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The Happenings December 2013

Interview with the One and Only Marguerite Kusuhara Pg. 15

CONTENTS Whats Happening This Issue... Pg. 2 - Calendar of Events Pg. 3 - Letter from the Editor Pg. 4 - MECDA Bulletin Chapter Happenings Pg. 7 - Arizona Chapter Pg. 8 - Heartland Chapter Pg. 9 - Inland Empire Chapter Pg. 10 - Las Vegas Chapter Pg. 11 - Los Angeles Chapter Pg. 12 - San Francisco Chapter From Our Readers Pg. 13 Special Feature “A Traveler of Many Places - Finding Dance in the Unexpected” an exclusive interview with Marguerite Kusuhara Pg. 15 Lifestyle “Surviving the Holiday Season - tips for bellydancers” Pg. 23 History and Culture “Dessert Shakedown” Pg. 27


Health and Wellness “Stoke the Inner Fire and permission to SLEEP - Tools for Winter Wellness” Pg. 31 “Affirmations - Believe in Yourself” Pg. 33 Chapter and Central Board Pg. 35 TH Staff and Special Thanks Pg. 36 How to Submit and Article Pg. 38 MECDA Mission Statement Pg. 39

Calendar of Events

November 2013


December 2013

Want to see your event here on TH calendar and on the master calendar located on the MECDA website? Make sure you connect your Google Account Calendar to the MECDA Master Calendar. Link your Google based calendar to or e-mail the editor for instructions.


Letter From the Editor Dear MECDA Members, Its December, the busiest time of year for so many of us. I am writing this while flying out see family for the holiday season. I know for me it has been non-stop every since Thanksgiving! It is so easy to fall out of dance shape and forget to add a little dance into my day. I’m going to share some of my travel tips for sneaking a little dance into your busy holiday schedule. 1. Right now, in my seat on the plane I am actually practicing my stomach undulations! Thats right I am working on isolating my upper and lower abs right in my seat! We have another hour and twenty minutes, so I plan on having the perfect roll by the end of the flight. 2. Instead of putting up with hours of holiday music while traveling, download a playlist of Middle Eastern Rhythms, put it on shuffle and play “Name that Rhythm” Maybe add “Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer” in for good holiday cheer. 3. Take you most recent dance book with you and use that as travel reading. My favorite book to read is “Grandmothers Secrets: The Ancient Rituals and Healing Power of Belly Dance” by Rosina-Fawzia AlRawi . Its a small book thats easy to pack but packed full of personal stories about The Dance. 4. Practice shimmies while you are at the stove cooking dinner, or washing the dishes. You can also sneak in a little shimmy practice waiting in line at the store to check out with all your holiday goodies. Big winter coats help hide the shimmies, if you are a little hesitant to practice in public. If you have some great ways to get a little dance into your holiday chaos let us know! I hope you enjoy this issue of TH. The interview with Marguerite Kusuhara is packed with great personal and cultural stories. And our ode to winter wellness is sprinkled throughout this issue like well place sprinkles on a Christmas Cookie. Have a Very Happy Holiday Season! See you in the New Year!



Special Announcements Central Board Meetings The Central Board Meetings are now being held on the Second Sunday of the month. These meeting are open to any MECDA member, and the central board highly encourages attendance, since important decisions and updates are made at these meetings and they would love for you to be a part of your organizations decisions. These meetings take place over Skype (audio only-no video) at 9am Pacific Time/12:00pm Eastern Time. If you wish to attend the next meeting please RSVP by December 4th with your Skype name to MECDA Secretary, Rosa Noreen at

The Next Meeting Will Take Place on Sunday January 12th 9AM PT/12PM ET We hope to see you there!

As of January 2014 there will be new regulations for all chapters to follow. This is part of the reconstruction process of MECDA as a whole. January’s issue of TH will include information about these new regulations. If you have questions or need clarification on any of these please make sure your chapter president contacts Samira, Vice-president and Chapter Liaison. Everyone here at MECDA is looking forward to improving this organization for all our members. Samira Tu’Ala E-Mail:


Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful, But at MECDA Our Events Are So Delightful So If You’ve Got No Place to Glow Let Us Know, We’ve Got Shows, We Want You to Go! 5

MECDA Chapter Happenings

Want to know what other chapters have been up to? Read reviews of past events, see sneak peaks of future events, and celebrate with all of the chapters on their accomplishments. MECDA is a nation wide organization of dancers dedicated to sharing their love of this dance. It is important that we all stay connected with each other. If you want to submit a review of one of your chapter events to be seen here in this section of TH, please email them to our editor at Please make sure when you submit an event to a review you include the chapter name.


Arizona Chapter Cgs   2013 Ws  D S


Heartland Chapter

ATS Bootcamp ®

Topeka, Kansas January 18th 2014 11:30am - 4:30pm Classes will be taught by Cyndi Cyreigna Elliott a FatChance® BellyDance ATS® Instructor. Certified in General Skills, Teacher Training 1 and 2, and is a FCBD® Sister Studio Level 1 - ATS® Basics - Getting back to basics! Review and refine! Technique, formation, and control. This class is designed using the FCBD® format. Level 1 helps reinforce ATS® posture, angle, technique, and control of the basic fast moves as well as basic slow. Whether you are a seasoned dance or a newbie, these classes will be beneficial to help refine, and reinforce the ATS basic vocabulary and beyond! Level 2 - ATS® and Beyond - This is where we have some fun!! Learn the more dynamic steps that keep an audience wanting more! Refine individual technique by drilling basic steps and their variations in creative combinations. If there are steps you specifically want to go over, now is the time to ask! Be ready to drill and zill and have a GREAT time! Register Here: Congratulations to the New Board Members of the Heartand Chapter President - Darcy Predmore Vice President - Judie Dansby Secretary - Suzanne Shields Treasurer - Paige Parker


Inland Empire Chapter

We heard you had a great Christmas Show on Dec 19th! Congratulations!!! Can’t wait to see some fun photos from that event! 9

Las Vegas Chapter

The Big Fat Deal Hafla December 7th 2013

There were venders...

