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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Belly Dance Workshop by Kaeshi

A couple of weeks ago I drove to Austin to take a couple of belly dance workshops taught by Kaeshi.   She’s part of the well known belly dance school Bellyqueen and the dance troupe of the same name.  I didn’t know much about her going in.  The draw for me was the gypsy fusion workshop on Friday night.  I was hoping this would be a Spanish-Arabe style, with beautiful flamenco arms and lots of fiery turns and skirt flinging.  And that’s exactly what it was, so I was happy.   We were advised to wear a gypsy skirt, because this dance style involves a lot of “skirt work.”  This means holding the sides of the skirt up and swooping it back and forth and around the body.  Very dramatic. 

Kaesha turned out to be a tiny Asian-American woman, and a beautiful dancer, full of grace and precision.   She looked exotic, not only because of her Asian features, but her hair.  It was partly dyed red, and she had it pulled up in back with feathers sticking out here and there.   Plus she had two long braids framing her face, much like the photo I’ve attached.  She also wore some really cool dancewear, stuff I’ve never seen around here. 

Like most good dancers, Kaeshi has had ballet training.  She also does beautiful “floreos,” the twisting, floaty arm and hand movements that are a characteristic of flamenco dance.  Turns out she used to be a member of the Belly Dance Superstars, so no wonder she's a great dancer.  She was also a good teacher, smiling and encouraging all the way, yet keeping the class  moving at a fast clip.  After all, she had to teach us a 3 or 4 minute choreography in two hours.  Normally, it would take 3 or 4 months of weekly classes to learn a dance. 

The workshop was held in a huge dance studio at Café Dance in Austin.  There must have been 50 or 60 women there, most of them from Austin, and most of them, I quickly realized, with a lot more experience and competence than I have.  Some of them are professionals with studios of their own.  They picked up the choreography quickly, while I struggled earnestly if sloppily through the whole two hours. 

I discovered the YouTube video of her dancing the very same gypsy fusion choreography she taught us in Austin.  It started out as an improvisation, amazingly enough, and she changed it a bit for the choreography she taught at the workshop.  I’ll attach the video for your viewing pleasure. If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, skip about halfway through to see some beautiful flamenco turns and skirt work. 

The second workshop took place on Saturday morning at the Eternal Way Center, which I think is usually a yoga place.  Very Austin.  The studio didn’t have a mirror, but we managed.  This time Kaesha taught a regular belly dance choreography.  But it had a certain funky feel to it and a lot of cool moves, which I can’t remember now, of course. 

The workshops were inspiring and discouraging at the same time.  I think I’ll wait until I’m more proficient before I spend the money on any more of them. 
Here is a video of her dancing a fusion of belly dance and pop & lock, which I think is a type of hip hop.  Quite interesting and different.  Check it out.  It's also done freestyle, that is, on the spur of the moment to the music, not previously choreographed. 

Note about the Austin scene: 

Before the evening workshop I met my brother John and my daughter Jane for lunch at a funky (is there any other kind?) restaurant in East Austin.  This area of town used to be a ghetto avoided by honkies like me, but now parts of it have been “yuppified,” as my brother put it.  This particular street was lined with Airstream RV cafes, which Austin is known for, shops, and a renovated art deco apartment building.  The café where we ate, the Blue Dahlia, was a tiny crowded house with a front and back patio.  Despite the 100 degree heat we ate on the patio.  We had a lively and amusing conversation, as usual. 
I returned the bagful of Lee Childs books John had lent me and took back with me a Robert Parker book.  (Parker created the Spenser character in the old series “Spenser for Hire” as well as the Jesse Stone character in the TV movies starring Tom Selleck.)  I'm looking forward to starting a new series, but I'm going to miss Jack Reacher!  He's the main character in the Lee Childs books.  We all think it's a travesty that they chose Tom Cruise to play Reacher in the movie that's in the making.  He's so NOT Jack Reacher.  Sigh.

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