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?

My Bharatanatyam class performed a dance yesterday; to your left is a photo of me all decked out my costume. The show was lovely; it’s nice to see such talented dancers. I have a lot of work to catch up on, due the extra rehearsals and losing Sunday to the show, but here are some important things I learned:

– Plan at least an hour to get ready. The photo doesn’t show it, but I also had a fake hair braid down the back. Everything had to be pinned (hair pins or safety pins) or tied with string; if you look at my left arm, you can see the string on the arm pieces. There are a lot of components to that costume.

– Try to break in the costume. My costume was brand new, and I think that contributed to my fan (the piece on the middle) not spreading beautifully. The fan was very stiff, albeit beautiful. I noticed most people had silk fans, rather than the stiffer gold brocade. I think wearing it more will soften the fabric a bit.

-The rhinestone jewelry does look stunning on stage. Some of the dancers had especially sparkly jewelry and it shimmered and sparkled when they were barely doing anything. Beautiful!

-Get better cases for big jewelry. I had separated out some of the smaller pieces using plastic food containers, but I need something bigger for the belt and head piece. I think it would make finding pieces a lot easier when I need them.

All in all, I learned a lot from participating and am glad I finally had the opportunity to perform something I learned in classical Indian dance.

At my Bharatanatyam class yesterday, our teacher mentioned that some dancers from another class would join as at the beginning of our dance. The reason was that, although there are 11 of us, we simply cannot fill one gigantic stage.

What intrigued me on this is that I’ve heard the same thing about Middle Eastern dance, that a performance should include many dancers and that few dancers can do solos that are captivating enough to “fill” the stage. If you’re sitting in the back part of a huge auditorium, I imagine it would be difficult to see someone executing most moves. I never considered that the same idea could conceivably be applied to classical Indian dance. The facial expressions, eye movements, even the visual of the footwork could easily be lost in a huge performance venue.

I wonder how much has been adapted to make the dance more dynamic on stage, what really went into going from a temple dance to a stage performance. I remember watching a documentary about this, in regards to Odissi, but I think the documentary was more about secular vs. religious, rather than a close up setting vs. a large stage.

Does anyone have any books, documentaries, papers, etc. on this one?

Even with the holiday Monday, I feel ever so slightly behind on life. Photos and adjustments to my costume haven’t happened yet, because school, MassRaqs, and Bharatanatyam are taking up time.

Yesterday, I had 6 hours back to back of lecture, which was a bit hard to sit through. Not impossible, but I was definitely feeling antsy. I’m glad that I brought a snack along, because I was starving after the first class.

The schoolwork, thus far, doesn’t seem bad. A fair amount of reading, but besides one class where we have a presentation every week for awhile, nothing too crazy. One of the things I’m struggling with in school isn’t the work but knowing how to gauge things. A physics or math class is fairly predictable, and I’ve done it numerous times. I have a firm grasp on the time and effort it takes me to do physics, plus there is typically a definitive end point. With humanities, not only have I not taken a humanities class in about 5 years, but also I don’t know how much time a grad humanities should take me. Physics grad school was kind of similar to physics undergrad for me, only more difficult material and in-class exams.

MassRaqs is slowly culminating. I work on the program, so it’s sort of rush rush time to get things in and then for me to make it happen.

As for Bharatanatyam, I’ve been going to practice twice a week, as well as trying to practice on my own. I think it is coming along, although we have not had a consistent group of dancers to rehearse. The choreography has place changes and parts where only certain people dance, so the vision is a little lost when only a handful of people are there.

The other big project, my new website, unfortunately has been put to the side. I’m hoping to have completed it by the end of this month, though. Like most things in life, making my website has taken a little more work than I had anticipated. Things have changed a lot from when I made websites, and making a site with a CMS wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be.

In the recent months, my need for costumes has increased. I mean an actual need, not just simply a desire. Meiver’s show- I need 3 costumes (the thobe, two Egyptian-syle sets). For my Bharatanatyam class recital, I need one Bharatanatyam costume. I’ve been trying to make wise choices for what I buy. The reason I own very few costumes is money. And by few, I mean, I now have one Egyptian-style skirt and bra set, 1 thobe, and 1 Bharatanatyam costume.

My Bharatanatyam costume and jewelry was purchased by a friend who went to India this past summer. I sent him with specific instructions of the style of costume and my measurements. I waited anxiously. Bharatanatyam costumes, as far as I can tell, cannot be purchased in the US. My dance teacher only recommended places in India, and I wasn’t able to locate a shop, even in NYC or Chicago. I had two options, other than my friend: buy a used costume or buy online. Although I’m not adverse to used costumes, I know I’m a hard fit. I’m short and thin with some curve. Buying online meant really high shipping and no idea what the costume would look like. That’s why I opted for my friend, whose taste I trust.

I just got my costume Saturday, so I haven’t taken photos yet; I plan on posting them tomorrow. My friend did an excellent job of picking out a pretty olive colored costume. The measurements seem like they worked out overall. The blouse is a bit shorter than I would’ve liked, as well as having too tight sleeves (I get muffin top on my arms!) and too tight in the bust. That was peculiar, since I haven’t gained weight this summer, and my teacher made my measurements an inch too big intentionally, since she claims that the costumers always make the costumes too small. The good news is that the seams are huge and have enough extra fabric that I can increase everything, except the length; I’m hoping that by increasing the width in the bust area that the blouse will be a bit longer on me.

I’ve tried on the pants and the bells. Although I don’t want the costume to become sweaty and/or ruined, it will take practice moving in it. I didn’t realize how much the costume restricts movement. Maybe restrict is the wrong word, but it definitely changes how I move. I haven’t had the chance to try on the rest; it appears that Bharatanatyam costumes are much more complicated than a Middle Eastern dance costume. I seriously couldn’t figure out how to wear anything but the blouse, the pants, and this covering for the pants. Even though I’m not the kind of person who goes crazy with costumes, I have to admit it is really exciting to have a nice costume to wear for a performance.

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.

When Meiver was traveling, I started YouTube account for the Middle Eastern dance intensive class for us to use as a group to watch the choreography and have reference. I got the idea from my Bharatanatyam class; the director of the school has beautiful video of her performing some of the pieces, while telling us what she’s doing. The video is unbelievably helpful for that class; while I try to take notes after it, sometimes they’re wrong and I end up practicing the wrong thing. Sometimes I simply forget if we’ve been given a lot of information. Like most of us, I haven’t attended every single intensive class, so I have missed some pieces of information. The account is helpful, because we can get caught up for the parts we missed and hopefully spend more time in class refining rather than trying to remember. Although we initially started the account without Meiver’s direction, I figured having 6-7 of us hashing it out would probably give a clear idea of what we’re doing.

What’s particularly nice about using YouTube for the Middle Eastern dance choreographies is we can see how we look as a group and how everyone fits in. Three out of four of the pieces are really formation dependent; we switch places frequently in the Modern Oriental, the fan veil piece has partners, and the Khaleegi we all have specific roles in the piece. The beauty behind the fan veil and Khaleegi pieces are really the formations of the dancers (and in the fan veil, the fan veils), so it’s nice to see the reasoning behind everything.  Even with a mirror, I can’t see the whole visual effect.

These accounts are setup such that you have to login and the videos are private, so I don’t have to worry about having bad video of me for the entire world to see. I wish we would’ve started the account earlier for the Middle Eastern dance class. Not only would having the reference been nice earlier, but also it would be nice to see our practice.