Friday, May 29, 2009

Review and Interview with Ayla: Seattle's DIY Belly Dancer


Bellying dancing is a western term taken from an Arab dance called "rags sharqi." Native to Arabia, Belly dancing was originated in Ancient Babylon. Belly dancers would perform for wealthy men during feasts and other special events. Belly dancing was not for the eyes of peasants, only the wealthy, although most belly dancers were peasants that were hand picked by men and then trained by established female dancers.

The art of belly dancing has been practiced for hundreds of years and has been modified by different countries such as Egypt, Turkey, and America. American belly dancing is a tribal fusion of the ancient styles of assorted genres. This fusion of dancing styles is practiced by my close friend and belly dancer: Ayla, whose performance I attended on May 28th at The Metropolitan Café.

I had never been to The Metropolitan Café prior to Ayla's performance. My advent of the lounge made a surprising impression on me. I was amazed by the welcoming atmosphere and friendly staff. I quickly took a seat at a black round table at the back of the room. I began to observe my surroundings. There was a small group of audience members and a handsome bar tender that kept walking around to each table and offering people jell-o shots.

The Café is very supportive and open to the diverse performances it hosts. The lounge is set up in such a way that the audience can sit comfortably while taking in an independent theatrical show from talented artists.

Once a week, performances are given by a troupe of artists whose show is titled: Cabaret Magnifique. Cabaret Magnifique provides the audience with vaudevillian-type entertainment. The show includes singers, drag Kings and Queens, and performance artists. At this particular Cabaret Magnific night, Ayla was performing a complete solo act that had been choreographed entirely by her.

Ayla has a remarkable reputation for dance and "do it yourself" or D.I.Y. ideology. She makes her own costumes, jewelry, and styles her elaborate hair all by herself. She studies belly dancing on her own accord. She tirelessly practices her routines and she books all of her own performances. Having no mentor or troupe with which she is exclusively affiliated with, she has perfected her dance routine by simply schooling herself on the subject.

She came out from behind a red curtain that was hanging to the side of the performance area and she was wearing a bedleh, which is a traditional belly dancing costume, that was completely hand made. She had on a black top with beads and straps designed to exposed her belly, a long black shirt, flattering jewelry all up her arms and a custom necklace that rested gently on her chest. Her traditional belly dancing make-up completed the elegant look that complemented her ensemble flawlessly. Her costume flowed as she began her hip and chest circles to a song with heavy drum beats.

In the beginning of belly dancing, the performance included one dancing woman and one man that beat just one drum. Having chose such a specific type of drum beat for her dance is proof that she is knowledgeable about the authenticity of her practice. Her drum beats coincide with her graceful movements as she displayed a perfected routine that was filled with passion and dedication. During her entire performance, a smile never left her face.

Ayla’s love for her dancing is very profound and her motivation for excellence is astounding. Her commitment to her art is manifestly evident to all of those who viewed her divine production. Her pretty face remains merely a bonus compared to the emission she releases in every motion.

The trend of belly dancing has become popularized in Seattle over the past few years with dancers that may have perfected muscle isolation or tremendous balance, few of them have yet to perfect their absolute passion and commitment that Ayla portrays in her dance.
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Air Raid’s Interview with Ayla,
Written by Jackie Em of Air Raid Zine

What made you want to learn belly dancing?
I started with a group of friends as a fun way to work out. I also needed something to fill my spare time, because my horse had just passed away. He was my best friend growing up and dancing was sort of therapy to help me get over that loss. I dance for him now. I really put every ounce of my being into it.

How long have you been belly dancing?
I've been dancing for around four years now. I started a couple of months after Habiba (Ayla’s horse) passed away.

What do you find to be influential to your style of dance?
I draw inspiration from everywhere really. I am inspired by spirituality, humanity, personal triumphs as well as defeats, nature, sex and my biggest influence is the female human body.

Do you prefer dancing solo or with a troupe?
I definitely prefer dancing solo. Both are very fun, when I dance solo, I feel like my personality can shine. I'm free to have more fun with it. Most of my solo performances are improvised these days which really allows me to interact with my audience.

Name three dancers or dance styles you admire the most:
Three of the dancers that I admire the most are actually part of a troupe called The Indigo. Rachel Brice, Zoë Jakes and Mardi Love are some of the most amazing dancers a person could ever see. I love that they don't seem to take themselves too seriously. They have a lot of fun with their performances, aren't afraid to be silly, and at the same time show off some insanely impressive skills. I'd be happy to be any of them when I grow up!

