Interview with a Geek: Li

When did you start bellydancing?

I started dancing in 2005. I knew that I wanted to take a dance class during college and two of my friends had already been bellydancing for years. I knew how to do wrist circles and loved the awesome thing that my friends could do, so I signed up for my first class and have been learning since!

How did you get your stage name?

My name is unique enough (as a first name with this spelling) and is short and easy to remember, so I kept it! I have enough nicknames to answer to already.

Why did you decide to join LXBD?

The short answers would be: fun and challenge and delight. The people are fun to be around and work with, as are the choreographies. I relish the challenge to tap back into my pre-ATS® roots and bring those skills to new heights in order to do justice to the themes and characters that we bring to life on stage. Finally, while I came to dance as a method of movement meditation, learning about and appreciating performance is really important to me - to delight the audience, whether through interest or just through having a blast watching a masterful-but-silly dance!

Plus, I’m a giant nerd who researches her own nerdiness. So. You know. Yeah.

What’s been your favorite LXBD moment?

Off the top of my head, I think embodying a Jedi the first time at Legends has been my favorite moment. I remember watching this dance from the sidelines at a stage show as I waited to go on with my class and nearly dying of delight myself! I would watch the videos of this dance over and over and over because it’s just so fun!

And then, that one night when Harleen and I WERE those Jedi … I had a weird brain moment. I was doing that for someone else. Well, the group was, but I helped!

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Whenever I have the opportunity to do this dance, I remember that feeling and so I work really hard to keep upping my Jedi game and make her better and more fully-realized each time.

What’s your favorite LXBD dance?

There are (unsurprisingly) a number of contenders here. I adore our D&D dance, from my costume planning to the group working together to make Linda the Beholder, to finally mastering swinging my sword around at speed. I love the Sailor Moon dance, which technically may not be LXBD since Emily/Usagi taught it at a workshop, but I have never enjoyed being cutesy more (Sailor Jupiter forever).

But the tribute to Melisandre of A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones still wins, as it always has. I already liked Florence + The Machine and utterly freaked out when I heard the opening vocals with the large group at Geektastic. Beyond that, I love how much Emily embodies Melisandre in this dance (you can see it in pictures), and the swirling ebb and flow of red and gold and candles makes my heart soar. It also feels amazing to practice and perform - I love dances that force me to flow and to slow down and that juxtapose fluid undulations with sharp isolations. And I love red and gold. Still my favorite.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

Hello, I am Li and did I mention I am a nerd? I’m always working on things! It’s a problem.

I’m still working on new pieces for my Paladin costume and am planning on exploring a variety of ways to make prop swords with my partner, who is into woodworking.

I’m working on a large group choreography to submit to LXBD (eek!) based on my favorite video game from my childhood.

LiBatleth

I’m also on the lookout for a good place to source real steel bat’leth ...

I already have a promised General and promising recruits for bat'leth ATS® so I just need to find a good source and set up a workshop time!

I also have plans for some solos (geeky and not), because those are important to me in my dance development. I hope you like Garth Nix and Cowboy Bebop!

Do you have any side projects?

Sure! I make jewelry that I sell in person and on Etsy. I love working with natural gemstones and wire.

An original design

by Li Marcus

In addition to LXBD, I also spend a lot of time in service to my ATS® dance life and community, learning from and performing under the direction of the wonderful Dawn Ruckert and attending workshops wherever possible from dancers like Wendy Allen, Kae Montgomery, and Anita Lalwani.

I also think I could count my personal dance development stuff as a side project, in a way? I’ve been lucky enough to be able to take workshops with the beautifully-musical Jules Downum and am excited to learn from Kami Liddle this September! I’ll also be starting my 8 Elements journey with the woman who inspired me to keep learning when I had no class to keep me going - Rachel Brice - this August!

Basically, in 2005 when I started I never ever thought that I would be able to learn and participate so much in so many things. I am so, so thankful.

