August 2010

The other day, I read an article in some popular magazine (I don’t remember which) about how women science students should prepare themselves for college life. While I think women should be aware of how to survive some unfortunate aspects of being a women in science (less of us, sexism, etc.), I think there is a lot of accountability on the professors and that should be addressed just as much, if not more, than how women should just put with certain behaviors, like sexism, and not take it personally.

As the school year is beginning or has begun, I’ve been thinking about my education experience in science. I realize that while students have some autonomy on how things affect them, professors have even more choice in how they affect students. Speaking from experience, a bad situation can really be detrimental to a student’s confidence in science. I’ve been holding back on writing about this, and I’m sure more will come out with time, but right now, if anyone in the sciences is reading, I’m hoping to encourage professors and teachers to treat women and minorities right.

The most important thing, in my opinion, is to treat people like people. I don’t want to be treated as less of a science student than my male classmate. Tangential to this is don’t assume things. The article I read seemed assumptive about women in science. I don’t really fit that mold. Up until recently, I’ve had very good experiences in physics. I’m one of the few people I know who had a phenomenal high school physics teacher. My undergraduate physics department is amazing. I’m not afraid to ask questions, speak up, etc.

Building on the theme of treating people like people, don’t use “mansplaination.”  The short version of what a mansplaination is when a male condescendingly explains something to a female. He assumes the woman doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Often, opinions are stated as fact. Today I realized that in one research situation, I had been subjected to “mansplaination.” In this situation, I would tell the professor what I was going to do, prior to doing it. I figured, in case I was wrong, I should confirm what I was doing and not waste time. He would then say, “No, here is what you should do” and then tell me exactly what I said. It had happened several times. Because I had several people in the lab at the time and I remembered what I said, I knew I was right. Because the lab was small, I cannot confirm that the behavior was directly a result of me being female, but I never saw such behavior towards the males in the lab. Mansplaination is really obnoxious, to say the least. Even though I didn’t doubt myself, that kind of behavior created a poor work environment. Who wants to work around someone who feels the need to behave so condescendingly?

In short, treat others with kindness, respect, and dignity, regardless of other attributes.


I probably mentioned that I’ve registered for MassRaqs, the festival that Meiver is hosting this September. I’m frankly very excited. One of my goals this year was to attend a big festival. I was thinking Rakkasah (either one) or Las Vegas Intensive. Due to scheduling and cost, neither one of those events was in the cards. Luckily, MassRaqs is happening, so goal accomplished.

I only have experience with Meiver, but I’ve heard from my friends that Bozenka, Cassandra, and Shadia are amazing. My dance friends have yet to steer me wrong, so I’m confident that this will be a great weekend. Looking at the schedule, Meiver has done a terrific job of picking topic. She has also done a good job of picking a place that is public transit accessible.

Pre-registration ends September 1st, so make sure you get yours in! It’s a great deal. Six workshosp (2 Bozenka, 2 Cassandra, 1 Shadia, 1 Meiever), a lecture, and 2 performances in one weekend for $275. I believe there is also an ala carte option of days as well as individual workshops. If you haven’t already, go here to register.

In my R&R time, people have posted photos of the show from Wednesday. We look really good. I was particularly relieved that my makeup wasn’t too much or too little; my SO thought it was too much, but he also the type of person who thinks women look better without makeup than with it. I think he marginally understands the need for stage makeup. Although others said my makeup looked great, I like having proof for myself.

On a shallow note, I was especially happy to see that my foundation worked. Finding the ideal foundation is difficult for me. I’m not very good at getting the right color and then I often find myself with something that I’m allergic to or wears oddly on my skin. I settled on Makeup Forever’s HD Foundation. Although it’s pricey, a little bit went a long way. I also think the foundation is somewhere between something I’ll wear often but not so often that it’ll needed replaced frequently, if that makes sense. I also really love the pump delivery, since I prefer to apply my foundation with my fingers vs. a brush; I’ve had foundations with bottles that don’t have pump, and it’s much trickier to get the right amount.

I applied my foundation at 3:00 in the afternoon. After changing clothes 5 times (into 4 costumes and then street clothes) and performing 4 times, it was still going strong at 11 PM when I washed it off. If you’re looking for a good foundation for performance, I’d say this one definitely is worth checking out.

I didn’t realize how much wear my body had from the practices and performance until my Bharatanatyam class. My legs were giving out halfway through, which was shocking. Bharatanatyam is intense, but I haven’t felt like that since my first Bharatanatyam class.