...There were Prizes There were GREAT Performances!!! Congratulations to the New Board Members of Las Vegas Chapter President - Virginie Inara Guillemette Vice-President - Cindy Cindy Coons Secretary - Beth Miller Treasurer - Kirsten Staton


Los Angeles Chapter


San Francisco Bay Area Chapter

Holiday Show 2013 December 8th

So many great Holiday Events throughout the MECDA chapters! Can’t wait for all the photos to come in! Make sure you send some to us here at TH.


From Our Readers n! ctio e S ar New t to He an ! We W m YOU o Fr

Do you have a question, comment, photo, or love note for TH? We would love to hear form you, and so would the rest of our readers! Send in your letters and see them posted here in the next issue of “The Happenings�. Dear TH,

I really love the new look of the magazine! But sometimes my computer has trouble

viewing TH on is there another way to get the magazine?

Thanks! Really Looking Forward to the Next Issue!

Dear Reader, for all issues from now on, TH is releasing a dropbox link so all readers can download a .pdf file of the magazine. The files will be large, but they will be available for you to keep on your own electronic devices. We hope this helps our members who have had trouble getting through to All the Best, Zabel


Love this new format.  GREAT JOB!!! Candace Dear   Happenings, I   love   this   November   issue   and    especially   your   story   about   how   you    got   started   into   belly   dancing.      Love    all   the   pics   of   different   articles.       When   I   traveled   to   Egypt   I   always    purchased   the   magazine   "Egypt    Today"   because   of   all   the   photos.      It    was   interesting   to   see   the   many    different   faces. Sincerely, Barbara

A Traveler of Many Places Finding Dance in the Unexpected


An Interview with Marguerite Kusuhara by Rom Deussen

Special Feature

“The mindset for practicing sword walking, if someone is really doing it and not creating the illusion, is first training.”

“I did not just stand or pose on the rungs. I danced.”

“I   I s g -      ff ” 16

I had the wonderful chance to interview, via e-mail, the one and only Marguerite Kusuhara ( The MECDA Central Board had the privilege of meeting her in person in LA with several of the greats of belly dance, and it was a fabulous afternoon of conversation and watching the footage of Jenza’s productions, which Marguerite dances in. Marguerite has danced all over the world, including in Asia, where she spent extensive time. She holds an MA in Visual Anthropology, a BA in Fine Art, and has studied mythology, folk medicine, and psychotechnology extensively, along with field work in North China, Inner Mongolia, from 1988-1994, and then again in 2004 and 2006. One of the pieces of Marguerite’s that impressed me immensely is a dance done on a ladder of swords. If you haven’t seen it, find it here at


Your ladder dance reminded me so much of when I saw Buddha by going up the ladder. What were your mindset did you have to have, or what did you focus on, in order to

saw “The King and I”, and Eliza influences and what stand on them?


Ladder of Swords influences—Original influences are Asian, for sure. This is something that is done by the Fakirs and street performers of India (possibly connecting it to the Roma), the Samah (or Dervish) practitioners of Iran, and also to the traditional shamans in Korea and Mongolia as an initiatory trial for their training and “certification”. It is done in other areas of Asia, also, or so I’ve seen. Stage magicians have done variations of it for comedy in the later part of the 20th Century until now, but their variations are mostly illusions. Mine is not. It is very old, and the drawings we found of it were from the 19th Century. The Ladder of Swords that I do is an offshoot of the one that was originally researched by Miranda and Katlyn Miller Breene of The Niri Senti,Magicians in the library at the Magic Castle. I was a member of the Castle for a while from the 90’s until a few years ago, and so was Katlyn in earlier years. We did it in our Ren Fair shows all during the late 80’s and into the 90’s.There were not a lot of women magicians at the time, so it was a struggle to be see and get information about things. I don’t know if the other ladies still do it, but there were 5 in the group that did it for Fairs and 3 that did it for a pyrotechnics and magic show that we called “Trial by Fire”- We used Roma/Gypsy style costumes, or modified North Indian festival costumes with shisha mirrors for the fairs, and “Barbarian” costuming (think “Xena” does magic) for “Trial by Fire”, which had a feminized Promethian Goddess fantasy theme. For the fairs, we researched what we wore for it, and it looked like “Fat Chance” just a little, and way more like “Latcho Drom”. I taught myself to do the ladder in the late 90’s, years after the group dissolved, remembering from watching the Niri Senti’s way of doing it and changing it, though using some of the same training and performing techniques. I was a narrator and dancer for them, and never did it in their shows, though I did help write their scripts and create their concepts and costuming, stage props. The mindset for practicing sword walking, if someone is really doing it and not creating the illusion, is first training. Physical training to properly support weight, condition the feet, the hips, the knees- and also the mind. To support the mind/mindset, concentration and focus on the pain is key, plus the breath.


How you breathe is VERY important, and when. Each ladder rung required a different figure, and the person that was the support for me in the show held a pole which helped me to balance while I moved on the swords and went upward to the platform at the top. My ladder has 7 rungs, and the rungs represent different stages of focus and practice. I did not just stand or pose on the rungs. I danced.


On the IAMED video where you perform “Queen of Swords”, tell me about the kumpania on stage with you.

