Ciana Ariel on Art, Athleticism, and the Future of Belly Dance – 047
Flashy Floridian Belly Dancer Ciana talks about the difference between dance cardio classes and straight up belly dance classes, the importance of foundational strength for preventing injury and aiding expression, and how much fun it is to wear big drag lashes when you dance.
Art and Athleticism
Ciana Ariel Boetius (“Bo-EE-tus”) started dancing around 2009 in Southern Florida. After a series of back injuries, she has added functional dance conditioning including barre, pilates, and functional flexibility to her class offerings.
There needs to be foundational, functional strength in your body for you dance to grow.
A fitness background helps with body awareness. But if you are just doing cardio and strength training, you need to balance yourself with flexibility and posture and fluidity.
I need the pilates
I need the endurance to stay in releve a long time. I want strong lines.
We want to get to the dancing part, but if we invest time into conditioning we will be able to do so much more with our dance. We want to be able to express ourselves, reach goals, and keep improving.
That doesn’t mean thin. It means conditioning your body in a way that gives you strong internal core muscles
Why am I going to commit this time to training and fitness? Why am I going to do this not-fun workout?
Because I want to be able to dance like this.
Because I don’t want back aches
The dance moves are just the moves. The foundation and body awareness allows you to pick up the stylization.
Having strength prevents injury
A lot of people start belly dancing just because it’s fun. But it can be physically demanding, and you want to be able to hang.
How do you keep the energy high in your studio?
It’s hard. It’s a ball and chain. It has to be a labor of love. Know what is important to you and how you want to impact people.
It was easier to fill studios back in 2010. The last few years with the technology and internet boom, the business has shifted. It is very saturated. Shift with the times. Everything is moving online. It doesn’t make sense to have a big overhead. I wanted to focus more on entertainment. We closed in 2019. Now with the pandemic, everything really is online.
I really like having less overhead but still being able to connect with students.
What is the future of belly dancing in restaurants and at private parties?
Ever since Covid, people don’t really want you dancing around sweating in their food. We will not be dancing between tables like we were. We all have the desire to create art, and we don’t necessarily feel fulfilled with doing it as a job. You are doing what sells. You are making a living that way. It is not your fun hobbyist side.
I think the pandemic is a big opportunity for the us in entertainment industry to reset some rules. To showcase the quality of our shows.
Social distancing shows lose that element of audience participation like we have done it in the past. In the past dancers were just there to have fun and get people up to dance. Now people can’t even request an Hora Loca crazy hour.
We have to work on our craft and give a different offering.
We can’t just go in and improv. We are going to get even more creative.
We’re going to have to demand rates that are fair. And spacing boundaries and social distancing. To demand a stage or a 10′ x 10′ dance floor where people can’t just come up and dance with the belly dancer.
Restaurants are opening, and we’re wearing masks, blinging them out so we can still actually breathe under there.
Have a plan of action to stay in character and stay safe when people come into your dance space.
Why am I doing this super akward show when the audience is on their phone and treating you like a lamp? This is an opportunity to train.
This is not a hobby. It’s not something that I will ever give up.
How has Zumba changed the belly dance industry?
Dance cardio is not a dance class. They both have value, but there are different. People might expect repetitive movements 4 and 8 counts when they come to a dance class, but that’s dance cardio. That is not a dance class.
Learning to spot and do a turn and conditioning at the barre is a dance class. If you want to have fun and blow off some steam, that’s dance cardio. If you want to improve as a dancer and say something deeper, slow down and learn it. Take a dance class.
Some people just want to do the fun fast pace stuff, but slowing down and getting in touch with your body will help you with the following the cardio dance class too.
Some people just take dance cardio, and then they burn out or get bored or get injured and blame the class. But you need balance. Not just dance cardio. Have a foundation and improve.
If you don’t want to improve, don’t call yourself a professional.
3 Danceable Rituals
1. Vibrate and shimmy in public any time
Anywhere. Shaking my tail feather in public
2. Practice isolations in bed
3. Run through choreography in your head…in bed
If I ran out of time to practice, I’ll just do it in my head as I’m falling asleep.
Don’t feel guilty that you didn’t practice dancing and then do nothing. Just do something.
Sometimes we eat super healthy and train and do workshops, and sometimes we don’t. If it’s a life style, forgive yourself and get back to it. Identify when you are just being indulgent.
We can’t feel guilty for not having a daily practice. Make it work for you.
Danceable Song: Mahragan Bent El Geran
The hip hop of Cairo. This is about the girl next door on her balcony. It’s a softer side of the gangster rap of belly dance. It’s repetitive enough for American audiences to enjoy, and it’s groovy. I like the hip hop and the beat. This song is lighthearted and poppy.
We love the classics, and I always include those. But Mahragan is a big wave now.
When Mahraganat (“festival music” or electro sha’abi) first started, older people probably didn’t want to hear it. It probably bad words in it. Now it’s more mainstream. There are also more hardcore songs by Mohamed Ramadan, for example.
Bum Bum was featured in the interview with Cera Byer
Dancing to the Song “Strange Fruit”
Palm Beach is where Trump lives. It is the south. Recently with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, it’s raw right now.
There are now clients that I won’t work with any more because we are so fundamentally different. It has been soul crushing for me to see. Colorism. Being a woman of color who also is a woman who is “a more acceptable” skin tone.
I usually express happy emotions. More cabaret and shiny entertainment. I value the fun entertainment side of it. But it feels raw. It heightened and changed something in me. A choking burning shaking sensation. With the foundation I have built, I now want to say something else.
Dance Move: Upper Body Inflections and Release
A well-placed rib cage lock down, and shoulder rolls and shoulder shimmies. One foot in relevé, and one foot flat, at an angle, shoulder shimmy. You see a lot of that in golden era belly dancers too. With Suhaila it’s the hair whip, the upper body release, the breathe.
Vegan Whole Food to Celebrate: Mangoes
Coconut milk yogurt with chia seeds
Green mango salad
And avocados of course!
Costume Tip: Big lashes, big earrings and big hair
Enormous drag lashes. No costume is complete without big lashes.
I don’t want to look like myself when I am performing. I want to look like something shocking and dramatic.
And Rhinestone everything. And big heels!
Put on big eyelashes and it will transform your dance. Weave glue is an entertainer trick, because your lashes will stay on when it’s humid and you are dancing all night.
Feel Good Habit: Just say no without an explanation
I am sick of biting my tongue with certain clients. I don’t have to take work that doesn’t feed my soul and actually drains me. I don’t need to burn bridges, but I also don’t have to explain myself when I say no.
I don’t have to be busy. I am carving out space to gain clarity for my goals. I am creating space to attract the clients I want and the people I want to dance with.
There is so much noise. How can I be the clear beacon of what I want to say?
Being Part of the Salimpour School
Alicia: I see that you have studied at the Salimpour School of Dance and you are part of that wonderful community. Suhaila and Isabella Salimpour have been on this podcast, as well as Salimpour School instructors Abby Keyes and Sabriye Tekbilek. What teachers and dancers have inspired and guided you to become the fantastic dancer you are now?
Yvonne of South Florida
Something exciting: Developing an online presence
Staying home has motivated me to do what I always wanted to do. To revise my offerings to fit this new life. Covid put a fire under me.