What is the most difficult thing about belly dancing?
Hmmm... That's a really good question. For me, it's probably the layering. There are a lot of "pat your belly and rub your head" types of moves. I really enjoy being able to find my Zen while pulling off tricks like that.

What do you want to communicate to your audience?
I really want to convey my love of dance. The enjoyment of life and the inner strength that dancing gives me to. Belly dancing is all about being a woman, and it began as a way for women to explain to other women the joys of being female. I want to convey that as much as possible. I want to project my inner goddess every time I dance. We all have it inside of us. I would love to inspire other women to learn to be comfortable with themselves and the way they are put together.

What are your future goals?
I have a lot in the works right now. Mostly, I'm planning on dancing as much as possible. I enjoy performing for the sake of performing. I really put my soul into it. I am also learning what it takes to start teaching, so hopefully in the near future I can start teaching my own classes. It's amazing how much different it is to teach something than it is to just get out and do it. It's been a really fun challenge.

What advice would you give to aspiring dancers just starting out?
Do it because you love it. Watch other dancers and learn from them. There are a lot of amazingly creative people out there and you can learn from almost anyone. Also, dancing alone in your house with a mirror is probably the fastest and best way to get better.
Alya's Event Calender:

Wednesday June 10th - Cabaret Magnifique - Cafe Metropolitan @ 7:00P

Friday June 12th - Harem Nights - Harem on Broadway @ 8:00P

Saturday June 20th - Harem Nights - Harem on Broadway @ 8:00P

Wednesday June 24th - Cabaret Magnifique - Cafe Metropolitan @ 7:00P

Friday June 26th - Last Friday Arts - Harem on Broadway @ 8:00P

Saturday June 27th - Harem Nights - Harem on Broadway @ 8:00P

Contact her at http://www.myspace.com/tribal%20voodoo



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Interview and Live Performance Review: Blood Red Dancers


SEATTLE- a friend had invited me out on a warm May 15th night, to the comet tavern in Capitol Hill for companionship while taking in a live show. I despise seeing shows at the comet because of the construction of the venue. The floor is angled in a tri-angle type shape that backs directly into levitated booths. There are benches and pillars in the middle of the floor making it impossible to view any of the bands performing unless you stand on the benches. Bench standing can put you are in harms way of intoxicated patrons as well as intoxicated comet staff. The comet usually has a very drunk crowd that loves to flail their arms about spilling drinks on you while running you off your area on the standing bench. Due to all of the gala affairs that I have stated above, I desire to attend live shows elsewhere. This particular May 15th night, I prepared myself by wearing clothes I am not to attach to with a pair of comfortable shoes.
About an hour after I had arrived at the Comet and secured a spot on the standing bench, a local Seattle band by the name of The Blood Red Dancers, took the stage. I was immediate intrigued by their appearance. The drummer was dressed like an extra from the 80’s film Revenge of the Nerds, the keyboard player sported a bit of an aristocratic ensemble and the singer looked as though he had just rolled out of bed. He had on a white V-neck shirt, jeans, and messy hair. The Blood Red Dancers are Kevin R. Lord, Aaron Poppick and Julian Thomas. Their Myspace pages describes their music as “Sounding like liquor first thing in the morning.”
I could not help but giggle a bit and think to myself, “What have I got myself into tonight?” Once the band began their performance, I noticed I was becoming unable to chat with my friend as well as remove my eyes from the make-shift stage. I was soon completely mesmerized. The music sounded heavily influenced by the blues, jazz and classic country. The sound was dirty, raw and brilliant. The vocals gave off a Tom Waits vibe and the lyrics were catchy yet original. The band got the crowd interested within seconds of their first song and by then end of their set, the crowd was singing along to a song they had never heard before. In unison everyone sang, “Pennies off that dead guys eyes!”
Never once getting bored and only removing my eyes from the band to catch the crowd’s enthusiasm, I soon found myself feeling grateful to be at the Comet that May 15th night. In our pop-culture dominated society, I forget sometimes that the love for live independent music is still very much alive and kicking. I was defiantly reminded of that while watching The Blood Red Dancers.



Things that are ugly but worth looking at; interview with Blood Red Dancers
Written by: Jackie Em of Air Raid Zine
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Blood Red Dancers are a three piece dark rock band that was created by three childhood friends. Their passion for their music has an abysmal sincerity that is undeniable. As individuals they are just as honest and enjoyable as their music.

What’s your musical background?

