Monday, March 28, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Allcon 2011 was somewhat difficult, but very rewarding!

Allcon 2011 Steampunk Themed Fun and Fiction in Addison

As you may already have heard this year’s theme for Allcon 2011 was “Steampunk” as special genre of retro-futuristic science fiction that takes the elegance, innovation, and indomitable spirit of the Victorian age and the science fictional imagery of it’s most imaginative writers and transplants it into very unlikely places in very unlikely ways.  Steampunk has also attracted very creative and imaginative people that have turned what was at first a special science fiction loving society into a real world subculture that strongly promotes “Maker Culture”, ecology, creative expressions of individualistic art in all it’s forms, and encourages forceful rebellion against the marketing messages that encourage mindless consumerism and the following of an endless stream of fashion trends. 

Local groups, like Kali’s Hourglass, The Steampunk Illumination Society, Airship Steel Rose, and Airship Nocturne came to teach, explain, and enlighten others about learning to make things the way they want them instead of settling for whatever Walmart has to offer, doing it on a budget, rebelling radically against consumer zombie cultism, and having great fun doing it!  They did this with about 17 panels, two film screenings, a dance performance, a comedic play, a demonstration table, and general spontaneous fun throughout the convention!  They also announced plans to host an all Steampunk event soon on June 4th called the “Difference Engine” to further this liberating message for Texas and the surrounding areas.

With 3 panels in 5 hours the first day, we were running from the time our boots hit the ground in Addison!  Actually we did an improv half panel on improve comedy and spontaneous character acting when the panel ahead of us labeled "hit the talking pinata" failed show.  Actually, as we mentioned, it seemed entirely reasonable that any pinata smart enough to talk would soon realize he didn't want to go to a panel about hitting him and talk someone into calling a cab out of here, so why should they be surprised?  I mean really...can you imagine how that would all go?  Whack!  Hey!  What did I ever do to you?  Whack!  Hey!  If you have anger issues related to being bullied as a child, hit that guy next to you!  Hit him not me! Whack!  Now look...I am certain that whoever it was that abused you as a child was I right?  Whack!  Stop that!  I mean ... it's not like pinatas go around attacking unsuspecting children in the school yard do they?  Whack!  Would you just stop for a minute and think about it?  How many paper mache creations have you seen beating up small children and stealing their lunch money?

Next we gave our panel on "Steampunk Alchemy" which turned out to get more compliments about actually teaching new and useful things about making really good Steampunk Ensembles out of things no one wanted that it received considerable praise and enthusiastic thanks afterwards.  (and was good fun for all-without even murdering a pinata or any mass child arena fighting afterwards-imagine that)

We also gave a panel on acting, on multicultural Steampunk, and on Trends in Steampunk Music and Dance.  Unfortunately no one discovered that all the sound equipment in our panel room was missing and only discovered at the last minute before our panel on music and dance.  The courteous and rapidly responding con staff and our own preparedness (bringing a backup dvd player), saved the day. (or the panel at least) Feel free to take a look at photos and our "Steampunk Dance" video on the Vimeo site (similar to you tube, but better picture quality).
but please read the description first so it isn't taken out of context.  Thanks!

We had a  number of other exploits including a woman attempting to join one of our panels right after it started.  She strode in briskly right after it started, sat at the head table with us, and announced to the audience that she "had been asked last minute to sit in on the "Multicultural Steampunk Ensembles Panel" due to her Master's degree in anthropology and expertise in the field.  As there was no way to call her a liar and throw her out without looking like very rude, uncouth, boors, and we were unable to pull her aside to make certain she wasn't the well meaning victim of a practical joke, I simply gently redirected when she kept trying to interrupt scheduled lesson plan content with war stories and self promotion.  She then vanished mysteriously, perhaps because she wasn't allowed to self promote enough, when we presented our short comedy "The Trouble With Aztecs" as a practical demonstration of use of multicultural ensembles in Steampunk and so we could discuss pitfalls to avoid afterwards.

(We later learned she had been given a last minute list of panels she was asked to assist in by another group and she got confused and walked into the wrong one and sort of tried to take over panel conversations without so much as introducing herself, to us at least, but she was very apologetic when I finally tracked her down to discuss the matter.)

