“I am fusion.”

These words have stayed with me, ever since I asked Amy Sigil her thoughts on fusion in bellydance, many years ago. Fusion is just what happens inside you. It’s a blend of my entire dance history, through my intuitive responses to music. Depending on the song, different aesthetics naturally emerge.

The ethics of fusing dance styles always goes hand in hand with discussions of cultural appropriation, an important consideration. This is part of why I always train in classical styles as well as emergent ones, and my fusion keeps getting closer to raqs sharqi.

The Progressive Raqs Project

“ProgRaqs” is the term for my emerging body of work, mainly improvisation and storytelling toolsets. ProgRaqs works for soloists or groups. The Progressive Raqs Project consists of me and a rotating cast of fusion dance collaborators.

Much of the music we work with is Progressive Rock, and we strive to make progress in our art and social impact. “Raqs” is the Arabic word for dance, see more in Sources.

Group improvisation tools

Unlike other group improv formats, there’s no need to know the same movement combinations for ProgRaqs, although we sometimes design riffs in unison for particular songs. The general idea is: the strategies which work for solo improv also work for groups.

This practice video is totally improvised, loosely using the concept of “reflection.” You can learn this song and the toolset behind it as a standalone workshop - email me for an event quote.

Legacy of the Bay Area

The term “fusion” in the San Francisco scene often calls to mind the movement vocabularies of certain teachers and groups. Here you can see some aesthetic influence from prominent performers such as Ashley Lopez, Zoe Jakes, and Crystal Silmi. This style fits the song, “Crush” by Beats Antique.

However, fusion is not set in stone - in fact, that’s antithetical to the concept. I regard fusion as very individual and fluid.

Blast from the past

This is me (back, left) in Crystal Silmi’s troupe Raks Arabi, circa 2007. She’s a former member of Suhaila Dance Company, which strongly informs her technique and teaching, yet it’s also brimming with Crystal’s funky and fresh personality!

Her attitude towards fusion is part of what drew me to Crystal’s orbit. Make it political, make it your own. Know the rules before you break them. Always be your sassy self.

Onward and upward

I’m a lifelong learner, and in the past few years I’ve made a conscious effort to reach out beyond my usual sphere, both geographically and culturally.

The East Coast fusion scene was never part of my purview, but zoom has enabled me to find so much joy and growth in Danielle Hutton’s classes! This is a screenshot from her choreography to “Way Down We Go.”

My learning since leaving Raks Arabi has been “potpourri,” small amounts from many sources, so settling in for a longer haul is refreshing. It’s good to hold on to the teachers who want you to grow in self-awareness and personal artistry.

A still frame from "Way Down We Go" shows Juniper with one hand on her heart, the other sweeping overhead, against a backdrop of ferns

Fusion friends

New Zealand has some wonderfully creative fusion dancers! Here’s just a few.

Left to right: Rosina June, Danielle Lottridge, Alexandra, Pip E-Lysaah, Gillian Green

(bonus cameo, Candice Frankland - a top teacher of many classical and folk styles)

Rosina June, Juniper, and Dani Lottridge pose together backstage at the 2022 MEDANZ festival show
Alexandra and Juniper in their first duet, undulate their arms
Pip E-Lysaah, Gillian Green, Juniper, and Candice Franklin huddle together for a photo op at

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