Saturday, July 10, 2010

If I only had a brain!

So, yesterday, I decided to start posting teaching-style blogs... and I decided to use the one blog that is titled Celeste's Musings as it's a great name for it... while I had realized that I had a crapload of blog entries on it, I had somewhat neglected to realize that they didn't really belong together. So I moved everything here. I think that it is preferable to keep the ramblings in one style of blog and the more well-spoken ones in a different one.

More thoughts on the Tribal Fest performance - Thursday, May 20, 2010

This isn’t a pity party blog. lol Rather, it’s meant to be a debrief to myself of what happened during the Tribal Fest performance. I used to do that quite a bit on Tribe but decided to keep it to a smaller group. For all those reading, do feel free to comment. I just won’t spread it out to everybody and their dogs. ;)

After I was done performing, I was left with a very odd feeling regarding the overall performance: I wasn’t disappointed… but I wasn’t happy… and it wasn’t a neutral feeling. I think that what left a sour taste in my mouth was that I fully realized that I hadn’t been as much in the moment as I could have been. I was really disappointed by that.

I knew, though, that I had somewhat doomed myself. When I was getting ready, I was getting extremely nervous. There was a vibe in the room that totally affected me. And it was nerves, not panic… I now know the difference. ;) I stupidly started thinking that maybe I would be the first bad number at Tribal Fest. Really? Like that was going to happen??? But that was akin to the irrational thoughts that you normally get all the time like ‘Will I fall on my ass on stage?’

I was also battling body image issues. I’ve gained back a lot of weight and had every intention to attempt to slim down before TF but that went out the window quickly. Then, sure, I had every intention to dance for the body that I have (as Tempest puts it in her workshops) but the whole ‘OMG! Everyone is tall and slim in CA!’ got to me. :(

And then there was the pause that I didn’t expect. That also threw me off my game… though I have to say that I don’t know if it helped or hindered. In the grand scheme of things, it probably didn’t do a big difference. The music started a bit earlier than I thought it would and that messed me up a little too. Again, nothing that I wouldn’t have been able to recover from.

As I was dancing, I realized that I wasn’t as much in the moment as I should have or rather could have been. And that I was forgetting my concept. I was facing the back wall and thought ‘Okay. Remember. You are a post-apocalyptic priestess. You are calling down the Gods.’ That was a somewhat determined set of moves for the piece, only the exact placement was movable. When I was practicing that part, I was envisioning like a cave entrance and some flowy arm movements and all that. I did envision the cave entrance for a few seconds… and then I realized that I was looking at *the* back drop that we all know to be the TF back drop. So that pulled me away from the concept a little. And then I turned around and there were people (duh!) but they were *the* TF audience… or rather that I was on *the* TF stage. And the moment was lost. Damn!

Then I reverted to some good old entertainer techniques and looked at Amirah and Jatare on my right (and this nice lady who had complimented me on my hair and my goggles and was grooving to my music) and Jeff and Tempest on the left. Though when I saw Jeff holding the camera, it unnerved me a little but I noticed that Tempest had her chin up as if she was trying to see me from above something (though she was perched high on a chair) and I realized that she was telling me to bring my chin up. lol

I did a lot of mulling over the performance… and have reached some conclusions.

First off, it’s clear that I underestimated the scariness of performing on *that* stage. Thankfully, though, I had advance warning through Ariellah, Belladonna, and Mavi that the stage is much narrower than you think so I had re-arranged some things in my head. Also thankfully, I hadn’t set my expectations too high for the performance. I was hoping to just do good and, overall, I did reach the requirements for a good performance. What upset me a little is that I could have easily done better. But at least now and I know and can do better next year.

I really should have crushed down to pieces that nagging voice that was telling me that I would be the first bad act by a fat performer. That’s where the pause helped b/c I had the chance to quickly chat with Jeff and he gave me ‘the’ look of ‘you’re being silly, hon’.

I briefly wondered if being more prepared would have helped. I mean, should I have had a more choreographed piece? I actually think that the loose plan with specific accents and improve ideas was actually a blessing: it was easy for me to adjust things around (especially given the stage) and stay a little more connected, albeit not as connected as I would have liked.

Tempest commented that I needed to keep my chin up more and my gaze higher. She’s right, obviously. What I realized while mulling this advice is that I am more used to performing at eye level than on a raised stage. So I will have to learn how to deal with that. I know that part of the reason why my chin (and gaze) went down was b/c I was trying to make good eye contact with the audience. I’ll have to adjust my way of doing that contact. And I saw on the footage that my gaze would go down to the floor regularly… that’s a flaw of mine and a leftover of my shyness and lack of confidence. Shyness is going away so I need to work on the confidence side of things and that should solve a lot of that issue.

I had a disheartened moment at one point when I realized that performing, for me, is really not natural. A lot of folks have more self confidence and have a stronger presence on stage than I do… and I wish that I could do better… though I have to admit that I’m really improving on that aspect. But, yeah, it’s just not natural for me… which made me think for a bit that I’m doomed… until I remembered that being a leader wasn’t natural for me either and now it’s hard for me not to be one… and I didn’t have charisma and now I do. So, yeah, it’s a matter of continuing to push and work at it and it will come in time. I did have a moment when I wanted to give up trying but that didn’t last long. ;)

After more mulling over and watching the actual footage a few times, I realized that, actually, the dancing was good. I mean, the technique was there, my movements were crisp and I didn’t overdo them (which I tend to do but, thanks to recording some practices, I’ve learned to tone it down), my musicality was good… but I still feel like something is missing. And now I’ve put my finger on it. The dance from a technical aspect was fine. And I’m sure that a lot of people would be happy with results like that. What was missing was the artistry. And the reason why I feel like I didn’t hit it out in the park was that it was within my reach to add that artistry back in but I didn’t manage to hold on to it. And I think that this whole artistry thing is what is going to take my dance to the next level… which is beyond just dancing nicely. ;)

Also, I realized that my statement about not being enough ‘in the moment’ is not actually accurate. I’ve had performances where my mind was anywhere but with what I was doing. I have come to believe that this was actually a ploy so to distract me from my nerves… or something like that. But I remember thinking distinctly of stuff like I mentioned above regarding remembering the concept. And when that went out the door, I reverted to some entertainer/restaurant dancing techniques… in a very conscious manner… And when I walked from where Amirah and Jatare were (so my far right) to where Jeff and Tempest were using a 3/4 shimmy walk… and I was walking and walking and realized how freakin’ long that walk was and thought ‘glance at the audience to break the head sideways’ (and I did)… And when I had my back to the audience, at one point, I thought to do some shoulder rolls to come back to front, partly to show off that nice tattooed feather moving… So I actually WAS in the moment. But I was WAY too much on the left side of the brain! When I have a good balance (as I did for the No Name Show), I’m actually in control, using my musicality and moves well but flowing in synch with the music… and adding some nuances of emotions. It’s hard to describe what that right brain does… for obvious reasons. :p

The more I think at the performance and see the footage (and start to receive compliments that seem sincere), the more I think that it was a very good performance. Maybe even ‘solid’. I definitely learned a lot from it so that’s always good. But I also did some things very well and I’m very proud of that. Another important aspect is that, in the past, I’d be not fully happy with a performance and wouldn’t know how to fix it or what was missing… but this time, I specifically know. I gotta say that it’s much less frustrating to know that… though it’s frustrating in a different way. :p

What I learned along the way... Saturday, April 17, 2010

I started writing this in the previous post and then realized that it was essentially digressing from the original intent of the post. So it deserves its own entry. ;)

Part of my process for developing a piece is that, once I've decided on music for a performance, I listen to the music back to back [so on repeat] for at least one hour each day for a while. Sometimes the music will pop in my head and I'll see moves or even feel my body moving on its own. I call that 'dancing to residual music'. It's whatever you remember from that part of music and is making you move. Through listening to the music so much, I start hearing additional beats, sounds, accents that are not the first ones that I picked on. Oftentimes, it will modify my understanding of the music. I also will (if I can) take a little break from listening to it so much (like a week or two) and then restart... giving myself that break helps break the pattern and preconceived notions about the music and make me dig even deeper in the music.

I discovered how highly useful it was to record a few sessions of me doing improv when I was working on Becoming Insane. I quickly saw some moves that were cool and I wanted to keep... and others that made me cringe... and some that were okay but needed a little oomphing up.

It was also extremely interesting to see how, while I was technically in synch with the music (I mean, I WAS following the beat), it turns out that, when I saw it on the videocamera, it was too fast. That was a revelation. That's probably what I do on a regular basis that makes everyone (including me) think that I should go slower.

The specific example was that, in the beginning of Becoming Insane, I start with hand floreos with the right arm moving up, intended to be flamenco-inspired; the first time, I did them every 2 beats, which, again, was technically correct. But when I saw that segment, it was waaaaaaaaay too fast and didn't have the drama that flamenco hands have... so I slowed the hand floreos down to every 4 beats. HUGE difference.

The elements that generally made me cringe were the fast ones. It was evident that, when it goes fast, I actually not only put speed in the movement but more power (i.e., put more force in it)... which is not necessarily a good idea. So I played with that, actually: sometimes increasing the speed of a movement but keeping the move 'soft' or adding more oomph/strength in the move but keeping the speed as is. It makes for a huge difference.

Given that I'm not exactly petite, if I put too much strength into a move, it unfortunately deforms it through too much rippling. So I have to be cautious about that at all times.

So I'll be interested in seeing how the improv to the new piece I'm working on will match (or not) what I have in my head. Definitely, I'm learning a lot through recording improv.

I just bought some mirrors b/c we needed some for the Tempest workshop so I will finally also have mirrors big enough to watch myself while I practice.

I have no idea why it took me so long to take the plunge and purchase silly mirrors and a video camera when they are such great tools to learn from... part of it may have been that I was scared of what I would see. ;) But I think that it will help me reach the higher level that I've been coveting for a while. ;)

Creativity uninterrupted - Saturday, April 17, 2010

I've been working on my piece for Tribal Fest roughly since some time in January. Mostly, I've been working on the concept/message for it. I find that the music is a little daunting because there are many things going on and I had to organize how I wanted to address the music.

