|Posted by Tessa Thompson on July 1, 2013 at 12:15 PM||comments (1)|
When I was 15 I saw my first Belly Dance performance and I was immediately hooked on the beauty and passion that those women brought to the stage. At this time I was living in Flagstaff, Arizona where the arts and dance were heavily embraced so I knew that Belly Dance could be my little addition to the artistic beauty of Flagstaff. Soon after the performance I had seen, I began learning from the beautiful Holly Luky (whom later turned into one of the biggest life inspirations to me). Holly’s teaching is what made me fall in love with Belly Dance; with everything she taught she brought beauty, confidence, and passion. I soon found out that what I loved most about Belly Dance wasn't the costumes or the movements but how it made me feel! Belly Dance brought me a confidence that I had never had and it allowed me to embrace my body and learn to love my body!
My favorite Belly Dance moves have always been the slow and mushy moves! I've always loved a good Maya or Taxeem and almost nothing can beat a well performed Omi! Slow and slinky movements have always grabbed hold of me and transfixed me.
To say that I find inspiration for Belly Dance in a specific thing or a few things would be the understatement of a lifetime! I find inspiration for my dance, teaching, and costuming in everything from movies and music to the people and places I see every day. My biggest inspirations though include Rachel Brice (I will forever love her!) and anything eclectic and our of the ordinary. When it comes to costuming I enjoy finding inspiration through subcultures in society and my favorite component of costuming would be the little embellishments that add flare to my costume! I hand make almost all of my costumes so I enjoy intricate bead work and making little additions to everything. I enjoy costuming the most when I can fuse two styles of Belly Dance into one outfit; most commonly I enjoy fusing Cabaret Belly Dance with Tribal Fusion not only into most of my costumes but also in my dance.
I never have a time in my dance life when I don’t have a goal so they are ever growing and changing. My goal in dance has always been to better myself in every way I can. There is a quote that I always remember when it comes to my goals in dance - "I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself." ~ Mikhail Baryshnikov. My goal in dance is to always be surpassing what I can do right now. Currently for myself and my dance I am focusing on Yoga to strengthen myself for more dance ability and also to bring for flexibility into my dance. Next December my husband will be finishing up his service in the Air Force and we will be moving to Seattle, Washington so my long term goals would be to find a dance community within a troupe in Seattle where I can continue to dance and maybe start teaching again once we settle down. But as always my biggest goals are reserved for my troupe, The Valhalla Vixens; we have a lot ahead of us this summer and we all have many troupe specific goals to reach. But to be honest, it always seems that there are so many goals and such little time!
|Posted by Tessa Thompson on June 2, 2013 at 1:25 PM||comments (2)|
I studied ballet as a child. During college, I studied modern and jazz. After that, my only dancing was at the gym for the most part. Thankfully, I began my lifelong journey into the ancient art of “belly dance” as it is known in the USA, at a workshop taught by Sonya Alarcon in 2002. A friend from my work as an RN for Dr. Margaret Beeson danced regularly with The Troupe. Thank you for the rest of my days, Cheri Smith, for inspiring me to enter the dance! I took classes and workshops with Sonja regularly. Professional performers would sometimes come to our area to teach and perform. When Suhaila Salimpour came to teach a two day workshop in Bozeman in 2005, I was absolutely mesmerized by her Egyptian costumes and stylization. It just seemed so pure to me. I immediately signed up to take a five day workshop with her at her studio in California. Over the years, I studied on retreat with other professional dancers, namely Delilah Flynn and Princess Farhana. I always attended The Yellowstone Valley Bellydance Festival and others large festivals for professional exposure. I have a massive DVD collection. I have learned so much that I can’t remember but a fraction at times and work to apply what I know on the stage, which is the greatest challenge really. I went to Egypt with Delilah in 2008 and hope to return someday…...
I like the endless opportunity for artistic expression in the movements themselves, the costuming, the raw potential of THE DANCE. I love the audience interaction the most really because at heart, I am a huge flirt! I flirt with babies, old people, cats and dogs, certain trees. I study Qi Gong with Chris Fernie and am convinced that someday I will be Jedi Belly Dancer!
My favorite movement is the one that matches the music, the mood, the moment I am in. That said, my “go to” movement is almost always a maya or a goosh (either direction vertical eight’s with the hips). My favorite traveling movement is a double maya, just for consistency.
I strive for the music to inspire the moves and the costume to complement the whole performance and help to create mood/emotional atmosphere. Music is usually my most difficult decision and I often agonize for hours (keeping our playlist manager waiting and changing my choices). I choose to dance to the most “Eastern” music that I can usually. I rarely choose a song that most people wouldn’t automatically label as belly dance music. Sometimes, I just want a certain costume or prop and that can be a fun way to find inspiration too. I know a lot of people watch you tube and stuff for inspiration. I just don’t do that much but I love to see live shows.
