the insanity.

Bellydance. A massive amount of practice, rehearsal, choreography, and learning/teaching.

As you may or may not be aware, a little over two years ago, my ankle had a very serious injury that was so serious that walking became crawling. This, if not taken care of, could become a permanent part of my life.

Which also meant no bellydance.

Fast forward to now. I am incredibly grateful, and am finally returning to my regular practice schedule.

Which is my focus. Getting a regular (and somewhat irregular) practice in, either of yoga and bellydance, teaching or learning, dance and bellydance, or yoga and dance.

Practice can mean so many things. For me, it is a consistent dedication to myself. The act of practice includes the drills, warm-ups, cool down, choreographing, movement, and even planning for me. And making that time fit in daily is an important component of that practice.

So far, so good.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Review...The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My first encounter with The Night Circus came over a year ago, when it was featured in Entertainment Weekly's book review section. Oddly enough, my other half was full on for me reading it. At the time, I was fully engrossed in another series, and shelved it to my to be bought pile.

Silly me.

The moment I peeled open The Night Circus, I was entangled in mystery. There's a silent and precious dichotomy to the story telling that feels like a single budding rose opening stunning moment by moment to reveal petal by petal a soft fragrance and inner beauty that grows with each page turned. We learn the story of the Night Circus through the eyes not only of it's performers and admirers, but its creators and inventors.

And all of this, a rich backdrop to a not so simple game. Where the competition is only known to a few, the competitors, their mentors, and a scant couple of not so outsiders. The part that makes this all so beautiful? The love story, not just of a boy and girl, but of a creator and its creation...between magic and the believers unfolds over years, building layer upon layer until every part is utterly intertwined.

First off, let me say I adored the way Erin Morgenstern chose to tell her story. At first, I had to remind myself of the timeline, but it soon became as much of the story as the colors of the circus itself. It slowed the story while equally giving every moment a sense of gravity.

I found myself surprisingly feeling sympathy to the gray, forgetful mentor...and loving the strength the competitors felt towards each other and the circus. Sometimes, those around them would crumble, but Cela and Marco found strength where others couldn't.

The Night Circus itself becomes a living, breathing character in the tale, from the mysterious contortionist, a fantastical path of clouds, to the opening bonfires and ice garden full of glistening living spectacle.

Inspiration, courage, and beauty. All under one spectacular big top. A love story with many characters, but held together by two people who seem to make impossible seem possible.

If I could make a wish and light my very own candle, my wish would be to visit this world once again...and don't be surprised if I do.

Tuesday Musings...Dare To Be You

"We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be." - May Sarton

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dream...Love...Believe! What A Weekend!

If you've followed me the last six months or so, you know that my world has changed in immeasurable ways. From working full time, squeezing in my love of tribal bellydance, teaching, and recovering from a nightmare of an injury to taking a leap of faith to follow a dream...with an adorable, inspiring, and amazing lil dude.


This past weekend, Reclaimed Dark Muse had it's first public outing (outside of etsy, eBay *eh*, and the comfort of my troupe).


When you create something, a small part of you is on display. This is terrifying. Did I mention terrifying?



That smile? It says more than words. She loved it, and had to wear it for the show that evening.

My favorite piece?

My gorgeous dragonfly is now with a bellydancer I've known since I was an American Cabaret bellydancer, whom I adore.

Success can be defined in so many different ways. Money, maybe (sure, it helps. And bellydance is a very expensive love!!), but happiness and passion reflected back to you from others? Priceless...

And, I've still got more work to do.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Whenever I see something that inspires me, I try desperately to hold onto it. Frantically at times, I hastily jot down notes, words that will remind me of that spark that is meant to light the fire within. No matter that I may not quite understand the scribbled words or sketches that may or may not be a thing of beauty.

I even carry little books to record those fireworks before they fade away. The notebook on my bedside stand is filled with dreams and nightmares that I might never have remembered, even though I wanted to.

Sometimes, the Muse that resides near me when she feels like companionship whispers in my ear and these initial sparks morphine into something entirely different than they began.

