Every so often, I like to write about the backstage rituals of dancers I admire, so that these wonderful performers can inspire others. It’s enlightening to find out about the way they prepare for shows, create their onstage persona, improvise through problems, and keep stage fright at bay.
Plus, it’s always thrilling to see a dancer who’s a multi-disciplinary artist. I’m talking about those unique performers that have the talent, technique, and imagination to truly bring their creative vision to life on stage.
Khalima Sikorski from Richmond, Virginia, is one of these dancers. She’s all of this and more; she’s a flame-haired bundle of energy and powerhouse of a woman.
Khalima is the director of Illumination Dance Studio, and shimmies her way proficiently through many styles including traditional belly dance, Tribal Fusion, and burlesque; sings and dances with musician Barry Bless as the duo “Professor Bless And The Dancing Madwoman. But that’s not all! She is also a costume maker, writer, a fine actress and comedienne, a terrific singer, a magician’s assistant, circus performer and a single mom! She teaches classes, directs a student troupe and is a show producer.
|Raqs Luminaire 2013 poster|
Since 2010, Khalima has been producing the preternaturally gorgeous stage spectacular Raqs Luminaire: Dance Of Lights. These are themed shows, often based on myths and legends, featuring well-known performers from all over the country, live music and beautiful sets and elaborate costumes- which all light up! In 2013, I had the honor of playing the lead role in the Raqs Luminaire production of "The Return Of Pandora’ Box" co-starring with Khalima and the illustrious Madame Onca O’Leary. Typical for Khalima's attention to detail, there was even a Tarot deck of cards made, each featuring a performer.
Actually, I first met Khalima backstage at Onca’s Americana, Sideshow and Burlesque Festival in Asheville, North Carolina, where we got along like gangbusters. But it wasn’t until I worked with Khalima in 2012, and then again for Raqs Luminaire in 2013 that I understood the scope and dedication to craft that she has.
Here, in her own words, is Khalima sharing her backstage rituals:
“Show prep! If I am at home for shows, I like to try to be leisurely about getting ready -sometimes impossible as a mama and crazy lady-, which means having everything for my gig, packed by that morning.
I sit on the floor in my room in my underwear to get my face on, and almost always listen to my favorite Balkan a capella singing ladies, Black Sea Hotel. Something about the floor and not rushing is really nice... and I can stretch my ever-tight legs at the same time! Lots of water and a bunch of food (any food, all the food) are necessary. I simply cannot perform to my liking on an empty stomach!
So much depends on the show I am getting ready for, but, I am often backstage with a big old pile of lovely ladies who are comfortable with themselves, and excited about whatever show it is we're about to put on. This changes everything! I swear we are like a bunch of kids together, and this is when it gets ridiculous. Whether it's a belly dance or burlesque show, I somehow manage to become ritualistically taken over by my alter ego, "Sadie", who can do nothing but talk about BEAVAAAH all night long! We all devolve into a very crazy flock of giggle-boxes, and I think it helps us all relax and live in the moment!
Which leads me to my thoughts on stage fright, performing, and being ready. I think a person must always be "ready"... not necessarily in the sense of being "on", or in a stage persona, but really and truly being ready to take whatever is about to happen. It sounds really cliché, but when you decide to live in the moment, and are prepared to fly by the seat of your pants, "mistakes" rarely happen.
Stage fright is the energy of fear around failure, but when you commit to a daily practice of fearlessness and being your honest-to-god real self at all times, any of the worst-nightmare situations that can happen on stage lose their power.
I think people want to see something real, even amidst fantasy! I believe a performer owning their space, their flubs, and their emotions, all of them, will move an audience more. This is the real magic, and no wayward veil, slip up, costume malfunction, forgotten choreography, or bats raining down from the ceiling (yes, I've experienced all of those!) can keep you from being a brilliant performer.
I've also been known to say, about my calm amidst show chaos, "the train has left the station!" Every moment leading up to the day of a show has been the practice for the real deal. Whatever has not been lashed firmly enough to the train will fly off, and good riddance, for the time being, if it was not substantial enough to hold fast! Also: Beavaaaah! “
Khalima is teaching and performing at these events:
Los Angeles, CA July 6, 2014
Teaching at Dance Garden & Performing at Moun Of Tunis
For Siren Sundays, sponsored by DeVilla, info:
Washington, DC, July 26,2014
Fort Worth, TX Jan 8-11, 2015
Check Khalima’s Facebook Page for more events! https://www.facebook.com/khalimadance?fref=ts&ref=br_tf