THE DAY I PICKED PICTUS - Beyond Belly Dance
Updated: Sep 29
My favorite weekend at any Renaissance Faire is Scottish Weekend. Why?
Seriously? Ummm... Is there really any question of--?!
Hey, now! I was entranced by the music in that video. I don't know what y'all were--yeah, I'm so stuffed with shite. But no, seriously, beyond the objectifyingly obvious, for me it truly is all about the music on Scottish Weekend.
Last year, I was introduced to two bands who occupy a great deal of time on my Spotify and iTunes. It had been quite a few years since I went to RennFest, so I was out of the loop. I'm not anymore. As I previously blathered, I have become a certifiable CraicHead, and I think Pictus is Kick'dass.
When I arrived, I could hear Pictus long before I entered the Muskokee Festival's Cave. Actually, I could feel them first, and this is WHY I go to Scottish Weekend. This is also why I cannot sit still when their music comes pounding through my speakers.
Now, granted, when canned we don't get the full experience of the show. The personality, the choreographed drumstick acrobatics, the faire ambience, the kilts. (I know! Shuddup. You dig 'em, too.) But we do still get as much energy and thudding power as our speakers will afford, and it tides me over until next year. On my comment card, this band was one of the acts I unhesitantly voted "Pleeeease bring back!" and we have been checking the Muskogee schedule like the Craic Addicts we are to know when KiltFest will be: May 18-19.
I also want to know if Pictus will be the weekend's special guest again.
Because all I did for two days was rotate between the stage where my buddies, Terra Nova Tribal were performing, and the Cave where Pictus and Craic alternated.
So I'm a belly dancer, right? Okay, I'm ALSO a belly dancer. Really, I am BellaDancer, and in my Craic post, I detailed what that particular Scottish Weekend meant to playing with my new toys in public for the first time. Over the summer, I got to do another trial run with them when we played together at Colorado Renn Fest. Then last month, I officially put it onstage when I returned to Memphis to perform and teach the topics of Dance In the Vessel You Have and Storytelling Through Dance. I've been teaching these themes a lot in the past few years, which tells me I'm on the right track.
So did a weekend of being incapable of keeping my butt-in-chair whenever the pipe-and-drum bands took the stage.
There's a sliver of me that gouges quite guiltily as I write this post, like I'm the biggest McCheaterson ever, because the truth is...these drums inspire me to move more passionately than almost any other percussion on the planet.
*gasp of mortification*
"But--but darbukas and dumbeks and dammit what the--?"
I know. Allow me to hang my head, but only for a few seconds in memoriam because as an artist who is devoted to the Muse, I cannot continue to try to force myself to do what a proper belly dancer "should" do.
Mostly because I've never been a proper belly dancer. As BellaDancer, it is simply one of the primary forms that make up the hue of my motion-licious cocktail. I am movement polyamorous, and I won't deny or apologize.
Ever since my summer being flung around by the marionette strings of Lindsey Stirling, my dancing has been going through another metamorphosis. Possibly more dramatic than the impact the SCA had on my nightclub belly dancing. Just as powerful as my discovery of belly dance in the first place, back when I was studying classical Western forms in college.
My endeavor to choreograph the second half of my Glamazon piece for Memphis is the perfect example. The first movement is the Amazon priestess in the woods at dawn. The crickets chirrup. The flute begins. The chant in a made-up language moves me from my place bowed on the ground into a kinetic ode to the Elements--and y'all know how I am about the Elements. Power-priestess shenanigans ensue, punctuated with martial badassery. The music exhales and returns to the chant, thus so do I. (More on this piece when I get the video.)
At this point, I was supposed to dance to a glorious song I've drooled over for years, Blood, Oil, Gold by one of my all-time favorite musicians, Solace. I played with it. I mapped it out. Anal-retentively. I started choreographing it. I played with it some more. I tried to choreograph again. And again. And one darned more time.
Supreme frustration: activated.
That's just not my row right now. Perhaps I've been playing with my Elements System too much. Maybe it's my Celtic bloodline finally overtaking my limbs. Perhaps it's all the years I've lived in pain whenever I try to do isolations from hip to neck--you know. The primary places from which a belly dancer moves?!?! Since they finally sent me to PT last summer, this is greatly improved, so we'll see what happens with my relationship to unfiltered belly dance. It will always remain one of the primaries of my vocabulary.
But the kinetic languages I use continue to expand every year, rather than deepening into a mastery of the form that housed my career for so long.
This BellaDance thing has moved beyond the physical and self-preservational. It has wormed its gushy way into my heart and my inspiration. Everything I've ever studied and played with--it all demands time on the stage in the way I had always yearned for, but being a professional belly dancer...there was only so far I could push that envelope.
*sound of chains clanking on the floor*
As a palette cleanser I tossed on my Glitch Mob playlist and danced in the dark. BOOM. Flow. Inspiration. Movement galore. Crappioka pudding, I was trying to choreograph to the wrong song. After a very brief search, I was led to another piece I've been drooling over for years: Joy Williams' Woman (Oh Mama). I played with it.
Two hours later, I had a full choreographic rough draft.
Wellllllllllll...if that isn't just a teep to the tuckuss.
The same thing happened at the closing festivities of the Muskogee Faire. Terra Nova had been asked to flank the gate as patrons filed back to the muggle world. The musicians played, the dancers danced, and I danced with them because they're my friends, I adore their music, ,and I had camped with them all weekend so I was attached at their hips. It was great. It's always great!
And then Pictus showed up.
The cadence of those rhythms and the resonant depth of the drums they play in this style of music--that's what my body craves right now. The way it lands in my guts and my cells. The type of motions demanded by the drumbeats. Such a delicious fusion created by this pounding percussion, accented and augmented by the way my friends intertwined to the Celtic rhythms? Ahhhhhhhh...BLISS. It was like being able to fully breathe again.
The Muse has spoken. I hear and obey.
Imagine my delighted surprise when I learned the names of Pictus' albums. You're never gonna believe this. Check it:
They also have a boxed Elemental set, which is now on my wish-list. Le-siiiiiiigh...le-purrrrr...
The Muse speaks again.
This morning as I was making breakfast, I had a hankerin' for my High on Craic Spotify playlist, which is how I satisfy my KiltFest Kravings until May. Pictus occupies about 2/3 of that playlist and I can't be still in my kitchen any more than I could at the faire.
This music is awesome for driving hips and earthy feet. The way the pipes bellow out lends itself to the whirl of double-veil or the power-orbits of bo staff. Or sword or canes or spins or stomps. Fancy footwork is a given. So are big skirts and flinging hair.
Is what I'm doing "right"? Is it anything close to Scottish dance? Hahahahahaha! It's not any closer to Scottish dance than it is to belly dance, but it is MINE.
And it is theirs, and it's fun.
I am the Muse's bitch, and today I pick Pictus.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE:
--UP NEXT: HADES THINKS HE'S FUNNY- Fun With the Underworld at Equinox
--OR EVERYTHING WAS BEAUTIFUL AT THE BALLET - More On My Transition Out of Belly Dance