E Komo Mai! Welcome to my blog.

I'm delighted that you dropped in! E Komo Mai: WELCOME! This blog is basically an online visual journal is modeled after a concept I learned of in psychology 101... waaaaaaay back in college. That concept was somewhere in the chapter on The Significance of Dreams, where it mentioned someone's theory on dreaming about a house usually means that the house represents you. So I have used my actual house (Mauna Lea Manor) to structure my blog. In different rooms you will find different aspects of my life; different interests I like to blog about. This is a way to bring a little organization into my life and thoughts for myself... (dreams are in The Bedroom, Family updates are in The Living room, etc.)
This also, I would imagine, make reading this blog more convenient for you as well. If you are a grandparent interested in seeing photos and hearing stories about my boys, but maybe not so interested in my bellydancing obsession: you can just read what goes on in The Playground. But if you are an Art Collector more interested in my latest work and information on collecting, but not especially interested in my personal life: you'd enjoy The Office. Mauna Lea Manor is sort of the foyer to all the other rooms. If you would like to tour my online portfolio, please visit: www.stephaniebolton.com.
I hope you enjoy your time here ;) & continue to stop by!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Makara... unveiled

I became interested in Middle Eastern dance when I saw a belly dance troupe perform at the renessance festival in Arizona. I knew right away 
that I wanted to be a belly dancer.

 Dance keeps me healthy and happy. Without dance I would rarely get exercise. To me, dance doesn't feel like exercise, I am getting a workout
but it doesn't feel like it. Dance also keeps me happy spiritually. It allows me to express my emotions. I dance when I am happy, sad, overjoyed, angry, etc. 

I consider myself a fusion dancer. I take a great deal of workshops from belly dancers of many different styles. And if I see a dancer do 
something in a show that I really like, then I track him/her down and take their workshop. I guess the reason why I have not really settled on a 
particular style is that I love them all. 

 I have only recently moved back to Arizona. I was just living in Hawaii for the past nine months but, previously had been living here in Phoenix for 
about 8 years. So, I am now only getting classes started. I will be teaching at the Plaza De Anaya world dance studio in Tempe Arizona beginning every monday, October 25th, 2010 at 6:15pm. This class will be double veil. I also will be teaching, starting the beginning of November a Belly Dance Fitness class and a Beginning Belly Dance Basics class. The details are still being ironed out but, you can always go to my websitewww.makarainternational.com for updates and information on classes and workshops.

 I currently do not perform regularly at any particular venues. As I have recently returned to the valley I have not set anything up just yet. But, am hopeful to be getting back to performing regularly. The most unusual place...... hmmmm...... Maybe not the most unusual but definitely the most heartfelt was performing at the Phoenix Children's Hospital. I was a dancer at the Arizona Renaissance Festival and they asked for volunteers to go and perform for the children at the Phoenix Children's Hospital. So, I thought that sounded like a really cool thing to do and I volunteered. It was the best thing I ever did! The children had the biggest smiles on their faces. They appreciated us being there so much. You could see it all over their faces. It still brings tears to my eyes when I remember it. If anyone gets a chance to do something like that they definitely shouldn't pass it up.

 I am a solo dancer for the most part. However, I have been in a troupe before. My first style of belly dance was Tribal Style and I eventually became a part of the sister troupe to DOMBA!, Bedouin Tribe. I really enjoyed my time dancing with Bedouin Tribe. We had so much fun! Being a soloist is not as lonely as it sounds. I often collaborate with other dancers to put on shows and events around the country. I think being a soloist allows you much more flexibility in your activities as a dancer. But, I also miss the feeling of sisterhood and connection that being in a troupe can give you. There is a bit of a trade off.

You know, I have wondered what it is about my performance that audiences like and I watch videos of myself perform, and you know we are the harshist critics of ourselves, and I try and see what they see. I think it must be my emotional expression of the music. I believe I am a kind of "in your face" dancer. You know I am in the room. I see myself as being a bit of a spaz to be honest but, audiences seem to like it and like I said, we are our harshist critics. I recently had a close friend and dancer exclaim after a recent performance, "Wow! I didn't know you could be so graceful." I thought oh geeze I really am a spaz. lol She meant it as a compliment but it still makes me laugh and smile. 

There are several aspects to what I would say makes up my philosophy toward dance. I can say what I love most about this style of dance is that anyone of any age and body type can do it. I have seen women of many ethnicities and from many different countries perform this dance and do it beautifully! In belly dance you don't have to be a size 0 to do it. You don't have to be in your 20's. You have to just want to do it and take the inititive and do it. Too often we talk ourselves out of doing something we want to do before we ever give it a try. Its just fear and we need to let that go. 

