Photo credit: Lindsay Elliott
Does everyone come from a different background in dance?
Yes, we all have different backgrounds and came to this dance in different ways. Some of us grew up in ballet, modern and jazz, while others didn’t really discover a love for dance until they found belly dance. We love that we all have different backgrounds and different elements to bring to the table when choreographing.
How do you define fusion style belly dance? What is the difference between fusion style versus traditional belly dance?
That is actually a tricky question. A lot of belly dance that people see and think of as “traditional” is actually a fusion style itself, incorporating elements of ballet and creating a stage show, as opposed to the purely folkloric dances. But for us, the main difference is that we explicitly incorporate other dance forms into our dance and often use contemporary western music. We are definitely a product of our cultural environment, and our cultural environment is a modern North American context. However, we are all deeply inspired by the movements inherent in dance forms from North Africa, the Middle East, and India, and have studied these forms for many years; so the essence of belly dance technique is still the prominent dance form we use.
What are your thoughts on the belly dance community in Vancouver?
We are really lucky in Vancouver! We have heard stories that dance communities in various cities can be competitive and catty, but in Vancouver, we are blessed to have a very supportive and collaborative community of dancers. There are many events we do that involve many different dancers and genres of belly dance. Generally, we are friends and comrades with those in the community, and maintain good professional relationships. If this art form is going to continue to grow, it is so important that the community is supportive and works together.
Is there a story behind how Luciterra was formed?
Two of us (Laura and Amber) have been dancing together as a duo under the name Vital Divine and Gillian was dancing solo. We all met in dance class and thought we would like to collaborate on a piece. Naomi was more new to dance but came to all our shows and was working hard on her dancing. Amber went to Uganda for six months to complete her Masters’ research, and at this time, the other three started working together. When Amber returned, the four of us naturally fell into sync and the deep bond that is Luciterra was solidified.
Are there any artists or performers that influence all of your work?
There are many! Although we teach and work as professional dancers, we all continue to train, as we believe in being lifelong students of this dance, so many of our teachers inspire us including: Suhaila Salimpour, Colleena Shakti, Rachel Brice, Zoe Jakes and Samantha Emanuel. We are also inspired by burlesque aesthetics and are lucky to have great burlesque performers here in Vancouver, who inspires us. We also draw inspiration from North American styles such as hip hop and pop locking. We often collaborate with circus performer, Chris Murdoch. His contemporary circus style has a great influence on us.
Photo credit: Brutally Beautiful
What can people expect from a Luciterra show?
One thing we have often been told is that you can expect to have your preconceived ideas about belly dance blown apart. We use a diverse array of music, from Balkan and Middle Eastern, to electronic and swing, so you can expect great diversity from us. At our monthly show at Guilt and Co, we collaborate with Chris Murdoch, which adds a somewhat neo-vaudeville element to our show, blending belly dance with circus. We are often told ours is an exciting and dynamic show, and that people really never know what to expect.
What inspired Luciterra to combine so many art forms in one show?
Great question! We are so fortunate to be able to witness so many amazing, diverse art forms in our community to draw influence from, and have had the chance to study with great teachers of many different styles. All of these influences blended together felt like a natural outcome of the cultural context we live in. Believe it or not, in North America there is a long history of circus and belly dance being used together dating back to the 1890s, so we aren’t exactly doing something completely new. And we are certainly not the only ones to be doing this. The whole development of a new fusion form of dance is a truly now a global phenomenon.
Your performances require a lot of energy and precision. How does the Luciterra team prepare for an upcoming show?
We work hard! Luciterra has a minimum of two, four-hour rehearsals a week, but before a big show we will have three or four per week. On top of that, we teach seven classes a week, and each of us maintains our own personal dance and strength training practice. Aside from the actual dancing, there are many other elements to prepare for a show such as: designing and sewing costumes, editing music, developing promotional material, all of which we (for the most part) do ourselves. Basically we eat, breath and live this dance!
Have you encountered a surprising moment while you were performing on stage?
Yes. There was an incident that comes to mind. As I mentioned, we often sew our own costumes and during one performance one of our bra straps snapped right off while onstage. It was definitely a surprise to say the least! Luckily, the dancer was able to maintain professionalism and calmly exit the stage to quickly change into a costume for the following number. Now we all double sew all our seams!
You have all performed at many high profile events all over the city – what do you love the most about performing at Guilt & Company?
Guilt & Co feels like home! Yes, we do many shows but having our regular show, the Decadent Eccentric, every month really pushes us to develop new and dynamic numbers and to hone our craft. Also the room has such a great atmosphere for the sort of neo-vaudeville style show that we do. It feels comfortable and casual yet elegant at the same time, and the staff are always so nice and supportive of us!
What are some of the upcoming plans for Luciterra?
Well, we have a few big shows in the works that we are producing ourselves! On April 12th, we have what is our most heartwarming show, our bi-annual student showcase where we get to present all the hard work our students have put in over the recent session of classes we teach. You can expect to see a lot more of Luciterra on the road, bringing our show to other cities around Canada and internationally.
On the last Tuesday of every month, Luciterra performs their dynamic show titled the Decadent Eccentric at Guilt & Company. You can catch their upcoming show next Tuesday, March 25th at 9 p.m.