We managed to get past that disruption and still perform the comedic play "The Trouble With Aztecs" right before the Q&A in this "Multicultural Panel" and it went very well.  Of course I tend to judge a comedic play by three things:
1) did they laugh often,?   2) did they laugh hard?  3) Did the degree and quality of complaints lodged afterwards necessitate calling an attorney or making many public apologies?  I'm not really being flippant about this, just realistic.  I told the audience that realistically it is impossible to do effective comedy without occasionally offending someone accidentally, but I said that I try to keep it to a minimum, because I'm just not willing to offend anyone just to get a laugh.

We discussed how almost any element specifically dealing with names of Aztec deities, not out of fear of offending the good Christians attending (I mean they do realize that the Aztecs did in fact have entities they referred to as Gods, so what would be the point?), but rather to avoid offending any real Aztecs (yes they still exist...we are formally adopted by that culture) that happened to attend (not that rare in Texas) that might not have liked elements of their faith brought into a comedy play.  I also removed anything that even referred to the mention of human sacrifice (though it pains me to avoid history to that degree) or that used funny references toward Europeans that too accurately described what the Aztecs thought of the uncouth, uncultured, unwashed, and foul smelling criminals and mercenaries that the Spanish Crown could afford to send out as Conquistadors.  At that point, we needed funny bits to fill in all the gaps, so we stole cheap laughs from old films and made it Aztecified, sort of.  Actually it all worked even better than expected and everyone seemed happy as they left.  I tried to film it, but we seem to keep having problems with our video camera or any other camera when we try to film plays.  I'll have to have a long talk with our "House Gremlin" about that.

The head of programming for the convention was even more shocked about this woman's "attempted highjacking of the panel" as he described it, than we were, but the only real problem was that I spent so much time and energy keeping her from taking over the discussion, while trying to avoid appearing to do so, that 3 of my four panelists (whose credentials on the topic make us less than impressed with hers) never got a chance to speak much outside of the play.  Ah well.  It will make a funny story for us one day, but may do very unfortunate things to the woman's credibility.  She may actually have been convinced she was there at our request, but that would seem unlikely since she never spoke to any of us before or afterwards and did not even introduce herself aside from stating credentials without a name.  Another one for the convention manuals.  Always expect the unexpected and keep the security number handy during panels!

The thing that is most recognizable, and in many ways, the most fun about Allcon is that it exposes each fandom culture to others they might never have encountered otherwise.  Storm Troopers and Jedis conversed with gunslingers, Star Fleet Officers, and Klingon Warriors while Steampunk time traveling Pirates, “Maids” and Roller Derby teams rolled by in an endless stream of wonderful mad fun!  It was a bit like ending up in Alice’s Wonderland, but with a science fiction twist.

The only really big news at the con, other than new Steampunk talent being shown, was that the Steampunk Ball got canceled, then rescheduled last minute.   After discussing this with both the con staff and the headliner band, it appears to have been a massive failure in communication.  The band is very professional and does not appear anywhere without a signed contract for the performance which they had indicated, but was unusual enough in the program director's past experiences with Allcon, that he didn't realize how important it was and forgot to get it done.  The other problem was that the venue had no sound system or amplifiers capable of reproducing the kind of music and instruments that electric guitars make. 

The lead singer, Toby Lawhon, said that if they just used the 12" speakers available their sound would be not much more than distortion and would be so unprofessional that they would not perform there without renting commercial concert speakers, which meant also bringing in a concert level mixing board and sound crew capable of moving 5 foot tall speakers and setting the system up to work properly.  The staff didn't understand why a large number of people suddenly got added to the necessary list of passes for the band, so it had not gotten approved as of Friday night even though the band had tried to reach him to explain.  Obviously communications like this should have happened sooner, but they had trouble reaching the program director after they discovered this was necessary, and he didn't really understand the request.  He said it was his mistake and that the band acted very professional about the whole thing and did a great job fixing the problem when it looked like things would fall through for the concert.  The concert had to start over an hour late due to problems adjusting the unfamiliar equipment in the strange venue, but in the end, it was a great performance!

