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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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Photo | Kimberly Dickinson

The Coveilance Dance Project
Mistress McCutchan
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 wouldn’t 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. Maxwell’s 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 that’s 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 that’s 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, it’s 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 don’t 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 person’s move may not look like the next person’s move. They are both doing the move correctly. So a beginning student shouldn’t 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