Bohemian Grind with Hurdy Gurdy Player Roxanne – ALLAF 031

Learn this essential tip for any dancer who plays zills, dance confidently to the droning medieval keyed fiddle we call the hurdy gurdy, and have fun hearing the wild times of Renaissance Festival musician and dancer Roxanne Dresden Bruscha.

Woohoo! A Little Lighter is in the list of the Top 15 Dance Podcasts of 2020. Thanks for listening 🙂

Alicia :
Welcome to episode 31 of A Little Lighter. The guest that we have in this episode is Roxanne. She’s a hurdy-gurdy player, a band director of her band, Wine and Alchemy. She’s also an artist and a dancer. Roxanne has so much to teach us about how to dance better with live music. She’s our first musician guest. And so much of our belly dance history in the US has happened at Renaissance festivals. This is where Roxanne lives. She’s a Renaissance festival performer, total Bohemian woman, and you’re going to love hearing what she has to offer about the magic of the hurdy-gurdy, as well as being in the music, really listening, and really enjoying yourself and feeling beautiful in your own body.

Alicia :
I want to let you listeners know that we are recording at Pennsic right now, so you will hear trucks go by, you’ll hear people hanging out and jingling. You’ll hear all kinds of things in the background. So, we’re in the thick of it here in the medieval imagination land.

Roxanne:
That’s a good way to put it. Medieval imagination land, yeah.

Alicia :
You add so much to the party when you show up with your hurdy-gurdy.

Roxanne:
Oh, thank you.

Alicia :
You really do. It’s Like everything goes up a notch. I don’t know if you actually see people getting excited as you pull it out, I see that. Roxanne, what do you love about playing the hurdy-gurdy, and what inspired you to start playing it?

Roxanne:
Melissa Kacalanos inspired me to start playing it. I was coming out to Pennsic and my friend Mary Zisk was drumming with Melissa in the marketplace, and so I would go dance with them and she was playing the Jim Bush and a few other instruments. And I came out one year and she had this massive Hungarian hurdy-gurdy that she got from Balis Nagi. And she was just in there cranking it and playing, you know, I think she knew five songs that first year. And I looked at and I was just like, “I want to do that.” It was just such an awesome sound.

Roxanne:
And I noticed immediately that it had keys. I am not actually a musician, that is my full time career, but I’m not a trained musician. I do play piano and a couple other things. I started out as a natural piano player. Keys just kind of make sense to me. And when I started getting into music and having musical instruments, initially I tried to do strings and they just don’t make sense to me. But I can pick up keys so, I found a hurdy-gurdy. And I really enjoy playing it just because the sound is other worldly.

It’s got that almost an electronic sound.

Once I started playing hurdy-gurdy I started noticing it in modern music, particularly like in rock. Led Zeppelin, like Lorena MacKinnon was using this hurdy-gurdy, I always wondered what that sound was because it sounds almost like a synthesizer. But it’s an organic sound. And because of the way it’s set up, it can be the worst sounding instrument in the entire world.

But when it’s honed in and it’s sounding good, there’s very few things that are sweeter sounding as far as gripping.

And I know that people run hot and cold on hurdy-gurdy. I happen to be in a band with at least two people who absolutely despise it. However, they like having a full audience. And it’s one of those things that draws people from all over because it’s such a foreign and alien sounding.

Alicia :
You play several other instruments as well, correct?

Roxanne:
I play harmonium because that was the easiest transition from piano. I play piano, but I don’t do concert piano. Like I said, I’m almost entirely self-taught and it doesn’t really fit in with my band model.

Our band model’s a lot more world music, you know, more Eastern, a little more… Well, a lot more party.

You know, I play a little bit of frame drum, zills, and do some percussion. I mean you can’t be in dance without at least knowing how to drum some. I like the tupan (davul), I don’t have a whole lot of technique on any of them, but I can hold a rhythm. So you know.

The Big “Doom” Davul (Drum) Show – ALLAF 017

Alicia :
What’s the name of your band?

