This past weekend Melina, a local dancer whose mother and sister both dance, opened her and husband’s  new circus/Middle Eastern dance studio in Waltham, a suburb of Boston. If you were looking to start dancing and live in the area, I’ve heard excellent things about Melina. I myself about considering lessons from her, since my significant other lives so close by and she is skilled in things I can’t necessarily get from my current class.

I went to her studio warming on Saturday. The performances were good, and they sure know how to cater. Their space is magnificent. High ceiling, sparkling wood floors, large openness, etc. It’s practically the perfect studio.

On Sunday, I went to workshops where Piper, Melina’s sister, taught. Piper is from Baltimore; I thought it was really sweet of her to attend this for her sister. The first workshop of Sunday was a drum choreography. Typically, I am not a fan of choreographic workshops; I went to this one, because I wanted to make a day of it and was interested in the second workshop. Why don’t I like choreographic workshops? I’m never going to use the choreography, and unless they are used to teach special skills, like propwork or a certain flavor like Turkish, I don’t really get much out of it. Piper did an excellent job, changing my opinion of choreography in a workshop or class. She gave us moves to do, little combinations, that I hadn’t seen before and I could use later. I appreciate that she would talk about different aspects of the choreography and tell us why she did what she did, like why she drove certain moves from her leg vs. glutes. I was further impressed that in both workshops, she told us where she learned or was inspired by a move or step; I think it’s very respectable to give credit like that.

The second workshop was not what I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be veil and taqsim (the improv, solo instrument part of a song); instead, it was pretty much all veil. If I hadn’t taken so much veil from Sonya and some other teachers, I would’ve gotten more out of it. I’m not in top veil form (I hadn’t used my veils since May), so I at least got a healthy workout. I agree with everything Piper said (veil being the partner, dancing with the veil and adding something small make veils amazing, etc.) and those items are worth repeating, but I’m also aware of them. I learned some new names for moves I knew, which I do think it useful. Piper is good at teaching veil, especially since many people in the room seems novice.

Throughout both workshops, Piper was a true professional. I like that she emphasized safety, did charm us with tales but didn’t make it story hour, and was just overall a warm, caring, knowledgeable instructor. She had us switch rows, too, which is a small but important sign she knows what she’s doing; being in a fairly crowded workshop means that not everyone gets a good view of the instructor or a spot at the mirror, so I am always happy to have a row switching teacher. Melina’s setup allowed for Piper to use a headset microphone so we could all hear her; that may seem trivial, but in crowded areas with noisy dancers, that is a necessity that I haven’t really seen used. I can’t wait until she comes back to the Boston-area.

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I know prop work isn’t that end all, be all of Middle Eastern dance. However, tonight after watching several clips of veil, zills, etc., I realized I should be able to do some kind of choreography with veil, zills, or cane. I’ve studied each one pretty rigorous for at least a year. I know how to manipulate all of them fairly well (zills are my weakest, though). I think I can definitely do something good with veil.

Anyone else already plotting what do study for next year?

Needing to fill my need of veil work, I picked up Fabulous Four Yard Veils with Shoshanna – Belly Dance. Shoshanna is of Arcata, CA; she is involved heavily with L.Rose Designs, since her mother is in charge of that. When I saw her last year for the Aida Nour show, she was very captivating. She and her veil are really partners; it isn’t just some prop to look cool. One of the issues with props of any kind is if the dance becomes a bunch of prop tricks vs. dancing. Shoshanna is one of the best examples of someone who dances with veil, not shows off a bunch of tricks while standing there.

Onto the DVD. You don’t need a 4 yard veil for this DVD, although some of the moves would look better with one and the claim is that if you can do something with a 4 yard veil, 3 yards should be a snap. The DVD is moderately long, which is nice, and the price is very reasonable at $20. I’m not sure how easy this DVD is without veil training; I have a quite a bit at this point. I found the DVD easy to follow. Shoshanna has good technique and works through a move fairly quickly, but I don’t think it’s impossible to get the gist. Veil moves are often best practiced in combos, since they have to transition really well. Shoshanna does go over some combos at the end.

