Friday, March 29, 2013

Interview with Mish Mish - Part Two

This is part two of my interview with legendary dancer, Mish Mish. After sitting down with Mish, I had so much juicy content that I decided this was going to warrant two posts. So without further delay, diving right back into the interview.

Alessandra: With all your experience, you've got to have some funny stories from doing gigs. Any come to mind?
Mish: Bellygrams were really popular for awhile. I was hired to do a bellygram for Jim Nordstrom during the middle of a board presentation. I could tell he was upset and asked when it would be over. He finally walked over and pulled the plug on my cassette player. I've done a bellygram in the middle of a lecture hall at the North Seattle Community College. During one gig at the Seattle Yacht club, I had a man pick me up and start carrying me around. I had to warn him to put me down or he wasn't going to like the result! At a birthday party at a very wealthy, well-to-do house, the guest of honor starting chasing me and the other dancer around the house with a vibrator, and then came out with his wife's pantyhose on. And this was while his wife and children were there! Apparently they were used to it! I've done a bachelor party where when I walked in, all the men were watching porn. At another party, for a group of Russians, they were all in the hot tub when I arrived. And of course, I've had the usual belly dancer mishaps: forgotten music and costume parts, music that stops halfway through the routine, and a bra that comes undone. The latter becomes an exercise in how long you can dance with your elbows pinned to your sides to keep your top place!

Alessandra: (laughing) Those are pretty good. So what other dancers have inspired you throughout your dance career?
Mish: Jamila Salimpour has been a big influence, as she was the teacher that my teachers studied with, and I always remember being inspired by seeing her troupe, Bal Anat, perform. Bobby Farrah is another one. Aisha Ali was the dancer who first introduced me to folkloric dance. And Badawiya. She was one of the few dancers who was Arabic. She was exotic and sexy and feminine.  When you saw her, you never forgot her; gorgeous with wild hair, an incredible body and mesmerizing. I remember her saying once that you could achieve a natural high with dancing that was better than sex or drugs.

Alessandra: What events do you think have to combine and come together to create that natural high?
Mish: The dancer, the musicians, and the audience all have to come together. It usually only happens with live music, because it has to be a natural response to the music and not a thought-out reaction. The musicians have to be absorbed into their music, then the music is driving the dancer, and the audience is just taking in all the energy. It is an amazing feeling when it happens. I think belly dance is unique in this regard because it's one of the few art forms where this will happen. I think it's more creative than other forms of dance because it's a very individualized and spontaneous response to the music.

Alessandra: Alright, onto our last question, and the one I've been asking everyone. What advice would you give to a new student?
Mish: Take as many classes as you can. Have respect for the culture. Find your own style and perfect your technique. I would say a dancer needs two years of solid training, assuming the person has natural ability. Make sure that you have the basic, core moves down. And there really are only about a dozen basic steps, everything else is a variation.  Keep an open mind. Try different teachers. And most of all, have fun.
Alessandra: And what advice would you give to a new pro or dancer looking to turn pro?
Mish: Don't give up. Keep trying and be persistent. Eventually you'll get your foot in the door. Be seen! Get out and rub shoulders. Wear a sexy costume. It's a game and you have to fight and work hard.

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