Friday, February 24, 2012

Do I have to show my belly?

Instructor Heather Ward
This is a question I’m frequently asked by prospective students, generally with some thinly veiled terror in their voice. The answer is, “No, absolutely not!” This seems counter-intuitive to many, given the English name for the dance I teach – belly dance.

The fact of the matter, though, is that the term “belly dance” is a Western invention, and an unfortunate – though inescapable – misnomer. The name came about in the 19th century, when wider European and American audiences first saw the dance. To the eyes of these onlookers, the dance’s free (and un-corseted) movement of the torso led to it being dubbed “danse du ventre” – “dance of the belly,” or belly dance.

In Arabic, the name for the dance is much more poetic – it’s known as “raqs sharqi,” which literally translates as “dance of the East.” And in reality, while the dance uses the whole body, a great deal of the movement is centered in the hips, not the belly.

But what about the stereotypical open-navel belly dance costume? It certainly looks like this costume was meant to show off the belly! The open-navel costume (known in Arabic as the “bedleh”) has been a popular belly dance “uniform” since the 1920s. To some extent, this style of costuming was influenced by European and American expectations of what a belly dancer “should” look like. However, there are also clear precedents in the costuming styles of 19th century professional dancers in Cairo – costuming styles that were designed to highlight hip movements, not belly movements.

 Today, professional belly dancers wear a broad variety of costuming styles – the unifying theme is that these costumes highlight the hips. Here are a couple of photos of yours truly in different costumes.

In my student recital on May 19th, you’ll also be able to see a broad range of costumes – from the belly-baring bedleh to tummy-obscuring dresses. I encourage my student performers to choose costuming that is appropriate to the dance, but that suits their comfort level.

 In the classroom, bare bellies are definitely not a requirement – because belly dance is not really a “belly” dance! In fact, the best class attire consists of yoga pants, a fitted tee shirt or tank top, and a scarf tied around the hips. Bare belly or no, it’s the dancing that matters!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Forget the flowers and candy….give a geeky gadget to your Valentine

Stu Gisburne, technology instructor
First off let me say welcome to my Blog here at SCC. There are a few reasons that you maybe reading this.
1. You like my picture.
2. You enjoy reading others blog posts.
3. You love techie gadgets.
I’m thinking it’s a safe bet for reason 2 and 3 and I am glad. I really...I really don’t like pictures of myself but that was a requirement for publishing this blog. Ok then, what will you be blogging about Stu? Wow! I am glad you asked.
What you will find in this blog space are my ramblings on what’s new, different and exciting in the world of tech and gadgets. It may be about an app for the iPhone or Android or a sweet case for your iPad. Of course somewhere along the way I would hope to spur some interest in the classes that I teach at SCC such as Game Development for iPhone and Android, Summer 2012….hint, hint. In the end, I hope to enlighten you in tech happenings with a side effect of productivity or social acceptance. I’m not sure if there is a “Like” button on the blog. If there is, keep clicking/touching it repeatedly. If there isn’t, post banners around campus with sayings such as “Like Stu’s Blog”. Of course include a link. I’ll keep this post a bit shy on my usual ramblings, and instead give you some brief gadget gift ideas that you could use for your loved one, friend...or even yourself.

Fitbit Ultra Do you or someone you know want to become better fit? Lose some weight? The Fitbit Ultra tracks your steps, miles traveled, calories burned, sleep quality and even stairs climbed. There are various ways to wear your Fitbit. Put it in your pocket or clip it to your bra (yeah, I know) or belt. What really makes it work for you is the free web site tools that the included base/charger sync’s with. The reading display shows all the current days info and the web site not only gives you the details, but allows you to track food calories, activities and set goals. I place mine in my pocket and carry it around all day. $100 

ZaggKeys Flex The ZaggKeys Flex from is a medium sized portable bluetooth keyboard. It doesn’t fold up small like some others, but the case for the keyboard does double duty as a stand for your iPad, iPhone or any other device that allows for a bluetooth connection to a keyboard. Throw this in a bag with your tablet and you have yourself a simple and light workstation. No excuses not to crank out that term paper. $80 

