I Don’t Know.


I heard those opening violins right trailing out of my speakers right as I pulled up behind the van.

I froze, staring at the license plate, wondering about the synchronicity of it. What it all meant.

Because for someone as emotional and watery as me, every little coincidence had to mean something… right? I was always searching for some deeper, hidden, sometimes unfathomable significance.

Make peace… my heart whispered, before my brain could slap a protective hand over its mouth.

Ah, that old romantic idea: Try to fight for resolution, peace, and call a cease-fire. Try to explain myself one more time in a vain attempt for resolution. Not to win anything back or regain old ground: just a simple, optimistic effort to rid the world of just a little of that fierce hatred I still felt rippling in burning waves across the empty space and radial silence.

A different version of myself might have tried to explain yet again, but when it came down to it, I kept arriving at the same conclusions: I had to leave. We weren’t right together. And if I really cared about this person, is was better to remove my brain’s gag on my heart and let it speak freely.

And deep down I know that I will never be forgiven or understood, no matter how I try to explain it.

So my whole heart wished him well, while my brain switched songs and drove away.



Sometimes it would be such a blessing to just forget, but I never do. I never can. Instead I sit and replay, dwell, linger over every hurtful word and every broken moment.

It doesn’t help when that bitch Winter really takes her time, slowly and cruelly, before she lies down to die. With her last remaining gasps, her claws gouge hateful curses over ice, shit, and snow, while we hide, huddled inside and curled into blankets, waiting for it to end, hoping just to endure.

February can suck it. Good riddance.

On the Horizon…

Fate has a funny way of comin’ ’round.

I’ve been working as a Leasing Agent for over a year, and I was getting burnt out. I had to work every weekend, which interfered with my ability to travel and perform, where my heart truly lies. I had tried unsuccessfully to move around to a different position within the same building I worked in, and got overlooked for a promotion every time. I was surly, burnt out, and questioning what I wanted my life to look like and wondering why things were unfolding the way they were.

As soon as I put it out in the universe that I wanted weekends off and time and money to pursue what was important to me, then all of the sudden, a job opened up at a different building within my company. Before I knew it, I had raced through two interviews and landed a sweet Monday-Friday position at a new building right by Navy Pier. And interestingly enough, it was more lucrative and better work than any of the other positions I applied for in the past.

With this new change, all sorts of doors open. Finally I think I will have the time and money to pursue the lifestyle I want. As a result, I’m pouring myself full-force into my upcoming shows, and I’ve already begun booking for 2013 for both myself as a solo artist and also with my dance partner Jessica Beuckman. Look out for us at the following shows:

October 26: Performing “Mehbooba” with Jessica at The Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows, IL

November 17: Performing an all-new piece that I’m pretty excited about and a repeat of an old choreography TBD with Jess at the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows, IL

November 30: Traveling with Lady Jack to perform at the Holiday FEAST of FANCY Burlesque Dinner Show in Rochester, MN

2013: Trips in the works to Columbia, SC and Washington, D.C.!

Please contact me if you’re interested in booking me or Jess for 2013, and I’m looking forward to completing 2012 with a bang!

I Am a Belly Dancer. No Buts.

I came across an interesting post by my friend Asharah entitled, “I am a bellydancer, but…”. It is is a thought-provoking piece that ends with some really excellent music exercises for gaining a familiarity with Middle Eastern music that I am dying to try. I was especially interested in it considering the fact that my last post was about selecting music for choreography.

My previous blog post does not relate exactly to Asharah’s, however, because I do NOT fall into the camp she is describing — a person who hates Middle-Eastern music. As I state in my blog post, I am an artist that finds myself more commonly moved by other forms of music —  “I have seen beautiful belly dance pieces to live music and I find some songs absolutely gorgeous, but rarely do I feel the urge to get up and dance to it.”

As I was reading, I was struck by this passage:

“If we are to continue to call ourselves ‘belly dancers’ we must absolutely know how to perform to Middle Eastern music, and… we must learn to love at least some of the music from that region of the world.  Chances are that we won’t love all of it, and that’s fine!”

Love and appreciation are two different words for a reason. I hear many Middle Eastern songs I don’t love, but I certainly can appreciate and respect the skill, artistry, and beauty involved in the process the same way I can appreciate the skills of a talented oboe player but personally love the sound of the oboe (I’m sorry, oboe players… it’s not you, it’s me…).