There are a good number of moves. The best thing about this DVD is Shoshanna really does give you more bang for your buck. She goes over numerous moves, both skinny edge and long edge. Even though I have a fair amount of veil experience, I learned some new moves on this one, too.

Shoshanna has two people behind her, doing the same move that she does. The only difference is that they use different types of veil (for instance, one may use a half-circle) which is interesting to see; different veils move differently.

I’ve heard some criticisms that she speaks very quickly at times on this DVD. I myself am considered a fast speaker by some (I think it’s the difference between growing up on the East coast and now residing in the MidWest), so I didn’t have a problem. I liked that her speech speed was a little uneven. Shoshanna came off very natural.

During the DVD, Shoshanna goes over one of the more useful ideas: covering up mistakes and going beyond them. From what I understand about veil, veils have mood swings during performances. Since many people do end performing at some level (amateur to pro), I think it’s valuable to discuss what to do when something bad happens.

One of the things I’d change about it were the veil discussion (which veil works well with what) was a little brief, and I thought it was odd to follow the warm up with that. If you’re warmed up, you should continue on with exercise, not break. There are a few parts in the beginning where she is bent over and speaks too closely into the microphone; the sound difference was jarring to me.

This is a good choice to learn some veil moves or to hone in on your practice. I have some new ideas of moves to practice that I hadn’t done in class. I would definitely purchase another DVD by Shoshanna.

People on Bhuz began reminiscing over their first costumes. Here is my story, which I also posted over there:

My first costume was handmade by me in Auckland, for a student show (my first one!)

I did a ruched halter-style bra in this dusty rose pink metallic fabric. I used pearl beads as an accent around the bottom and bronzy seed beads around the middle part of the bra.

The belt was similar fabric and had the pearl beads outlining the curved front and bottom. The sides were lace up with different colored ribbons. I think I went with blue, rose, and a golden color. I did that so I could allow for weight changes.

My skirt was a full circle slightly muted amethyst satin thing. In photos I later saw (I don’t have any, unfortunately), it made me look extremely hippy. I probably should’ve done a less full skirt.

It was a veil dance. I used a cream chiffon veil that I thought was a good idea to sequin all over. It didn’t look awful, but it would’ve moved better had I not sequined it.

I wish I still had that costume. I don’t think it would fit (the bra cups shrunk a bit during the sewing process), but I think I’d like to take a good chunk of it and remake the bra and belt set.

Spring break is almost gone (one more day). I didn’t do anything glamorous, and I didn’t really break, but I feel sort of rested.

  • Research: The addition of the new kid, M, is good. He is quiet but works well, is intelligent, etc. He has come in at a good time, because my advisor has added on projects. We have density tested three various mixture, and I think we have a direction. The behaviors of our fluids were very strange; even something that we measured less dense than the background fluid somehow sunk. However, all these failings have prompted my advisor to realize we need a new direction, because his idea for the experiment simply does not appear to work. We’ve been working hard with the microscope (T, my significant other, has been working on that, since he’s much better with optics than I), and I think we’re making progress. We’re having a meeting on Monday, which I think will be good. It’s to introduce M to the lab people more and discuss the quarter’s plans.
  • Yoga: Yoga was much welcome return to my life. T and I went to yoga together. Despite being a complete newbie to it and rather inactive, he did well and better, enjoyed it immensely. He wants to start going weekly, which will be good for both of us.
  • Dance: I continued going to veil class. I ended up treating myself to a new veil, a subtle tie dye in fall leaf colors. It’s beautiful. I wanted to go to a second class today, but I had set my alarm for 5 AM, not 5 PM, so I overslept during my nap. After spending my evening here vs. going to a class, I decided that my body needed to rest more than it needed to move. Tomorrow, I will resume practice.
  • Volunteering: I try to volunteer once every two weeks at a hospice for Alzheimer’s patients. I pay several people visits. Only one lady can communicate with me, and she and another lady are the only ones who look at me when I’m in the room; the rest may react to me holding their hands. I find going to the hospice as means of putting my life into perspective; my life can always be worse. I also sometimes like talking about my problems to the one lady who looks at me but doesn’t speak. What I’m supposed to do is talk to them or watch TV with them (I watched Karate Kid Part III with one of them once).  I’ve started feeling less awkward around them, because I’m getting used to making one sided small talk. I think I’m getting better at it. The other good thing that has happened is I found the two people who look at me will look at photos with me. When I was telling one of them about my week (I took my female cat to the vet), I showed her some photos on my phone. She definitely looked at the photos on my phone and then looked at me. I’m planning on loading up my camera to show them photos of the cats and other stuff.

