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.

Meiver’s intensive class involves fan veils, so I found myself in need of a pair. My last time purchasing fan veils was not good, if you remember; they simply wouldn’t open, even for my teacher, I didn’t care for the unfinished edges, the sparkle flowers fell off, etc. Besides the entire “you get what you pay for”, Sonya always said that the right “tools” (props) make dancing with them easy and enjoyable. In retrospect, I think not having a good set of fan veils kept me away from playing with them, much like how I didn’t enjoy playing zills because mine didn’t have a nice sound.

I decided this time to not cheap out and get well-reputed ones. Meiver thankfully worked out a deal with Fairy Cove Silks. They are significantly more than other fan veils ($110/pair, whereas others are about $60/pair). However, they have a huge selection of silk colorings and are recommended.

When I ordered my pair, I chose “Moss and Roses” silk, because I assumed an already dyed pair would ship faster. It turns out that Meag, the owner, dyes silk constantly, so I could’ve picked another color combination. They shipped lighting fast; I ordered on Tuesday morning, they were in the mail sometime that day, and I believe I received them by Thursday. Not too shabby, considering they shipped from Oregon to Boston. By the way, the customer service at Fairy Cove is outstanding; I received relies to my emails very quickly, within hours of me sending them. Impressive, considering some emails were sent at night.

The fan veils themselves are simply gorgeous. Although I may have picked a different color combination had I known they would’ve shipped as quickly, I’m still pleased with these colors. I took some photos outside by myself, but the photos don’t really do the veils justice. The silk is dyed beautifully; it isn’t just blocks of color but gradients. I’m not sure how much of a difference gradients will make when one is turning, but they’re nice for me to view :). The fans are “handed” which means there is one that opens for the right hand and one that opens for the left. I haven’t worked with fans enough to have a preference. I believe you can order two right hand fans, though, but you would have to request them.

The edges of the silk are overlocked, so they will not unravel. With my brief playing with them, the little bit of weight from the thread doesn’t appear to make a  difference in the motion. They flow like a regular veil. They also open with ease. I can’t think of anything I really dislike about them at this moment. The price isn’t cheap, but I believe it’s a fair price for the craftmanship. They are insanely nice.

I’m not sure if fan veils are going to a prop I use frequently, but having a good pair will definitely encourage me to experiment and practice with them more.

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 mentioned that one of the problems with taking a fan veil workshop was my fan veils. Fan veil 1Because I didn’t know much about working with fan veils and didn’t know if they were my thing, I thought I’d go with a cheap option. I think these were about $60 for a pair, including shipping. This style of fan veil is sold a lot of places, I believe: they have multicolored glitter flowers on them and a long tail of silk attached to the fan part.

The most positive thing to mention about them is I think they’re pretty to look at. I really like the dye job on the veil part. They’re not visually ugly, with glue where the silk attaches to the fan. I’ve seen that on some fan veils. While that may not be seen from far away, I still want my props to look fairly nice up close, if only so that I can admire them.

That’s where my compliments for my fan veils end. The blades are not smooth; I think it’d be quite easy to get a splinter with them. Even iIMG_1219f it isn’t, they just don’t feel nice to hold. The blades additionally don’t stay open well. They need to be held open, or the fan folds in on itself. I don’t know if this is common with fans in generally, but I am kind of doubtful that it is. I also found them difficult to crack open with one hand; I don’t know if it’s the nature of fan veils period or my lack of experience, but even Sonya didn’t have the easiest time getting them to open.

My other complaint about them is that I only used these once for about 2 hours, and the adorable little flowers have already started to fall off. I think I lost about 3; some other women had similar fans to mine and I could see their fans shedding the flowers as well. I’m doubtful that they’d hold up well for extended practice.

While I’m glad I was able to try fan veil, I wish these guys were better. Perhaps someone who is more patient with them will get better use, but I’m lazy. I don’t want my prop work to be as effortless as possible.

This past Sunday I went to Arabesque to learn about fan veil and how to choreograph more.

I admittedly know very little about fan veil or fan dancing in Middle Eastern dance. I’ve never worked with a fan before, and I certainly have never worked with a fan veil. I’ve only seen a handful of YouTube clips, like the one below.

Sonya, as usual, had a good handout. I’m a fan of handouts, since I don’t normally write as fast I’d like or I occasionally don’t write everything down because I assume I’ll remember. I really like how Sonya emphasized again how it’s important to dance with the prop and not just do cool tricks while standing there. One of the things I like about learning props from Sonya is that they don’t seem like a cheap gimmick to cover up poor dancing; they are really an extension of the movement. I also like her frankness; she admitted she knew fan, she knew veil, and she taught herself based on that knowledge. Seeing that fan veil is quite new (I think the earliest dated clip I’ve seen is from a few years ago), I imagine it’s not too common to find a fan veil instructor.

Sonya also went over the element of surprise and being a good performer; sometimes, one should not reveal the prop at the first beat of the music but dance and then slowly show it. After her talk about fan veil, we got to use ours. Unfortunately, I went with the cheaper fan veils (they’re getting reviewed this weekend), and they aren’t very good. They’re very hard to open, the wood isn’t nicely sanded, the darling little glued on stars fell off. But back to the class, the fan veils I had made the workshop a lot harder. Had I splurged and bought better ones, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been as hard.

The only good thing I can say about having these fanveils for the workshop is Sonya was able to point out that they’re handed. I never knew dance fans were made for left or right hands. Luckily, because mine were almost impossible to work with, I was able to borrow another pair. Sonya assembled a few cute combos into a choreography. They were a lot of fun, once I got them. If you’re looking to take a fan veil intro workshop, I think it’s best to have experience with fan dancing and also not buy cheap fan veils. Sonya reminded us that better props make working with them easier; I can concur that.

Choreography 201 was fun as well. We were expected to bring in music that we wished to choreograph. Only one person really prepared that. However, we all had iPods, so we could select music on the fly. Unlike the first part of this workshop, we had less planning. We initially sat around, discussing choreographic choices we can make with the music or important aspects of the music. The second half involved looking at making combos for the music. I liked the fact that it wasn’t heavy dancing and more discussion; I was able to see how everyone else’s minds worked and to sit around, talking about dance. I love talking about dance, hence all the time I spend on Bhuz and writing this blog.

I think I would’ve liked a little more structure with this workshop, but if you are working with other people’s music that you haven’t prepared for, I imagine it is difficult to do that. I think the most interesting music we used was the person who actually had planned what music she wanted and had thought about choreographing that piece beforehand. I think it helped guide Sonya into knowing how to answer the questions. This workshop has a lot of potential, although it is highly reliant on the people who show up and how much homework they do ahead of time.