Its important that you are having fun! Whether your a beginner or a seasoned professional, it is important that you are still having fun dancing. That what you are doing still brings you joy. If not, then why do it? Just before a performance I often tell my students not to stress about the performance, or grill themselves over and over again about the choreography. They are not going to learn and retain anything new. What they now know is what they know and to have confidence in that. That it doesn't have to be perfect. Just have fun. 

We are such critics of our bodies and self image. I rarely find a woman that comes into my class that doesn't feel self concious about some part of her body and that can really affect how she dances. It shows in her body when she dances. What is important to me is not whether or not you get the moves perfectly but, that you leave my class feeling a little bit more confident, sexier and a whole lot happier than when you walked in the door. 

I ask that all my students be patient with themselves. Understand they are teaching their bodies to use muscles they might not have concously used before. That learning to control and isolate individual muscle groups is a great challenge and one that requires a great deal of patience and perserverance. They will eventually get it and that we all learn at different paces. So its important not to compare yourself to others around you. What might come easy for another dancer might be a lot more difficult for you to master and vice versa. However, practice is important because the more repetitions you do the quicker you develop muscle memory. 

That gets me to taking care of your body and treating yourself right. As dancers its important for us to listen to our bodies. Make sure that if you feel pain or discomfort that you stop whatever it is that you are doing that is causing that. Dance should never cause you pain. And due to limitations from injuries and sometimes just body structure not everyone will necessarily be able to do all the same moves. The good news is that there is such a huge vocabulary of moves a dancer can do in belly dance that even if you cannot perform one move there are a hundred others that you can do. 

 I guess my advice for other dancers and would be dancers would run right along with my philosophy toward dance. To make sure your having fun, be patient with yourself, take care of yourself and listen to your body, and don't be so harsh on yourself. 

October 16th, 2010 there is a show called One With the Music. There will be 7 soloist dancers and 7 musicians and they will be pairing up for an evening of improvisational music and dance duets. When I was offered the chance to do this show I immediately snapped it up! I am for the most part an improvisational dancer and this just seemed like not only a great challenge but a lot of fun! I love to dance to live music and I think this is most definitely an event you don't want to miss! http://www.shes-got-hips.com/Events.html

    October 23rd & 24th 2010 is the Arab American Festival. The festival is a weekend of concerts, performances, food & shopping and so much more. It is a major event in Phoenix and has had over 50,000 attendees in the last two years! I am honored to be performing this year as the 2010 USA Belly Dance Queen. http://arabamericanfestival.com/index.php

     October 25th, 2010 Double Veil Class with Makara at the Plaza De Anaya World Fusion Studio. Classes will be held on Monday nights at 6:15pm
Double Veil is one of my favorite belly dance props and I am excited to be sharing some of my tips and tricks and knowledge. It's just one of those props if done right is a show stopper!! http://www.plazadeanaya.com/

     October 30th, 2010 Mystique in Motion will be holding the Mystique in Motion Masquerade Ball at Mijana restaurant in Scottsdale. The evening is sure to be an event to remember as some of the valleys most talented dancers gather for an evening of masked festivities and performances. I love doing shows where your imagination is put to the test. I am going to have to come up with something quite imaginative and special for this performance. www.mystiqueinmotion.com 

      November 2nd, 2010 Belly Dance Fitness and Basic Beginning Belly Dance classes with Makara begin every Tuesday morning from 9 to 10am and 10:30 to 11:30am in Chandler, Arizona at Arizona Wado Karate & Martial Arts studio.  To keep up to date on current classes and workshops you can got to www.MakaraInternational.com

      November 6th, 2010 is the Fall Festival of Music and Dance which will be held at the Alwun House in Phoenix, Arizona. The event will go from noon to 9pm on Saturday. There will be performances going on through out the day, shopping, food and hookah, live drumming and lots of fun surprises! The gala show begins at 7pm and I will have the honor of performing in that show with Princess Farhana and several of the valleys top dancers! This event is held annually and every year is different from the last! http://www.levantalsonora.com/fallFest2010.html

      December 5th, 2010 Black Belt Belly Dance Intensive mini workshop series will be held at Arizona Wado Karate & Martial Arts Center on Arizona Ave & Warner in Chandler, Arizona. Rukshana will be teaching a workshop on balance props such as tray, sword or basket. Carrie Konyha, who is also the 1st runner up 2010 USA Belly Dance Queen, will be teaching a workshop on Musicality which is a highly important skill in dancing. I will be teaching Beyond Shimmies which is a workshop that focuses on bringing dimensions and layers to your shimmies. We will be doing lots of layering exercises and combos and will go up to 5 layers and perhaps more. Classes are going to be only 20 dollars each or take all 3 workshops for 50 dollars. That is a steal but, we realized it was in the middle of the holiday season and wanted to give dancers a chance to work off that Thanksgiving feast without breaking the bank. www.MakaraInternational.com