There were 2 exercises that I did at 3rd Coast Tribal, one with Rose Harden and one with Ariellah, that were around finding a theme/thread for a piece. One exercise was to write down one color, one emotion, and one memory from the past that the piece makes you think of. The other exercise is simply to write down at least 5 words that the piece makes you think of. These exercises have helped me tremendously for the piece. There were so many directions that I could have taken the piece that I was a little confused for a while... and then when I wrote the words, it was very clear where I wanted to go. Then when I did a translation of what the title of the music was (it's in German), it took the concept further.

And then I even came up with a conceptual name for the piece. I really like it. And I've let it guide me through the development process of the costuming and aesthetics. I did have a moment when I wanted to put on brakes b/c it was steering me towards an all brown costume and a part of me was screaming that I needed to put some black in there somewhere... but that just ain't where it's supposed to go... Jeff gave me some reassurances and, heck, if Jeff thinks that it's fine not to have black (he cringes whenever I wear 'too many colors', which, for him, means that I'm wearing more than one color with my black), then it certainly was fine.

From that point on, I totally let creativity take over. It's been an interesting journey/experiment so far. Now I'll be starting on the actual composition of the piece. I've done some improv to it and have listened to it enough that there are many spots where I know what I want to do or have a few ideas at least. I may even write a little story about the piece... 'cause, again, creativity is driving me this way. It will be a multimedia artistic experiment for me... ;)

3rd Coast Tribal 2010 - Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I will be writing an official review for a magazine so I won't cover all aspects of 3rd Coast Tribal but I can talk about details that my friends would be interested in but that a magazine reader would. ;) And the language will be more convivial here, of course! :p

We got to TX on Wednesday night. We were actually afraid of not being able to fly out as planned given the snow but our travels ended up not having any issues, except for a delay at the Kansas City airport. We made it to the hotel and crashed.

I had one workshop on Thursday, which was Ariellah's The Artists Workshop - A primer for the well-rounded dancer. It was cool. We talked about artistry and emotions and learned a few combos and then needed to emote. Interesting stuff.

I did a bunch of shopping on Thursday, buying what I knew I wanted to buy before it would disappear. :p I'll make a collated list of the shopping stuff further in the blog. lol

Thursday night, Kat and I ended up having dinner at the Tex Mex (more Tex than Mex) that was next to our hotel with Ariellah, Obsidia and Steph, Tara and Carol, and I forget the name of the other lady (sorry). Great times! Great times!

Friday, I took the workshop with Rose Harden on creating character costumes. What was especially interesting about this workshop was seeing Rose's costume pieces up close and then I got to see them on stage later that night. It thoroughly helped me get the difference in look. There was one skirt in particular that I actually thought that it was a totally different skirt. Some strips of fabric looked, well, just like strips of fabric on a skirt, but they ended up looking like trims on stage. Her belts are extremely ornate. Anyway, I was in heaven to be able to fondle the pieces. Gave me lots of ideas. As if I needed more! lol One advice that she had was to keep clippings of things that we love. Doesn't have to be belly dance related at all. She showed us how some of those clippings were the inspiration for a certain costume. Super cool!

Friday afternoon, I had my private with Ariellah. We didn't dance much but that's fine b/c that wasn't what I needed. She gave me feedback on 2 videos. Funny thing is that I submitted just 'Snake' to her (the performance captured at Middle Eastern Mayhem) but she saw 'Zeina' in the bar on the right and looked at it too. So she gave me feedback on both. lol I was bummed that she only got to see those two as I've done much better work since then but, hey, the feedback that she told me still applies. ;) Anyway, I got lots of valuable info.

Kat and I had dinner at the restaurant next to our hotel yet again to make sure that we would be at the venue in time for the show.

The Friday night show was off the hook! Very high level of talent! Wow!

As part of the show, Onça from Merzmer Society did a piece without any music. It made some people uncomfortable, as it was bound to happen. The piece moved Kat and I tremendously. If you want to know what fine art belly dance is, that was it. She came in, all dressed in white, with a white scarf over her hair. She was walking with heavy steps. Then she picked up a rose from the stage and looked at it, smelled it, caressed her face with it. At one point she made us clap our hands for her and she did some belly dance movements. At one point, the clapping had ended and she was on the left of the stage and pulling some red strips of fabric from her bosom. She was seriously ill, coughing, great sadness. I think that she destroyed the rose after that, picking at the petals. But it's a little fuzzy now in my memory. And then she walked away.

Saturday morning, Kat and I took the workshop on pirate belly dance by Samantha Riggs titled Why is the Rum Always Gone? It was hilarious. We got to do non-proper, oh so improper, stuff. The combos were a great start for me. Some elements repeated in each of the combos and I understand that it greatly helped teaching the combos for Sam but I'm probably going to keep only like 1 or 2 of the combos... more importantly, it gave me the flavor for what it can be and gave me tons of ideas. :D

Kat and I had lunch at Esperanza, which was further away from the venue. The smell outside was exquisite and it's a bakery so we decided to try it. Well, the food was as exquisite as the smell. That place was more Mex than Tex. :p They made their own tortilla fresh there. Wow!

Saturday afternoon, I had a 30-minute massage. That was so wonderful!

Kat and I took Onça's Narrative Belly Dance class. OMG! That was so amazing! I gotta say that Kat and I think that Onça may be one of belly dance's best kept secret. She teaches so well! She made us do some silly exercises and a lot of not so silly ones. She made us work with some theather exercises that thoroughly helped. She also gave us some character archetypes to work on and gave us info on what types of things will help convey the character better both in terms of movement and attitude on stage. One thing that I really appreciated is that she kept reminding us through the exercises (particularly the archetypes) that we were belly dancers so that we needed to belly dance. I've taken other workshops on the topic and, generally, they say not to worry if it's belly dance and there are times when they said not to do belly dance at all. While it's a useful way of practicing and not get bugged down with the complexity of belly dance with the complexity of emoting, it's important to acknowledge our dance form at least at one point. ;) August graciously played music for us while we were dancing. I think that he had a blast watching us.

The Saturday night show was very good too! I think that the Friday show may have been a tad better but it's totally subjective. I may have been tired by that time too. lol Seriously, lots of talents in both shows.

On Sunday, I took the Ariellah workshop titled Drawing Down the Moon, which is about what makes us do what we do, how to understand how we function, where our emotions stem from, things like that. Very insightful. Probably the more insightful part was that I had been trying to pinpoint for a while what I really wanted to do with my art to give me focus and I got that answer in this workshop. There were yet more exercises to make us convey messages. Anyway, it's a good workshop.

I also had a private on hair styling with Rose Harden. That was money well spent! Now I need to go buy some stuff for my hair, though! lol

Overall, this weekend totally gave me what I came to get: workshops geared towards the artistry of belly dance (b/c that's where I'm at), great performances in the shows, meeting great people, and just plain having a good time.

Now, there were themes for the weekend:
- First off: 'squirrel.' That came from a movie where the dog is easily distracted by squirrels. Anyway, Kat and I kept saying that at each other. lol
- Secondly, 'Hello my baby! Hello my honey! Hello my ragtime gal!' I sometimes get stuck on one song and will sing it over and over again. Kat was subjected to this torture. Sorry, dear!
- Third, 'Opening your heart.' Both Ariellah and Onça said that in regards to being able to emote better on stage.
- Fourth, 'the idea stash.' Rose and Ariellah were talking about that: clipping magazine pics, noting down an idea of music, whatever, and putting that in a stash for future use when you need inspiration.

I thought that there was one more theme but I forget. Oh well.

One other thing that was great was meeting a ton of people. Some whom I had not seen in a long time (Tara, Nari, Trudi, Michelle), others that I had only known online (Obsidia, Kathleen Crowley, Rose Harden) and others that I had never met before! The list would be too long to write but it was great to hang with all of you! And, yes, Tempest, I'm still your people! :p I'll probably always be anyway. ;)

Oh and the last fabulous thing was the shopping. * swoon!* The vendors were Geisha Moth and Tempest (Owl Key Me [love the name and the play on words]), Ocean and his wife's fabulous idea of a top and skirt, Jeremiah and Rachel Soto, Salome's Suitcase, Five and Diamond, Akasha Wear, and Diva something (sorry I forgot the name). So, what did I purchase, eh? Well...
- A kick ass skirt by Christina (Black Lotus Clothing). It has some black beading and red roses. It's amazing!
- A burgundy leather belt with brass metal grommets and rings and stuff. It was 50% off from Five and Diamond. I've been wanting a belt in that style for like 2 years now. While I originally wanted black, the burgundy belt will be perfect to go over the top of the 'roses skirt.' :D
- Higher gauge earrings from Tawapa. I had been debating whether to stretch my ears further or not but they decided for me: they stretched already on their own and my current jewelry was too loose... so it was time.
- Barrettes from Rachel Soto/Blue Damsel. They're in an unusual color for me. I kept being drawn in by the red flower barrettes but wanted to get away from my usual color. Kat and Rachel helped me pick. So it's cream with a hint of red but, mostly, there's a blue button at the center that makes my eye color pop. :D
- Arm warmers by Christina/Black Lotus Clothing. I saw them and was attracted to the colors, although they're different for me... tried them on and fell in love with the comfort... and then I was smitten and needed to purchase them after Kat begged me to purchase them b/c I had been talking about them for a few hours (I'm only slightly exaggerating here).
- From Geisha Moth, I purchased a tube skirt with a lovely fleur de lys on the back and another design in the front (super duper cute) and a pair of cake capris that are grey strips of fabric over black. Hard to describe the capris...

