About Britta Bandit

brittabandit.com

To the Edge of Davina Tribal Collective

originally published January 24, 2012 in fuse: a tribal and tribal fusion belly dance magazine

by Britta Visser Stumpp

DTC Logo R01 chisel glow

The ladies of Davina Tribal Collective have been solid FatChance Bellydance®  American Tribal Style®  performers and instructors for over four years with performances at the Massive Spectacular in Las Vegas and a DVD sanctioned by Carolena Nericcio. Members Amina, Jen, Temis, Maia, and Wendy shared some of their experiences in the ATS world with us in this candid interview:

Britta: Ladies, tell me how you got started with American Tribal Style and what was it about ATS that drew you in?

Davina Tribal Collective: We all started dancing other styles of belly dance before we came to ATS. We also began dancing ATS at different times and in different places. The costumes, the textiles and jewelry of ATS were appealing, but it was the image of strong, empowered, graceful women dancing together that was the draw for all of us.  We were each enjoying dance in our own ways, and then we found that we loved dancing together even more. There is a sense of connection and play in ATS that keeps it fun and fresh for us and provides an opportunity for creativity within the framework of ATS. Everything that we do is a shared expression of those things.

BS: How did Davina form? What has your partnership been like over the years?

DTC: We came together through a common interest in exploring and challenging the possibilities of this form. Some of us had danced in other groups together. We found that we shared a passion about ATS and a desire to explore and grow together. When we were dancing with a group that dissolved, we decided to go on as a collective together. Our relationships predate Davina and that has helped us create a strong collaboration that is flexible like ATS. We improvise, we trade off leadership and we draw on each other’s strengths. Wendy moved to the area a few years ago and we invited her to join because we felt she was a great fit. We know that our lives – work, school and family – will mean that we move around, but we plan to keep Davina going as it all unfolds.

BS: Individually, you have different styles of dance experience and you have over 55 years of dance experience collectively. How has that played out in your choreography and camaraderie together? 

DTC: We have far more than 55 years now. At some point we quit adding those up. Because we are an ATS troupe, we follow the style of group improvisation rather than choreography. Our previous dance experience in other styles does benefit us in terms of understanding visual design, presentation, movement, stage presence, costuming, etc., both in our performances and as we developed the modifications for sword. Dancing ATS strengthens the group. We know we depend on each other, we follow, we lead, we need each other because you can’t do ATS alone.

BS: Your base is in Logan, Utah. How has dancing in Utah been a blessing or a challenge?

DTC: Dancing in Utah is a blessing because there are so many opportunities. It’s hard to imagine that Utah is a hotbed of belly dance, but there is a lot going on here. Our challenge lately has been the geographic distribution. We live spread across more than 100 miles in the northern part of the state, and Jen has left Utah for the Pacific Northwest, so we now have sister instructors in the Tacoma/Seattle, Washington area. Perhaps the curse is the snowy winter road conditions that we have to deal with to get to shows and practices in the winter.

 BS: How do you approach teaching? What’s the best advice you can give to your students?

DTC: We are all certified ATS instructors and FatChance BellyDance Sister Studios. The intent is to provide ATS training that is true to Carolena’s vision. Any student of ours should be capable of dancing with other ATS students. We often do just that – put our students from the different studios in shows together. The best advice – practice! ATS relies on muscle memory and a comfort level that can only come with practice. The more you practice the more you will enjoy the dance.

 BS: Tell us more about your experiences with Carolena Nericcio.

DTC: As a teacher Carolena is kind but tough and she has been an extraordinary mentor. Making a video with her was a rewarding experience. We worked hard but never forgot that it was a labor of love. We learned a lot from her guidance and experience. Carolena has been instrumental for us. She created the dance, and she brought encouragement, expertise and her faith in us to accomplish the DVD project.

BS: Tell us about the DVD project.

DTC: ATS with an Edge is the instructional video for our modifications of the ATS slow vocabulary for swords. Dancing with a sword brings a new element to ATS. Our intent was to use the sword as another layer in the dance and to stay as true to the original steps as possible. Making a DVD is a lot of work, most of which is never seen on camera. We were lucky to have Matt Hepworth and Carolena Nericcio working with us. We couldn’t have done this without them. Carolena does an introduction and performance with us on the DVD. It is currently available in the US and Canada, and we are in the process of converting the video for international sales. There were a lot of people – friends, students and family members – who supported us and we owe them our gratitude.

