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Photos ©: 1, 4 and 5 Brad Dosland, 2 Bob Giles ,3 and 6 with kind permission of Keri Lonhard
Keri Lonhard
You have learned at FCBDs'®, please tell us more about this

As most of us who enter the world of Belly Dance, whatever form of it we are most attracted to, I have always been fascinated with belly dance, since I was a child. I think it was the renaissance fair, when I was a teenager that finally peaked my interest. And then being an old goth, dancing at the goth clubs in the late 80's, realizing that a lot of the 'moves' I was dancing on the dance floors of the clubs were already quite similar to belly dance movement.

I was finally interested and motivated enough to seek some classes and start this life-long learning process (and obsession) of belly dance. A friend of mine wanted to come and learn also, but she never found the time and I couldn't wait anymore. I asked around and found classes at FCBD® Studios in San Fransisco, California, this was in 1998.
You have been a member of Ultra Gypsy, would you like to comment on that?

After taking classes with FCBD® for about a year and a half, even though it was fantastic training, I was yearning to see what more was out there in
the World of belly dance. I eventually found Jill Parker's classes (of Ultra Gypsy), and began to take classes with her. I had never seen someone with such beautiful fluidity, charisma and grace! I was enchanted. The classes were fun, welcoming, and I learned a lot! The movement was a new take on the previous training I had had with FCBD®, and the boundaries of what the dance was, were constantly being pushed.
far left, Keri Lonhard, former member of Ultra Gypsy
After taking a few classes with Jill, she asked me if l would perform with Ultra Gypsy at the Rakkasah Festival in the Bay Area. At this time Rakkasah was the HUGE Festival for Belly Dance in the way that Tribal Fest is now what I think is the most popular festival there. And so, started my year or so long dancing with Ultra Gypsy. There, I would learn so much, including dancing on the left side of the body, innovative new movement, dancing with fire, making wonderful lifelong close friends and dance partners, and I would learn to become a performer. I had never performed before dancing with Ultra Gypsy, and as we would say, ready or not, I would hit the ground running ...

It was a wonderful time, innovative, what we can now look back on and see it was the birthing of what is today "Tribal-Fusion”. In those days we just called it Tribal. At the beginning we wore the turbans, the pantaloons, the cholis, the huge ATS® Skirts and the whole bit. I was there for the conversations, the debates, and finally, the taking off of the Turbans! We experimented with newer, sleeker, sexier costumes, we wore our hair down, we danced to more modern music. Added a more artistic element to the dances by giving them themes or stories of what was going on in each piece. I have to say again, it was a very exciting time!
Please introduce us to  "Lotus", "LAPSUS", and "L"Anonyme Dance Collective".

After my time with Ultra Gypsy, I had actually stopped dancing for a few months. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with dance. Eventually I realized what I needed was a voice to express that which was within me, to create things coming from my artistic point of view. I had loved working with fire, the little bit we did with Ultra Gypsy and wanted to do much more of it! I had heard so much good untapped music, in my opinion, that wasn't being danced to. I thought here were things just not being done with the dance that it had so much room to expand upon itself and I had such a need in me to create something, I just had to see where this would lead to.
I approached several Ex-Ultra Gypsy members and asked if they would be interested in trying out this crazy new idea with me, and we would be a collective where all persons involved would have a say and voice and contribute their ideas. One of the first to join me, whom I consider also a founding member of LAPSUS, was Meliza Wells. The original LAPSUS line up would include: Meliza Wells, Carrie Arrota, Deb Campbell, Jo Dankosky Braden, Sharon Kihara, Shawna Rye, and myself. This was around 2000.

It would be a troupe performing on and off for a lot of years, until 2007 when we had a reemergence and began dancing regularly, with a new line up, this would be Meliza Wells, Erin Harper and myself. We even had, as a guest artist in one of our dance pieces, the dark and gorgeous Ariellah. How deliciously appropriate for the crazy stuff we were doing. (fire, fake blood, convulsing, trances, theatrics). We quickly decided we wanted to have a larger dance troupe and joining us would be Tanja Odzak-Goppold, Nizhoni Ellenwood, Andrea Costantino (our resident fire-expert), and finally Raven Ebner. We had so much fun, pushed so many limits, and really tried to make an impact and effect people emotionally, challenging them as an audience with their comfort levels. At least that was the goal, ha-ha.
With “Lotus”: I was approached at a time by some Ex-Ultra Gypsy members (Meliza Wells and Kerri Naslund) early on in these times and asked if I would like to join their new project called "Lotus". This would be more straight forward dance, "Tribal Dance" we called it. It was fun, but short lived for me. I started developing knee problems from dancing so much, and had to choose between this troupe and my passion, my baby, LAPSUS.

After 6 years of dancing how I had, learning, and performing,
I started going to study at the Suhaila Salimpour School of Dance, along with a few other Ex-Ultra Gypsy dancers. What a wonderful and intelligent and funny woman! She used to say to us Tribal girls: "You can take the girl out of the tribe, but you can't take the tribe out of the girl' and then laugh ... My time spent studying dance there in the Suhaila format completely reconstructed my dance technique and fixed my knee problems.
Thank you Suhaila!
Then fast forward again, 2009/10, another dance collective was formed from Abby, Erin, and Tanja (all Ex-Ultra Gypsy, Erin and Tanja currently of LAPSUS), it would be called L'Anonyme Collective. We were dancing LAPSUS and L'Anonyme in this same time period. I was asked along with a myriad of other beautiful dancers to dance with this troupe. It was quite a good time we had. Challenging choreographies and wonderful women to dance with. I miss all the ladies I used to dance with at home. After I had fixed my knee problems, I was often over the next several years dancing in 2 or more troupes at a time. From more straight forward tribal-whatever styles, to LAPSUS, this crazy Tribal-Fusion theatrical, experimental, fire stuff, to Suspension, and even my drag troupe called MAN-A-SAURUS-REX! I couldn't stop performing, I always wanted more.
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Interview with Keri Lonhard

by Marcel Bieger

Graphic Design: Konstanze Winkler

Of course, Germany always had a certain attraction, not the least on Americans, who love to stay here: Names like Martha Saunders spring to your mind. Sharon Kihara has lived for several years in Berlin. Not to forget the Canadian Martina Crowe-Hewett. Since a while we have one more: Keri Lonhard. She has an exotic and adventurous story to tell and she will be performing and teaching on a German festival for the first time – the 3rd Black Forest Tribal Festival on October 6th.
Check this out:
Keri and her fire performance partner Andrea Costantino
left to right: Keri, Erin and Tanja
LAPSUS: Andrea Costantino, Tanja Odzk-Goppold, Meliza Wells,
Erin Harper, and Keri Lonhard