Spiral Skies Bellydance

Bringing Bellydance to the Big Sky!

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Get to know "Erin"

Posted by Tessa Thompson on April 1, 2013 at 10:15 AM Comments 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!

Get to know "Kali"

Posted by Tessa Thompson on March 1, 2013 at 11:45 AM Comments 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!

Get to know "Kymila"

Posted by Tessa Thompson on February 1, 2013 at 12:05 PM Comments comments (1)

I actually was one of those people who were naïve when it came to bellydance- I had never seen anyone dance, and never thought that I personally would be a bellydancer. But after an injury which broke my back, and damaged other areas of my body, my doctor of all people recommended I try a class. She had heard it would help regain flexibility and range of motion, especially where I needed it. Now I had been a cheerleader in high school and danced Jazz in college, so of course I love dance, but didn’t fit in with that style any longer.

I arranged a semi private lesson and went – completely unaware of what I would find, but hoping it would be something that I could do.

I almost quit after the first 3 classes, it was difficult, I could not do hip slides.. or chest slides, or my neck side to side, I am a total type A.. If I can’t do it right then I won’t do it.. boy, has bellydance really changed my way of thinking, and how I challenge myself.

I met two other ladies in one of the classes, and we decided to start practicing together on our own, we also went to some classes by another instructor, and watched some videos together. We formed emBody. We perform all over Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley. We have had a great reception of our style and as a group we truly enjoy dancing together. So, I guess it would be a little over 3 years ago was my first performance at the Health fair at the Mall here in Missoula, and classes about 6 months before that.

I am an Accountant as a day job, so bellydance really gives me an opportunity to explore the tiny part of me that is creative, it is very relaxing and my range of motion is huge compared to that first class.

In fact some of my favorite moves and now personal best moves now are hip moves, and Shimmies especially after I took a workshop with Ranya Renee, she was amazing, and very encouraging.

Then to be able to go to the Yellowstone Valley Bellydance festival, for two years, has been a wonderful experience. I think the year before last when Ruby Beh, and Mira Betz were there, was really a confidence booster for me. I am able to accept who I am as a bellydancer, and what I can, and can’t do, ok, well sort of accepting of what I can’t do.

My inspiration is in the students that I teach beginner bellydance to, they are awesome. I really connect with them, since I was them, just a short time ago, women really want to feel accepted, and to watch them find it in class over a few weeks is so rewarding. I think also they see me,—5’8”, definitely not petite, moving and that it can still look good on any woman of any size, there isn’t a cookie cutter image you have to be, to participate. I love to dress up in class sometimes too, to show them what it looks like in costume, I like everything about dressing up, it makes me feel more feminine, so I think I dance differently when in costume also – like an alter personality, plus who doesn’t love to put on extra makeup !

I hope to continue dancing and teaching as long as I can, I would like to inspire more women to dance and to be more confident.



Kymila (emBody Bellydancer)

Creative Growth

Posted by Tessa Thompson on November 19, 2012 at 12:15 PM Comments comments (1)

Ever wonder what you can do to better yourself as a dancer or in your career?

Most of us find our "comfort zone" and tend to stay there.  How can one leave that comfort zone and grow?  Most of us would benefit from constructive critique from our peers but often times our peers are not comfortable approaching us.  Here is a very simple exercise that you can do to critique yourself and discover the areas that you need to focus on to be able to grow.  Sometimes you may have to look deeply inside of yourself to find these areas but you will find them.

Take a simple piece of paper and jot whatever you want to say about yourself down.  Go ahead, brag yourself up (make a brag page)List your qualities and attributes...your strong areas.   What is it that makes you feel proud about yourself when your dancing? What do you feel are your strongest points when you solo?   It can be anything from your hair to your technique.   What makes you feel as though you put on a great performance? 

Maybe your great qualities are: Good technique, spectacular costumes, stage presence, your smile, you are awesome at making eye contact, you try new things, your complimentary to your fellow dancers, your dedication, your passion, your an awesome zil player......truly anything that you feel is a strong point for you.

