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-Aleksie

This break I’ve taken the opportunity to finally get my apartment organized. Really organized, not the quick, sort of but really organized thing I usually do. I have plenty of reasons for doing this, but namely, I’m tired of not being able to find things or even better, not finding things, purchasing them, and then discovering that the item was buried underneath other items. Also, because of not having an office at school and my late night writing tendencies, I generally work from home, so I prefer having some physical organization amidst the mental chaos of doing schoolwork. Although I am not the kind of person who does these huge cleaning projects frequently, I do find it somewhat relaxing to get rid of things, organize better, etc.

One would think with the amount of moving that I have done in the past 8 or so years that I would’ve really cleared out all the excessive, but I have not. Well, each move has involved getting rid of items, but there were still plenty of things that were just here without any purpose. I had gotten into the habit of archiving old schoolwork, thinking “What if I need to remember these things?” Occasionally, they have been very handy but now that I’m on a different career path, I’m questioning whether I need a lot of what I have. I did some major discarding as a result.

I feel like it’s much more pleasant to work in my space now that there isn’t so much clutter. The massive cleaning/organization project isn’t complete; I’m in the midst of hunting for nice but affordable drawer organizing accessories. But even with what I’ve done so far, working at home has gone better than before.

At the very beginning of last semester, I was scheduled to take a class that was canceled about 2 hours prior to class time. No one had told me that the class was canceled, there were no notices online, etc. I had assumed that I would be withdrawn from the class, because the school had canceled the class, due to low enrollment.

It turns out that they not only did not withdraw me from the class, but also because I ended registering for another class, they billed me for being over the standard number of credits. The bill is not trivial, about $2500.

Hopefully, this matter is taken care of in a straight-forward way; luckily, the professor who is in charge of my independent study was supposed to teach the canceled class, and well- it is the school’s fault. I have already sent a polite email to my college, explaining the situation. Perhaps I should have checked a little more closely that I had been withdrawn from the class, but- well, it just made sense to me that I would’ve been automatically withdrawn and the class would disappear from the course catalog that semester, since people register for classes a week or two into the semester.

Lesson: It always pays to read your bills, sometimes literally.

Next week will be my last lesson with Najmat for about 4 months, save maybe spring break. My school schedule does not permit me to continue on with her classes; a required course is held basically at the same time, and there is no way to get around that. Believe me, I’ve looked and talked to people. School is ultimately my priority and my “job”, so that will have to take priority.

At first, I was sad by not continuing one with Najmat’s class, at least for the time being. I’ve gotten to know some of the ladies in that class pretty well, and I will miss the community. However, I decided to use this time to try new teachers, explore new topics through private lessons. I picked private lessons again because of the time factor; I have class Monday through Thursday during the hours where people teach and the few who don’t, well, a girl’s gotta eat sometime in the day.

Private lessons are not only ideal because of the time flexibility but also because they’re really tailored to the student. The Boston-area is rich with quality dance instructors; I plan on taking classes from Shadia and maybe some others to learn some specialized skills. I already have enough ideas of what needs improvement and plan on working through those topics, so the focus will be more on specialized skills over technique although I’m sure technique will come into play.

To defray costs and to keep up with the community feeling, I’ve asked some friends if they’re interested in making the private lessons semi-private. The topics that I’ve brought up are zills, Lebanese-style cane, tray, melaya leff, and shamadan/zeffa. I’ve also asked for their suggestions, because I may have forgotten something. However, I’m looking for even more topics to learn; I figure it would be better to have too many than too few, since I’ll be in the area for at least another 1-3 years. If you were taking private lessons in Middle Eastern dance, what topics would you chose to learn?

Firstly, happy New Year! 2011 has already had a great start for me, in the form of watching Project Belly Dance.

Project Belly Dance is a small reality TV show/competition for the many flavors of Middle Eastern dancers; the winner gets to star in her own Cheeky Girls DVD. The reaction of the Middle Eastern dance world was mixed. I personally have been excited. Partially because I don’t have cable and welcome any kind of free TV entertain, partially because the people (Michelle Joyce and Lotus Niraja) behind the show have time and again shown a commitment to producing high quality, respectable resources for the Middle Eastern dance community.

