Rock & Metal dance meeting arose from the collaboration between Zarina and Vera Mahsati, two dancers who develop their work through the study of the movement applied to metal and rock. From these studies have arisen their projects Rock & Metal Dance and Bellydance Rocks!, in Madrid and Lisbon, respectively. In view of the celebration in Lisbon of Hafla Tarab on April 22, in which both participated along with many other artists, they decided to call the Portuguese dancers interested in discussing the main guidelines of the present and future of the Rock & Metal dance world. This first edition in Europe was held at Café Fábulas in Lisbon. It was attended by Mary Nemain, Soraya Moon and Kahina Spirit (components of Ignis Fatuus Luna), Diane Frey, Ana Mafalda, Filipa Nunes and the organizers, Vera Mahsati and Zarina. The dancer and musical journalist Filipa Nunes made the photographic report of the event.
General lines and presentation of participants
The meeting began after a brief presentation of each of the assistants, including their artistic career and their relationship with the world of rock and metal. During their presentation, Ana Malfada, Diane Frey and Filipa Nunes pointed out their need to stop practicing this style on their own in order to exchange ideas and collaborate with other dancers. Diane Frey also commented her intention to start developing this style in Glasgow, the city where she moves next autumn.
During the four hours of the meeting, there were topics addressed such as dance from a historical perspective, dance technique, work with bands of music and specific events and present and future shows in Europe.
Presentation of the assistants and their artistic projects.
History of music and dance
We opened the debate by making a historical review of Rock & Metal music and the presence of dance throughout the decades. In the beginnings of Rock & Roll, the dance floors were crowded with couples and over the years it was established as a social dance that has lasted until today. However, the birth of heavy metal in the decade of the 70s was a dry cut for this dance trajectory. On reflection, the participants agreed that one of the keys to the absence of dance as an art associated with the rock-metal scene was the lack of female artists in a masculine subculture created for a male audience. Vera Mahsati also added an explanation with an ethnic and cultural component: the lack of influence of the Afro-American community (culturally closely linked to bodily expression) in the creation and evolution of the metal was crucial for the dance not to develop, unlike what did happen with Blues, Rock & Roll, Soul, Funk and other contemporary artistic movements like hip-hop.
The absence of the African American community in the creation of the metal music was one of the factors that might explain the lack of an associated dance artistic movement. – Vera Mahsati
After several decades, there is currently an incipient movement of Rock & Metal dance in several countries, including Portugal and Spain, but it is imperative to work hard to consolidate it if we want it to survive. It’s now or never.
One of the key points planned in the debate was the discussion about the technical aspects of dance. Vera Mahsati and Zarina defended the idea that dance cannot be separated from the musical characteristics of the genre and it is necessary to adapt the steps already known by the dancer to Rock & Metal music to define a specific repertoire, in addition to create new steps.
Diane Frey and Ana Mafalda shared with us the process of their self-taught formation and Filipa Nunes pointed out the importance of having references in a dancer’s learning process. Her teacher Cris Aysel, in her case.
For their part, Ignis Fatuus Luna (Mary Nemain, Soraya Moon and Kahina Spirit) explained their creative process as a group in their choreographies. They also highlighted the creation through free improvisation. The combination of the imagination of the three of them crystallizes in the final piece of work.
Vera Mahsati also recalled the importance of continuous dance training to be able to go beyond the currently established artistic limits.
As a main conclusion, there was a general agreement: Rock & Metal needs its own movements, beyond the starting repertoire that each dancer wants to use (oriental dance, tribal dance, contemporary dance or others). The research and promotion of Rock & Metal dance are now in our hands.
Work with bands
One of the possibilities for the Rock & Metal dancer is working with bands of music. In this line, Ignis Fatuus Luna’s members spoke of their experience with the Portuguese metal band Moonspell, with whom they have collaborated on numerous occasions. They also told us about their participation in a European festival where they performed during a 1-hour time slot, like the rest of the music bands that took part in the festival. However, they pointed out that this kind of work for the music industry has not truly functioned on a regular basis. The rest of the audience remarked the need to increase the regular collaborations with festivals or bands to make dance considered as an element of the Rock & Metal scene.
In contrast, Kahina Spirit told us about her exceptional work with the Tunisian metal band Myrath. Since 2015, she has been a member of the band as a dancer. Living in Lisbon has not been an obstacle to this and she is currently part of Myrath’s tour around the world. Kahina Spirit especially emphasized her great experience working with musicians in an artistic, scenic equal level, creating a show where dance and music have the same significance.
I participate in the world tour of Myrath as a member of the group. I work with them in an artistic equal level. – Kahina Spirit
The experience of Kahina Spirit is undoubtedly a great step forward in dance recognition. However, there was a consensus that, although the support of musicians would greatly facilitate the development of dance, it is not essential. The community of Rock & Metal dancers should not rely on it to project their future.
Shows and events
In line with the above, one of the current shortcomings of the Rock & Metal dance is the scarcity of shows dedicated to this type of dance.
The Portuguese dancers remarked the need to create specific shows in Portugal, since there are currently none in the country. Nowadays, they present their choreographies in another kind of events, such as those dedicated to oriental or tribal dance.
Zarina, for her part, presented the case of Spain, where there are events dedicated exclusively to Rock & Metal dance like BellyRock! (from 2013) and Tribal Rock Fusion, which first edition will take place in May 2017. The only requirement for dancers is to choose songs catalogued within these musical genres.
It was concluded that it was necessary to launch an event in Portugal to promote the style and it was agreed as a potential date the autumn of 2017. It was also proposed the the possibility of an Iberian collaboration to promote the Rock & Metal dance internationally.
Commitment of contact for future European collaborations.
Upcoming performances and closing of the event
We those who attended the meeting agreed to continue the exchange of ideas. We also talked about some future collaboration to promote this emerging artistic movement that seeks to join dance and Rock & Metal. In this sense, the creation of a show in Lisbon, the continuation of the shows in Madrid and a new meeting with the Spanish dancers when there is the opportunity to have international guests are foreseen.