Tag: Dance

Cultures Dance their way into Austin

 By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec

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Bright dresses and choreographed dance moves captured the stage at the Austin Earth Day Festival on Saturday.  

The Mueller Lake Park event highlighted multiple social dance styles, including flamenco, ballet folklórico, square dancing and tango.

Oaxaca: Arte en Movimiento, was one of the dance groups at the event. It presented a traditional Mexican dance from Oaxaca. Edgar Yepez dance instructor at Oaxaca, said the dance represents Mexican heritage.

“It’s a Mexican tradition,” Yepez said. “It’s a Mexican folklore.”

Arte en Movimento’s goal is to be a growing space for culture and art, while promoting diversity, opportunity and cultural expression. Yepez said they’ve been around for a year and have seen their program grow tremendously from four participants to 40. He credits the growth to style of dance.

“The main difference in the style of dance is Guelaguetza,” Yepez said. “No one is doing Guelaguetza in Austin. That’s the main difference between other kinds of dance.”

Oaxaca showcases the vibrant social dance culture in the city.

But Austin isn’t always as kind to professional dance. Austin’s professional dance culture has the same issues as other major cities. According to Caroline Clark, who is working on her Ph.D. about Austin dance, said the only dancers who make a salary are ballet dancers. There’s also limited space. But she added that “that’s true everywhere.”

While professional dance has its troubles in the city, Clark said the most important thing about Austin’s dance culture is its growth.


Origins of Dance Cultures

Infographic Created By: Kaylee Nemec 


“The most important thing to know about Austin dance is that as Austin’s population grows, the diversity of dance forms that one can do here increases,” Clark said. “There are many kinds of dance here, from African forms to Hispanic forms to European folk forms to Asian forms. And, don’t forget the big Native American powwow that takes place every November. And, the very influential Texas dance hall tradition.”

Some of the biggest reasons for social dance’s popularity in Austin is it’s fun atmosphere. Mickey Jacobs, a senior tango instructor at Esquina Tango Cultural Society of Austin, said people attend tango classes at Esquina for the relaxed environment.

“We laugh a lot,” Jacobs said. “It’s a very open, and welcoming community. That’s really what esquina is known for and that’s what brings people back. It’s not intimidating … We make it easy to take that first step.”

Jacobs said Esquina offers a wide variety of classes. The main focus is Argentine tango, which places emphasis on the dance partners’ connection. Jacob’s performed a tango routine with fellow instructor Orazzio Loayza at Saturday’s festival, which displayed the dance’s heavy reliance on a duo’s embrace, and it additionally showed the technical side of the dance.

“It’s a couples dance first and foremost so learning to have the conversation, if you will, between the follower and the leader, but instead of a verbal conversation, it’s a conversation with your body,” Jacobs said. “It’s a very sensual dance. It’s all about responding to each other’s body movement … It all goes back to an embrace. The dance position is called the abrazo, which means embrace, and that’s where everything originates.”

Jacobs added that Esquina isn’t the only place in Austin teaching tango. She said the tango culture in Austin, much like the city’s overall dance community, is alive and well.

“There’s a very vibrant community,” Jacobs said. “There are a few 100 people, who regularly dance tango. There are definitely people around town, who are great, that serve people all around Austin … There are good teachers throughout the city, and a very vibrant active community.”



Meanings of Bharata Natyam Hand Gestures

Photos and Cutlines By: Kaylee Nemec



Photos and Cutlines By: Nick Castillo


Videos filmed and produced by: Sara Eunice Martinez

Texas Revue: Diversity Meets Worlds of Talent

By Isabella Bejar, Marina Chairez and JD Harris

Beat boxing, dancing, rapping, singing, and many more unique talents drew a full crowd at Hogg Memorial Auditorium on April 23, 2016. Nearly 1,ooo people attended the University’s largest talent show, Texas Revue.

The University of Texas at Austin began hosting their annual student-run talent shows in the 1960’s and then re-established in 1995. The Texas Revue is composed of individuals and various student organizations. Different talents continue to bring the UT community together for one night, while showcasing a variety of talented acts.

Over 55 acts auditioned, but only around 10-12 acts can be featured each year. Performers compete in a Texas tradition to win the “Best Overall” award and $1,500, while the titles of “Crowd Favorite” and “Technical Excellence” are also up for grabs.