But lately, I've learned to allow some of these feelings simmer. To become something more than I ever dreamed of if I just listened to that one little note.

Out of these sparks come dreams that become reality.

And there are more to come...

Note: All photos by Aria, and Headpiece available soon at

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Weekly Focus Update...On Being Sore

Funny things happen when you take for granted that you know something. Or so you think.

Take a long look at yourself, and you realize that knowing vs. knowing and doing on a consistent basis may just be two different things.

Muscle memory can only bring you so far along. Then practice makes perfect takes over.

The basics encompass so much more than just a few movements. Posture (last weeks focus) changes everything...hopefully for the better.

As I drilled (only eight minutes twice a day) the basic lower body movements (glute, oblique lifts, oblique hip slides), I tuned into what my body needed from my core to make the movement controlled and precise.

And the next day, I was sore! What?!? These are movements I'd mastered years ago, right?

But I took them for granted.

Lesson learned...take nothing for granted. Even the things you think you know.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

New Review...Touch of Steel By Kate Cross

Claire Brooks is seeking revenge for the only family she had left.

More often than not, I've had the distinct pleasure of disappointment when a book claims to be steampunk. My favorite was one particular novel that used the word so many times that I literally laughed out loud and finished two chapters.

But, I'm still that girl who loves a good cover, and when I caught sight of this one on my hastily planned dash through the bookstore, I had to have it. And, of course, in the grand tradition of all things me, it is the second book in the Clockwork Agents series.

So I picked up the first book, Heart of Brass.

And fell in love.

In Kate Cross' second novel in the series, she not only delivers an intriguing steampunk powered world where automatons and dirigibles power everyday life, but also a world where the women of the realm ;-) are empowering, passionate, and not satisfied to sit by and wait to be rescued.

And when Claire meets her match in Alastair, the Earl of Wolfred, there is so much steam you may need to open a window and clear the air. From opposing agencies, these two must work together to capture one of the realms biggest enemies. But, can Alastair resist his captive? And will Claire be able to do what she needs to, no matter the consequences?

The best part of this story (other than the steamy romance, of course), is how effortless the steampunk world seemed. Details were resplendent, every character adding layers of intrigue and subtlety. And who can resist chasing a bad guy with a sexy spy? Why, only another dangerous and sexy spy. The Dove may have met her match.

Rich, vibrant, and full of ingenious detail, Touch of Steel will have you longing for more Wardens of the Realm!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Weekly Focus...The Basics

As with any language, there are essential components you have to learn and practice to be able to communicate. To me, dance is a language. Tribal Fusion is no exception.

I like to think of the basic building blocks of more complex movements as can't spell words without them ;-), and you need words to express any story.

This week, those basics are my focus. Practicing movements such as oblique lifts, hip slides, glute squeezes (yep, booty time!!), and locks is not only a way to reconnect with your body and the dance, but also a really great core workout.

Especially combined with last week's posture learnings!

Practicing a series of glutes, slides, and lifts in merely eight minutes a day can lift technique and make your dance feel stronger, and the confidence gained is priceless...

Shimmy time...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Posture...Weekly Focus Update

Nothing feels better than a strong performance, and one of the key factors to that is posture.

Posture effects each component of your dance, starting with practice.

And practice makes perfect.

The "corsetting" technique I learned a few weeks ago made my practice feel like it never did before. My posture feels more grounded and rooted, and every movement felt brand new.

The area between my shoulder blades also became an area that I focused my on, to make my posture feel more regal and confident. Yoga poses such as plank (double bonus!), chatarunga, and even tree became early morning staples.

And, wow, did I become sore! But, as I incorporated these new details into my practice, I noticed how much better I felt about my dance. Especially the next day, I could feel a new strength in my body.

Focus accomplished...

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Review...Taking A Shot By Jaci Burton

Hockey is a sport I get into. Tall men, a sexy accent here and there, and the games are fast paced (and a twenty minute period usually takes close to twenty minutes real time!). The lockout mad this girl a bit sad this year. As I pouted, I would see this cover here and there, but after being disappointed by other "hockey" novels I was book-shy.


