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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Enchantress

I created Enchantress in the fall of 2007 for the instructional DVD Fantasy Bellydance: Magic.



This clip shows a performance from October 2, 2009. I danced as part of a showcase, Metamorphosis, presented by Venus Uprising.  Thanks to cameraman Scott Shuster.

I'm not sure why the video goes slow-mo at 4:17!  It's not a special effect, just something screwy with the conversion.

Style
Enchantress is an example of artistic belly dance: genre-redefining belly dance transposed out of its traditional context as folklore, social dance, or nightclub entertainment. Although Enchantress may also correctly be called fantasy, fusion, theatrical, pagan, medieval, cabaret, and tribal, it represents more than is described by any one of these labels alone, and doesn’t conform to the conventions of any single category. The piece draws on movement vocabulary from ethnic and cabaret belly dance, but the steps are creatively sequenced into unconventional combinations, mixed with mime and theatrical gesture, and executed with an attitude of gravitas and level of precision most often associated with tribal and tribal fusion styles. The music combines fantasy and tradition: atmospheric vocals sit on top of Egyptian folkloric percussion. The bell sleeves, fitted bodice, and dropped waist of my dress are common in belly dance costuming, but these elements have been reworked into a bliaud that evokes medieval fantasy. And, Enchantress is not only dance, but dance-theater, with a distinct character, narrative, and dramatic arc.

Choreography and Reference Notes
To match the subject of earthy feminine magic, I choreographed Enchantress in a heavy style, using strong accents, large torso isolations, fast momentum-driven transitions, and a low center of gravity. As always, I carefully reflected the structure of the music in matching choreography, but, because I was working primarily with unaccompanied rhythm, I was also able to choose and sequence steps in the service of plot. My use of finger cymbals adds depth to the music and dramatic punctuation to the choreography.

I teach Enchantress as a workshop offering, and the dance is also available as an instructional DVD. I’ve made choreography notes (including a music diagram and finger cymbal notation) available for download here.

Costume
The bodice of my dress is a flesh-colored leotard; it’s tacked to a skirt made of flesh-colored chiffon and dark green nylon spandex mesh. Both are covered by eveningwear lace fabric from Better Choice Fabrics and Trimmings, 260 W. 39th St, New York, NY, and artificial oak leaves from Dry and Silk, Inc., 123 W 28th St., New York, NY. Thanks to Erica Young for her assistance in design and construction and especially for hand-stitching me into this creation. (My leotard is stretchy, but the green lace on top of it is not. While I wore the dress, Erica patiently tacked the lace to the leotard one knot at a time, and did not stab me once.)

Cymbals

On the Fantasy: Magic DVD, I used Saroyan Afghani Cymbals in German Silver. These cymbals have a low tone, and their size gives them a substantial appearance. For the 2009 performance, I used a combination of cymbals to create an eerie dissonant sound: I have one of the silver Saroyan Afghani cymbals on my right thumb, a Turquoise “B Oriental” on the left thumb, and a pair of Turquoise “A”s on top.

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