As if that wasn't enough, I ended up winning in Geisha Moth's contest... TWICE!!!! The best part was that, the 2nd time, I won 100$ in merchandise!!!! Woohoo! So I ended up winning black and white snake armz with the first win and a black tube skirt with some ruffles (super duper cute), a black with white stripes tube skirt that matches one of my incognito tops, and a shruggie like this

I would like to thank Tempest for being my stylist this weekend and helping me pick out stuff that fits me well. :D She has the eye and will tell you if it doesn't fit you well or if you don't look good in it. ;) I appreciate the honesty! She especially helped me pick out what to get with my fabulous 100$ win! Yeah!

My next level - Thursday, December 10, 2009

Well, I don’t quite know where to start on this blog… Should I start chronologically of the series of events or of how my thoughts came to me. I think that I’ll go with the latter.

Last night, I was reading my book on making choreographies. And that’s when the whole thing hit me.

I’ve been reluctant to read those types of books before. I don’t know. It didn’t feel right. More like I wasn’t sure that I was ‘worthy’ of them. Super silly, I know! But still… Actually, more accurately, it’s more like I wasn’t artist enough to be worthy of reading these books. That’s a silly thought that has been plaguing me for way too long. I see people around me who are so much more artistic than me and the comparison made me feel extremely inferior. I’ve been around too many naturally gifted people…

In an interesting twist on an old saying, I realized today that I’ve been following one of my favorite advice without realizing it (up until now, obviously): “Fake it ‘til you feel it!”

Last year, when I decided to go ahead and take the Golden Opportunity, part of the description by Ariellah was talking about taking your dance to the next level. That’s exactly what I wanted to do at the time… and I still think that it’s what I want now… I think that, at this point, ‘the next level’ is a moving target that is increasingly higher… and that’s fine… that’s what it’s supposed to be. But I digress… the point that I’m trying to make is that, at the time, ‘the next level’ was a very nebulous concept… it was definitely something that I was yearning for, craving for (and still do, btw… I’m not exactly at the level that I want to be… will I ever be? Digression again!) but I didn’t have the faintest idea of what it would be.

Pretty much, all of this year, I’ve been moving along on this ‘next level’… many workshops were striving for that… other workshops with Ariellah... the intensive with Mira Betz… the weekend with Rachel Brice…

Technically, I’m much better than I was last year (and I wasn’t bad to begin with). My body is stronger despite a little set back when I re-injured my ankle (it’s doing mighty fine now, thankfully). My choreographies and performances are improving quite a bit. There is still a struggle around showing emotions on stage but it’s always improving so I’m hoping that time will do its magic (along with some self-help , of course) and it will solve itself on its own.

I also started teaching a performance practicum class to some of my students. When Kat approached me with the idea, I thought that it was ludicrous. I didn’t think that I had earned enough stripes nor that I was high level enough to teach anyone about performing, especially since I’m still struggling myself. But she was the voice of reason and made me realize that I do have a lot of experience and information to share and that, while it’s not perfect and I’m still a work in progress (and will always be, of course), I do have plenty to offer. And, yes, mostly what I teach is stuff that I wish someone would have told me… but some of that needs to be experienced.

All that hesitancy aside, I learned so much about my own vision of things and my own thought process by having to explain it to someone else, that it was a great learning experience for me too! It thoroughly highlighted where I’m at and, since I know where I started from, how much I’ve improved.

Yet a piece was missing…

And reading that simple little paragraph in that choreography book and looking back at my whole attitude on everything recently has made me realized that I’m finally feeling it… What is ‘it’? I’m finally taking myself seriously as a professional dance artist whose focus is on belly dance. I prefer to voice it that way and it’s a whole topic for another blog as to why that way and not just ‘professional belly dancer.’ (And note to self: I fully understand that my vision on this may change in the future. Ha!)

Interestingly, others have taken me more seriously than I had… it’s VERY typical of me. It would be a long story as to how it always happens but let’s just leave it at that. Everyone but me has taken myself seriously… my tribe sisters first… my students… Jeff always has… heck, even Tempest and Ariellah have taken me more seriously than I have!

I’ve faked it… and faked it… I’ve done the exercise like Stuart Smalley of telling myself repeatedly personal affirmation. Trying not to giggle was a struggle at first.

What has helped the most, I think, is Ariellah’s advice to just dance. She was damn right, of course. But, seriously, I’m obviously an overthinker and someone who internalizes things. She told me to stop worrying about that and just dance. So whenever I feel an artistic angst come on (as in “I’m not artist enough”), I dance. Whenever I question something, I dance. If I’m at work and can’t dance in my cube, I’ll put on some music and lose myself in it. And I don’t judge the dancing. It’s just dancing for the sake of dancing. It’s impressively helpful. Interesting stuff has come out. I remembered some good old stuff that I used to do in modern dancing. There’s a lyrical quality that is coming out that wasn’t there before. I’ve noticed lately that my posture is getting extremely good and that my upper body and lower body are VERY separated (that's also thanks to pilates).

Instead of words for certain moves, it’s sounds or just movements that pop in my head. My yoga mentor would say that it’s a refinement of ‘thoughts.’ And it is.

I’ve also realized a few minutes ago what Jennifer Rose (who has always had so many helpful tips) was meaning when she said that it was like I just needed to push through a certain door, plateau, barrier, call it whatever, and I would realize what I wanted to… and I think that it’s it: I just needed to believe that I AM an artist and that I’m real serious about it.

I’ve always been serious about my dance… but not so much about being an artist... that was a foolish notion. And therein lies my next level. And I’m not faking anymore… I’m feelin’ it!
Posted by Celeste at 5:21 PM 1 comments:
Raqdoll said...
Celeste - you're totally good enough, smart enough and doggonit, people DO like you :-)

Year-end belly dance recap - Friday, November 20, 2009

Well, today is my PM at work so, as I do every year, I'll also do a PM of my belly dance stuff... let's hope that I don't forget anything...

- Ariellah in St. Louis
- Deb Rubin in Chicago
- Jennifer Rose in Columbus
- Tempest in Bloomington IN for Durga Tour
- Asharah in Bloomington IN for Durga Tour
- Zahara at Gothalyptic
- Taletha at Gothalyptic
- Ariellah at Gothalyptic (including a private lesson)
- Mira Betz intensive in Lexington
- Sadie in Chicago
- Faten Munger at Belly Boo Bash
- Leila Gamal at Belly Boo Bash
- Rachel Brice in Lexington
- Mardi Love in Louisville
- Deb Rubin in Indy (brought by us)

That's an interesting list! lol

- Bleeding Hearts Ball in St. Louis (Ariellah workshop)
- Sahira show hosted by Carenza
- Bottoms UP Burlesque Spring show (belly dancing burlesque style)
- Gothalyptic
- Middle Eastern Mayhem
- Hafla Luna
- Belly Boo Bash
- Ooky Spooky Halloween show
- Haflaween
- Unos Bailes Por Dia de Los Muertos (Rachel Brice show in Lexington)
- Va Va Voyeur (burlesque)

From the class side of things, I've added the 'Performance Practicum' classes on Wednesdays. I think that my students do enjoy that.

I've also been dancing at Greek Islands at least once a month... except for September when I had to bow out due to a H1N1 scare.

Oh and I shouldn't forget that I had a my very own personal photoshoot with Indy. I loooooove those pics! I will commission him some new ones soon as I have a some costume ideas that I want to have captured. ;) I have also a ton of great performance pics by other talented photographers as well! :D

Not a bad year, eh?

I already have 3rd Coast Tribal lined up... and maybe Tribal Fest (still a bit on the fence about it; mostly because of not having an infinite amount of money).

Normally, I take a few paragraphs to ponder on the past year and what's yet to come. I don't quite feel like pondering today. ;)

Overwhelmed - Sunday, November 8, 2009

My brain is often bombarded with ideas for belly dance... mind you, I don't know if I should have written this in the active or passive form... is my brain doing the bombarding or is it being bombarded? Anywhoo...

I have lots of ideas and it can be overwhelming. Workshops typically make this an even more acute 'problem'. Given that I go to workshops a lot, it happens a lot. I know that I will have to prioritize as to what I'll do first and whatnot but it's not always easy to decide! :s
Also, it feels like some of my personal style is starting to gel and come out more so I have that added variable to play with. Right now, it's at the state where it's both helping and hindering. I know that, as things gel even more, it's going to move into the very helping side of things... but it's not there yet.


Thankfully, belly dance activities are slowing down for me with the approaching Holidays. Well, I don't know yet if it's a blessing or a curse. ;) I a lot of overthinking so having more time to think may not be a good thing. We'll see. :p

Weekend update - Monday, October 26, 2009

On Friday, I danced in the show in Lexington. The concept was to honor deceased loved ones. I re-used Monsters by The Cruxshadows. The performance went well. Not nearly as good as my latest ones but then again I finally managed to chat with Teresa on Monday and decided on the piece on Monday night too. So I essentially ended up having 3 days to get ready. Most of it was improv'd on the spot but I did have some spots where I knew what I was doing. Some of those were highlights in my piece but I also came up with things on the spot that were highlights.

This piece was a good learning experience. Thankfully, not a GREAT learning experience. :p Mira said in the intensive that failures are good learning experience... so there were glitches from which I learned.

The very first time that I danced it, for a Fort Wayne hafla, I wasn't ready for it and didn't do it justice. I did a better dance this time around but it may deserve one more try to make it even better. ;) I actually needed a few more days (at least) to listen to the piece a lot more. The problem is that I hesitated for the entrance part and that was mainly b/c I wasn't 100% sure of the music. So 3 days to get ready wasn't enough. lol

I think that, if I had had 1 more week to get ready, the planned items would have been better settled in and potentially would have been either better executed or changed entirely. Also, I would have had time to develop a few more ideas.

