“My Love is Choreography”

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Mandala at LA MECDA 2012

Karin and I had a long and lovely talk at Tribal Fest.  She’s directed Mandala Dance Works and taught dance at the collegiate level for 30 years.   Mandala, based in Los Angeles, was primarily a Modern Dance company.  But after taking a brief hiatus to learn Bellydance, she then encompassed Belly Dance Fusion, incorporating jazz, hip hop, African, and Tribal Style influences into her choreographies.

We discussed how unique the Tribal Fusion Bellydance community is, where creativity, encouragement and friendship is fostered.  Karin reasoned that in other dance circles like Modern and Ballet, there is much more rivalry, weight issues, and lack of generosity from its competition for limited jobs.  In the Tribal Fusion bellydance community, what she loves (and drives her crazy) is seeing beginning dancers and professional dancers on the same stage.  Although she spent years with dancers of high professionalism and caliber “weighting in” and discriminating,  she loves seeing different age, shape, color and gender supporting each other.  “It’s what we need as a society.  We dance for each other; it would be nice to see (mutual support) on a larger scope.”

“My love is choreography and creating art”

Karin talked about the value of removing herself (as a dancer) from the choreographies she creates.  Historically, she would rarely dance a prominent role, if at all, in her own choreography.  She would usually be in back, or if someone got injured she would step in.  She never felt the need to put herself center stage.  “I need a certain distance from it.  Sometimes what you see in your head, you need the distance to see how it looks on stage….It’s about the choreography, about making the art.”

I asked Karin about her artistic license and how much she considers the audience when creating  choreographies.  When in her 20s and 30s, she did not consider her audience.  “It was about me….I’m going to do what I’m going to do”.  Currently in her 50s, she’s “mellowed…I have a broader understanding, a deeper understanding.”  Now she creates a broad range of material to have sources to draw from.  From this she can meet the requirements depending on the audience and the venue, without compromising her art.

“To me, art is not just one thing: it’s beautiful, it’s ugly, it’s violent, it’s passionate.  It is all of life, it is all things spiritual and political and everything we can bring to the table.”



Her young attractive dancers coupled with fierce stage presence can create a very sensual piece.   When asked about dance and sexuality, Karin replied that what is sexual, sensual or erotic is generally what the audience determines.  “The female body is beautiful and I just let that be.”  Many of her modern dance pieces had less clothes, if at all, compared to her Tribal Fusion pieces.

 “I’m not going out of my way to be overtly sensual or sexual or offend people in any way, but if I have a vision in my head of what I want something to be, then I’m going to create that.”



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