While at Art of the Belly, Shimmy Support got the chance to meet Jo Boring, the crazy, wonderful troupe leader of Lunachix. The Lunachix are one of the few troupes on the east coast who regularly study and perform Hot Pot ITS, in addition to creating choreographies. Amy Sigil in California created Hot Pot ITS, and Jo Boring is currently a certified level 1 instructor. Click to learn more about Lunachix and find out where Jo Boring is teaching.
When was the first time you saw dance?
I don’t know that I can remember specifically the first time I saw dance as a kid. I think I have always liked it, and been drawn to movies with dance …Cyd Charisse in Singing in the Rain was a childhood fascination! I can remember specifically the first time I saw bellydance was at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York around 2003. They were having an outdoor festival, and I was just wandering around with a friend looking at things. Then a group of women came by with the coins and the outfits, and they were just walking through getting ready to go perform, and I just fell into line and followed them. I had go see what was going on.
I followed them into their performance, and I started taking classes in Rochester, New York. I started taking classes at the Goddess Hour. The troupe there was Sahara Shimmer, and I took classes for a little while. I eventually joined Sahara Shimmer for about a year, before I moved back to where I grew up near Oneonta, New York.
When I moved back to Oneonta, I was worried that I wouldn’t find any bellydance, because it’s a very rural area. However, my longtime teacher, Caroline Huxtable was teaching in Oneonta, and I started taking classes. She was a different style. Sahara Shimmer had Turkish influence, cabaret influence, a lot of different things, but more on that end of the spectrum, and then Caroline did more tribal fusion. That was when that kind of switched.
How did you get into teaching and forming your troupe?
It happened very much by accident. I was in B3 Belly Dance for 8 years, so I was always a troupe member, and I had a wonderful teacher and I wasn’t really looking to teach. My teacher had been teaching a class at a gym that was a significant distance from her, so she stopped teaching the class because it was too far to travel. Then they were looking for somebody else to take over that class. I think that the gym owner asked me probably three or four times before I said yes, because I was really nervous. I didn’t know if I could make that jump, or, if I felt confident enough to do that.
The gym owner was wonderful. I really appreciate that she was very persistent about it, because she knew there was a lot of interest in the area. She wanted to keep it going, so she just kept asking, and asking, and asking, and so finally I acquiesced. I’m so glad I did, but it really took somebody being that persistent, because I was nervous about making that transition.
I started teaching a beginner class at the Cardio Club in New York in 2013. The Lunachix started as a student troupe dancing at B3 events. We do more things now, different events, and it has grown so much from 2013 to now. They have such positive attitudes and dedication and each person contributes something amazing – I love them so!
How would you describe your troupe, what your style is, what you like doing?
Since I got certified in ITS this past year, now Hot Pot improvisational tribal style is a big focus. That’s Amy Sigil’s improvisational format, and that’s one piece of what we do. The choreography is another piece of what we do, and I don’t know what I would call it…. it’s not very traditional. I like to do things that are unusual, and with a lot of personality. So changing up the tempo, emotion or music in unique ways….. it tends to be very modern in terms of an aesthetic. We dance to “Until The Ribbon Breaks” all the time. I can’t get away from that one album (A Lesson Unlearnt), and I swear we’ll probably choreograph something to the whole album. Overall not very traditional choices or look, and to be quite honest, not always a whole lot of bellydance per se…it’s pretty eclectic.
Since you just got certified, how did you go through the process of doing that? Did you learn from workshops, or how did you get started?
Well now there’s more opportunities to learn ITS on the east coast, which is awesome. (Can I shout out to my fellow Hot Pot teachers?! Check out this map: http://improvisationaltribalstyle.com/%E2%99%A6nothern-america/), I couldn’t find anybody at first. I had admired Unmata for a long time, and watched videos of their choreography as well as their improv…..I can still remember being blown away the first time I really understood that ITS was an improv language. They were very inspired to me, but there were not a lot of local opportunities (in NY) to find out more. At Art of the Belly last year, April Rose did a class, and I did that, and that was an introduction to Level 1 ITS and was an opportunity to get a taste of it. Before that though, I had emailed Amy, and just said, “What intensives are there?” Since I knew I couldn’t take a weekly class for an hour, two hours. I thought, “If I want to learn this, I should go to something where I can really get it, in a chunk.” At that point I was just thinking more learning, not necessarily teaching. I asked her about opportunities, and learned that she offers the only intensives to certify teachers. I thought that would be good so I could teach it and have others to dance it with on regular basis. She let me know about an opportunity that was available to me. So I went to California to her studio, and took her intensive teacher training, and got certified that way, by passing a test after studying and practicing the material for some time. It’s one of the best things I have ever done, and I am so grateful to her and the Hot Pot family.
Are you guys working together as a troupe to write choreography and stuff, or is it mostly you write it, and present it to everyone?
As far as choreographed dances, up until this point, I have done pretty much what you see, although we do do a lot of working and changing things in the moment. While we’re practicing, and something isn’t working, somebody will shout out, “What if we try this? Or what if we try that?” They have great ideas, and I love for it to be a collaboration, as much as possible. I’ve been doing it to this point, but with a lot of really good input from them. Also Rose is in the Lunachix now, and she is an amazing choreographer.
How many people do you guys have regularly performing?
Seven to nine.
What’s your reason for why you dance, and why it’s such a huge part of your life?
The first thing I think about is the ladies I dance with, and the dynamic we have. It’s more than just an hour a week, they are a huge part of my life, and I count them among my closest friends.
I’m sure it’s obvious, how much I love ITS, that brings a whole other reason for dancing to my mind. It ends up just being more part of your life. It’s happiness. It gives me confidence, and a really strong social and team aspect. So I think if I had to boil it down, I’ll go back to the social relationships, and what you share with the people that you’re dancing with.
Do you have any advice?
I think that it’s important to have fun and have a growth mindset. To let it be a joyful, fun part of your life, and try not to get too stressed out when things don’t come easily. It’s good to train really hard, and it’s good to have a high standard for yourself, but realizing it will come over time and practice. Also not being too hard on yourself, just kind of keeping positive and uplifted, and remembering why you love it.
For me personally it has been nice to get to the point where I can finally figure out what are the things I really want to pursue and prioritize, and having that focus has felt really good to me lately. With ITS, for example, it just feels good to know what I want to do, and kind of focus it in. Sometimes there’s just so much stuff going on, and you can’t possibly go to all the festivals, take all the intensives, do all the things. That said, I hope I never stop trying new things/styles when I can.
Is there anything in terms of dance style and other dancers that have been a huge inspiration you lately?
Yes, Amy Sigil…Hot Pot and Unmata for sure. Jill Parker is a fabulous teacher and dancer, and I’ve had the opportunity to take classes with her since she has been back in New York, so she’s just generally, overall bellydance inspiration. I am inspired by a lot of troupes over the years … the Makoshettes, Orchidacae, Rustiqua, Alexia and the Groove Merchant, Luciterra, Jenna Shear and the Slivovica Sizzlers, Raqdoll….so many more. I love the troupe dynamic, and I’m not that interested in solo-ing. There’s certain troupes that have just a really interesting style that I respond to.
What events do you have coming up?
This is our Christmas, New Years, birthday of belly dance weekend, here at Art of the Belly. We literally will go home and start planning for next year, because we get so excited. We love to go to Spring Caravan as well and we’ll do that this year. I’ve already bought my tickets for East Coast Classic, especially because Amy Sigil will be there! So those are a couple of the big highlights for the year and we look forward to lots of ITS workshops and local performances too!