Drawing Down the Moon: An Interview with Trisha McBride


originally published August 4, 2013 in fuse: a tribal and tribal fusion belly dance magazine

by Britta Visser Stumpp

Photo by Leslie Saterfield

Photo by Leslie Saterfield

With 15 years of study behind her, Trisha McBride is a powerful creatrix of amazing dance and has been a much sought after teacher in San Francisco, New York City and Salt Lake City. Trisha is dedicated to teaching her students a well rounded belly dance style, from Egyptian to Cabaret, ATS, to Modern Tribal Fusion. Trisha developed a unique improvisational dance form called “Lunar Improvisation,” wherein the group dances in the shape of the full moon and half moon. Balancing and drawing on the energies around her, Trisha quickly learned how to dedicate her dance to the Goddess. In this sacred art of “drawing down the moon” she finds a profound sense of empowerment. This is my candid conversation with Trisha McBride…

Britta: So Trisha, how did you get started?

Trisha: Well, I had just turned 20 and a friend of mine knew I loved to dance and she asked me “Can you shimmy?” And I attempted something rather comical. She invited me into one of her belly dance classes, so I jumped straight into an advanced class in Salt Lake City. It was baptism by fire and I had to learn very quickly. I’ve never actually taken a beginner’s class unfortunately. A while later, there was a big belly dance festival put on by Sonja of the Kismet School of Dance at Liberty Park. It was my first performance and I was very excited. Later that night, I saw Carolena Nericcio for the first time and I was spellbound. I had never seen anyone command a stage like that! She created magic. I had heard she was teaching in San Francisco and so I moved to there a year later. I started studying with FatChanceBellyDance®  and then I took a class from Jill Parker and I fell in love with her style. I danced with Jill for six months. Then, I moved back to Salt Lake to take dancing and drumming. My teacher then was Aziz, a phenomenal male dancer and zill instructor. And then, having wanderlust, I moved back to San Francisco where I got picked up by Azure. They were spin off of Ultra Gypsy. Azure was made up of some of Jill Parker’s students who had decided to start their own troupe. I also took classes from Michael McElhaney who was another phenomenal male teacher and one of the core members of Azure. Having that male influence was really powerful.

B: What was the difference in a male teacher? What did you get from them that was different from your female teachers?

T: Well, especially from Michael McElhaney, he kicked my ass. My upper body had to be up to speed with his, which was really challenging for me at the time. He worked with a lot of really predominant arm postures.

Photo by by Bella Ora

Photo by by Bella Ora

B: I read on your website that you also went to New York City at some point? 

T: Yes, I started teaching in New York between 2003 to 2009. I try to go back there at least once a year. Sometimes I’ll go for short stints and sometimes for longer. I’ve hosted a lot of workshops there. I hosted The Indigo. I hosted UNMATA. It was a lot fun!

B: Did you ever run into Sera Solstice? 

T: Yes, I did and that was pretty amazing. She was just getting started back then. We were often in the same shows together. I admire her style.

 B: So you developed your own unique style of “Lunar Improvisation.” Can you tell us more about that?

T: I starting developing Lunar Improv around 2002, right before I started teaching. I loved my ATS®  background, but sometimes I wanted to branch out into something of my own, and I could not remember all the ATS moves, so I began to spin my own. I came up with my own language, lunar improvisation. It was heavily influenced by ATS and my Cabaret background with Aziz, and fuses other elements as well. I love hip, hop, and pops and locks and then flamenco. One of these days, I’m going to dive into flamenco full force!

B: And so then you started your troupe, Lunar Collective? 

T: Lunar Collective started because I wanted to have a good working repoire with my students. I invited six or seven students of my students into the troupe and then it eventually became three which was myself, Michelle Sorensen and Kelly Brown. My whole m.o. is respect and having respect for my teachers. I have my own creative process and that requires a lot of discipline. Michelle began to develop into her own creativity and I could see there was a need for her to branch out and create her own style. Then it became Kelly and myself and now we have Mandy Williams, so now we’re a trio again, which is my favorite and Mandy is a phenomenal addition, YAY trios!

B: I’ve noticed this resonance you have with the number 3 and triples. You also use the Goddess symbol a lot on your costuming. Is the significance of the number 3 related to the Mother, Maiden, Crone?

T: Good question! Yes, it is. I found that this dance moved from the Goddess aspect and energy. When I’m mesmerized in the process of dance, I feel I am channeling something…something greater than myself. Dance is my link to the Mother. This is an aspect of the Goddess. So the relation to the maiden, mother, crone is a journey through the dance. Dance is primarily influenced by the maiden when you’re just starting. As a dancer, you typically come to it young, in your maiden phase and then the Mother phase happens whether literally or in the process of taking on students, and then there’s the Crone phase of the wise woman who has been doing it for many, many years. I like the three. It’s completion.

B: And you also have your TRI*LUNA line of clothing? 

T: I’ve been developing it for five years now. It has shifted and morphed and it comes from the creative process. It’s starting to get a little more tame. I’m taming the pony and the pony is now tame enough to ride. Again I work from three aspects which are really elaborate, high couture costuming, to jewelry, and every day yoga gear.

