In keeping with my belly dance theme prior to the official launch of Cover of Darkness, I've interviewed a very talented B.C. belly dancer and instructor, Wendy Williams, of Get Bent Yoga and Belly Dancing in Penticton. I was lucky enough to take a workshop with her two years ago, and we learned some tribal techniques that were awesome. I'm looking forward to learning more about that style, plus the workout I got with Wendy left me sore for days. It was awesome :) Get Bent teaches three styles of belly dance: Bollywood, Tribal Fusion and Modern Egyptian. I asked Wendy to describe the three styles for us so you're not confused (and FYI, most of what I know is Egyptian style). So without further ado, here's Wendy.
WW: Bollywood Dance:
Get Bent created the Bollywood Belly dance style by bringing in Classical Indian Dance Teachers, as well as Punjabi and Ragisthani Choreographers, to share the arms, eyes, posturing, music and of course, costuming. Using all that information as influence, the hip, torso and traveling movements have stayed rooted to belly dance, but the "top" is loaded with Indian dance. Bollywood music has a quicker and bigger tempo. Done to Bollywood movie music. Bollywood performances usually incorporates theatrics and story lines. The costumes are very bright, loud and sparkly. They move in all directions and are full of texture.
Tribal Fusion Dance:
Tribal Fusion at Get Bent is very isolated, slinky and intense. Rachael Brice's work-
KC: Sorry, had to interrupt. OMG, I love Rachel Brice!
WW: Her work has been an influence. It's done to industrial, modern, heavily mixed music. The dance brings the audience attention to the torso, and the ability to isolate and control the body. The costumes are dark with a contrasting colour and focus on movement and straight lines. No noise (coins etc). The whole focus is to highlight to isolation of the body.
KC: Just a side note for my audience, but Rachel Brice's abs and muscular control over them are mind-boggling. (More about her in an upcoming post)
Modern Egyptian is commonly referred as the Ballet of Belly dance. It is the classic elegant, light and flirty style. Traditional Egyptian and, more commonly Arabic music are used. Arabic music has more of a modern sound and is easier for audiences to relate to. In classes Get Bent dancers also train with drums, and zills as the middle eastern rhythms learned in this style are a foundation for all other styles. Egyptian is pretty and soft. Also very graceful. The focus can be on technique, but mostly it's just a simple and pleasant dance to watch. These costumes are very put together. The skirt and top are usually a clearly matched set. There is lots of beading and again, minimal noise. This style is not commonly used on stage, but in more intimate restaurant locations.
KC: What got you started in belly dance and then Tribal style?
WW: Get Bent started 8 years ago in Alberta. My mom belly danced - I absolutely did not.(We had many arguments in the living room while she tried to teach me) There were a few people that wanted to have a belly class, and at that point the studio was offering yoga and other dance classes. My mom couldn't teach but I was good at it, and I couldn't dance but she was good at that, so we decided to do it together. She would demo and I would explain and break things down. It worked surprisingly well, and I also learned how to dance. It was a very interesting few years.
KC: Tell us about your company.
WW: As previously mentioned, Get Bent has been around for a while. There are three programs here at the studio. 1. Adult classes - Yoga, Belly in the three styles, Salsa etc. 2. Youth and Teen Programs - Belly, Cheer, Drama 3. The Get Bent School of Performing Arts
The School of Performing Arts is of most interest to serious dancers. There are five troupes. People audition, and once accepted, they then spend the year learning dance techniques in the three styles, learning many elements regarding how to perform, and they also rack up the performance experiences.
Tour Group - This is the stage production that travels throughout BC. The tour show is 45min, and we partner with a local group in every city we visit. The tour is put on by the Get Bent Active Arts Society, a non profit organization that uses the tour to bring a high caliber show to smaller communities that perhaps don't have the exposure to this style or level of dance. By offering workshops it can help increase the instructor skill and talent base in each community. The society offers the opportunity for funding to teachers and students of all communities and active arts disciplines to improve their craft. It's a great way to have youth exposed to arts. Belly dance is so good for young girls. Delivered correctly, it can be such a valuable tool for self esteem, self respect, and artistic development. If anyone is interested in a donor/sponsorship package, the studio can get you in touch with the Active Arts Board. 1-250-462-1025.
KC: Yeah, belly dance is amazing for self-esteem! Worked wonders for me, let me tell you (remember, I told you writers are introverts! Belly dancers don't have that luxury, so it forced me well outside of my comfort zone).
Tell us about this YouTube footage.
WW: This clip is a promo for the 2009 season. It just highlights some of the pieces and shows the variety of costumes, music and performance style.
KC: Who are your favorite dancers?
WW: Nath Keo from Sacred Centre Dance Company would be my absolute favorite. After belly dance became a focus for the studio and the system of the school was started, myself and the other faculty made the decision to come together and form our own style and grow our own ideas to the fullest.
For the first three years we did not watch videos of other dancers, we didn't go to shows of other groups, we didn't study with anyone but ourselves. It was really tough because the community of belly dancing is so fun - but we wanted to get settled with our style and branding before "venturing out". The idea being that we would develop our own style free of influences. By bringing in specifically select teachers -Usha Gupta-(Kathak Classical Indian Dance), we formulated our own clear vision, only being exposed to what we though we should include. That time has of course long past, and as mentioned before Rachael Brice's work has become an influence to the tribal style. I enjoy her performances a lot.
KC: Any suggested DVDs or CDs for interested belly dancers out there?
WW: Get Bent has a great multilevel DVD. 1/5hr class. Different levels, 5 routines, easy to follow. Voiced over discussions about dancers as they perform Their strengths, what makes them special etc. There is also a rhythm section of musicians so anyone can dance by yourself and not follow anyone. Contact the studio for more information. Ahh....shameless marketing....
KC: Tell us about your upcoming performance/workshops.
WW: Right now the Society has booked us for:
Penticton - The Hamlets -1 show Feb 24th
Penticton - Clealand Theatre -1 show March 6th
Victoria - Metro Theatre -2 shows on March 13, workshop on the 14 - Sacred Centre Dance CO.
Duncan - Garage Showroom -show on the 15, workshop on the 16 - TBA
Creston - Creston Hotel/Resort -1 show March 20th
Cranbrook - Stage Door - Workshops April 9 and 10 (plus show)
Kelowna - TBA -1 show April 24
Vancouver - TBA
The workshops vary, depending on what the local group we partner with thinks is the best fit for the community. This season the options are:
Bollwood: Bollywood song and dance can be best described as enthusiastic, high energy and for everyone whose ever seen a Bollywood movie…..Cheesy. Bollywood Belly dance is Get Bent's trademark style. It is energetic, vibrant and exclusively taught at Get Bent. Bollywood Belly dance is a truly unique blend of Belly Dance, Bhangra and Classical East Indian Dance.
Arms and Posture - Stretch and Strength Arms and posture are the defining factor that elevates top performers. This can only be achieved when there is adequate knowledge of the structure of the upper body and a clear understanding how these muscles groups function and affect the posture and presentation of dance.
Yoga for Dancers Even the most basic of yoga practices will benefit dancers, however, as with any intense and specific exercise there is a risk of injury due to over use and muscular and postural imbalances can develop. Having a yoga practice that addresses these concerns specifically can be of even greater benefit to improve technique and physical development and to keep injuries to a minimum and injury recovery time to a maximum.
KC: Thanks Wendy! Best of luck with your tour, and I hope I get to take another workshop with you. I love the way you kick my butt ;)
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