Fast paced, almost impossible to put down, and with hockey action so believable you'll want to bang on the glass in your favorite team's fan wear, Jaci Burton weaves a sport background romance so well and full of chemistry that you may just become a fan yourself. Jenna is spunky and loyal to her family, and surrounded by sports in a way that she can no longer appreciate any game or player.

Or so she thinks.

Ty is mesmerized by the sassy bar owner at Riley's, and wants to get to know more...

I loved how the characters in this story had dimension, from Jenna and Ty, to her family, and even Ty's Ice teammates. In fact, I'm so intrigued that I may just have to check out the other books in this series (and I'm so not a football or baseball kind of girl!).

The steam and sizzle don't disappoint, and you just might find yourself looking at things in your life in a different way. And perhaps gaining a little courage to follow your dreams.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Secrets Of A Tribal Bellydancer

I'm going to let you in on a secret.

Not that I'm ashamed of this...quite the contrary, I proudly share this little gem quite often.

As a bellydancer, any performance, workshop, or practice usually involves a high amount of shimmies and/or spinning. Which means anything we wear has a high possibility of leaving bellydance bread crumbs behind.

Even more terrifying? Wardrobe malfunctions.

My secret? Well, beyond the stitching and hand sewing...I use this little gem:

Not only do I love it as double insurance that my various costume and headpieces stay exactly as they are meant to be, I have it in my dance kit as a just in case back up.

You never know when a shimmy is going to leave something behind. Me? I prefer to be mysterious, and leave very little beyond memories behind.

And every girl has her secrets...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Weekly Challenge One...Posture

The hardest thing to accept, and not let yourself get down, is that though you may feel strong and beautiful, sometimes, your dance doesn't look as fabulous as it feels.

A strong performance hinges on so many things, and like all things practice makes perfect.  Feeling strong, in the moment, and nailing each movement...and then, you see the replay.

Ugh.  Did I really leave my hand flopping around like that?  And that hip drop combo?  Am I slouching?

You have a choice.  Feel sorry for yourself, or PRACTICE.  The basics have to be a fundamental part of your practice, but sometimes we focus on the other bells and whistles that they get forgotten.

Each week, I am focusing on an area of my practice that I feel needs tweaking.  (After seeing a few replays, more than one!)

The first focus?  Posture.  This is the most fundamental and important part of any bellydance practice. 

Feet, knees, hips, pelvis, spine, shoulders, neck, chin.  These are the words I teach my students as a check in while they are drilling and learning, both in class and at home.

I have also "learned" a new technique from a great teacher and friend of mine that "corsets" your core area.  The muscle that wraps around from the lower back to from supports your entire upper body, When it is weak (either from concentrating on your abs though crunches that work only the front muscles or general misuse), we feel that ache in our lower backs.  But, by pulling in this muscle and like a corset to support your upper body, you can strengthen your core not only for your dance, but everyday life.  The muscle engages when you are in plank, though not everyone is aware of it and uses it as such.  There are also Pilate's/yoga exercises such as boat with your abs "corseted" (think of an actual corset cinching in your waist all around, but only tight enough to feel supported and not out of breath).  You can increase the difficulty by "flointing" your toes.  point your fee/toes, but flex and spread your toes with a lot of energy.  WOWSA.

This technique is now added to my posture mantra, because this support actually made me feel taller, stronger, and aware of my movement.  So, feet, knees, hips, pelvis, spin, corset the core, shoulders, neck, chin.

Be back with an update!

Weekly Focus Check In...Posture

That title might be misleading. I know I seriously just posted, but I so badly want to check my new app out that I couldn't resist.

Plus, my yoga practice this morning blew my mind when I focused on the concept of "corsetting" my core.
Since my ankle injury, I've struggled with balance. Which, in turn, made my posture even more important.

Imagine my inner joy exploding when, suddenly, tree pose wasn't a sad display of totally uncontrolled wobbly silliness!!!

Happy shimmies, pops, and locks y'all!!!!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday Musings...

"Art if the lie that enables us to realize the truth."

Pablo Picasso
Note: Reclaimed Bindi Box, available here.

Blog Revamp and All That Jazz!