In the program director's defense, he handled everything beautifully for us, but then all of our events were set up and re-adjusted as needed more than 3 weeks before the event.  Things start to go wonky for most convention staff when they get overloaded the last week before hand, and they sometimes have catastrophic brain cramps, like in this case, when the overload gets too great or the situation, as in this case, is too unfamiliar to them.  The other item I would like to mention is that when I approached their program director for comments about the incident, he took full responsibility for the confusion and fallout, did not blame anyone else about anything, and stated gratitude to Toby and the band for helping them fix the problem at the last minute.  That's the kind of human being I prefer to work with!  (This is based on my own interactions with Todd Carlton when I contacted him for a public statement for the magazine review, but there is speculation and rumor that he may have been less forthcoming earlier-however-Toby Lawhon also told me directly, that Mr. Carlton accepted full responsibility and was very apologetic when they agreed to reschedule and follow through with the concert.) Mr. Carlton even said that if Toby was as courteous about the whole thing in what he was saying about the incident at this point  then it was just another sign of the level of professionalism of Marquis of Vaudville and he really appreciated and respected that in him.  Did these people just step out of a time machine or something?  Where did all this gentlemanly behavior come from?  Hmmm...maybe all this Steampunk stuff isn't just fiction after all? 

So overall, in spite of the temporary setback due to miscommunication with the headliner band, I would rate this convention as one of our absolute favorites!  As both performers, and even back before we started offering panels and performances at conventions, our biggest complaint was always that they didn’t actually post a full list of who and what was performing until a week or two before the event, yet expected us to decide blind if we wanted to go.  This is especially a problem for those new to a festival trying to decide whether to buy the early discounted tickets or to wait and see who is performing there.  For us performers that is not a problem, but it is maddening to send offers to give panels and get no response for months, then be told “we definitely want you, but can’t decide what or when.  I even have trouble getting them to commit as to whether we will be performing enough to avoid paying for full price at the door to get in order to perform for them, which did indeed happen to us once. (but never again) 

Allcon, on the other hand, was entirely different!  They had over 75% of their lineup listed with times, days performing, and a detailed map of the venue over 3 months in advance.  When I offered panels to them I got a response in less than 24 hours that listed every panel they wanted in appropriate rooms with the exact day and time of the presentations listed.  Even minor changes such as adding to the number of badges needed in order to have enough crew to cover so many panels was met with quick and courteous response that met our needs every time.  Fortunately planning ahead permitted us to get these things done early before the rush and confusion of the final week before the con.

The full review including information about non-steampunk related performers on the following site:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Axolotl - Symbol of the God of the Misfits

Today someone requested befriending them on Facebook.  While I'm not hard to convince about this, I do at least look at their profile before responding to make sure they don't put up a lot of angry hate messages or some such on their site.  I was surprised at just how pleased I was to find a photo of an Axolotl on his site as just something he liked the picture of.

Original wild adult coloration-(albinos are common pets now)

Axolotl are very special to us Aztecs.  (yes I'm also Irish and Cherokee, but Aztec as well for very different reasons)  Axolotl managed to resist or avoid the current trend of evolution and kept their gills and a full set of lungs with a tail that helps them swim well and fully functional legs.  All the other creatures specialized on land or sea and are clearly better at one than the other, but this little creature thumbed it's nose at the laws of evolution and kept both in fully functional form for, oh say, a million years or so.  Talk about rooted in tradition!

Unfortunately they are nearly extinct now as Mexico City, one of the largest, most overcrowded, and polluted cities in the world is their only native habitat.  (ergo the connection to Aztecs as they lived only in the lake around the Aztec capital.  Yeah that's right,  The lake the Spaniards filled in with dirt.  Modern people compound the problem by introducing non-native fish species that eat these creature's young and consume most of their food, so they mostly live in captivity now where they are used as research animals due to their ability to heal almost any injury done to them and re-grow limbs or even parts of their brains.

They represent the God of the "misfits and monsters", but the term, in Aztec anyway, is decidedly not negative, but rather intended to suggest that even the strangest among the wondrous creatures of the world have divine representatives. They are seen as creatures of magic and mystery and greatly respected.  (My nuclear family members are not genetically Aztec, but we are all formally and ritually adopted Aztecs (side effect of practicing that spiritual path for years and doing a lot of public Aztec dance with traditional rituals in more private settings)

As a bit of an odd thing myself, I have always felt wonder, excitement, and a sense of recognition meeting a creature like this that seems out of place and time somehow.  I really love seeing them, but naturally don't spend a lot of time in deep caves underwater and such.  At least not very often, though we do dive occasionally in Mexican caves, but the only place I've seen one is at the local Aquarium called Dallas World Aquarium.

