May 09 2012

When I first knew Zoe, I was the one who belly-danced.

I took belly-dancer for great exercise and camaraderie in the late 1970s. I never danced professionally, although I did act as a “wardrobe mistress” to a couple of dancer friends who did.

I learned from “Tahia” in Baltimore, MD from whom I took lessons for a a year and a half. I learned classic, traditional belly-dancing which had a five part presentation that was structured and well defined. In other words, the dance included: 1) an entrance, 2) baladi with veil work, 3) drum solo, 4) floor work and 5) a finale.

Although there were many variations and cultural offshoots such as the cane dance and snake dance, all belly-dance performers that I knew here on the east coast danced the five parts, always with zils or finger cymbals. Now, lets talk about how Zoe belly-danced.

Zoe danced Tribal Style belly-dancing, dressing
with robes, turbans and lots of jewelry.

When I use to take Zoe’s dance workshops, it was for therapeutic movement and spiritual connection with the divine feminine not for belly-dancing. After I left New York in the early 1990s, Zoe learned belly-dance by taking lessons in Tribal Style. She excelled at everything she did and conquer belly-dance as well, becoming well known in Central New York for her dancing. Tribal belly-dancing costumes tend to be dark, plain fabrics, with ethnic handmade jewelry and headgear. If you are interested in the costuming, this is a great site for patterns and suggestions, click here.

No, I’m not saying I danced this well!

The above video is an example of the type of dance I learned and costume I wore. This is the 1st Place winner “Dovile” in the Queen of the Pyramid competition in Lithuania. Here is her web site.  Her skirt is more modest with full skirts, letting very little leg show. Her costume is light and shimmery with sequins and lame fabrics. Her bra and dance belt are worn with her skirts and with a veil that she has dropped by this point in the dance. But, the overall effect is light and performance base, dancing to please the audience.

A circus performer, Jamila Salimpour, started Tribal
Dance in California. She was a great showman. Her
dance troupe danced at cabarets and renaissance fairs.
The costumes were, and continue to be, dark and ethnic.

In the 1960s, Jamila Salimpour, who had a middle eastern background and who was a circus performer, decided to form a troupe of belly-dancers and ethnic Middle Eastern music to dance at renaissance fairs on the West Coast. Jamila’s troupe emphasized the music and dancing of nomadic tribes, who would dance in their everyday garments.

Zoe in the middle, with one of her dance classes.

Jamila’s players also took to creative costuming, adorning themselves with plain fabrics, mainly colored black, rather than the colorful layers of sheer chiffon found in classic belly-dancing. A great variety of garments became popular as Jamila’s dance style spread across the United States. Tribal garments are not adorned in a performance style, but to please the whim of the dancer. Dancers express themselves through their costume choice and jewelry display. If the costumes interest you, they can be purchased by clicking here.

Fat Chance Belly-dance is a studio considered the
originators of the American Tribal Style, or ATS.

American Tribal Style Belly Dance is clearly defined and documented as having been created by Fat Chance Belly Dance in California with the primary characteristic being that of group improvisation. ATS is generally performed in a group, often at community events, with a number of dancers on stage. The group acts as a chorus with dancers in ones, twos and threes, coming forward to dance as the rest dance in the background. ATS dancers typically favoring a look provided by wide-legged pants gathered at the ankles, open backed  tops known as cholis, full skirts, taselled belts and much jewelry.


Here are dancers from YouTube, Elena Safae e Vanessa Amira,
taking the tribal style in a Goth direction.

As belly-dance evolves into different forms and styles, no telling what we’ll see next. On YouTube there are hundreds of great videos showing vintage and current performances of all different “flavors.” Here’s a teaching video from the ELLEN Show where you can learn a few steps.

Ellen learns to belly-dance and you can , too!

 

NaBloPoMo May 2012



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May 06 2012

Zoe Artemis considered herself a New Feminist.

It’s a concept I have long held as my belief.

Many of those who were active in the Feminism of the 1970s grabbed onto the idea that to be equal, women had to be like men. Some women chose to dress in gray pantsuits; some even wore ties, thinking that would level the playing fields in the male bastions of business, medicine and law.

Many decided being aggressive, using foul language and telling obscene jokes that demeaned women would endear them to their male counterparts. In most cases, these efforts were ineffectual, just looked silly and compromised those participating. It diluted women’s feminine power.

Zoe belly-danced in the Tribal Style. It differs from
traditional belly-dancing in that it started in California
in the mid 1970s and is done to primarily enrich the
dancer, with the audience being secondary.

In the following essay, Zoe expresses her belief that aggressive, male dominated feminism dishonors the feminine ideal and dilutes feminine power. She sent it to her friend, Brian Hassett, a short story writer, poet, feature writer, essayist, critic, columnist, reviewer, and songwriter, in such places as The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Complete Woman, Penthouse, High Times, Beat Scene, etc. and most importantly to us, a blogger.  To read Zoe’s letter as it originally appeared on-line, click here.

Zoe’s New Feminists Essay

March 22nd, 2008 

This is a nice essay that was slipped over the transom by a fellow New York warrior in honor of Women’s History Month, thought I’d share. 

MEET THE NEW FEMININE FEMINISTS,

by Zoe Artemis

These days my life is divided up into two moving parts: teaching dancing, and campaigning for Barack Obama.  Yes, I’m a Baby-boomer for Barack.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, I taught a Belly Dance workshop at my studio in New York City.  My role:  to teach women to connect with their sacred feminine power and their female heritage. The women in attendance ranged in age from 26-60, in all glorious shapes and sizes.   