Many may have different goals, but it is truly shown that all contestants give their heart out on the stage and hope for the best. Ray Villarreal is the first solo rapper to perform at the Texas Revue.

“I would like to get known here at UT because that would be really big for me and great exposure. I would feel on top of the world. Either way it’s been a fun ride. I’m having the time of my life and being able to do these things that not a lot of other people can say that they’ve done is great and it’s all because of music,” said Ray Villarreal.

With only five minutes on stage to showcase their talents to a panel of judges, the real work goes on months and maybe even years in advance. Each individual puts in hours of practice and sacrifice, but when doing something you’re passionate about, all that practice doesn’t feel so much like work.

“Entertaining a crowd is my favorite part of performing because I think I’m a good artist, but an even better performer. I think that’s what makes you stand out – engaging with people and getting them to sing along or even jump in the crowd and crowd surf. I think it’s fun,” Villarreal said.

The audience is really able to reflect on the importance of interpersonal cultural diversity, while being exposed to the many cultural performances. From Bollywood to mixes of hip-hop and traditional Bhangra, each performance is judged on things like creativity, technical achievements and skill.

“I was very engaged by the cultural dance and music groups who not only presented strong, well-rehearsed pieces, but also aimed to share cultural dance and music forms with a broad UT audience,” said Rebecca Rossen, judge and professional dancer, choreographer, and assistant professor in UT’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

“I was specifically looking for strong collaboration in group pieces, clarity and excellence in concept and execution, skill, uniqueness, and stage presence,” Rossen said.

That stage presence translated into social media using “#TexasRevue” which managed to reach over 60,000 people through personal tweets, media coverage and Instagram. Posts of friends and fellow students rooting on such a variety of artistic styles goes to show the diversity in the UT community.

Riju Humagain, logistics officer for Texas Revue, said “I think Texas Revue is unique because it honestly showcases such a diverse set of talents that is present in this University.”

All those components came together when Texas Nach Baliye, a traditional Indian dance team received the “Overall Winner” award at the end of the night.  

Poo Poo Platter: Serving Up Austin Drag

Jessica Jones, Fatima Puri, Shannon Smith

At 9:20, the stage manager throws open the dressing room door.

“Ready to go on at 9:30?” he asks.

But everyone shakes their head; Cupcake is running late—they’ll need more time. Seconds later, a frazzled man rushes in with a large suitcase in tow. The dressing room quickly becomes a center of chaos.

He yells that he only needs ten minutes. As Brady rips open the suitcase, one thing is clear: a transformation is about to take place.

Brady puts a hair net over his short, buzzed head and gets to work on his face. Quick brush stokes of foundation, blush, eye shadow. He swiftly applies glue to his fake eye lashes and places them perfectly on his lids. While he finishes up his lipstick, someone straps his heels. He shoves gel implants into his otherwise empty bra, and gives them a shake as he glances in the mirror. Next, he places two different wigs on his head and pins then into place.

Exactly 10 minutes later as promised, he sings, “Cupcake is reaaaady!”

Someone hands him the mic and he steps onto stage.

The dressing room looks like the aftermath of a tornado, but the five remaining queens backstage are too excited to even notice the mess. Tonight is a Poo Poo Platter show—and they’re ready to serve up the most unique of Austin’s drag.

Poo Poo Platter was formed three and a half years ago, after founding member Waldo moved to Austin and saw an opportunity to bring a new type of drag to the area. At the time, Austin drag was focused on female allusion, but Waldo knew others would want to join him in bringing a lighter-hearted, funnier type of drag to the city. With now more than ten members and at least two shows a month you could say it was a success.

Waldo, stage name Bulimianne Rhapsody, the creator of Poo Poo Platter, gets ready before the show. Photo courtesy of Shannon Smith.

Waldo, stage name Bulimianne Rhapsody, the creator of Poo Poo Platter, gets ready before the show.
Photo courtesy of Shannon Smith.

Although they are a troop, every member gets to design their own part of the show, from music and props right down to costumes and makeup.

“We’re very much independent contractors. Everyone does their own thing, they’re responsible for their own acts,” said queen Arcie Cola.

But being a part of the troop certainly has its benefits. It’s easier to book shows when you’re offering more than just one act, and the members understand that. Many of them had solo careers as performers before joining Poo Poo Platter, but enjoy the special relationships that being a part of this group provides.