Kumpania is an old Roma (Gypsy) name for a traveling or itinerant performing company that includes A acrobats, singers, musicians, dancers, animal acts, etc. I chose the name because it suited the types of things I put in my shows and the people I work with when I do them, which was unusual to find when I first began. Also, my folks and family are from the south, and there was a very large Roma contingent down there in the early part of the last century in the Queen City area, a friend of mine tells me. And, where the traveling kumpania’s went, there were dancers, side shows, circuses, medicine shows, etc. Usually, I also supply most of the costumes for my group too. The performers I worked with for the video include several men at various times- one of them is a stage combat c h o r e o g r a p h e r- o u r friend Christopher Villa. He works in equity theater and has done a lot of professional Shakespeare productions and was a professor at UC Irvine in the theater department. These days he’s teaching light saber classes for Sci Fi groups in Northern California t o o. My husband is Japanese, from Hawaii- and possibly part Portuguese way back in his family. We met in ’92 at the Long Beach Renaissance Fair, and we were introduced by friends. All of my kumpania on the video had formerly performed with Miranda’s “Niri Senti Magicians”. My support man, Ernest Silecio (otherwise known as Oberon) has his own pirate group, “Brethren of the Coast”, and has become very famous for his work with them. He was one of the originators during the 80’s of the whole pirate craze that has taken off since ‘Pirates of the Caribbean”. I’ve known both Oberon and Chris for at least 30 years, if not more. This was my all male kumpania, but I’ve also had support women who helped me to balance and assist, singly or in a group. All of them were paid for major shows and for some rehearsals. But for the 4 sword part of “Queen of Swords”, it was my husband and our friend Chris whom I worked with to put our story together- one of the best videos of that was shot at Anisa’s “King Tut Returns” event, then held at “Platinum Live” in 2005, I think. I’ve also done both the ladder and the 4 sword balance for MECDA.


How do you select your music?

I select my music by first listening and determining whether I like it or not. Second, I try to make sure that A it has some recognizable cultural relevance to the performance I’m planning on doing, whether theatrical, fusion, folkloric or any of several other styles of Med dance. Third, I look at the time period the music is from, what emotions it evokes, the form of it, and the lyrics, which I either know or have translated. When selecting live music, I try to choose musicians who have an interest in the subject matter I’m portraying, and they often become a cohesive part of the group- either they with me or myself with them. Now and then they will learn a piece of music for a specific event, or I will play and sing with them for the show/event myself. I would say that cultural relevance is the main thing I keep in mind throughout the selection process.



Tell me about what your costuming says about you. What’s your favorite one?


Hmm….first off, there’s always a story involved, or a story book quality, even with the cabaret costumes I’ve used over the years. Earlier in this article I said a bit about the costuming for the Ladder, too. I like what I wear to be attractive, but also to hint that there’s a tale to be told in the wearing. I’ve found Med Dance to be a very rich place in which to create this feeling. It’s hard for me to choose a favorite costume, but I think my striped Ghawazee coats (Turkish Empire style) are my favorites. They morph in so many directions for different styles of performances and applications, and I can also wear them for playing percussion or doing vocals. I’ve always had one, even a makeshift one, before the saffron colored one with the black stripes I’ve worn so much over the years. It’s the oldest. My costumes can say “playful” or, “flirtatious”, sexy- and spiritual as well, depending on how they are worn and what movements are done in them. They are suitable for all times of life and for more than one dance style. They tell a story or make the viewer want to know more about what is happening in them on stage, and they hold the viewer’s attention. Most have been acquired, or their materials, first hand- in person, in places all over the world- or from the artists who created them. Some are created by myself. They speak of my life and experience, as well as the story being told.


What took you to Asia? Did you find what you were searching for? How did it influence your dance?

Yes, I found what I was searching for- another way of life with different possibilities, and more information A on dance and metaphysical healing practices as an accepted part of daily living. The area I was in had long discontinued many of these practices, but some remained. Others are still continued in secret or in other areas of the country. I went to China in the beginning as a tourist in 1988, but I also went to Inner Mongolia (an autonomous region of China) looking for information on connections between dance, music and shamanism. While I was there, I lectured for an English class at NADA University and was then also invited to return and teach for a year. I also met a group of singers, dancers and actors from the Hohhot Song and Dance Ensemble. Mongolian dance bore some similarity to Turkish styles, and then there was the Andai- or shaman’s healing dance that had been secularized as THE National Dance. Prior to the Chinese Communist regime, it was once organized by shamans in villages and communities for healing or bringing rain, or the cure of sadness. Later on in 2006, I functioned as a research assistant for a friend researching the Andai. I also discovered that the “Ladder of Swords” performance was part of something called “9 trials of initiation” for shamans in training. When I first arrived in ’89, while performing for a wedding between a Turkish student and a Mongolian singer in Hohhot (the capitol where I lived), some of the older local scholars who had been dancers attending the wedding told me the dance I was doing bore close resemblance to that of the shaman’s dance. My dance style is influenced by so many things, but apparently the turns and drops and spins, even the hand percussion, are used in healing dance as well. It was recognizable to other people who had studied it. One of the men who told me was drinking heavily at the wedding, and I had been discussing my search for dancing shamans with him days before. At the wedding he said “That dance, your dance, is shaman’s dance” while someone tried to shush him up. The shushing part is so interesting. Some years there, the government in the area where I was did not allow anything to do with this type of research. Some years, it was deemed “ok”. So people were cautious. They were also very concerned with getting credit for their ideas as in any professional environment. All of this gave me the idea that I needed to stick around for a closer look, and it took me 7 years to find most of the pieces I needed to connect the dots. I began to see the influences might not be so coincidental, if indeed I had gotten things backward- bringing something of the dance, actually, BACK to a place of origin.



At what age did you realize you had inner sight? How? How does it influence your dance?