Roxanne:
The name of my band is Wine and Alchemy. So wine, like you drink. And alchemy, like you turn your lead into gold only you just fail. I do have a website that’s my personal website with just a little overview of the stuff that I do because I do fairy art as well and I do writing, taro reading, event planning. My personal website is roxannebruscha.com it’s B as in boy, R-U-S-C-H-A. And the band’s website is wineandalchemy.com. We’ve been doing the band thing now for 11 years and we have fans not only all over the US from all the different fairs we’ve done, and we’ve done a good majority of the Renaissance festivals and medieval fairs that are of note in the US, but we also have fans that follow us from Europe and Brazil.

Alicia :
Last night. I saw that you are a great dancer in addition to being an amazing musician. Where did you learn to dance and how has that influenced the way you play music?

Roxanne:
I started doing belly dance in 1998. I never danced before that. In fact, I am incredibly clumsy. I am naturally pigeon toed and swivel hipped, so I spent my youth tripping over my own feet. I have a natural slouch, one of my legs is shorter than the other. I have a spinal lipomatosis in my lower spine from a childhood injury.

That’s where I came from. I came from a basis of “I can’t dance”.

I was in musical theater in high school because I’ve always enjoyed singing. But they would put me in these roles where I didn’t have to dance and then they would have me sing with the chorus in the wings because they didn’t want me dancing on stage, but they wanted my voice. So I came from that background.

And I started going clubbing, and I really discovered that I just liked freeform dancing and just listening to music and dancing to it. I didn’t drink, I wasn’t into any of the clubbing pickup scene, but I really liked going to clubs with good music and getting dressed up in costumey stuff and just going out and dancing with my friends. So I was doing that for a while and then a friend of mine came up to me and was like, “Hey you want to take a belly dancing class?” And I had been just starting to get more into trying to control my body. So I was taking Tai Chi and I was doing some other things because I was very acutely aware that I did not have control over my body. Like the way it moved. And I was trying to get more into that because my posture was horrible, my clumsiness was overpowering.

I went to this class and I found that this was a good dance form for me because I didn’t have to pick up my legs really far and the positions were in pigeon toed position. And I was like, “Oh this is so much easier than ballet.” Because I’m a very grounded person.

And I also found that I really enjoyed the music and I had never heard non-Western music before. Because when I was growing up we didn’t have the interwebs. You couldn’t just go find different forms of music. You had what was ever on the radio and whatever your parents happened to have in their LP collection.

So I started going and the teacher, her name is Aida Al Adawi, that’s her stage name, I think her mundane name is Andrea Hughes. She was a great teacher. She was teaching that class, and she had a dance troupe that was out at the Renaissance festival that was all of her students. You know, I got into it and I did the festival the first year with them.

It was blowing my mind. I was performing dance on stage.

I just started getting really into it and decided to try college. So I started going to three classes a week for the dance and just fitting it into my college schedule.

Alicia :
Three classes a week?

Roxanne:
Yes.

Alicia :
Wow.

Roxanne:
One of them was five hours long because I would go and do the beginners class. I did regular classes, then I would start helping with the beginners class and then I started helping teach the choreographies in the intermediate class because I found that my memory is really good for details and sequences. It’s why I’m able to sing in so many languages. Because I don’t speak any of the languages I sing in everything else I’m doing just the sounds. So I could memorize choreographies very quickly. And so I started helping with the choreography class as well. And then with the advanced choreography class. So I would have five hours of rehearsal on Sundays and then I would go do another two to three hour class with the teacher on Tuesdays and Thursdays and-

Alicia :
Jumped right in, holy shit.

Roxanne:
Yeah. You know it was a very traditional troupe. She came out of Jamila Salimpour’s troop in California. She was one of the original members of Bal Anat. She had some ties there, so she was running it like that troupe. It was straight up and down. Like this dance is from Morocco and this dance is from the Sudan and this dance is from upper Egypt. And I feel like that was a really beneficial way to start Middle Eastern dance because it really compartmentalize which moves were coming from where and what kinds of music came from where.

Roxanne:
The music in that troupe wasn’t the best music in the world. It was like the teacher was just playing mizmar over a bunch of drums and didn’t practice very often. So it’s like a squeaky honky thing going on there, but the actual rhythms and stuff – I just feel it was a super beneficial way to learn. And you know, we were making costumes and learning about the jewelry and the culture. But I didn’t start improvising in performance until I started coming to Pennsic.