Belly Dancing has great mojo power in bringing together highly smart women from all walks of life, to get down with each other, and dance.  I create a supportive environment where women can feel sexy, saucy, ass-kickin’ strong, vampish, gorgeous and nurtured; a space where they can express latent archetypes:  the coquette, the angel, the sensualist, the earth mother, the gypsy, the performer, the priestess, the warrior, and the tribal dancer.  Meet the new feminine feminists.

Zoe excelled at everything she did.

We spent the day swiveling, shimmying, shaking, and moving our hips independently of our torso, like a pendulum swinging beneath an immobile clock.   To world thumping music our hands created the frame around the body; sometimes the moves were soft, sensual and inward; other times it was outward, wild and reckless.  A tribe of women who validate and confirm each other’s sensuality and beauty becomes the perfect antidote to lack of self esteem.  For many western women Belly Dance is truly a form of liberation.

The feedback I received from women who belly dance with me is this:  it’s not necessary  to have that one-to-one attention from a man in order to feel womanly and sensual.  Women can feel sexy, sensual and feminine whether they’re in a relationship or not. It’s about creating self-confidence, community, joy and humor.  The repetitive movements bring us fully into the present moment, the meditative state, into the zone.

Another aspect which is important for us feminine feminists is that we get to play dress up.  Gone are the pant suits, the jeans, the sweat pants, the baggy clothes, the clunky sneakers and the 10″ high heels.

Many arms indicates supernatural powers and the ability
to do many things. Zoe is in red, seated at the bottom.

We usually think of feminism as a modern, contemporary trend, however there’s a new kind of feminism that is emerging, where women can own up to their sensuality and softness, while maintaining their fire.  I don’t want to take orders from the patriarchy, but I don’t want to take orders from (contemporary) feminists either, i.e., Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro; which brings me to the current political climate.  I am stunned by the raw voracious and, yes, desperate grasping for power by the old guard feminists.  It’s pathetic and frightening to see these women make fun of anything deep or soulful, and who take joy in wounding people.  Some feminine feminists:  Samantha Power, Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Arianna Huffington.  Yelling, shrieking, mocking, bullying, punching and whining are not cool.  Punching and whining simultaneously?  That’s an oxyMORON. 

Zoe Artemis is a native New Yorker who currently teaches belly dance classes at her studio, creative movement classes in the NYC public schools, and campaigns for Barack Obama.  In l978-79, at her first job ever, she worked as an administrative assistant in the Carter White House.   http://www.zoeartemis.com/

 

To learn more about Zoe Artemis, click here.

 

NaBloPoMo May 2012



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Apr 23 2012

I love surprises. Especially ones that change my perspective.

Sometimes I’m turned upside down from what I thought before. This happened to me at the beginning of March this year.

We attended the Masters Thesis concert of a friend, but there were two productions, back to back.

Valerie Durham’s Masters of Fine Art Thesis
March 8-9, 2012

Two Master thesis presentations in one evening. The second was an unexpected surprise. I was delighted to see a whole company of Isadora Duncan styled dancers, right in front of me, on the small, personal stage at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. When I went into the theater, I had expected to see our family friend’s performance and figured I’d be tapping my fingers and politely clapping through the other one. In a amazing about face, I was swept away by Valerie Durham’s production, for many reasons and my attention was riveted to every note and movement.

Valerie Durham’s company, The Duncan Dancers,
performs dances in the style of Isadora Duncan.

Valerie Durham is a fourth generation Duncan Dancer. Her company, Duncan Dancers, has a web site that teaches about the techniques, choreography and style of their mentor, Isadora Duncan:

“Since discovering Duncan Dance in 1992, Valerie has focused on building, preserving and learning more about Isadora’s gorgeous, timeless and inspired technique of dance and repertory of dances. Valerie firmly believes that Duncan Dance is a vital aspect to the dance of today and that all dancers can benefit from its unique focus on musicality, artistry, personal expression and openness. She is working to innovate the Duncan technique for the 21st Century with contemporary music selection, expanded and developed movements and challenging choreography.”

Companies of Anna And Irma Duncan

Isadora Duncan considered the body the temple of the
soul. She encouraged the harmonious integration of the
mind, body, spirit and emotions through dance.

Isadora Duncan believed her audiences should concentrate on dance movements, rather than complex stage settings and costumes. Duncan stage settings were minimal and costumes were free flowing to emphasize the body and movement. The movement, likewise, appeared free flowing. Although there is a disciplined technique underneath, the dance was meant to appear free and spontaneous. A large collection of web links, along with a biography, may be found here.

Duncan style dancers explain that in ballet, there is a great awareness of technique. With Duncan technique, if done correctly, there will appear to be no technqiue.

As the Center for the Preservation of Modern Dance reveals: “Duncan dance is free-flowing and appears spontaneous; has a sense of energy and grace that radiates from the solar plexus; reflects the rhythms of nature; is danced to the great classical music; and is state of mind as much as a style of movement.”

Isadora Duncan 1877 – 1927

The divine feminine was exemplified by Isadora Duncan’s style of dance. The manifestation of a powerful feminine spirit was heightened by feminine garments and an emphasis on the passion of nature and nurturing. The sacred reverence for the female body in all of her archetypes was represented and blessed. The Isadora Duncan International Institute, Inc. in New York, NY, has tours to Europe to study our female archetypal heritage in all of its manifestations and forms. For a brochure of last year’s trip in 2011, click here. For a listing of learning events, click here.

There are many women’s groups studying and participating in this revival of feminine power. By recognizing the maternal world that existed before the power structure of male strength was imposed upon it, beauty and peace are revered. Expression of the female spirit through dance has led to this emphasis on the divine female.

It is important in a world that is more technologically
structured to affirm and actively respect
women and their naturally feminine shapes.

Next in this series: Introducing Zoe Artemis

NaBloPoMo April 2012



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