Now perhaps this is more information than you care to know, or perhaps this will give you the warm feeling I had just seeing the photo on his site as something he liked looking at, like it did me.  Ah well.  If getting to know someone better bothers people then it's a dangerous business reading their personal blog, eh what?

This is just a bit of a thanks to the powers that be for putting the photo in my path this day to remind me that there are even stranger things than myself out there and the creator loves them as much as any other creation.

May you run across something that gives you the same sense of acceptance and belonging soon that the photo of an Axolotl gave to me!  I couldn't get the photo he used to copy so I found a similar ones and put them up  for your perusal.  For more information about this marvelous and almost extinct creature, see the link below:


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention 2011

Very recently the leaders of the Steampunk Illumination Society made the journey in the family wagon out to Arizona to see the first ever Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention in Arizona (yes this was definitely a Steampunk journey out west even though the wagon ran on gasoline this time).  They also visited Tombstone, and a fascinating little town named Bisbee that they actually enjoyed more than the overly touristy Tombstone.  As Wild West Steampunk is, in this writer's opinion, a very important and relatively new sub-genre of Steampunk, this convention was important in more ways than most to the overall community, and as such, the entire experience should be explored.  While doing so; however, my readers should be reminded to recognize that any new group, community, or event organizers should be given some degree of tolerance and support as they struggle to overcome the challenges of their very newness and build experience in order to most effectively deliver services and showcase the wonder of all that this sub-genre has to offer. 

One significant problem with the event had little to do with the event organizers, and was endemic to the wondrous nature of the beautiful setting on a famous old west film set.  The public park that was around the Old Tucson Studios had representatives that continued to sell tickets to see the rest of the area and made the enormously problematic statement to everyone entering that “everything in the park is included with your price of admission implying that the entire convention, a private event, was also included with the minimal price the park was charging just to look at the old movie set.  In point of fact, the movie set offered a wide range of additional activities such as stage coach rides, horseback rides, and panning for gold, that they always charged extra for and today was no exception,  in addition to the entire convention and all of it’s activities that they deceptively suggested to tourists was totally covered in their minimal price to enter the park.  
There were other problems, mostly lack of organization and communication, which is a common problem with any new event, but there were also wonderful aspects to the event such as the wonderful setting, and the incredible spirit of those in attendance.  Entertainment was especially good on Saturday, when most people were in attendance, as there was not only the usual “gunfights” in the park, but The League of Steam was out in full force with all of their elaborate gadgets and good natured charm.  Airship Isabella was there giving panels and offering the zaniness of the Mad Hatter and the Haberdasher.   That evening they even gave a full concert, than ran for hours, by Abney Park.  It probably would have worked better if the concert had been at the Masked ball, which was scheduled in a much larger venue back at the hotel and cost extra to attend, but was poorly attended as most (but not all) Steampunks  would rather hear Abney Park playing in a matchbox than enter the grandest hall imaginable (and this one was nice, to have a masked ball without them. 
The local news was out in force and had many interesting things to say about the convention.  Some of it was good, but one fashion Nazi blogger decided to give the Steampunk Convention the same rough harshly critical eye and acidic pen that she liked to give to other events.  She may have greatly underestimated what the “punk” part of Steampunk means and how seriously we band together to defend people’s rights to wear what they like and to be as iconoclastic, in any venue, as they wish.  In fact, that’s part of the whole point to have fun with breaking the rules about Victorian strict fashion codes, so all that was really accomplished was to make the writer look foolish and too lazy or disinterested to do even minimal research about the subject of her article.  
It did substantially raise the hits to that electronic newspaper’s site, but only due to the unbelievably powerful response telling them their writer was unbelievably unprofessional and making their journal look foolish.  It also gave Steampunks an excellent opportunity to air their views on the subject of fashion Nazis and of narrow minded self created experts which seemed to bring out the unity and cohesiveness in a way rarely seen in such a transparent and (to me heart warming) fashion.  While we are sort of avoiding her site, in order to minimize giving her attention in return for being a poor, sensational controversy seeking journalist, this one article and, more importantly,  the response to it, may be an icon of study for both the fashion industry and any anthropology types of psychologists studying the fascinating phenomenon of Steampunk Culture.  I will now direct you to the very informal, (you know, sit back, kick your shoes off, and get ready for a funny convention war story type of first person review! LOL) review of Stephanie Moran’s (co-leader of the Steampunk Illumination Society) experiences on this trip to the Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention titled “The Good, the Bad, and the Frustration”.