I've decided this neglected blog needs a revamp.  Quite honestly, with my little guy, I barely (and regrettably) have little time to read as many books as I used to.  In fact, my poor Kindle has literally been dead (battery wise) for over two weeks.
I still get one or two in, but not enough in my eyes to be able to make this a book only blog.
What will I do?  Why, incorporate (officially) my adventures in tribal fusion bellydance, teaching, and my Reclaimed Dark Muse creations.
Review requests are still welcome, of course.
I hope you will join me on my journey!
Now, I'm off to continue my Blogger rearrange/revamp/make pretty time...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tuesdays Musings...Inspire

"What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Student Beware...Or, Shame On You, Teacher

Lately I've noticed an sudden surge in the "teaching" genre of bellydance.  Well, to be specific, since I've been physically been back to teaching bellydance on a regular basis,  my radar has picked up on a how, why, and who is teaching in my area.  There have always been magical and well qualified teachers, but suddenly there is a new teacher in town.  And I use that term lightly.
Here's the deal...personally, I have three to four "grown-up" years (I kinda count the ones in my younger days, though I'm sure my technique has grown!) in cabaret, and four more in tribal fusion bellydance, to which I can attribute hundreds of hours of classes, workshops, and one on one sessions perfecting technique.  If I didn't completely master every move, I'm good with that because the mechanics and understanding is there and the rest will come with practice.  I am a constant state of learning, and because of this, of teaching.
I supplement dvd's and online classes from time to time, mostly because I have the knowledge of basic movement vocabulary that makes up the language of my dance.  And, most of these dvd's are by dancers/teachers that I have the pleasure of actually learning from in a workshop/class situation.
That being said, I know I will never stop learning, and that I am not perfect.  This is a good thing, because I am passionate and will continue to become a stronger dancer, performer, and teacher.
Current conundrum.  Taking a eight week or so beginner's class and watching YouTube or DVD's and then teaching bellydance scares me.  Because, these are people's bodies, their spirits, and self confidence you are messing with. 
Shame on anyone who thinks they can teach something they've just learned (and are doing not for the love of, but for the love of money) without training of some sort.
But, as a student, please know who your teacher is, how they learned their craft, and maybe why they teach.
I teach to give my students confidence, passion, and joy.  And in return, they give me back the same in return.
Know what you are giving and getting....

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tuesday Musings...

"Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure."

Just remember this the next time you are having one of those days!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Retrieved By Amber Polo Blog Tour Review & Giveaway!

Dog-shifters once again face the book-burning werewolves of Shipsfeather in this charming second installment of The Shapeshifters’ Library series. 

Godiva Anglesey, Chocolate Labrador, and the ruggedly handsome English Mastiff Cynerik are forced to team up against power-hungry werewolves when Cynerik discovers an ancient Ohio mound that may hold answers to their shifter history. Knowing the mound’s secrets could benefit the dog-shifters in the ongoing contest for power, ambitious werewolf pack Alpha Sybilla challenges timid Godiva to a battle for the territory. Already faced with a malicious book-worm infestation and a censorship threat to ban all anthropomorphic books in her library, Godiva, who has no interest in battling anyone, must turn from running her small town library to train for a challenge she believes she has no chance of winning. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, Godiva’s mother announces that family tradition dictates that Godiva must be married by Summer Solstice… to a Druid. Godiva doesn’t even know any Druids.