“You can always be an individual performer, whereas being in a troop it’s a family. So for me it comes down to work and family,” said Zane Zena, who performed as a wrestler previous to joining Poo Poo Platter.

And the closeness of the group is apparent, even to an outsider. Whether they are helping each other in the dressing room, taking a cigarette break or just dancing around together during a rehearsal—it is clear that the group shares a special bond.

A big part of that bond is their agreement that “drag” is something that cannot easily be defined.

“When somebody tells you that you can’t be something—you do it. That’s drag to me,” said Zane Zena.

While Cupcake was more keen on not defining it at all, “I don’t know what is and isn’t drag… It’s not my problem to define the word, I’m not f***** Merriam Webster.”

And while the actual definition of drag may not be important, the troop agreed that there is a definite need to shine a light on drag as a real performing art.

Poo Poo Platter cast. Photo courtesy of Poo Poo Platter.

Poo Poo Platter cast.
Photo courtesy of Poo Poo Platter.

They practice hours a week and spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars, on making their own costumes. Yet, people are still quick to dismiss drag as being a real art. Respect—that is the universal word each queen mentioned. And the Austin International Drag Festival this past weekend was one step in the right direction.

An entire weekend dedicated to promoting and supporting the drag community, Poo Poo Platter was able to host events and mingle with infamous drag queens from around the world. More than anything, the second annual festival acted as a way of spreading the idea that drag is an outlet for artistic expression, not simply men in dresses.



Austin’s premiere pole dancing studio allows students to embrace their inner monkey

By Lingnan Ellen Chen, Alice Kozdemba, Larisa Manescu and Alex Vickery

To passersby, the small, unassuming studio on Manor Road doesn’t look like much. The big, yellow “Brass Ovaries” sign is the only thing that hints at what’s inside, and that doesn’t say a whole lot if you’re unfamiliar with the name. Every now and then, someone will knock on the door and ask if it’s a bar.

But for many locals, it’s an empowering safe place, where pole dancing and aerial arts can be practiced without judgment. It’s a welcoming environment where beginners can take up a new sport, dancers can sharpen their skills and even bachelorette parties can get free lessons.

Brass Ovaries pole student, Adrienne Foreman, practices a move in the advanced pole class in her weekly Wednesday night class. (Photo by Alex Vickery)

Brass Ovaries pole student Adrienne Foreman practices a move in the advanced pole class on Wednesday night. (Photo by Alex Vickery)

“There’s such a wide variety of what people are looking for when they come here to Brass Ovaries,” said Sophie, studio director and lead instructor. “We have people that come that just want to train to do competitions and want to be the best pole dancer in Texas…but usually people just want to have fun and to have a workout that’s interesting and not at a gym.”

An intimate setting like Brass Ovaries provides a camaraderie among clients that is hard to find under a gym’s fluorescent lighting.

“We make a very unified sort of feeling in our classrooms,” Sophie said. Whether athletes come in to try pole or the fitness-challenged want to get toned, everyone starts at the same level, she said.

Brass Ovaries has two pole dancing studios where instructors teach daily classes. In the main studio, students can practice their moves and get one on one feedback from the instructor. (Credit: Larisa Manescu)

Brass Ovaries has two pole dancing studios where instructors teach daily classes. In the main studio, students can practice their moves and get one-on-one feedback from the instructor (Photo by Larisa Manescu)

Brass Ovaries was founded in 2007, formerly located in a “seedy” spot behind a car wash on South Congress. Natasha Bajic, owner and “head ovary,” is a Bosnian war veteran with a degree in neuroscience.

After focusing on anthropology and the human brain, she has dubbed her approach to pole dancing as “releasing your inner monkey.”

“Everybody’s a natural pole dancer,” Bijac said. Being on our iPhones all day contradicts our natural body movements, and pole allows people to reconnect with that physical activity, acting as an antidepressant that has the power to change people’s lives both physically and mentally, she said.

Pole dancing is a lot less glamorous than it’s made out to be. On a daily basis, you’re more likely to find class participants  doing pull ups and nursing bruises, better known as “pole kisses,” than strutting around a pole in stilettos. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the performance aspect of pole dancing, a service that Brass Ovaries also provides.

“Beauty is pain,” Sophie said. “Pole dancing is beautiful and painful. Your body gets more accustomed to the abuse of pole dancing; your muscles get stronger and your skin does less work…The bruising never stops, but it does get easier.”