Alicia :
When did you start coming to Pennsic?

Roxanne:
2002. And that was when I got introduced to the fact that live music could be good.

Can you give us a little primer on the hurdy gurdy from a dancer’s perspective?

Roxanne:
Yeah, it’s a medieval keyed fiddle. Okay? So it is a violin. It sounds a little bit like a bagpipe. And I get people all the time asking me if it works like a bagpipe, whether it’s a wind instrument, which it is not. It’s all bowed. You’re turning a crank, the crank is turning the wheel, the wheel is bowing the strings and it’s a constant bow. It’s like drone, drone, drone, you don’t turn it off. It’s droning all the time. And the keys work in such a way that you can do them staccato, but you can really slide them and get some really weird noises out of them.

Roxanne:
As far as dancing to hurdy-gurdy, I enjoy it because it’s get some really kind of weird slide things going on. And the way that the drones play into everything.

It’s like one of those things where you can trance out to it.

And the way that I do dance, particularly when I’m not performing, when I’m just out dancing, it gets really close to ecstatic dance. You know, that is my jam. I want to dance to music that I have not heard. I want to dance to as many freaking instruments as possible, doing as weird music as they can come up with and have to really get immersed in the music in order to dance with it. And I feel like a hurdy-gurdy is easy to do that with. You know, it’s just got that kind of mesmerize – If it’s not out of tune – mesmerizing sound to it.

Alicia :
Tell us something that you learned as a musician at Pennsic.

Roxanne:
Pennsic is where I learned how to just do jam improvisation. Pennsic where I finally got out my instrument was like, “I’m just going to try to play music.” With somebody else, you have to really start trying to listen to them and to feed off of them. And this is the one place where I feel like I can do it without toe stepping or whatever. It’s really hard for me to hear the other musicians over the hurdy-gurdy because it’s like having a hive of bees on your lap the entire time. So I can have a violinist next to me kind of leaning in and I can kind of almost hear what he’s doing on violin if I didn’t have this gigantic droning hive of bees on my lap. So it puts me in a position of having to lead the jam because I simply cannot hear everybody else, they have to follow me.

I feel like my skills are improving when I come here because it is a safe space to try that experimental art stuff. Where it’s like if I screw it up, oh well you know, whatever, everybody’s drinking anyway. Yeah, so I feel like that’s really where I’ve improved being at Pennsic. First it was as a dancer, dancing to live music and exploring these different kinds of music. And then it was like, okay, now I’m Pennsic as a musician. And I’m finally able to play over things and improvise live music.

And I really had a breakthrough moment with that. It was three years ago. It was the year I got married here.

We were at the Mardi Gras party, which is like this big kegger in the slogging mud pit with a hundred drummers.

And we were down there, and it finally started to thin out like around four o’clock in the morning. I was finally like, “I’m going to go get the hurdy-gurdy out.” So I got my amplifier out and I cranked that sucker up to 11. The party was starting to die down, there were maybe a dozen drummers left or so, but they were just kind of just petering on stuff. And I started cranking that thing over everything and it just pulled the party together in a way that I was not exactly anticipating.

And all of a sudden I was playing music, everybody’s dancing these crazy… You know, they had the Mardi Gras masks on and all the beads. And then all these people from the camp next door that we’re doing some more adult activities came dancing out in all these states of undress.

And it just turned into this writhing of puppeted flesh around this fire with all these masks and stuff. I looked up at one point and I said, “This looks like a Hieronymus Bosch painting.” Which is where the idea for our camp came from.

It was the first Pennsic where I was really trying to be a musician, that was contributing… Because I know as a dancer… And I don’t want to get down on the drummers, I love the drummers. The drummers here are awesome. There’s a lot of freaking good drummers here. Even the people that are trying, they’re taking lessons, doing the thing, they’re learning the thing, you know? So I love the drummers.

But as a dancer I was always craving melody.

