The Coveilance Dance Project
San Francisco may be a big hot spot for bellydance, especially American Tribal Style (ATS), but there is no shortage of bellydance here on the East Coast! The Coveilance Dance Project is a South Jersey based outfit in the Delaware Valley, led by Kimberly Dickinson. I first saw her and her partner perform at an event in lower Manhattan at the Slipper Room called Twilight Oasis; it was an evening dedicated to alternative bellydance.
I really enjoyed their performance. The overall vibe between her and her partner was astounding as they swayed in unison to B-Tribes Angelic Voices. There was such a great energy; it was very obvious there was a deep connection between them. It made perfect sense when Kimberly later revealed they were sisters. I dragged her to my first class so I wouldnt have to go by myself and she loved it, too. The other girls in the troupe are friends, or friends of friends, or girls that saw a flyer somewhere and just started taking lessons.
Kimberly was first drawn to bellydance through an occult supply store in Texas. Funny story, actually. I purchased a necklace one day and the owner of the shop said that with every jewelry purchase you received a free bellydance lesson. I knew very little about bellydancing but I figured I would check it out. After the first class I was hooked! It was the music that did it. It was so exotic and rhythmic it struck a nerve somewhere in the recesses of my brain.
She began traditional bellydance in Corpus Christi with two different teachers, but then stayed with the teacher who gave her that first free lesson, Claudia Maxwell. Ms. Maxwells style was preferred, because although she was less technical than the other instructor, she encouraged expressing your individuality in the dance. That was very important for me personally. My other teacher preferred the cookie cutter style of dancing for her students with no experimenting. Kimberly also explained, With Claudia, you could dance in non-traditional costumes, like velvet and feathers, and to non-traditional music. My first solo was to a Dead Can Dance song. The other teacher would never have allowed that!
Teaching was a natural path for Ms. Dickinson. While living in such a conservative part of the country, many of her friends were not welcome in a bellydance class. Because they stripped for a living or because of their dyed hair and facial piercings. I thought that was cruel, frankly. They asked if I would teach them some steps so we got together informally once a week at my house in secret from the other real belly dancers in the community. The classes just kinda grew from there.
In 2000, Kimberly followed most of her family to New Jersey, realizing that there was very little keeping her in Texas. In New Jersey, she teaches two one-hour classes during the summer (a beginner class and an advanced/troupe rehearsal) and three classes (beginner, intermediate, and advanced/troupe rehearsal) during the fall and spring.
I always had to add a little bit of extra drama. I guess thats just my style. Once I started teaching regular classes, I could really delve deeper into the drama and give it a darker personality. Once I did, it felt like a natural fit, as if that was how it was suppose to be all along. Sounds kinda mystical I know but thats the best way I can describe it.
Two things she advises to women interested in giving bellydance a try:
1. Keep your mind open. Many things about Belly dance go against what we as American women are taught to be correct. Not only will the music sound funny to western ears, but our bodies are not used to moving like that and it sometimes feels taboo or unnatural. The thing is, its more natural than the way Western cultures dance and move.
Pointe ballet not natural. Hip circles very natural.
2. Make the dance your own. What I mean by that is dont try to look or dance like somebody else. One of the great things about belly dance is that it is very individualized. Because of different body styles or personalities, one persons move may not look like the next persons move. They are both doing the move correctly. So a beginning student shouldnt try to look exactly like the teacher. As long as the move feels good and you are having a good time moving to the music you are doing it correctly.
The Coveilance Dance Project website is available at