One of my favorite dancers at Tribal Fusion Fest was Trish Shannon. She is a captivating story teller who created a performance, not based on cool dance moves, but on specifically chosen movement based on its history, intention and how it fit with the greater story. She invited the audience to come along with her for the journey. So I was very surprised to find that this was only her second solo performance after only 6 years of study.
Trish began her belly dance study with Suhaila Salimpour where she challenged herself only a year into study to take a multi-level one week intensive. Although it was “far beyond what I was capable of doing”, she came through knowing that she “really really liked this”. She says the music is “in my bones…I start to move, I can’t stop myself.”
“I want presence, I want to feel that the dancer is connecting with me”
When she looks for a teacher, she “follow(s) the heart. She’s taken consistently with Kitiera (who now teaches in Seattle) and has taken workshops from Fat Chance Belly Dance. However, she doesn’t choose a teacher based upon dance style or technique, but whether they have ‘presence’. “I go after people who have presence because they almost always teach presence, as well as whatever their dance skills are…so for me it’s a lot less ‘ATS or Tribal’, or is it Spanish or is it Gypsy, I really go after people who have presence”.
Its important for her to create “authentic fusion”, where she knows about the different pieces of the dance. She strives to understand “what we’re drawing on, it’s not just a neat step I’m doing..(but to know) where does that come from and why is it…there”.
We talked about the Tribal Belly dance culture in America and how the community rejects arrogance, treating people rudely, thoughtlessly and without compassion. “As Kitiera says, ‘we don’t put up with drama here'”. A main reason changing teachers was to build new friendships and be part of a group, which was not available for her as a early dancer at Suhailas. She “wanted a community, I wanted dance sisters”.
Her life had been very busy the last year caring for her granddaughter, and was a struggle to dance at all. Choosing to perform at Tribal Fest was a “commitment to myself to practice, to get to the gym, to nurture my creativity, to choose music, to keep one space in my life that is deeply and personally mine”.
Trish Shannon teaches philosophy and humanities at a community college in the bay area.