Godiva wants to run her library, retrieve books for library patrons, and keep people happy. She’s no hero. She doesn’t have what it takes to face down werewolves or save the world. Cynerik, however, believes differently. Together they must defeat the werewolves, save the town and its library, protect the most important archeological discovery in dog-shifter history… and, just maybe, find love along the way.
My Review:
 Lately, I've become a tea person.  Not just the run of the mill, paper wrapped tea in a bag variety, but the steep your own single cup loose leaf and spoon out your pleasure kind.  For me, this has become my me ritual, and the time I spend with my delicious steaming cuppa is my retreat.  It's special.  And silly as it may sound, Retrieved by Amber Polo fits right in that special time.
Released took me pleasantly by surprise, so much so that when I'm in a book rut, I page through my kindle and may just read a bit here and there.  If I can put it down, that is.
Imagine my girl geeky giddiness when asked to review the second book, Retrieved?  Oh, yes...please!!
Shipsfeather has weathered the were-storm of library burning and sure catastrophe.  Chronus and Liberty are enjoying their honeymoon (not to say I wasn't sorely disappointed...but that didn't last long!), and the shapeshifters curse has been broken.  Godiva is the head librarian now, and her office lovingly looks across the hall at Gris. All should be right and well in the world, right?
Wrong. Especially when the new pack lead of the book-hating werewolves has cleaned up her house (poor Harry) and taken control. 
New threats abound...the library is suddenly overrun with bookworms, children's books are being pulled off the shelves by irate library go-ers on a national stage, the biggest discovery of the shapeshifter's history has been taken over by the werewolves for..gulp...a golf course, poor Harry has no place to lay his paws, Gris is more aloof and rude to Diva as ever, and a Challenge has been issued to highest dog shifter in Shipsfeather by the library hating hating Alpha werewolf bent on taking over the town.
Poor Godiva, she just wants to run her library, eat chocolate, and run for her daily exercise.  If only she would notice Cynerik as more than just a loyal run through the woods Mastiff pal...
To say that I loved the sequel as much as I loved the first would be a slight understatement.  One complaint?  I missed Liberty and her dashing Chronus...
But, there is so much to love about Retrieved, from the witty and clever yet quaint story-telling (who knew the Dewey Decimal System could be such a descriptive device?!?!) to the tongue in cheek Starbark's and Zoogle, and the wonderful weaving of history incorporated into the legend of the werewolf/shapeshifter back story.  Cyn and Diva stole my heart, as did all of the loyal library loving shifters.  I loved how Amber Polo tells her story, weaving each detail with such precision that you simply cannot put it down. I simply cannot wait to see where the Shapeshifter's Library leads to next!
No spoilers here, but there is plenty of action to keep you on the edge of your seat, and you may just want to run out to your library and make sure no one is pulling your beloved children's book off the shelf.  Right after you enjoy hot chocolate and nice run in the snow!

Rafflecopter code for giveaway:
A Shapeshifter Public Library canvas book bag.
A print copy of "Retrieved," dog biscuits, and a tuft of genuine wolf fur. This giveaway is open only to US/Canada residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Where to find Amber:
Wordshaping Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter
Pinterest | Google+

Buy Links for Retrieved, Book two: Blue Merle Publishing  | Kindle | Amazon Print | Barnes & Noble & Nook | Well Red Coyote Bookstore

Buy Links for Released, Book One: Blue Merle Publishing | Kindle | Amazon Print | Barnes & Noble & Nook | Well Red Coyote Bookstore

Author Bio:A love of books drew Amber Polo into a career as a librarian. A greater love turned her into a writer. The Shapeshifters’ Library series is an urban fantasy filled with books, librarians and dogs and a library everyone will love.

Note: Review copy provided by author.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday Musings...

"Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world."

Better words have never been this.  Hope this day finds you dancing, reading, and laughing with joy!!!

Working Hard!

Long time, no blog.  I wish I could tell you that I have been busy doing glamorous and exciting things, but well, while some have been incredibly exciting...others have been things no so much. 

The excitement?  Working on my new Reclaimed Dark Muse Etsy store.  Making your dreams a reality takes so much more than just the dreaming.  The journey, well, that makes the dream a reality is long and full of the things you don't see when you initially think of the dream.  Like organizing.  And stabbing your fingers repeatedly while you hand sew for bellydance/shimmy resistant falling off-ness!

The teaching is back on classes start this week, and I am beyond ready!  OH YEAH!

Did I mention four shows in the past two months?  It may not seem like much, but add in everything else, and it truly is.  Especially when you add in the other not so exciting things.

My one learning from all of this?  That the dishes will always be there, laundry smells fabulous, and working hard for your dreams makes all of it worth it.

And doing all of this while being a mommy?  Priceless.  Because I have the chance to live my dreams all because of his beautiful, happy, giggling little face.