Throwdown Photos &
Workshop Review for Heather Stants’
for Deconstruction: Urban Tribal Style”
Photos by Brad
17, 2007 Live Oak Center in Berkeley
was a very busy week for me. I had a 51 hours work week, three
rehearsals for two belly dance performances: one at the Rakkasah
Festival and another at Tribal Throwdown (TTD),
and I was wondering if enrolling at that 4:30 pm workshop was
actually a good idea. At some point, your body and mind start
to shut down and I thought that maybe I was just a little too
harsh on myself. Suddenly the idea of just asking for a refund
and going back home to take a shower and sleep was very tempting.
Instead, I had lunch and after chilling for a little while I decided
to go with it and I walked to my workshop at Live Oak Center
in Berkeley, CA, where Tribal Throwdown was offering the workshops.
Heather was waiting there to offer her “Appetite
for Deconstruction: Urban Tribal Style” workshop. I was very
happy about my decision.
started belly dancing back in 1994 in Chicago, Illinois. By 1999,
when she was relocated in San Diego, she founded Urban Tribal
Dance Company (UTDC), combining Tribal Style belly dance
with contemporary moves. UTDC costume is elegant and simple,
far from the extravagant and busy costumes of either Cabaret or
American Tribal Style can have in their very own way, so the moves
are enhanced by clothing but not helped by them.
dancing style is fresh and smooth, with sharp transitions and
fluid rhythms, taking traditional belly dance moves beyond their
time into a post modern state of mind. Heather’s task was to
transmit that fusion thought in the workshop. She did an excellent
the session with different stretches, especially hips, legs and
back. She also combined some stretches with crunches as well.
Her teaching style is by example: she showed the move, and then
repeated it with us. Then eventually she watched us doing it
by ourselves. I appreciated the fact she asked the students if
they had any injuries or health problems she had to be aware off,
especially knees considering the choreography. She gave move
options that were low impact and she exchanged low impact moves
with the “regular” ones while teaching, so everybody had an idea
how to do it. The workshop had around a 10-12 student size, which
was excellent for her to have visual interaction with everybody.
She didn’t walk around the room while teaching but made eye contact
with everybody and followed your moves. She made corrections,
explained in detail and gave plenty of opportunities for questions.
I saw around the room, all of us students were in an advanced
level, even the workshop description provided doesn’t specifies
if this was a multilevel or advanced class. Not everybody was
exactly on the same level but we were fairly close and grasped
the basic idea of the moves quite fast, which was a coincidence
that worked perfectly. One little inconvenience was the location
itself. The rooms are not sound proof and there was a drum workshop
fairly close. Heather had to speak over the hip hop drum rhythm.
I was very glad TTD decided to move the performances to the Jewish
Community Center because I can’t imagine Heather fighting so much
noise. But indeed, she managed to speak over all the commotion
and make herself audible to everybody. I was at the last row.
some unknown reason I expected a little more talk about how to
“Deconstruct” and get into “Urban” moves. For people like me,
who are not very into that particular style of dancing, it is
a difficult concept to grasp. I liked that, even though she didn’t
give us a formula to do something; she gave us the concept of
freedom. Even though it was a choreography designed according
to UTDC dance style, Heather emphasized having freedom to choose
which style to use and how to “personalize” the dance. In some
moves, she gave examples how a rounded back, or sharper chest
pop, or static hands, give a whole new dimension to your dance
At the end,
when performing the choreography, the final product is impressive.
The piece was not full of back bends, or one zillion steps. The
choreography was a smooth combination of sharp moves, and many
possibilities. One of their trademark moves were the hands and
arms, which where far from traditional, most of the time they
were straight and rigid, not curved and smooth. "Spatula
hands", she called them. This was an interesting concept.
It is not my cup of tea for a whole piece, however, it is something
I have never seen and would like to play around with it in the
future. I think Heather’s photographic mind (she has a degree
in photography) allows her to create a highly esthetic, interesting
style from an angle nobody ever tried before.
this workshop for any dancer that wants to think outside the shimmie.
As a teacher, Heather is very clear, considerate, and patient.
She is very well prepared and balanced, and just a delight. I
hope to have more workshops with her in the near future and see
her performing along with Urban Tribal Dance Company.
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