Shimmy Mob: Behind The Scenes
If you've been belly dancing for longer than a month (and for some, it doesn't even take that long), you're probably wondering 1) why don’t more people do this and 2) how can I get more people to do this?! The belief of most belly dancers is that if people just tried a class, or saw a performance, they would become just as hooked as us sisters and brothers in raqs sharqi.
Hence: Shimmy Mob. The world’s first attempt to organize belly dance flash mobs on World Belly Dance Day was held on May 1, 2011. This year, by popular demand, the event is back. We took a minute to sit down with founder, Sabeya of Vancouver to discuss her life, inspirations, and story behind both her journey in belly dance, as well as her journey to Shimmy Mob.
Q What brought you to belly dance?
A As a child, I was always fascinated by the belly dancers in the old Hollywood movies. I started learning it for my own pleasure and cross training when I was already a teacher in other dance forms. Back then, I never thought for a moment that I would end up teaching it.
Q How long have you been dancing/performing/teaching?
A Dance has always been a part of my life as far back as I can remember... most of my life. I was performing and teaching in other dance styles before belly dance was in the picture for me and I have been teaching belly dance for the last ten years.
Q Who is your biggest inspiration?
A Every person I have learned from has inspired me one way or another. I have a lot of admiration for Jillina as a troupe choreographer and producer.
Q How do you practice?
A Because of my hectic schedule, I tend to practice at the most odd times and places... here and there, whenever I can. Strangely, I often find myself inspired to practice when I am out and about shopping while listening to my iPod.
Q What was your "Ah-Ha! I’m a belly dancer moment"?
A It was the time I was out dancing with friends and realized that I could no longer freestyle without including some belly dance move. It's like belly dance had taken over my body regardless of the style of music playing. If I am freestyling then belly dance creeps right in, just seem like the natural way the body wants to move :)
Q Any obstacles that you faced or still face as a belly dancer? Please share.
A On the contrary, belly dance has removed some obstacles and barriers for me. It has helped me come to terms with what my body can and cannot do.
Q What advice would you give to a newbie?
A Most people at the beginner level are self-conscious when they don't pick up the moves right away. Dance is like learning a language. Each move you learn is like a word. Take your time to learn to pronounce it well. When your moves are clean (which takes practice like in learning a foreign language) it is then you become fluent. Be patient, embrace the learning curve, have fun in the process and don't be too hard on yourself.
Q What’s in your practice bag?
A Besides the usual belly dance items... my laptop! I video myself when I block large chunk of practice times so I can review later and see what can be done better.
Q What do you wish people outside of belly dance knew?
A Unfortunately, many in the mainstream still do not take belly dance seriously as an art form. That is another aspect I love about Shimmy Mob, it shows the general public there are different styles of bellydance... the majority of people don't know, I wish the misconceptions would go away.
Q How long does it take to organize an event such as the shimmy mob?
A There is a lot of work behind the scenes... this is the second time around we are doing it... we have done it with 7 months of preparation from beginning to day of event, but I am finding that for the next one I might start the process sooner.
Q How did you come across the idea for the event?
A Several dancers had approached me about doing an actual flash mob. At first I dismissed the idea because these events are a lot of work to prepare for and beyond giving the few minutes of thrill to the dancers and the audience, I felt there was something missing. Than one day, while talking to another belly dance instructor the topic of flash mobs came up and she mentioned she had tried to do one but the community was not very receptive.
That conversation got me thinking and I started asking myself this question:
"How can a flash mob be organized so that the dancers get their thrill, the public gets a show and informed at the same time, dance teachers and businesses involved get promoted and the communities at need benefit? How can a flashmob be a win-win for all"
So that is really how the concept of Shimmy Mob was conceived. The goal is to unite the dance community as well as demonstrating the different styles of belly dance. That is why the dance is inclusive of three most common styles in North America.
Q How long will the "shimmy" be for?
A Originally I planned for it to be a one time event, however, the response of the participants after the event was amazing and received repeated requests to do it again this year. This year the Shimmy Mob performance will be 4 1/2 minutes.
Q How accepting were other troupes in getting involved?
A Last year when I launched the idea I was thrilled to see the positive response. We had 35 cities registered within a short period of time. Some that were not sure about the event last year have joined this time. We have more cities involved this year already and registrations will be open for another couple months so the number of cities involved might easily double last years, most of the cities from last year have re-registered to participate again, which is really exciting.
Q Why did you choose the charities? And why?
A Many charities need our support as they many are not funded by government. Why not give and help the community if we can? With Shimmy Mob, we can!
Q Anything you want to leave us with?
A As individuals we can make a difference, united together as a group we can make a much more powerful impact. So, why not have fun in the process?
While the deadline has passed to sign up for Shimmy Mob, be sure to check out their website to discover Shimmy Mob locations near you, and go support belly dance in your hometown.