If you really want to see the article by the fashion Nazi blogger, I’ll post a link to my own response to her article which has a link to the highly questionable and seemingly self serving article enclosed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Chaz Kemp - Artist, Drummer, and Singer

I encountered a freelance artist, drummer, and singer that is a new and very welcome member of the Steampunk community.  His portfolio includes modern, fantasy, and some really good "Steampunk" illustrations, his blog has interesting articles and interviews or performers, and his 5 person band "Pandora Celtica" has a capella singing (sometimes with drum accompaniment) that might put the angels to shame.  You can find their music on I-tunes.  I particularly enjoyed the way the singers harmonize with one another so beautifully.  It appears to be mostly Celtic folk songs (one of my personal favorites), but not the typical songs of a Renfair.  They seemed to be original songs, or at least very unusual ones, but I have not yet had time to research this further. 
 You are welcome to listen on I-tunes and ask the artist himself at

Another Insight Into the Mind of Steampunks - From A. E. Flint

Once again Ms. Flint gives incredible insight into the minds of serious "Steampunks" everywhere.  While there is no statement that can possibly sum up the mind set, opinions, and beliefs of such a diverse group, this article does the best job I have seen in describing what makes the most serious among us Steampunks, Dieselpunks, and Clockpunks really tick.

"Why Steam Needs Punk"

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Night Class Episodes 2 & 3

Well we finally got the second episode of Night Class, titled Friend or Food, wrapped!  It should be edited and ready for televising on UNTTV soon in Denton, Texas.  As I am harder to schedule than the other actors and actresses, we also filmed the intro and extro for the next episode titled: Fantasy Planet Online!  Both of these went much smoother than the first episode due to greater experience on the part of the film crew, and a somewhat less obsessive need to perfectly duplicate every word exactly as written.  While I am very dedicated to memorization and duplication of a script as written, I am also a very dedicated "method actor", so I use light trance self hypnosis to get as far into character as possible, while still staying responsive to stage directions.  This produces excellent results in some areas, as indicated by one of the camera men looking at the director, visibly shivering, and just saying "creepy" after filming my closing monologue after episode 3.  On the other hand, this makes it more difficult for me to reproduce scripts that call for a character that is a meticulous, albeit eccentric, college professor to speak using horrific grammar, run on sentences, fragmentary sentences, and repeatedly begin sentences with a conjunction, or to use sentences that read like "Yoda Speak" or "Texan speak" for that matter even though I grew up around both.  I just can't see an angry, resentful, somewhat sadistic professor, that looks for every opportunity to criticize, use sarcasm, or belittle others, setting himself up so much for the same treatment when surrounded daily by high level academics who would just love to correct everyone's grammar.   My subconscious rebels against it.  I never question a direction regardless.  I just do it over.  This time though, the director simply told me to stick to the minor grammatical corrections my subconscious kept inserting, so that it was consistent.  It never affected the dialogue content, so that worked well and we got two episodes of intros and extros filmed in about 2 hours which is about 3 times as fast as last time. (You see all the gory details of that fascinating, but grueling film session in a previous post under the title Night Class)  The heck of it is, I still haven't seen all of the first episode myself.  I was promised a copy as part of my compensation for coming to this film session, but we all forgot about it once I got there.  Ah well.  I have the director scheduled to trade filming some interviews of Kali's Hourglass and others about the Nickel Children film and promotions for it we have been doing, so I'll get it from him then.  I also managed to convince him to film some of our performance and others at All-con 2011 as well as being the official videographer/producer at the Difference Engine Steampunk Conventions we are promoting and performing in.  See you later!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Arizona Blogger Tries to Foist Her Fashion Sense On Wild West Con Goers

The following is my own comment on an online version of  The Phoenix New Times culture blog called Jackalope Ranch.  The article is titled:

