Amy Sigil and Shelly Decant of UNMATA (Sacramento, CA) recently visited DC, hosted by Rachel K Brookmire and Sahara Dance (Washington, DC). As always, Unmata delivered a powerful dance performance that was thought provoking, well executed and a refreshing mix of both improve (ITS) and creative bad ass choreography. In short, UNMATA f'ing rocks and I <heart> them!
The workshops were as diverse as their current performance style. One day was “Fast as NASCAR” and my all time favorite “All fun and no play” games workshop. Day two was “Just dance” where we learned their fight scene and a fought each other while “Beat It” blared in the background (FUN!) and then onto “Over haul my improve” , where we learned three ITS (Improvisational Tribal Style) combos. Before I participated in the workshops, the one I was least excited about was the improve, the one I was most excited for was the creativity workshop (games). When it was all said and done and danced, what I walked away with was a new appreciation, understanding and, yes (sniff sniff) love for ITS.
I've always loved American Tribal Style (ATS) and the concept behind ATS and ITS. But leave it to UNMATA to rekindle a fiery passion for dance. :-) Talking to Sigil about it over the weekend, we talked about “Social Dances” and how much we both enjoyed interacting with the person we were dancing with. Wikipedia says... “Social Dances” is a major category or classification of danceforms or dance styles, where sociability and socializing are the primary focuses of the dancing. Social dances can be danced with a variety of partners and still be led and followed in a relaxed, easy atmosphere.Many social dances are partner dances....However it is natural to include in this category such groups of dances as circle dances, line dances, novelty dances, or simply club dancing in solo. **Na'la addition** ..And for the purpose of this conversation, ITS and ATS.
Having a language of dance enables me to speak to other women silently through movement. The improvisational style of this social dance (The concept of the ever changing “leader” and “follower” ) allows me to work on my skills as a calm, assertive and well “spoken” leader and the very attentive and in-tuned follower, ready for anything. And even though I am not presently interested in performing ATS or ITS on stage, I am completely interested in dancing improvisational style off stage with my community of belly dancers. And not just in typical ATS formations facing an audience, but even an impromptu circle of woman dancing at a hafla. There is something old and familiar about dancing in a circle of women. Several times it has even reached something close to magic; when every women in the circle synchronized and fed the energy of the moment in equal parts, the “leader” changing from one woman to another seamlessly. They are not all that way, but those are the ones that I remember and cherish. Those are the ones I would like to see other women experience, because they can be quite transcending.
But it took a certain knowledge of ATS and ITS concepts to make them happen. It took people feeling like they could step up and lead, or sit back and follow. It took trust, and non-verbal communication. It took a certain amount of letting go and feeling the flow of energy that was organically being created. It's not easy to create that in a group of women who may have never met each other...but when it happens, it can be beautiful..
What is your experience with Social Dances? ATS? ITS? What do you love about them? What frustrates you? Have you ever experienced a circle dance at a hafla where you felt synchronized without using words? I'd love to hear what other dancers/musicians think about impromptu social dances....