Interview by: Rebeca Piñeiro
How would you define your style of dance?
That has always been a hard question to answer…and one I hope I can never truly define. My dance style is a bit eclectic which is why I chose ‘avant-garde’ the French term defined as: “Advance Guard”, ‘used in English as a noun or adjective to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics.’
This leaves me with plenty of room to be creative. Along with this I use the word ‘theatre’ in my style description because it’s something I discovered in my dance around 2005 that came naturally to me; I am a very expressive person and words have limitation for me where movement does not.
Tell us about your dance story, how the art began in your life.
I have been a dancer my whole life; I mean this in an unconventional way. I would spend hours dancing in my room alone when I was a kid; dancing has always been a part of my life along with music; it’s always been a passion for me since I can remember. The only ‘official’ training I had in my youth were 3 years in figure skating (9 – 12 years old). There was a tiny bit of ballet included with that because I was also on a figure skating team and we all had to do leaps etc. but nothing formal.
What are yours greatest inspirations to dance?
The greatest inspiration to dance is music which I discovered in the last 10 years is probably my greatest of all artistc passions. I taught myself how to play piano when I was a little girl, I sang in choir for 8 years, but the rhthym section is my fancy; I played drums (5 piece drum kit) for a few years; mostly punk rock but I was trained in classical jazz for a short time when I was around 19 years old.
When you feel you need new ideas, where do you seeks new inspirations?
This may be strange but, I never feel like I need new ideas, I’ve never even thought about it. Inspirations surround me…every thing I see, smell, touch, or hear has inspiration for me, I feel like I can’t retain the abundance of ideas that come into my head from all of it! This doesn’t mean all my ideas are good either, it only means that I always have a reserve source to pull from if I am possessed by the need to create something by just looking around. But as a general rule, I look outside belly dance, not in, for inspiration, meaning I utilize the things I actually enjoy in my life outside of belly dance to influence my creativity in belly dance; I feel it keeps my style more authentic and fresh.
Your dance is recognized by the originality of your own style and movements that you created yourself. Tell us about the difficulties faced by developing your own style and your happiness with your achievements.
As far as dance styalization goes, oddly, this is something that came to me as a surprise. I definitely thought a lot about presentation and technique but never dance style in particular. There is a fine line between the two and I define them as follows:
- Dance Style: How you move, your composition, fluidity etc.
- Dance Presentation: You costuming, music, your genre, etc.
I didn’t even give thought to my dance style until I started hearing from others how they perceived me; it seems they all said the same things. Til this day I can tell you what people say about me but I personally have a hard time seeing it, sometimes I get a glimpse but my instinct tells me I’m better off letting it do it’s thing without my interference for fear of destroying it’s innocence and guarden-angel like quality it has for me. I am very proud of my acheivements however there is much more work and practice to be done.
You are responsible for the introduction of new musical styles in tribal (dnb / dubstep / classical / soundtracks). Tell us a little about the risk of leaving patterns and the importance of adding new elements to the dance world.
The risk is your psychological stability. There is great anxiety involved in presenting something new to the table. I’m not talking about the normal anxiety that you feel before going on stage, I’m talking about having anxiety about what will define you after you come off stage. In the beginning, when I was in troupes, when any of us offered innovative ideas, it was received from the audience as an entity that delivered the idea, not one specific person, so we could in a way hide behind the veil of our troupe which was a great way to start as I had the opportunity to see the reaction of the crowds and what they had to say without it falling solely on my or any of our shoulders. But when I went solo, I knew that whatever I delivered would reflect all on me, and that was terrifying especially because I knew I was debuting something new, and I had nowhere to hide. But over time I came to terms with the truth: some will like what you do, some will not…hopefully more will than won’t but you can’t not do something for fear of rejection, that’s a horrible set up for future regret in my book.
