February 2009


Since I finished my homework for the week at last, got some research in, I feel like I really have reclaimed my life. February (I know it isn’t over yet) as been a pretty bad month for me. I’ve been on pins and needles waiting to hear back from grad schools (nothing in either direction, and it’s been frustrating to say that when the few well-meaning people I’ve told I applied have asked). Schoolwork has been a bit overwhelming, partially because I’ve spent a lot of time in my lab. The stress has caused me not to sleep well. I’m trying to figure out what class I want to take next quarter; I already have figured out one, which is my thesis research credit. My bus pass was confiscated last Friday, because the transit authority accidentally disabled some of my school’s bus passes. In short, it has been rough.

And to top it all off, I had the dumbfounding discovery I don’t know how to dance. I mean that I do, but I spend so much time worrying about perfecting technique vs. letting loose that I find it rather hard to think up my own combos and choreography. I know that I’ve written about trying to choreograph. I think I attributed my issues to lack of inspiration in life or music, but I now think it has to do with the amount of time that I’ve spent doing drill-like stuff to get my technique down solid.

I think my concentration on technique stemmed from hearing people talk about Middle Eastern dancers wanting to dance and perform more than understanding technique, hence seeing sloppy dancers. I don’t want to be a sloppy dancer, so I’ve been working (not this month too much admittedly) on that. However, I think I’ve lost meaning or the big picture. Although clean technique is very important, having that emotional connection and not worrying about being perfect is so critical to Middle Eastern dance or performance in general. It is really what sets one dancer apart from another.

I also think the focusing on technique is about my time. It’s a lot easier to drill 30 hip drops on the right and 30 on the left than it is to think of a little combo incorporating that. There’s no originality in the former, whereas the latter requires more thought, like how to link move A to move B.

I am going to continue my technique drilling and such, but I’m going to work on feeling the music and combining moves. I also hope I have some happy news and less stress soon.

I’m not sure how, but this past week has been hellish. I know we’re into the 7th week of class, but it was overwhelming with schoolwork. Part of me wonders if I put too much on my plate to try to do so much research and do well with my classes.

My back is stiff, and I haven’t been sleeping too well. My plans for break involve dance and yoga. I think I need it.

My research has made progress, somewhat, because I have an assistant who has been working. I’m not sure what has happened yet, but I’ll find out tomorrow.

I just wish there were more hours in the day or that I could freeze time to complete my day or take a nap.

Schoolwork is overtaking my life. I don’t know how much blogging I’ll have time for until now.

Hope everyone is holding up well!

In an attempt to figure out my readership, I devised a little poll. I primarily cover who I think is most interested in my blog. Thanks for filling it out!

Experiments unfortunately do not have a straightforward path (see: CERN), since not everything can be predicted.

We are density matching our food colored glycerin today. The scale that we use is sensitive up to 4 past the decimal. We can basically watch water evaporate, which is surprisingly really cool (or I’m not surprisingly nerdy).

Density matching means we are desperately trying to get one color’s density to match the other. It’s surprisingly not as trivial as it sounds. The densities must be very exact, or else, the one will sink or float.

Last week when I was in a lesson, I noticed that my right wrist has this weird tendency to turn when I do an upward swaying arm move (Danielle calls it a snake arm up, even though it’s basially done with the wrists).

I think that sparked Danielle to quiz me on why certain aspects of her posture are. That went fine (I remembered most of the points, I believe). The important piece of the exercise, though, was when she asked me what I plan on using in my dancing and what I prefer.

I began thinking about that on Sunday, and I’ve been thinking about it since. I, as of today, still don’t have a strong leaning in any direction with dance. Maybe it’s time I start really developing a style. By style, I don’t mean I want to create an ATS or something of the like. I mean, there is a difference between how each dancer dances. I’d like to develop that style more within the vocabulary of dance I’m doing. Something that can simultaneously be identified as me dancing but also be identified as Middle Eastern dance. Does that make sense?

I always believe I don’t dance like a copy of my teachers, because I’ve had too many. But I don’t think I have truly developed a style. Part of me wonders if my dancing is more like the little kid who wears bright tights, shorts, skirts, and 5 shirts in clashing colors. I don’t think it’s as bad as that analogy, but I want to develop something very cohesive. Most of the “greats” have distinct styles and signature moves or stylings, even if they didn’t 100% come up with them themselves.

More thoughts will come on this later, but I think this might be the next good direction to go.

I talked with one of my teachers recently about the teacher-student boundary. Even though the Middle Eastern dance community largely wants to be friends with one another, my teacher talked about how she wants to keep a boundary. Why? She feels that most people have trouble separating the person as their friend and when that person assumes the role of a teacher.

I tend to agree with her on this thought. I don’t befriend my students, and I don’t necessarily befriend my professors. I look for mentors, which is a different role. I’ve noticed that if you try to be friends with the students, like some people, when you assume a position of authority, they do become a little more resentful than if you were already in a position of authority. Because I look so young (and because some of these students are older than I), I usually try to do all I can to be authoritative towards them. Nice and approachable, but I also don’t want to go to the bars with them. However, I know many people who prefer to be friends with their students.

Which do you prefer?

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