Although I did flock with the music, I wasn't as much in character as I've been in the past few performances. I was very much unsettled by the height of the stage and the lights and all that. And, unfortunately, I had chosen that precise time to try out what Tempest had advised me to do, which is to keep my head up and not tilt my head. However, I've managed to get a good connection with the crowd lately so I was both trying to do that yet keep my head high and I didn't know where to look. I later asked Rachel Brice how often she looks at the crowd, citing my shortcoming from Friday and she said that it's fine not to look at the crowd. The issue, though, was that it wasn't on purpose and it showed. I tested out some different gazes to see the difference and, yeah, it would have been better to just not look at the crowd on purpose. Now I know. lol I also realized last night that the way that Rachel did look at the crowd in her pieces was generally from afar, making her tilt her head less.

Oh and I made it a point not to point at the crowd. Tempest will be happy about that. What I did do instead was that I shifted my gaze from the right to the left then my head followed, then the rest of the body. The effect was VERY successful.

I realized that I need to consider my eyes and my gaze like another body part. That is, just like I pay attention (generally speaking) of where my arms are, what patterns they are doing, and I sometimes use them as an isolation, I can do the same with my gaze and head placement. Live and learn, eh? ;)

The Saturday workshop with Rachel was super interesting. It was about confident improvisation (ironic that I did it the night before on stage, eh?). She had some great tips and tricks. I especially liked drilling moves with a foot pattern. Great tool! I had an 'aha!' moment when we did some improv without music. My moves were darker and more flowy and stuff came out that I didn't even know I had in me. Something to ponder. She also had some great book recommendations that I need to find time to read. ;) She also definitely figured out that this whole improv workshop actually needs to be a weekend workshop. She just has too much material to share in 4 hours!

The Sunday workshop was a tad disappointing for me as I had seen the material a few years back. That being said, the yoga warmup was fun and definitely loosened my muscles. We did some nice breathing and going up on the ball and slowly back down that I felt strengthened my ankle so I will keep that. Also, she expanded a little on the description of the 16 ways of modifying a motif, which helped. Since my ankle was definitely NOT happy with me and I had seen the material, I left the workshop and joined hubby at BW3.

We came back to say goodbye to everyone and pick up Jae to bring her back home in Cincy. She graciously took pictures of me with Rachel and with Lecca. Thank you so much! Oh and she took some fabulous pictures of me at the show!

Chaotic weekend - Originally posted on 19 October 2009

On Friday, I was dancing at Greek Islands. I get there and, unfortunately, the CD player has died so it can't play any burnt CDs. It did play original CDs but, even then, some sounded awful. Anyway, so I ended up having to dance on music that I had never heard before for all of my sets. But, hey, I'm a professional and can wing it.... and did wing it well.

The good news is that they are replacing the CD player to have a receiver with a cord for the iPod. OPA!

Then, on Saturday, I was performing a solo (and then later a group piece) at the Halloween Hafla in Muncie. Well, first off, we had issues finding food in downtown Muncie but ended up eating at Heorot but then got to the venue a tad too late for my liking.

But I was done getting ready as the first performance was mid-piece. Second performer was not there. Third performers were not ready. Liz asked "Is Celeste here?" I was at the back of the room and said in a gloomy yet sultry voice (didn't plan on making my voice that way... it just happened): "I am." Cheers and applause and hop!, I did my piece. I thought that I was going to have a bit more time to get mentally prepared... but no... lol That's life. I still did a good job.

The group piece went well. There were a few issues, namely the music being gritty (grittier than it was supposed to) and some clapping that was not in synch with the music, thus easily throwing us off beat. But we got rave reviews! OPA!

Yesterday was the makeup workshop. We discovered that 2 hours is not enough. Next time I do it, I'll do a 3-hour workshop! lol I think that people liked it. I was nervous, having never taught this material before.

Btw, if you missed the workshop yesterday but are still interested in learning make-up application from me, I'm thinking that I'll do another workshop maybe in February or early Spring.

Comments I had received

From Nicole: I look forward to coming to the next workshop!

From Sarah Myers: "Anyway, so I ended up having to dance on music that I had never heard before for all of my sets"Oh, I hate it when that happens. I once had to dance to 20 min of drum solos that I could barely hear. I really don't like drum solos.

From Liz: Thanks so much for coming up! I really appreciate you jumping in to save the day when the two people before you weren't ready. :D We had lights this year, but next year I will try to have a kickass sound sytem! :) Thanks again for coming up. You and the BRC were a fantastic addition to the show!

From me: Liz,
It was not a problem at all to jump in and dance. I'm always ready to dance! lol We had a blast and definitely will be back! :D

From me: Sarah,
I don't mind drum solos but 20 minutes would be a hell of a long time! Dancing to an unknown and barely audible drum solo set would be indeed very hard!

From Stacy: *grump* You know, I had a moment of "duh" this morning when I realized the makeup workshop was yesterday. Bah.

Chaotic weekend - Originally posted on 19 October 2009

On Friday, I was dancing at Greek Islands. I get there and, unfortunately, the CD player has died so it can't play any burnt CDs. It did play original CDs but, even then, some sounded awful. Anyway, so I ended up having to dance on music that I had never heard before for all of my sets. But, hey, I'm a professional and can wing it.... and did wing it well.

The good news is that they are replacing the CD player to have a receiver with a cord for the iPod. OPA!

Then, on Saturday, I was performing a solo (and then later a group piece) at the Halloween Hafla in Muncie. Well, first off, we had issues finding food in downtown Muncie but ended up eating at Heorot but then got to the venue a tad too late for my liking.

But I was done getting ready as the first performance was mid-piece. Second performer was not there. Third performers were not ready. Liz asked "Is Celeste here?" I was at the back of the room and said in a gloomy yet sultry voice (didn't plan on making my voice that way... it just happened): "I am." Cheers and applause and hop!, I did my piece. I thought that I was going to have a bit more time to get mentally prepared... but no... lol That's life. I still did a good job.

The group piece went well. There were a few issues, namely the music being gritty (grittier than it was supposed to) and some clapping that was not in synch with the music, thus easily throwing us off beat. But we got rave reviews! OPA!

Yesterday was the makeup workshop. We discovered that 2 hours is not enough. Next time I do it, I'll do a 3-hour workshop! lol I think that people liked it. I was nervous, having never taught this material before.

Btw, if you missed the workshop yesterday but are still interested in learning make-up application from me, I'm thinking that I'll do another workshop maybe in February or early Spring.

Comments I had received

From Nicole: I look forward to coming to the next workshop!

From Sarah Myers: "Anyway, so I ended up having to dance on music that I had never heard before for all of my sets"Oh, I hate it when that happens. I once had to dance to 20 min of drum solos that I could barely hear. I really don't like drum solos.

From Liz: Thanks so much for coming up! I really appreciate you jumping in to save the day when the two people before you weren't ready. :D We had lights this year, but next year I will try to have a kickass sound sytem! :) Thanks again for coming up. You and the BRC were a fantastic addition to the show!

From me: Liz,
It was not a problem at all to jump in and dance. I'm always ready to dance! lol We had a blast and definitely will be back! :D

From me: Sarah,
I don't mind drum solos but 20 minutes would be a hell of a long time! Dancing to an unknown and barely audible drum solo set would be indeed very hard!

From Stacy: *grump* You know, I had a moment of "duh" this morning when I realized the makeup workshop was yesterday. Bah.

Fishers RennFaire 2009 - Originally posted on 5 October 2009

The Faire has come and gone yet again. Time flies!

We set up the yurt on Friday evening. It took a long time due to some overthinking on how to set it up (we kind of had forgotten not to overthink the process) and a few other glitches including a dying drill and things like that. The good news is that it should go much faster next year! :D The yurt was indeed better than last year... and less shiny. We still somewhat fondly call it the big marshmallow.

Saturday was collllllllllllllllllllllllldddddddddddddddddddd! OMG! There was hardly anyone at our first show but that could have happened whatever the weather. We do call it the 'dress rehearsal'. lol Our biggest show on Saturday was the 2 pm one. The 5 pm one was deserted except for some of our (truly) die hard fans. After the joust, nearly all patrons left in a hurry.

Sunday was much better weather-wise. There were also a lot more people overall.

The troupe did very well. There were a few glitches, of course... no one is perfect. ;) The biggest glitch had to be the stupid wind that made it so that the girls could not put their swords on their heads at all... so disappointing! The girls are amazing with swords! (Not me... I'm still challenged with that as I focused my energies elsewhere in my dance. ;))

il Troubadore played great music for us. We love that partnership. Loads of fun!

Unfortunately, Amirah's body was not happy with her yesterday so she couldn't dance for the il Troubadore set as much as she wanted to. So we filled in. It was so cool to see my tribe sisters do solos! They can solo but don't do it nearly enough to my taste. ;)

il Troubadore's last set saw them reverting back to their 'normal' name... i.e., Indy's 16th Century Rock Band... so they wowed the crowd with their prowess in modifying modern songs. And we took turns dancing to them. They drew more people with that than other sets. lol

Food-wise at the faire, the kettle chips were uber yummy. They ran out of potatoes by Sunday afternoon and Kate said that she had seen them come back from the parking lot on Saturday afternoon with a trolley full of potatoe bags and the guy behind was carrrying as many as he could. There was also one vendor who had some shepherd's pie... with melted cheese on it.

I ended up buying an amazing black skirt with shisha mirrors and a fuschia velvet band at the bottom for a VERY good price. I wore it for 2 of the shows on Sunday. I'm madly in love with that skirt. The weight makes it fly real good during spins.

Tearing down the yurt was MUCH faster... it always is. We had a lot of busy bees to help us. ;)

There was also lots of celebrating/drinking/eating... Saturday night, we went to BW3 after the faire... and we went to Nickel Plate last night... and we're going to Cancun's tonight. OPA!

Thanks to everyone who came out to see us! We really appreciate it!

Comments I had received
From Kat Lebo: So glad the weather was good for you yesterday -- sunny, warm, but not to warm for performing in the sun! It was deplorable on Saturday. Two days of that would have been agony!!

Weekened Update - Originally posted on 28 September 2009

What did I do Friday night? I got my bag ready for Belly Boo Bash and ordered some pizza. Oh and I tried out the new Zuma's Revenge and am totally addicted. Oh and Jeff and I watched what we had recorded from Thursday night, which was The Mentalist and CSI.

