I had the pleasure of seeing the Stygian Sisters perform at the Dark History and Horror Con this year in Champaign, Illinois. The routine I saw, when I had a break from helping at my wife’s booth, was two of the ladies killing it to Rammstein’s “Du Hast”. Whirling black cloth, metal studs, chains and leather flashed around the stage in a thrilling performance. The passion of the music was a perfect compliment to that style of dance. Hot, subtly titillating, and powerful easily came to mind watching the women mix traditional dance moves with new, all under the heart-pounding bass and guitar riffs of the industrial metal.
To me this style brings in the best of both worlds. The music hits hard with a driving beat and thrashing guitars that cause so much emotion in those of us who love metal. While you listen the stage is alive with whirling black silks, steel chains, and shining leather. Gone are the flowing, gaily colored veils and brass bells. Sharply contrasting makeup, metal studs, and daring bustiers let you know that you are about to see a very unique take on a traditional art form.
With respect to traditional artists, these ladies took something that many would find too old-fashioned and uninteresting and brought it to an entirely new audience. I like belly dancing, in small amounts. I see it at renaissance faires and such. It’s fun, and entertaining, but honestly it’s not my kind of music. Seeing that style of dance put to tunes that I do love was fantastic. If you get a chance to see these ladies, do it. If not, check them out on YouTube.
Frags and Beer: What got you into belly dancing and did you study any other styles before it? Are most of the dancers primarily belly dancers?
Shyama: I was always mesmerized at Renaissance Faires by the belly dancers there. I started a belly dance class after I had a rough surgery and needed to get my body moving again, figuring belly dance would be a fun new way to do so. Those classes were a more traditional fusion style–drum solos and Arabic-style music, but with moves from several different styles. Kasper started in American Tribal Style, which is a tribal group improv format. The rest of the girls learned from me, starting with a base of the traditional until I realized they were metalheads! At this point, all of us just do belly dance. Some of the girls have backgrounds in pom, jazz, hip hop, ballet, etc, but we all seem to have found our niche in belly dance.
F&B: Why did you go with metal and rock over traditional music for this style of dance?
S: I’ve always been a metalhead. Dancing to drums and wind instruments got old for me really fast. I was always listening to metal anyway, so I just started practicing my belly dance to that, and it fit so perfectly for me I stuck with it. I got lucky enough to find other dancers who enjoyed it just as much, and here we are!
F&B: Did you try traditional belly dancing first? If so, how did it evolve into what you do now?
S: Yes, I performed with a student troupe from my classes when I started. It was fun, and I fell in love with the community of dancers and the sense of belonging I felt. But like I said, traditional drums got old. For my very first solo performance, I decided I’d try out choreographing to Rammstein and see how that went over…the response was overwhelming! People loved it because it was so different. Some hadn’t even heard Rammstein and wanted to know all about them after my dance. So I just continued doing metal since it felt so right for me, and for the most part it was well received!
F&B: Is there a special meaning behind the name of the troupe?
S: My husband actually came up with the name–he’s a copywriter so he’s really good at that. We knew we wanted to make something unique and related to the underworld or darkness or whatever…as long as it’s metal. Stygian comes from the River Styx, the river you cross with the ferryman Charon to enter the Underworld. The Styx is the boundary between Earth and the Underworld. Seemed pretty metal to us, and fits what we do…crossing the boundary of “normal” belly dance into the darker side. As for sisters, we basically consider each other sisters at this point since we do so much together, see each other so often, and create such awesome dance together.
F&B: Is there a choreographer for the group or is it collaborative?
S: We collaborate as well as take turns creating group choreography. That way we each get to showcase our individual styles and get creative, plus we can crank out more choreography that way.
F&B: Is it more or less difficult to choreograph for metal rather than traditional music?
S: For me, it’s way easier. My whole lifestyle fits metal so much better. I enjoy being a badass on stage and getting aggressive. Being cute and flirty in more traditional styles was a chore. Plus, just enjoying the music you’re working with makes the creativity flow easier. I feel like we try more things when we’re dancing to metal as well, since there’s no real set moves or style you “have” to use. It’s freer.
F&B: Dancing and heavy metal have not always been easily paired. Are there any metal bands that are easier to dance to than others?
S: We definitely have to modify to fit the sound. We dance way more aggressively than any other style. There are some bands that are easier just by having a clearer, predictable beat–think Marilyn Manson, Korn, Metallica, Rotting Christ, etc. Some are more difficult with their tempo changes (Lamb of God) and just brutal speed (Bloodbath)…but obviously that doesn’t mean we don’t dance to them!
F&B: How would our readers find your schedule of events and venues for upcoming shows?
S: The best place to find us is on Facebook: Stygian Sisters Metal Belly Dance. We post about shows as they get near. We also have a website we intend to focus more on soon: www.stygiansisters.com. And of course, find us on YouTube under the same name for weekly videos!
Photos by 10000 Words Photography