Anymore, I love the task of collaborative costuming for larger groups, bigger stages, more massive projects. I recently helped a friend do several photo shoots with local dancers for a calendar, a Sirens of the Zodiac project. The headpieces were incredible. The energy of the ladies involved in the project fed off of each other as we grew more and more excited. I find similar pleasure in putting glitter and/or rhinestones, sequins, fringe or feather onto almost any given object that one could place on a dancer or a stage. I have always loved to sew and am now immersed in thobes and Steam Punk street cross-over stuff, oh and leather. I have lots of new fire dance props and need lots of leather!
My one and only goal is to have Princess Farhana confer upon me the royal status of Lady Valeria. OK, I also have the goal of maintaining myself so that I can keep dancing with my cane instead of leaning on it to walk. Some days I wonder. I always try to warm up well before rehearsals and performances. Besides, Princess Farhana says warming up is, “The Law” and who am I but some peasant to argue.
|Posted by Tessa Thompson on May 1, 2013 at 11:55 AM||comments (1)|
Belly dancing has always called to my soul. I remember seeing belly dancers when I was little at events like the Strawberry Festival that my mom took me to. I watched them and knew I wanted to become a belly dancer. Before I was 21, I took a few classes here and there, but I finally committed myself to it 100% spring semester 2011 when I heard it was being offered at MSUB. I was so eager to learn everything I could and couldn’t wait for class to start. Julie Hrubes is the instructor at MSUB and my first real teacher. I absolutely adore her; her personality is very much reflected in her teaching style-she’s fun, silly, and ridiculous in the best possible way, but also teaches the material with great skill and clarity. I have taken her class every semester since and have grown close with her and the other girls in the class. I also started taking classes from Tessa and Kyla at Urban Sands Bellydance about a year ago and love them as well. They work great as a team and they incorporate many different styles of belly dance into their classes. If I had time to take more classes I would. Belly dancing is my biggest passion so I try to get as much learning in as I can.
I love belly dance for so many reasons. I love the way that self-discipline is reflected in the way you move your body and I love feeling my muscles work in synchronicity to create something so beautiful. I love how I am able to express my grace, beauty, talent, and creativity; I feel powerful and strong when I dance, very connected to my inner divinity and femininity and that feeling is addictive to me. I don’t think I’ll ever stop dancing because of it.
Most of my inspiration for belly dance comes from Rachel Brice. I had been dancing for about a year when I discovered her and after watching her I felt like I found “my style” of dance-tribal fusion. I love how she has trained her body to do such difficult moves, like the Turkish drop, which she does so flawlessly. She executes her moves with such perfection and beauty; it takes my breath away every time I watch her. I love that she dances to such unique music and I love the originality of her costumes. I also love Zoe Jakes; the way she performs is hauntingly beautiful. I love the way she throws herself into spins and how captivating her expression is. I love the way both her and Rachel match each movement of their bodies to the music; it's like their bodies become the instrument and it really captures their level of skill.
My favorite moves are the harder ones - belly rolls, miyas, flutters, shimmies. I also like to layer them, but that takes a lot of practice! I always love to challenge myself because when I accomplish a move or combination that is difficult I feel amazing. It helps me see my true strength and dedication.
Like most dancers, I love costuming. Since I was sewing long before I was dancing, I started making my own costumes right away. I like to make my own costumes because I love to sew and I like things that are unique and original, true expressions of myself. I also like that I put so much of myself into belly dance, not just the dancing part but the costume part as well. I feel that costume choice really reflects the mood of your dance and your personality and I am just as passionate about it as I am about dancing.
I am graduating from MSUB this spring with a bachelors degree in Environmental Studies and am not quite sure where that will take me just yet. Environmental issues are another major passion of mine so I hope to get involved with an organization that helps to rectify the state of our natural world. My goals for belly dance are to improve-always. I believe that even though I am good, I can always be better and that there is always something new to learn. I want to keep performing at every opportunity and to continue to discover myself through dancing. It connects me to myself, it empowers me and gives me confidence, and it shows me that I truly am beautiful and strong. And that is the best gift I could ever imagine.
|Posted by Tessa Thompson on April 1, 2013 at 10:15 AM||comments (0)|
I first learned to belly dance 5½ years ago from a former instructor here in Miles City who was offering classes. Going to the gym gets old to me in a hurry, and I was looking for some kind of physical activity that I would enjoy and not get bored with. After hearing from a co-worker who had previously taken a class and enjoyed it, I had to try it. I signed up for the class and was hooked!
Honestly, I think one of the things I like best about belly dancing is that its probably the last thing that anyone who knows me would expect me to do, ha ha! I’m a horseback-riding, boots-and-jeans wearing, outdoorsy, tough kind of girl so being a belly dancer is a totally different, unexpected side of me. Really though, I love the creativity and confidence that belly dancing inspires.
