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.

Classes have been finished for me for a little bit, but I haven’t had much time to blog about it. I had a final last Wednesday that was technically in class, but we had received the question earlier and could write outside of class. Because my handwriting isn’t so nice and I didn’t want to deal with writing in class and having the time constraint over my head, I wrote the entire thing outside of class and showed up for the last little bit of lecture and to hand in the essay.

The past few days (essentially, when entries ceased to exist) have been full of dance (to be written about later) and schoolwork. Schoolwork = paper writing = lots of time in front of the computer. Yesterday, the veins in my hands were especially plump from all the typing. I’ve been trying to give my hands and eyes breaks from typing and staring a screen, so blogging will be a minimum. I have two papers down and one more due this week; the fourth isn’t due until January 15th, so I’ll take a little break in between and hopefully have some time to work on my personal projects. For now, though, it’s paper writing time!

Last year, I made a list of what I thought would be good gifts for the adjunct, Middle Eastern dancer, or grad student in your life. Although last year’s list is still full of good ideas in my biased opinion, this year’s list reflects where I am and what I’m looking for. What can I say, I was inspired by Oprah’s Favorite Things (one of my holiday guilty pleasures).

For the grad student

  • Coffee gift certificates/maker/coffee itself. I’ve begun drinking coffee again, and I attribute it to being back in school.
  • Printer ink and paper. I’ve used one cartridge of ink this semester, and I’ve been fairly conservative with printing. Printer ink is expensive, and I’d be elated to have that as a gift. My paper supply is being depleted, as well.
  • Massage. I’ve been pretty good about taking care of myself, but I know some people experience all sorts of back issues and other aches from poor computer posture.
  • Restaurant certificates. I’ve eaten out a bit more than I care to admit. I get back from class rather late, and sometimes, I’m just too tired to cook. Food is always welcome in my house.

For the Middle Eastern dancer

  • Props. About a week or two ago, I splurged on some beautiful Isis wings from Ayshe. While I believe that they are worth every dollar I spent (and unfortunately, I kind of want another pair), they were about $200. I’ve also been shopping around for a shamadan and a tray (not sure how much it’ll be). Other props dancers often love are veils (particularly silk) and zills. Even if you cannot afford the full cost, you could make a clever gift certificate good for x amount of dollars towards the item.
  • Costumes. As of this year, I’ve gotten into very light costume buying. Again, costumes are expensive, even if they are worth it. If you are unsure of what to buy someone or the size, you can again make your own gift certificate, though some vendors may offer gift certificates.
  • Jewelry. Along with costumes comes jewelry. It’s the icing on the cake, per se. I like my jewelry very sparkly and big.
  • Traincase for makeup. Another item I’m hunting for. Toting one’s makeup in a cosmetic bag isn’t cutting it for me any more; everything becomes jumbled up and harder to find. Caboodles, Sephora, and Yazmo all sell recommended traincases.
  • Suitcase and other prop cases. The suitcase is something I discovered works well to transport multiple costumes and accessories. Mine is ugly and not in great condition. With the Isis Wings, I now realized I need a good way to transport them places. I think a garment bag will work well, but on Friday, I saw how a dancer creatively made her own case out of cardboard boxes and duct tape.
  • Ranya Renee’s Taqasim DVD and misc. DVDs from Cheeky Girls Productions. Both have produced brilliant DVDs in the past full of good information, clear video, etc. Everything you could want in a good instructional dance DVD. Ranya Renee’s latest is very unique and is definitely on my list of things to buy. From Cheeky Girls Productions, there are many to pick from. I currently have a copy of the Icing on the Drum Solo to review, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen. On my list is Turn it Up! and Totally Turkish.