Tribe Elation   Dancing & Drumming

 Dancing and Drumming


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Posted by [email protected] on October 17, 2016 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Three Saturdays ago before I started another COMMOTION! class, in walked Maria. She did three things that made my heart sing: she showed up; she connected to herself in a new way; she asked for more. 

Showing up is huge.  So many people have interest, "like" an idea and say it sounds fun.  They see the photos--maybe of people they know, maybe people they WANT to know.  Walking in is an incredible thing--there is so much life that can get in the way. Sometimes just a little bit more effort-- to take risks, clear the schedules, make time, find the location, find the funds.  Women are getting better at trusting their instincts and taking breaks that are meant to restore, reboot, replenish, re-energize.  Thank you, Maria, for the courage to say yes to something new, something a little far from home, far from routine, and closer to you!

What does "connecting to yourself" mean, anyway?  I think it is about health, awareness, and intuition.  When I feel "off" I try to name the emotion and narrow it down to what is really being sensed.  Then I ask what might be the source.  I chase that rabbit down the hole to see where it lives, what it smells like, figure out if I want that sensation to happen again.  Sometimes when I walk in the woods, see big clouds, smell the ocean, I get closer to center.  When I read a line from a book or see a photo of a faraway place, I swoon and feel my heart getting bigger--those are connections to place, to nature, to ideas.  When I connect to myself, I almost shout, "There she is!  There is the Leslie I know and love!" When you find a tribe, it's "Here we are!  These are my peeps!"  Don't be surprised if there are tears . . .

Please, can we do that again?  I learned of the moving meditation called a puja a long time ago.  It's a way to acknowledge self and setting, to prepare for what's ahead from a calm, respectful place.  It is what teachers may remember as the "anticipatory set" prior to a lesson, and it is one of the rituals we do for every class, sometimes at the beginning and the end.  With the drumsticks in our case, we are able to lengthen our extensions, gesturing to our friends and family, acknowledging the earth and other sacred places, honoring our femininity, crossing our hearts and allowing and accepting all things present.  Maria wanted to repeat the puja, for obvious reasons.

So Maria, this post is for you, and for all the women who find answers to their questions by walking in, getting closer to center, and repeating the things you love.


Waiting For You

Posted by [email protected] on August 8, 2016 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi. It's me again.

I have been here all along, waiting for you and wondering what you have been up to. While I am glad that you have been busy, I am also wishing that I could get some company in this outrageously good-for-you class called BELLYFIT that I have been teaching for almost three years now. I really don't want to let it go--I have tried so hard, for so long, to get your attention! I know you like music; I know you like to move and groove and be reminded of your important parts and how they fit together and work at their most optimum. I know you like to add that intensity, then wind down and go into your center to thank yourself for the gift of a good workout. Please think about joining me again, or trying the class for your first time. Moving Women--that's what it's all about!


Change is Healthy

Posted by [email protected] on May 15, 2016 at 5:00 PM

It's about time--time to live fully, love new things, learn from people.  I embrace it all!  We are halfway through 2016 and I'm feeling grateful for change.  It's stimulating; it makes us react; it means we are alive and bounding forward and rebounding as we learn what works and what doesn't.  I can't wait to see what happens next!  Come with me, as we honor our past, breathe through the present, and look forward to the future.

I Am in Love With 2015

Posted by [email protected] on January 15, 2015 at 4:50 PM

Hello, 2015

I feel euphoric whenever I am with women who want to move to music. I feel rapture whenever I am with people who want to make music. I feel joyous whenever I get to bring tunes to whoever is listening. I feel the deepest gratitude for the direction my life has been swinging. I feel spirited when I think of how many friends are helping to enlarge the circle and the tribe. I open my arms wide to you all.

Zings, Pings, Bells and Whistles

Ring ring, it’s for me! I have answered the call to gather the women and lead with Bellyfit, my latest passion. I am adding another regular Bellyfit class to SLO Parks and Rec on Saturday mornings. I have also expanded my offerings as a Beta Trainer of SAGE, which just means I am trying it out and giving feedback on the new program. You can be a part of it, and help us move the specialty program in the right direction.  See the calendar on this site, or go to for more information.

The Beat Goes On

And then there’s drumming. A year and a half ago I started playing a djembe, and what a thrill to learn a new group of rhythms and wrap my head around the concept of polyrhythmic layers. I am hosting occasional drum circles to encourage and gather percussionists and make music

Listen to Me

Speaking of layering . . . let’s add “DJ” to the activity list too! I started up a new volunteer hobby by becoming an air talent on The Rock, our local FM station in Morro Bay at 97.3. What a fun gig, finding songs that tell a story, creating a mood, making people joyful or thoughtful, making folks want to dance, adding a few interviews and live music to the mix.



