Shimmying Across Borders: My Trip to Montreal

Over the summer, I friended a Montreal-based Gothic Fusion Bellydance troupe called Luna Kuarta on Facebook not really knowing anything about them.  I perused their pictures, watched a couple videos, and tried to read some of their updates with my residual high school French (a largely unsuccessful enterprise).  That’s when I saw it, a little announcement about open auditions for their upcoming October 2011 show, Cabaret Danse Macabre.  I clicked on the link to the corresponding FB event and my imagination kicked into high gear.  After seeing a number of lackluster shows featuring performers who were chosen based on who knows who, I was so happy to find an opportunity to throw my hat into the ring.   But this was not your average performance opportunity , it was a potential international bellydance performance at a Dark/Gothic event and a chance to workshop with Spain’s best kept secret, Morgana!

Wheee! I'm a peacock!

But what kind of piece would I audition with?  The answer came to me after the New York Theatrical Bellydance Conference.  So far, my bellydance pieces had been largely technique based.  I might have had a character like “the schmoozer” or “the troublemaker,” but no real narrative existed in my work beyond that.  After seeing so many inspiring bellydance performances and after Dalia Carella’s fan workshop at the Conference, I decided I want to push myself and attempt something theatrical.   With the fan as a major inspiration, I knew I had to be some kind of bird, and thanks to my love of India, it had to be a peacock (I miss the sound just as much as the sight of them).  So I developed a story about a peacock whose lifelong mate had died years and years ago.  At long last, sickness was overwhelming the bird, and it was time to join its mate in the afterlife.    Full of longing, the peacock would attempt one final mating dance, and this dance is what I would interpret in my piece.

Morgana in her piece "The Ragdoll"

As always, I left my choreography to the last minute and sent the video in just before I left for a week at Balkan Camp.  Now, all I had to do was wait.  When my acceptance letter arrived in my inbox, I was shocked, excited, and more than a little nervous.  While I was glad for the chance to spread my name internationally, I was going to have to do it alone.  Not only  did the performance and accompanying workshops fall on an awkward weekend in the semester, but most of my bellydance friends aren’t into Dark/Gothic Fusion and weren’t interested in spending a ton of money just to travel with me (although, for the record, I do make a mean mixtape when it comes to road trips).  So I struck out on my own, had an uncomfortable conversation with an officer at the border about why I was traveling by myself, and suddenly was driving through the streets of Montreal.  After a lovely dinner at a adorably touristy restaurant with the members of Luna Kuarta (Josee, Marie-Soleil, and Fannie), Renee of Oracle, and Morgana and her husband, I headed home with my host for the weekend, Josee.

The weekend was a wonderful one.  Studying with Morgana, was the opportunity of a lifetime.  Her first workshop, “Lady Mecanika” was a mind boggling lesson in stops and ticking.  She showed us how to strategically break down various hip and chest isolations so that they would be easier to lock through and then led us through a grueling series of drills.  Morgana’s next workshop “Animal Mimics” was equally mind boggling.  She developed little choreographed snippets based on certain animals, such as the panther, snake, horse, mermaid, wolf, and eagle, and then somehow, strung them all together at the end of the workshop in a way that made sense.  She pulled from her martial arts training (That’s right! She bellydances and can beat you up!) for some of the basic positions for the animals, and then elaborated on them with her own contributions.  It was such a blast embodying these creatures and channeling their spirits.  Morgana clearly put an incredible amount of thought and creativity into crafting each movement style for each animal.  You could really see how much inspiration she took from the world around her, and how much effort she put into doing justice to each creature.  Our final workshop which took place the morning after the showcase, was called Dark Funk, and it was a great introduction to hip-hop fusion.  Although I was exhausted and sore from the previous day’s workshops and performance, I still had a blast, and her playlist was siiiiiick!  I never thought I’d hear myself saying this, but Morgana has technique that easily rivals Rachel Brice’s.  There, I said it.  Lady Brice has competition from Spain.  May the deliciously technical war commence!

One girl had all the lights turned off and danced with flashlights strapped on her hands! She looked like a water spirit!

The hardest part of the weekend was the performance.  Although the Luna Kuarta ladies did a wonderful job of translating into English as they went along, sometimes they forgot, and until I found a few dancers who spoke English fluently, I was pretty confused!  Luckily, I managed to be in the right places at the right times, and the show went off without a hitch.  My solo was very well received and very unlike the other dances that had been selected, so I walked away feeling really proud of myself and my hard work.  The hardest part of my weekend came after the show.  I hadn’t felt lonely at all until everyone was running out of the dressing room to kiss and hug family and friends.  I busied myself with some costume repairs and made small talk with a few of my fellow dancers, but there’s really nothing like hanging out and discussing the show with your best friends after a performance.  For those of you who dream of touring the world with your dance (as I certainly do), this post-performance moment is definitely something to think about.  I’m sure it gets easier with practice, but in that moment, it caught me off guard.

Finally, the best part of the weekend was my host, Josee.  She is such a generous person and guided me through the weekend with a smile on her face despite all the stress she was under as an organizer.  Not only is she a beautiful dancer, but she is so passionate about promoting Tribal Fusion in the Montreal dance community.  She is a force of nature, and I learned so much from her about patience and perseverance when it comes to running a large-scale event.  Montreal is very lucky to have her!

Many thanks to Josee and the beautiful women of Luna Kuarta.  Thank you to Morgana for blowing my mind with your performance and workshops, and thank you to all the wonderful dancers who helped the bumbling American backstage.  Thanks to you, I can’t wait to go on my next international adventure!

Luna Kuarta looking awesome.
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