Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How will you play?

"Your playing small does not save the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others." Marianne Wilson
I'm working on it.  
 Many people know that my partner passed away 2 years ago (exactly 2 years ago yesterday. Some people know how that has affected me. 
Well, apparently one of the added extra benefits of grieving is that you (generic) lose self confidence. While I loved performing, I always suffered from stage fright, sometimes awful.
 Now, I'm just afraid, all the time. 

Coming out of hiatus, I'm working on that. I'm working on not "playing small" I'm working on making a wonderful show for those who have believed in me and have supported me over the past several years. 

It's an abyss, really, grief. It sucks you in, and there is very little to hang on to that will help you pull yourself out.
 M loved my dancing and worked on helping me to become a better dancer. He (an amazing individual in his own right) would work with me on learning from my performances. He taught me to be more open, to let go, to show the audience what I was feeling and to allow myself to be vulnerable to people.
There was no mistake that shortly after the start of our relationship, my dancing changed in ways that I liked and worked on promoting.
I know he is always with, and I remind myself:
"Misery is a poor memorial for a great love. " 
I'd give credit for the quote, but I can't remember where I got it from.
So now I'm changing, or have changed, not really sure. I think my dancing has changed as well. We'll see how well it goes playing it LARGE.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

You should read this


Do it.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Who're you dancing for?

Two years ago, this would have been an easy question to answer.

Obviously, you dance for your audience, you are there as an entertainer. Therefor your job is to entertain your audience.



Over the past couple of years during my hiatus, I've had the opportunity to think about this. well, Frankly, during my hiatus when I haven't been actively banging my head against anything and everything, I've thought about it.

Yes, a performer is an entertainer, when you have your audience there who is there to be entertained. As a belly dancer, we tend to be in situations where, despite our best efforts, we are a complement to the hummus, and adjunct to the atmosphere, in some cases, THE atmosphere.

In those situations, were you to bust out in High Art, your audience is befuddled, confused, wondering, really, WTF?

That's not what they came for.

In a concept show, for example, Raks Spooki, which is presented annually by Badrya Al Badia, a Gothic Belly Dance performance show, the audience is more specialized. It's comprised, for the most part, of folks who enjoy both aesthetics.

Therefor, one's artistic license as a performer is greater. As a performer, you can explore your art, twist and turn and see if it works in this context.

Art, by it's nature, isn't always pretty. It can be dark, painful, gut wrenching and difficult to perform, difficult to watch.

As a performer, are you entitled to put your audience through that when you present a show?

I dunno, frankly.

Two years ago, I danced for joy. I danced through family issues, personal issues, anger, rage, pain, happiness, caring, affection, etc.

In Spring, by long standing invitation, I danced at Shimmies for the Cure, Quattro.

I performed to a song by Omar Faruk Tekbelik.

Below is a recounting:

The worst that can happen? I disgrace myself publicly tonight and never appear in public again.So Saturday...

Had completely neglected to practice despite my best intentions. I *had* been listening to the song exhaustively, so I knew as much of it as a person should if they are going to perform to one... you know, listening to the song for so long you think that one more rendition of it is going to make you throw up? no matter how beautiful, lovely, rhythmic, melodic, it become puke inducing?


Still, it's a beautiful, beautiful song.

Had bought a costume to go with that lovely, lovely purple ombre veil from Audra Evans. It's very lightweight, more so than I'm used to. My veil tends to.... well, when I dance veil I...

Let's just say that it's been called "power veil" and that is an apt description.

I treat my veil as a dance partner and really can't be bothered to do tricks with it. I like to make pictures in the air and I often use it percussively.

So the veil I bought is probably 5 mm, when I'm used to 7 or 8. All this meant that I had to move slower with it, as moving too fast would have just made it become a strip, instead of the full expanse.

So I'm home, in my living room which has not seen any practice from me since I moved in here (November, 09).

I have on the bra of the costume which I'd adjusted the night before to make sure I could move in it. Exercise pants, black of course. the veil is 4 yards longs. small living room. new song.


Cue manic miniature schnauzer who is completely in LOVE with the new toy mami brought out for her to play with!!!!