So Long 2014

Posted by [email protected] on December 9, 2014 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Over the last year or so in particular, I felt conflicted and overwhelmed by this dance thing I have been doing. I sometimes feel like I am chasing my own shimmy. I came to a thought: what if I stop teaching dance classes? I spend a lot of time and effort on the dance business; I have been in the red since day one. Trust me, I don’t look at the dollars and cents for a feeling of success and gratification; I look at the dancers, my friends. Considering not teaching lifted a great weight, and it didn’t take more than a few hours to realize it was the right thing to consider. I have tried the idea on for size many times, and consequently spent many hours agonizing over it.

The Past: I have been belly dancing for over a decade, and embracing American Tribal Style since 2008. I have been teaching ATS for 4 years in two, sometimes four, studios. I retired from public school teaching and dedicated even more energy toward my passion. I have been trying to entice new dancers to join in, and stick with, this ultra-feminine and powerful sisterhood whole-heartedly for a long time. 

I have a core group who are good friends and have been supportive for years now. They have come to classes after long days of work; stitched and pulled out stitches; made purchases of tribal garb and accessories; I have dragged them across the state on road trips to perform, shop, and support other events. I have hosted dozens of events in order for us to dance where we live, and brought top-notch workshop presenters to the area. I have had the pleasure of learning Middle Eastern rhythms, and have danced with live percussion which is the ultimate thrill as a belly dancer. We have met the most amazing men and women in pursuit of this art form. It has been a great ride and I have photos and videos to prove it!

A Recent Next Step: I stopped renting spaces and concentrated on working closely with my core group of dancers by scaling down the Tribe Elation operation. July 2013 was our last studio class in Morro Bay, and June 2014 was our last studio session in SLO. I have been so thankful that we could open up our homes, spare rooms, garages, in order to find practice places that were roomy and free, so thank you. I was hoping to have monthly meetings to plan, review, evaluate, sew, and have fun, but it’s hard to get everyone together. I dreamed of (and stayed awake obsessing about) bringing dozens of dancers to outdoor festivals throughout the county, but we have become smaller and busier. 

My interests in percussion have expanded into other styles of music, namely African, and I went from beginner drummer to advanced beginner in these few months, thanks to the lovely group who meets regularly, and to my mentors Tracy Morgan (San Luis Obispo) and Lisa Beck (Santa Barbara). Of course, costuming has continued to excite me, and with a shipment of wax-dyed fabrics and a couple of patterns, I am creating garb to go with the rhythms of West Africa.

Being an “air talent” at The Rock, 97.3 FM, is a recent addition to the fun factor, as well. I research, plan, and play music for my broadcast The Seventh Wave, which airs every Monday from nine to noon (stream us at I am amazed by the creativity it adds to my life, and the support, friendship, and collaboration from dozens of my associates who are all donating time by working at something about which we are all passionate.

And then there’s Bellyfit! What a perfect transition and complement to what I already know and love! Combining African and belly dance, Bollywood, mudras, fitness, simple choreography, yoga, core work and floor work, more “costuming,” and yet another opportunity to be with new friends in this every widening circle of goodness, I have arrived at a new high in my life. I am expanding my offerings to the central coast and will soon be teaching four classes a week.

Present: Back to my love affair with ATS: I love reviewing moves and planning for new instruction as a teacher and leader. I love researching new combinations, fitting loose parts together in a creative way. I love discovering a song new to me. I love executing moves with precision, flow and grace, watching the footage over and over posting photos and ogling at how beautiful and happy we are. I enjoy the road trips, the workshops, both the showcase and informal opportunities to strut our stuff with others. I love the social gatherings and costume workshops where we giggle and craft together. Unfortunately, the business and management aspects of being a troupe leader and instructor have interfered with my enjoyment of dancing and performing, and I have to plan my departure.

Future: I am going to open up my life and my schedule (and yours!) to allow for the other things: writing, making music, volunteering at the radio station, gardening, reading, cooking, traveling, raising these precious kittens, teaching Bellyfit, and connecting with friends and family, for starters.

In the balance: So what does this mean as far as the troupe goes?

I will shift my energy and let go of the dance troupe. I know this is not a surprise to some of you; the downsizing was a necessary first experiment, and now I feel that it is time to taper even more. Transitions are a part of life, including my own, and I accept and embrace the changes that will follow. It’s time to let high expectations become more reasonable. I will retain duet status, enlisting the skills and support of one partner, because going “cold turkey” is not a concept I am ready to embrace. Enjoying the talent of troupes of several multicolored, spinning dancers in sync and raising ATS to the highest level will always be a pleasure. I will still be watching you!


With Gratitude--Hello, 2014

Posted by [email protected] on November 5, 2014 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)


I can’t help but take a moment to express my gratitude for the growth that Tribe Elation has experienced lately. The studio has been filled with both new and experienced tribal dancers. There are zaghareets resounding, the chiming of zils in unison, and the rustling of skirts in a giant chorus line while the bravest strut out into formation and lead/follow with more and more certainty. I am alive with love for the dance and the sisters who make it happen!


