December 2010


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?

But it looks like going over to my .com will be a post-New Year’s project. Installing WordPres onto my server and being able to update it has been riddled with issues.

Two days of very hard work, and I’m throwing in the towel for the time being. I hope everyone has had an excellent break and is well-stocked on home supplies for when the storm breaks out.

I’ve been tossing this question around in my mind since it was brought up maybe 2 weeks ago. By big names, I’m not talking just famous dancers but dancers who have huge cult followings. The kind of dancers people gush over incessantly in forums and will make the extra effort to learn from. The heroes people try to emulate.

When this question was brought up, I couldn’t think of anyone I feel has that kind of pull. When I began dancing, the Bellydance Superstars were just really beginning. I feel like they, particularly members of The Indigo, had that kind of draw I’m talking about. Maybe it’s my memory or that I’m not so green anymore, but even though there are plenty of great dancers and instructors around who are popular, including the original members of the Bellydance Superstars, I honestly cannot think of someone I feel has that draw, that star power.

Are there any dancers you feel are starting to have the huge cult following? Or still do?

 

Disclaimer: I received this DVD as part of a give-away on Bhuz from Michelle Joyce, the producer.

I was excited to receive Icing on the Drum Solo for free and early, because I am a huge fan of Lotus Niraja (and we’re both from the same area). This DVD offers much more than drum solo information. Lotus Niraja is very charming and fun throughout the DVD’s narration. She is also very clear on her explanations, even including a section of the DVD devoted to some of her terminology. This dance form has no universal codification, so this section was helpful to learn what she meant

The DVD is aimed at intermediate dancers, I believe. Some of its strengths are:

  • The gestures section was well-done. It included explanations of how the gestures can communicate to others. I think that they apply not only to drum solos but really performance in general.
  • The choreography is fun and challenging. I had to rewind a part or two, but that is the beauty of a DVD.
  • Lotus showed several ways that choreography could be performed. It was shown as a solo, duet, and troupe performance.
  • There was an emphasis on really making the choreography your own. Although I don’t plan on performing this choreography, I think that it’s a good reminder that you are not obligated to do everything exactly how she does that. It is a subtle point, but I feel like that gives more value to this choreography, because some people are not comfortable performing a DVD choreography in public.
  • As always, Cheeky Girls Productions hits it out of the park with its high quality production. The audio is clear, the video is shot in a way that is easy to use.

Some of the weakness of the DVD are:

  • Not all topics on the DVD fit within the concept of a drum solo DVD. There were special sections about dancing in heels, Lebanese cane, and performance information. The latter two could have easily been on separate DVDs. I think even the gestures sections, though relevant to the DVD, could have been its own topic. Perhaps they were testing the waters with those sections?
  • Inclusion of other drum solo information. This is really a part b to the first point in this section. Stuff like working with a live drummer would’ve been interesting and relevant.

This DVD will be revisted by me this winter. I definitely recommend this one.

I went to see Black Swan yesterday. Although it is a ballet movie, I thought a lot of it was applicable to art in general and life; I recommend that you see it, unless you cannot stomach some very vivid depiction of blood and violence (I had to turn my head a few times). The movie brought up how technique can only take one so far, because you eventually need to go beyond that, to feel the movement and dance. I questioned whether it is possible or reasonable for one person to really be able to do a variety of roles well; Nina, played by Natalie Portman, could only play the role of the innocent White Swan convincingly and worked herself so hard to play the seductive Black Swan convincingly, even though she kept failing. In another blog, we were discussing how we can see how some dancers are perceived as sexy and others are more innocent. I haven’t experienced anything so extreme as Nina’s struggle with this other side of herself (trying to tap into the Black Swan role), but I have struggled as a dancer to tap into other aspects of my personality and display for the world.

The final point I got out of the movie (well, of the ones pertinent to this blog- there were plenty of psychological issues happening) was how far does one have to go for perfection and is it worth it? Without revealing too much of the movie and just thinking about how much full-time dancers, particularly ballet dancers, put into their craft- is it asking to much of them? They have physically demanding schedules, I’ve read that they have to practice even while on vacation, they’re in a highly competitive field where the littlest thing can make you lose, and it isn’t a long-term career or one that you can get into later in life. That isn’t even looking at the eating disorder aspect that can happen to dancers.

This movie gave me a lot to think about; I’m still processing it today.

Yesterday, I finished my last paper that was due for 2010; my independent study paper is due 15 January 2011. Yay! I wanted to post yesterday, but my hands were quite tired from typing and I wanted to enjoy the world again. I went to the ICA in Boston and had dinner in Chinatown with my SO, who has been rather neglected this past week.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a finals period that was strictly paper writing. I learned some valuable lessons, namely that paper writing is physically exhausting. The veins in my hands were gigantic on Sunday, because I had been pumping my veins from typing. I was glad to go to the recital at Melina’s, because I think my hands needed the rest. The good thing is that I don’t feel exhausted. I remember many finals periods ending with me sleeping and being a bum for the next day. I am definitely a bit tired, but it isn’t as bad as the other finals periods.

The past week had been quite busy in general. In addition to final papers and the work that they entailed, I attended Meiver’s “Exploring the Arab Style Oriental Routine, Part 1” and performed in Melina’s recital with my class. I’m still catching up on emails, paying bills, all that stuff, but I hope to review those two events in the near future. I also have a DVD to review.

Speaking of reviews to write, I found a use for my SO’s name generator, Essa while writing my paper for my qualitative class. I decided to use pseudonyms for everyone (sample size was 5), and I didn’t want to bias my name choices. For instance, if I gave names that have a positive association to some people I like and names that have a negative association to people I don’t like or who came off poorly in the research. I used Essa to generate names for that, because I figured the program wouldn’t have a bias compared to me. Because I like names, despite not actually liking my first name (or last name), having to pick out names would’ve taken longer. I just selected Greek names (because a lot of names are Greek) and took the first 6 creations; I also chose not to use names that were too similar. In short, I recommend using a name generator like Essa to create plausible names for your research pseudonyms.

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