Yeah. I wound up hitting the side of the molding on the entry to the dining room so hard that I'm still not convinced I didn't break anything.

Manic Mini schnauzer got trapped in her carrier which was then suspended off a chair so that I could finish. You should have seen her when I started practicing with the skirt on (to make sure it didn't fall off).

Run late, because I have to adjust the skirt.

Get there, still late, work on getting make up on, (poor organizer had to manage her ENTIRE first act who are all busy putting on make up and the dressing room is across the street instead of in the same building and up 8 floors, making it much harder to tell who was ready and who wasn't).

(reminder, coordinating dancers is something akin to herding cats.)

forgot my cover up, had to buy one last minute to sit with bff and not melt into a puddle of goo.

am 4th dancer in, get out there, do my thing....

When I perform, I make eye contact. Especially with friends in the audience, and try to make everyone feel comfortable and like to try to make sure people are having a good time.

My song was pretty repetitive, and chairs were set into a round, with the dancing space in the center, so I tried to acknowledge all areas, with similar movements.

Got into the meat of the song, and there were moments when I was no longer aware of where the music began and I ended... I kept going, doing what I do... and I swear that there were moments that I connected with M. That he could see me and that he was there. That he loved what I was doing, and I could almost feel him reaching to me.

N uncannily took a picture in a moment that I swear that we were reaching towards each other...

I tried looking into the audience... bff was sobbing. friends were tearful, people I don't know were wiping their eyes... I wound up doing what I haven't in a long time and start looking over people heads because there was just so much emotion that it was overwhelming.

And I *know* there were several portions of the song that I did with my eyes completely shut.

I don't really remember what I did while I was dancing, but I DO remember hitting the ending Exactly where it should have been.

I stood for a moment, in the ending pose. took a bow, grabbed my veil (probably less than gracefully) and ran.

I ran straight into the ladies room, not acknowledging anyone, just needed to get somewhere quiet, and private where I could... fall apart.

ALL stalls occupied.

Collapsed there, with someone's arms around me, and started keening. These horrible sounds that I didn't know could come from my throat, and I thought I'd heard all the sounds I could make while crying.

I was lost.

To what was around me, who was around me, and all I could feel was that hole, where he had been.

Eventually get ahold of myself, realize that it was Baseema that was holding me, hug her back, am the recipient of random hugs from women in the bathroom.

N comes in with tissues, but I can't hug her because between her blinged out Eman and my costume, we'd have gotten stuck and there would have been no prying us apart...

Get ahold of myself, get out there and socialize and spend some time with BFF and the boy, who came to see me dance. BFF was sobbing throughout my performance and it took awhile for her to get ahold of herself.

During intermission, go get  changed and come back and mc'd the second half.


well. it wasn't a pleasant experience for me. Bff, who doesn't dance, but has been coming to performances of mine since my first recital (see why she's bff?) first words to me were "couldn't you have warned me?".

I have gotten a number of very nice comments and personal messages both thanking me for the performance and inquiries about my teaching.

Couldn't have been too bad, right?

Still, pretty raw performance, both for myself and the audience.

Pretty costume and veil, though, hunh?

So, in summary (hello!!!! are you still there?) I broke one of my own rules. When you dance to entertain, entertain, don't use your performance to massage your ego, manage your emotions, or to work things through. That's what studio time is for.

High concept Art, etc, should be kept to a forum where it belongs. And it will be appreciated for what it is making both artist and viewers/participants happy.

I hereby apologize to those who I inflicted with this performance (let along those who suffered through this (and other) blog posts.

Dance happy, people.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Soooooo, for those of you who don't know me well...


have a problem.

I like costumes.

That may be an understatement.

I love costumes. I love the hunt for the perfect costume. I love looking at it, seeing what accessories might work with it, envisioning the performance for it, matching it to the perfect veil...

I love looking at something like this.  and thinking about what music would work for it (yearning, off one of the BDSS volumes, for example) this costume is a poem. It's black lace overlaying a red base, then heavily encrusted in red, silver, black and hematite beads, which is what the fringing is made of as well.

Doing that song, with my silk fans (not the uber long ones that are the rage right now, but shorter ones, with just a silk ruffle) to dramatically accent the music...

