During my time of unemployment, I’ve been simultaneously working on my thesis, getting a job, and trying to get back into dance. I’ve been moderately successful on the thesis, questionably successful on the job stuff (I made my goal to apply to at least 2 jobs per day, unless there is a holiday) since that’s really up to others, and I’ve been failing miserably on the dance stuff.

The latter is a bit frustrating. I know some people who have been unemployed for misc. reasons (laid off, mostly) and have flourished in the unemployment life for a bit. They dance and seem to to make the best of a bad situation. That’s not me, unfortunately. I’ve tried working on some combos (making my own), and I’ve been okay with it. Not great but not terrible. However, I don’t feel like dancing. I am a big believer in giving oneself a break when needed; however, I feel like I’ve been on a hiatus from dance for a while. I don’t think I’ve practiced much since the end of July, writing my thesis got in the way of attending classes, and I haven’t had time for any other fun dance stuff.

I don’t feel inspired to dance. I think I’m depressed about the uncertainty of getting a job. I hear horror stories left and right about people who have been unemployed for massive amounts of time. I know people who have been unemployed for at least a year. While I don’t know how hard they’ve job searched or how expansive they’ve made their searching grounds, I assume that these people did a fair job and still, aren’t getting hired. I worry about money; I am so lucky to have friends willing to help me through this, but I still have bills to pay and need to be on my own.

How do you find inspiration in a bad situation? How do you manage to let creativity in, instead of all the worries from life?

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Although it would’ve made more sense to start with Secrets of the Stage: Vol 1, I foundĀ  Secrets of the Stage Volume 3: A Performance Course for Belly Dancers by Michelle Joyce on the Bhuz Swap. The deal was good and it helped a lady out.

The Secrets of the Stage series is produced by Michelle Joyce, a dancer in the Bay-area. She has a very good company, dedicated to making quality DVDs for primarily Middle Eastern Dance. They’re a steal at about $20/DVD. She produced last week’s video, Fabulous 4 Yard Veils.

Secrets of the Stage is different from other DVDs or even classes, because the DVD is dedicated to performance, not dance technique. If you are a student of Middle Eastern dance and want to go professional, classes may not offer all the behind the scenes information it takes to be a professional dancer. Michelle uses real working dancers to help present topics that working dancers should know about. Most of the DVD is like watching a movie with the commentary turn on; there’s video in the background but a voiceover, discussing a topic. The topics for Vol 3 are “Dancing to Live Music,” “Inspiration and Creativity”, “Your Professional Image”, and an extra section on some Arabic that’s useful to know. Rather than discuss the DVD in bulk, I thought I’d go section by section.

  • Dancing to Live Music. Like many dancers, I haven’t had the opportunity to work with live musicians. The dancers and the musician in this section gave hints and overall, encouragement, in dancing to live music. They all made very good points about how handle the situation so that everyone (musician, dancer, and audience) is happy. The only thing that would’ve made this section better is if the comments were more about what was going on on screen, rather than simply general comments about working with live music.
  • Inspiration and Creativity. I liked this section a lot, since this is one of the many places I get stuck. I thought the tips were excellent, some new, some not new. Again, I would’ve really liked more comments on the actual performances of the dancers, rather than just general tips. I was hoping this would be more “Behind the Dance” type thing, where each dancer would explain her specific motivations and inspirations. I think my favorite part was when someone (I forget who) said that it’s important to create, even if it isn’t perfect. Being the kind of person who wants something perfect, I appreciate reminders that I should create, rather than wait and worry to make something perfect.
  • Your Professional Image. This section contained info on makeup and photo shoots. The dancers narrated how she applies her stage makeup. The makeup section I thought I would be more helpful if they were more broad tips, like the difference between stage makeup and more up close work, like restaurants or how lights can affect how your makeup looks. The photo shoot advice was helpful for someone like me, who has never had a photo shoot. Michael Baxter (a photographer) provided information how to get the most out of your photo shoot, from setting the background to creating good poses. My only other comment on this section is I wish there had been more about creating a professional image. I thought the start was strong, but I would have liked to have seen some information on other professional aspects, like websites, business cards, ads, etc. Perhaps another DVD?
  • Survival Arabic. Leyla Lanty is too cute! The survival Arabic is just a small taste of Arabic, to help dancers know a few words. I like languages and I like knowing what the lyrics are, so I wish that this section had been longer. Evidently, Leyla Lany teaches a longer survival Arabic workshop for dancers, so if you’re like me, strapped for cash and time, that may be a good supplement to this section. I found the section a little helpful; I know a few Arabic words, from teachers giving me a little crash course in words that frequently appear in lyrics. I didn’t know, however, the word structures or about the lyrics in general. Leyla Lanty seems to know a lot about it.

