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!"#$%&'()*#+,-*'./*0'1/20'3/4"/0 !"#$"%&'()&*#*)%+#,&-#./-)" by Ms. Zuza Deb Rubin is a hidden gem of Tribal Fusion belly dance. She a dedicated and gifted performer and teacher based in San Francisco, California—a Mecca for this art form—who has Jill Parker, Rachel Brice, and many others as teachers and muses. She draws upon her extensive experience and training as a holistic health counselor, integrative bodyworker, and yogi to create memorable performances and instruction. I was able to chat with Deb in Minneapolis, Minnesota on a snowy November evening after two days of her intense but enjoyable dance technique and therapeutics workshops. Ms. Zuza: What is your dance philosophy? How does it reflect in how you perform and teach?

Something I try to bring to teaching is connecting back in to the spirit, the soul and the joy of dance. Because I am a technician and I totally geek out over technique and anatomy and that sort of thing. Which has its place. Because technique is the vocabulary— now, what are you gonna say with that? Also, learn your roots. Study the form. Learn the foundation. Learn from the masters. Study with Jamila [Salimpour]. Study with Jill Parker. Study with Carolena [Nericcio]. Study Egyptian style. Then whatever you chose to do with it is your own thing. But don’t call yourself a professional Tribal Fusion belly dancer if you’ve never studied the form. Z: You have pretty extensive training in mind-body medicine and somatic psychology. How do these disciplines help you with dance? D: That’s a great question! As a dancer I have been told it is just natural—that I embody it. I’m not trying to do it, it’s just in me. I’m just a person who lives very much in my




Deb: My dance philosophy is devotion to the practice. This dance is a path of self-inquiry, and self-discovery and self-expression and growth. So, devotion to the process, and trying—as hard as I can—to enjoy the process.

body. Perhaps because I have geeked out on all this stuff for most of my life! It’s just how I experience movement, and through my yoga practice and bodywork, and working therapeutically with others in deep ways, I think I have just developed a very keen, heightened somatic (body) awareness that I can easily access, and a comfort [in] expressing through my body. But it’s nothing that can’t be learned. That’s why I’m such a fan of dancers developing a personal practice and integrating some of these modalities into their daily life: yoga, meditation, tai chi, whatever! It really does help, and directly applies to improving movement quality, improving technique and performance, and improving health.

used to working with people’s bodies and because I can body-read and track a room of dancers. I can see how technique is landing in people’s bodies and how can I [word] something different to get a different desired effect. I can track when someone is at their edge in exploring something new—like performance quality or emoting—or when they are still right there, in it, and okay to keep going. I tend to be a very handson teacher, making adjustments. I think I just draw on it naturally, because it’s in my professional tool kit, you know what I mean?

As a teacher it helps immensely because I’m

D: Should I?

Z: I LOVE your dance therapeutic workshops! Got any plans to publish/ release this material in the future?

D: Sure! If people want it, I would love to. At first I was really nervous about releasing this information in the dance community because I didn’t know how it would be received. Some people go to dance workshops and want hard-core choreography and dancing. So I’m flattered and honored and really excited that it has been so well received and people want more. It means there’s a need for it and a desire for dancers to learn more about how to better take care of our bodies so that we can dance longer. When I was first starting to put this material together, I didn’t realize how it would change people’s technique. It was more like: “How do you stay healthy?” “What happens when you get injured?” “How do you stretch and strengthen?”—those kind of things. But now I’m blown away by seeing such dramatic changes in dancers’ technique, posture, movement quality, poise, and sense of self in such a short time! I’m in the process of making some DVDs of the material . . . Z: Woohoo! D: And that idea was planted by Sharon Kihara, because I was co-teaching with her and she was my demo. I was doing this stuff on her body and she sat up and said, “Oh my God, you need to make a DVD of this!” So she’s really the one who planted the seed. Z: What is your favorite thing about living in San Francisco? D: It’s just such a gorgeous city. Isn’t it? Z: (laughs) Yeah. D: I love the vibrant, 0-1$$2&/"-)#$3 freaky-fabulous creative energy and creative expression. So many amazing artists, musicians, dancers. . . eclectic quirky self-expression. Pushing the edges. I love the mix of epically gorgeous nature— ocean, mountains, redwoods—and a vibrant artistic, creative city. I love the weather. I love the colors, the cafe culture, the thrift stores, the Haight-Ashbury area. I feel really creatively inspired being there, and pushed as an artist to constantly hone my craft and keep creating. I love having access to so many amazing teachers and inspirations upon which