You know that I love belly dance when I get up super duper early to go to a belly dance event... I was on the road earlier than I do normally for work! Mind you, I've done crazy times for work too... but I disgress...

So I took the flamenco workshop with Faten. It was super interesting. Unfortunately, there were too many turns for my weakened ankle so I had to sit for a portion of it. But the material that I got was really interesting. I think that my favorite part was the "shoe work." I've been inspired to stomp 'industrial/rivethead' style lately (and have found a few belly dance movements where it would totally work) so that's something that I can apply to my dance. Maybe for Gothalyptic next year? :D I really enjoyed also working off beat for some of the moves. It was totally different than belly dance yet related enough that it was a nice change of pacing for me. Speaking of pacing... those moves are executed faaaaaaaaaaast. Wowzher!

I had lunch with dear hubby at BW3. We enjoyed some nice food while I relaxed between workshops. And relaxed the ankle. Hugh!

The afternoon had Leila Gamal teach us about oriental dancing. I really like her approach to the moves and how they should be natural. That's something that I will hone in with my students. What I really appreciated is that Leila took the time to observe everyone individually and give advice on how to improve the moves. In my case, she gave me additional layers. I totally loved it! I didn't know that I could do all of that! And then, again, there was a good portion on spinning so I had to sit out and nurse that damn ankle. I wanted to dance that night! *sigh*

Between the workshop and when I got ready, we found a Starbucks and relaxed and talked about my upcoming Wild Talents character (RPG) while sipping on yummy pumpkin spice iced lattes... and we got some hot ones to go.

The performance went well... although there was a glitch with the music. Jeff was teasing me afterwards that that's why he had told me to enter through the other side: so that I would be close to the music should there be any glitch. Unfortunately (and supidly), I had planned to do a diagonal from the right side of the stage and felt like I would be too confused if I started on the other side. Silly, I know. Anyway, so to rectify the glitch with my music, I had to run across the stage. I purposefully decided to make it cute and silly so that there would be a higher contrast with the character that would go on stage once the music started. lol So, yes, I had to run across the stage again.

I'm happy to report that the stage fright is indeed gone. I guess that I'm a good candidate for hipnosis b/c I have found a few triggers that I use to get me into character in a snap (really... in a snap). That also helps with the stage fright. And, well, the piece was something that I needed to be fully committed too or else it would look odd. And I have to say that my dance friends Laura, Matthew, and Jae screaming that they love me and cheering me on before I hit the stage definitely helped! :D

I did my piece and I felt well connected with the music. There was one move that I had thought of using when I had heard the music often enough that moves were popping in my head but I had never practiced it as I was afraid that it would look too odd. Well, lo and behold, I ended up doing it on stage. Jeff noticed the hesitation b/c he said that I was not sharp enough on it. Anyway, I managed to veer from doing too much belly dance and exploring outside of filling every beat with something. I did have pauses. I was afraid that people would get bored but, no, it was fine. ;) We sometimes have a warped vision of what we're doing when we're performing. hehehe

I gotta say a big thank you again to Laura and Matthew. Not only did they give me compliments on my dance (thanks again, btw!) but they pinpointed items that worked for them. Like Matthew loves my belly rolls. And that one move that I said I thought would look funky on stage but ended up doing anyway, Laura really liked it. When she said that it was like a big BIG body wave, I realized that that's actually exactly what it is... and, well, it apparently worked for her. That's VERY useful feedback for me as it tells me what worked for them. Thanks guys!

Jennifer Rose told me that it's the best performance that she has seen of me. I know that she meant it. Last time that she saw me perform, we chatted about it and she gave me honest feedback... so I know that it's legit. ;)

Jeff noticed a few things, as usual. But those are details that can be fixed more or less easily. It's good to have someone who has seen almost all your performances help you out that way. He totally gives me constructive feedback. And, well, this time I received it extremely well b/c I felt good about the performance. ;)

Yesterday, we got up and joined Jen, Bill, Julius, and Jared to eat at Steak and Shake before going to see Surrogates. It was great to have also Ashley and Todd with us. :D That movie was really good! It was better than I had originally anticipated. Oh and Bruce Willis is still VERY hot.

Afterwards, we were supposed to run to Home Depot to get mats to redo the roof ring for the yurt but I was kidnapped by my kitty and she used her sleeping powers to make me fall asleep. Actually, at one point, I opened my eyes briefly and Jeff was also sleeping on the couch. I needed a lot of sleep and the kitty had missed me a lot so it was a rather long nap.

And then we watched the Colts game. The first quarter was interesting. We didn't know who was going to score first. And then Peyton and the offensive line opened the valve and it went downhill from there for the Cardinals.

And now I'm back at work where it's crazy. And I'm teaching veils tonight for the continuing class and we're doing the last touches for the RennFaire tonight as well. OPA!

Comments I had received

From Matthew Hellrung: You were awesome and it is always a pleasure to see you perform.

From Jennifer Rose: Loved, loved, and still love your shimmies - your stage presence was fantastic - you totally owned the stage. Wish my solo wasn't such a train wreck...(I saw the tape - it was horrible) but at least Raqdoll looked solid & strong :-)

From me: Thanks for the compliments!
Btw, your solo wasn't a train wreck. Okay, it may not be your best performance but I still enjoyed it. There was a passion in your moves that matched the music very well

From Jennifer Rose: LOL! Most kind of if you could please forget you ever saw it :-p

So bummed! - Originally posted on 23 September 2009

Last Sunday, during the drum solo workshop, I ended up weakening my ankle b/c we were doing so many quick shift of diagonal angles. I stopped dancing before the end of the workshop to ensure that I was not overdoing it but it was clear that it didn't like the twisting motion at all.

Then, on Monday, for no reason whatsoever, I twisted my ankle while walking in a hallway at work. I mean, there was no obstacle that had made me trip and my heels were not that high (about 1.5")... but I do that every now and then and have no issues. My ankles are VERY flexible. That's actually why I broke the bone in my foot in the first place.

Last night, I was dancing to my piece for this weekend and my ankle started throbbing. I put some ice on it and it helped. A little later, I danced again and the ankle was behaving better during the dancing but felt odd afterwards. I taped the ankle and it helped tons: swelling was going down b/c of the pressure.

This morning, the ankle is throbbing again and stiff and is painful. I'm soooooooooo bummed. It was going so well! As Jeff pointed out, of course this ankle is going to remain more fragile. Bleh!But students and tribe sisters, don't despair... my ankle is not so bad that I can't dance or teach. Thankfully, tonight is a light night of dance as I will be teaching my first class in the beginners session, which consists of very basic isolations after some sbiel about different styles of dance; then it's the first class of the veil session, which consists of talking about different styles of veils and fabrics and then how to hold the veil and start playing with it; and, in the performance practicum, I was planning on talking about costuming, which is going to be mostly like an oral presentation. So I will be able to rest some, although I need to practice my piece for this weekend in front of the big mirrors.

I may take it easy at the workshops this weekend, though... Anyway, I'll take care of that damn ankle and it's going to be fine. It's just a bummer that it happened...

Comments I had received
From Chy: That sucks! I hope you are okay :)

From Amber Scott: hope it gets better! i know u always have a ton of stuff going on.

From me: Yeah, I'll be fine. I've worked through that type of pain when I was recovering from the fracture. It requires a regimen of ibuprofen and icing the ankle and refraining from doing crazy stuff. On a scale of 0-10 of pain with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain that I've ever felt, I'd rate my pain at about a 3... so it's really not that bad. ;)

Sadie workshop - Originally posted on 21 September 2009

This past weekend, Gabi and I attended Sadie workshops as part of Hiptastic. The Saturday was a Belly Dance Boot Camp workshop and Sunday was Drum Solos. Sadie is VERY talented at isolations and layering. She made me dance faster than I thought I could dance. lol The drum solo technique was a little 'busy' as Gabi put it but it totally works on Sadie... but not just on every body. Some people looked like they were having a seizure attempting to do the layered moves. I'm sure that I did too for some moves, especially the 'pelvic shimmy'... not sure that I'll ever incorporate that in my vocabulary but that pelvic shimmy looked good on Sadie... probably b/c she is so thin and so controlled in her pelvis isolations.

What the weekend thoroughly highlighted was that I'm absolutely right when I say that tribal, tribal fusion, and cabaret generally share the same movements but where the differences lie are with the general execution of the moves, the costuming, the choice of music, the dancer's attitude and expression. But, quite frankly, a hip lift is a hip lift... a hip drop is a hip drop... etc. I expected to be lost at times during the workshops but I wasn't.

I wasn't bored either, though. I've taken some workshops this year that have made me decide to be more choosy for which workshops I attend but I still learned things. Like I will strive for some of those 'weird' layerings where things are not in synch... and I will practice my speed too. And I will work on the way that she does her pelvis isolations: she essentially uses almost solely her psoas muscles to open and close the hip/pelvis articulation. It makes for a very interesting visual, especially when combined with a reverse belly roll.

Interestingly, my arms and shoulders are not sore at all... the lower arm position that is often preferred in cabaret was very relaxing for me. And, although I may indeed want to be more choosy in my workshop registrations, it does show that I attend roughly one per month as I was not really sore yesterday morning nor today. I also do teach 3 h per night two nights a week so that helps too. ;)

Now, I did have to stop dancing at one point yesterday afternoon, though: my ankle didn't like the quick change of facing that Sadie was instructing us to do, which required too much twisting on my ankles. Ah, well, that's all right... it's just another thing for my ankle to get used to again. ;)

Oh and it was interesting to see who was used to having their personal dance box around them or not... you could tell when Sadie instructed us on the first few moves of the drum solo choreography. We started facing away from the audience so we were facing the back of the room. And then it was shimmy for 6 counts then 3 hip drops on the left, with the last one having us twist to look at the audience in a 'diva moment', followed by 3 hip drops on the right and the last one looking at the audience again... so far so good, eh? Then you pushed your right hip at a diagonal to, essentially, your back right from facing away from the audience... aka downstage left if you're using the real staging names ( ); then you pivot over your left shoulder to go to the other diagonal, which is actually downstage right... anyway, I have a series of terms that I personally keep in mind for that personal dance box and it worked for me... but if you're not used to dealing with that box, then you were utterly lost as to which direction to go to next.

