The background to the bellydancing Wookie and Klingon band! (if you’ve not watched the video you really must!)

Mae Mai


  • (Oct. 8, 2012) Word of the Nerd Podcast interview with me about the Wookiee Bellydance video!
  • (Oct. 22, 2012) Just signed a release for the usage of the video on Objective Scotland‘s “50 Funniest Moments of 2012” programme to appear on Channel 4 in the UK.

Several months ago Deserae, a wonderful bellydancer dancer I’ve known for years and who I’ve finally had the pleasure to play for about a year ago, decided she wanted to do a performance as a Wookiee bellydancer.  Back in March I recorded an excerpt of what such a Wookiee bellydance tune would sound like.  I pulled some phrases and words from the Star Wars Galactic Phrase Book and Travel Guide and created a sample audio with drums, cello, cow horn and vocals.  I titled it “Muaarga” (the Shyriiwook word for “Peace”) and posted it to my Soundcloud account:

A couple months…

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So last time I was talking about how some tribal-fusion bellydance aesthetic has been influenced by art, particularly Mucha.  What’s also been of interest to me is how bellydance has influenced art.  For example, this painting by Sam Flegal‘s (below) has strong elements of tribal-fusion styling in terms of the bra, jewelry, belt, stocking & panel skirt:

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I just got my ticket in the post for this – very excited! I think there may be a couple of tickets left if you don’t have yours yet – contact Susan.

Growing up in a city festooned with Rennie Mackintosh buildings and art meant that that Art Nouveau became the sort of background aesthetic to my younger life, and there’s something I still find deeply appealing about his, and other artists of that movement.  I particularly like Alphonse Mucha.  I love how he paints women, I love the headdresses he creates:


I like headdresses in bellydance, and have seen some particularly beautiful ones on tribal fusion dancers.  For example, in the below Kimberly MacKoy models this gold Mucha-inspired piece created by Medina Maitreya

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I’m going to take a bit of time to talk about some other people in this blog post.  There are a couple of events coming up that I’ll be at, and I’m going to talk about the inspirational young women who are involved in them.

Katy Meehan is a talented young artist whose work is currently focusing on the mysterious qualities of water, exploring the symbolic relationship between women and water. There’s often something creepy and thought-provoking about her work; have a look at her artist blog, and the short film below.


Katy’s work will be featured in the up and coming DJCAD Degree Show that starts this Saturday (May 19th) and runs for two weeks (19 May to 27 May, Monday – Friday 10am -8pm, Saturday – Sunday 10am – 4pm,  admission is free).  If you are going to be in Dundee around that time, please do take the time out to have a look at Katy’s work (and those of her peers if you feel like it too).  I’m going there tomorrow for the preview showing and I can’t wait.

Hester McQueen is the other talented young woman I’m going to tell you about. Her talents lie in the direction of business and marketing.  She’s about to complete her Master’s degree in International Management and Leadership. As a part of that qualification she is required to do some sort of ‘community input’, and she’s chosen to put her time and energy into trying to make a real difference by hosting an event to raise funds for St Columba’s Hospice.  Working to help others isn’t new to Hester – she previously gave up her summer and volunteered (as a full-time intern) for the Royal Association for Disability Rights (now Disability Rights UK) in London.

She hosting the fundraising event on June 2nd (which I will be teaching at).  It’s only a tenner, so if you have the time do come along and take part in some, or all, of the activities.  It’s for a very good cause, and it’s being organised by an awesome young woman.

I find it incredibly hard to take time out and just stop for a while, even if that’s really all I want to do.  But that’s exactly what I did these last four days, and I feel so much better for having done it.

I find it hard enough to take time out from work and other obligations if I am actually ill.  I have found it slightly easier when I had to take some time off to care for someone else (somehow that felt like a more acceptable thing to do).  But last week, on Monday, I decided I needed a break.  Not because I was sick.  Not because someone else was sick.  Not because I needed to do something, but because I needed to do nothing.  My mental reserves were pretty much running on fumes and I actually decided that that was a good enough reason to stop, to take time off, and to do nothing.

It was fantastic, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Look after yourself, listen to what your body and mind needs (and wants).  Your body in particular is pretty smart, smarter than you – at least my body is smarter than me. Get a massage, stay in pajamas all day, sleep a lot, do nothing that you don’t really want to do.  Don’t do housework.  Don’t catch-up on those odious things you’ve been putting off.  If they’ve waited this long they will wait a bit longer.

Give yourself the same consideration you would your best friend.  Take time out when you need it. You’re worth it.

As part of the ‘Dancing Boots’ day, I’ll be teaching a short bellydance session on Saturday June 2nd at the Bristo Yoga School at 1 Bristo Place.  Ticket price is £10 for the whole afternoon, which covers my session, Zumba, Urban Funk and Boot Camp activities (should you feel so energetic to do them all!).  For more details keep an eye on the Facebook event page or buy your tickets here.

