February 2010


My professional and dance life have been quite hectic lately. My professional life- well, soon I’ll reveal some news that has been good (it changes my plans for next semester), but it has been a little stressful. The waiting game. I have also been busy with getting things squared away from midterms. The midterm grades are due next week, right before spring break.

This weekend is shot, because I’m going away to the Ranya workshop in RI and performing at the Hafli for Haiti. I’ve been practicing my dancing. I forgot how  much fun it is just to dance. Technique has been easy to practice. It requires a very black and white (at least to me) set of thinking. Your hands, posture, etc. need to be positioned in a certain way. In my opinion, it is more rigid than dancing. Listening to the music, feeling the music, choosing what moves best work is harder. There are so many possibilities! While Middle Eastern music does dictate what you do, at the same time, you have choices. There’s a vibration in the music. Some may shimmy the hips, some may shimmy the shoulders. What part of the music do you wish to highlight? Do you dance to the rhythm or the melody? When do you switch it?

I feel like I’m not a great dancer yet, but at the same time, I’m noticing signs of progress. For starters, my hands and arms aren’t as busy. I’m happy to use them as framing right now. I feel like I’m taking advantage of space more, using all directions. Maybe it isn’t perfect, but I’m still making an effort to use diagonals, sides, etc. I’m also thinking about facial expression and where my eyes and head are. Again, not perfect, but at least it’s becoming a part of my dance. Hopefully all this comes through in my dance on Sunday.

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Bill O’Reilly recently sent one of his people to check out Los Angeles and essentially show how weird and wacky LA people are. His person managed to find the Belly Dancer of the Universe competition that weekend. They had fantastic dancers there and on a tangent, cheers to those who competed. I was glad that they showed talented dancers.

The commentary from Bill and Jesse Watters was unfortunately- not as good as one hope. Besides Bill’s opinions about the appropriateness of Middle Eastern dance for children (have you seen some of what cheerleading an other dance does?), what struck me was that Jesse said, “In a sick twisted way, Osama bin Laden is responsible for the boom of the belly dancing industry in the USA.”

To me, that was a just a cheap way to bring in the whole terrorism thing, assuming that he viewed this as an indicator of a growing interest in Arab culture. For all I know, he could mean something negative. Assuming that he did hear something like that from someone, why not use the actual person’s statement? Regardless, I have my doubts that bin Laden is a large component of the rise in Middle Eastern dance. Shakira just made her English debut, the Bellydance Superstars were created around then, and I’ve heard some dancers talk about beginning to make websites and establish a web presence then. Someone said that the filming crew was there all day; I’m going to guess they found many interesting things there beyond something erroneous.

The piece was, on a whole, disappointing because it had so much potential to be good.

I consider a good length for an exam something that I can complete in 15 minutes, including making a rubric as as I go along. Sometimes, this model works well. Sometimes, this model fails massively. Sometimes it kind of works.

I’m a little surprised, though, that there is a big difference between my two physics classes. Granted, I haven’t graded their exams yet, but about 50% of my class is finished and has left. The other 50% is working steadily. Yesterday, some people have left by the 45 minute mark, but they also didn’t complete the entire exam. The ones that remained didn’t look like they were as confident as this bunch.

In all honesty, I think I do a better job with the class yesterday than today. Why? I’m not a morning person and my T-Th gets the first run of the material so that by my W-F, the kinks are worked out. For the W-F, I also have a relative idea of what they will likely have issues with. I wonder what it makes the discrepancy so blatant… Granted, I don’t have the best statistics (about 24 students between the two classes), but the difference is prominent.

From day 1, I announced that I do not allow iPods, Zunes, cell phones, etc. for use on the test. Just straight up calculators. Why? You can store notes, and I explicitly don’t allow notes. Besides, people do need to understand how to use calculators. They are fairly simple devices, but each has its own quirks.

Evidently, this is upsetting to some of my students who did not bring calculators to exam day (today.), especially since I don’t bring extra calculators to loan out.

How do other teachers handle it? Do they not realize or care that notes could possibly be stored on these devices?

Yesterday, my Bharatanatyam teacher allowed us to come to her more advanced beginner class. This was done primarily because two ladies in my class are behind, due to missing class. Another lady and I also agreed to show up.

I was the only one who showed up (the class was great, though I’m a teensy bit sore today). It reminded me of how I have students who are behind but won’t make up their work, though they promise to meet with me. It seems like students are just students, regardless of what they’re studying or if it’s by choice. My Bharatanatyam teacher also gives us the same speech I give my students: you only get better through practice and mastering the basics will only make the complicated things much easier. I used to think the problem was that people are made to take classes that they don’t enjoy. Maybe the problem is something more general?

I’ve been working with the music for my kinda choreography. One of the best things about Middle Eastern music is you’re supposed to let it tell you what to do. Unfortunately, right now, I hear “arms” at the beginning, “open Egyptians” (it’s a move) for the bulk of the song, and hip drops for the rest.

I think I’m just out of touch with working on a piece. I’m used to going to class and following whatever we’re working on. One of my own criticisms of my dance education is I haven’t performed much. I’m kind of the anti-6 week wonder (a phrase used for someone who performs and thinks s/he knows it all after 6 weeks). I have very little performance experience for someone who has been dancing as long as I have. I haven’t been a part of classes that do regular recitals or have troupes. I haven’t had the time to do hafla stuff. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge proponent of education and continuing one’s education, as well as not pushing performance too soon. However, I wish, in retrospect, I would’ve performed more or had the chance to. There is a heavily balance to strike. “Everything in moderation, even moderation.”

I’m not worried. I have about 2 weeks to get my act together. I figure I have about 1 minute worth of stuff out of a 3.5 minute song. Not too shabby for just starting on Friday.

Despite my hectic week, I did indeed manage to sift through all my dance music (over 1000 songs) and pick something suitable. I was initially going to pick something very slow, but I found a mix of “Move Your Belly” on the “Belly Dancer’s Odyssey” CD. If you are unfamiliar with the song, here’s a YouTube clip with it.

I’m thinking about light choreography. I haven’t choreographed much lately, and although I think of myself as more of an improv dancer, I’d like a back up plan should my mind blank. I haven’t done any performance-y stuff in about 3 years, and I haven’t done any solo work in 4 years. That’s what grad school and trying to stay afloat did to me; I had no time to really plan out a performance or seek gigs.

Despite the hafla being so soon, I’m very excited now that I have a song.

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