to draw—both within the belly dance world and beyond. Lately, I am really loving spending time at FatChanceBellyDance studios. Just hanging out in the lobby is really grounding medicine for me . . . seeing friends, meeting other women who are obsessed over Tribal as I am. (smiles) […] Having a cuppa tea while I wait for class, and just the vibe of being there, feels like being in the womb of Tribal. And [it] really helps ground me back to the roots of the art form, and recapture the joy and spirit of this dance. Z: Tell me about SF Mecca Immersion. What’s the idea behind it? What makes it an immersion? D: Basically I wanted to do an immersion retreat in the heart of the city, instead of going to some tropical location. San Francisco is such an important character in the history and evolution of Tribal Fusion belly dance, and a cauldron for so much talent and creativity that is shaping the Tribal Fusion explosion worldwide. I wanted to give dancers an opportunity to come to San Francisco, immerse in the roots, immerse in some of what’s hot and happening here, see and feel how it inspires them to create their own voice in this art form. Have topnotch dance training and also be able to explore themselves and their own creativity amidst the backdrop of vibrant, quirky San Francisco. I started talking to people about it, and everyone was psyched to join in. And it came together the first year through a lot of community support and a lot of people rallying. At the time there weren’t that many festivals out there that were an immersion—where you get to stay with the same small group and deepen for five days together. I wanted to offer workshops and topics that I hadn’t found offered—things a little outside the box. I wanted to hear from the musician’s point of view. And I wanted to include local artists, designers, and stores too. There are so many people in San Francisco that work behind the scenes that may not be the “superstar,” and I wanted to give voice to some of the other powerhouses at the root of this form.

The idea was just to give an authentic experience of what it is like to be a Tribal Fusion belly dancer in San Francisco. And I geeked out. I made a Tribal Fusion Bellydancer’s Guide to San Francisco with walking tours . . . Z: Oh my gosh, I would LOVE that! (laughs) And when is this festival? D: SF Mecca has been in the beginning of August. We just finished the third year. It is different every year, which is important to me. I don’t want to cookie cutter the event. I want to keep it fresh, and I want to keep it more about what’s hot and happening and vibrant in San Francisco. I’m starting to think of the next level: what can we do that’s never been done before? Like theatricality, musicality, hair and makeup, contemporary movement styles, musicianship, personal practice, therapeutics, that sort of thing.


Z: Yes!

Z: I was reading online about your monthly training groups—can you tell me more about them? D: The monthly training groups work best if dance communities of six or more—all over the world—would like to do more regular classes with me. As a group, you get together and write down what you want to focus on for the month, and then I write out a daily practice. Then it’s your responsibility to keep a journal and do it every day. The point is to do it with a group you already dance with, so you have that camaraderie, and use me as your accountability. So we check in every week, either on Skype or over the phone. We discuss how it went, what came up, and then shift things based on that. It goes back to daily practice. I really think the number one thing for getting better as a dancer is practice. Train and train and train. So it’s just a way to inspire people to do that with a group of people. (continued on page 26)



(continued from page 21) Z: I’ve heard dancers refer to you as “Tribal Fusion’s best kept secret,” and after taking your workshops I agree! What is your “best kept secret” for your inspiration? D: If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore! (smiles) Hmm . . . I don’t know. I definitely have peaks and valleys. Trust the process. That inspiration can come in the strangest forms at the strangest times . . . and that it often comes from things outside the belly dance world. Just go with it! Follow your bliss—sounds so trite, but it’s true. I have actually had to really work at trusting and following what I am truly, deeply inspired by, and allowing myself to actually follow that, in spite of what others may say about it, or judge it, or [if they] have a negative opinion. Not what my teachers think I should do, or other dancers think I should do or be . . . but where my true inspiration is sourced. Surround yourself with things you’re inspired by. Keep the body moving. Turn the music up and dance crazy in your living room. That’s what I do when I feel in a “rut” or inspiration block. Just get the juices flowin’.