Because the drums are drums, and drums are great. But after a while I just needed a little bit of something else. Because yeah, belly dance is about isolation. It’s about making a picture of the music with your body. And if there’s just drums, there’s only so much boom, boom, boom I can do with my hips. Getting the melody music out there to grab onto the melody. It is something I always wanted. I’d be like nagging the melody players out here, “Come on, come on, do it again. Get up there and play some more.” Well, I’m a jackass. I should go play the hurdy-gurdy. I’ve got to give back to the process here, man. Hopefully I don’t suck too bad.

So the Pennsic’s helped with that. It’s gotten me into that more. It’s also improved a lot of my composition too. Because I’ve gotten a lot more free with the way that I compose music from doing that stuff out here. When we came out here with everybody, and then we went and did the Camino de Santiago and did that album…

We do have music on our website and we do have a YouTube channel and we do have our Patreon now, which will have free offerings for people that want to check out what we’re doing as far as new music coming out, we’ll have sample tracks out there. All of the stuff that’s available for download is on our website.

DANCEABLE SONG

Alicia :
Great. Okay, so in every episode I have a danceable song that I feature that I want to share with our listeners. I don’t know if you want to share one of the Wine and Alchemy songs that’s available on your website?

Roxanne:
There’s so many that are danceable Wine and Alchemy songs. The reason I have a band is because I wanted live music all the time. We were talking about that last night. It’s like I love live music. I mean at first I started running a dance troupe that was a circus performance dance troupe with a live music ensemble, it was like a 15 person group. It was insane, we had a stilt dancer and everything was on fire at the end. We did sword combat dancing. It was high comedy stuff, you know, and then it was just, “Okay, well this is fun, but not ultimately sustainable.” Because a 15 person show is a 15 person show. And I ended up getting with the band and forming because I wanted to dance to live music all the time and still be able to make a living at it. So all of the songs we do with the exception of probably the Celtic ones are belly danceable.

Alicia :
Do you have a favorite?

Roxanne:
Out of the new album? I’d say the most danceable one on the album is Trifling Bitches.

Alicia :
I will link to Trifling Bitches, to the place where you can download it on the Wine and Alchemy site.

https://wineandalchemy.com/track/1521536/trifling-bitches

Roxanne:
It’s a waltz. It’s a gurdy waltz that I wrote while we were on the Camino de Santiago Portuguese. The day after my 41st birthday when we climbed a mountain completely shit hammered on whiskey and beer and then raced a bunch of other pilgrims down the opposite side after slamming boiler makers to get the last three or four beds at the only Pilgrim hostel on the other side. I wrote two songs that day. The first one was called Whiskey Mountain and I wrote it climbing the mountain with an accordion.

So I was playing an accordion as we were climbing up the mountain.

And then when we came down the other side and got those beds at that Pilgrim hostel, I wrote Trifling Bitches for all of the Germans and Belgians at the bar on the far side of the mountain that told us that we couldn’t climb a mountain drunk on whiskey and we showed them. I’m like, “Oh yeah?” The only lyric in whiskey mountain is “Ich habe das, ich bin ein Profi” which literally translates as, “I got this, I’m a professional.”

I’m a medieval scholar. My degrees are in literature, philosophy, and theater, and I specialized in early studies in folkloric iconography, so-

Alicia :
We’re looking at some crazy painting tapestry – .

Roxanne:
Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Alicia :
When I got here, they were playing the music that is written on the butt of one of the people that’s in the hell portion of the painting. They actually had learned the song-

Roxanne:
The butt song.

Alicia :
… just to give an idea.

Roxanne:
Yeah, you can go and Google it. It’s called the Bosch Butt Song. You can find it on YouTube.

Alicia :
Really?

Roxanne:
Yeah, yeah, really. I mean, shit, what can’t you find on YouTube nowadays, right? But the Camino de Santiago, there is a tradition of doing pilgrimage in Europe. When you’re looking at the Camino de Santiago, it means the way to Santiago and those trails go to Santiago in Northwestern Spain in Galicia. That trail, that pilgrimage actually predates the Catholic church. It is an ancient pilgrimage and it usually would go to Finisterre, the end of the world. Which is past Santiago and some people still take it to Finisterre and out to the point. That is the Western most point in Europe. So when you get out to that point, all you see is ocean, and it’s called Finisterre. The most popular way to go is called the Francés, and it starts in France.