My competition record is as follows....
   2006 Miss Bellydance USA Competition in Canyonville, Oregon 
            Categories: Miss Bellydance USA (did not place)
                              Dance of the Seven Veils ( 3rd place and 1st place peoples choice)

   2009 Wiggles of the West Competition in Las Vegas, Nevada
            Category: Entertainer of the Year (made it to the finals)

   2010 Wiggles of the West Competition in Las Vegas, Nevada
            Categories: Alternative Soloist (3rd place)
                             Tribal Fusion Soloist (3rd place)
                              Entertainer of the Year (did not place)

   2010 So You Think You Can Bellydance Competition in Las Vegas, Nevada
             Category: Ultimate Bellydance Artist (made it to the final 6)

    2010 USA Belly Dance Queen Competition in Phoenix, Arizona
              Category: USA Belly Dance Queen (1st Place) 

I decided to compete originally because I wanted to see where I stood in skill level within the belly dance community and I thought it was an excellent forum to get feedback from some of the worlds most respected bellydance judges. I was interested in using it as a tool to improve my dancing. What I did not expect to get was all the other wonderful things that come along with it, such as the friendships I have developed and the wonderful people I have met. I feared the atmosphere might be one of negativity and cattiness. However, I have not found that to be the case but, actually rather the opposite. I have always felt an overwhelming amount of support and comraderie from other dancers that I compete with. I love being able to watch my fellow competitors dance and see what they bring to the stage. It is a very exciting time as we all bring out the best in each other and it is always a treat to see each other dance. After all, we all love the dance! 

The first thing I do when before I even decide if I will enter a competition is look at the rules for the competition and the rules for the individual categories I might be interested in entering. I check to see the length of time I am allowed to perform, if props are allowed, what style of music must be used in that particular category and so forth. I also look over the sample score sheet and see what the judges are looking for. I look to see who is judging the competition and finally what workshops if any are going on in conjunction with the competition. If I decide to enter the competition then I decide what it is I want to portray during my performance whether it be an emotion, character or whatever. I look for my inspiration and I build on it. I choose music and costuming and props based on what my inspiration is. I have a general idea of what I want to do during particular portions of the music but, as of yet I have not choreographed any of my competition pieces. I am actually considering some choreography for 2011. I make sure I know my music from front to back. Every note, sound, melody and drum beat. I know I am ready when I can hear my music in my head if I so desire. I stay sharp on my techniques by taking classes. Yes, I still take classes. It is important to always be learning or else you stop growing. I take classes online from other professionals in the business that I respect. I am constantly taking workshops from other dancers across the nation. I practice, practice practice. I find if I don't my technique gets sloppy. My isolations are not as sharp and some moves not as smooth. It is also important to maintain my flexibility as well. Therefore, I spend time stretching daily. I try to make sure I eat healthy meals and not over indulge on anything in particular. Must be the libra in me, I try to maintain balance.

That is easy! Winning the 2010 USA Belly Dance Queen Competition is hands down my most memorable contest experience! This competition meant a lot to me because it was put on by the Arab American Association. The dance we do has its roots in the Arab culture and I consider them to be the foremost experts in this dance. Everyone on their panel of judges were people I had a great deal of respect for. So, when I was chosen as the Queen I was really overwhelmed. 

Being the USA Belly Queen is really such an honor for me. It really validates all the years of hard work I have put in to my dancing and still continue to put in. It really inspires me to continue to work hard and to keep on learning. I find myself wanting more than ever to expand my belly dance vocabulary to learn more about the culture and history behind belly dance, to continue studying the drum rhythms and zill patterns. It makes me want to never stop dancing! 

The next step for me is to expand my belly dance world. I would love to go to Egypt and Dubai this year both to study and perform. I plan on competing again in 2011. I will continue to teach classes and workshops and do what I can to support my fellow belly dancers and our dance community. I hope to be traveling a lot in 2011 teaching workshops and performing across the country. 

 I would like to compete in next years Bellydancer of the Universe Competition. I will definitely be back to the Wiggles of the West competition next year in Las Vegas and I am considering a couple more as well but, haven't made any definite decisions. 

My advice for dancers considering competing is this..... Some people say enter the competition expecting to win. I say enter knowing you can win, expecting the best, understanding that dance is art and art is subjective, and being able to lose gracefully. Know that the competition does not reflect who you are as a person. Allow the experience to be a positive event in your life by looking for the best. Even if you don't win the trophy that year you have gained so much in experience. Make sure you are entering for healthy reasons and go with a good attitude. Talk to the other dancers. Don't be shy introduce yourself. Competitions are a great time to network with other dancers! Be friendly and open. You never know you could win something better than a trophy like a friend for life. 

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