A “Pole Bruise Map” is posted on the bulletin board at Brass Ovaries, showing body parts that are prone to bruising, which are widely referred to as “pole kisses” by the pole community. Brass Ovaries instructor, Sophie says that the pole kisses never fully go away, but that the longer a dancer practices, the more accustomed they get to the abuse. (Credit: Alex Vickery)

A “Pole Bruise Map” is posted on the bulletin board at Brass Ovaries showing body parts that are prone to bruising, which are widely referred to as “pole kisses” by the pole community. Brass Ovaries instructor Sophie says that the pole kisses never fully go away, but that the longer a dancer practices, the more accustomed they get to the abuse. (Photo by Alex Vickery)

Instructors can even tell what moves someone has been practicing based on what bruises they have.

“I have gotten bruises in places where I never thought I’d get bruises,” said Alice Liu, a UT business honors senior and avid, though novice, pole dancer.

Liu first visited Brass Ovaries about a year ago for fun with a friend. After one class, the lifelong dancer was hooked.

“After learning the basics, pole is fundamentally a type of dance, which is what I love,” Liu said. “[You] build on that foundation with different techniques and your own artistic stylings. It’s a lot of fun because you can basically come up with your own routines to whatever music you want.”

Pole Graphic

She has even installed a pole at home so she can follow up weekly classes with at-home strength conditioning. Liu has noticed a significant physical change in the tone and strength of her body, but pole dancing is a mental workout as well.

“Pole dancing is so empowering,” she said. “You don’t need to have a big butt or bust or conform to any kind of ‘conventional’ view of beauty. You don’t have to be anything that you aren’t to feel sexy or strong and pole dance.”

Sophie thinks that this is one of the most important aspects of the sport.

“There’s this balance of real physicality, and then self expression, grace and beauty,” she said. “I think our clients get that confidence through the self expression that they’ve maybe never found before in any sort of fitness aspect.”

For Sophie, pole is empowering, sexy and fierce. She worked in gentlemen’s clubs to finance her bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Dance from the University of Texas, which she received with honors in 2007. Since then, she’s made her passion for erotic performance a full-time job.

For Bijac, pole is strictly a sport. “There is no dancing in my poling,” she said. “But my friend explained it like this: same pole, different swing. People can explore pole dancing on their own and make their own decisions about what pole means to them.”

Everyone has their own interpretation of pole; the community is supportive but by no means exclusive. Brass Ovaries encourages people of all levels and backgrounds to join. A few men come into the studio on a regular basis, and one of the instructors is male.

Sophie tells us a story of how a man began taking classes there after seeing his wife participate. Now 60 pounds lighter, he has been a regular part of the pole community for years alongside his wife.

That type of addiction is quite common, Sophie said.

Head pole instructor and city planning engineer for the City of Austin Odette Tan began as a client before working her way up at the studio. She’s dropped from a size 12 to a size two.

“It’s such a weird tangent of fitness, but people that love it become obsessed with it, and it’s a really healthy obsession,” Sophie said.

Despite being a tight-knit group, sometimes outsiders have a hard time understanding the intricacies of pole dancing as a sport and art form. Among the positivity–the studio won the Austin Chronicle’s award for “Best Fantasy Fitness” in 2011–the studio has also received its fair share of backlash due to the stigma often associated with pole dancing culture.

There’s usually two reactions when men come into Brass Ovaries, Sophie described. They either think it’s really “crazy and intimidating” or they treat it with a “snide condescending embarrassment.”

“Men that have a healthy respect for women and feminism come in with an open mind and a huge curiosity, but there’s still a stigma,” Sophie said.

Natasha even prefers to call them pole athletes as opposed to pole dancers because “pole dancers” comes with a negative stereotype.

Some of the women we spoke with were reluctant to share their names, as they don’t want pole dancing associated with their professional or public lives.

“In my private life, I’m proud to be a part of such an empowering and supportive community,” Liu said. “However, professionally, I typically withhold the fact that I’m an avid pole dancer, unless someone happens to outright ask about it. I think the stigma comes from a lack of understanding, as is true for many stigmas.”

Liu added that she hopes that one day pole dancing will be treated with the respect and admiration it deserves.

“In the end, pole dancing is an artistic outlet, an athletic feat, and empowerment movement all in one.”

*Some of the Brass Ovaries students preferred to use only their first names to protect their privacy.

Brass Ovaries Pole Dancing and Aerial Arts Studio from Larisa Manescu on Vimeo.