Seven Overdone Steampunk Fashions at the Wild Wild West Con


Categories: Don't Wear That, Fashion
You can see the full article on their web site at:
(note that there were over 90 comments on their site within a few days and they were almost all angry and very critical of the content, delivery, and intentions of the article's writer) 



I will not quote any of the actual article, but suffice to say that, while Ms. D'Andrea does shed some interesting light on what the average outside observer likes, dislikes, or thinks is just ... well ... to use her words "overdone" at this or any "Steampunk" event, her approach seems to be more based on trying to fit the blog category which is actually labeled, believe it or not, "Don't wear that fashion", than attempting to offer any sort of useful feedback that could possibly be expected to be received in a positive way.   It almost reads as though she feels pressured to find things to "trash" as though that is what she feels she is being paid to do.  Note that, she also praises many things as well, but the level of items she praises, while they are indeed the best of our work, are generally items created by acknowledged professional craftsmen and entertainers (I personally know some of these people and recognize their work) rather than giving serious feedback on the do-it-yourself efforts of new members of our community.  That would be rather like saying if you can't afford to buy "Gucci" or to design and create your own fashions at that level, then don't ever leave your home.

While I recognize that taking an objective look at what outsiders, with apparently very limited knowledge or understanding of the real underlying motivations and agendas of the Steampunk sub-culture and social movement is extremely valuable, especially to steampunk designers like myself, it is not helpful to them or to yourself to go out of your way to trash ... well ... anything that a person actually tries to do themselves.  In the age of international corporations trying to grind the populace of the world down into mindless little zombie workers that have no original thoughts, skills, or interests other than loyal service to their masters, the "Steampunk" movement encourages people to reject typical fashion aesthetics, including those of the "Victorian era", and develop themselves as a person by re-awakening any trace of craft skills they previously had and any form of original creative thoughts they might possess, then develop them (often through trial and error, but also through classes and education), not just to impress other people, but more importantly, to make them feel alive again!  We are much more interested in valiant efforts to do something themselves, than we are in what any fashion critic has to say about anything.  As such, if that part of the equation is lost in the blog or review, then you missed the point of the event entirely.

On the other hand, a comparison can be drawn here between, say, the Aztec Conchero/Mexica dancing my wife and I have been a part of, where the real goal is to not only revive and share the wisdom and traditions of the past, but to fight the good fight against intolerance and prejudicial destruction or oppression of those ideas.  Part of that fight is studying and learning what outsiders and newcomers find most attractive int hat culture, as whatever attracts them and holds their interest, entertains them, or garners their respect, will make the outsiders much more receptive to the underlying message of respect for the ancient wisdom and ancient ways.  The "Steampunk" movement really is a social movement to re-awaken artistry and original thought as well as to use that to effect change on what is truly becoming a dystopian and very deteriorated world destroyed by greed and the desire to grind everything down into mediocrity.  As such, we need objective and third party observations in order for, at least those working regularly in the arts and entertainments areas as "Steampunk Performers" like myself, to help us consider more effective ways to reach people outside our community better as well as those within.

I would suggest; however, that Ms. D'Andrea consider refraining from use of terms or phrases that tend to make someone feel embarrassed, rather than proud, to have others see their first efforts at the do-it-yourself crafts that we so strongly encourage, or you will quickly find yourself, and any that pretend to be in our own community with those attitudes, rapidly pushed out and ostracized by serious "Steampunks" that will not tolerate such behaviors toward those courageous enough to try to learn and grow in such a public way.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Clockwork Wonderland Article Makes Headlines on Convention Fans

Clockwork Wonderland Article Makes Headlines on Convention Fans

The article got to print very late due to many other projects I was involved with, producing performance art for other venues, and because we were so busy working the film screening room and promoting Nickel Children, that I needed assistance to gather sufficient information to write this article including mention of many wonderful acts that I was not able to see myself and had to interview or obtain information from others to write about them.

I would like to extend a special vote of thanks to some of the Steampunk Illumination Society members that worked so hard to set up and take down what was needed to make this event successful.  The ones that I saw working extraordinarily hard with little thanks or notice were James and Stephanie Moran, Brian Elliot (and Karen), Rob (from the SIS group), Larry Ameytt, and Audelia Flint.  Thank you for everything you gave to this project!!!

here's the link:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Steam Powered Belly dance in Brazil!