While I need to practice for Bharatanatyam and want to work on my own projects, I now know I need to take it easy. Which is fine by me; I was looking for an excuse to start working on my website now. With all the other things going on in my life, that project has gone by the way side.

I spent most of today resting. All the practices and the high of the performance yesterday called for today to be a day of rest. My neck is a bit sore today from the Khaleegi, but other than that, I feel pretty good.

I think the show went well. Many people I respect said very kind things, including Nepenthe who was kind enough to even write a review of the show last night on Facebook (and be present with a huge sincere smile on her face). It’s really touching to see that people are supportive in the community. Speaking of community, this being one of the only student shows I’ve been in, it was neat to see how everyone did pull together the night of the show. Things have been stressful, and yet, we’re all willing to lend a hand to help people change costumes, make sure everyone looks good, share snacks, etc. With 4 costume changes (or 5, if you were a soloist), we all worked together as team to make sure things happened as scheduled.

The show was fun. I think we did well. I know there were parts I didn’t do so hot (my fan veils and I were too close to the curtain, so the silk couldn’t go back when it needed to, and that caused issues), but I kept going since there is no other choice. I think it overall went well, and most importantly, people enjoyed it. It was a really good evening overall. The Modern Oriental was a good opening number. My favorite to do was the Saidi, but I heard most praise on the Khaleegi. My SO loved how the hair tossing looked at the end (and somehow missed that I almost fell backwards when sitting up after that). In Nepenthe’s review, she wrote that she enjoyed this piece, because it made a social dance interesting to watch. I admittedly am not fan of watching most Khaleegi, simply because it isn’t that dynamic on stage. However, Meiver made the dance like a party and gave us all different roles to do, while still making the dance cohesive and performance-worthy.

The MataHari people are absolutely fantastic. They were very kind throughout the evening and so appreciative; they even purchased flowers for all of us. It felt good to do something for such kind people who work for such an amazing cause.

I couldn’t see any of the show, unfortunately, but judging from the applause, it sounded like it was enjoyable. We haven’t heard a tally of how much money we raised for MataHari, but I wasn’t expecting to hear that yet. I imagine Meiver is rightfully resting. If you are interested in giving money to MataHari or reading more about them, please go here.

The experience certainly had its ups and downs, but I really enjoyed learning these dances, being forced out of my comfort zones, and getting to know some of my classmates better. A few of us were talking about what we had hoped to get out of this experience. I definitely ended up with what I had wanted (troupe/group experience, growth as a dancer, etc.). It’s a little strange to not be at Meiver’s studio tonight with everyone, like the routine has been since May.

I have been quite busy this week, so I apologize for the lateness in the review. The workshop was fantastic. It began similarly to the last shaabi one of his that I attended; he began with cultural information and song info. This time had an especially sweet addition: he handed out the song lyrics with line by line translation. Very nice and helpful. Part of Mohamed’s magic is that he is excellent at coming up with ways to explain his points with Egyptian culture. One of the reasons I decided to to go the workshop, even though money is tight and I had already experienced his teaching, is because I know he has so much to offer with knowledge and is very good with answering questions. Particularly with shaabi, understanding the lyrics and culture is important. I wish someone would have him lecture over a lunch or dinner. He’s also very charming to boot.

The shaabi choreography he taught was good and certainly different from the one last year in Chicago. I’m not sure which one I like better. He is a great choreographer, coming up with things that not only look good but also fit in with the lyrics. One of the things I remember from the choreography is that he did a thumbs up thing when the lyric was “Shobra is the best!” or something like that. Very cute things to emphasize the lyrics.

I respect so much that Mohamed wanted us to learn the choreography and was patient but worked us hard until the end. He had to stop only because another class was coming in. He enjoys teaching, and it’s nice to be around that, especially when you’re so physically tired. He gives more than his all when he teaches; most of us left wishing he were local, so he could teach in the Boston-area regularly. I believe Najmat mentioned that he’ll be back in the Boston-area in May of next year; I will certainly be there! Even if you have taken a shaabi workshop from him in the past, taking another one from him is well-worth your money. I learned new things, both culturally and dance-wise, from the last time.

Tempest, who is a member of the New England Dance community, wrote this article that was republished on Belly Dance New England about community. Although the audience is the Middle Eastern dance community, the values she promotes are generally good community values.

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