Aaron: I don’t have much of a musical background. I was in a punk rock band with Julian back when we were 14 or 15 years old. I have known Julian since we were about 9 years old. We moved from Los Angeles together.
I’ve been playing bass for about 10 or 11 years now and I’m pretty much self taught. I would say that my musical background is sitting around and listening to records.
Julian: I’ve been playing keys for about 10 years. I’m more classically trained. I went to college for music theory and I feel that I have really improved over the last two years from playing with Blood Red Dancers. Playing the combination of blues, jazz and rock has made me a stronger musician. They are three genres that don’t fuck around.
Kevin: I have had no training at all, I picked up the drums about three years ago. I became the drummer on a whim; I was kind of bullied into it. The band was trying out a different drummer and when the auditioning drummer went out for a smoke, I just sat down and started playing a beat. The guys were all like “Dude! You can play the drums!” I was hesitant at first but I eventually bought a drum set and from then on I have been the bands drummer.
Aaron: Kevin is a total prodigy and the weirdest member of band.


Tell me your story:

Aaron: Like I mentioned earlier, Julian and I have known each other since we were about 9 years old. We are both originally from the San Fernando Valley although Julian was born in England. Julian moved to Seattle about 5 years ago and I shortly followed. Kevin, who is my childhood friend, eventually followed me here. Julian and I were making music together when we first moved here to Seattle. We have always played music together, we have always been music nerds. We always sat around together and listened to records since we were like 13 or 14 years old. We began our project, the blood red dancers, about 2 years ago. Julian and I had a post-punk project that we were doing together but we found ourselves mixing in jazz and blues. Then shortly after that Kevin joined the band we were then able to produce the angry dark rock that we wanted, so that was really the beginning of blood red dancers.

Do you record and release your own music?

Aaron: We do. We are completely DIY; a friend of ours helped us record our last 2 EP’s. We pay out of pocket, but our next record is going to be a bit pricier and more industry driven.

What is your fan demographic?

Aaron: It’s really odd because it’s all sorts of different people. I feel like our music is appreciated by all types of people. I have had frat boys and computer gamers come up to me and give me high fives.
Julian: People who like darker music really like us. We have been very lucky with the response from our fan demographic, mostly at shows. A lot of times people don’t come to see us but once they are there, they seem to like us.
Kevin: We have received air play from THE END’s local show. We have two singles that have been played, “Sweetie Getting Mobbed” and “The Lamb”. We have had some little love from KEXP as well, and this has developed fans for us outside of Seattle. We’ve been getting a lot more friend requests on our Myspace page from people who have heard us on the radio! It’s very exciting to us because we feel at times that our music is not the easiest pill to swallow.

What are your songs about?

Aaron: Drugs, women, Moral decay, social decline, war and drinking far too much.
Kevin: Spending too much time sitting in one room.
Julian: The evening news.
Aaron: Things that are ugly but worth looking at.

Who are your musical influences?

Aaron: Sun house and Tammy Wynette
Kevin: Swans and Frank Sinatra
Julian: Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus
BRD: Otis Redding!

How do you describe your music to people?

Aaron: Well, basically we are a rock band that is heavily influenced by jazz and blues. We try to fuse soul, blues, jazz, Goth and post-punk. Mostly, I describe us as dark rock band.

What image do you think your music conveys?

Aaron: I feel that the image that we convey is ugliness, worth while ugliness that is worth talking about. Like an ugly photograph. We are a dark and angry band. We don’t try to do a stage presence of anger, we remain natural and ourselves.
Kevin: I would say that our music is like a pharmaceutical commercial gone wrong. We don’t have a rehearsed imagine. We display exactly who we are, we just add a bit more anger to ourselves during our performances. I also think that we convey dissolution as well as anger. I break drum heads at the shows and I break drum heads during practice. I go through drum heads like every three weeks. It’s starting to get expensive to replace them all the time, but it feels so fucking good to break them while I play.
Julian: To me it’s like the American dream gone wrong but I’m kind of stuck in my own version of the 30’s and 40’s era I guess. I get into the performance and I do my own thing.

What are your overall music career goals?

Aaron: Take over the fucking world and receive drugs and women! Until then, we would like to get signed locally, continue to play live shows, get the new EP out and hopefully get a little more radio-play. We honestly haven’t thought much about our long term goals. We are just so excited to play any show in Seattle. We just want to keep playing, drinking and writing worth while music.
Julian: Get a liver-transplant and then I would like to continue my music studies and put forth the efforts that Blood Red Dancers deserves. I would like to die knowing that I have made great music that has brought something wonderful to other people.
Kevin: Buy stock in over-the-counter sleep aids! Really though, I would like us to stay together, play live shows, drink, and move forward making music and recording. If I think about the future I see myself as an accountant! We don’t like to think about the future.

