Thursday, May 26, 2011

Heidi Wunder Brings Belly Dance to the Dallas-Fort Worth Steampunk Stage

Heidi in full tribal regalia
Heidi Wunder is just as her name suggests...a wonder!  She not only performs and teaches Tribal Belly Dance, but also lives the concepts that she teaches.  She has a deep love of music, dance, nature, and of people.  She is bringing all this and more to the stage on June 4th as the fictional "Delegate" from Persia in a supporting role in a "steampunk" Murder Mystery Play at a new event called the "Difference Engine" in Fort Worth, Texas. 

In fact the entire event is a celebration of the performing arts in all it's forms as they intersect with the facinating and exotic world of Steampunk Fiction.  Heidi will also be bringing real world performances of Tribal Belly Dance to that same stage later in the day as one of the main performers for the event.  I was recently honored to interview her about her dance, her influences, and her impressions of performing in the Steampunk Community. 

  1. How would you define your dance style or genre?
    1. I am an American Tribal Style Belly Dancer, and I have mostly done more of the world/gypsy type genre

  1. What artists do you think most influenced your current style or styles?
    1. Carolena Nericco, as being the creator of ATS, but there are too many Tribal dancers to name that have influenced me in some way, either dance technique or costume. I also take inspiration from the Ghawazee tribes of Egypt and the Berber tribes of North Africa

  1. What types of music do you use, and how do you use them in different types of dance?
    1. I use a lot of ethnic music that has drum rhythms from the middle east and India.  I also use some more modern Techno, and groups that infuse techno with middle eastern and Indian rhythms.  When I am using the more ethnic music, I tend to be doing traditional movement, the modern techno, I tend to be more expressive, and carry the energy of the music through out my dance.

  1. What was your first exposure to this style of dance and what effect did it have on you then?
    1. I am active in Amtgard, and have been since I was a teenager, there is where I was first introduced to Tribal by some friends who wanted to create a dance troupe. They needed a third person, and told me I had no choice!  It looked cool, the way the costumes looked, the way the dancers danced just reached into my heart and grabbed it.  I knew instantly this was the dance for me!

5  When did you decide to focus on this as a form of performance art and what influenced that decision?
                  I had danced ATS since I was 17, but wasn’t until I was 24 and moved here to Texas, that I decided this was going to be my path.  I had just moved, so I didn’t have job, and my husband was super supportive of me exploring this more.

6  What sort of expereince do you have in terms of public performances, paid performances, and/or teaching dance?
I have been dancing the style for 11 years, and teaching and performing for 4 years.  I have taught in dance studios and yoga centers.  I have performed at festivals, restauraunts, open mic nights, and stage shows.

7    When did you first encounter people in steampunk attire that was distinctive enough to really draw attention and what effect did it have on you?
                  At a local meeting, is when I saw folks in the flesh in Steampunk attire, I have seen many movies, folks on the internet, and even Steampunk in the Tribal Belly dance culture.  It captivated me as it was different, and funky, and just plain cool.  I knew I had room to integrate this cool style and culture into my dance.

8    What percentage of your music do you consider to be Steampunk related?
                  I say about half of the music I use is steampunk related.

9  What do you think about the influx of steampunk fashion into dance performances?
      Over the past 5 or so years, as I have seen more and more steampunk fashion, and it has been an alternative to the traditional tribal garb.  I enjoy the Steampunk fashion, and what it has done for Tribal Belly dance

10  Do you think there is such a thing as Steampunk Dance at this time and why?
                  For Belly Dance, I see mostly Tribal genre dancers wearing Steampunk fashion.  I know that the costume really helps shape the way you dance, your character while dancing, so I do believe there is an evolution of Tribal into a Steampunk Belly dance.

11.  How would you define or describe what aspects of music, wardrobe, instruments (acoustic versus electric for instance), styles, and lyrics, make you think “Steampunk” when you see another band perform or when looking back at your own performances?
                  When I think Steampunk, I really think a melting of classic with electric.  A Mandolin with an electronic beat box, or out of this world sounds.  I see classic Victorian garb with a hint of mad scientist tinkerer, or Lightning pirates.  This crazy alternative look that has become more prominent is what makes me jump to think “Steampunk”

12  What was your first exposure to Steampunk as an actual subculture.  (as opposed to say Steampunk movies or fiction books)
                  Actually Ramon and Radha of Kali’s Hourglass.  They open my eyes to “steampunk”

13   Can you talk a little about the difference in general dance styles that you like and how this works together to make your own approach?
Well, I am only trained in American Tribal Style, which has a set dance vocabulary, but when dancing solo, I try to be as expressive, but still maintain the tribal look, it works great for me

14  What can you tell us about the local Steampunk Community close to where you live?  Is it very active and in what ways? In other words what sort of events do they set up, are they involved in charitable, political, or educational projects?
                        Well I know a little bit, the Steampunk community seems to be pretty active, I am not to well entrenched yet to give a detailed answer.

15.  How deeply are you involved in these events, and do you always perform musically, or do you sometimes interact there in other ways?
                  So far I have only performed, but would love to have more interaction!

16.  What sort of public performance art, classes, or other activities have you not done so far, but that you would like to try in the future?
                  Well it something I have not done a lot of, but would like to, is play doumbek for a solo dancer, I am not too bad, but I don’t get to do it with my troupe, cause I am usually dancing

17.  How much difficulty do you face getting event organizers to understand the needs of performers for adequate compensation for time, travel, lodgings, and wardrobe costs?
                  Generally event organizers have no clue about all the time and effort a performer puts into his or her trade, but that is just generally, there are some folks I have worked with that are really great about this.

18.  Would you like to share any information with our readers (and potential hiring clients) about typical compensation levels for performances of different types or would you prefer to keep that something discussed on a case by case basis?
For Performance, I would like to always talk with somebody interested in hiring me, as situations vary, but I can be reached by going to

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