I realized I had this ability at about age 13. Many people have it, actually, but never use it. At one time in our human development it was not considered strange or rare at all. My mother bought me a pack of tarot cards, and I learned to use them by studying them, then just reading…. I read for friends and some people in high school at first. Once, I told someone to be careful. They showed up the next day with a broken arm in a cast asking for another reading. I freaked. I knew then that I really needed to be careful what I said. Yes, I still have a hard time with that one now and then. As far as it influencing my dance, I often have this feeling that certain things need to be said or seen or done or even kept going no matter what- either in conversation, performance, practice or example. That feeling/voice is so strong that I sometimes do not use good sense when I listen to it. Sometimes I feel I am propelled forward against my will by something just to speak up. This is a hard one to explain. It’s one reason I like to say I’m an advocate for certain things, and not that thing itself.


What do you fear this newer generation of dancers will or has lost?


What is the main difference between dancers now and in the 70’s/80’s?

The ability to dream outside the box and create connection- deep A connection- with an audience, and with fellow dancers utilizing a specific cultural framework. Varied costuming options- that’s another one- different styles, rather than all the same or in the same style. The 3, 4 and 5 part routine. Attention span. Persistence. Plus, people’s association with costuming styles seems limited. That needs to change. Study of folkloric (which is disappearing) as well as the popular commercial forms. Folkloric itself has been so commercialized, also, when you can find it, though I’d welcome it in any form. I’m not talking about the Am-cab influenced folkloric bd styles. I’m talking about regional dances from various areas, from the villages, towns, etc. I know there’s still plenty out there, but I worry about the continuing interest. The loss of live music and dance that is connected- one to the other. Musicians who really play for the dancers, and dancers who can relate to them and to an audience together (Tarab) no matter what culture the music is from. The loss of some of the old traditional music. Small affordable haflas…but I know we’re working on that one…

In my opinion? There are so many positives to speak of, but I can tell you what I miss, and started missing A in the 80’s, given that my experience will be a bit different than that of many other dancers. Generally, floorwork, zills (though people still maintain these skills in many areas), folkloric and the more emotive styles of AmCab, or “Classic”, plus the “Ethno Cabaret” styles. Improv with the 3, 4 and 5 part routines- or rather, the old classic style of improv. Beautiful homemade costumes. Entertaining and breaking that “3rd wall” between the dancer and the audience. Seeing dancers out and about at markets and on street corners with their musicians or fellow dancers doing varied dance styles or classic…though I am not missing live music. I include it as often as possible. I seem to almost always find it if I look for it and am learning more about it plus percussion and vocals.


More accessibility between students and teachers, perhaps deeper respect and commitment no matter the age of the teacher. I DO miss the interest in the live music, since there seems to be less. And the club scene with Middle Eastern audiences that loved the styles we knew in the 70’s…yes, I miss that too. You can still find it, but it’s limited, and there are the old club musicians around who know it too. I miss the connection with musicians on stage, but I am told that you can still find it. Some of the connection remains, yes, but there could be more performing intimacy, or “soul”. There’s really none of that. And sometimes if you display it, or even closeness to a musician or the band or band members, there’s suspicion that accompanies that intimacy from so many directions that keeps professionals (both musicians and dancers) from going towards that aesthetic. Unless, of course, either are married to one of the members or dancers. It’s just one of the things that blocks emotional depth or soul, though “soul” can exist anywhere. There’s just less of it or time allowed for it to develop during a show with everything done in 7 min. or less. Perhaps this is just a West Coast issue. Some of the positives are the training techniques and the torso manipulations now achieved. Wild and wonderful and extreme- plus a wide range of music if less live music. And the abundance of so many different styles and offshoots of Med Dance- yet in some areas the offshoots without the cultural connection are what we see most of. Some professionally produced costumes are elegant as well, depending on the workshop and the aesthetic. More respectability is accorded our profession too, though we still have a long way to go.


Tell me about the old MECDA and the events that you were in.

I’ll have to give you the names of others who remember for the earlier events (Some in the late 70’s until A 2007), since it’s been a long time and many many years that I’ve performed for them, plus so many years between. Ask Jenza, June Jones, Miranda of the Niri Senti, Marta Schill and Tonya, or maybe John Bilezikjian and Fahtiem. They might remember, but it’s a bit of blur to me. MECDA was definitely an inspiration and did keep me going and interested as well- I just loved the Halflas and all the dancers getting together- a very special vibe that MECDA always created. Jenza will remember some things from the late 70’s- she tells me, and I just say, “Huh wha?” But I’ve been dancing and around Los Angeles since I started with Feiruz Aram and Fahtiem in 1977/8. Once I featured some magic while I was studying working with live birds during the late 90’s.Then, during the late 80’s or early 90’s, Miranda of the Niri Senti Magicians had me narrating or performing with her group for her version of the Ladder of Swords while I was going back and forth between here and Asia for my Master’s Degree in Anthropology. We did that for some MECDA shows. In the mid 80’s, I did something with Jenza at the Moroccan House in Anaheim called “MECDA Meets the SCA” with the “Brothers of the Beladi” band. At another MECDA event, I appeared in drag for a Hagallah Suite with the Beledi Dancers and Zahra Suhair- our troupe arrived at that one in a white stretch limo. When I was first doing sword, I was on stage earlier where the big star of the evening was Marie Silva, also for a MECDA event. . My most recent memories of MECDA are from 2005 for Cairo Carnival where I taught 2 seminars- one based on my “Spins and Turns” IAMED DVD, and one on multiple sword balance. That year, I was in the evening Gala, also, with the Ladder of Swords at the Glendale Civic. I opened for Suhaila Salimpour, who also included an oriental magician in her “Bal Anat” show with a sword balance illusion. . In 2007, I was back again in Sahra Saeeda’s “Ra” with a theatrical piece that included whirling. About 50% of my work has been theatrical mixed with Med Dance, though I’ve often presented straight Turkish style or even Lebannese and Classic “AmCab” Cabaret in the same shows. Dance theater, as well as straight Med dance and folkloric, has been a draw for me and a huge influence always. I love to entertain as a dancer, and create characters, or just cut loose. Humor is important to me too, and audience connection.



