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Yoga Sutra 1.14. "Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness." Ink by Dawn Grace.

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The Problem with Steampunk

I love steampunk as an aesthetic and a literary genre - but for as long as I've heard of it, I've been deeply suspicious of terms like "steampunk bellydance" or "steampunk music." Tonight, I had my epiphany and figured out what specifically bothers me.

I love China Mieville. I loved *The Scar* and *Perdido Street Station.* Now, when you read Jules Verne's time travel stories, or read about the Remade in Mieville's *The Scar,* or about the cleaning bot or the machines in the junkyard in *Perdido Street* - it is NOTICEABLY DIFFERENT from a non-steampunk fantasy novel. You can pick up Dracula (gothic), American Gods (mythic fiction), GRRM's Game of Thrones (high fantasy), etc - they are all noticeably different in mood and in style.

If you put on an Abney Park CD, and then the Cruxshadows -- there's no noticeable difference between the "gothic" and the "steampunk" unless you really pay attention to the lyrics. If you play two CDs in a language you don't know, you should be able to tell which one is gothic (dark, uncanny, moody, etc) as opposed to ANYTHING ELSE. I don't care if it's jazz, black metal, etc -- it should be different. Steampunk music is NO DIFFERENT from other gothic or "darkwave" except for the musicians' costumes and lyrics. That has nothing to do with the musicality, the musical texture, or the "wall of sound." Steampunk music is music, which is to be heard -- so you should hear the difference IN THE MUSIC and not have to read the difference in the lyrics or see it on the band's website.

Similarly - there is no difference that I've seen in MOVEMENT in "steampunk bellydance." I see lots of lovely costume pieces advertised as steampunk. I see bellydancers picking Abney Park. I have even seen meddevi create steampunk-themed characters and movements, which is the closest I've seen to anything really convincing about steampunk dance. However -- her Nuveau Noir is much MORE convincing to me, as you can tell in the dramatic poses and body lines that the inspiration comes from those dark early 1900's prints, and there is a regality to the movement that makes it feel like a Noir film. There are MOVEMENT elements separating it from cabaret bellydance.

My point is this. You can put Ariellah, Mardi Love, Caroleena Nericcio, and Jillina all in a room. (And God, I would like to be the one pouring the drinks for that room). You can put them all in identical costumes and put on a few songs. Their style of movement will be NOTICEABLY DIFFERENT. To name just a few of the characteristics: Ariellah is witchy and uncanny in her fluid arm movements, the angles of her head, etc. Caroleena has a very high chest carriage and the earthy hips but Flamenco-inspired arms that I love about Tribal. Mardi has a vaudeville/20's joi de vivre about her movements; she integrates elements of cabaret and Tribal but the arms are kept snakier and generally closer to the body. Jillina has the isolations and grace you see in many cabaret dancers, with hallmark movements like the "give and gather" arms, taking movements in a circle or drawing patterns on the floor, very classical "Raks Orientale" arms and spins. You can ask them all to dance to the same song, record it, and then watch it with the sound off. You'll be able to tell who is dancing which style - Ariellah, gothic; Caroleena, American Tribal; Mardi, tribal fusion; Jillina, cabaret. However - I have never once seen a "Steampunk Bellydance" performance in which the style of movement was noticeably different. I did see one wherein the dancers actually mimed working on a dirigible engine together mid-song; one guy wore goggles and an aviator helmet and the girls wore poufy sleeves. It really veered away from bellydance in that section -- it was convincingly steampunky, and the rest of the dance was noticeably bellydance, but it didn't actually scan as steampunk bellydance.

I believe a dancer can do a steampunk-inspired piece, wear a steampunk-inspired costume, and dance to music with lyrics about dirigibles and gears and things. However, ain't nothing going to make it steampunk bellydance unless the style and quality of music is different when you SEE it. Costuming and music choices add to the atmosphere around a dance but they do not CHANGE the quality and style of movement. That has to come from the DANCER.

So, to finish my literary axe-grinding:

If you want to claim a genre exists, the genre needs to be noticeably different from the others. You should be able to tell a book is a steampunk book when you READ it, not just because the cover has gears on it and the author wears tails and top hats but the book itself is about an old lady who likes knitting and an evil clown terrorizes her. You should be able to tell a steampunk costume or steampunk kitchen are steampunk when you SEE them. If steampunk music exists, you should be able to tell the difference when you HEAR it, not just when you see the band. And you should be able to SEE the difference between a steampunk dancer and a gothic or cabaret dancer if they are in the same costumes and you can't hear the music.

If I am wrong - and I would not at all mind being wrong on this -- point me towards some links and I will check it out with an open mind. For now, though, I'm just glad to know what my nagging suspicion has been all year.

Gothla October 11th, 2008

I will be performing in a gothla (gothic bellydance show) on October 11, 20008.

Gothla sponsored by Pineapple Dance Studio

Mario Parente Theater
Oakbrook Park District
1S325 Ardmore
Doors open at 7:30, show starts at 8:00

Other fantastic performers include: Sonya, Mae the Bellydancer, Piper, Danielle Meijer, and more!

Tickets $15 before 10/7/08, or $20 at the door
773-852-8209 or kjhersh@yahoo.com for ticket sales

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Raks Gothique 12-08-07

Arabesque Dance & Sonya's Souk Present the 2nd Annual Raks Gothique Alternative Belly Dance Seminar & Show Starring Zoe Jakes

This show will feature the amazing ZOE JAKES, as well as local and visiting alternative and gothic bellydance acts. I (Moxie) will be performing a solo, as well as dancing with Sonya's troupe Ro-He to the beautiful "Keratichomene" by Loreena McKennitt.

Saturday, December 8th, 2007
Doors open 7 pm
Show starts 8 pm

Location:
The Viaduct Theater
3111 N. Western Ave. (Under the viaduct @ Belmont)
Chicago, IL

::flings shiny old shells and gunpowder::

Happy birthday, bardolph1968!

AIDS Benefit: Helping Hips Bellydance Show

Come see some of the most talented bellydance performers in Chicago while helping a great cause!

Helping Hips AIDS Benefit Bellydance Show

Saturday, October 20th
North Side Prepratory School Auditorium
5501 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL, 60625
Yes, there IS a free parking lot!
Doors open at 7

The lineup includes: Bella Fuegas, Blue Lotus Tribe, Chellcy, Eliza, Fringe
Benefits
, Jezebelly, Lisha, Marci, Moxie, Persephone's Daughters, Piper, PURE, Sonya, and Tandava.

For tickets, more info, bios, and photos, you can visit the Helping Hips site.

PRE-SALE: TICKETS $15 UNTIL OCTOBER 5th! ($20 afterward and at the door)
You can get them at the web site or at Arabesque Dance Studio in Chicago (3703 N. Elston) Thank you!

Helping Hips AIDS Benefit Show

I'm pleased to announce that I've updated the Moxie website.

And more excitingly, I am putting together an AIDS benefit show called Helping Hips, and the site is now live! It's missing some pics and bios, but it's off the ground.