Dedication and devotion to the craft and growth also inspires me. People who are embodiments of the practice and walk with positivity. I’m inspired by friends and teachers of mine because I’ve seen their growth over time. They may have always been good, but they just keep getting better and better and better. That inspires me so much because it shows that it’s possible. And lately what inspires me is my students. They inspire me to keep going and learning as a dancer and as a teacher, because I see new things in their dance, and I see things I’ve done being interpreted in a new way. THAT is cool! Find out more about Deb Rubin at and about SF Mecca Immersion at

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Who doesn’t love accessories that they can wear with their dance costume and with everyday wear? While the custom creations that designers make are worth the expense, you can create your own stylish pieces with a few bucks, a little time, and some patience. You don’t even have to have a sewing machine to make these sweet pieces! The materials can vary greatly to suit your mood and to match your outfit. Because of the small real estate of cuffs, you can get by on bits ‘n’ scraps. Start by looking through your closets and drawers, or maybe through a box you were going to donate. I’ve often salvaged great fabric, trim, and fasteners from worn-out used clothes. Thrift stores are also a great place to find treasures. I’ve found hideous dresses with fabulous trim and costume jewelry I’d never wear except for a portion that would look awesome swathed in a swirl of lace and fastened onto a leather cuff. Wandering through Target’s clearance section of jewelry or holiday wear has netted me some cool finds. At material stores and leather goods stores you can find remnants and scraps for next to no cost. Button cards that are missing a button are often discounted 50–75%. Broken jewelry is, too. Anytime you’re out shopping, keep your eyes open for possibilities.

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1. Measure your wrist circumference. If you don’t have a tape measure,

cut a piece of string (at least 8” long), wrap it around your wrist, mark it, then lay it out on a ruler to measure. If you are using snaps or hooks, you’ll want to make sure to cut your base piece an inch longer than your wrist measurement. If you want to use ribbons to tie on the cuff, or Chinese “frogs”, cut your base piece about 1/2” shorter than your wrist circumference. The width of the base can be as delicate as an inch, or as decadent as four inches, depending on the look you’re going for. For this piece I’m choosing a cream on cream brocade fabric, only 2” wide, for a delicate, tattered look.

2. Cut your base (and backer, if your fabric is thin) either ½” smaller

or 1” larger (based on specifications in #1, first paragraph), to allow for



overlap for fasteners, or room for ribbons.

3. Fray check about

¼” in from the cut edges, to get a tattered looking “fringe”, without unraveling the whole thing. Use bits of lace, vintage buttons, cameos and charms. Have extra options for creative inspiration. I often “design as I go”. Double up fabric or use denim or broadcloth fabric to create a solid base. Fabric glue pieces together, using a very light amount, spreading evenly. Less is more!

4. Once your piece is dry, mark where your fasteners will go with a

pencil, then wrap the fabric around your wrist to double-check the fit. Trim to shorten, if needed. Always cut larger, because you can always trim.

5. Sew fasteners on with needle and thread. Make sure your fasteners are secure by gently pulling on them. Fasten the cuff on your arm to double-check the fit again. You may need to adjust the fasteners.

6. Now the creating begins! If you want a gathered border of lace, cut

a piece twice as long as your cuff, stitch loosely (also called a gathering stitch, in and out about 1” apart) and pull the thread, thus gathering the lace. Make sure to knot the ends so your lace ruffle doesn’t come unruffled, getting you ruffled! You can do this with a strip of fancy fabric too, such as delicate chiffon. First, put down a thin line of fabric glue, and then set the lace ruffle on top, gently pressing it into the glue—not too hard, or you’ll have glue everywhere (fortunately it dries clear). Reinforce the ruffle by hand stitching (tighter stitches than the gathering stitch, about ¼-½” apart. Repeat this process for fabric or lace bits, and sew buttons and charms on securely. Try cutting a 1 ½ ” circle of lace and running a gathering stitch in a circle about 1” from the edges. Pull the thread to gather the circle into a “nest” for a pretty cameo button setting. Or tie a gossamer ribbon in a bow around a delicate charm and stitch onto the center of the cuff. The possibilities are endless. Try several, make some for your friends, and send me pics. I love to see people’s creativity! Send your photos and questions about this project to

New in




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Gorgon Days ?$):3#&("