There’s so many different sides to belly dancing that the most uncreative person (like me!) can’t help but find something that “moves” them. It allows you to put whatever you’re feeling in that moment into motion, and then having the confidence to show other people that feeling is awesome. And I love that it brings together such a diverse group of ladies from all different walks of life. We never stop learning from and appreciating each other.
Movement-wise, I find myself being drawn to all things tribal and tribal fusion-ish – I love anything “pop and locky,” undulations, things like that. There’s something about sharp, crisp movements along with anything smooth and rolling all tied together that I really enjoy and think is such a unique form of expression. Lately, cabaret style has gotten my attention as well. My artistic inspiration comes from my fellow troupe member, Kira Niece (Caliope). Watching her move is magic, she captivates you. She can go from dark and mysterious to dramatic, upbeat and even silly in a second and its so effortless. Whether we’re dancing as a troupe or alone, Kira pushes us to not settle for anything less than what we’re really capable of.
My favorite part of costuming is that the sky’s the limit! Every time you get all done up, it may never be the same twice. There’s so many different hairstyles, makeup ideas, jewelry, outfit ideas and styles that you never get bored. I like seeing what other imaginative and different things people are doing and then figuring out how to tweak it and make it unique to me.
My future goals as a dancer are to keep finding my own creativity in all aspects of belly dancing, to improve on choreography and not over-think it so much, and to continue to educate the public on this great art and make believers out of our nay-sayers and those who don't understand. And of course, to always have fun!
|Posted by Tessa Thompson on March 1, 2013 at 11:45 AM||comments (1)|
Once upon a time … just kidding. It was 2009, and I allowed my husband to drag me to the Cultural Festival at a local college. Being a writer, I was very reclusive and not known for heading out to just relax and enjoy myself (live and learn). Anyway, I noticed that they were having belly dancers perform, so I talked my husband into hanging around to check it out. I was totally enamored with both Munirah and Raks Alimah. After it was over, my husband prodded me to find out if there was any way to take lessons from these amazing women. I was so horribly shy then that I didn’t want to … he literally had to work on me for half an hour, and when I finally agreed, I decided to approach a woman with a stroller from Munirah ~ far less intimidating to the girl I was then. Anyway, she told me that they only practiced in Red Lodge, so if I wanted instruction, I needed Raks Alimah. It was then that she called a girl named Tessa over. Tessa was so kind and made me feel less awkward then I’m sure I actually was. She told me about classes I could take, informed me about Festival, and was so excited and exuberant about her art that I thought to myself, I would really love to hang with and get to know these women. I followed her business card and website information to Julia and Laura with Bindi Belly Dance … that was July of 2009.
The thing that most drew me was the sisterhood and support. I never, ever thought I would perform, but here I am. I studied with Julia and Laura for as long as I could, then I moved to Urban Sands. Kyla and Tessa helped grow and foster the support I had already received, nurturing and honing it until I reached my potential to perform and grow and begin to become the woman who stands on stage today. I am honored to say that with their kind and gentle hand, I have managed to find a home within the troupe that is now Spiral Skies Belly Dance. There is strength in numbers, and where I may be weak alone, I find that with them I am able to fight longer, try harder, stand straighter. I have RA, and these women have helped me push past more pain than I ever could have on my own. Their patience, kindness, keeping me from sitting in a chair and just quitting, all of this has helped me stay in better shape than most who have had RA for much less time than I have. They are my inspiration and my family. They help me strive to be better, to push harder, to give all that I have. They inspire and energize me in all things creative. They are not sisters born of blood, but sisters that my soul recognizes and accepts, embracing as family. We work together, play together, and support each other when the chips are down. I am honored to call these women my family, my friends, my belly sisters. I am goal oriented, so starting was first, making the troupe was second, now, I would just love to have such diversity and knowledge that I can dance to anything and pull it off. But I suppose that’s like wanting to speak every language on earth … still, wouldn’t that be a fabulous gift? So that is what I strive for … to know all that I can know and do all that I can do, to be the best me ~ dancer and otherwise ~ that I can be.
Now, when it comes to dancing, you will probably notice that I prefer the snaky slow moves to all others. The figure eights have got to be my favorite ~ run a forward with a back layering snake arms … yep, that’s me.
As for my preferred look, it varies with my intention. I don’t have a specific costume look … I’m moody that way. I like Spanish, or gypsy, maybe some Grecian goddess, depends on the song and my vision. But that is the great thing about belly dance! Your mood and musical choice can determine your costume choice. The sky is the limit, so let your imagination inspire you … that’s my motto.
For all of you that belly dance, you are amazing. Follow your dreams and let nothing hold you back. For those of you thinking about belly dancing, just do it. You won’t be sorry. You will meet the most amazingly strong, beautiful, inspiring women who will challenge you to be the best “you” ever. So don’t think, just jump! It will be the best decision you’ve ever made … promise!