Interview with Devi for fuse Magazine by Terri Allred

Interview with Devi Mamak for fuse

by Terri Allred, Business Consultant FatChanceBellyDance, Inc

Devi Mamak of Ghawazi Caravan, Australia was in the US recently to perform at Tribal Fest, visit family and friends and teach in Milwaukee. I was fortunate enough to find time during her Milwaukee workshop to have a chat. We talked about many topics and had a delightful visit. I had planned to spend 30 minutes asking her about her trip to the US and her future dance plans. Thirty minutes during lunch turned into the entire hour and then more conversation after the workshops. She is an intelligent, creative and warm woman. It was my pleasure to spend time with her. I just wish there had been more time! Since our conversation was so varied, I have decided to present it to you in a question and answer format.

 Terri: As the Business Consultant for FatChanceBellyDance®, I was involved in helping to schedule your workshop at the studio after Tribal Fest. You joined together with Deb Rubin to present “Tools to Create Unique Tribal Fusion Combos Inspired by and Rooted in ATS®.” Can you tell us about this workshop and your collaboration with Deb?

Devi: When Deb was in Europe, she found a big division between American Tribal Style® and Tribal Fusion as a genre. It was actually her idea for the partnership.

Deb approached me because she wanted to learn about the open body and lifted arms in ATS®. I had seen a similar resurgence of interest in ATS® in Australia, with tribal fusion dancers seeking to integrate the grace of ATS® into their fusion dance. The tribal fusion dancers are interested in the nuances, like “hand floreos.” These fusion dancers are trying to blend the open and lifted body into their pops and locks. Since the fusion body posture is often contained with the arms close to the sides, the posture and carriage of ATS brings a completely different look to the tribal fusion aesthetic.

The workshop that we presented for the first time in San Francisco recently began with me teaching the science of ATS including posture and presentation. Deb then suggested ways to incorporate fusion into this framework. The first workshop went well.

Terri: What did Carolena think about this bringing ATS® back into fusion?

Devi: We had a great talk with her prior to teaching the workshop. We were very clear that we were NOT saying that ATS® is basic and fusion is evolved. Anyone who would even suggest that does not understand. ATS® is my thing! I don’t see myself as a fusion dancer other than adding Flamenco to my ATS®. I guess I just want to see dancers fuse with integrity and respect for ATS®, to know their foundation.

My inspiration is always the music. Out of the music will come an idea for something new. Sometimes that new movement becomes a combination and is integrated into choreography. If we really like the movement then we often refine it so that it can be used in the lead and follow format of ATS®.

Terri: What does the future hold for you in dance? Do you have any ideas about where you want to go next?

Devi: I really like to collaborate, in particular with live musicians. I also learn something every time I work with dancers from different genres. I learn better when I am active and “doing” something. I also really like to have fun when I am creating.

I also have been starting to compose piano music. My mother has written many books on piano compositions. I would love to create music that I could dance to. We have an annual show in Australia called “Intertwine.” I bring together musicians from very different backgrounds on the stage and tell them to “work it out.” At first they kind of stare at each other, but then they create this amazing work.

Terri: I understand you are offering a certification course of sorts in Australia for ATS®. Can you tell us more about that?

Devi: I offer what I call “Drills and Individual Appraisal” to help dancers prepare for taking General Skills (GS) and Teacher Training (TT) from Carolena (Nericcio-Bohlman and Megha Gavin). It all started because dancers were approaching me to help them get ready for GS and TT. When I got my Sister Studio certification, Carolena wasn’t teaching GS and TT. I met with her 1:1 and had to show her everything I had learned and how to execute each move. It was intense but fabulous. I got immediate feedback from her.

I keep the “Drills and Individual Appraisal” course very small so that the dancers get individual attention. I bring a colleague with me so that I can take written notes as the dancers move through the course. My colleague drills the moves while I watch. I provide the dancers with a written critique after the completion of the course. So many of us forget what we were told. I want people to be able to review my comments and suggestions.

For most dancers, there are themes for them to work on, not just isolated movements. For instance, if the arms aren’t lifted in one move, they are probably not lifted throughout the ATS® vocabulary. I try to pick out these themes to help them become stronger dancers.

I am happy to provide this course anywhere. Just contact me if you would like me to provide the course in your area. I usually teach it 2-3 times a year. This year I will be in the UK and Scotland.

Terri: Carolena recently introduced a new concept into the FatChanceBellyDance® world called movement dialect. Basically, she is referring the unique movements that arise like a dialect in different geographic locations or with different groups of dancers. She has even said that most of her Volume 9 DVD (including your work) is really movement dialect. What do you think about that whole concept?

Devi: I think it is a great idea. I love that she is there to keep the format clean. Of course dancers in different parts of the world are going to create their own variations. I like the original vocabulary but obviously have created my own movement dialects and continue to do so!

Terri: I know we are running out of time because you have to get ready for the show. I have one last question, really just to satisfy my own curiosity. How do you find the ATS communities different around the world?

Devi: The first time I went to Europe, all of the ATS troupes were doing the same thing, using the same movements but each country had a really different vibe! The Russian dancers were dramatic and fiery. The UK dancers were quite similar to Australian dancers, very laid back. The dancers from Belgium were almost ethereal. It wasn’t really a stylistic difference or a variation from troupe to troupe. It was really an intangible thing, probably cultural.

Terri: It was such fun to spend time with you. Thanks so much!