Solace has been a staple in the Fusion belly dance world for quite some time and with good reason. The albums always deliver. Solace’s newest album, Gorgon Days (released in June 2010), is a new, dazzlingly dark work from Jeremiah Soto. The album has all of the Middle Eastern/world sound that you would expect from Solace, but this album is unique in its darker feel. The songs are very rich and have a soulful electronic edge. Songs like “Full Blown Stutter” have a very Gothic sound, and yet still manage to keep a different tone that sets them apart from other songs popularly used for Gothic belly dance. Elements of hip-hop and industrial keep the tracks from running together. The album is unified by its overall dark feel,

but each track separates itself from the others with the joining of their different rhythms and elements; it keeps the listener interested and enveloped in the music. If you are looking for something a little different for your fusion dance, want something to stretch your practice music list, or just enjoy works by artists like Dead Can Dance or Niyaz, then look no further than Solace’s Gorgon Days. It is dark bliss indeed. - Nicole Girtman




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I must admit, the new DVD from Rachel Brice, Serpentine, intimidated me. I have been dancing for years, but after buying the DVD, I thought, “Who do you think you are? You can’t dance like Rachel Brice!” I was afraid my inadequacies would be front and center, that my skill set would soon be knocked down a few thousand pegs. I was a bit reluctant to begin . . . but I did. I am so glad I made that leap. Rachel is amazing at using skill drills and pacing that is easy to follow and feels challenging— but not impossible. The choreography inspires me instead of defeating me, it leaves me loving dance. The highlight for me is the yoga section. Her exercises have improved my dance posture and muscle

memory and have also strengthened my back and core muscles. This DVD definitely highlights the style and rhythm of one of the premier Fusion belly dancers, but the techniques you learn and the drills you practice will make you a better dancer no matter what your personal dance style may be. I may not be able to dance like Rachel Brice, but I feel a whole lot more confident dancing as myself because of this DVD. - Nicole Girtman

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!"#$%&'&()*&' In 2007 Carolena Nericcio, founder of FatChanceBellyDance and mother of American Tribal Style (ATS) dance, tightened the definition of ATS. Becoming disheartened by the use of “ATS” as a label for just about anything, Carolena pulled on the reins. She said, “it needed to go into the shop for overhaul. It had gotten so distorted that it stood the chance of losing out on the legacy it deserves.” She asked that only the steps taught by FatChanceBellyDance (FCBD) be called ATS. Troupes could not call themselves ATS unless they maintained only the FCBDsanctioned steps. Only FCBD Sister Studios were allowed to design new steps and submit them to FCBD for approval. Some troupes felt shunned, stripped from the group they identified with. As a result, many dropped the ATS label. Other troupes maintained the ATS steps in the accepted format but created new improvisational steps that were kept out of sight. Still others embraced the announcement, devoting themselves completely to the FCBD way. Fast-forward to fall 2010, when Carolena made another revision. What’s new? To summarize Carolena’s web postings: -The existing ATS vocabulary has been split into two parts: ATS Old School (now called Classic ATS), comprised of the steps found on FCBD videos volumes 1 and 4, and ATS New Style (newly christened Modern ATS), which encompasses volumes 7 and beyond. Dancers can be, and often are, defined as both Classic and Modern. -ATS troupes may invent and use their own steps. They are not required to submit these steps to FCBD for approval. FatChance will be producing a video on how to create new steps (to be released in 2011), but in the interim Carolena states,

“The posture does not change. The ATS Old School steps remain the core. The result of a new step reinforces the aesthetic of uplifted arms and joyful display of the body. The step conveys



by Alexandra Lancette

happiness. Any cues should be brief and logical, the more ‘rules’ you have to add, the less successful the step will be. The principals of non-verbal communication govern all cues and formations.” Carolena also mentioned that though troupes are not required to submit steps, she wouldn’t mind seeing them—and she offered constructive critique to anyone interested. -General ATS troupes (non-Sister Studios) are allowed to use Gypsy Caravan and/or Black Sheep Belly Dance steps in their vocabulary and still call themselves ATS. Some refining of the steps may be needed for them to mesh with FCBD ATS movements. -FCBD Sister Studios are expected to remain true to the FCBD ATS standard but may create new steps within the guidelines. Online, Carolena explained her motivations: “GS [General Skills training] cannot keep expanding to include every new step . . . It would make the 4 day 20 hour Intensive longer and more expensive, less accessible for you, and more exhausting for me.” She also wrote of the difficulty in maintaining “purity” within ATS: “As one dancer recently brought to my attention, we all have our own dialects. By the nature of either distance, à la FatChance and Devyani, or simply a student group that dances together on a regular basis, we develop our own creative steps and variations . . . The dance is the same, but experimenting and mistakes lead us to create, and that’s a good thing.” The reactions of dancers in online communities were varied. Some felt the ruling would lead to an increase in the use of ATS as a label for dancing styles very different from ATS as well as a gradual dilution of the FCBD vocabulary. FatChance troupe member Wendy responds, “The people who don’t give a damn will do what they want no matter what, and Carolena’s proclamation won’t change that. Nor will it change anything for people who WANT to adhere to the FCBD format. The only thing that