Anyway. Overall, it was a great weekend of workshops. I had a blast!

Comments I had received

From Nikki: Sounds awesome! I am left wondering at the personal terms for you box space that you mentioned. I still do not feel like I have a personal box.If only we could take down the mirrors or cover them up every so often, that could be a lot of work though... there are a lot of mirrors.

From me: Yes, that's a whole lotta mirrors. But if you do practice in your house, you can do the same. I can explain the box terms tonight after class. We'll anyway touch on the box terms for the veil class as diagonals are much used in veil. ;)

So long, farewell, good 'ole stage fright! - Originally posted on 18 September 2009

Last night was Hafla Luna. And it was probably one of my best public performances... if not THE best... b/c the 'show and tell' at the Mira Betz workshop was not very public... although there were about as many people in the audience...

Anyway, I disgress...

It seems that I've finally managed to conquer my stage fright. Woohoo! I decided to do a set of 4 songs. I was asked to do something that people could look at and say 'this is tribal.' Given that, when I do Dark Fusion, I tend to mix in too much of the cab and tribal together, I didn't want to do just Dark Fusion... but I still wanted to do it b/c it is my preferred style for my solo work... and also to make the audience see both aspects. So I did a progression from more traditional tribal towards the Dark Fusion.

Since it had worked so well for me in the Mira Betz workshop (partly thanks to Melany/Nari who made a comment about it), I decided to create different characters for each of the pieces. It wasn't too schizophrenic or bipolar... there was a progression that made sense. ;) And, yes, it totally helped. It may be a crutch but that's one that I'm definitely willing to use at least for a while... and even if I need to keep it for a long time, who cares?

Anyway, after I got off the stage, the first thing that Lynn said was "The many different sides of Celeste." That was EXACTLY what I was striving for. She also said: "You may still have height fright but you definitely don't have stage fright." Saweet! She did see a difference in mood between the different songs. I got great compliments and the wording of them told me that I executed what I wanted to execute.

I was a bit unsettled at the beginning of the event. I was supposed to be able to use my iPod but then the material for the evening had been stolen and, while a lot of it had been recovered, the iPod cord had not. Bummer! But, yes, I could dance with iT. I was flustered over it but more b/c I needed to quickly figure out in my head what I was going to do (which songs to request, what mood to apply, etc.). Then, it turns out that Jamila very kindly went to get an iPod cord so we were back on track for the original program... which meant re-shifting my focus to what the original plan was. So my first piece was not exactly as I wanted it to be. It wasn't bad. It's just that I didn't exactly have the intensity that I wanted... and I had forgotten some of the moves that I had uploaded to my brain for that. Oh yeah... forgot to mention that the first 2 pieces were improv (in good tribal fashion :p) and the last 2 were loosely choreographed.

There was also a moment when I flinched... when that evil voice crept in my head. Ana Lucia and her friends were in the front row and, given that she's very traditional cabaret, the voice honed on that and made me wonder what they're thinking. And then I thought "Who cares?" and went on with my dancing.

I wasn't too much in my head for the performance... only a few spots... and those are obviously the spots that I am not as happy with. But, for the most part, I was just 'flocking' with the music. ;) (Those from the Mira Betz intensive know what I'm talking about here)

Interestingly, I've seen one pic of me so far and that pic looks more dynamic than my usual ones. Really interesting result. lol Now, of course, being a human being, I did notice a thing that I didn't like about the pic (yes, Tempest, I need to lift my head... you're right... still working on it). But, overall, I am VERY pleased with my performance last night. And especially with the elimination of the stage fright... hopefully for good.

Comments I had received:
From Angela Robinson: BRAVO!!! That is fabulous! Thank you so much for sharing your succes.

From Danielle: Opa! :)

From Maria: Good for you! Wish I could have been there to see it. Always glad to hear when someone's presenting tribal in a good light!

From Lori Baumgarten : Wonderful! and please do not think of the characters as crutches, but rather as tools which create part of your dance. What you portray emotionally and spiritually is just as important as having good technique, it's is what takes you to the next great level. xo

From Nari: Awesome! Congratulations to you, pretty lady!

From Helena: I think you did a beautiful job dancing and I enjoyed watching, sorry I didn't say hello because I was involved with a friend in tow... You are a very good dabcer...Hope to see you at PPD next week I still have pelenty of stage time and it is a great time.

From Laura Smith: Stage fright is something I still deal with. I have noticed when I do burlesque I "pretend" to be some other character and it really does help. Maybe I should do the same with my bellydancing? :)I really love hearing your insights on bellydancing and performing, thank you!!!! (((((HUGS)))

From Robert: It was an excellent performance and came off well all the way to the back of the room where Paul and I were plotting our next set. Of course we are always pleased when you dance to us as well and are fierce advocates of dancing to live. I have to say over the years I've watched you dance you started out well and have gotten beter.

From me: Lori,
Yeah, I didn't explain the 'crutch' well enough. lol I definitely agree with you that keeping the characters is a great tool to get a better dance focus. What I didn't explain well was that what I veiw as 'the crutch' is downright writing the character's story. I mean, in theory, I shoul be able to pull it off without doing the writing part. But, hey, if writing a story about the character in my dance get me to portray it better, I don't see the harm in it. ;)

From me: Helena,
Thanks for the compliments! I won't be able to do the PPD this weekend as I will be in Dayton for the Belly Boo Bash.

Yes, I think that you can leverage what you already do for burlesque to your belly dance: pretend to be another character. Well, at least it works well for me....

Thank you so much for the compliments! I'm damn glad that iT is there to witness my progress... not only that but help me through it. You know that I love dancing with you guys! And you have made me get up on my feet and dance even if I'm in a bad mood, too tired, or whatever other excuse. :D

When the Universe speaks, I listen... - Originally posted on 28 August 2009

Well, "Universe"... "Fate"... callitwhacchawant. I've been nudged increasingly further along a certain path by events that end up working out perfectly because I see certain signs and I follow them.

In July 2008, I took workshops with Mira Betz, Liz Strong, and Zoe Jakes. In her workshop, Mira was talking about her performance intensive. I was intrigued but felt like I was not ready for it.

Shortly afterwards, Ariellah announced the 'Golden Opportunity' intensive, which was right up my alley. In a heartbeat, that night, I reserved my spot for it. I had 3 blissful yet hard days of work with Rachel in the morning and Ariellah in the afternoon. Met lots of great people in my venture to this great event. And I got me another mentor in the process: Ariellah. (I consider that Tempest was already a mentor as she dutifully replies to my angsty blogs. lol)

After this lovely opportunity, which was more around technique than performance quality, although we did touch on that in the last day with Ariellah, I felt like I was ready for the Mira Betz intensive. Well, lo and behold, there was an announcement that it was going to be hedl in my (virtual) backyard, in Lexington KY. Again, I signed up in a heartbeat. Again, I met a group of fabulous dancers who have changed my art and I count myself so lucky to have been able to have done this great opporutnity.

However, this little dancer with some darkness inside her still feels some struggle to let the darkness out. I guess that mostly I'm not sure what MY darkness is. Anyway. I was questioning myself on that when Tempest announced that she will be doing a performance workshop around halloween time. So, yeah, I'm going to that too. Hubby and I are really looking forward to that trip.

(edit from original post... 'cause I almost had forgotten about this until I remembered that I will see Matt in October)
Rachel announced that she was going to be teaching a master class series in Washington DC in September. The topics are indeed around performance again. I wanted to take the workshops but it ended up not working out as I had already registered for another workshop that weekend (getting my cabaret fix with Sadie). Turns out that, again, MECCA comes my rescue: they will be hosting Rachel in October and she will be teaching that master series on performance. I'm going to take it, of course!

Today, I wrote a rant about my styling crisis. Well, Rose Harden has a workshop on that at 3rd Coast Tribal. I've been wanting to do that event for a couple of years and started considering making the trip (and that would make me see some of my newly found dance friends from the Mira Betz intensive; shout out to Nari here). Well and in the meantime between the Golden Opportunity and the Mira Betz intensive, I've been pestering Ariellah with tons of questions on dark performances. She said that there are 2 workshops that she's teaching that she says I should take and they would answer my questions real well. So when I looked at the 3rd Coast Tribal lineup, she's actually teaching those two workshops... Alas, one of them was sold out...


that I went on tribe today and someone was selling her spot for that sold out workshop!!!! That's another sign. I'm listening.

Hubby and I have 'themed' the last few years of my dance life:
July 2007-July 2008: the year of the recovery (broke foot and it took forever to recover from it)
July 2008-July 2009: the year of the technique (I took lots of technical workshop)and it looks very much like...
July 2009-July 2010 (or at least 'til Jan 2010): the year of the performance quality

I was joking with hubby, "So what will be the following year?" His reply was "The year of the performance." (as in actually performing instead of practicing performing, yanno... lol)

Styling crisis - Originally posted on 28 August 2009

I feel somewhat on a styling crisis... not in my style of dance per se but more on the clothing and accessories front. I just wish that I could look inside myself (my head, my heart, my soul) and see what's in there, visually, and use that (in a Project Runway challenge kind of way). I realized that I can look at what attracts me visually but then again I have eclectic taste, which I find hard to deal with. I wish that there'd be a dark version of Tim Gunn to help me out... or that a certain combo of two dancers who I have in high esteem would play 'dress up' with me and help me figure it out. *sigh*

Comments I had received
From Rose Harden: i've got a great workshop for that process- you'll have to come to 3rd coast this year!