Most people are out there doing it for a variety of different reasons. When we were on the trail, I talked to a lot of pilgrims that were sharing rooms with us or you know, at the cafes with us about why they were doing the pilgrimage and nobody said because of religious reasons. We went the least popular way. We went the Portuguese way, which means we started in Lisbon in Southern Portugal and we walked across the country of Portugal into Spain. And we did it for a month. And we had it all planned out, and it took us about a day to figure out why this was the least popular trail. And it is because, well, it’s not popular so they haven’t made the paths any good so most of it’s on tarmac. It was really, really bad. But we went that way, we did hit a lot of really good historical sites going that way though, and we wrote a lot of good music.

And we had these gigantic packs with these huge instruments and all of this recording equipment. Two of us have dreadlocks down to our asses.

And we would roll up like this and they’re going, “Well you don’t look like pilgrims.” It’s like, “Oh please bitch.”

Alicia :
And that’s the trifling bitches?

Roxanne:
Trifling bitches.

LIGHTEN MY BODY FOOD

Alicia :
So I always highlight a vegan whole food ingredient on this show-

Roxanne:
Oh, vegan whole food? See, you’re cutting cheese right out of there, which is my favorite thing to cook with. Well, blue cheese isn’t vegan, dammit.

Alicia :
It could be a fruit, a vegetable, a nut, a bean.

Roxanne:
Yeah, I know. I’m like stretching. Everything I make has cheese in it. No, no, no. Probably… Not eggs. Eggs aren’t vegan.

Alicia :
You’re cracking me up. Other people in my camp, they’re like, “This pasta salad’s vegan.” I’m like, “No, it has mayo in it, which has eggs.” And they’re like, “What? You don’t eat eggs?”

Roxanne:
Vegan, vegan, vegan. Like I really like those field roasters meat free vegan sausage. Those things are absolutely delicious. That’s not exactly-

Alicia :
That’s not whole food, but those are really good.

Roxanne:
They’re not a whole food. Okay, wait, wait, wait. A whole food. God, you’re just really… Oh God, this is hard. What do I cook that doesn’t have butter? Jesus.

Alicia :
Maria Hamer chose young coconut…

Maria Hamer on Spinning, Silk and Sisters – ALLAF 022

Roxanne:
Actually, there’s this spice and that’s not whole foods.

Alicia :
Oh, spice is good.

Roxanne:
It’s a spice mix, it’s Turkish. My mother’s cousin mixed it up for us and gave us and it is one of the most delicious freaking things I’ve ever-

Alicia :
Do you know some that are in it?

Roxanne:
It almost tastes like curry, but not really and it doesn’t have any tumeric in it. It’s red and it’s got sumac in it, and God it is just the most delicious thing I’ve ever put on anything. I just started putting it on everything. Roasted vegetables, it’s like God-

Alicia :
And the name of the Turkish spice is?

Roxanne:
Baharat.

Alicia :
Or the spice mix. It looks like it’s got some cumin in it, black pepper, coriander, paprika, mint, cardamom. Wow, they really went for it. Cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Roxanne:
It’s delicious. It’s delicious on everything.

Alicia :
Wow. The main ingredient looks like it’s cumin.

DAMN SEXY DANCE MOVE

Roxanne:
Damn sexy dance move. I do not equate my dancing with sexualization. I get that some of the moves, they’re sensual, absolutely, and some of them probably come off as sexual. But when I’m doing improvisation, I feel more like it’s like the masks of the goddess thing. And I’m not doing it for the gratification of anybody except for myself in that moment. I could tell you though, on my husband, his damn sexy belly dance move is where he pops each peck and then rolls his stomach down.

COSTUME TIP

Alicia :
Do you have any costume tips for us?

Costume to make yourself feel beautiful.

Do you not bend to the will of doing a uniform costume that does not make you feel like you look good. One of my pet peeves is watching a troupe of dancers, you know, beginner belly dancers or whatever, where the director insists that they all have to wear a cut down and it all has to be the same and you get all these different body types up there. And anybody’s body type is beautiful, but you’ve got a costume for your body type so you feel like you look beautiful.

