Next week will be my last lesson with Najmat for about 4 months, save maybe spring break. My school schedule does not permit me to continue on with her classes; a required course is held basically at the same time, and there is no way to get around that. Believe me, I’ve looked and talked to people. School is ultimately my priority and my “job”, so that will have to take priority.

At first, I was sad by not continuing one with Najmat’s class, at least for the time being. I’ve gotten to know some of the ladies in that class pretty well, and I will miss the community. However, I decided to use this time to try new teachers, explore new topics through private lessons. I picked private lessons again because of the time factor; I have class Monday through Thursday during the hours where people teach and the few who don’t, well, a girl’s gotta eat sometime in the day.

Private lessons are not only ideal because of the time flexibility but also because they’re really tailored to the student. The Boston-area is rich with quality dance instructors; I plan on taking classes from Shadia and maybe some others to learn some specialized skills. I already have enough ideas of what needs improvement and plan on working through those topics, so the focus will be more on specialized skills over technique although I’m sure technique will come into play.

To defray costs and to keep up with the community feeling, I’ve asked some friends if they’re interested in making the private lessons semi-private. The topics that I’ve brought up are zills, Lebanese-style cane, tray, melaya leff, and shamadan/zeffa. I’ve also asked for their suggestions, because I may have forgotten something. However, I’m looking for even more topics to learn; I figure it would be better to have too many than too few, since I’ll be in the area for at least another 1-3 years. If you were taking private lessons in Middle Eastern dance, what topics would you chose to learn?

Yesterday, I finished my last paper that was due for 2010; my independent study paper is due 15 January 2011. Yay! I wanted to post yesterday, but my hands were quite tired from typing and I wanted to enjoy the world again. I went to the ICA in Boston and had dinner in Chinatown with my SO, who has been rather neglected this past week.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a finals period that was strictly paper writing. I learned some valuable lessons, namely that paper writing is physically exhausting. The veins in my hands were gigantic on Sunday, because I had been pumping my veins from typing. I was glad to go to the recital at Melina’s, because I think my hands needed the rest. The good thing is that I don’t feel exhausted. I remember many finals periods ending with me sleeping and being a bum for the next day. I am definitely a bit tired, but it isn’t as bad as the other finals periods.

The past week had been quite busy in general. In addition to final papers and the work that they entailed, I attended Meiver’s “Exploring the Arab Style Oriental Routine, Part 1” and performed in Melina’s recital with my class. I’m still catching up on emails, paying bills, all that stuff, but I hope to review those two events in the near future. I also have a DVD to review.

Speaking of reviews to write, I found a use for my SO’s name generator, Essa while writing my paper for my qualitative class. I decided to use pseudonyms for everyone (sample size was 5), and I didn’t want to bias my name choices. For instance, if I gave names that have a positive association to some people I like and names that have a negative association to people I don’t like or who came off poorly in the research. I used Essa to generate names for that, because I figured the program wouldn’t have a bias compared to me. Because I like names, despite not actually liking my first name (or last name), having to pick out names would’ve taken longer. I just selected Greek names (because a lot of names are Greek) and took the first 6 creations; I also chose not to use names that were too similar. In short, I recommend using a name generator like Essa to create plausible names for your research pseudonyms.

I began this week with extremely sore muscles from Bharatanatyam on Sunday. Basically, we did some floorwork-esque dancing. My quads- well, I could feel my muscles working every step of the way; straightening my leg was difficult. Today is the first day my quads feel normal. That made everything take at least twice as long. I also attended dance class Tuesday and found out that was tougher than I had anticipated because of my quads. However, I don’t believe that attending class exacerbated or prolonged my achy quads.

The second big time consumer this week was that someone tried breaking into my apartment. Nothing was stolen and no one was injured, thank goodness (my SO caught the guy trying to come into the window), but it is still nerve-wracking. The police were called, they came out to investigate, etc. Although I am thankful that the local police were very concerned and did a fine job, it did take time. My landlord is supposed to stop by this weekend to ensure secure windows. This set back my week, because I had work that I needed to cram in today and tomorrow.

Hopefully, due to the holiday, next week will go back to normal.

The title says it all. Last week was particularly busy, because I had work due, dance stuff out the wazoo (two Bharatanatyam classes and Meiver’s fan veil workshop), and my teeth were getting the dental care that they so desperately needed.

Boston University’s Dental School offers a fairly low-cost dental plan for most students in the Boston-area (check to see if your school is listed). Dental insurance is incredibly difficult to obtain, period, let alone to get for a reasonable price. For about $300 per year, I can get my teeth cleaned, my cavities filled, and a few other services. Nothing fancy like root canals or crowns, but having had to pay out of pocket for the basics, $300 is a steal price for basic care.

The person treating you is a student, but despite hearing horror stories about student dentists, I have had nothing but top-notch care (I have gone to Tufts for work before). A dental professor also checks out the student’s work to ensure s/he did a good job. I’ve been pleased with BU’s service thus far.

The downside is waiting. Getting an appointment is tricky, since your student dentist is still in classes and needs to schedule around those. You have to wait at the office, because the dental professors typically have a few students to check. It isn’t terrible, though; I usually check my email or listen to music while I wait.

I’m slowly getting more time for things and have more things to write about than time permits :).

I think some people were surprised when I talked about my new incentive to cook well for one person. Here is what I typically eat during a week.