Any other plans for more IAMED videos?

No more plans for any IAMED videos, though plans can always change. “Spins and Turns” was fun to make A with Suzy Evans- it was a real creative effort between the editors, director and filming crew. We did a lot of unusual things for that one, and it includes quite a few performance pieces.. I was working for a while on another teaching video with someone else, but life has just taken me off the beaten path again, so we will have to see what happens.


What influenced your amazing spinning ability? Where does your mind go when you spin?

I was influenced by watching the Mevlevi, in the beginning, but from the start I knew that their use of the A turn was historically later than other disciplines- possibly deriving from more ancient ones. I had seen many other practitioners from other spiritual backgrounds utilizing turning in their meditation and healing practices. Healers from Native American groups, Nepalese “crazy Lamas”, Tibetan “Tsam” dancers, Mongolian shamans, Dervishes from Afghanistan, deer dancers and Aztec dancers from Mexico, etc. All use some form of the extended turn for connecting with unseen forces. To me, it’s a basic type of meditation, definitely, and a connection with both the audience and the universe in conjunction. For more in depth information, please take a look at my article in Habibi, Vol. 19, #2, page 56, “Ethnography of an Epiphany”. The interesting part about doing this is that I have often ended up in the company of others, by coincidence, who also turn (there are more and more these days), even when I had no idea I was to be included in activities surrounding them. Now that I have begun to study turning traditions, and the structured teachings that sometimes accompany it as well as drum patterns, I feel that a type of recognition passes between myself and some others who practice on some level. I try to be as low key and ego-less as I can about it (difficult as a performer), and may even decline to participate, depending on the feeling of the moment. It is not something to be decided on or done in a hurry, for me, or even on a large scale. It is a sense I get, and this sense is about 70 to 80% on target. If I go against my instincts, things usually do not go well. I find it depends on the purpose I am being asked to do it, when and where to do it, or even to discuss it. Again, this is very hard to describe. To be able to do this for an extended period, the step pattern must be correct, the surface smooth and non-gripping, plus the breathing that goes with it MUST be regulated. Great attention should be accorded to the breath and to preparation. The music/percussion must also work well and regulate everything else. When beginning, there can be an intent, a request, an affirmation and a willingness- represented by 5 or 7 levels, which I will not go into here. During the process, the mind must be empty. If the mind is not empty, or the needs required not attended to, it’s possible to stumble or wander too much during action and lose the force of the motion.


SURVIVING THE HOLIDAY SEASON TIPS FOR BELLYDANCERS By Sabrina The winter holiday season is a fun and busy time for everyone, especially dancers. We may have a student holiday show, be invited to seasonal haflas and have many more gigs during this time of year. Here are a few of my favorite tips to help bellydancers successfully survive navigate the holidays.

GETTING THE GIG Holiday Season Pricing Traditionally, performers charge more, not less, during the holiday season. There is a reason the event and hospitality industries charge more at this time. It’s simple supply and demand. Our time is more tightly scheduled and party services are in higher demand. Perhaps you are performing at someone else’s event instead of celebrating with your own family? What is this worth to you? A few years ago, a dancer I knew sent out an email soliciting holiday dance gigs. She offered 20% off during the holidays! Not only did this cause a communal outcry of “undercutter,” but it sent the wrong message to potential clients. It’s important to understand that our shows add significant value to an event. We bring joy and beauty, and liven up the mood. We add a unique spice. We get people out of their chairs, moving to the music and interacting with each other, creating lasting memories. Make sure to expect !

be familiar with regional holiday pricing customs. Your season can be brighter than you

New Year’s Eve Pricing Traditionally, nightclubs and restaurants pay triple time on New Year’s Eve. However, recently, some areas pay double time, with venues claiming economic hardships. Some refuse to pay any holiday bonuses, even if you are dancing on the busiest night of the year! Know your market and know your venue. There may be a ploy to get you to work for less, and you may show up to a full house, regretting your negotiating tactics (or lack thereof).

WHAT TO WEAR Err on the side of classic and formal. Wear your very best costuming during the holiday season. Save the reindeer antlers and candy cane antenna headbands for haflas- dance community shows and parties where you are a guest. Silly can appear unprofessional. When hired as a professional performer for a holiday party, you are there to sparkle, shine and make the event beautiful and all the more memorable. Think Tiffany, not Spencer’s. If you have to incorporate holiday themed costuming, save it for a costume change or second act, after they have seen you are a consummate professional.


MUSIC SELECTIONS Do your homework. For whom will you be dancing? Is it a non-denominational community holiday party? Is it a religiously affiliated group celebrating a major winter holiday? This will help you determine which, if any, holiday themed music will be appropriate for your show. Nasser Musa has a fun version of Jingle Bells on [oud?], which goes over fabulously at Christmas parties. But, this may not be the best choice for non-Christian groups who are not familiar with English holiday songs. As always, select your songs to suit your audience and pay careful attention to cultural and religious sensitivities. Someone at your hafla will dance to Santa Baby. This is inevitable. I once attended a holiday hafla with no less than five Santa Baby acts! Think outside the box. Get creative. If you are an organizer, have dancers submit their music selections ahead of time. This will help prevent Santa-Baby-itis and present a varied show program for your audience.

TAKE CARE DURING THE BUSY SEASON Sleep Make sure to get enough rest. Skin looks fresher and muscles function better when our boddies are well rested. A well-rested mind better handles stressors with quick problem solving skills, quietly smoothing over any snags that occur during the holiday season. Nutrition Going to a potluck hafla or studio party? will be grateful and it will ensure you have

Be kind and bring a a nutritious

healthy dish to share. Your fellow dancers choice of snack for yourself as well.

