I’ve completed 1 week of school. One week isn’t really that much, in terms of going to class. I go to class twice a week. Two 3-hour lectures one day, one 3-hour lecture another day. I was supposed to have a 4th class, but it was unfortunately canceled. The professor is very kind and said that I could do an independent study with him. I haven’t made a decision, because I haven’t read the papers I was sent home with and solidified a project. The topic is science and religion, by the way. I’ve mentioned these topics coming up in the past when I taught, and I’d like to know more about it.

In terms of schoolwork, I don’t feel overwhelmed, even when looking at the workload and punching it into my calendar. I have a lot on my plate in general, but it isn’t like school is overwhelming by itself. It’s more like having a bunch of small meals all together, which then becomes overwhelming as a result of so much together. The only thing that genuinely seems overwhelming is fighting this cold and allergies now; the cold is a result of rapid weather change, the allergies are (I think) from someone wearing perfume.

By sort of, I mean I’m going to try to maintain a constant practice. Keeping myself motivated to practice that much daily was difficult. I skirted it a few times (practicing mudras instead of really dancing), but I think I overall did a good job of maintaining a practice.

I discovered that I can’t be terribly structured with my practice, like plan it out weeks in advance. I do best when I make decisions that day.

My body is physically stronger and a bit more flexible. I feel less stress after practicing, despite having to find a summer job, and I have managed to stave off some illnesses with exercise. All good things.

What would be most helpful in maintaining my practice would be having something to work towards, like a performance. While I don’t believe performance is the end all, be all purpose for dancing, I realize I was practicing diligently before the Halfi for Haiti or that I practice the choreography for Bharatanatyam because there will be a performance.

Dedicating myself to dance definitely helped improve my dance and gain further insight into where I am and what I need to work on.

I spent this past weekend doing strictly dance things. On Saturday, I went to the Ranya Renee workshop held in Pawtucket, RI. I went knowing nothing about Ranya, besides everyone loves her and that she put out a Baladi DVD that everyone swears by (I’ll soon find out why everyone swears by it- I just ordered it today). I went with Nepenthe, who is a dance acquaintance that I hadn’t seen in probably 2.5 years or so. It was good seeing her and really getting to know her; when you see someone for about an hour or so a week and maybe chat with them for 15 minutes before and after class total, you learn who is awesome but you don’t really get to know the person. As I suspected, Nepenthe is really awesome 🙂

At the workshop, Ranya recognized Nepenthe from her glowing reviews of the Baladi DVD. This should be a lesson to everyone that people do read what you put out on the internet; that’s always why I try to write things I’m proud to stand beside. The first half of the Ranya workshop dealt with balancing trays and shamadan; this was my first time doing either. I have balanced swords, cane, and baskets only. The trays were fun; I’m not sure if I’d ever use them myself (the idea of balancing something so slippery with lit candles scares me), but it is good to try new things. I like the shamadan stuff a lot, but if I ever want to perform with it, I’m going to have to really practice. Those are heavy! The second workshop had us playing with characters to try to add personality to our dance. What was different about these workshops is that Ranya didn’t give something tangible; usually, I walk away with notes on combos or technique tricks. Instead, she had us focus on breathing and posture. I think was a better idea, since to tell you the truth, as much as I like having the tangible things, I’m likely not to use a choreography or combo I learn from a workshop. For me, I’m better off taking a lesson.

I’d recommend taking a workshop with Ranya in a heartbeat. She is really personable and friendly; if I’m not making it to the Raqia workshop in May, I’m going to Ranya in NH then.

The “Hafli for Haiti” was this past Sunday. On Saturday, somehow a flu/cold thing began brewing inside me. I started off with a sore throat at the Ranya workshop, which made the breathing through your mouth exercises very difficult at times. On Sunday, I woke up sick. My nose was running rivers and oceans; a lady on the T felt bad enough for me to keep giving me tissues. Still, I sucked it up the best I could and went to the hafla. I was determined not to let what would later turn out to be the flu prevent me from performing and attending my first hafla. Yes, I hadn’t been to a hafla before. I just never had the time or the means to get to one. A hafla, if you don’t know, is a dance thing. It’s Arabic for “party”, and what usually happens in the US is that there are performers and open floor dancing. This one was organized by Badriya, another dance acquaintance, for Haiti relief.

