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„WildCard Bellydance“ are one of the wildest and freshest tribes you will ever see on stage. And if you see them you imagine that “Neas Tribal” is not far, which is no coincidende. Both tribes exchange ideas, moves and literally everything else. In fall two of the members – Reyna & Robin - will come to us to the 3rd Black Forest Festival in Offenburg. In the following interview Seba, the artistic director, tells us how the “WildCard Bellydance” came into life and what makes it unique. After that Reyna and Robin will enlighten us, what they are going to show on stage as well as in their workshops.
You are originally Black Sheep Bellydance, you learned further at FCBD, how did you and do you combine both into “WildCard Bellydance”?

I was first introduced to Tribal Style through Kajira and BSBD, in 2001. Kajira moved away to Maui in 2004 and still wanted BSBD to continue in California. By 2005 I found myself assistant director of BSBD CA.  As the troupe began to change and grow we realized that we wanted to follow our own collective vision rather than trying to hold on to Kajira’s and in 2008 we created WildCard BellyDance. I live less than 2 hours away from where the FatChance Bellydance® studio is in San Francisco.  So it is easy for me to periodically drop in and take classes. In fact all the members of WildCard do this and two of us have achieved the General Skills Certificate. When we began working on the WildCard format we realized that we had a very unique knowledge
base to draw from, the entire BSBD format as well as traditional ATS®. We looked at each move and thought about what we liked about it or didn’t like about it, how it flowed with the dance. Then we started to choose, create and dance, the end result being our ever evolving WildCard Bellydance format.

Since you do your very own thing, how and where from do you get your ideas, inspirations, and who decides which new idea, step or move will become part of the repertoire? How is the procedure from first idea to finished and polished move anyway?

I take a lot of workshops from a wide variety of teachers, watch a lot of performances live and online and I pay attention to what the audience responds to. Every member of the troupe brings ideas of things that caught their interest. We teach classes twice a week and make sure that we have our own practice time to dance together as a troupe and to work on new ideas. When we are creating a new move everyone has a say in its devolvement. The move needs to have a clear cue that can easily be caught by the rest of the dancers. We have some moves that we have worked on for months, but still won’t pull out in a performance because the cue isn’t clear for everyone to catch it. As we dance together I have noticed that some of the moves start to slowly evolve as we realize what will work better in a performance situation. When it is obvious that something can be improved upon we don’t hesitate to make the change.

One cannot help but wonder how such a group stays together over all these years without anybody leaving or new members joining. How did you work this miracle; as this is not customary in tribal or bellydance groups.

Actually we have had 3 dancers leave over the years. Peoples lives and priorities change and we all get that. As dancers left we made a choice, as a troupe, that rather than having to train a new member we wanted to continue developing our format. In the troupe we look for three main things: commitment, incredible dance skills and that your personality meshes well with the troupe. Communication is a huge part of our longevity as a troupe. We check in with each other often to make sure we are all on the same page. When we are not, we aren’t afraid of having the awkward talks to clear the air. In WildCard there are two sets of sisters: Robin and Reyna and MJ and me. This fact and that we are all friends off the dance floor has helped keep the troupe strong.  We now have an incredible student troupe, Black Diamond Bellydance. We know that when we want to add members to WildCard we can draw from the Black Diamonds who we have trained for years.

You will be coming to Germany for the first time?
What do you expect?

Reyna: This will actually be my second time in Germany, but my first time for dance. I visited Stuttgart and Munich last year for about a week, just as a tourist with friends. I had a fantastic time, and vowed to return again, this time with Robin. We had already been planning on going back to Europe and visiting Germany in September of this year, but when we heard WildCard Bellydance had been invited to teach and perform at the Black Forest Tribal festival in October, we did not hesitate to push our trip back a week so that we could attend. I'm really looking forward to meeting and connecting with the dance community this time. I'm so fortunate to have my two passions in life, bellydancing and travelling, coming together for this. It's really a dream come true.

What can we expect from Reyna & Robin, what will you show on stage and what will we learn at your workshops?

Reyna & Robin: Well, we are sisters, so we have a great connection, on and off stage. We started taking classes with BSBD and FCBD® at the same time became troupe members at the same time, and both went through the transition of becoming WildCard Bellydance and creating the WCBD format with the other troupe members. When we dance together, it's truly telling a story of our journey.

What we're going to try to show on stage is the uniqueness of WildCard Bellydance. Not only in our format, but also in our music and costuming. We've recently collaborated with a local band, Arcane Dimension, to produce a CD that was released earlier this year. All of the tracks were co-created with the band, and really represent the up-tempo, heavy beat, world fusion style of music we like to dance to. Also this year, we began designing our own skirts. We've always been a very colorful troupe, and have started experimenting with different materials and patterns to design skirts that are really unique to us.

In our workshops, you will not only learn the basics of our format, you will also learn the combos and spins that put the "Wild" in WildCard. All of our combos and spins are ATS® friendly, meaning they are all cued out of ATS® foundational moves, but this workshop is not just for the ITS/ATS® dancer. Both workshops are open to all levels and styles of dancers. Not only will we be teaching the moves, cues, and transitions, but we will also delve into other aspects of our dance, such as spinning technique, musicality, finger cymbals, and stage presence. There's something for everybody in our workshops!

WildCard (left to right): Kristen, Martha Jane (MJ), Reyna, Robin, Seba and Jill
Reyna and Kristen while riding the unicorn "Vlad" at Tribal Fest 12
Reyna (photo © Distinct Glimpse Photography)
Robin, Reyna and Seba
Reyna and Robin
photos © Dano Blanchard
graphic/web design: Konstanze Winkler
WildCard Bellydance
Robin: This will be my first time in Germany. I’m really looking forward to meeting other dancers and making new friends. I’m especially looking forward to teaching this workshop because not only can I meet new people, but I can dance with them, too.
Interview with WildCard Bellydance

by Marcel Bieger