With large silver or black hoops, hair pulled back, not tightly, since that doesn't really suit me, but in a loose, enormouse bun sitting just above my neck, accented with red roses...

silver bangles, dozens of them, to jingle and add their own accent to the music.


I see a picture like this, and that's what runs through. It's not just a costume, it's a total image, evoking the entire performance, brooding, dramatic and dark.

How am I supposed to resist them when I can see the amazing performance they will inspire?

So I wind up buying them. And hunting down those accessories. Hopefully, I'll put them together in a performance at some point.

So a  friend calls me up. She's going to be in a performance, and she needs a costume. She's gotten comfortable with the knowledge that if she calls me up, and tells me what she needs, I'll rummage through the Costume Files and come up with something for her.

So I did. :-)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Journey is the Destination

Excerpt from the book I'm currently reading on Creativity:  The Widening Stream, the Seven Stages of Creativity by David Ulrich. (reading because Badrya al Badia recommended it)

-If we remain mindful of the dictum "the journey is the destination", then we embark on this path primarily to learn and explore life's many truths, not merely to accomplish something and produce objects. As the poet Rilke advises: "try to love the questions themselves." The answers are never as important as the questions. What are the questions that grow out of the core of our lives?-

As I am returning from my long hiatus, this has been a passage that provides some light and some help in managing the complex emotions that the journey is engendering in me as a dancer.

I went into the studio last week to practice my performance piece, and I was very humbled by my body screaming at me "are you kidding? you haven't moved me this way outside of class in forever! you really think that I'm just going to do that move? HA! watch this!"

my body is very articulate.

also, annoying.

it also said "how ya like me now, biznitch!?" the following day while reminding me that yes, indeed, I can haz delayed onset muscle soreness! Oh, yes I can!"

and sounds an awful lot like Dane Cook.


But I digress...

Put on the music to my performance piece and tried to dance to that amazingly lovely music by Oum Kalthoum...

Not a bit of it. No inspiration, nothing.


The nice part of rental space is that really, there is nothing else for you to do actually DO there other than what you went there to do. At home, I have 2 cats, they always need something done to them, a puppy, books, as if I were planning on opening my own library, tv, computer, dvd's galore, literally dozens of things I could do.

Not in a rental space.

So I decided that I would just go right back to beginner's class.

I worked on getting into good dance posture. I've gotten so lazy. Before, I would work on it constantly, not just in practice but in absolutely every day life. Standing at the copy machine once, a co worker walked by and remarked that my posture was perfect. Of course, he had no idea that I was actively working on it in the moment that he went by.

I worked on lifting my rib cage decently to give me that nice line.

I went back to my very first class (that I taught) "this is your hip" and working on range of motion.

Did this for a good 45 minutes, hip slides, side, forward, back. over and over again. then adding a shimmy when they looked ok.

Worked on rib cage slides as well.

Texted my dance teacher (Najmat) in a moment of complete and utter frustration (before doing this stuff) and asked her what I should work on. She immediately texts me back the bane of my existence "hand and arms!"

So I work on this as well, and added some interesting arm paths, interesting only because I've managed to thoroughly pull and injure an obscure rotator cuff muscle (sub scapularis) and I have little range of motion on the left.

After about an hour, I pull out my song again, and, it's too hard. I look awful, I can't capture the subtlety of the movement that I'm going for.

Pull out my ipod, pull up my playlist of all the different versions of this song that I have, tuck it into my sports bra, and start listening to it...

The last 20 minutes of my practice, while I didn't dance well, at least I danced to it.

And in the morning, on the train, as I was listening to the song again on my playlist, I had some ACTUAL IDEAS! I could see where an arabesque should go, how this section should be danced to, and, and how one's hip should flick UP to mark that musical accent....

It was all I could do keep it to a gentle sway on the train to match the rhythms of the car...

And at home, as the music was running through my head, I was walking down my short hallway towards my living room and playing the music in my head and as I envisioned the arabesque in the train, I did in the hallway... ran into the Boy, who looked very startled and asked if I was trying to fly away?

So at least the arabesque looked the way I wanted it to look, although I do want it to look a tad more grounded, as there is a hip accent at the end of it...