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Spotlight on: Rebeq Porzig

What are your biggest inspirations and influences?

Let’s start with influences. I feel I have a bit more of a concrete answer for that one. The teachers who I’ve seen over the years for day after day study have certainly been huge influences on me. This includes folks like Julianne Battaglia, teaching out of the Jacksonville area of Florida, who was my very first instructor and brought so much knowledge to her classes from a lifetime of dance study and travels. She really showed me early on how to appreciate and respect Arab culture. Then there is Misha, teaching out of Sarasota, Florida, who has been my instructor since 2008. There is no way to easily sum up what an immense source of support and great mentor she has been over the years, giving me instruction but also opening the door to further studies and opportunities. And I couldn’t leave out Leymis Bolaños Wilmott, who I studied under for 4 years during my undergraduate studies; it is from there that I first started really intentionally fusing contemporary dance concepts with bellydance.

As far as inspiration goes, that is tougher. I’d say the driving force there, though, is curiosity. I try to seek out as much knowledge about the world as I can, and what I find usually ends up woven into my worldview, thoughts, and movements. Part of me feels expected to say I am inspired by the “greats” of insert-specific-dance-style-here, and for sure I am, but more than that I want to emphasize the amount of inspiration I draw from my peers and my community. All the people I get to dance with, in classes or in private, non-performative gatherings especially. I am hugely inspired by the folks around me, who span all manner of ages, orientations, identities, cultures. The encouragement and inspiration I draw from witnessing and interacting with others through dance cannot be overstated. I should also mention a good deal of my inspiration does not come from people but from nature. Watching the movement of waterways or trees in the wind, seeing the way hawks swoop and dive or how a lizard may slowly climb a tree.

What keeps you motivated?

I have quite a few sources of motivation. There is a good deal of intrinsic motivation to dance involved. Dancing just feels good, it is enjoyable, and that is plenty of motivation to keep going. But in terms of fusion bellydance specifically, I am motivated by the desire to share the benefits I have gained from my own studies and the desire to improve the art form. Trying to keep things brief, when I first started learning bellydance what I was learning was, at its core, a fusion of folkloric and theatrical dance styles that mostly fit into the MENAHT (Middle Eastern, North African, Hellenic, Turkish) acronym, with the addition of reference to the Indian subcontinent. Additionally, some of the most important context to consider is that this was happening for me in north Florida, in a generally conservative area and while my family and social circles were loving and accepting, there was a fair bit of bigotry and racism in the immediate world around me. And yes, the majority of my study occurred with teachers who were not of the source cultures. I say that all with hopes to emphasize how important this was for me as a young adult. It helped spark my curiosity in the most positive of ways, actively encouraging me to put substantial effort into seeking out opportunities to connect with people of these cultures and learn how to engage in a fusion of dance forms in a way that does not appropriate from other cultures (and believe me, there were plenty of mistakes and missteps as I grew into a better dancer, not just in technique but in ethics). This learning of dance was a huge force against these hurtful forces that were in my larger community. And so I find myself motivated to pass that forward. Dance is also this incredible outlet for me. Whatever I’m feeling, be that joy, anger, despair, I can work through that by dancing and that is a huge motivating source to keep at it.

What are your biggest challenges?

Approaching this question with the intention to be quite honest, I think one of my biggest challenges is really showing up as a movement artist, being more visible and outspoken. It is a goal of mine over the next while to seek more opportunities to speak or write about dance, to teach or otherwise bring more dance to my community/communities, and yes, to perform as well. This is something I have gotten better at over the years, but I see much room for improvement. How to say this next bit without rambling too much? With some regularity, I see peers engaging in dance (especially fusion) as a performative art in a way that, while beautiful, is not culturally well-informed and in ways that ignore current world events and the need for at least some level of activism. This is one area where I think I could be doing more to hold myself and my fellows to a higher standard.

What do you think the future of fusion is?

A welcome question after discussion of some of the challenges. At its core, fusion is something exquisitely beautiful. I often consider the blending of cultures around the world, across human history. Intermingling has always happened. Often, but of course not always, the drivers of this intermingling stem from violence, inequality, harm. Yet from that comes such beauty, whether that be new cuisine, new music, new movement. I’m not talking about cheap imitation, not talking about misrepresenting and appropriating. No, I speak of the art created from embracing an alchemy of different styles, feelings, ways of knowing and experiencing the world. Even more than that, in exploring fusion I find common threads among people who are marginalized everywhere around the world. That blending of same and different across cultures is so beautiful.  Embracing this is the future of fusion.  

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