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Interview with the
Vietnamese-Tunisian
Dancer

Anasma

by Marcel Bieger

DANCE AND DIGNITY MAKE FUSION
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Layout: Konstanze Winkler

Which styles fusing do you prefer most and what was your greatest challenge in mixing them?

I mix a lot of styles to Bellydance. I have studied Bellydance since 1997. I feel I could still learn more things about folkloric styles, numerous props, musics because the more you learn about a topic, the more you are aware of what there is to learn. But at the same time, I feel I know enough to be faithful to Bellydance and carry it as a baggage to explore and travels in other lands. Limits are meant to be surpassed, right?

Hip Hop with Bellydance, Wushu with Bellydance, Salsa with Bellydance … When I improvise I really tap into my diversity of influences. Each time I fuse two dances styles, I make sure I take form each dance the core concepts and characteristics.

I believe dancers can do that with any possible combination of styles, with some combinations being easier than others. For instance, in Hip Hop Bellydance Liquid Fusion, on the one hand, I borrow from Bellydance the fluidity of movement, the femininity, the musicality. On the other hand I draw from Hip Hop different ways to shift the body weight and to use my feet, I use arm work and foot work that are not used in Bellydance, I make movements bigger, I make them urban, I give them an “attitude”. Hip Hop is a whole.  I love to use (commercial – I admit) Hip Hop music in my classes to teach the Hip Hop Bellydance Liquid fusion. It’s a music that carries me and feeds my creativity.  To me, this fusion works well because both dance styles (especially Popping in Hip Hop) work with isolations. But the full body work and look is also something nice to play with.
In Salsa Bellydance, I become the Femme Fatale again. In Salsa, the man leads the dance whereas in Bellydance, we (women) are the only ones to decide which move will be executed when… From Salsa I draw footwork that Bellydance does not pertain. I use Salsa or Salsa inspired music. Salsa and Bellydance mix well together as long as you are able to do double or triple layering (which means using different body parts at the same part, which requires strong isolations an then good coordination). The “over the top” femininity is fun to explore. I admit that I had ventured a lot in “unusual characters” and icons (a Prince , not even a princess, the Devil, Schizophrenic beings, the Beast etc) expected from the traditional Bellydancer in my fusions, and being so feminine with the Salsa fusion feels good and brings back in my body the original contents I discovered in Bellydance.
So basically for each technique, I do train in the original form as much as I can. Some dancers have the integrity towards a dance style and fully commit to it by sticking to the tradition. When I learn a new dance (new for my body), first of all I need to say that some styles feel very natural to me, and some others NOT … and it is humbling to be reminded what it is to be true beginner… (ha ha). What I need to add is that when I take another style, I try to understand its philosophy, it’s influence and background, its characteristic posture, but of course, my own training and experience will influence my ‘analytical grid of understanding’. I come in “biased” in a way, and I need to admit that I like that. They is always in a corner of my head the question: “hum, how can I add an belly roll to this salsa footwork”, “how can I add to moonwalk on the camel walk…”. I love physical challenge, I get satisfaction from pushing mu own boundaries, and a sense of achievement… I want to keep growing all the time.

I actually have learned some Modern Dance concepts from Elisheva (www.elishevadance.com) and Dunya Mc Pherson
(www.dancemeditation.org) that apply to ANY dance style. These concepts have really helped me broaden dance movement , “unleash “and STRUCTURE my creativity, become a better teacher and choreographer.

How do you usually start when it comes to new forms, new crossovers, new fusions. In the beginning is there an idea or some music snippet which bugs you?

For stage pieces, my creative process usually starts from the storyline or the theme of the show or a character. I find my initial ideas in classes I attend, videos, movies, shows I watch, books, personal experiences… I decide what message I want to convey or which character I embody, then choose the moves I would need to share my message. Sometimes, my sources are diverse and simultaneous. For teaching, my intention is different because my focus is technique and I need to start from the different dance styles that I want to tap in.

For instance, I was invited by Souraya Baghdadi and Olivier Guion to perform in their “Eastern-Western” show, an encounter between Middle Eastern dance and music and Classical music. They gave the songs that we set for performance. I fell in love with a song called “Japan” in early 2009 using a flute, a marimba. It was composed by Gareth Farr. My first performance to it was improvised and had many Asian flavored elements and mostly Bellydance and theater techniques. A year later, I redeveloped a piece to “Japan” because I was participating in the Bellyfusions festival 2010  and knew I HAD to show a piece using the style I was teaching…  I had my teaching themes set but it was actually my first Wushu Bellydance solo choreography. In the meantime, I had trained more in Wushu. So I developed “Game over” about a video game character refusing to fight and kill any longer. I then applied the moves (key images, like landmarks), appropriately placed on the music, and the fusion (the link) between both worlds.
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© Photos: 1 + 2 Scott Schuster, 3 + 4 Joe Marquez
In Wushu Bellydance, I draw from Wushu  its alternation of speeds, the warrior character, some typical pauses (horse stance, empty stance, drop stance…) and hand styling or punches (fist punch, palm punch-with the fingers pointing up and the thumbs tucked in)... Normally, Wushu is performed with no music nor counts so it is already different to place it on a sound track. To me this is the most challenging fusion out of the three because the impulse is so different, and the intention very different.
Sometimes I have the initial idea, sometimes other show producers invited me to be part of a show with a  theme they have chosen ahead of time, like Willow Chang’s (www.willowchang.com)  annual concert : Puja. In 2010, the theme is “love letters”. In 2009, the show was about “Gods and Monsters. The Venus Uprising (www.venusuprising.com).  invited me to their DVD shoot on “Fantasy” Characters, then to their “Tarot” crad inspired show. Then their “Metamorphosis” show.) Sometimes, I start from the music. But usully, I really love to have a concept first in order to start creating a piece.
Hip Hop Bellydance has been the most fun until now because it is the fusion I have spent the most time on. I started fusing them in my head years ago (since 1999) and have been working on the technique fusion since 2006.