Despite my sickness, the hafla was fun.  I admittedly was nervous, because I followed some very talented folks in the act I was in, including Karim Nagi, aka Turbo Tabla. As I joked with someone, my goal was to do well and get off the stage soon enough to blow my nose. I think I did all right. I kept moving, in any case; one of the bad habits I picked up from probably Odissi (this is where I remember being made to do this) is that if something isn’t exactly right, I stop and restart. It’s probably also the inner perfectionist in me. I’m starting to let that not be so disabling to me, getting used to the idea that I don’t have to be 100% perfect to dance and perform. Obviously, I still want to get closer to perfection, but there’s absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t dance now or that I should wait until I reach that mythical perfection.

I’ve been sick, my flash drive died and now I have to make up working on calc problem writing that I lost on the dead flash drive, and one of my cats (the one in my icon on WordPress) has liver problems. Without being too dramatic, right now, I’m not sure if he’s going to live. The information I’ve been looking for instead of working (I’m very worried about him) isn’t helpful, and all I know is that treatments are expensive.

Good vibes or any other help is always welcome.

Everything was completed yesterday, just in the nick of time to go to dance class. It was also done in the nick of time for me to get sick today. I suspect it has something to do with my heat being broken. While I was planning a more productive day than lying around in bed, watching crime shows (I’m a fan of Law and Order: SVU and Castle), there are worse things to had. As long as I don’t leave my bed, I’m quite warm.

Actually, the semester cannot quite sleep soundly, I’m afraid. I had one student already try to argue his grade up because he wasn’t happy with it. Well, that’s not a good reason for getting a better grade; even though the holiday break has begun, he thought we should meet to discuss his grade. Final grades were due, and I don’t believe in grades being argued. This isn’t the movie Clueless, after all. I work out a rubric before I even begin grading. It’s simpler in the long run, and I think it’s more impartial; items are given various weights because I think they’re more important, not because a student I like did poorly on something and I think it shouldn’t be weighed as heavily as a result. I take my time grading and try to do things in their favor.

One of the biggest issues of contention for my exams was that I give them physics words or terms to give definitions to; unfortunately, the student who is upset about his grade is one of the ones who despises the whole vocab thing. I genuinely believe it’s important for people to articulate what they mean in science; otherwise, we’re just doing math. I think, if you have some genuine understanding of what’s going on, you should be able to write something. For this past exam, I wanted them to write things in their own words. I usually give definitions to them as an examples. The exam prior to the final- all the students memorized exactly what I gave them. I was surprised and not pleased; while I’m glad they took the initiative to study that part, memorizing definitions shows no understanding whatsoever. I can memorize Spanish or Arabic or a myriad of other languages, but I don’t know what they mean. They were not thrilled about this, but I genuinely believe that part of a class is communication and understanding what’s being communicated; you have to learn the lingo. Heck, I would be happy if they would write their own definitions prior to the exam, make sure they’re good, and then memorize the heck out of them.

I heard that it’s standard for some students to think that they can argue their grades and with time, they cool down and decide to concentrate their energies elsewhere.

There’s some suspicious strain of flu (or flu-like) symptoms going around the physics department. I think I’m the 4th or 5th person to get it. I think it was inevitable, since one of the people who was sick works in my lab.

I’m glad to be done with finals at least. Now I just want to get healthy.

I got hit with a flu bug yesterday. The weather in Chicago went from a lovely 70 degress Farenheit to about 50 being the high in the course of a few days. My body does not react well to fast weather changes. On one hand, it’s better to have the flu now that I don’t technically have anything to do. On the other hand, it’s spring break and it’d be nice to be healthy again.