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About the Author
The silly and sleepless Mistress McCutchan, otherwise known in the real world simply as Laura, created Morbid Outlook in August of 1992, while still a gothling in high school.

She is a senior web designer fulltime and still freelances. Mistress McCutchan makes time to also design and make all sorts of stuff, DJ at Contempt, and dance as one-half of Serpentina. She has been vegetarian for nearly half her life, and more recently, vegan. When not working like a maniac, she can be found becoming one with the couch, especially if Three’s Company is on.
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Ill | Tempest


Raqs Gothique with Tempest
Mistress McCutchan
I walked up from the subway steps and could easily spot the gals walking up to 440 Lafayette: black clad, vividly tressed and pierced women ready to do a spooky shimmy. On December 11, Zan of Chovexani (pronounced show-vahn-ee) hosted a special workshop with Tempest, one of the forerunners of the Raqs Gothique movement.
Tempest is a charming lass, who has lived in a variety of places in the East, from Philly to South Jersey, with a sojourn to South Carolina. She studied printmaking and earned her BFA at Rhode Island School of Design, and now lives in the Bay Area with her husband. She first became interested in bellydance around 1999-2000 and enrolled in classes in the beginning of 2001. She was naturally drawn to it as a fan of the female form, in all its incarnations, as well as Middle Eastern and Mediterranean music. And, she adds, “I love shiny, jingly things... it just made sense.”
Her first real teacher was Sabra Jamal of Providence, Rhode Island; her main teacher in California was Azar. Tempest takes regular classes whenever she can “just have fun and go over basics. I take private lessons with a few select instructors to perfect my style and technique, and key workshops several times a year with dancers who inspire me.”
These ladies were indeed inspired by Tempest. There were between twenty-five to thirty women in the room enrolled in this Sunday workshop. Some were local, others came from Southern Jersey, Philadelphia and even as far as Indianapolis! We were seated on the floor in a circle as everyone introduced themselves, and Tempest gave a talk about the origins of this movement.
Raqs Gothique is a term coined from Raqs Sharqi, also spelled Raks Sharki, which is the Arabic term for what the Western world calls bellydance. It roughly translates in English as “Dance of the East”. What Raqs Gothique is, is a darker, more dramatic version that stems from the bellydance scene, and has an overall mood that is much more than a dancer in a black costume. There is a sense of duende in the performance, and a wide variety of experimentation in costume, moves, and music.
We stood up to stretch and a light warmup, and then worked our way into various exercises. The opening exercise was an introduction to creating “ritual” in your performance very much in the pagan vein of “calling the quarters” and bringing in the five elements, and how dancers may interpret fire, water, air, earth and spirit.
We also ran through several exercises of dancing for each other and improvising; as a whole, the dancers present considered how to work with the energy radiated from the audience and what was needed to keep people engaged. This prooves to be a tricky task. As Tempest put it, “A goth crowd will stare blankly at you with arms crossed, and that’s when they like what they see!”
I had the good fortune to dance with Christiane of the Philly-based Ak'Ana, who was a fun and wonderful partner. I’ve only meet her once prior to this event, and yet dancing together via leader/follower, using eye contact and other visual cues, it made for a very intimate and magical dance!
There was a lot of chatting throughout the workshop, and not as much dancing as I would have liked, but I think that is the price you pay when you get a bunch of cool women together in one room! We did have some time to just bust out and improvise to a song, while focusing on variation in our movement: how to break from just using standard arm positions (as seen in ATS/tribal fusion), getting your legs and head into it, etc.
The workshop closed with a talk and demonstration of props and how to polish up your performance. Hints like how to using your eyes, not bending over and giving the audience a “butt shot” when picking up your veil, and walking of stage as part of the finish, were helpful suggestions to enhance a dancer’s presence.
There was about half an hour break before the “Gothla” began. (Gothla is coined from “hafla”, which is a Middle Eastern dance party.) There was a lot of positive feedback from this workshop. Eshtar-Lucretia claimed that the music choices, such as The Moors, and topics discussed were great food for thought. Melissa told me that she liked the show etiquette and Tempest’s quirky sense of humour. Scarlett, who had participated in another workshop with Tempest, mentioned that she liked how the goth persona was drawn out and encouraged in dance. Bellydance was such a wonderful opportunity to meet other like-minded women!
Chairs were lined up against one wall and the audience trickled in and were treated to eight performances. Zan opened the show with a colourful double veil routine. Christiane and Jaz of Ak'Ana followed with a very gothic flavoured tribal set. Then the ginger-haired Willow danced in tribal fusion style with some strong and serpentine floorwork. The fourth act on the bill was Coveilance, and nine dancers formed a chaotic choreography giving our eyes a wide range of the skills of their dancers.
Next came Nora Esham, an experimental Bronx group who did a Latin-flavoured fusion of ethnic styles. Sera followed with her own lithe experimental fusion, ending in her gracefully sneaking herself back into the audience! Ariellah, a member of The Indigo, was the second to last on the bill, executing the tribal fusion style her troupe is known for, complete with those infamous pop-and-lock moves.
Then Tempest danced for us, looking like Theda Bara reincarnated as Isis, in an off-white assuit costume that she just finished on her way to New York City. Besides being a creative and skilled costumer, Tempest simply flows into every move she makes, as if she is perfectly posing and ready to be photographed.
Interested in classes or additional resources on Raqs Gothique? Tempest recommends a solid training in bellydance as the core, whether you study traditional cabaret style or tribal.
Photos by Mistress McCutchan