has changed is that people are now more free to come up with their own steps without having to be ‘sanctioned’.” Valizan of Shades of Araby (currently the first and only FatChanceBellyDance Brother Studio) gave his thoughts on the “dilution” of ATS: “People seem to think this will ruin the universality of the ATS vocab, but really, we are all separate little communities spread out and regional variations are going to happen. How often do people get to dance with ATS folks outside of their area? If you do, stick to Core ATS and don’t use YOUR variations. Or . . . show people your variations if they don’t catch on. That was the original, organic way of spreading regional dances. I come to your village, learn your dances, add them to mine.” Generally, dancers seem to have embraced the new ruling. “I was so happy when I read the announcement! I had been feeling that [improvisational dance] was becoming splintered. There were so many names that troupes were using to describe an improv style of dance . . . I feel it was causing a cliquish mentality to arise at a time when we should be uniting to strengthen the dance in all its diversity. Since our formation in 2008, WildCard BellyDance has based its format in classic ATS roots while adding our own unique flavors and signature combinations and transitions. We knew we couldn’t call ourselves ATS due to the restricted definition of ATS at the time. I saw this as a trend among many troupes: The desire to push the boundaries conflicting with the desire to stay true to Carolena’s vision. When Carolena made the announcement it felt to me that she was dispelling many trivial and artificial boundaries that had started to sprout up around the dance. Also, for the first time our troupe felt unequivocally included in the ATS community.” -Seba, director of WildCard BellyDance, Sonoma County, California “I already knew a little bit about this beforehand, so it was not a shock to me. Carolena initially invited the Sister Studios to create new moves, and if accepted, they would be included in the FCBD vocabulary. With so many great concepts

coming her way, she realized that her General Skills Intensives could become marathon sessions if she brought them on board. She wanted to figure out a way to allow the Sister Studios to develop new ideas without having to add them to her existing vocabulary. So, this is where the whole “Classic/New Style” ATS concept came from. I thought that her idea was a great one. If you dance with another troupe, stick with your basics and everyone can enjoy dancing together. If you are creating new things, keep within the FCBD ATS guidelines, and perform those moves with your troupe. I thought that it was very generous and quite brilliant . . . keep the dance style fresh for those that want to create, without excluding dancers who are not ready to make that leap.” -Jen Nolan, Tamarind Tribal (FCBD Sister Studio) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin “When I first read Carolena’s blog I said, ‘YES! Thank you, Carolena, for validating my dance!’ I had learned Old School ATS many years ago . . . and then over the years I added to the old repertoire of moves while keeping the original aesthetic. I think of my dance as a close cousin to FCBD, not a distant relative, and felt sort of cast out before, when ATS was suddenly defined

as ‘only FCBD moves done exactly this way.’ I am glad that Carolena agrees there can be creativity within the format if one observes certain rules and tenets. I no longer feel like I’ve illegitimately stolen her art, but rather that I have permission from the artist to contribute to the dance.”-Sabine , director of Tribalation! in Eugene, Oregon “For me it was a grand relief . . . There has been this metaphor about ATS being a box. With the old attitude, it felt like you had to stay [within the] confines of the box. The discipline of being in the box was good enough for all. We have reopened the floodgates on our personal creativity within the ATS box, and are floating happily down the river. With the new rules, the box is still there. There are established boundaries for what is and is not ATS, but Carolena in her wisdom has lifted the lid off the top of the box so that those who want to grow can keep their feet in the box, but stretch upwards if they choose. And for those people who liked the original box . . . well . . . she’s poked a few holes in the lid.” -Valizan from Toronto, Canada, ATS troupe Shades of Araby (FCBD Brother Studio)

