Sunday, February 6, 2011
I had the opportunity of seeing Ansuya perform Saturday night. She was amazing! Since I started belly dancing a few years ago, I have had the opportunity of introducing my friends and family to something new. I had another opportunity to do so this past Saturday night. I gave my friend a head’s up while driving to Donavon’s Studio Iqaat, “Now, you will be seeing two styles of belly dance tonight: traditional cabaret and tribal fusion. You will see what you envision when you think of a belly dancer as well as another version.” The best way that I could define fusion style was as the form of belly dance that is not performed while in a sequenced costume with heels and a skirt to traditional Middle Eastern music. But rather, when performing a fusion number, the dancer would be in pants with gaudy silver or copper jewelry dancing to hip hop, rock or eclectic music.
Well, if you have ever seen Ansuya perform, you are very likely to understand the conundrum I experienced when trying to ‘categorize’ her dance style. She entered the stage gracefully spinning with her long flowing hair, red sequenced bra, two veils, coin sash over her pants, and of course, zills. Clearly these are signs of a cabaret dancer, right? Wrong! Shortly after she made center stage, the beat dropped and all heck broke loose! Ansuya danced with soft and light as well as sharp and hard movements. She also performed floor work with body undulations while in a full back bend. I’m saying to myself, “I’m not quite sure where to place her. Which style does she belong to?” I knew that she was belly dancing because I could clearly see the veils, zills, turns, camels, shimmies, back bend, snake arms, etc. But, where does she fit?
Even though I could not determine where to place her, all I could think was, “Wow!” When watching Ansuya, you see the emergence of all things feminine: sassiness, flirtation, confidence, empowerment, sensuality, and seduction. She exuded all of these qualities while also commanding respect.
With having two main belly dance styles in my mind, I have been really contemplating on which style I would pledge my allegiance to: cabaret or tribal fusion. Cabaret has a very special place in my heart as it was the first style of belly dance to which I was introduced. However, there is a part of it that feels constricting and limiting because the expectation is that you will be ‘ladylike’ by society’s standards. So, I have been drawn to tribal fusion where the expectation is that you will push the envelope and show strength as a woman. Still though, as soon as I begin to think of myself as a tribal fusion dancer, I miss the association with cabaret.
Having been facing these questions about my journey in belly dance, I am convinced that watching Asunya perform and having the opportunity to study with her on Sunday was definitely a divine occurrence. I now know that rather than choosing cabaret or tribal fusion, I can choose both styles and everything in between. Furthermore, I don’t have to limit a single choreography to fit within one style either. When discussing this at her workshop on Sunday, Ansuya described her style as ‘freedom style.’ The next time anyone asks me which style of belly dance I study, my answer will be freedom style! Thanks Ansuya!