Describe your best and worst live performance:

Aaron: Our worst performance was at The Mars bar. The speaker system cut out on us during our set and we kind of over estimated how much we could drink before the show. Our best performance was at Reverb Fest last year. There was something like 180 people there. It was the largest audience we had ever played for at the clapping for us was so loud. More noise than I ever heard. It was an exhilarating experience. We were all very grateful to be a part of that.

How do you rate your live performance ability?

Aaron: When we are not to drunk, I feel like our live performances are impressive. If we are not too sloshed, I feel like our live shows are our strongest aspect; we can really pull people in. If we get to drunk…we get a little sloppy.
Kevin: A lot depends on the ratio of drink tickets to hours.
Julian: I think we really get a lot out of our live shows.

Who handles your booking and promotions?

Kevin: Julian does mostly. He has a job that allows him a lot of free time and internet access. Aaron: All of us do, I handle the art work for posters, flyers and cover art but Julian does quite a bit, he’s kind of the most decent out of all of us.
Julian: I have a job where I do nothing all day. I handle most of our promotions through our Myspace page, posters, and word of mouth.

What is the best thing about being in this band?

Aaron: The sound of people clapping and drink tickets.
Julian: The best thing about this band is that it brings me a sense of importance. Playing with this band and doing what I love, brings me above the mundane routine that goes on day to day in my life.
Kevin: When my stick goes through a snare drum head!

Any upcoming events you would like to announce?

Aaron: We have a new EP coming hopefully around mid-august called The Bikini Island and on July 11th we are playing a show at The Blue Room. We have videos on you tube and a Myspace music page with an event calendar.
Kevin: We would really like people to check out our you tube videos, we have quite a few live performances on there.
Aaron: Thank you very much! It’s been a pleasure!

You can check out Blood Red Dancers from the following links:

www.myspace.com/bloodreddancers
www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZufm88wXtw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGUyJtzDZBs

Blood Red Dancers music review

SEATTLE- a friend had invited me out on a warm May 15th night, to the comet tavern in Capitol Hill for companionship while taking in a live show. I despise seeing shows at the comet because of the construction of the venue. The floor is angled in a tri-angle type shape that backs directly into levitated booths. There are benches and pillars in the middle of the floor making it impossible to view any of the bands performing unless you stand on the benches. Bench standing can put you are in harms way of intoxicated patrons as well as intoxicated comet staff. The comet usually has a very drunk crowd that loves to flail their arms about spilling drinks on you while running you off your area on the standing bench. Due to all of the gala affairs that I have stated above, I desire to attend live shows elsewhere. This particular May 15th night, I prepared myself by wearing clothes I am not to attach to with a pair of comfortable shoes.
About an hour after I had arrived at the Comet and secured a spot on the standing bench, a local Seattle band by the name of The Blood Red Dancers, took the stage. I was immediate intrigued by their appearance. The drummer was dressed like an extra from the 80’s film Revenge of the Nerds, the keyboard player sported a bit of an aristocratic ensemble and the singer looked as though he had just rolled out of bed. He had on a white V-neck shirt, jeans, and messy hair. The Blood Red Dancers are Kevin R. Lord, Aaron Poppick and Julian Thomas. Their Myspace pages describes their music as “Sounding like liquor first thing in the morning.”
I could not help but giggle a bit and think to myself, “What have I got myself into tonight?” Once the band began their performance, I noticed I was becoming unable to chat with my friend as well as remove my eyes from the make-shift stage. I was soon completely mesmerized. The music sounded heavily influenced by the blues, jazz and classic country. The sound was dirty, raw and brilliant. The vocals gave off a Tom Waits vibe and the lyrics were catchy yet original. The band got the crowd interested within seconds of their first song and by then end of their set, the crowd was singing along to a song they had never heard before. In unison everyone sang, “Pennies off that dead guys eyes!”
Never once getting bored and only removing my eyes from the band to catch the crowd’s enthusiasm, I soon found myself feeling grateful to be at the Comet that May 15th night. In our pop-culture dominated society, I forget sometimes that the love for live independent music is still very much alive and kicking. I was defiantly reminded of that while watching The Blood Red Dancers.









Review written by: Jackie Em, Freelance writer and illustrator