Below is our attempt to translate into English a wonderful article by the people at Steampunk, an excellent steampunk blog from Brazil.  It is discussing the emergence of movement and dance as a form of Steampunk as a direct result of Steampunk developing as a musical genre.  It focuses primarily on Tribal Fusion Belly dance, but discusses possible fusion of many styles into that subgenre in ways that create something entirely new alltogether.  See below [items in brackets like these were added by this editor as teh translating program was unable to fully translate, but I should mention that my Portuguese is not that great either, so I am making my best guess in a few areas based on the parts I could clearly make out]


Steampunk culture has spread in various artistic manifestations, leaving the literary and movie niche, and now moving into music and therefore into dance as a result. But different than you might think, the last has nothing to do with the dances that were favored by the Victorian nobility, in halls of gaudy chandeliers and diamond covered candlesticks. No. The biggest and best known of all expressions was eventually found in belly dance in a style called Tribal Fusion.

Tribal was [apparently] established in the years 1970 through 1980, the United States, by Carolena Nericcio, director and lead dancer of the "Fat Chance Belly Dance Group", a leading representative of the style today. Carolena fused classical and traditional elements belly dance with other types of dance, like the Egyptian and folklore styles, and also added new positions, styles, and postures, with arms higher and [something about feet/legs more closely held or possibly sliding against the floor]. The garments have also changed, giving tattoos, flowers, shells, and other more natural and primitive elements [a primary place in costuming] in this style. Carolena called this new style of belly dance the "American Tribal Style", now often known as ATS. The ATS is now essentially a dance group, which gives the characteristic of "tribe" - hence the use of the word "tribal" - and [is often] based on dance improvisation. Some steps are characteristic and the lead dancer often comes out in front [then gives signs to the others] indicating the dance, or the actual movement she will do next, so that the whole group [will be] able to imitate [and follow her movements in a synchronized fashion].

However, over the years with the spread of ATS and other types of dance began to [be] incorporated [into] Tribal. The essential rules of style began to be changed, making the dance more personal and more [expressive] of the personality of the dancer. What was created, then was a  new version of the ATS, known as Tribal Fusion. This style is more popular than the original style developed by Carolena, as it is being seen as more comprehensive [and flexible/adaptable in style and scope]. Although they still maintain much of the original positions, the Tribal Fusion can add in and blend to virtually all types of dance, the most common being hip hop, break dance, Indian dance, flamenco dances, and even cabaret. The songs chosen are varied and there are some used from electronic music, World music fusion, hip hop, trip hop, and even Gothic Heavy Metal. Circus music, vintage, and other types can also be used in this genre.  It all depends on who is creating the dance and choreography.

Because of this, it was very easy for SteamPunk [music] to also manifest in Tribal [Fusion belly dance performances]. In addition to the bands whose influences are essentially [the definitive representations of] the movement, such as Abney Park, Clockwork Quartet, Unextraordinary Gentleman, [Vernian Process], and Dr. Steel, other bands, including those with metallic sounds, reminiscent in some ways to listening to old movies, are also chosen, as is the case of Beats Antique. The clothes as well, across the Tribal Fusion movement, [depend] on your taste, but most fans of the genre will find a way to merge the influences of Victorian, Steampunk, and [Steampunk] accessories into the form of [belly] dance costumes, which should [still] have good mobility and of course show the belly.

In Brazil, the ATS and Tribal Fusion are recent developments. The first workshops and first teachers of the style here, appeared only in 2007. In July 2009 came the first international meeting of Tribal Fusion of Brazil, in Sao Caetano do Sul, and in October the same year, the first event back to the dance of Sao Paulo. Nevertheless, the style is growing every day, and gaining more dancers, who [may or may not have been] involved in  classic belly dance. With this, and also with the growth of the SteamPunk movement in the country [Brazil], [who knows, perhaps soon] we will have national dancers that are {inspired and/or] powered by steam, eh?

