Monday, September 7, 2015

DANCERS BACKSTAGE RITUALS: PHOENIX OF DENVER


   
Phoenix performing at Art Of The Belly in Maryland, photo by Stereo Vision
I have always said that the  world of dance is chock full of  amazing alpha women… and Phoenix, a Denver, Colorado based belly dancer who teaches workshops and performs nationally, is probably one of the most  dynamic chicks I know! A virtual power house, she’s not only an incredible  performer and instructor- she’s  a dance mamma  to legions of dancers in her hometown and directs  a couple of troupes-  she’s also an event producer , a full-time nurse, a terrific cook, and a doting  kitty mamma.

 I met Phoenix  years ago at  the Tribal Dreams belly dance event in Nebraska, and was blown away by her powerful and artistic performance ( her non-stop spins and work with Isis Wings were both off the hook!) as well as her sweet, fun loving off-stage personality.  It was there that I discovered  that  she the co-sponsor  along with partner  Selayma Anan, of  the long-running annual “Shimmy 2B Free”,  a large-scale belly dance event and theater show  in Denver. The  proceeds going to  various  foundations  assisting with health,  financial and socio-economic issues, and the show and workshops are super well-organized. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching and performing there twice, and the event, in addition to raising funds for worthy causes, always runs like clockwork.

Phoenix’s  unique  belly dance style is  a pastiche of Egyptian and Turkish cabaret, spiritual dance, khaligi,  and  tribal, and she’s also into various types of fusion, with performances ranging from  progressive and transcendent theatrical   and dark Goth pieces to light-hearted comedy acts. She’s a master at Isis Wings, often using custom  wings two at a time. In 2008  she  released her internationally acclaimed  instructional DVD “Isis Wings With Phoenix”.


  She's  also  the  creator and publisher of  "Dancing From Within",  an innovative  deck of  belly dance class cards. This deck , based on her  holistic knowledge and  teaching methods, focuses on physical and emotional development using the chakras, elements, movement and technique, and is a great tool for students, teachers or troupes.

 Phoenix is always s always preternaturally calm  at shows, whether she’s organizing , performing or both… maybe it’s the nurse thing-  she’s used to dealing with  critical situations on an every day basis!

 Walk softly and carry large swords: Phoenix  by Artist Edge Photography

 Here, in her own words, are some of Phoenix’s backstage secrets:

“For me prepping for a great show involves organization and focus.  I am an improvisation dancer most of the time but this still involves some preparation regardless if the music is picked in advance or it is a live band.

Organizing myself prior to a show may be the morning of - or day before if I can swing it.  I consider my audience, music and venue.  If I’m  not dancing to live music, then I do like to have my picked prior to that week and listen to it.  This helps 'set the stage' for what I am planning to present.  Knowing that setting helps me decide on what am I planning to present.  What I mean by that is - is it emotional, fun, flirty, dark or what is the energy or story?  Knowing this helps me easily pick my costume and make up.  Once I have these items planned out then the performance often flows with ease. 

Practicing for the show means listening and dancing to the piece of music or the band.  When I do choreograph a piece, I am working on remembering it but ensuring the choreography is not forced and feels natural.  For most of my performances, I practice dancing to the music to get a feel for the changes and accents.  Knowing the music for an improvisation piece allows me to relax and interact with my audience.

The day of the show, I  like to have a little down time. It might be relaxing with my cats or taking  time with the troupe.  I try to not pack my day if at all possible. Sometimes, that’s  not avoidable so in those cases I do try to have some quiet time while I put on my makeup.  The day of the show, I only allow myself to run a routine one or two times if at all.  Practicing too much the day of the show actually stresses me out.  I often have a much smoother performance if I have a "go with the flow" attitude.

The hour or two before the show, I have my costume, props and cover up ready to pack.  I prefer to get ready at home and show up mostly dressed if possible.  I try to arrive  early as the drive is always the most stressful time for me.  I am always concerned about surprise traffic and such.  So once I am there then I can take a moment to relax.

The moments before my performance, I do a little warm up with shimmies, slides and a few pops.  I can use whatever music is there to do this or might listen to mine in an iPod.  This ensures my muscles are awake and ready to roll.  I do try to have a minute of private focus time by just standing alone and deep breathing to relax my mind and body.  I do often get backstage 4 to 5 numbers prior to mine to ensure my costume is in place and ensure I do not distract from other acts.  I can often watch from the side stage while doing a quiet warm up and focus.  It is hard for me to sit still prior to dancing so I love being earlier in a show rather than later.  This way I get to see more of the show also!

I feel working together backstage is really important for all.  The energy we create impacts each other.  I love being a part of shows where people are excited even if they are nervous.  If there is a drama or turmoil, I avoid it to ensure that I do not absorb negativity. 

As any sponsor will tell you, the ritual and plan for shows where you are the sponsor changes drastically.  The basic ritual is to ensure all are okay and show is starting then be backstage on time.  For these shows, I pick music and props that do not require a ton of prep and often dance to music I have used in the past. 

Experience has shown me that if I need too much prep time, something might happen so 'keep it simple' and 'remember what brought you here'.   I feel if you hit the stage with that attitude and good training - that is what the audience also came to see!”


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 Phoenix  is teaching at The Las Vegas Belly Dance Intensive on  this coming Sunday, Sept. 13th, 2015  8:30-10:00am.   Her “Express Yourself” workshop focuses on connecting emotionally to the music.
Info:

 

 Find out more about Phoenix’s classes and shows in Denver as well as her national events ,  her cards and DVD  here:

Visit the Shimmy 2B Free website: http://shimmy2bfree.com/about/

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