Photo by Weston Hall

Photo by Weston Hall

B: So what is it about the three aspects of the Goddess that’s important to you? Why do you weave spirituality into dance?

T: This dance comes from a long line of worship. Temple dance in general took thousands of years to travel to us in our modern day. I like to incorporate this sacredness. This is a form of worship, of honoring the divine feminine and tapping into the creators that we are and embracing that in ourselves. It’s working with divine energy. I find that in teaching yoga as well. It’s finding the gods and goddesses in you! You are the creator of your own life and your art and owning the fact that you are it. It’s the empowerment of looking inward and noticing we’re made of divine material coming as a direct line from the Goddess. Dancing to me is a form of worship, of drawing down the moon, and letting Her move through you.

B: That’s awesome! Speaking of yoga, how did you start teaching?

T: Well, I started teaching belly dance in New York at the Greenhouse Holistic Yoga Center. So, I started teaching in a yoga studio, not a dance studio. It was like home to me. I did a lot of yoga on my own. In belly dance, you have to have a lot of core strength and intense flexibility. When I moved back to Salt Lake, I decided to become yoga certified to compliment my belly dance. I took Dana Baptiste’s 500 hour yoga certification.  That was so powerful! I’ve been truly grounded and shaped by Dana’s education program. Dance and yoga both have such a strong link into that spiritual ground. Yoga IS a dance and the two mesh so well together. It’s phenomenal. When I teach my advanced belly dance classes, we do a lot of advanced asanas. We also do sword work on the floor and that takes a lot of core control. Yoga gives you a real sense of alignment.

B: And you just got back from teaching in Jamaica?

T: Jamaica was phenomenal! Some co-workers of mine at Centered City Yoga were teaching a retreat there and I let them know I was interested in coming, so they invited me to teach a belly dance class. Getting off the plane and stepping into that soil…I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It was so beautiful! And the history! Being there in that ancient ground was so magical, it just elevated everyone that was there. It was a beautiful balance of male and female energy. I loved teaching the men belly dance because they were so tapped into femininity. It was a wonderful experience.

B: And you’re going to be teaching in Costa Rica, in January of 2014?

T: Yes,  I get to participate in a retreat over the full moon and I’m going to be having a full moon performance in Costa Rica! That’s going to be so powerful! I’ve got goosebumps just talking about it. I get to teach and perform over the full moon in Costa Rica! My fellow teachers on the retreat will be Sibyl Buck and Sofiah Jaffer-Thom. (maiden, mother, crone one again between the three teachers)  It’s being held at Sofiah’s studio Bamboo Yoga Play January 11th – 15th 2014 look for it! its going to be amazing.

Photo by Bella Ora

Photo by Bella Ora

B: You mentioned recently that you were inspired by the Joseph Campbell series Mythos? Can you tell us more about that?

T: My m.o. is bringing myth back to life. It’s about not forgetting the ancients. Joseph Campbell is a huge influence of mine. That man was so tapped in! He’s just incredible! I find when I relate myth or story into dance, it affects the audience differently. They feel connected. They understand intuitively that something amazing is happening. There’s this untold magic that unfolds. When we performed the Bacchae last year, that was my first real play into myth and I decided that’s what I want to do. We lack ritual in our everyday life now, so bringing myth back into dance is major to me.

B: Have you been influenced by other dancers in this respect or is this something that just came to you?

T: The myth orientation is something that struck me in my own creative energy. I love myth and I studied all the classics in college, and I’ve always been in love with those stories. I had an “a-ha” moment one day of “I need to be dancing myth and paying homage to those that told stories before us.” What better way to tell a story than through movement and props, imagery, and dance? I haven’t personally seen others doing this, although I’m sure there are those who are, but it was my own “a-ha” moment. I move from a place of real respect for my teachers. It creates this lineage of moving from a place of humility and respect. When you create from humility and respect, I feel that you become a vessel for her, for the Goddess. Know your roots. All too often I see people come into this dance as if it just sprang up out of the ground, but paying homage to our teachers creates a succession of tradition. Having too much access sometimes creates a sense of entitlement. There was this great Time Magazine article called, Millenials, and it talks about what’s going on with our youth, why they still live at home. It’s this sense of entitlement without doing any of the work. Just because you can look everything up on Google now doesn’t mean you “know,” or just because you saw a dance move on YouTube, doesn’t mean you have mastered it. Teachers are a part of the tradition and the myths come down to us in this way.

B: So, what’s next for you? 

T:  I am going to keep listening to my heart and following my bliss.  I am fully dedicated to being a teacher and seeing where this path leads me next. I am looking at retreats and sharing this bliss with whomever is ready for this life altering gorgeous ride of belly dance and yoga from a spiritual aspect. GO ladies GO! We’ve got work to do and we all need each other. Community forever!

B: Any closing thoughts? 

Much love and respect to all my teachers and students.  I would never have ended up where I am today with out all of their love, guidance and support.

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