[The original article in Portuguese in linked below:]

Steampunk Belly Dance Exchange of Ideas

I am re-posting a fascinating exchange of ideas about whether there can or cannot be true "Steampunk Belly Dance" or any other dance style or music for that matter.  
Each comment below was written in response to the article titled:

Not So Steampunk Belly Dance

by Jasmine June Cabanaw

posted February 26, 2011

published in an online Belly Dance Journal called Gilded Serpent

  Each comment is labeled at the end with the name of the contributor of the comment along with the link to my own response followed by a link to the original article.  The article itself comes last in what I am presenting to you as I think the dialogue about the topic is more important than the inflammatory (and probably unintentional) choice of wording in the original article that was published in an online Belly Dance Journal called Gilded Serpent.  Take a look and try to keep an open mind to all sides of this discussion.  I selected the comments that I thought were most worth reading, but there are many more under the original article.
All comments previously copied to this site were removed per insistence of the editor of the Gilded Serpent online magazine Lynette Harris as she pointed out, quite correctly, that neither the authors of the comments nor the magazine/e-zine where they were posted gave permission to re-post them.  I advised that my oversight was due to an urgent desire to soothe and put out the firestorm of resentment toward the author Ms. Cabinaw and the magazine Gilded Serpent that a link-share on facebook  had set off.  As pressing the share button marked facebook, (done by a number of people in my own community-though I was not one of them) which is all that was required to start this firestorm, is not considered "Stealing" information, and that no content from the article, other than a brief quote of a few lines (it was impossible not to take it totally out of context with less and would thus do more harm than good) ever occurred regarding the article, I believe the editor may be over reacting a bit in sending me an e-mail suggessting I am "stealing content", but I agree that the comments about the article (the calmest and most well spoken ones) that I copied to clarify and resolve the conflict, should be deleted from re-posting to my personal blog site.

What actually caused the original problem was the posting of the original article by Ms. Cabinaw on the Gilded Serpent site which used phrasing, apparently unintentionally, that was very insulting to another allied community, namely the Steampunk sub-culture.  Reviewing content of articles for such possible problems prior to posting them is the venue of the magazine editor.  I was simply trying to suppress a problem that others created which appeared to be causing a very destructive rift between the belly dance community and sub-culture, which I dearly love (and the magazine which appears to be a good one) and my own community of "Steampunks".  My influence was needed to put a stop to it before it got out of hand, so I acted, albeit a little rashly in copying some of the better written comments (from the comment portion only) without consent.  They are now deleted from my personal blog site and remain so.  Any interested in reading them should go to the original article site on Gilded Serpent.


Ramon Fagan

For my own response to this article and discussion and for a link to the original article that started the controversy (at the end of my response-sorry, but the unexplained version of the original makes some of our community so angry that they might stop thinking with an open mind and simply see red after reading it, so I put it at the end of my own carefully considered response-): see below 

Response to an Article Stating That Belly Dance Cannot be Steampunk

I had posted a copy here of my own comment below that was written in response to the article titled:

Not So Steampunk Belly Dance

by Jasmine June Cabanaw

posted February 26, 2011

published in an online Belly Dance Journal called Gilded Serpent

Due to the confusion of definition of the word "reposted", confusion as to who was reposting things, and different veery strong opinions about etiquette regarding handling of someone's comment, (even my own apparently) that has been posted on another site, I am electing to avoid the whole headache by simply deleting my copy of my own comment here as well.  Feel free to see it and what it was in response to in the article this was in response to at the link below:


Ms Cabinaw later clarified that she was only intending to suggest that when belly dancers wear steampunk attire as a costume, then it should not shift the label of the dance purely because someone is wearing a costume that day.  I totally agree with that.  She apologized for the unintentional suggestion that steampunk amounted to nothing more than a costume and the statement that she didn't believe there was such a thing as steampunk music or dance without fully investigating that.  She stands by her assertion, which I consider reasonable, that if a form of bellydance is going to call itself by a new name it should present at least the level of actual change in dance forms that were developed by ATF and/or Tribal Fusion before doing so.  That also seems very reasonable.

In fact, after further discussion she actually asked about collaborating on a more in depth article with myself to ensure that both sides of the issue were appropriately explored and treated respectfully.  I agreed.  I also advised that I am a very ardent devotee of the incredibly beautiful and traditional art of belly dance, and that I am very concerned with ensuring that how we "label" belly dance calsses and programs in panels and events that I am already scheduled to give and evaluate panelists for, be handled approriately, so as to correctly describe the level of Steampunk influence, whether costuming, music, actual new movements or what, in the programming that is presented.  I think this is actually in everyone's best interests.