Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dance Crush: Zafira

I admit I have a few dance crushes, on troupes or particular dancers with whom I've fallen in love. My most recent crush is on Zafira Dance Company from Pittsburgh, PA. I met and took classes from Maria and Olivia at Triboriginal Dance Camp this past fall. They are fabulous teachers, giving tons of information and teaching with a great combination of strictness and humour. Plus the setting of the camp gave the opportunity to grill bug ask them questions after class/at meals/ while wandering around the grounds. I learned a lot and was completely inspired (note - I also took many other awesome workshops at camp, I recommend it highly!).

Last night I watched Zafira's video "Caravan Serai", a 50 minute performance which presents dancing through four vignettes: The Cafe, The Sacred, The Home, The Muse (I think I got those all right). Something I love about their style is the precision, especially the excellent timing when all four dancers are working together. I was less moved at some points (not into the Balinese-esque parts, natural tendency to get bored of sword work no matter how well done, but that's just me). The best thing about them? The energy they produce, and the fact that though they are dancing with choreographies you can tell that they are also dancing together. They look at each other, smile and interact and show you that they working together to produce this beautiful dancing. I loved it!

Zafira has produced a new video which should be available soon, and I cannot wait to get it. I plan on showing it to anyone who might be even slightly interested.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

How I started dancing

Everyone tells this story I think, the "How I came to bellydance" saga. Sometimes it is after a lifetime of other dance practice. Sometimes it is inherited, picked up during childhood through a mother or sister or family friend. Sometimes it doesn't come until later, a college class, a chance restaurant encounter, a Parks and Rec. class.

My friend A started dancing raqs sharqi *thinks* 6 years ago? I'd say, at least 6 years. She encouraged me to look into middle eastern/bellydance (ME/BD) classes, but since I was trying to finish up college/totally burnt out on classes and working full time, I just really didn't have it in me to pick up a regular class for fun. Though I loved dancing for fun, it all took place at clubs or parties. Note; yes, there is a part of me that keeps saying "If I had started when she first told me about it, I'd be x-number of years further along my dance education".

Then, in 2002, friends of mine convinced me to attend the Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm. I wasn't convinced until I got there that this would be a good thing, it sounded a little too twee for my taste. But not only was I enchanted by the festival, but I also got a chance to see Fleur and Geela dancing American Tribal Style belly dance (with live music) as the (then) current incarnation of Philadelphia Tribal Bellydance. There are no pictures of that performance on the site, but you can see them again in 2003. I was particularly enamored of Geela's dancing, and also of the communication that was occurring between the dancers. I didn't know what ATS was, that this was improv, what defined their dance style, any of it. All I knew was I liked what I saw, and I wanted a chance to dance like that.

Now, a side note. I have always been a terribly shy and private person, one who prefers to take the safe route than to embarrass myself in front of people (even ones I love and trust). The same year I was lured to the Fairie Festival I also met ding0 (my SO), who has no problem jumping into new activities, giving things a shot, trying something new, and being a spectacle. Thankfully, some of this has worn off on me. It really involves a large dose of, "Honestly, if people don't like it they can just f@!k off" combined with a bit of "I'm tired of living my life constantly worried about what other people think" and a whole lot of "I need to get the hell over myself." It's been liberating.

Anyway, in 2002 there were no ATS classes in Baltimore. Hell, I couldn't make heads or tails of what the teachers in the area were doing at the time. I remember looking at Piper's classes, and checking out Latifa's site, and wondering how I could ever take a class with a roomful of strangers, doing something that involved me moving and other people looking at my body. I felt stuck.

Then, in late 2003, my friend Sara Sathya (who I met through ding0, see it's all his fault!) told me she was going to start offering tribal bellydance classes in Baltimore. She'd had ATS/tribal instruction before, and, tired of waiting for a teacher to appear in Baltimore, decided to start a beginner level class. For Christmas that year, ding0 gave me pink hip scarf and my first session of classes that started in January.

I took that hipscarf (it was a little small, I soon replaced it with a red one with tassel trim I knit) to my first class, and I wore a black t-shirt and black elastic waisted pajama pants, and socks, because I hated to be barefoot. I remember learning my ATS posture and Hug A Big Tree/basic arm position, the taqsim and maya (out-and-up and over-and-out horizontal hip figure eights), and the Turkish/Turkish Shimmy. I could barely stand to look at myself in the mirror. Instead, I focused on the music, which I really liked (including selections from Arabian Travels I and II, which became my first dance music purchases), on how good it felt to move, on how though I knew I wasn't doing everything exactly right I felt as if this was something I would be able to understand one day, on the other students who were also working hard to understand the movements. It was one of the hardest hours of learning I have ever had, and also one of the easiest.

That night I went home and blathered to ding0 about class and showed him what I learned. And the next week, I went back and I practiced those moves and I learned some new ones, and I've been going back, to class or practice, ever since. This week it's been three years since my first belly dance class. Next week I'll go to practice on Monday, I'll listen to the music, I'll look at myself in the mirror, I'll watch the women I am dancing with, I'll practice something I know and I'll learn something new.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Setting the tone

I had wanted to set the tone for the year by doing a little sewing today. Too many projects are languishing in my office, too many yards of fabric are sitting in the "this will make a great . . . . " pile. Well, no sewing today, but I did at least get some junk cleared out and some items organized. Some things that are hanging around and projects I'm thinking of:

* finish the damn yoked and pleated pantaloons, make a note of modifications for the next pair
* cut and finish the piece of green cotton fabric for a head wrap
* continue to rework the Banjara choli that I took apart
* slit the seam on the Banjara skirt, reinforce where the ties go if needed, add new ties

* yards of burgundy cotton gauze - divvy up among troupe, what to do with my piece
* head dress: need to make a head dress (and work on putting hairstyles together)
* new bra: make a lighter halter style mirror bra
* buy choli pattern and start altering it to fit me
* belts: start embellishing/cutting and reworking two "scrap" belts
* napkin belt: figure out how to use napkin as belt base. Fringe?
* dyeing: when can I add fabric dyeing to my list of hobbies