Arroh Meuse is a belly dancer and musician with a wide expanses of experience. She has a degree in Dance and Choreography with a Modern dance focus, and also studied Rachel Brice’s 8Elements and Zoe Jake’s DanceCraft. She is also a member of Maharal as well as designing her own clothing line WhipCurve. For more information visit Maharal, or Arroh Meuse.
First time you saw dance?
I was raised in a house of dancers, my mother was a teacher and my sister is a professional dancer, so dance has always been a huge facet of my world. I don’t remember seeing dance for a first time, it always just was.
First time you saw bellydance?
This question makes me smile because I saw sprinklings of belly dance here and there and even took a brief workshop on belly dance at a college contemporary dance convention…but I didn’t see belly dance really fully with all of its wonder and boom until I saw Rachel Brice in a video online in 2007. In the piece she basically stayed with in a 3’ x 3’ foot space and danced mostly isolations. At the time, I had recently earned my degree in Dance and Choreography with a Modern dance focus and thought to myself, “wow, I can’t do any of that.” It was then I began searching for a teacher.
How did you get started?
It took two years to find teacher Joy Rayman in Charlottesville, which was an hour away from my home in Richmond, VA. She was willing to let me come to all of her Monday classes so that I didn’t have to make the drive more than once a week. I did that for about six months before moving out to Eugene, OR. There I found an Improv style teacher, which wasn’t really my thing but I wanted the training and foundations and figured I should do my best to absorb as much belly dance information as I could. I took five to seven classes a week for about a nine months and then dropped my studies to travel. About three years later (which was three years ago this month) I began training with Rachel Brice and have since finished Culmination in 8Elements and am about to enter Key of Spades, Zoe Jake’s DanceCraft’s second dance intensive level.
For me the belly dance structure suits my body best. I danced in a ballet company for 8 years and it hurt my ankles. Then I trained in modern dance and danced in several companies for years. I love it and it truly moves my heart and spirit and has its hold of me in most ways. And Belly dance, it is my honey temple. Physically, the posture of belly dance feels so right in my body. The feet are on the floor, stable, grounded, moving steadily. The movements attract the eye and guide the audience’s gaze to the small, powerful isolations that take years to master. The arms are fluid and graceful. I get chills thinking of its structure. It captivates me like no other form. It’s complexity and the training and the reach required to achieve it drive me nuts and I suppose I must love that. It challenges me deeply and offers me space to express in complicated ways. I’ve always been interested and have choreographed about mythology and the spirit world and I believe the aesthetic of belly dance gives me the most room to unite the spiritual, visionary, symbolic and physical realms. Aaaaannnnndddd of course the costuming is just out of this world. It is intricate and soothes my highly detailed costumer’s eye. I feel royal in belly dance costumes.
Why do you dance?
How could I not? I do not understand how people don’t dance. It literally keeps my health balanced, keeps me happy and feeling free, keeps me reaching, brings me to my knees, uplifts my soul, allows me to breathe more deeply, gives me space to cry, shows me grace, lets me flow with grateful, unites me with other dancers, shares its heart with me, allows me to play, offers me space to dream. It has been my dream since I was a little girl, so it links me to her and keeps my spirit young. It is a natural reaction of my body.
For the new student–search for and work with teachers who inspire you, help you, encourage you to reach and give you solid and clear critique. Critique is important in for your growth. If you don’t understand their notes to you, ask. Find a teacher whom you trust and listen to their guidance, that is what you are hiring them to do. If you don’t trust your teacher, find a new teacher. Practice as much as you can on your own, be humble, and accept compliments fully.
For the community my advice is to be in constant study and exploration. The moment we stop being students is the moment our work becomes stale. Link your worlds together. For example, if you like to study trees, allow yourself to draw that into your work. If you like to think about the way human connections form, feel it in your body. Dance is a great communicator and you can learn so much from playing with the form. You can also learn from watching a piece form around a subject, from watching your work evolve from piece to piece, and from threading your works together. Weaving your works together tells a story. Read them.