Vitamins and Supplements Winter show season is also Remember to take your immune support products. favorites include: Emergen-C, and Goldenseal.

winter cold season. vitamins and supplement with Some of my personal Airborne and good old Echinacea

Hard Core Pro Tip: No alcohol or

processed sugars!

Why??? Alcohol slows motor functions, physical efficiency. It is a physical to ourselves when expected to perform at before a show, use a mental and/or physical skills, such as visualization, meditation, anything else that helps you tune in to your

dehydrates bodies and reduces depressant. Why would we do this our best? If you need to “loosen up” training technique that amplifies your calming yoga poses, hypnosis, prayer or highest-performing self.

Research from UCLA suggests that high levels of sugar form free radicals, which compromise nerve cells’ ability to communicate with each other. We need our bodies to function at the highest possible level when performing. We need to be remembered as the lovely centerpiece of a spectacular celebration, with precision timing and physical mastery. This means basic functions, like nerve responses, should be at their peak. Dancers are athletes. Think like an athlete and give your body optimal tools to function at its best during the busy show season.


Exercise It’s a good idea to increase the stretching segment of your training regiment during any busy period – especially the busy holiday season. Muscles tighten more in cold weather and we need to maintain our flexibility to be able to dance to our full potential[ andrange of motion]. Additionally, if we have a heavier-than-usual show schedule, our muscles will be more fatigued. Lactic acid buildup (caused by any physical exertion) is what causes soreness. Stretching moves this lactic acid out of our muscles. (There is some debate on the specifics of this issue in the scientific communities, but I can tell you from many years of experience that I am less sore after a good stretch session and I know you will be too.) Getting in a good stretch will help alleviate some of the muscle soreness and get us ready for our next appearance.

It’s A Wrap Holiday seasons can feel like marathons for us. So, let’s plan ahead and prepare like the professional performers we are. Little things can have big impacts on how we fare - like leaving extra travel time for holiday traffic, keeping stretched and warm between gigs and bringing a warm cover-up for before and after shows, keeping nutritious snacks on hand to prevent the holiday bulge, to keep our energy and spirits up and to maintain our sense of humor during the inevitable stressors of a busy season. Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to give yourself a gift! You’ve survived another year and you deserve a treat. Whether big or small, a little pampering gift to yourself is well deserved after surviving the holiday season.

Sabrina: Champion Bellydancer, International Workshop Instructor, USA Distributor of Hallah Moustafa Couture costumes, Featured Instructor on and an insatiable dance nerd on a neverending quest to unravel the mysteries of Near Eastern Dance


Have a Safe and Heal!y Holiday Season and a Wonderful New Year From All of Us at MECDA 26

History & Culture

For this month’s section on History and Culture we have decided to focus on the history of an event that takes place each year in the MECDA family. It is w huge undertaking by the Arizona Chapter.

Dessert Shakedown! Deep in the Desert Southwest where the weary and cold find warmth year round, where the rattlesnake roams, and the skyline is decorated with the Saguaro cactus, majestic mountains, and the most vibrant orange and pink sunsets you will ever lay your eyes on, the 2013 AZ MECDA Chapter board members hosted Arizona's annual Desert Shakedown on November 16th, 2013. Shannon Conklin led the organization her board—Amanda Rose- BDUC, Gail Dawn Formoe, and Holly Luky, and was born more than five years ago author of the Daily Belly Dance MECDA Chapter- Levant Al Sonora. the entire community in one accord, education, dance, music, and of Fall Festival of Music and Dance, the time and grown more successful with

of this year’s Shakedown along with Wolfenden-Steib, Melissa Pismio, Fay Mendelsohn,. owever, this event from the creative mind of Mahin, Quickies, and also, founder of the AZ She had fashioned the event to bring regardless of belly dance genre, with course, shopping! Originally called the Desert Shakedown has evolved over each year.

The event organizers, made a bold decision in 2013 to celebrate their talent and hire local instructors for their workshops. The idea developed after a group discussion, which led to the realization of the Belly Dance Royalty right beneath their very noses. Take a look below at a few of the names that came up in that conversation. Arizona Belly Dance Royalty Helena Vlahos -(multi-award winning & mentor extraordinaire) Kathryn Ferguson -(award winning film maker, performer, & author) Ava Fleming- (BDUC 2004/multi award winning) Heidi Alexander of Domba -(Mother of Tribal Belly Dance in AZ, vendor, & multi-award winning) Yasmina (multi-award winning & vendor) Amanda Rose -(2009 BDUC & multi-award winning) Anaya Tribal- (multi award winning & Vendor) Divine Chaos -(multi-award winning) Carrie Konyha- (multi-award winning) Ghaleb Tawil -(award winning musician) 27

It is easy to see why the event organizers felt confident in making the choice to hire the wealth of talent --literally at their fingertips in Arizona. But, that wasn’t the only bold choice made. There was still, yet another, the year before! Organizers crafted a way to provide event goers with even more value by offering free mini-seminars. Three experts covered three topics that are relevant to the hobbyist and professional dancer. The Free Lecture Series presented at the 2013 Desert Shakedown were as follows; “Positive Troupe Dynamics” with Adaiah Gooden, MPC, LASAC; “Flexibility for Injury Prevention” with Dawn Formoe, B.S., H.S., CI-CPT; and “Make-Up from Day-time to Show-Time” with Kay Townsend, MFA, Theater Design, Make-Up Artist—all three, all Free! The event organizers worked continuously to provide free supplemental information, carry out a variety of workshops taught by Arizona talent, recruited high quality vendors, and transformed a blank canvas into an amazing venue space for the best possible experience. WORKSHOPS : Turkish Roman, presentation, and technique- Daniella of Tucson, BFA, MAA Spanish Skirt- Rajani - of Safford Indian Style- Hilary- of Flagstaff Zills – Samia- of Phoenix Dynamic Toolbox – Amanda Rose, BDUC- of Phoenix The venue, located in Tempe, AZ., was ideal, and addressed the community’s desire to incorporate the entire event, including vendors, into one large space. The 2013 Shakedown Vendors were: Kyla’s Keepsakes Rukshana Raks! Plaza De Anaya Melisula’s Desert Petal Designs Alchemy of Avalon Designs by Janie Madame to Sew Samia GD Frippery Henna by Anwyn Shimmy Bliss Costume Co. Rough Soull Mehi Triune 28

