Because I miss the class camaraderie and seeing people, I’ve been trying to attend workshops more. Arabesque runs small workshops by local instructors. For people who are mass transit reliant, like me, this is a good way to get exposed to other instructors while not having to worry about travel.

I signed up for the Graceful Arms workshop, despite Danielle being my instructor. I thought I could learn something, it’s fairly cheap ($30 for two hours), and I get to see other people in class. Since arms are something I don’t feel I’ve had a great emphasis on, I thought it would be a good thing to try.

The workshop was a good size (7 people), so you could ask questions if you had any and get plenty of mirror space. Danielle is very particular about technique, so there was no music. At all. Her belief is that it is easy to get into the music and not pay attention to technique, so she doesn’t play music during technique things.

The pace of the workshop was a little slow. I think it’s predominantly because I’m familiar with Danielle’s posturing and beliefs; however, it’s great that she went over it for those not familiar with it. Despite the speed, now that I’m thinking about it, Danielle went over a lot. The moves covered were a variety of standard Oriental, tribal (ATS), tribal fusion, Flamenco, Bharatanatyam, Javanese, and Balinese arms. A very nice sampling of arm ideas.

Danielle’s strength (which also attributed to the pace) is thoughtfulness in dance. She discussed a lot of the motivations for the posture, the reasons why arms are important, and what’s good about each arm fusion. She also films workshop DVDs prior to the workshop and prepares handouts. Although I have not bought any of her DVDs, she says they always include extra “bonus” moves, because she prepares more material than she’ll ever go over, just so she can guarantee she doesn’t run out of material.

Since I’m so familiar with Danielle’s style of dance, this wasn’t full of any surprises or “aha!” momements for me. However, I do think it’s great for people who really want to add a world fusion aspect to their dance or be exposed to some different technique.

Today marks the end of summer school and my one year anniversary of moving to Chicago. One year ago today, I was at Logan airport or maybe in the sky with my cat. Things have definitely changed for me in many ways.

Grad School– Starting grad school was difficult for me. There’s the sheer idea of strictly studying physics (I always took roughly half my classes in the humanities and arts), the intensity of quarter system (I was quite used to semester system), in class exams (all of my undergraduate exams were take-homes), and being out of a single sex environment (it does feel odd being in a predominantly male environment, though this is closer to a “real” physics environment). I had some personal problems that were unexpected (namely, my father almost died back on the East coast from an undetected heart problem). I knew no one here when I moved, which further complicated  my situation. I am always amazed at how much of an impact one’s personal life can have on the experience. Things felt like they came together spring quarter and I’m happy to say they still do. I look forward to this next year, and I sincerely hope that it will not have so many problems as the last. I feel like I have found a place here, which for me,  is very important.

TAing– As I mentioned in the previous entry, before last year, I had never taught before. All my work during my undergraduate years was either research or misc. spot jobs. Teaching scared me a little. I worried about failing at it and letting others down. My personal life did affect me a little, but again, I feel like have come into my own and am comfortable. This summer was good for me, because I not only further developed my teaching skills, but I also developed some confidence, which was critical for me to be success. I feel good about the work I did this summer. It wasn’t perfect and as anything, could use improvement, but I feel like I can effectively teach. Anything from watching students start off shy and unsure and become confident in their knowledge or apathy disappear feels like a success. Even though I’m not the only TA for this, nor am I the professor, I think I did impact the students positively.

Dance classes– My dance classes have been a mix of good and bad. The worst thing I can honestly say is I’m disappointed I haven’t been able to continue Odissi. I really loved going to Neena Gulati’s every Saturday in Boston for classes. Odissi feels wonderful to me, and I love its graceful, flowing style. Many Middle Eastern fusion dancers study some Indian dance for fusion; I study it for the sake of studying it. I would’ve been fine for Bharatanatyam here, but alas, nothing has worked out. I’m keeping my eyes peeled but I’m not sure. I do think the Javanese will be a nice complement to Middle Eastern dance, as well as being mentally good for me, but I don’t know how passionate I am about it.

The Middle Eastern dance here has been wonderful. My dance teachers have been wonderful for that and on a personal level, I really needed that outlet many times (I recommend most people in grad school have some kind of hobby like that to default to; I think it’s healthy). I’m really lucky to study under the people I do. I feel like my technique is becoming stronger, and I’m getting better ideas of what I need to do to get to where I want to go.

 

Sitting here at the computer, I still am amazed about how much has changed in a year. It really doesn’t seem like that long ago I had arrived here with only a suitcase, my computer, and my cat. Chicago doesn’t really feel like home to me, but it definitely feels much more familiar and comfortable after a year.

Yesterday, I had a lesson with Danielle to learn some Indonesian fusion. If you recall from last time, I was hesitant to learn Javanese dance, because I thought it wasn’t my style. I decided to give it a try, because you never know.

Javanese wasn’t particularly interesting for me to watch as an audience member. However, doing the moves felt good. They were slow and meditative. Danielle showed me how they can work well with fusion dance as an extra layer.

The Balinese felt a little odd; I can’t explain how, though. It wasn’t as much like Bharatanatyam as I had thought (or hoped). It felt jittery to me. I think I’ll try it again, because I like the angularity of it, but I’m not sure if it really clicked for me. Javanese, regardless of how I feel about watching it, felt good. I really like how Danielle blends the fusion; it looks like a flawlessly seamed dance, not two dances jumbled together, as it occasionally happens with fusion.

My current Bharatanatyam teacher unfortunately does not feel she can meet my needs as a dancer (I think she may have a noise complaint since she conducted my lessons in her 3rd floor apartment). I respect her honesty and encouragement to find another teacher, but at the same time, I am disappointed.

However, she is also knowledgeable in Javanese and Balinese dance. Because I am interested in fusion, I may try those for a while. I think Javanese, at least what I’ve seen, isn’t going to be for me. All of the clips on YouTube I’ve seen are quite slow and meditative. It’s interesting, but I don’t think I want to pursue it. Below is a clip of a Javanese performance.

In my untrained eye, Balinese looks closer to the Indian dance I’m used to. The speed, the movement, even a bit of music feels more like Bharatanatyam or Odissi than Javanese. Here’s a Balinese dance performance.

In some ways, I am excited about this. It’s always good to try new things, stretch your vocab, etc. I just wish I could still do the Indian dancing