If you’re wearing something for somebody that is a quarter your size and then standing next to them, that’s not something that is calculated to make one, you feel good or two, the audience, look at your dancing instead of your body shape.

And I guess this is more like a thing to troupe directors. There are ways to make it look like all your dancers are from the same tribe without having them be completely uniform. Because not everybody is comfortable or feels beautiful in the same types of costumes.

When I did my dance troupe we just had a few different styles and different colors we were doing. The people who wanted to have a dress and a belly drape, that’s what they wore. And the people that didn’t, that’s what they wore, you know? And if they liked pants better than they wore pants, there were just a whole bunch of different permutations of what we were doing.

We still looked like a cohesive group.

The pictures were fabulous, but not everybody was in the same cookie cutter, girl scout pony bead… Okay, there’s the other tip. Don’t use pony beads in your costuming.

Alicia :
What are pony beads?

Roxanne:
Oh Jesus. They’re the craft beads that you get at Michaels for kids to make key chains out of.

Alicia :
The big plastic ones?

Roxanne:
Yeah, those.

Alicia :
People use those in their costumes?

Roxanne:
Yes.

Alicia :
Sorry if I’m offending anyone.

So I kind of feel like you just did a feel good look goddess tip too, right there. Costume so you feel beautiful.

Roxanne:

That’s the important thing. If you don’t feel you look good, it affects your dancing. It affects the way you carry yourself, it affects your stage presence.

If you’re doing a performance, even if you’re just going out to party, you should feel like you look good and you should feel comfortable in your costume. If you don’t feel comfortable showing your cleavage, then don’t. There are plenty of awesome costumes out there where you don’t have to be half naked.

DANCEABLE RITUAL

Roxanne:
Here’s the thing – the way that I live, because I am an artist as a living, that’s what I do, I don’t have another job. I’m primarily doing music and dance. Everything is a dancing context. I shake my butt and do shimmy work and stuff while I’m cleaning the house, but I live in a 30 foot travel trailer with my husband and my snakes and my dog and usually one of our band members. So there’s not a whole lot of room in our living situation for me to do more than just do some shimmy work while I’m like bopping around, cleaning the space up. Usually when I want to go dance, it’s in front of our Vardo stage because that’s where I have space and a floor and I can put my arms above my head without hitting the ceiling.

I’ve been feeling it the last couple of years because I’ve been getting into some more art on the side. I do fairy art and I write. So I’ve been doing some of those things. And when I get caught up in it, because I have to make stock and I don’t dance for a couple of weeks, feel it in every bone of my body. If you’re dancing and that’s your thing, try to do it every day for at least a little while. Because it does things to your body that keep it in good working condition that you do not realize until you stopped doing it. And I can tell you right now, if I have not been doing belly dance as hard and frequently as I have, I’d probably have severe arthritis right now.

Roxanne:
I’ve got a lot of injuries, none of them from dancing. All of them from clumsiness. I’m predisposed to things like arthritis and osteoporosis and a few other things that are just the conditions to my family. And I find that when I’m dancing I don’t have any problem, but I got to do it at least a little bit every day. And I think it’s a good habit for everybody to be in, I mean it’s such a beneficial exercise aside from anything else.

It keeps your joints lubricated, keeps your body supple, it keeps your muscles strong. It’s an absolute, I think everybody should dance. Everybody.

Alicia :
I don’t know how people don’t dance, honestly. Do you have suggestions on how dancers can dance well with a hurdy-gurdy playing or how dancers can work better with musicians in general?

Roxanne:
Listen to the music. That is the short answer to that. What I have found watching dancers in general, and I’ve seen a lot of dancers, seen a lot of dance troupes. Every dance effort is worthwhile. Every choreography is more tools that you put in your tool belt to take out later, combinations you learn, things that you get in your muscle memory. It’s all beneficial. In order to dance better with musicians, you’re talking choreography, you’ve got to choreograph to the music. You can’t just like, “I’m going to put these combinations together and we’re going to put it to some 4/4 song and it doesn’t matter what the song is.

