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.

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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.

I realized today that my summer will largely be themed by dance. Working through the intensive dance practices has taught me some critical things. Namely, I need to practice. Learning choreography is not my strong suit; I haven’t had to memorize a choreography in a really long time (years), and my choreography experiences have been very limited; I learned maybe 2 choreographies and only had to perform one of them. I’ve never had troupe experience, either, so Meiver’s intensive is quite an experience for me.

The Bharatanatyam choreography we learned is almost finished. Polishing needs to be done, but I feel very confident in that one, especially now that I’ve been listening to the music regularly. Listening to the music was an interesting experience, because I realized how perfectly things fit together. We’re moving on to learn another choreography, however. I’m a bit behind with this class (really, both classes) because of my trip to Montreal. I’m hoping that some good ol’ fashion practicing will make things better.

Yesterday, I took the plunge and committed myself to Meiver of Boston’s intensive repertory class. She has been advertising it for a bit, but I had let time slip and then thought I wouldn’t have the time or money. Thanks to Facebook and friends’ participation (gotta love indirect peer pressure), as well as admiring Meiver’s dancing, I contacted her, got the info, and decided to go for it.

If you are not participating, this class is going to cover a lot of material. Khaleegi, Saidi, fan veil, and an Oriental piece. This is a lot of material as is, but she’s also running this only for 3 weeks in May. Students are expected to show up to 6/8 classes or 2 classes/week. Everything is very reasonably priced (she wants people to be able to participate).

Last night was my first night there. Meiver is a great instructor; I plan on taking more classes from her in the future. She’s very warm and friendly, which is vital to any good instructor, especially if you’re dancing in the heat and humidity. I immensely respect that although this is dance intensive and we’re primarily there to learn these choreographies, that she makes a point of sharing the background information on each of the regional dances and throwing in tidbits.

Her choreographies are creative and beautiful, too. I love Saidi, so there was no worry that would enjoy that. I love the playfulness and am in general, a big folkloric fan. Although my head/neck are feeling it this morning, I had fun doing Khaleegi, which surprised me. I am not a fan of Khaleegi in general; I’m not big on hair tosses and didn’t favor what I learned or have seen of it. Granted, it hasn’t been much, but I’ve seen a fair handful. We didn’t get to the fan veil stuff but the Oriental choreography is very pretty, albeit fast.

What I like most about her choreographies is that they utilize the group. The hallmark of a good group choreography is that it isn’t a bunch of people doing the same thing together all the time. That looks good at times, but I rally appreciate when one group does something to the left while another group does something to the right or they play off of each other. From working with others on choreography and then learning the choreography, creating a dynamic choreography that uses the group isn’t easy but is visually worthwhile.

I look forward to the rest of the classes and seeing the end product. This is going to take a lot of time, but I think I’m going to immensely grow as a dancer.

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.

I know prop work isn’t that end all, be all of Middle Eastern dance. However, tonight after watching several clips of veil, zills, etc., I realized I should be able to do some kind of choreography with veil, zills, or cane. I’ve studied each one pretty rigorous for at least a year. I know how to manipulate all of them fairly well (zills are my weakest, though). I think I can definitely do something good with veil.

Anyone else already plotting what do study for next year?