From Ambriehl: Celeste-I have done costume making and design for well over a decade. In January I am one of the instructors at the ISAMETD costuming workshop-and this is one of the topics that I will be covering. Basically-how to wear a costume...rather than letting the costume wear YOU. I will be going over not only styling to your individual likes/dislikes/... Read Moretastes...but also what styles, colors, etc. flatter each individual. Sometimes dancers fall in love with a particular costume so much, that they just wear it, even though the style might not flatter their body, the color might not flatter their skin tones, or the styling might not flatter their "dance personality". I will be going over pretty much anything and everything...basically like the show "What Not To Wear" but for belly dancers!

From Ambriehl: When I do movie replica costumes, one of the things, for instance, that I think about (and tell the person I am making it for) is that the costume will look best on a particular body type. If a man of 5'8" height and a slight build wanted a Darth Vader armor set...I would recommend a different costume choice-simply because he doesn't have the large... Read More stature to pull it off. Body type, coloring, hair color, skin tone, weight...all of these things should be taken into consideration when talking about costumes. It is something that I have always been very particular about. If you ever want to talk costumes-just send me a pm, and I hope you come to the costuming workshop in January!

From Lisa Warner: been that.

From Tempest: when I can clone another me, there's a website project I have especially for this ;)

From me: all right... must head back to the lab to figure out how to clone Miss Tempest. ;)

From Matt Mayer: I've been trying to figure out my personal style too. (for a guy that's no easy feat if you want to get beyond collared shirts and jeans) I've found it helpful to try to name the style. Tell people what you're thinking and get their input. Of course I've come up with odd things like Corporate Bohemian and Unhinged Arts and Crafts.

From me: Love those descriptions!

From Ambriehl: Matt-I love it!!!!!!

From Matt Mayer: Thanks. Of course it's easier to come up with the concepts than to understand what they mean. Still it helps to have a compass when trying to make some choices. Not that there are many to be made. As a guy clothing manufacturers think I only go to work, the golf course and occasionally Hawaii. Not a lot of other options :)

From Nikki: I'm slightly remembering a style exercise. It involved thinking of a bunch of descriptive words you like, writing them down, and using that as an aid to design. I would think you could use that in clothing.

From Jen: Maybe you don't have to be too strict. You like many styles and that's cool, just add a dash of Isa so each style is uniquely you. If I were picking you out of a steam punk crowd and you were dressed to suite, I could do it easily. you have owned your goth and tribal looks as well. As well as goth/tribal and steam punk/goth. Now do Tribal/ Steam Punk >-)

Multitasking - mixing belly dance and work... - Originally posted on 25 August 2009

Okay, not really dancing in my cube, although people would be interested, I'm sure. No, I've doing something a lot lately: listening to certain pieces of music (upcoming performances) back to back... So, anyway, I listen to each back to back for like 1 hour and I do that while working since my work involves lots of quality time in front of a computer screen.

Hearing a music for that much helps notice some patterns that are not necessarily as easy to notice as you're doing some improv or choreographing to it. The advantage of doing it while doing something else (in this case work) is that I'm not really paying that much attention to the piece.

Why is it useful? Isn't that counterintuitive? Well, for me, if I pay too much attention to the piece, I notice the topmost layers but don't hear the subtleties whereas they will jump at me if I don't pay too much attention. It may just be me...

Like this one piece, I had noticed that there were some patterns when I was doing some improv on it but couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. Well, turns out that there is a progression where, in the beginning, the music seems slow b/c it's somewhat 'empty' as many instruments are in synch. As the music progresses, certain instruments become less in synch so the music seems increasingly 'fuller' and increasingly more intense, giving the impression that it speeds up, although it really doesn't... that is, until the tail end. So that's useful info on how to gear my dance... :D

Simple advice... - Originally posted on 12 August 2009

So, during the Mira Betz intensive, at one point, Mira casually mentioned that we should enjoy the process at least as much if not more than the outcome... the 'outcome' being the actual performance itself and the 'process' being everything that you need to get there (technique, costuming, workshops, etc.).

It's simple, right? It's obvious, right?

Well, for me, it thoroughly highlighted how much anxiety that I had about performances and how early it actually starts. For instance, I'm preparing for an upcoming performance in September. Normally, I would have been real nervous and anxious over finding 'the' perfect music for the performance and it would have blocked me for a while. Well, instead, I enjoyed listening to music. Through a simple series of a certain song made me think of another song, which made me think of another one, etc., I found the one that I chose to do. It was so much easier this time around!

And then I felt like drilling on Sunday as I was waiting for the chinese food to arrive. Normally, if I have a piece that's upcoming, I'm stressed out if I do anything belly dance that's not specifically related to choreographing the piece. But I realized that, actually, drilling is very much part of the 'process' so it's fine. And I just drilled and was using Ariellah's recommendations from her workshops and it kicked my booty and I need to do it more regularly.

Also, I've had the recommendation from Mira and from a few other instructors in the past (like Asharah, Ariellah, and Tempest (not 100% sure of Tempest but most likely she did)) to listen to my music ALL.. THE... TIME... I progressively increased the number of times that I would listen to a piece of music that I was going to perform but Mira had told me to listen to my piece between the first performance and the rework about 80 times. I had refrained from listening to the music that much b/c I was afraid that I would get fed up with it. Hell no, I didn't. I actually heard additional tidbits and, mostly, fell in love with it even more!!!!

So now I've been listening to my piece of music back to back for about 1 hour almost each day. The benefit of that is that I did hear new things in the music but I also know it now inside out... it also pops in my head at random moments. Like, last Saturday, I was making coffee and heard the music in my head and my body started to move in reaction to what I was hearing in my head. So ideas are pouring forth without me actively thinking about it but rather through my body... and it feels like, indeed, it's the other side of the brain that's in control. The music popped in my head again this morning, at a different spot in the piece and, this time, I have visuals of what I wanted to do. I let my body respond to those images and, of course, it fits. I actually have yet to do improv to the piece but, when I start thinking about it, I feel my body moving... Saweet!

Anyway, bottom line: remember that this is fun... that all the process is actually as much fun if not more than the performance itself. ENJOY!

Comments I had received:
From Laura Smith: Nicely said, Isabelle. I do listen to my performance music a LOT but probably not as much as this.

From Robert: I try to research the music I perform - why was it written? What was going on in the culture its from when it was written? Well... Actually I often don't have to do that research as Jon usually spoon feeds it to me. I like to tell stories about my songs when the performance venue is suitable. I know the feeling about being wound up - I was when we debuted all that Persian music on 8/8. Research tends to help me settle - there is such a thing as being over-rehearsed.

From Sara Beaman: Yay! I love hearing about process! Keep up the good work Celeste!

The Mira Betz intensive experience - Originally posted 5 August 2009

Most of you know that I just came back from the Mira Betz intensive. It was simply amazing! We had a great group of very supportive dancers! I really liked that it was a small number of pariticipants as it made the whole experience much less intimidating and that made it so that Mira had enough time to work with each of us (if we so chose) on our issues that we were dealing with in our dance.

xThis wasn't a workshop on technique... it was on performance quality and how to elevate your dancing to a higher artistic level. It totally did that for me. There was such a progresssion in all of us from Day 1 to Day 5! I can't wait to see how it will have affected us all in the long run because there simply was too much material to fully assimilate it all in 5 days. But that's not a bad thing at all: I am left with a great number of tools and insights that I can use.

I reflected yesterday that one of the very cool things about the whole experience is that not once has Mira told us what to do... she views her role in the intensive as a guide on your personal journey to creativity and artistry... and, yes, she did that. She never once told me that I should do XX or YY. Mind you, none of my mentors do that either but I was half expecting her to tell us things to do... she very much just guided us... and that was truly appreciated. I know that I'll be forging my own path.

The exercises were also very well designed to make us experience certain concepts that we could then apply to our dance albeit in a different format. I think that the biggest one for me was that she got me to communicate emotions in my dance in, basically, a few hours. And she got me to a point where I can do it on a dime too! She also gave me some tips and tricks to get over my stage fright and, essentially, get over myself (or should I spell it 'my self?'). I took some risks... they paid off... and now I'm ready to show off my stuff...

Btw, the thing that they don't tell you in the brochure is how hard coming back to real life is... bleh! And I already miss all the participants! *sigh* Can't wait for our paths to cross again!

Comments I had received:
From Sara Beaman: I was totally in awe of how open Mira was with her own process without ever forcing it on any of us. She is awesome. It was awesome. You all were awesome. Unfortunately, right now I am going through serious withdrawal and it TOTALLY SUCKS. ;_;

From Danielle: You summed this up so well (especially coming back to the real world... ugh). I can't wait to hear how everyone progresses!

From Nari: She should change Mira Mania to Mira Magic. I miss everyone already. I feel like I have all these sisters (and a brother!) who I can't see every day. Poo. :(

From Emerald Hips: I know. Me too. I've still been in the abstractness of my own head all week at work. Just staring off with lovely images of flocking...

Artistic choice - Originally posted on 23 July 2009

As part of the onslaught of good comments regarding my cabaret performance, there have been some questions as to why I don't do straight up cabaret since I do it so well. Well, of course, I could do cabaret. My first 5 years of belly dance training a long time ago in a land far far away were in cabaret and, well, I dance cabaret at least once a month at Greek Islands so I do get some practice in that genre. I CHOOSE to do the tribal genre and do goth and dark fusion because that's my artistic vision. And I'm not saying that straight up cabaret can't be artistic. I'm just saying that it's not MY artistic vision. ;)

Those questions and a few other things that I've read lately also made me realize that there is a misconception that, if you do cabaret, it's because you can't do tribal or if you're doing tribal it's because you can't do cabaret. At a recent workshop with Jennifer Rose, there was a surprisingly large number of participants who felt like they were equally trained in both. It all boils down to what YOU want to do... not what someone says you should do... definitely not that! It needs to speak to you.

It's just like Picasso: he was a fabulously gifted drawer and could draw something up that was very lifelike... but what was his artistic vision, eh?

Comments I had received:
From Alhena: Yup Yup!