No, you have to make a picture of the particular song, not just to the beat. Otherwise, why are you bothering with melody? You’ve got to really listen to the music, listen to all music, listen to as much music as you can. Listen to things that you think you might want to dance to.

I love dancing to Balkan music, particularly odd rhythms, and the more complicated the better.

But when you learn how to listen to the music, you start to intuit the patterns of how music works in any particular genre so that you don’t have to listen to a particular song to know how music from that genre is going to work. So you don’t have to know what’s going to happen. You just fall into it. So just listen to music, listen to more music.

Roxanne:
And when you go out into dance, try to follow the instruments, not just do combinations.

And if you have zills, my number one piece of advice is…don’t. Yeah, don’t. Unless you know how to play them as a percussion instrument. Because they are an instrument and it requires a musician working with the other musicians to play that instrument correctly.

Because it is like putting a freaking cow bell over the top of a song. Zills cut through the top of the soundscape and you will hear them over anything, no matter how quietly you’re playing because they’re a really high pitch sound.

So having a dozen dancers show up at a concert and all of them start zilling in triplets, it sounds like a bunch of freaking cicadas on steroids. It’s not beneficial to the musical production that’s going on.

Roxanne:
So be aware of the music, be aware of the music, try dancing to it. Try dancing to different music. Put on something at home that you wouldn’t normally dance to and see if you can follow it. Follow the beat with one part of your body. Follow the melody line with another part.

Actually feel the music inside you.

What you’re trying to do is connect with the music and make a picture of it, not just get up there and move. Getting up there and moving, that’s absolutely step one. Everybody starts out with combinations. Everybody gets up there not knowing what to do next because dance is hard to just get up there and do. Especially #1, when they come from Western culture, you know, one, we’re not supposed to move our asses like that, that’s improper.#2, don’t look at my boobs. What? Are you kidding? I’m putting fishing tackle on this. Please look at them. You know? It’s like that’s why they’re full of shiny stuff. So we’re moving in ways that we’ve been taught is inappropriate or hypersexualized, which it is not. It’s just sensuous and uses our body the way it’s supposed to be used, you know?

Roxanne:
Once you get to the point where do you have enough moves that you can just naturally do them without thinking about them too hard, just try to go with the music. Just got to listen more. Listen more, perform less. Because you want to get that synergistic connection with the musicians or with the music. It’s harder to do with canned music. You can do it with canned music, but I suggest everybody tried going out and dancing to live music. Because you don’t know what the band is going to do. We’ve done concerts where we’ve invited dance troupes to come in and perform with us. And I’ll give them the music and I’ll be like, “This is how the song goes and this big section in the middle, that’s a solo section, so that’s not going to sound like that. I suggest you have people come up and solo during that section.”

Roxanne:
And almost across the board, they always ignore me. They get really confused when the solos come up because it didn’t sound like the recording. Because it’s a solo improvisation, not part of the song. And it’s a matter of listening. I think if I’m more dancers played instruments or learned music on that kind of level or even just took an interest in the music on that level, that would improve how they improv. And how they interact with the musicians and how they create the very unique thing that is this living art form. Where you have this connection between the dancer, the music or musicians and the audience. Where you’re all participating energetically at once. And you’ve really got to participate energetically in order to pull your audience in.

Alicia :
I can’t thank you enough for being a fabulous guest on A Little Lighter, thank you so much for everything that you do for the arts.

Roxanne:
Well, thank you.

Alicia :
For music, for Pennsic, for us when we’re together here once a year. And I hope people go and find you online and get to be part of your projects and follow what you’re doing in Portugal and all kinds of amazing things. So thank you so much.

Roxanne:
Thank you.

A little outtake 🙂

Roxanne:

I will not apologize for art. I literally do not believe in cultural appropriation. I believe in assholes.

But when you’re looking at something and you’re like, I love that art form. Or I love that way of dressing and I know about it and I want to do it too. You shouldn’t be held back from doing that just because you didn’t grow up there. Most of the people from those cultures really appreciate the fact that other people are appreciating their thing. What, I’m supposed to wear jeans and a T-shirt and have my hair-

Alicia :
And you should be blow drying your hair with some product?