Dancers and their families could shop, watch the community show, and when it came time to feed the masses, the board thought ahead and brought in a food truck! Mediterranean gourmet street food! Plaza De Anaya Dance Studios provided a desert oasis themed lounge with luxurious rugs, oversized pillows and floor tables in which one could rest their weary feet and sip some tea from Alchemy of Avalon and chit chat with their friends. The community show provided dancers with an opportunity to dance on a stage, share their talents and inspiration with their peers and foster camaraderie. Videographer Michael Fallai, owner of 30fps, provided dancers with an opportunity to purchase a DVD of their performance, on the spot without profit. And no event would be complete without the professional photographers, Heather Bender spent her day capturing those breathtaking moments throughout the day, especially when the awards were announced. We’ve heard it said before; there is no greater honor than to be acknowledged by your peers as great and good. Arizona MECDA Chapter honors those in the community with an awards ceremony each year. The nominees and winners are chosen by a peer vote. The category and winners for 2013 Desert Shakedown Awards were: Favorite Arizona Cabaret/Oriental Soloist – Amanda Rose Favorite Arizona Tribal Soloist-Yasmina Favorite Arizona Vendor- Plaza De Anaya Favorite Arizona Musician- Ghaleb Tawil Favorite Arizona Event-Desert Shakedown Favorite Arizona Instructor of the Year- Cari & Tiffany of Anaya Tribal Arizona’s Rising Star- Samantha Bordelon-Karim Favorite Arizona Cab/Oriental Troupe- Raqs Sharqi Movement Collective (RSMC) Favorite Arizona Tribal Group- Divine Chaos Tribal Arizona Lifetime Achievement Award- Yasmina Volunteer of the Year- Kristen Hohminer (chosen by board) The Gala show featured the workshop instructors, award nominees, and award winners from the previous year, which included some of Arizona’s Belly Dance Royalty; Heidi Alexander, Ava Fleming and Amanda Rose. Also in the Gala show was Divinity a branch of Divine Chaos, Padmakali, Raqs Sharki Movement Collective, Venus Sahara, Hilary of Flagstaff, Serendipities Kiss and Anaya Tribal to name a few. Overall Desert Shakedown was a tremendous success, and is geographically increasing the draw of attendees and performers from neighboring states.



Health & Wellness

Stoke the Inner Fire and permission to SLEEP: Tools for Winter Wellness by Deb Rubin, MA, CMT, RYT.

Winter is a time for hibernation. After the outward expansion of summer, followed by the recoil, or drawing in, of the Autumn season, now is a great time of year to bring our awareness back inside and focus on replenishing the core.  As dancers, we add pause to our choreographies to create dramatic tension and give both ourselves and the audience a moment to breath and admire. Similarly, in Yoga, it is necessary to add pause, in the form of savassana, breath, and meditation to our practice, in order to allow the benefits of the outer, more active vinyasa to settle and integrate within.  Yoga teacher, Eric Shaw, MA, RYT, reminds us that “Yoga is about the subtleties. Resting in savassana (corpse pose), allows the inner vinyasa to happen after the external vinyasa sequence. We need to allow that integration time, in order to feel the benefits of the practices.”  T’is the season: Winter is this season of pause. It is the time for slowing down, and going inward—rekindling the inner fire, harnessing and storing up your energy so that you can bloom again in the Spring.  For stillness, hibernation, and reflection, look at nature as our guide: The quietude of a snow covered landscape, the stillness of snowy mountain peaks,  polar bears nestling up for a winter’s hibernation. The natural cycles teach us that we need this down time, so that we can replenish our energy reserves,  integrate the experiences of our year, and re-build our resources for Spring’s new beginnings. Y et, with the busy holiday season upon us, shopping sales, holiday parties, eggnog overload, and New year’s craziness, sometimes the festivities can leave us feeling drained, lethargic, and completely wiped out.  As dancers, teachers, and performers, it is imperative that we take the time this winter season to restore our inner resources and simmer in our creativity cauldron so that we have more energy and inspiration to share out there in the world. Practical Applications for Winter Wellness: Your winter wellness practices can reflect this slowing down.  First and foremost, I recommend incorporating restorative practices into your daily life, such as yin yoga, and meditation.  Slow down the pace, both on and off your mat:  Take a bath. Go to sleep early. Get your 8 hours of nourishing rest. Drink ginger tea to warm the core. Slow cook your food: soups, stews, hearty nourishing meals in a crock pot. 31

Listen inward to your body’s natural rhythms, and honor what you hear. If it gets dark earlier, go to sleep earlier!  Use nature as our guide: In winter snow storms, everything has to slow down.  I encourage a mindfulness and slowing down of your own schedule, taking some time for yourself, amidst the busy holiday rush to read a book, write in your journal, have a cup of tea. Meditate.  With winter’s contraction, our bodymind naturally wants to follow suit.  If we get too lethargic and stop all activity, however, that creates imbalance as well.  So, this winter season, I offer you a balance: Amidst the restoration, it is also important to continue to dance, train, go to class, get the heart rate up, keep the bodymind inspired.     To combat the contraction of winter,  I recommend adding some expansion, back bending, and front body/chest openers to your daily yoga practice.  Keep the heart fire burning, and the chest and shoulders open, to help invigorate both your body and your spirit.  Make sure you are getting some morning cardio exercise, either with your dancing, yoga vinyasa, or brisk walking. Morning cardio is important to get the blood moving, bring heat, energy, and circulation to warm the body during the cold months,and combat against the natural tamasic tendencies of the season. Exercise will release endorphins, and can also help fight off those winter blues.  If your joints are aching, try tai chi or chi kung to open up the energy channels, while not stressing the joints.  Happy Holidays to everyone!  May this festive season be filled with joy, gratitude, reflection, and warmth for you and your loved ones. And may these winter wellness tips serve to help you nourish your body, mind, and creativity, for optimal inspiration in your dance.   See you on the dance floor! 