“I felt complete joy and total relief! I was really happy for Carolena. I was among the very first group of Sister Studio teachers. I left after 2 years because there was not room for growth... With the new rules in effect I would probably fit in. Now, I can dedicate myself into the next 10 lives after this one.” - Katrina McCoy, artistic director of Skin Deep Dance, Seattle, Washington; and founder of With this announcement, Carolena has given us a great thing: trust in ourselves. By providing a format with a solid core but with room for personal creativity, she helps us to express ourselves in a way that is both accessible to all and still intensely personal. There need not be artificial divisions in the ranks; what is good for one is not good for all. The redefined ATS offers more than just flexibility. It is our improvisational mother opening her arms to say, “I trust you with this gift. Make it your own, and pass it on.” To read the entire “Fireside Chat” by Carolena, visit


Fine, handmade performance art pieces fuse


art Midway Magic !"#$%$&!#$'(%)*$')*(+$,-$.+-/+0

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Stephanie Bolton

About the artist



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!"#$%&'"()*& +",-.)).&+/#012&!"#$%&3.))4&5/#,. by Victoria Whitecotton !!!"#$%&%'()*$+

Victoria: When, and how, did you begin to combine your belly dancing with your interest in pinup? Michelle: While I was becoming acquainted with the stylization of Tribal Fusion belly dance, my performances consisted of my Mardi Love creations and electronica music. However, I did not listen to electronica music outside of my involvement in the belly dance community. As much as I adored and admired my dance inspirations, I never felt comfortable emulating their costuming and musical choices. My first performance at the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival consisted of Tribal Fusion attire accompanied by electronica music. As I became most comfortable with my dancing, I started to experiment [by incorporating] elements of my regular wardrobe into my costuming and old jazz and rockabilly music into my choreographies. I felt the new addition to my personal stylization was an accurate reflection of my personal style and interests. It also appeared to appeal to the tattoo/hot rod audience that patronized the event. I also started incorporating the poses and facial expressions of the classic 40s and 50s pinup girls into my act. At the time I really didn’t have a name for my stylization and was just enjoying the feeling of creating within the dance. In the fall of 2007 I received an extremely generous invitation from the producer of Tribal Fest, Kajira Djoumahna, to teach at Tribal Fest 8. I named the class “Pin-up Bellydance” in my workshop description. As if the idea of teaching at the largest festival of Tribal/alternative belly dance wasn’t exhilarating enough, I was thrilled to learn that my class had sold out only one month after registration had been posted. Since then, I have been honored to teach at Tribal Fest 9, 10, and the upcoming Tribal Fest 11, as well as other festivals within the genre of Tribal and alternative belly dance. I continue to research and actively participate within the art of pinup



modeling to enhance my performances. I also continue to study belly dance on a regular basis with multiple teachers at home—as well as in out-of-town workshops and weeklong intensives. V: Who is your favorite pinup girl, and why? Who is your favorite pinup photographer or artist? M: Without a doubt, Bettie Page for my favorite pinup girl! I believe that she exhibited all of the traits of beauty, sensuality, friendliness, and innocence that embodied the essence of the classic pinup girl. My favorite pinup artist is Gil Elvgren. I enjoy the works of Earl Moran, as well, because quite a few of his works featured images of belly dancers.


Michelle Manx stands out in the Tribal belly dance community—for me anyway—because she is so unique! She followed her passion and interest in pinup girls, then blended it with her dancing. The result is Pin-up Bellydance. Read on to discover what makes the pinup sensation tick.

V: Who would make the better pinup girl: Princess Leia or Counselor Deanna Troi? M: Well, I’ve always loved Princess Leia, but can I put my vote in for Oola the Twi’lek dancer? V: About ten years ago the Pentagon forced the U.S. Air Force to remove the pinup girl art from all of their planes on the basis that it was considered sexist. What do you think about that decision? M: I believe that if a citizen volunteers to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, they should be entitled to have their choice of images on their planes (within reason, of course). However, I do believe that the solider must consider the customs of the country where they are stationed, regardless of their personal beliefs.