Kel-Z Photography

Kel-Z Photography

BS: Tell us about your costuming. How do you develop your own unique look? Where do you shop? Do you make your own costumes?

DTC: We choose to wear bright colors because it makes us feel happy and energetic, and our audiences love the visual impact. We started wearing white cholis when we wanted a unifying look without matching, but we don’t wear them always. We like to play with the costumes, to mix it up. The colors and adornment of tribal women are our inspirations.

We buy our skirts primarily from online vendors but many of the other pieces we make. For instance we have all made our own coin bras. Other costume items are left to the individual dancer’s style. We stick with the basic ATS pieces with a lot of room to personalize the costumes. Everyone has some special pieces they purchased or were given. Some of the things we wear have personal meanings or symbolism. We can never leave things alone, either. We are always remodeling, remaking, or reinventing costume pieces.

BS: What are some great resources for the ATS student who can’t always make it to a class due to locality or budget? 

DTC: Attend workshops if you can. Get the FatChance basics on video. Because ATS is not a solo dance, you need to learn to do it with another person. Find somebody and practice together.  Be prepared to make mistakes because you will learn a lot from them.

BS: What is one of the most memorable performances for you and why? 

DTC: The Tribal Massive show in Las Vegas was the first time we took the ATS modifications for sword to the stage. We had worked on the adaptations for about a year before that performance. That was the first big show for something we were really excited about.

 

BS: What’s in store for your future? 

DTC: In the short term, we are teaching sold-out workshops at Tribal Fest and Cues and Tattoos in the spring. We will be scheduling workshops and we will expand the sword work. We intend to stay with the ATS format.  In the longer term, there may be new dancers and existing collective members are likely to move around. What we are doing works well for us, and we plan to keep it going.

For more information about Davina Tribal Collective and their work, visit:https://www.facebook.com/DavinaTribalCollective

 

Drawing Down the Moon: An Interview with Trisha McBride

originally published August 4, 2013 in fuse: a tribal and tribal fusion belly dance magazine

by Britta Visser Stumpp

Photo by Leslie Saterfield

Photo by Leslie Saterfield

With 15 years of study behind her, Trisha McBride is a powerful creatrix of amazing dance and has been a much sought after teacher in San Francisco, New York City and Salt Lake City. Trisha is dedicated to teaching her students a well rounded belly dance style, from Egyptian to Cabaret, ATS, to Modern Tribal Fusion. Trisha developed a unique improvisational dance form called “Lunar Improvisation,” wherein the group dances in the shape of the full moon and half moon. Balancing and drawing on the energies around her, Trisha quickly learned how to dedicate her dance to the Goddess. In this sacred art of “drawing down the moon” she finds a profound sense of empowerment. This is my candid conversation with Trisha McBride…

Britta: So Trisha, how did you get started?

Trisha: Well, I had just turned 20 and a friend of mine knew I loved to dance and she asked me “Can you shimmy?” And I attempted something rather comical. She invited me into one of her belly dance classes, so I jumped straight into an advanced class in Salt Lake City. It was baptism by fire and I had to learn very quickly. I’ve never actually taken a beginner’s class unfortunately. A while later, there was a big belly dance festival put on by Sonja of the Kismet School of Dance at Liberty Park. It was my first performance and I was very excited. Later that night, I saw Carolena Nericcio for the first time and I was spellbound. I had never seen anyone command a stage like that! She created magic. I had heard she was teaching in San Francisco and so I moved to there a year later. I started studying with FatChanceBellyDance®  and then I took a class from Jill Parker and I fell in love with her style. I danced with Jill for six months. Then, I moved back to Salt Lake to take dancing and drumming. My teacher then was Aziz, a phenomenal male dancer and zill instructor. And then, having wanderlust, I moved back to San Francisco where I got picked up by Azure. They were spin off of Ultra Gypsy. Azure was made up of some of Jill Parker’s students who had decided to start their own troupe. I also took classes from Michael McElhaney who was another phenomenal male teacher and one of the core members of Azure. Having that male influence was really powerful.

B: What was the difference in a male teacher? What did you get from them that was different from your female teachers?