AND, I have found a perfect addition to my dance schedule. It’s called Bellyfit® and it is a fresh combination of moves and music inspired by belly dance, African dance, and Bollywood/Bhangra, plus an intelligent infusion of yoga, core work and meditation. Check out to meet Alice Bracegirdle, CEO and inspiration for the concept of this sassy, confidence-building, holistic work out. See the calendar for more information about classes.

News from the end of 2013

Posted by [email protected] on January 4, 2014 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I have much to be elated about. First of all, I started this troupe so that I would have happy dancers with whom to play. That dream has become a reality. Secondly, Tribe Elation is able to dance where we live, and that includes Troupe Trolley every summer. We have enjoyed our rides along the waterfront with our expert driver, entertaining narrator, and belly dancer Camille at the helm. Tidelands Park has become a favorite spot to dance informally, with a spacious grassy dance surface, and one of the best views in the county!


It has been a long journey for me, this belly dance ride I'm on. As I look back on the calendar, I see the chronicle of dance over the last decade, and note how it has changed me. I am now celebrating five years of American Tribal Style belly dance under my belt. I am approaching my three year anniversary of teaching ATS. My closet pole is bending under the weight of dance costumes; my bindis are getting bigger, my back is stronger, my sisters keep coming back for more. I love this hobby, and now that I am retired from teaching public school, it is all-consuming. Let's dance!


Pretty Good

Posted by [email protected] on July 1, 2013 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (1)

Pretty Good

by Charles Osgood 1986; Modified by L. Thompson 2012


There once was a pretty good dancer

Who attended a pretty good class,

And was taught by a pretty good teacher

Who always let pretty good pass.

She wasn’t terrific at shimmies

Her moves were too fast during slow.

But for her, belly dancing was leading

Down a pretty good, colorful road.

She didn’t find drilling exciting,

She at least thought about dance every day.

And she did have some trouble with leading

‘Cause her head kept getting in the way.

When doing the pivot bump/choo choo,

Her form was usually okay.

Her elbows weren’t always lifted,

And sometimes she turned the wrong way.

So often out of position,

She found that improv could be tough,

And she soon had a sneaking suspicion

Pretty good might not be good enough.

The pretty good troupe that she danced with

Performed at parks and on stage.

Their costumes were ethnic and tribal

ATS was the latest dance craze.

They danced at some pretty good venues

And always performed pretty well.

That they might not have practiced enough

Was easy for only a few to tell.

Whenever they danced, their hearts were singing

But In Egyptian basic arms were still flinging.

They knew that every move needs to be made with purpose

Otherwise they would be doing ATS a disservice.

The pretty good group in our poem

Was part of a pretty good team

Which had pretty good aspirations

And maintained pretty good esteem.

They got beyond trust issues

Reduced most of their fear

And after watching video footage

Set goals for the upcoming year.

With more careful cueing

Cohesion was resolved

And slowly but surely

Their sisterhood evolved.

From puja to propeller

Then adding spins

Their intro became stellar

Accompanied by confident grins.

This pretty good dance troupe

Found that after much perspiring,

Dancers have to work really hard

To present something truly inspiring.


copyright 2012, Leslie Thompson


News from 2012

Posted by [email protected] on July 1, 2013 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The troupe has many new reasons for our elation. For one, I would like to let my students know how proud I am of your efforts as we "step it up" a bit more. You are brave, and beautiful, and I commend you all for working so hard!


Secondly, I am blessed by the return of so many dancers! There are five sisters who have rejoined me in this love of dance. It has raised our group consciousness to a new level, having so much collective experience in the studios now. Thank you, sisters, for your support and belief in me as a teacher and director.


I can't help but announce my retirement from teaching public school for the last 27 years. I am looking forward to dancing even more, of course, but also sewing, gardening, home decorating, reading, writing, and taking my working friends (and mother) out to lunch!


Finally, I want to say thank you to all the support you give to Tribe Elation as we begin another year of classes, performances, and sister/brotherhood. And Vince, you are my prince!


Greetings, Friends and Relations of Tribe Elation!

Posted by [email protected] on May 9, 2012 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for your support and enthusiasm over the last year and a half. Some of you have been dancing and learning with me a long time; some are just recently hooked; some have taken a break; others have not yet begun, but ALL of you are appreciated, trust me! My life is rich with your friendships, and with the joy I find in dancing and teaching and it makes my heart full. I look forward to another full year of dancing and fun!

2011 was a great year for Tribe Elation: we will have performed at over 25 events, including some private gigs and festivals, and can look forward to annual events to add to our new calendar. Be sure to check out my Youtube channel, zillygirl1, to see performance videos. Don't forget that Facebook is a great source for photos, video links, and contacts with our fellow dancers and friends.