Amy and Valizan backstage after the Gala Show at the IBCC in Toronto

Gilded Serpent presents...
A Moment with
Amy Sigil
of Unmata
interview and videos by Lynette Harris
At the International Bellydance Conference of Canada held in Toronto
April 23-27, 2008

Across the street, in an outdoor café, on Sunday, the last day of the festival, Amy Sigil, after being interviewed by one of the Korean dancers, stayed to chat with Gilded Serpent.  The cutting edge world dancer discussed her experiences with a group of fascinated fellow dancers while Lynette typed as fast as she could. We jumped around from subject to subject and back again. The group included Ranya of New York, Roula Said, Meaghan of Ontario, Kari, and a few others. Amy is a great story teller and loves an audience. She has seen the harder side of life but still seems naive and completely grateful for life. She is open and accessible, as you shall see.

My studio is called Hot Pot Studio and includes students who are about 50 percent gay identified. We are huge supporters of the GLBT (gay lesbian, bisexual, transgender) community. However, in our troupe the number of gay members has now gone down.  Four out of six of the members of our troupe were gay, and now just me—1 out of 5! Lesbian women are more secularly accepted by the community than gay men. The general public thinks two women together is hot but can't stand men even holding hands. We have 4 boys at the studio; all are gay.

I teach the same moves the same way to men and women. It makes no difference how I teach to men or women; it all ends up being one community. It’s the moves that I teach and the moves are not strictly masculine or feminine. Its interesting that there are more men at this event than at most Bellydance events.

Do women ever try to pick up on you at these events?
I've got a lot of girls who say they are going to “go gay”. I do get hit on, but not all the time, of course. To a lot of the public, I'm not as desirable as I am in the alternative dance community. I get the alternative crew.

Regarding feeling like an outsider in the BD community
I wasn't forced out. I have been really included here at this conference, though I do still feel like an outsider here. There is a lot of knowledge at this Bellydance conference that I don't have about the art that I am performing. I really don't know much about Bellydancing. There are a lot of people who know more about it than I do at the conference, and I feel like the new kid on the block. I love being the rebel. I am a pastor's kid, and I love to be the underdog, coming in the back door. Bellydance is about rebellion. It isn't mainstream. Sometimes, I don't feel part of the old school community (traditional Cabaret), but I do feel part of the Tribal community. Though overall, I do feel welcome in both communities.

I've been hanging with Suhaila lately. She is my girl right now. I've learned so much from her. She represents authenticity to me. When I told her that, she laughed and said she was the rebel.

Suhaila is a lion. She has come at a good time in my life. I begged her to play the lion in a recent performance of mine. It was called the Blood Moon Regale. When I finally met with her, I had written her name on a paper 500 times and showed it to her. She was in the show as the lion in the zoo—in too small a cage. She has really taught me about business at an ideal time in my career. It’s at a tipping point. I'm a down home girl. I don’t understand the connections in business. She is teaching the business to me. It’s been amazing with Suhaila. She has been inspirational.

Amy gives us a tour of her tattoos and tell us the meaning of each symbol.
Included is a performance clip

Amy Sigil talks with the somewhat more traditional Bellydancers after her show in Toronto. They included: Leah, Rahma Haddad, Aisha Ali, Masouma Rose, Lynette Harper, Ferda Bayazit and Valizan floats in at the end briefly.
Amy discusses her influences and use of the term Bellydancer
Also included is a performance clip from her show at IBCC Gala night.

Amy Sigil and beau Raven discuss how the new law allowing gay marriage in California affects their life. Also included is a clip of Amy’s explanation of how Tribal Throwdown came about, the communities reaction and its future. Also included is the finale of the Unmata show at Tribal Fest 2008 with a standing ovation from the audience.

My Background
I was a sports fanatic. I played volleyball, basketball, track, and other sports through my teens. In my 20s I got stuck on crank (methamphetamines). I lost my daughter for a year because of it. I was homeless for 3 years. I lived in Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon. They had a huge program there for the homeless. I did hair wraps for the tourists and bought drugs with everything I earned.

Then, I headed to Arizona to get clean. I meant to go to New Mexico and only got as far as Arizona. I went to a Circle K (convenience store) to buy some food after panhandling and struck up a conversation with the owner. He gave me a job and rented me an apartment after I proved to him that I could keep it together. He was a true saint. I was fated to meet him. No, he didn't expect any favors. I stayed in Arizona for 1 year. Now, I don't even remember his name.

After I got pregnant with my second daughter, Plum, I went back to Sacramento area where my parents lived and picked up my first daughter, Tangerine. I have only slept with 2 men in my life and got pregnant with both. Plum's dad adopted both kids and they live with him. This arrangement allows me a lot of freedom to pursue my business. No, her dad and I are not close but we have the interest of the kids together. He is a good dad. My 2 daughters are 13 and 11 years old. They were a huge wake up call for me to get my act together.

Raven, my girlfriend, is a total dyke and, no, would never be caught dead Belly dancing! We have been together almost five years. She does counseling for HIV testing as a social worker. She works primarily in the homeless community. My girlfriend plays "boi".  She plays the role of the man and gets called "sir". The other day when she held the door for me, an old lady said "It’s nice to see gentlemen left in the world!" She is my biggest fan and makes me feel brilliant.

In Arizona was when I picked up bellydance, art, photography, painting. I tried to busy myself as much as I could to keep from going back to crank. I studied bellydance with a lady, I forgot her name, at a community center. She has some bizarre Egyptian name.

When I moved to Sacramento, Antara Nepa was my first in-depth teacher for 3 years. Antara was interested in 15th century Turkish-style Belly dance. Her troupe is the Ottoman Traders. I did Ren Faires with them.

Then I discover ATS (American Tribal Sytle)– Fat Chance and then Invaders of the Heart in Davis. Kari (pointing across to her troupemate) taught me my first ATS and now she is a troupe member. I was a little disappointed with the hip work in ATS; so, I decided to pick up Hip-hop and Hula. I did this for about 4 years, and then, things started going crazy; I began fusing it all together!

Next, I studied with Shawna Rai, of the Bellydance Superstars (France tour).

Ranya found it refreshing that that you talked about being gay so openly in the workshop.
I think the tribal community does attract more gay women. There are a lot gay women that can't do the cabaret thing. They can put more of their own lifestyle into tribal dancing.

Because tribal fusion is so new, we don't have the background and role models yet.  We are behind in the game in terms of technicality and fusion of different ideas, but we will get there. We are still gaining reputable role models. We are all fusion. Go ahead! Try to stop it!

Regarding the BDSS (Bellydance Superstars)
Miles wants to produce for the general public. My only thing: I would like BDSS to do more alternative Tribal styles. I would tell him “You need some ferocious tribal in there!” I love the Indigo girls contribution to the BDSS. Also, I would love to see more styles of Tribal represented, just like there are many styles of Cabaret represented.
Rachel Brice and the Indigo – they work hard and are humble, they show up on time and they deliver. This is why Rachel Brice is taking over the world! She is real and works hard—and it shows.

Plans for the future--
I don't set long term goals. I would never have picked this career 12 years ago. Next week, I will go to Oregon and hang with the Zephyr girls.
I will debut a new set at Tribal Fest. I just came back from Taiwan, and today, the dancers from Korea interviewed me! If life doesn’t get any better than this, then, it’s okay with me! I feel so fortunate. I know so many dancers that are more talented than I; yet, here I am! When my time is over, I will bow out gracefully. I am thankful from the bottom of my heart.

Amy's website

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