From Ambriehl: I know what you mean. I have taken many American Tribal Style and Tribal Fusion workshops...and I like to watch it...but I honestly have no desire to perform it myself on a regular basis. I have found that American Cabaret, Egyptian, and folkloric styles are much more to my liking.

From Rachel Kraus: Excellent point! Everyone has their preferences!

From Jennifer Rose: I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who felt the majority of their training was equally cabaret and tribal. I do love them all - I dance whatever suits the venue and my mood at the time :-)

A birdy told me... - Friday, June 12, 2009

I don't quite know where to start on this topic. I don't know if I should go chronologically or in order of the discovery. Hmmmm... Chronological it is.

Waaaaaay back when, I took a belly dance class at Pennsic. Wel, that year, I took a lot of belly dance classes. Anyway, this one was taught by this lady named Lady Saffiya of the Shifting Sands. I don't know if she's still around or not. I looooooved the way that she danced. There was a certain quality to it that was special. In that class, she explained that she had decided at one point in her belly dance life to dance 'like wind' and so she thinks of how wind would do the belly dance moves and integrated that in her dance. That was the first time that I ever came into contact with something else to have in your dance besides just doing the moves. Man, when was that? Like 12 years ago? Anyway, I wished that I could find something that would give me focus like that but then I forgot about it.

Some 4-5 years back (I forget when exactly), I stumbled upon Tempest's artist statement ( ). I thought that it was interesting to have something like that to give focus to your art. But, man, did I have no clue whatsoever as to what mine could be or how you go about writing one/finding one/developing one. Having dabbled with Wicca/Witchcraft in the past and remembering that your Goddess will come to you in time and that actively seeking out the Goddess (vs. letting it happen) is actually detrimental, I decided to forget about it and go on with my merry dance life.

Quite frankly, I wasn't even sure that something like that was ever going to happen to me. After all, I'm not really an artist but just a girl who dabbles in belly dance. Well, those were my thoughts then.

Interestingly, when I was chatting with Tempest during the private about my past performances, and not for the first time, I noticed a trend: my exact words were, "Yeah, I have a thing for mystical birds." On Monday, for whatever reason, I decided to listen to my words and realized that there WAS something to it but kind of forgot about it again... until I meditated this week and I had some more revelations coming from that.

Well, first off, I've been purchasing a number of raven pendants. Well, for one of the performances last year, I bought an actual taxidomized raven skull and, of course, it was a performance that had to do with a mystical raven/crow. I bought a lovely pendant that depicts a raven on a branch and there's a moon behind it (Jeff has the matching man version (very big)_. My latest purchase was a raven skull in pewter. I think that my subconscious was trying to tell me something and, FINALLY, I'm listening.

In meditation, I realized that there is a lot to that bird/crow/raven thing indeed. It took me some time to digest and I have realized many things today.

A bird is part graceful and part clutzy/awkward. That represents how I feel about dancing and my art in general. I think that a part of me is graceful and a part is still clutzy/awkward. For all that I try to hide the awkwardness, it comes back to the surface. I'm sure that people find it endearing. I still sometimes have a love/hate relationship with it. Well, actually, it's more that I've come to accept that it's part of me and I better learn to just embrace it. Makes everything easier. :p

Birds are here one second, gone the next. And that's exactly how I feel about life. So it's quite fitting that I have a thing for ravens... lol Them black birds represent death for so many people. How goth of me? :p

Interestingly, ever since that revelation, I feel more connected to my art. Or rather, I really feel like I AM an artist. More like I finally accept that it's not more complicated than that. lol Oh why am I bothering to explain with words? Yeah, it's Friday afternoon and it shows.

So that's where I'm at. We'll see where this will take me.

Time to focus on something besides my core - Thursday, June 11, 2009

During my private lesson with Tempest, she asked me to dance in front of her. I was so nervous, it was unbelievable. I don't remember the last time that I was so nervous while dancing. So it was nowhere near as good as I can normally dance but the cool thing is that my natural flaws were blatant. I think that they all came out during those few minutes. lol

Just like Cesar Milan (Dog Whisperer) says about dogs, the best way to rehabilitate the dog is when he makes a mistake in front of him... otherwise, he can't know what's really going on. lol Yes, I just compared myself to an unruly dog. :p

Seriously, though, my ego was only briefly crushed b/c I of course would have loved to have impressed Tempest but that wouldn't have been useful... having all my flaws come out was way more useful.

Anyway, back to feedback. Basically, I need to extend more out of arms and all the way to my fingers. She also reminded me of what we had covered with Asharah the day before, which was to think all the way to your toes too. I'm lucky that, due to past dance experience, I naturally tend to point my toes but what are my feet really doing when I'm not pointing? And I need to lift my head more.

As I was writing my daily pages, I realized actually what is going on... See, Tempest put it well when she said that these things are 'polishing' or 'finishing touches.' My technique is good. But what is really my technique? Why is it good? I've (mostly) mastered my core, i.e., from my chest through my hips. Actually, we can even extend to my shoulders as well. Those body parts can pretty much do my bidding at will. Thanks to Ariellah's workshops, I've learned to keep my shoulders down most of the time but, as I point out to my students oftentimes, they still sometimes creep up if I'm nervous... it's a normal physical reaction. But, because I've worked on keeping them down so much, I can check more easily that there isn't any pressure on them and should apply some. So those things are going well.

What I need to shift my focus on are my extremities... stuff outside of my core. Extend arms out more. Ensure that my legs are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Make sure that my head is in a more regal bearing (which looks better on me, given the easy tendency to have a double chin). I also need to lift my chest more, which, actually, has an 'outward' feeling for me.

I've been working on integrating all my practices (yoga, meditation, pilates, belly dance) into one big integrated practice and, whaddya know, there is indeed a lot of crossover. For instance, in meditation, when I'm centering myself, I start by bringing my awareness inside, feeling the breath flow in and out and how it feels inside my body. Then I expand my awareness increasingly outward. So that's essentially also like what is going on with my belly dance: I don't even need my awareness at my core anymore to do what I want... it just flows... but it still often starts from that awareness first. And then I need to think of what my outward parts (arms/hands, legs/feet, chest, head) are doing. The next step in meditation is to bring my awareness to fill the whole room. As Asharah instructed in her workshop, you need to do the same thing in your dance space: fill out completely... and, yes, that includes the audience... the ENTIRE audience... and beyond...

And I shall work on all that!

Another Discovery - Originally posted May 28, 2009

I've been making lots of discoveries lately.

One of them is that I am really inspired by costuming. My costume helps me put me in the perfect mood for my dance. Now, I don't want to practice with my costume all the time, obviously, but I may need to put whatever I'll be wearing on and use the inspiration for choreographing stuff.

I should have known, really, for a long time that costuming has that effect on me. See, 'Celeste' was the name of my first vampire character. I was a very mild mannered, nice little girl in her early 20s when I would play her and I would transform into this bitchy, defiant creature for the game... we would go all out in our games and dress like our characters. Celeste was wearing black fake leather pants, a satin bra (nothing too revealing but a bra nevertheless, an open fake leather jacket (gotta reveal the cleavage), and stiletto boots. With that costume on, I could be Celeste. Without it, I was a pale (no pun intended) variation of Celeste.

Now the most recent discovery was around choreographing. I was teaching a tribal fusion session this time around for my continuing students. So far, we had been drilling moves and combos. I decided to create a little choreography to get them to see how we put it all together. Anyway, I decided to use a song that they all love madly so that they can at least feel the music even if they don't get the moves right away. (The song is Snakecharmer, for the record.) Now, at first, I didn't particularly feel inspired by the song. I mean, I love it and I use it for drilling and, probably b/c of that drilling, I had a hard time feeling inspired to write something. I improv'd to it a few times but nothing was really gelling except for the 'mother of all big hip circles' at one spot (you know, those big circles where you let your upper body go in opposition to your hips?... except even more deep than that so you are actually bending in half, if only for a split second).

Anyway... then it was Tuesday night and the class was Wednesday! :o I needed to crank up the heat on the freakin' choreography. Turns out that I wrote 2 minutes of it in less than 1 hour!!!!!!! And I love what I did. Well, I did modify things a tad yesterday afternoon while at work b/c there was one spot that I was not thrilled about so I adjusted it. So I think that it's something that I have to do: do it all in a very cartesian way of working on one section, then the next, etc. I know that a lot of folks improv the hell out of a piece and it eventually gels but, for me, it's actually counter productive. And, in the past, when I've used the cartesian method, that's not to say that I don't shift portions around... indeed, I do... but, somehow, I come up with cool combos b/c I am VERY focused on one section and one section only. Some of the combos end up being used somewhere else but some stay there.

Btw, I'm very happy with a lot of the combos that I came up with for Snakecharmer. They are efficient and convey the music well, I think. Heck, even the 'belly dance critique' (i.e., Jeff) agreed.

Know thy music inside out - Tuesday, May 5, 2009

We've all heard that before. Well, last weekend, I had a prime example of why that is so important. My music for my performance came blazing out of the speakers in the sh!ttiest way possible. I have to admit that I was stunned and a bit flustered but I tried real hard to ensure that it didn't show too much. I know that it affected me as I didn't bring it as much as I normally would have.

I was faced with a dilemma: do I go with what I'm hearing or what I'm normally doing for the song? I decided to go with the latter. Turns out that, since the speakers were at the back of the room facing towards the stage, while I couldn't hear all the accents, a lot of it could be heard for the audience... so while some of the moves didn't make sense from what I was hearing on stage, it was okay for the audience...

Now, I couldn't hear the accents but I ended up still hitting them. Why? Simply because I heard the song in my head... so I went with what I was hearing in my head and was mostly spot on!

So... yeah... it's something very important.

I was quite disappointed with my performance as it was not all that it could have been. But I did do what I set out to do: make the best performance that I could with what I had.

Oh and I'm still tickled that Ibrahim "The Sultan" Turmen complimented me on my dance! ESPECIALLY since I was doing dark fusion. OPA!