This DVD offers quite a bit. If you have no one around to help you with your budding professional career as a dancer, there is a great deal of information that is important and helpful. If you are more like me and have spent ample time on the Internet and learning these things via class and workshops, I don’t think it is as necessary but still has information to offer. I found the DVD very enjoyable to watch and liked hearing different dancers’ takes on their topics.

In my free moments the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about letting go of technique more (not entirely!) and sinking into music and well, just dancing. I’ve done it only a handful of times, but I feel like I’ve made some progress. After all, I can just sit around, wondering what if? or get out and just do it.

Besides just motivating myself to try (scarily, that’s sometimes the hardest thing), I’ve been thinking about what kind of dance personality I have or want to have. Some people go through creating a persona when they perform. I don’t want to create a completely different persona, but I think it’s important to think about how I come off and what I want to come off as. Do I want to be introverted? Sassy? Regal? Playful?

I haven’t determined that yet, but I have been going through clips online and finding similarities in the ones that look like how I want to dance. Besides my teachers, there are other dancers I admire greatly. Here are some of the clips I really love.

Amira

Aradia

Lotus Niraja

I noticed that there were some commonalities in these clips. No one comes off as a “loud” dancer. Some dancers, in my opinion, draw attention to them in a rather desperate way. Think of the person who walks in the room and has to interrupt whatever is going on to talk or draw attention to themselves. Other people are able to catch everyone’s attention in a more respectful way. I really admire dancers who don’t beg for attention but can command it.

They also are all graceful, passionate, strong, and look like they’re having fun.

Since I finished my homework for the week at last, got some research in, I feel like I really have reclaimed my life. February (I know it isn’t over yet) as been a pretty bad month for me. I’ve been on pins and needles waiting to hear back from grad schools (nothing in either direction, and it’s been frustrating to say that when the few well-meaning people I’ve told I applied have asked). Schoolwork has been a bit overwhelming, partially because I’ve spent a lot of time in my lab. The stress has caused me not to sleep well. I’m trying to figure out what class I want to take next quarter; I already have figured out one, which is my thesis research credit. My bus pass was confiscated last Friday, because the transit authority accidentally disabled some of my school’s bus passes. In short, it has been rough.

And to top it all off, I had the dumbfounding discovery I don’t know how to dance. I mean that I do, but I spend so much time worrying about perfecting technique vs. letting loose that I find it rather hard to think up my own combos and choreography. I know that I’ve written about trying to choreograph. I think I attributed my issues to lack of inspiration in life or music, but I now think it has to do with the amount of time that I’ve spent doing drill-like stuff to get my technique down solid.

I think my concentration on technique stemmed from hearing people talk about Middle Eastern dancers wanting to dance and perform more than understanding technique, hence seeing sloppy dancers. I don’t want to be a sloppy dancer, so I’ve been working (not this month too much admittedly) on that. However, I think I’ve lost meaning or the big picture. Although clean technique is very important, having that emotional connection and not worrying about being perfect is so critical to Middle Eastern dance or performance in general. It is really what sets one dancer apart from another.

I also think the focusing on technique is about my time. It’s a lot easier to drill 30 hip drops on the right and 30 on the left than it is to think of a little combo incorporating that. There’s no originality in the former, whereas the latter requires more thought, like how to link move A to move B.

I am going to continue my technique drilling and such, but I’m going to work on feeling the music and combining moves. I also hope I have some happy news and less stress soon.

Overall, I’d say I was successful. Mind you, I didn’t complete everything, but I’m still alive and healthy. There is always next year.

So that I can end positively, my biggest failures this year involved really not choreographing and virtually no progress on my thesis. I did some choreographing, but the music I have didn’t really speak to me. I simply wasn’t inspired. I’m starting to feel more inspired, though, which is good. My thesis will have to be completed this year coming. I look forward to it, and I’m glad that I didn’t stick with a project that I didn’t enjoy.

I wish that I would’ve practiced more, but life (school) and illness seemed to get in my way a lot.

For positives, I’d say that I did a decent job overall with everything else. I feel my dancing is much stronger. I still am terribly disappointed I haven’t found an Odissi or Bhratanatyam teacher that is accessible, but- you can’t have it all. I’ve learned a lot of tribal dance and gotten excellent ideas on fusion. I survived 3 workshops :).

As far as school, I was happy with my grades this past quarter and even happier that I did well with programming. I am not a programmer, so this is indeed a pleasant surprise.

I also am not broke for the next year. Yay! I’m squirreling money away for a vacation. We’ll see how that goes, but hopefully sometime soon I can take a proper 1-2 week vacation. I’m thinking I want to go to Europe or some place warm. Hmmm.

Have a good New Year’s Eve/New Year!