Li performing ATS® with a prop basket. Photo credit: Karl Ulrich

Li performing ATS® with a prop basket. Photo credit: Karl Ulrich

Favorite fandom and why?

Oh dear. I don’t know about “fandom” as the communities surrounding the geeky thing, but I’d say that my favorite thing of which I’m personally a fan is Star Trek.

I have many fandoms, and it kills me a little bit to not name Sandman or American Gods. But Star Trek, to be honest, illustrates the kind of geek I am: I am the overthinking geek.

Star Trek, in each of its incarnations, is both a clear product of its time and also an illustration of hope for its future. Likewise, it has influenced our culture and our technology, and it embodies what I want from my science fiction: careful and piercing examination of the present and the courage to imagine and show a better future.

Which Star Trek technology do you wish we had already and why?

“Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” - A universal translator that (at least) takes into account slang and nuance where possible. Cultural references may never be translatable, but we’re already making great strides in contextual, quick translation! I follow the efforts of translation technology (in my other life in my imagination, I pursued linguistics and computer science to help this effort) and we’re getting pretty far, pretty fast!

I would also say ... you know ... food replicators to end world hunger and warp speed to explore the universe (and enable my dream of studying exolinguistics) and wonderful medical diagnostic technology to save lives. But I honestly believe that a really, really good translator would level the playing field around the world and enable cooperation towards these technologies. We would share more information and new voices can come to these fields without the language barrier acting as a functional and status hurdle to cooperation and progress. Not to mention that it would bring an immense wealth of cultural cross-communication that would enrich the world and international/interpersonal relations.

I’d still learn all the languages, though. I can be the backup.

 

Interview with a Geek: Tira Kira
Tira Kira as an Ewok at the Star Wars show

Tira Kira as an Ewok at the Star Wars show

When did you start bellydancing?

I started dancing my first year of graduate school while I was studying to be a counselor.  We always talked about self-care and so I decided to do something just for me!  So in Fall of 2012, I started taking classes in the cabaret style in Greensboro, NC.  Now I’m in Raleigh and I’m some strange concoction of styles and I plan on being a lifelong dancer.

How did you get your stage name?

My stage name is a combination of two of my favorite characters who I think sum up my dance persona.  Tira from the Soul Calibur franchise sums up my playful, impish, and a little bit twisted side.  In contrast, Kira from The Dark Crystal (my fave movie) speaks to my more peaceful and fairy-like side.

Why did you decide to audition for LXBD?

I decided to audition for LXBD as a long time fangirl of  the troupe.   I’ve always wanted to take my obsession for fandoms and turn them into dances, so it felt like a perfect fit to be a part of a tribe of other people who wanted to do the same.

What’s been your favorite LXBD moment?

My fave LXBD moment so far has been becoming “Linda” the beholder in our D&D Dance.  From making her in a garage, trying to figure out how to hold her (it’s not easy), to moving my arms JUST right to make my confuse ray believable, it was a tough and hilarious endeavor.  The end result was fantastic and it felt so worth it when we heard the delight of the audience at Geektastic 3 when Linda made her debut!

What’s your favorite LXBD dance?

It’s so hard to choose!  I think my favorite dance right now is the Game of Thrones theme where we dress as Dothraki!  It’s fun to learn and I love how the music and moves flow together.  Not to mention I adore GoT!

Are you working on anything at the moment?

I’m currently working on choreographing my very first solo!  It’s going to call more on the cute and campy side of my dance persona and is based on a well-known character from the Final Fantasy Series.  Be on the lookout for that coming soon!

Do you have any side projects?

I have too many things and not enough time!  I do costuming, painting, makeup artistry, and anything that can possibly involve glitter. You can see what I’m up to by checking out my Facebook or Instagram!

TiraKira1

Favorite fandom and why?

Ugh, this is too hard!  I’m a huge Disney, Harry Potter, and GoT lover (just to get started on my list).  But if I had to choose one, I’d go with Disney.  Disney represents all things magical and helps me keep a childlike sense of wonder.  Disney creates characters who are brave, villainous, beautiful, and diverse.  The stories are timeless and the music is iconic.  