T: Well, especially from Michael McElhaney, he kicked my ass. My upper body had to be up to speed with his, which was really challenging for me at the time. He worked with a lot of really predominant arm postures.

Photo by by Bella Ora

Photo by by Bella Ora

B: I read on your website that you also went to New York City at some point? 

T: Yes, I started teaching in New York between 2003 to 2009. I try to go back there at least once a year. Sometimes I’ll go for short stints and sometimes for longer. I’ve hosted a lot of workshops there. I hosted The Indigo. I hosted UNMATA. It was a lot fun!

B: Did you ever run into Sera Solstice? 

T: Yes, I did and that was pretty amazing. She was just getting started back then. We were often in the same shows together. I admire her style.

 B: So you developed your own unique style of “Lunar Improvisation.” Can you tell us more about that?

T: I starting developing Lunar Improv around 2002, right before I started teaching. I loved my ATS®  background, but sometimes I wanted to branch out into something of my own, and I could not remember all the ATS moves, so I began to spin my own. I came up with my own language, lunar improvisation. It was heavily influenced by ATS and my Cabaret background with Aziz, and fuses other elements as well. I love hip, hop, and pops and locks and then flamenco. One of these days, I’m going to dive into flamenco full force!

B: And so then you started your troupe, Lunar Collective? 

T: Lunar Collective started because I wanted to have a good working repoire with my students. I invited six or seven students of my students into the troupe and then it eventually became three which was myself, Michelle Sorensen and Kelly Brown. My whole m.o. is respect and having respect for my teachers. I have my own creative process and that requires a lot of discipline. Michelle began to develop into her own creativity and I could see there was a need for her to branch out and create her own style. Then it became Kelly and myself and now we have Mandy Williams, so now we’re a trio again, which is my favorite and Mandy is a phenomenal addition, YAY trios!

B: I’ve noticed this resonance you have with the number 3 and triples. You also use the Goddess symbol a lot on your costuming. Is the significance of the number 3 related to the Mother, Maiden, Crone?

T: Good question! Yes, it is. I found that this dance moved from the Goddess aspect and energy. When I’m mesmerized in the process of dance, I feel I am channeling something…something greater than myself. Dance is my link to the Mother. This is an aspect of the Goddess. So the relation to the maiden, mother, crone is a journey through the dance. Dance is primarily influenced by the maiden when you’re just starting. As a dancer, you typically come to it young, in your maiden phase and then the Mother phase happens whether literally or in the process of taking on students, and then there’s the Crone phase of the wise woman who has been doing it for many, many years. I like the three. It’s completion.

B: And you also have your TRI*LUNA line of clothing? 

T: I’ve been developing it for five years now. It has shifted and morphed and it comes from the creative process. It’s starting to get a little more tame. I’m taming the pony and the pony is now tame enough to ride. Again I work from three aspects which are really elaborate, high couture costuming, to jewelry, and every day yoga gear.

Photo by Weston Hall

Photo by Weston Hall

B: So what is it about the three aspects of the Goddess that’s important to you? Why do you weave spirituality into dance?

T: This dance comes from a long line of worship. Temple dance in general took thousands of years to travel to us in our modern day. I like to incorporate this sacredness. This is a form of worship, of honoring the divine feminine and tapping into the creators that we are and embracing that in ourselves. It’s working with divine energy. I find that in teaching yoga as well. It’s finding the gods and goddesses in you! You are the creator of your own life and your art and owning the fact that you are it. It’s the empowerment of looking inward and noticing we’re made of divine material coming as a direct line from the Goddess. Dancing to me is a form of worship, of drawing down the moon, and letting Her move through you.

B: That’s awesome! Speaking of yoga, how did you start teaching?

T: Well, I started teaching belly dance in New York at the Greenhouse Holistic Yoga Center. So, I started teaching in a yoga studio, not a dance studio. It was like home to me. I did a lot of yoga on my own. In belly dance, you have to have a lot of core strength and intense flexibility. When I moved back to Salt Lake, I decided to become yoga certified to compliment my belly dance. I took Dana Baptiste’s 500 hour yoga certification.  That was so powerful! I’ve been truly grounded and shaped by Dana’s education program. Dance and yoga both have such a strong link into that spiritual ground. Yoga IS a dance and the two mesh so well together. It’s phenomenal. When I teach my advanced belly dance classes, we do a lot of advanced asanas. We also do sword work on the floor and that takes a lot of core control. Yoga gives you a real sense of alignment.