The event is a fundraiser for the new St Columba’s Hospice.  This Edinburgh hospice exists to improve the quality of life for people with progressive, far advanced disease and to provide support for their families.  They are hoping to make it look something like this:

Please do let your friends & family know about this event. I’d love to see you all there!

The Scottish Bellydance community is active! Between now and October we have…

Some of the Bellydance Superstars & local dancers performing on May 24th in Club Bellydance

Mardi Love performing and teaching September 15th & 16th

Aaaand Carolena Nericcio and Megha Gavin performing and teaching as Tribal Pura October 5-7th!

Click the pictures for more details & booking info.

Thank you to the organisers of all these events – thank you for working so hard to bring these wonderful events to Scotland.  You’re awesome!

I read this interesting article about bellydance appearing to be spiraling back downwards in terms of public perception (from the authors experience) and thought I’d share it.

I wonder if it ties into the loss of ground we’ve seen in the last several years in terms of equal pay and (effectively) gendered UK budget cuts, to name but two…

I know a thing or two about professional teaching and about educational theory (*cough* Post Graduate Certificate in Education, with Distinction *cough*). Following the years I spent teaching for a living in Secondary School (or High School for my North American readers) I moved back into education myself and these last three years have seen me become a student in many areas of life – academically, professionally and in my leisure time. I’ve been overawed by some of the amazing teachers who have taught me in the last few years, and taken note of those teachers I felt “could do better”.

I’ve recently been reflecting on these years of learning and decided I would put down in writing some tips and thoughts for teachers, both for my own edification and also because I think that they might just possibly be helpful for others. There’s no particular order to this list, it’s simply the order that they popped into my head. But the last one is the most important one.

1) Be aware of your own power

When you are in the position of teacher you have a great deal of power. Even when there is no exam, even when the class is just for fun, you have power. You know something that the people in front of you are hoping to learn. They have given you their time in the hope that they will get something of worth to them back from it. They may have given you money. Remember that. And remember that everyone, everyone, is vulnerable. That is particularly true when they are in the position of ‘student’.

You have the power to make people feel stupid, no good, to feel worthless. You have the power to make them feel clever, talented, full of value. You have the power make people feel bad about themselves or to feel good about themselves. And no matter how technically brilliant your explanations and insights may be, your students will remember most of all how you made them feel. Be aware of that immense power and use it wisely. Praise publically and criticise privately. Or better yet offer constructive feedback, and still do it privately. And pay attention to everyone, even the people hiding at the back right hand corner of the room (that’s typically where the really shy people navigate to). They may well be shy, but they still want and deserve attention – even just a bit of eye contact, a nod and a smile.

2) Empower your students

If your teaching is worthwhile you will be giving your students the opportunity to change something. This change might be in expanding their knowledge, it might be teaching their body to do something new. Change has consequences. Let them know what they are, and give them the choice.

I always remember when I first started learning Geology, back in the dim and distant. In the first lecture we were told that this class would change the way we viewed scenery and landscapes. And it was true. By the end of it I couldn’t just look at a landscape and think “Aww, that’s pretty”. No, I would look and see the faults and folds, I would theorise about the geological events that had caused the land to look the way it did. And because I was forewarned, I felt like the change was at least somewhat within my power – it was not ‘done to me’, I felt that I had done it to myself.

Another example is from a workshop I took with Ansuya where she taught floorwork. At one point during the workshop she stopped and talked to us about “acceptable pain”. About the bruises, cuts, scrapes and the pain that she and many other performers were prepared to accept as part of their work. She explained that what she was about to teach next was sore, particularly if we did it repeatedly. In doing so she offered us the opportunity to participate or not, depending on our individual attitudes to pain and bruising. That was empowering because I didn’t just go into it blindly and then feel resentful afterwards for the pain I’d suffered.

Dancing connects you more firmly with your own body. For many people this is welcome, but for others it might not be (I’m thinking particularly of people with chronic pain, as an example). If people are new to dance they might not be aware of this consequence of learning your dance form – let them know. Let them know if there’s a good chance they will ache afterwards or even bruise. You don’t know their plans – they might be going to a wedding the next day, or modelling and those bruises may not be okay for them to have. Give them the power to choose by giving them enough information to make the choice. Never assume that they will know, and certainly do not assume that they will be okay with it.

3) Know your limits

Be aware of where your knowledge and competence stops and be okay with that. No-one knows everything, no-one is competent at everything, and it’s alright to learn from others even when you yourself are a teacher. In fact it’s more than alright, I would argue it’s necessary that you keep learning – both to broaden your knowledge/competence base and to remind you of what it’s like to be a student.

Be prepared to admit when you don’t know something or how to do something. You will have far more integrity if you own your own ignorance. In doing so you make it okay for your students to not know things too, and you avoid straying into the potentially dangerous (and perhaps even litigious) areas of making things up because you are ashamed that you don’t know, or making your students feel stupid for asking by giving a defensive response that hides your ignorance. When you acknowledge your own limits you create an environment where not knowing is fine, where it is acceptable. This is the fertile ground where learning occurs best. I split this post as it was getting looong, click here to read the rest

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