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” -Walt Disney

Which Disney character would you want stranded on a desert island with you and why?

My initial reaction is to pick Ursula to get her to turn jumbo size so I could just ride her back to the mainland but I feel like that’s cheating soooo . I would pick Captain Jack Sparrow, savvy?  He has a pretty solid track record of getting off of deserted islands, always seems to have rum, and who doesn’t want to sit and talk with a pirate ... who also happens to be Johnny Depp?

Behind The Scenes: D&D Bellydance

Ever wondered what goes into the creation of a LXBD choreographies? Welcome to the first installment of a new blog series that gives a behind-the-scenes look at how we turn simple concepts into epic, stage-worthy performances. Let’s take a look at LXBD’s most ambitious endeavor to date: Dungeons and Dragons bellydance!

So, how do you take a game of verbal storytelling, dice, and character sheets and turn it into a dance that’s still easily-recognizable as Dungeons and Dragons? We focused on three things: Setting the scene for our adventure with a heroic song, creating a narrative that would unfold as the dance progressed, and choosing the perfect iconic monster for us to battle.

 

Music Worthy of the Finest Bard

Like many LXBD choreographies, the idea of making a D&D dance came to me while listening to a specific song. We keep a shared Spotify playlist which troupe members can contribute to and when I heard this song, inspiration struck. The lyrics aren’t complex; they paint a picture of a person or group of people yearning to be heroes. The more I listened to the song -and I must have listened to it at least 100 times- the clearer the idea became of a bard inspiring a group of adventurers to seek glory. I edited the music to make it match the narrative sequence I had in mind, trimming a few sections and lengthening others. I’m a big fan of reworking songs to better suit the choreography that I have in mind and to give our performances a little something special.

 

A Tale Told Through Dance

With the music selected and edited, it was time to work on the choreography. What I find works best for me is to start with broad strokes and then fill in the details. This was especially important for this dance, because we had to make sure that our movements and formations somehow conveyed a story. Here are my initial notes for the structure and story:

 

From this outline, we created almost the entire dance. Early on, we each chose our D&D class and then determined what type of weapon or spellcasting we would use. I was committed to making the weapon moves fairly realistic rather than doing regular bellydance while simply holding them as props. This was a challenge, but ultimately made the fighting sections seem more dramatic. Figuring out how to convey our chosen monster’s - the Beholder -  attacks and abilities also took some trial and error. As a mega D&D nerd, I wanted to make sure that we incorporated different types of eye rays and the Beholder’s anti-magic cone. While practicing the choreography, we each set to crafting our costumes and weapons. But that still wasn’t quite enough to tell the story we wanted. We needed something more to set the scene, so I created a video of projected backdrops with scenes for the tavern, traveling across the countryside, entering the Beholder’s lair,  and “magic” for the divine intervention. All of this together helped us to roll a natural 20 on our performance check!

 

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

One crucial aspect of our D&D dance I haven’t said much about is Linda. Who’s Linda? Why, that would be our giant paper mache Beholder! Much like how Beholders are born from the nightmarish dreams of other Beholders, our beloved Beholder was born from our own strange dreams. When choosing a monster that would best symbolize D&D and be exciting for an audience to see, I immediately envisioned a Beholder whose eyestalks were made of a mass of undulating arms. Other options were a dragon or a lich, neither of which stuck so clearly in my mind. Beholders are unique to D&D and I was committed to making our own version of this monstrosity come to life. It took many weekends and nights of dedicated work to create Linda, but the end result was beautifully horrific. More information about Linda’s creation will be posted in a separate blog post, coming soon!

 

Our tribute to D&D is still evolving and just like any bard’s tale, no two performances of the piece will be the same. We hope to see more of our adventurers again in the future - next time with a full show devoted to their campaign. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions about this dance or which dances you’d like to get a behind-the-scenes look at next!