B: And you just got back from teaching in Jamaica?

T: Jamaica was phenomenal! Some co-workers of mine at Centered City Yoga were teaching a retreat there and I let them know I was interested in coming, so they invited me to teach a belly dance class. Getting off the plane and stepping into that soil…I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It was so beautiful! And the history! Being there in that ancient ground was so magical, it just elevated everyone that was there. It was a beautiful balance of male and female energy. I loved teaching the men belly dance because they were so tapped into femininity. It was a wonderful experience.

B: And you’re going to be teaching in Costa Rica, in January of 2014?

T: Yes,  I get to participate in a retreat over the full moon and I’m going to be having a full moon performance in Costa Rica! That’s going to be so powerful! I’ve got goosebumps just talking about it. I get to teach and perform over the full moon in Costa Rica! My fellow teachers on the retreat will be Sibyl Buck and Sofiah Jaffer-Thom. (maiden, mother, crone one again between the three teachers)  It’s being held at Sofiah’s studio Bamboo Yoga Play January 11th – 15th 2014 look for it! its going to be amazing.

Photo by Bella Ora

Photo by Bella Ora

B: You mentioned recently that you were inspired by the Joseph Campbell series Mythos? Can you tell us more about that?

T: My m.o. is bringing myth back to life. It’s about not forgetting the ancients. Joseph Campbell is a huge influence of mine. That man was so tapped in! He’s just incredible! I find when I relate myth or story into dance, it affects the audience differently. They feel connected. They understand intuitively that something amazing is happening. There’s this untold magic that unfolds. When we performed the Bacchae last year, that was my first real play into myth and I decided that’s what I want to do. We lack ritual in our everyday life now, so bringing myth back into dance is major to me.

B: Have you been influenced by other dancers in this respect or is this something that just came to you?

T: The myth orientation is something that struck me in my own creative energy. I love myth and I studied all the classics in college, and I’ve always been in love with those stories. I had an “a-ha” moment one day of “I need to be dancing myth and paying homage to those that told stories before us.” What better way to tell a story than through movement and props, imagery, and dance? I haven’t personally seen others doing this, although I’m sure there are those who are, but it was my own “a-ha” moment. I move from a place of real respect for my teachers. It creates this lineage of moving from a place of humility and respect. When you create from humility and respect, I feel that you become a vessel for her, for the Goddess. Know your roots. All too often I see people come into this dance as if it just sprang up out of the ground, but paying homage to our teachers creates a succession of tradition. Having too much access sometimes creates a sense of entitlement. There was this great Time Magazine article called, Millenials, and it talks about what’s going on with our youth, why they still live at home. It’s this sense of entitlement without doing any of the work. Just because you can look everything up on Google now doesn’t mean you “know,” or just because you saw a dance move on YouTube, doesn’t mean you have mastered it. Teachers are a part of the tradition and the myths come down to us in this way.

B: So, what’s next for you? 

T:  I am going to keep listening to my heart and following my bliss.  I am fully dedicated to being a teacher and seeing where this path leads me next. I am looking at retreats and sharing this bliss with whomever is ready for this life altering gorgeous ride of belly dance and yoga from a spiritual aspect. GO ladies GO! We’ve got work to do and we all need each other. Community forever!

B: Any closing thoughts? 

Much love and respect to all my teachers and students.  I would never have ended up where I am today with out all of their love, guidance and support.

The Weaving Of Shamanic Medicine Into Ones Life

I LOVE this! “This is the time of patience, integration, perspective and self-responsibility.This is the weaving time. Time to integrate your medicine so it is a benefit to you and those around you.”

via The Weaving Of Shamanic Medicine Into Ones Life.

Lotus FREE Event!

Well, after having a baby and relocating to Ogden, Utah, I am now teaching Lotus Fusion Dance at the wonderful studio space downtown called Lotus Yoga & Dance Studio which is part of the Blooming Lotus Imports gift store and food lounge! It’s a wonderful space run by wonderful, conscious people.