Debra Rubin MA, CMT, RYT is a holistic health counselor, yoga teacher, and internationally acclaimed tribal fusion bellydancer. She currently teaches and performs across the globe. For more winter wellness tips, daily practice sequences, and workshops/classes with Deb, schedule an on-line private lesson with her, or visit her at:, or on FB: Deb.Rubin.Official.Fan.Page. 



A Monthly Reflection by Tonya Chianis LSP

December - Peace During troubled times in our country, with such difficult things happening that keep people so upset financially, health wise and the general country craziness, it so very important that we keep a Consciousness of Peace. Surround our country with good, see our government protecting it's citizens with clean air, water and food. See all animals wild and domestic, protected to the highest degree, in a peaceful environment. Teach your children what it means to be kind to all living beings, and in our dance world, see peace, respect for each other with harmony and integrity flowing, all over the planet. Know that promotors, vendors, competitors, teachers, students and everyone and every situation in our dance field, serve as symbols for the rest of the world, and letting them know that we will not violate each others rights, space and timelines. Let the world know that we SUPPORT IN EVERY WAY, our wonderful art form. if you think or know that rights are being violated, do not support the violators. If someone puts an event on at the same time, write or question the events and ask why. Then choose wisely the event you support. Learn to think for yourself and don't be swayed by others unless you know it's the right thing to do. Bring PEACE to the world and to our Dance Community. We can no longer believe that a violation of behavior is just in this country because it's not. EXAMPLE: When you have an event, it doesn't seem to bother anyones conscience to do the exact same type of event on the exact same day. There is no care how hard one has to struggle to pay for an event especially if it's a big one. Even though room rentals and the cost of advertising is constantly rising, they just don't care. One may think, well it's in another country, how can that affect your event? When it's on the same day, or even close, it does, especially if you have an event that attracts dancers worldwide. There are 365 days in the year and surely they can pick a different time. Of course accidental happenings can take place, and you know they will not do the same thing the following year, so that is different. Some will say they've never heard of your event. If this is so, DO SOME RESEARCH from our Wonderful Dance Magazines. They all show the events taking place. This is just a small part of it. Don't loose your mentality for GOOD, for yourself or for others. There is enough prosperity in this world for everyone, but you do have to take proper steps and work toward it. Don't step on others to promote yourself. We owe it to this wonderful art form, to let outsiders and those unknown to this dance know, that it always receives our highest dignity and respect. Holiday Blessings to All!!



Peace and Joy


Central Board Members


CHAPTER DIRECTORY Arizona Chapter President: Shannon Conklin Vice President:  Amanda Rose Secretary:  Gail Wolfenden-Steib Treasurer:  Melissa Pilacelli Scimio Southern Rep:  Dawn Formoe Northern Rep:  Holly Luky   Bay Area Chapter President:  Bonnie Stensler Vice President:  Leyla Lanty (Lois White)   Secretary:  Hazar (Heather Meeker) Treasurer:  Peggy Hennessee  

Las Vegas Chapter President: Samira Tu'Ala (Alisa A. McAffee) Vice President: Karla Warren Treasurer:  Kirsten Staton Secretary:  Cindy Coons Event Coordinator: Raven Sumner Assistant Coordinator: Estela   Heartland Chapter President: Judie Dansby Vice President: Marisa Lewis Treasurer: Paige Gledhil Secretary: Suzanne Shields

Inland Empire Chapter President: Seylena Troi (Michelle Palladine) Vice President: TBA Secretary: Tina Theophilos Treasurer: Helen Pembrook Los Angeles Chapter- Interim Officers: President: Glammiest Hamchilla Vice President: Michelle Hilario  Secretary: Aurelle Garner Treasurer: Marianne Jeanette Poff Event Coordinator: Maryann Van De Car

We excitedly await the outcomes of all the Chapter Elections for 2014 Chapter Board Members. For those chapters that have already completed your elections, congratulations to the new board. We look forward to working with you and seeing what wonderful things come from your year in office.


The Happenings Staff & Special Thanks Editor in Chief - Zabel Contributing Writer - Rom Deussen Contributing Writer - Sabrina Contributing Writer - Deb Rubin Staff Writer - Tonya Chianis LSP Cover Photo by Jenza

Thank you for all the great feedback on the November Issue of TH! I really look forward to more of your comments and suggestions. I also look forward to including more reviews of shows and events each chapter produces. Keep ‘em Coming!


Want to Submit an Article? Its very easy to submit and article to The Happenings. We are always looking for new articles and hearing what the chapters are up to. If you have an idea for an article or would like to pitch the editor a proposal for a column then contact Zabel at Articles are always due on the 15th day of the month prior to the upcoming issue. You can submit an article at any time by e-mailing a word document or pages document to if your article is chosen to be published we will contact you ahead of time to let you know when to look for your work. We ask for photos with photographer credit along with an “author box� which is a one paragraph bio that may include your web site. Featured articles are anywhere from 600-1000 words in length. For more information or clarification, do not hesitate to contact us at TH.


MECDA Mission Statement


December issue  
December issue  

- Read an exclusive TH Interview - Get Winter Heath Tips from our experts - Learn how TH's Editor and Chief Keeps in Dance Shape While Trave...