Obol Bowl Ok, this isn’t a tech gadget really. But come on, ya gotta love a good bowl innovation. With this you can be a real couch cookie or not have any soggy cereal. Great for that long night exam cram too!  $20 

iWatchz wristband for iPod Nano If you have a recent iPod Nano, you can transform it into a usable watch. A recent update to the Nano gives it about 15 different watch faces and if you slide it into an iWatchz band, you will be styling for sure. I have one and love it. Not the pictured one though. Mine is a simple black band but they have quite a variety of different styles.  $25 - $90 (Nano sold separately)

Magic Cable Trio The Magic Trio Cable from Innergie could just be the one USB cable you need to carry use and charge your device. I usually carry an assortment of cables in my bag, but this replaces them. It has a regular USB on one end and a Mini and Micro USB plus that big’ol Apple 40 pin connector. With this one cable you should be good to go in keeping most of your chargeable devices…well….charged.  $20 

If I am not shunned from the blogisphere, I’ll sprinkle in other tech gadgets or tools that you can use to make your life easier, more productive and just downright fun. Be sure to leave a comment here at the blog if you decide to try out my advice and any of these products. Let me know what you think. Stu

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Belly Dance at SCC - Bringing the Mid-East to the Midwest

Instructor Heather Ward
When I taught my first belly dance class at SCC back in 2003, I had no idea that I was planting a seed that would eventually blossom into one of the Midwest’s central resources for Middle Eastern dance right here at SCC. Back then, I had my doubts whether I could get folks to buy into the idea of belly dance as a legitimate folk dance form.

You see, belly dance has always labored under some unfortunate stereotypes. It’s been cast as everything from a sultry dance of seduction, to a mystical ritual honoring the divine feminine, to a kitschy side-show act. And too often, belly dancers themselves have “sold” these stereotypes in order to keep bodies in classes, and butts in theater seats.

The stereotypes miss the reality that belly dance is essentially a folk dance originating in the Arab world…primarily Egypt, where the dance is performed socially at festive occasions by BOTH genders and ALL ages. Yet, as I embarked on my career as a dance teacher, I was really unsure whether anyone would want to learn anything of the dance’s rich Middle Eastern heritage, especially given the widespread misunderstanding and suspicion of the Middle East that exists in the U.S.

Truthfully, learning about Middle Eastern culture is usually the LAST reason that most of my students enroll. Yet, what I have discovered over the years is to never, ever underestimate students’ willingness to learn, to understand, and to expand their horizons.

Students DO want to learn belly dance for what it is – a Middle Eastern dance – but they often don’t realize this until their first class. A lot of different motivations get them in the door: “I want to get some exercise,” “I want to try something new and exotic,“ “I want to wear one of those costumes one day,” “My friend signed up and made me sign up, too!” But once they’re in my class, they get a taste of what the dance really is.

It’s more than just shaking hips and rolling abdomens…it’s about having a visceral response to the music; it’s about expressing all of life’s emotions – joy, sadness, heartache, loss, passion – through movement; it’s about bringing to life the epic poetry and musical masterpieces that are some of the crowning artistic achievements of the Arab world (and frankly, of the HUMAN world); and it's about joining together with friends and family to dance in celebration of all of life's blessings. Once the door is opened for them, most students can’t wait to walk through and see what else the dance - and its culture of origin - has to offer them.

My students' (and SCC’s) warm embrace of belly dance as an art form has allowed my classes to grow, prosper, and expand and has enabled me to offer dance events beyond what I could have dreamed of back in 2003.

What started as a single class almost nine years ago has now blossomed into a broad range of class offerings (three proficiency levels), an annual spring recital (moving into its eighth year in 2012), and workshops and performances featuring internationally-renowned guest experts. A crowning achievement will be the upcoming Journey through Egypt course that will be offered in January 2012. This is a 20-hour intensive workshop on the folk dance traditions of Egypt, created and presented by acclaimed researcher, instructor, and performer, Sahra Saeeda. Years ago I couldn't have imagined that I would be able to get a course like this off the ground, but the registrations have already started rolling in – a testament to the thriving interest in Middle Eastern dance at SCC and in our region.

I’m so proud of the Middle Eastern dance program that I’ve built at SCC, and I'm happy to teach at a school that sees the value in programs like this one. It has been amazing to see how dance can serve as a bridge between cultures, and as a springboard for students to explore and expand their horizons in ways they never imagined or expected. I'm gratified to have been able to bring Middle Eastern dance to SCC, and I look forward to continuing to offer classes and events here that will educate, enlighten, engage, and enhance cultural understanding.