Also for the community…I think communication is a wonderful thing to study. I have found that dancers are sensitive creatures, mainly because we study and practice feeling the world through movement. We are training to be sensory beings. We embody everything. Sometimes it is hard to speak and communicate that world, thus taking courses on communication or reading books like Rosenburg’s Non-Violent Communication can be incredibly helpful for working in a larger community.
Anything inspiring you lately?
Right now I feel inspired by the way artists tend to break and break down and break through. They crash to the bottom and reform themselves and rise again. What a glorious cycle. After having been in relationship with dance and dancers for this long I have witnessed myself and others in that space and think it is the most magical process. It is stunningly beautiful to me and I’ve been bringing pieces of its purification and revelation into my recent work.
More information on classes and where you teach?
I am not currently teaching, though I do have aspirations to travel and teach as well as have a studio in my hometown for workshop classes and rehearsals.
What’s up next?
In May, I will be taking Key of Spades the second level of Dance Craft with in Zoe Jakes. Then I will be joining Monique Trinity Rose and Sedona Soulfire in a trio work with Devadasi Dance Company at What The Festival in Portland, OR in June. Then its tour time with Maharal!
How did Maharal form?
Maharal was the creation of my bandmate, Brett Zwerdling. He had been playing music for a Richmond based Belly Dance troupe called To the Earth. In 2010, he and I were introduced through association with a collaborative group called Amazing Stage Show. Brett and I co-wrote a song for a dance solo for that company and we laughed the whole way through. When his dancer moved to another state, it felt natural for me to ask if I could help him out and its been six years of incredible world wide adventures, music collaboration, and dreaming. Our collaboration has also led me to studying the Turkish bass drum, the Davul, with Brett’s insistence and guidance. Now Maharal is mainly the two of us. He holds the melody along with several other instruments, and I dance as well as hold down the beat.
What type of music is it?
It is a meandering style depending on the venue. We play loads of traditional Turkish songs. We also have a musical foundation of Brett originals and our collaborative Mediterranean style originals. We cover Led Zeppelin too sometimes…because mmmm Led Zeppelin.
Who is in Maharal?
Brett Zwerdling and myself
What is it like performing to live music / music you are so closely involved with?
It is heaven to perform to live music because it is never performed the same way twice, so you are always on your toes. I like to think of performing to live music like riding a dragon, it dips and swirls and flows in its own present moment…so much is dependent on the crowd and the emotion of the musicians. So your body has to feel for the curving pathway and jump on. Sometimes you hold on for dear life and sometimes its cool and easy as a sweet river. Each experience is created in that very moment and so it is always presented from the heart and that’s the point.
Any upcoming shows?
All summer long really. We will be playing at Baltimore’s Earth Day Fest, Fertile Ground Gathering, Blue Ride Beltane Fest, Spoutwood Fairy Fest, New York Fairy Fest, PEX Fest, Love Light Yoga Fest, and hopefully Burning Man.
Anything you want to say or share about your upcoming clothing line?
WhipCurve…it’s a wild little ride too. My Fall/Winter season was filled with designing and constructing clothing for both VCU and William and Mary’s Dance Depts. I have worked closely with dancers for the last 15 years and understand how the body moves and how it wants to move and how it feels most free while bound in clothing. Clothing is soft architecture, with this in mind WhipCurve clothing is designed with years of direct freedom expression centering around movement. These clothes allow the body to breathe while it moves, to find its extension and flow. They are comfy and playful and can be worn throughout the day from venue to venue. The line is still in the works as of now. If any one is interested in purchasing direct contact is the best. You can find us on FaceBook at WhipCurve.
Why did you decide to start a clothing line
I have been designing costumes since 2002 for different dance departments and companies on the east coast. It was the work which actually paid for most of my dance training. My perspective as a designer is that of a participant. I knew what dancers needed to feel best on stage and so I craft that for us. Creating a clothing line feels like an organic and obvious choice. Dancers want to feel great and comfortable at all times ready to move. I provide that.