Now along with these wonderful attributes list your areas of weakness.   Maybe some of your weaknesses are: Do you need to make your moves bigger? Make them smaller? Make them tighter? Are your arms sloppy? Do you flail your arms? Do you have the dreaded flippy hand syndrome?  Do you need to work on confidence, self esteem?  Do you engage with your audience?  Do you need help with hair and costuming?  Need to learn how to use a prop?  

After you have made up your list of qualities and weaknesses, take one weakness at a time and work on making it a quality.  Keep at it and you'll eventually find the growth you're looking for.  And as always if you have an area that you just can't figure out on your own never be afraid to ask your fellow dancers for help.  Most will be more than happy to help you over a hump!

Finally, when you are feeling down about yourself as a dancer (or in any area of your life) look back at your list of qualities and remember... you are pretty awesome.  Realize that you've come a long way and are becoming the better dancer you've always dreamed of being!

Shimmy on!

Kyio - An ode to the Yellowstone Valley Bellydance Festival

Posted by Tessa Thompson on September 7, 2012 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (0)


An ode to the festival...

Sleeping tightly, snuggled safely inside their garden cabbage, little fairies dream of dancing, merriment and endless sunshine. Tucked in, they rest inside the leaves of an iridescent abode that provides safety and comfort. Their home. Far off in the distance, light breaks and as the sun rises the fairies tenderly embrace the warm radiance that gives them life. Kyio.

Centering, the fairies prepare themselves for another big day of work. Together, they focus on the day ahead and what they must accomplish to ensure the garden’s good health.

With a sudden burst of cosmic energy, the fairies disburse on their own paths of intention. Each fairy has a path and a purpose that fulfills a need. The first fairies go passionately to work and suddenly, a giant blaze leaps into focus! Dancing and twirling with their flames, the fire fairies begin the lifecycle by releasing the seeds of joy and stimulating the earth.

Moving off, the fire fairies leave a path peppered with new seeds.

Look! The water fairies are bringing rain, helping everything become bigger, stronger and healthier. As they dance about, water rains down refreshing the garden.

Finishing up their work, the water fairies leave the land fresh and clean, ready for the wind fairies. Giving the land breath, they glide upon the wind encouraging change in the garden. Without these fairies, the garden would remain the same, never changing or growing. They energize the garden, encouraging discovery and new possibilities.

As the day nears its close, all the fairies gather together for one last endeavor of the day. Together, they cultivate the earth and ensure that there is plenty of room for all of Kyio’s creations. Their play is work, and their work is a labor of love. Upon finishing, the fairies dance their way home leaving behind tilled earth ready for growth and new inhabitants.

After so much playing and dancing, the fairies must return to their iridescent home and rest up for tomorrow. They lay their heads upon their earthy bed, grateful for another day of life inside the beautiful garden. Until the break of the next day, they will dream of great gardens, endless fields of wildflowers, all their friends and the many new horizons awaiting them.


What in the world are we talking about? What does this story mean? What’s all this business about fairies and elements and cabbages? ((smile)) Well, we wanted to briefly explain the fun we had in creating and performing “Kyio” and the meaning we found in it.

Each member of Spiral Skies has a unique and useful talent that they bring to the troupe. They fulfill that which is needed to bring the festival to fruition. We bring these talents together and work very hard to create the festival. To us it’s a long and joyful dance we do all year long that brings fulfillment to our hearts. We are so grateful for the opportunities we’ve had and are very appreciative of all the new ones that come along the way.

Summed up, “Kyio” was a fun and light-hearted homage to the festival (garden) and we (the fairies) are having a wonderful time creating a unique and dynamic yearly event that celebrates the joy of belly dancing (Kyio.)   Check out the video in our video gallery... it's a lot of fun!

We thank you and hope you enjoyed the 5th Annual Yellowstone Valley Bellydance Festival as much as we did! Until next year, we encourage everyone to dream of all the possibilities in our bountiful, beautiful and growing garden. ~ Spiral Skies Bellydance Troupe