V: What are some of the similarities and differences between pinup and burlesque? M: I believe that the classic pinup girl and classic burlesque have the same goal: the woman’s personality is the focal point of the performance/ photo/painting, rather than what she might— or might not—be wearing. Yes, the woman’s body is glorified in both genres, but without the interaction of the model/dancer and the observer, it ceases to possess the characteristics of the classic pinup girl or classic burlesque dancer. The only difference that I see between the two is that the pinup girl is a two-dimensional image and a burlesque dancer is a live, moving performer. Both genres feature humor and double entendre, as well. V: I understand you have a degree in anthropology. How would you relate belly dancing in general to anthropological study? In your opinion, is there evidence of dance in early human history? What does a pinup girl represent from an anthropological viewpoint? M: As a former archeologist, I have learned to not form generalizations about a past culture without a large amount of concrete evidence. I have worked with archeologists who have made generalizations regarding an entire civilization based on an extremely small amount of artifacts; therefore, I tend to base my beliefs on belly dance history according to historical documents. I really enjoyed the book “A Trade Like Any Other”: Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt, by Karin van Nieuwkerk, for historical depictions of the dance within the past two centuries. I believe that forms of cultural dance have probably existed ever since music was invented—however, it’s probably not the same as what we recognize dance to be as it is in modern times. Modern Middle Eastern dance is rapidly changing due to innovation at belly dance festivals and YouTube, so I’m sure that dance during ancient Middle Eastern times was different than what can be seen in the Golden [Age] films or historical accounts of the Egyptian folkloric dances of the 1800s documented by Western travelers. From my personal anthropological viewpoint, the classic pinup girl represents a sense of class, beauty, innocence, intelligence, strength, and the sensuality of a woman all rolled into one. Michelle has studied belly dance since 2002, and she performs regularly throughout Texas at belly dance events and tattoo conventions. Since 2008 she has been one of the instructors at Tribal Fest. In addition to her dancing, Michelle has also added event organizer to her list! She now produces events in Austin and the Central Texas area, such as Tribal Dance Camp in association with Bahaia. She also models for some of her favorite designers, including Poison Candy Fashion and Geisha Moth. You can contact Michelle at Visit her website at

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Book review:

by Alison Mackie “The Gypsy has Three Truths: one with me, one with you, and one with herself.” Thus begins Alison Mackie’s The Gypsy Chronicles, a delightful novel which is part fairy tale, part graphic art, and entirely charming. As unlikely as it might sound in this day and age, The Gypsy Chronicles took me back to a time of innocence and make-believe without any mawkish tricks or predictable plot lines. I found myself riveted, glued to the page, turning each with anticipation and excitement. We, the readers, are told in the introduction that “The Gypsy Chronicles is a bedtime story for grown-ups,” and it certainly did not disappoint. It flies from story to story, love to love, and bed to bed with the expert interweaving of a master narrator—beginning with the courtship and marriage of Gitana, a cigar smoking fortune-teller, and Tzigany, a gifted carpenter and maker of matrimonial beds. We then follow numerous other characters who are all tied in some way or another to Gitana and Tzigany within the beautiful city of Ronda, Spain. We meet a Gypsy witch, a diamond thief, an angel, a dancer, a musician, and even a Spanish winemaker. “There is no moment of charm without long roots in the past,” Mackie writes with the authority of fable. Peppered with quotes from the likes of Rumi, Aristotle, St. Teresa of Avila and many others, The Gypsy Chronicles seamlessly harkens to the past while existing within the contemporary. The reader is presented with beautiful portraits of the characters between the words, giving the impression of visiting a family history

rather than a novel—a family you come to know, love, and care about. The Gypsy Chronicles presents us with a modern romance for those who have long held a fascination for “the Travelers,” or for those who are nomadic folk themselves. It is crafted for the person on the go. The chapters are short and to the point, making this novel a delight for the busy reader. But it will most certainly appeal to the dancer. My favorite character in The Gypsy Chronicles is Estrella de la Flamenca, a spirited flamenco dancer and a passionate woman. “Dance was not the best way for Estrella to live her life—it was the only way. She would be a traitor to her soul if she were to give up her art.” Mackie somehow managed to capture the beauty of dance on the page in a way I have yet to encounter in any other author’s work. Estrella’s showdown with a renowned flamenco guitarist culminates into a frenzy of fire and rhythm that I’m certain those of us who have been lucky enough to be possessed by the dance will recognize. We are even treated to the summoning of the duende, that mystical presence written of by Federico García Lorca. Overall, this is a rewarding novel. It is a true surprise and a treasure to read. For a digital preview, check out the website, To experience Alison Mackie’s magic, read the book. - Britta Visser Stumpp



Short 'fuse': A Preview Issue  

A preview of sample content from our first two issues - similar to what you will get if you subcribe to 'fuse': A Tribal and Tribal Fusion B...

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