The first episode was released today at the Project Belly Dance website. Although competitions are not my thing and I’m not a reality TV show follower, I immensely enjoyed the first episode. The show had a bit of cheesiness, but it is a reality show, after all. The competition was serious, and the contestants behaved professionally; these women competing are actual professionals in the Middle Eastern dance world. The drama wasn’t over-the-top (or really present, for the most part), and I felt like the judges were fair and weren’t excessive in their criticism or adulation. I look forward to seeing the rest of the episodes.

Since summer 2010, I’ve been sporadically dancing in ballet slippers. Although barefoot is my favorite, I like them sometimes, for when I don’t want my feet to get dirty or when it’s cold or just when we’re doing a bunch of turns. Once broken in, they are remarkably comfortable and I love how my particular pair (a split-sole with a lycra middle) conforms to my foot. However, I don’t think they’re attractive. My efforts to dye them close to my skin tone has been fruitless, and they just plain aren’t cute as is. I’ve coming around to seeing that shoes are sometimes necessary, but I want to dance in shoes that match whatever I’m wearing. One of my goals is to learn how to do Middle Eastern dance in heels. They’re much more elegant looking than any other dance shoe option I’ve seen (half-soles, Hermes sandals, etc.), and even though some of the shoe options would probably be pretty invisible, I’d rather know my footwear is attractive.

One small caveat is that I really don’t wear heels anymore. For about 8-9 years or so of my life, I wore heels, high heels. I don’t think you would’ve seen me in anything shorter than 3 inch heels, unless it was raining and galoshes were needed. However, when I was 23, I noticed my toes were having issues. They were becoming crooked and stiffer; my shoe choices were what I decided needed to change in order to avoid exacerbating the problem and possibly needing surgery. I converted to flats and have basically worn flats or wedges with very small angles since. My toes have improved, so I think the footwear was the culprit.

Last night, I put on a pair of character shoes I own from when I tried Flamenco. Not the most attractive shoes, and I don’t think I’d wear them for performance, unless it was folkloric, but they certainly have their benefits. The heel is about 2 inches, so not sky-high but certainly nothing trivial. They have a thicker heel, which is easier for balance. And most importantly, they’re here so I don’t have to spend extra money on something I’m not sure if I like.

After adjusting to wearing the shoes by just walking around my apartment in them, I tried some drills and light dancing. The verdict is mixed. Turns, which are not my forte, were much harder. The bottoms of the character shoes are much slicker than my ballet slippers or my bare feet, so it is easier to get around but harder to know how much force is needed to make the turn. Other moves were not bad. My weight placement felt weird, but it wasn’t as dramatic of change as turns were.

Heels still seem like the best option for me if/when I perform in a place where the floor isn’t good, but it’ll be a long time before I feel really comfortable dancing in them and probably even longer time before I really feel comfortable doing any kind of spins or fast turns in them.

Part of my new dance cross-training is to do some ballet. Rather than wait for 2011 to roll in, I’ve decided to start changing or adding patterns, behaviors, whatever whenever I see fit and can afford to do so.

Monday I attend beginner ballet at an adult-only studio. I hadn’t been there in about year, due to time. It is amazing how much my body has changed in a year. Most notably is the muscle memory I’ve acquired from Bharatanatyam. If you are not familiar with Bharatanatyam, one of the basic postures is called aramundi. It is where the heels touch and the toes and knees are bent and turned out from hip rotation. The ballet first postion foot position is identical to aramundi, as well as the turn out. The only difference is that in first position in ballet, you stand up.

All last night, I ended every exercise in the deep bent aramundi, vs. the straight-legged first position. I didn’t realize why until I was thinking about it later that this is an artifact from Bharatanatyam; you are expected to end every adavu or short combination in aramundi. Students are scolded for leaving the posture at the end. I didn’t realize how much muscle memory I’ve obtained with Bharatanatyam already. I’m curious how cross-training will change my dance skills in Bharatanatyam now. While I cannot afford, time-wise, to dedicate myself to ballet the way I have with Bharatanatyam and Middle Eastern dance, I do want to gain some proficiency. However, I don’t want to lose my Bhartanatyam skills, even though the adavus are really about training your body and mind to perform complex pieces, so the dancer may leave the aramundi position for something straighter-legged.

What are other people’s experiences in cross-training?

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