I wish I could’ve taken more time off, but that’s life. How was everyone else’s week?

Happy 2009! I hope everyone had an awesome New Year’s Eve. I mself had a very quiet one in, which was nice.

Since I’m a goal-oriented person, here are my goals in physics and dance this year. I hope that they will guide me along.

  • Do well in school. Enough said.
  • Practice more and incorporate other things into practice. I basically want to start really incorporating more yoga into my practice. Since my schedule is weird because of school, I’m also looking to start using DVDs as a supplement to my practice. I will write about the change of mentality with that later.
  • Complete my thesis defense by August.
  • Save money to go onto a trip. I haven’t done a long vacation in a while, so this is really an award/treat for me.
  • Practice Odissi on my own. I miss Odissi a lot, and I have the book that my teacher wrote, outlining many steps or arsas. I feel like I understand enough of the posture to at least be able to drill and keep the strength in my legs.
  • Gain proficiency with tribal dance and learn Turkish Oriental. I love Egyptian Oriental, but I am interested in spreading my wings and trying other styles. Tribal I’ve been doing, but I’d love to be better. Turkish is very new to me, but I love the energy in it. Since my overlying goal in dance is to eventually become some flavor of professional, I’d like to increase my knowledge.
  • Expand and refine folkloric and lesser known Middle Eastern dance. I loved what I did with Aradia while I was in Vegas. I want to learn whatever I can this year. Raqs al assaya (cane), melaya leff, anything.
  • Attend as many workshops as possible. Disappointingly, there has not been much word about workshops in Chicago and making it to other workshops outside of Chicago is difficult. However, I hope everyone just got so busy with the holidays that they haven’t posted events yet.
  • Practice zills and veil. I really would like to be better at both. Zills done well are just amazing and veil is so beautiful.

Although I admitted to not be a fan of DVDs for practice earlier, I am slowly changing my mind. After taking the veil class with Sonya, I found myself looking at Sonya’s notes and thinking “What on earth is that?” The veil move names aren’t always descriptive, I didn’t take notes (which I should have), and Sonya and I think and describe differently.

Enter Veil with Aziza. I chose this DVD, because I know that not only is Aziza amazing with veil but also Sonya favors Aziza’s stylying and uses her terminology.

This DVD is very easy to follow. Aziza is very thorough in covering veil, discussing materials and of course, moves. She has a tranquil way of talking and instructing; I found that different from the workshop I had taken. She had more energy. Perhaps she choose to be calmer because of the veil work? Her demeanor was pleasant, but it was different from what I had experienced.

Aziza demonstrated everything slowly, so if you have little familiarity with veil, you can definitely follow. She does speed it up a little, which is nice if you have done some veil work before. Another strong feature of this DVD is that she does veil combos. Dance to me always looks best when there is a flowing stream of moves. With veil, it’s imperative to have one move flow into another. By showing combos, Aziza demonstrates how to use good transition and have beautiful veil work. She also emphasizes that you dance with the veil; you just don’t stand there swishing it about. If you’ve ever seen Aziza, you’ll see that the veil is very much, as she puts it, an extension of her body.

Beyond what she does, the production quality is excellent. Everything is clear and shot so you can see what she’s doing.

I recommend Veil with Aziza if you are interested in veil. Even though I’ve done veil a few times, having a video reference is always good.  Below is a little segment of her DVD.