Cairo in Columbus 2013: Amy Sigil and Unmata review

Seemingly inexplicable dragon chained to a giant toothbrush in Columbus, Ohio.

Seemingly inexplicable dragon chained to a giant toothbrush in Columbus, Ohio.

Amy Sigil has an amazing gift as a dance teacher. Much like Suhaila (after who’s workshop I coined the following phrase), Amy leaves you feeling like a “Puddle of Power” – she works you incredibly hard, to the point where once it’s over, your muscles feel like jelly, you melt into a puddle on the floor, only able to think, “Holy crap! I did it!” and as you lay there in this melted state of accomplishment, you realize that you feel incredibly powerful. Your jelly-like muscles feel they could defeat supervillans. You could FLY! Well, you could if you find a bucket to pour yourself into because you, my friend, have become a Puddle of Power!

But don’t get scared away if you’re a new dancer or are new to workshops. Even though she works you really hard, she has a great way of breaking down the movements and combos into digestible pieces that she introduces over first half of each workshop. She would break down the feet, hips, body posture/angles, arms, etc. in pieces, slowly layering each new body part over the others, building up to the complete movement or combo. Had she shown us at the beginning what we were working up to, I would have laughingly thought there was no way we could accomplish all that in two hours, but with her incredibly precise teaching style, it’s amazing what we accomplished in each two hour workshop. I normally don’t feel proud after a two hour workshop, but I really did coming out of Amy’s.
As a teacher, I found Amy to be very funny, personable, and hardcore. She demands a lot of you, but in such a positive life affirming manner that it’s bellydance bootcamp, but it’s joyous, fun-loving bootcamp.

Depending on your level, you might not make it through the entire thing, but give it a shot anyways, you may be surprised at just how much she can stretch your limits.

Amy Sigil and I after day one of workshops at Cairo in Columbus

Amy Sigil and I after day one of workshops at Cairo in Columbus

ITS style:
I’m a certified ATS teacher, but I had never done ITS style before. I could definitely see the ATS roots, but ITS is even more precise, with elements of tribal fusion, pop and lock, and hip-hop thrown in. Whereas ATS/FCBD dancers seem like the regal, elegant queens of tribal and BSBD dancers seem like the slightly more relaxed, fun-loving party girls, ITS seems like the hardcore, in-your-face tribal soldier/mercenary. (Or at least that’s what it seemed like from my brief exposure over the weekend.)

Cairo in Columbus:
This was my first time at Cairo in Columbus, hosted by Chandara ( and I found Chandara to be a very friendly and gracious hostess. On Sunday, she even brought in a bunch of fruit, pita, and hummus for the dancers. The workshops were held in the Pavillion room at the Crowne Plaza Columbus North Hotel, which despite the carpet floor, was a fantastic space for workshops. It is a permanent structure, but felt like an outdoor tent with lots of natural light, but had a fantastic A/C system, which was much needed during Amy workshops. There were also a lot of good vendors present.

Kari and I after the Saturday Cairo in Columbus show

Kari and I after the Saturday Cairo in Columbus show

The show:
I thoroughly enjoyed the show. There was a good mix of student and professional level dancers and it was fantastic that the venue was an actual theatre with stage lighting, which really added to the performance. I won’t go into every performance, but want to comment on a few.

Maria Flaherty performed the best fan veil choreography I have ever seen. She followed her theme and artistic concept through completely – the costume, song, fan veils, and choreography all synergistically worked together, each one enriching the others. So many times I see fan veils used for their own sake, but Maria made them essential to the piece and wove them in with the bellydance moves, each highlighting the music and really bringing it to life. If I were deaf, I would have known exactly what the music sounded like.
Joanna Abel was amazing as usual, both in her solo and with the 3rd Street Bellydance troupe. She’s one of those dancers who has amazing technique, a charismatic stage presence, and a wonderful artistic sense. I have yet to see a performance of her that I haven’t utterly enjoyed.
And now, the completely and totally amazing Unmata.

Holy crap.

By this point in the evening, it was late, I was dehydrated, I had a headache and I was exhausted but the moment Unmata started their performance, all of that went away – I could have watched them for hours.

Unmata is tribal with TEETH. They are aggressive but fun; the kind of performance that shoves you against the wall and ravages you — and you just sit back and enjoy the ride. Amy and Kari wore simple costumes that allowed the smooth and amazing mixture of ITS and choreography to take center stage. There were multiple lighting and mood changes throughout the performance, keeping it fresh and dynamic. Plus, Amy would periodically throw in a look or gesture and really connect with the audience (audience interaction is one of my favorite parts of bellydance!)

After the in-your-face section of the choreography, they did a beautiful, melancholy delicate piece. I felt like someone watching a magical scene in a crystal pool of water and was almost afraid to breathe because I might ripple the surface and break the spell. During this section, I could tell that the performance was coming to an end and I felt like the sadness being portrayed on stage mirrored the sadness I felt that this wonderful performance would soon come to an end. They were breathtaking.

It was an utterly fantastic weekend of workshopping, performances, fun friends, & fantastic food. It was seriously one of the best workshop weekends I’ve ever had. Thank you, Amy, Kari, and Chandara!

Personal notes (these are just little notes to myself to remember some personal things during the weekend. Please feel free to ignore):

  • So many adventures with Laura. What did people do without GPS?
  • OMG: Mozart’s piano bar and bakery, Pistacia Vera, and Bamboo Café!
  • Worthington is really cute, nice area to live. If I ever move to Columbus, check it out.
  • A beetle crawled up my pants! Eep! O_o

About jbakstudios

Generally speaking, is sunshine, butterflies, and crayons, covered in spikes and clad in black. ^_^ Photographer, Belly Dancer, Artist, Yogini, Shibari-ka, Silk-dyer, Geek, and Marshmallow wrangler.
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6 Responses to Cairo in Columbus 2013: Amy Sigil and Unmata review

  1. america says:

    I Love this article! you were amazing and i adored dancing with you on that stage of terror but we did it! thanks for being apart of it all and hope to see you next year!

  2. jbakstudios says:

    Ha! “Stage of Terror” — that’s a great description. It was pretty scary (but awesome!) demonstrating in front of the workshop. :)

  3. LauraH says:

    I will second you on all points. I’ve got to admit as a less accomplished dancer I was a little scared I’d not keep up or embarrass myself but I hung in. Not only did I enjoy it I was really left wanting more. The Unmata performance was phenomenal. It nearly brought me to tears at one point. Amy and Kari were wonderful. Best weekend I’ve had in a long time.
    BTW after your beetle close encounter I really think you should make the scarab your spirit animal. It was a sign!

    • jbakstudios says:

      I’m starting to wonder about the beetle thing, too. I’ve either been hearing beetle wings or cicadas outside my window since I’ve gotten back. o_O

  4. I think you were the one who asked me about the videos I was taking Saturday night.. I’m slowly getting them up on YouTube.. if you search for Cairo in Columbus 2013 you should find them.

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