On Saturday, October 25th, the owner, Stephanie, is offering an all day FREE event of yoga, meditation and dance! My class will be at 3:45 pm. Come check it out and all the other classes! It’s sure to be a great opportunity to “sample” all that Lotus has to share with the public.

Free Day!

Come check it out!

https://www.facebook.com/LotusYogaandDanceStudio

Ponderings of a Wandering Imagination

from Jade Beall's "The Bodies of Mothers."

from Jade Beall’s “The Bodies of Mothers.”

As I recover from the birth of my son, not quite 11 weeks ago, I have been thinking about my body a lot. After getting out of my bath this morning, a stolen few moments of luxury, I sat in front of a long mirror brushing my hair and observed my naked stomach, thighs and breasts. Yes, things have definitely changed. There are things about my shape that will never be the same and things that may yet. My mother told me, “It took 9 months for your body to become this way, it will take time for things to get back to normal.” Although, I must admit, I loved the huge curvy swell of my belly and thighs while I was pregnant. I had never felt more feminine and luscious in all my life.

Now that my little son has emerged and is growing steadily, my belly bears a resemblance to what I can best describe as a deflated balloon. It somewhat appears like it’s old shape and yet, there is definite evidence of it’s former occupant.

The young girl who still resides in me, conditioned by society and fashion magazines, used to recoil in horror at the idea of letting the fine-tuned instrument of my ever managed body go. But the woman I have become is not repulsed in the slightest. There is an almost jovial sense of humor in the sheer lunacy of it all. The ridiculousness of fighting change. Change is ever constant. The snake which does not shed it’s skin is near to death. How many mental illnesses must be hatched under the pretense of keeping things the same? The terrible fear of losing a well fabricated sense of self-hood which has become outgrown, as ill-fitting as a pair of childhood tights one keeps trying to cram them self into.

At this moment there is an awesome sense of pride in what my body can do…has done!

What an amazing power to have grown another living being inside myself, to have spent hours of sweat and effort to bring him forth into the world, and now to transmogrify my own flesh into the sustenance which sustains him! While that conditioned little girl sometimes looks in the mirror and thinks, “My God, what has happened?” the woman and mother in me thinks, “My God, what a miracle!” What a relief to have shed yet another skin, another past, another obsolescent identity.

I used to think all my little projects were the meaning of my life. But now I know they are the spice added to the flavor of the meaning of my life and that the true meaning is in “Be”ing a strand in the immense tapestry of Creation.

People too often make the mistake of dismissing that which is common as being beneath their consideration for divinity, and yet the alchemy of it all! How magical that this can occur with such perfect harmony. In a Universe of such vastness, the birth of a star is also common. What elegance in the conception of the order of things! My God, what the Universe must have felt at the moment of the bang which gave birth to us all!

On Children by Kahlil Gibran

I have been feeling both overwhelmed with love since my son, Alexander, was born and a bittersweet kind of pain as I know his path to separation from me as his guardian and steward has already begun.

 

Kahlil Gibran explains this far better than I ever could…..

On Children
by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

In considering this, I have never been made more aware of my own mortality than when I brought forth a new little being who will live on to see a world I will never see. As such, I feel it is my sacred charge to prepare him as best I can to navigate his life, and to do everything I can to leave this world a better place than I found it.

Jade Beall and A Beautiful Body Project

Jade Beall is not only an amazing dancer…

 

…but also a gifted photographer who has started a project focusing on the beauty of women’s bodies after motherhood. As a new mother myself, I celebrate my body’s capacity to create and sustain life. Motherhood is gorgeous and Beall’s photography project captures the changing curves and planes in all their splendor: 

 

Visit her website for more inspiring images: www.jadebeall.com/

Leave it to Beavers

As a Nature-lover and Pantheist, I am adamant about the preservation of habitat, good stewardship and understanding and supporting ecosystems. Beavers are a keystone species in the health of an environment.

As an employee of Oregon State University and wife of an OSU Alumnus, I thought Beaver Nation should check out this delightful Nature documentary about our noble, eco-hero mascot. Beavers are vital to reversing the effects of global warming and conserving water and all the life it supports:

American_Beaver

Beaver Whisperer, Michel Leclair, has come up with an ingenious method of working with the Beavers to the benefit of all. Click the link: Leave it To Beavers, to watch the documentary!