There are different schools of thought and practice in society and I respect them all; in this case: innovation vs tradition. I am a creator, but I also have a deep respect for tradition. I think it is very important to human history and ones life as it symbolizes security, stability, validity, longevity, identification, and ultimately something to be proud to be a part of (in most cases). Though, there are people out there that don’t like to change tradition, though I like to look at it as ‘adding’ to tradition, not eradicating it. I think it’s important to remember that what is now tradition, was once an idea. There are those that are determined to follow exactly in the footsteps of tradition, or the past as it is now, perhaps out of fear of change, or respect and in honor of the ones who created the tradition which fosters the longevity of it. And there are ones that create who simply want to add to tradition; only the test of time will reveil this marriage.
After the dance came into your life, what has changed in Frederique offstage?
My confidence and self worth has blossomed since I decided to dedicate my life to dance and creative expression. I also found another side to me…a feminine side. I am a ‘tom-boy’ at heart but one that can wear dresses and lipstick now!
Who were the teachers who most had influence in your career and why?
I have only had 2 belly dance teachers in my career. Luna was my very first and I was with her for about 5 months. Then I saw Jill Parker and was hooked. She was the only true influence in my dance as watching and training with her from 1997 – 1999 nonstop taught me something you can’t easily teach; fluidity and gracefulness.
You were born in Beirut, Lebanon and have Syrian, Armenian, Italian and French ancestry. How does this mixture of cultures influence your dance?
To be honest, I don’t think it does, but that doesn’t mean I’m right. I’ve often been told by old-timey Middle-Easterners, “It’s in your blood, that’s why you’re good at it.” But I really don’t know!
For some years, you studied the ATS ® style (AmericanTribalStyle ®) with Luna and Jill Parker, did this study influence you and still influence your dancing today?
As I mentioned before, fluidity and gracefulness was and still is the biggest influence in my dancing that I took away from the 2 years I studied ATS with Jill Parker. My friend Mariana Quadros once said to me, “Muscle memory is unforgiving… You can see when someone has tribal training through their muscle memory.” She couldn’t have been more right. No matter what new moves I create, learn, or manipulate, you can always see the tribal (ATS style) through my movement. Smart lady that Mariana. Once a tribal dancer, always a tribal dancer…
In your opinion, how important is the ATS ® style (AmericanTribalStyle ®) for the Tribal?
I think it’s very important. I spoke about tradition above; this is a perfect example except Tribal came before ATS. No matter what came first, it’s important to respect and honor those roots if you’re going to call yourself Tribal or Tribal “insert anything here”. If you’re going to call yourself a Tribal “insert anything here” dancer…you should have studied extensively in ATS, with Jamila, Hahbi ‘Ru, or the like. You can’t call yourself Tribal if you’ve never studied it; that is not authentic and does not honor the Art form that many have worked very hard on establishing as a legitimate dance.
An example of my point: if I went out and bought a clown suit today, did some research online for a couple of hours then put up a site and started selling myself as a clown for hire because circus clowns are really cool right now, that would qualify as tourism. You’ve got to put your time in legitimately like the rest of us.
You have been invited to participate the Festival Campo das Tribos which is the largest event held annually in the tribal capital of Sao Paulo to teach workshops and dance in the main show. Tell us how you felt when you received an invitation to work in Brazil and to know that your work is recognized in our country.
It is a great honor to be recognized and invited to such a beautiful country. I cannot wait until I step off the plane and smell the unfamiliar air and be inspired to instruct and perform in San Paulo, Brazil!
You are a pioneer in tribal. How do you see that this style is now recognized and used worldwide? Do you ever imagine that it would take off to this proportion?
I must admit that I had NO IDEA that it would grow to such epic proportions…it’s been incredible. I can’t tell you how good it feels to visit a country thousands of miles away from where I live and watch other dancers dancing to dubstep, mixing their sets, or using theatrics in their performances only to know that whether they saw it, or heard it from somewhere or someone else first, I am an original source of that; it’s a powerful and validating experience.
If you could change anything in the world of tribal dance, what would you change?
I would love to see belly dance in general be respected more as an art form in the public eye and held to the same standards as other professional dances like: Ballet, Jazz, or Modern Dance. Hopefully it will come when the majority of dancers raise the bar in professionalism, dedication to dance technique, etc…
Leave a motivational message for the readers of the Shimmie to continue to dance.
What ever it is you are passionate about in life, never deny it your full attention and always refuse any fear within it.