I don’t think a person should — or can — force themselves to feel an emotion that is not present. However, it is possible develop a newfound love of something through study and appreciation — something I myself have experienced. I am of the opinion that we should have knowledge, respect, and appreciation for Middle Eastern music — along with an appreciation of the people, places, language, and culture that birthed our dance.  You would be hard-pressed to find any post in my blog that would suggest the contrary. As a result, I have studied with cabaret and tribal teachers, I have danced debkes, saidis, and drum solos, and I was at one point Level II certified in the Suhaila format. But beyond that, I have taken doumbek classes, I have read countless books on the origins of our dance, I have watched videos, and I have watched documentaries. My knowledge is not as extensive as I would like it to be at the current moment — and I am starting to get comfortable with the fact that the more I learn the more I know I have yet to learn —  but I take solace in the fact that I have a lifetime to continue learning the intricacies of the art and culture of the Middle East.

“Belly dance is inherently Middle Eastern.  Whether it’s Turkish oryantal, Egyptian folkloric, Lebanese-style cabaret, Moroccan Shikhat: It’s all Middle Eastern.  One might argue that belly dance as a genre is at a developmental crossroads, with Westernized belly dance being one branch of its evolution and Middle Eastern belly dance being the other branch.  I don’t think that we’re quite to that point, nor do I think that this argument (or any argument) is an excuse that allows for ignorance or dismissal of the historical and regional roots of this dance.

Belly dance definitely originated from the Middle East. Knowing where your art comes from is important. You can’t just ignore half of what created this art form and go onto the parts you like. I don’t think anyone would argue that.

But there is a reason I describe myself as a “belly dancer” and not a “Middle Eastern dancer” — the term “belly dance” has evolved to mean something much larger than JUST the field of Middle Eastern dance and culture, and I believe this element is ABSOLUTELY an important factor in this discussion. We all know how countries all over the world are taking the same movement vocabulary and putting their own unique stamp on it, the United States being one of the biggest. Attending dance classes in Spain and Japan has been an incredible look into the countless ways belly dance is being practiced all over the world.

And I embrace this evolution in this art form the same way I embrace the history and traditions it originated from. Both are equally important and equally present to me and in the genre as a whole. As a result, I feel that equating the choice of non-traditional music with ignorance is a bit heavy-handed.

“But I wonder, why would you self-identify as a belly dancer if you don’t like dancing to Middle Eastern music?  It’s one thing to experiment with non-Middle Eastern music.  It’s another to eschew it completely from your performance repertoire or to say that you dislike all of it.  If you’re not dancing to Middle Eastern music, I really don’t think you can call yourself a belly dancer.  There.  I said it.”

Which is a fine opinion, except I disagree.

Labeling has become such a tired and laborious discussion in the belly dance community, and I don’t care to open that old can of worms wide open.  But if I were to lift the lid and peek in:

— I feel that the person that is most likely to have the best opinion on what it is, exactly, that they do is… the artist herself. As a result, I am hesitant to assign the label of what “is” and “is not” belly dance to other dancers. Furthermore, I feel it is ultimately an unproductive and, quite frankly, a divisive practice. Where would the pioneers of Tribal Fusion belly dance be if they listened to the (probably countless) people who told them that Tribal was “not belly dance?”

Bah. I’m much more interested in whether or not a person creates meaningful art — if they present original ideas through careful, impressive execution of their technique and demonstrate a devotion to their training and heritage.

— No matter how hard you try to present exactly what styles and labels you represent to an audience, there will always be uneducated people in the audience that will walk away uneducated. That’s not to say we should all just say “screw it!” and misrepresent ourselves. My humble opinion is that it is more important to connect with an audience through meaningful artistic expression than represent a label perfectly. (Clearly this is not applicable if you are hired to represent a particular label or culture).

— … But if I HAD to go down the label road… honestly, I feel that if my dance to a Nine Inch Nails song incorporates the same undulations, circles, snake arms, and shimmies as a performer dancing to a Middle Eastern song — if I am drawing from the same generally accepted belly dance movement vocabulary in my fusion — then I feel completely comfortable labeling myself as a belly dance fusion dancer.

And I am DEFINITELY a fusion dancer, no if, ands, or buts about it. But the movements that resonate with me — the art I have pursued above all others — is belly dance.

But that being said, I am glad that Asharah was brave enough to share her opinion, because it fulfilled the aims that all good art should — she made me think and her post ellicited an emotional reaction from me.

I realized that not everyone defines belly dance by the same terms I do, and I realized… wow, I really no longer care if the world at large views me as a belly dancer, or a modern dancer, or even as an artist. All that matters is that I continue to dance, continue to pursue the creation of art, and yes, I’m going to feel comfortable labeling myself as a belly dancer for as long as I continue to pull mainly from the core movements from the belly dance discipline.

I hope that you can see that when I dance —  when I choose to pull from such a beautiful art form with such a rich history and culture that I appreciate and respect greatly, even if my heart pulls me away from the music of its origins and more into music that helps me express my message as an artist — I am doing my best to honor those who paved the road before me and allowed me to get to this point with belly dance.