  • Stir fry
  • Pasta with some kind of sauce and veggies
  • Something instant (like frozen pierogi)
  • Lentils and rice

There are other things that I randomly fill out the week with, but these are pretty much weekly staples. They’re cheap and fast. I think the next move to fast (for me) and easy cooking will be a crock pot. I’m starting to investigate what one can do with them; it turns out they are pretty versatile.

I recently decided to do a better job cooking for one person (myself). I’m mediocre at it. Cooking for one is difficult, because ingredients come in large quantities. I eat leftovers, but there have been times where I eat the same meal 4-5 times in one week. A delicious meal isn’t as good if you’re eating it that often. I also don’t want to be wasteful with ingredients. Firstly, I don’t like throwing out food or dealing with rotting, molding food. Secondly, I don’t want to waste money. Being a grad student who is only supported by a stipend and scholarship money means I have to be careful with how my money is spent. I don’t have to eat Ramen every night, but I also cannot buy exotic fancy foods or waste non-exotic, non-fancy foods. Grad school also means not a lot of time to shop, prep, cook, etc. The other qualifier is that I’m vegetarian, so I think may impact cheap and quickly made food, but I’m not sure.

My Google searches have came up with a few blogs that I will read soon; there is backlog in my life. However, I figured I’d ask here if anyone has any good blog suggestions on this topic or has tasty recipes to offer.

MassRaqs was an awesome event. My commitment to MassRaqs took more time than I had anticipated, but it was genuinely rewarding to see how much people enjoyed the weekend. I still feel good about whatever part I played in bringing something like this to New England.

Friday night was a history review. It turns out that the Boston-area is ripe with Middle Eastern dance history. From Shadia, a local teacher, discussing her history to the ladies who are creating the Aziza! documentary about Boston’s role in the dance community, we are surrounded by history. The Friday night event ended with a dance show. It was good to see a variety of styles. I was asked to film, so I didn’t exactly see the entire show. I mean, I did, it was just through a small LCD. Filming dance is difficult. I wasn’t sure how everyone was going to dance and use the space, so I hope I did an adequate job. All I remembered about filming dance, from what I heard from others, is that I should have the face in the shot as much as humanly possible and not do some crazy zoom in on the midsection stuff.

Saturday was Meiver and Bozenka teaching; Cassandra unfortunately was injured pretty bad and was unable to teach. Meiver taught “Oriental Combinations.” Some of the combinations or at least parts of them were from the dance we learned; it was cool how things did stick with you. However, it made it challenging to learn the variation of the combo; sometimes my body wanted to autopilot what it thought was next. Bozenka taught Hands and Arms, as well as what would’ve been Cassandra’s beledi workshop. The Hands and Arms was tiring. A lot of the exercises reminded me of the ones my teacher, Danielle of Chicago, had me do. It was a good reminder, because I’ve been negligent with them. The beledi workshop was a good intro to beledi; I was impressed that Bozenka could figure out what to teach so quickly.

I’m going to cut in here and just mention that Bozenka is a great instructor. She is warm, always looks like she is having fun, and is able to communicate what she means clearly. I really like that she attended the Friday panel and appeared to have a great time; it’s nice to see people, especially top caliber people, who are interested in participating as a community member (even temporarily) and not just there to promote themselves, if that makes any sense.

Sunday was Shadia and Bozenka. Shadia is a real hidden gem in this area. I don’t hear much about her, which is a shame. She taught double cane and Bedouin dancing. She is a very encouraging instructor. Double cane is difficult. I think I will, once my life settles down again (schoolwork was put aside for MassRaqs this weekend), practice twirling and doing cane with my left hand. The line dancing was fun. Shadia ended the workshop with her performing; she is so charming and talented as an instructor, dancer, and costumer. I’m really glad that Meiver has made an effort to include and celebrate our local instructors.

Bozenka on the second day taught Oriental technique and drum solo stuff. The Oriental technique was interesting, because I typically have not had the opportunity to practice things across the floor. My favorite part, though, were facial exercises. Bozenka had us practice various emotions expressed on our face while we walked across the floor. I liked her philosophy that it’s good to know the range of expressions you can have, even if you don’t use them all. The drum solo workshop was a highlight of the weekend, because a live drummer was present and we were able to see what it was like to communicate non-verbally with a drummer. There was also a circle dance that was fun at the end.

The show was a good mix of styles. Mirza, Shadia’s troupe; Chantal; and Bozenka all did folkloric pieces. Bozenka’s was particularly interesting to me, because I didn’t know she did meleya leff. I always think of her as this beautiful, refined, classic looking dancing. Hers was excellent and to the live band. Yes, there was a live band with singer. Act 2 was an Oriental act, entirely to the live band. All the dancers were stunning. I like how Nina came through the audience, rather than starting on stage. I didn’t get to see her dance at Meiver’s recital, so this was a particular treat. Meiver looked gorgeous and danced beautifully; Phaedra was impressive with her dancing and zill playing. The standout for me was how Najmat and Hanan really interacted with the band; Najmat’s interaction in particular made it feel like she was a part of the band. It was really an amazing performance from her, and I usually enjoy her performances. Bozenka came out and performed another great piece to top off the evening.

I could go into a lot of detail of how things went logistically with the event, but I don’t feel like that’s the most important thing right now. Of course, there were things that should’ve, could’ve, and will be different; I wrote my list up last night, so I remember when we start planning MassRaqs 2011 next month. We’ll work on improving them for next year. Right now, it’s nice to bask in what went well. The community came together and celebrated dance. With who knows how many things that could’ve gone wrong, we didn’t do too poorly for our first year.