Longhorns Having a Swingin’ Good Time


By Bryce Gibson, Kirby Camerino, Elyana Barrera and Claudia Resendez

In a world where “twerking” and “grinding” have  become the go to dance move, it is refreshing that some people, even younger students at The University of Texas, are sticking to classic dances that are almost a century old.

One such dance is swing dancing. The fast moving, upbeat dance  developed in the 1920s is still going strong today.

Swing Dancing Pic 1

Swing dance is unique because it requires two people to partake in the many different dances that are considered “swing.” Some of the most popular are Lindy Hop, Jitterbug and the Charleston.

Swing dances were unique in different parts of the country during the 1920s and ’30s when the dance was first catching on. The dances were based on regional roots and influences. For instance, in Chicago swing was more of a two-step based dance, whereas in Los Angeles, it featured elements of the Charleston and the Fox Trot.

Today in Austin, many different forms of swing are being practiced in different locations all throughout the city. From East Austin to downtown, and even South Austin to UT’s campus, Austinites are finding ways to swing.

On Jan. 30th, dancers of all ages, mostly UT students, were welcome to enjoy a Swing Night at the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs Mansion located on San Gabriel Street just a few blocks west of UT’s campus.

Watch the UT Students Swing Dancing Video Here!
UT Students Swing Dancing Rev I

From beginners to professionals, dancers came out from 8 p.m. to midnight to show off their moves and perhaps even learn a few new ones. UT students currently enrolled in dance classes on campus, like senior journalism major Julia Ermlich, were happy to take what they learned in the classroom to the dance floor.

View the UT Dance Class photo story here!
UT Dance Class Photo Story


“We will learn a variety of dances this year such as the Salsa and the Waltz,” Ermlich said. “But the past few weeks we have been learning swing to get ready for the big night.”

People who are not UT students do not have to be disappointed in the fact that they cannot take dance classes offered by the University. Thanks to groups such as Austin Swing Syndicate, anyone with an ache to move and a willingness to learn can try their hand at swing dancing for a reasonable price.

So the next time you are about to go out with your friends and prepare to tear it up on the dance floor, try and take a break from twerking and try your hand at the dance that has managed to live on from generation to generation.

What do you think about swing dancing?
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Bold beauties show off their tattooed bodies in burlesque performance

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 1.57.41 PM Bethany Summersizzle performs an aerial act in the Ink and Smile: Tales of Tattoos From the Inked Ladies of Burlesque at the North Door on Saturday, Jan. 25. Photo By Angela Buenrostro

By: Chelsea Bass, Angela Buenrostro, Joanie Ferguson and Rachel Hill

When the average adult thinks of women who take off their clothes for a living, it often brings forth thoughts of poles and grungy dollar bills. These women use props too, but with a theme and flair. The Burlesque production Ink and a Smile, Saturday Jan. 25 at the North Door, featured a variety of experienced burlesque performers who used their tattoos to tell a story.

“They are experienced, high-quality performers,” event coordinator and founder of The Burlesquerie, Roxie Moxie said.

The theme for Ink and a Smile was developed by Roxie Moxie, which coincided with the annual tattoo revival being held that same weekend. Each of the 11 women who performed had different props related to their tattoos and the story they wanted to convey, which, for some, included aerial rings, ropes and lots of easily removable corsets. The emcee encouraged audience members to cheer whenever the women began to do anything provocative, mainly when they showed any skin as it is a burlesque tradition.

The performers went from a full costume, in conjunction with whatever theme they represented, to a G-string and pasties placed over their nipples, making them a thin strip of cloth away from being nude.

Burlesque shows have been around as early as the 17th century in Britain and eventually were picked up by Americans and revamped as American burlesque in New York. The American version differed from the English genre by focusing more on female nudity. It went from women showing just a little skin to a full strip tease.

Women who participate in burlesque in this day and age describe it as a form of empowerment for women while also having a strong feminist overtone. The average woman has the opportunity to partake in the rich history of burlesque in Austin in the Burlesque academy for beginners, and other local troupes such as Jigglewatts and Black Widow Burlesque, of which some of the dancers in Ink and a Smile were already members.

Although the art of burlesque is still considered provocative, those who attended Ink and a Smile couldn’t help but be pleasantly surprised by the eroticism mixed in with acrobatics and entertaining stories.

How many tattoos do you have?