September 24, 2011

Glitter Gives Back Update

With just a few weeks away from belly dance camp, I'm excited to see that donations for our community service project are rolling in.  For those of you who are curious what we still need, I've included a couple of tables outlining what we have and what we need.  As you can see there are still some spots that we need help with!  Whether or not you are coming to camp with us, please consider helping us meet our goal to deliver care packages for women and children at Hill Country Cares, a a shelter for victims of domestic violence.  Consider this our way of bringing a little sparkle into their lives!

You can use the PayPal link on the right to make a tax-deductible donation to Aria Dance Foundation.  Or, if you live in the Austin area...I'll be happy to pick up any supplies you may be willing to donate!  Cash donations will be used to fill in the gaps in our wish list.  And, I promise a multitude of glittery karma coming to those of you who can help out!

In addition to the basic supplies we are seeking for our bags, we have some generous donations of extra goodies to add to the bags:

Thanks to everyone who is making this a successful project!

July 9, 2011

Glitter Gives Back

Although we are in the heat of the Texas summer, I know that I’m already dreaming of cooler weather and cabaret dance camp this fall.  For those of you who don’t attend regularly, this is (in my opinion) a must-attend event for belly dancers.  Not only do you have the opportunity to study with amazing and talented instructors, but you also have the chance to bond and share time with other dancers in a beautiful, serene environment.  The Texas hill country has always been the perfect setting for our women’s-only retreat and this year I’m pleased to announce that Bahaia and I are teaming up to organize our first community service project for camp, called “Glitter Gives Back”

We will be making and delivering care packages for women and kids who are victims of domestic abuse and battery and are living in a shelter.  We have the luxury each year at camp to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and wonderful companionship and love of all the women who attend, and I want to take this same love and support and share it with women who are in need.  So, I chose Hill Country Cares, a non-profit association that has been around since 1986 and serves five counties in Central Texas to be the recipients of our service project. 

They provide prevention, intervention, and recovery services for women in need, not only for women who live close to our camp, but often for women who travel much further and are sent there to escape their abuser.  Our goal is to create 50 care packages containing basic hygiene products for women and 15 care packages for children.  These packages will not necessarily be used for women who are currently living at the shelter, but will be handed out to incoming women and kids over the next few months. Originally my plan was for 50 packages (one for each camper), but after talking with the volunteer coordinator about their needs I’m upping the ante a bit and adding some bags for kids. 

Blank bags, all ready to decorate.  And for you with the wild imaginations, it's a green toothbrush holder ladies!

Our care packages will be delivered in canvas tote bags that can be used to store their supplies.  The fun part is that we will decorate all these bags the first night of camp, along with our ritual t-shirt decorating.  I already warned the shelter that there may be a plethora of glitter and sparkles in our bags and they were tickled by the idea of having something fun to share with these women and kids.

We will also have cards to sign (and add personal comments if you wish), and we’ll be taking photos share.  My hope is that we can bring a smile to someone’s face and let them know that despite their immediate crisis, we are sending them strength and love.  I struggle to imagine how someone would feel to flee their home because of violence, and end up at a shelter without their own toothbrush.  So, the goal is to make sure women will have some basic products including shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, razors, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and body lotion to call their own.

Basic supplies for the womens' bag

For the kids, the shelter asked for kid-friendly products like toothpaste in fun flavors, bubble bath, and kids’ shampoo.  A basic bag for women will cost around $25, and for kids $15, but with some smart shopping, and creativity I hope we can do more than just a basic bag for everyone, I’m hoping we can add some extra treats!  To see a list of the basic items we’ll be providing, as well as suggestions on additional items to include check out this file. 

Basic supplies for kiddos...any ideas on other things we can add?

If you’re a camper, would-be-camper, or just love the idea, here’s what we need you to do!  We’ll be putting up a link to a PayPal account very shortly where you can donate, or ask friends, family and co-workers to assist.  You can:
  • Sponsor the cost of an entire package for either a woman or child.
  • Collect financial donations to help off-set costs.  (maybe get creative and do some fundraising)
  • Collect product donations (for example, ask your dentist for extra toothbrushes), although this may only work for those of us living close by.  We wouldn't want you flying in with a case of deodorant…that could cause all sorts of problems during the pat down!
  • Consider throwing an extra tube of toothpaste, bottle of shampoo, or deodorant into your shopping cart over the new few months.
  • Check your house for unopened, products that could be added in addition to the basic needs.  (Keep in mind we’ll have limited space in our bags).  For these little additions, sample sizes will work, we just want to make sure the basic needs are not trial or travel sized.
  • Consider bringing a small keepsake or memento that you can add to a bag.  Think about what would make you smile if you found it among your bag of goodies.
  •  Brainstorm on ideas for kid’s bags, take up donations from other families in the area, or if you have kids involve them in the process of collecting supplies.  (I’m not a Mom so my ideas are limited.)
We’ll be posting more information as we go, and sending out updates on what we have and what we still need.  I have to say that this project really excites me.  I have been blessed in my life because I have never suffered abuse, violence or rape.  However, I do know many women who have had to deal with these circumstances, and it breaks my heart to know that this happens to women on a frequent basis.  I think that as belly dancers, we understand the strength of our community and our dance and I look forward to sharing that with other women who need that love and support.  I have faith that we can all make this project a success and that our Glitter Gives Back program becomes a well-loved tradition at camp and beyond!

May 10, 2011

30 Days to a Better Belly Dancer?

...okay, technically May has 31 days and I know that I cannot guarantee how much someone can accomplish in one month but I do know that I posed a challenge to my students to drill and practice each and every day for 5 minutes.  I even set up a handy-dandy spreadsheet to help track their progress and mine.  Now I know that even if someone completes the minimum of 5 minutes a day, it only adds up to 155 minutes, or 2.58 hours.  And yes, I acknowledge that to become a better belly dancer you need to work more than 2-3 hours a week.  But my goal was to simply create a regular belly dance practice. Consistent...daily...focused...practice.

I'm certainly guilty of waiting until the last minute to work on performance pieces or to work on technique.  I dream of having a schedule and a life that would allow me 1-2 hours a day to dance, to sweat, to learn and continually grow.  Although I have the best intention in the world, my schedule and my life seems to supersede  those aspirations and goals.  I've also learned something about myself over the years.  I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of gal.  I can either spend all afternoon working on something...or I can't seem to find a few minutes.  This is less about my schedule and more about my timing, my personality and my daily habits.

I trick myself into doing housework by breaking up tasks into 15-20 minute segments.  I set a timer, and then head off to the kitchen to wade through dishes.  When the timer goes off, I can either continue my work or go do something else.  Even if I head off to another task or distraction I still feel good about having 15 minutes less housework looming over my head.  So I thought, I should apply this to my dance practice and see what happens.

And here we are...5 minutes a day of drills or focused practice.  My goal was not to see who could outlast the challenge and hit every single day, but rather to see who could start carving out time in their schedule to work on a move or a combination or a technique that has been on their mind and not in their body.  I chose 5 minutes because it was: (1) the smallest amount of time that seemed reasonable, (2) an attainable goal, and (3)  the equivalent of a short performance piece.

One week in, my students seem to report mixed results.  Some nearly made it through the entire week, some only managed a couple of days.  The only common theme was the dejected look on their faces when they said they didn't hit the goal every day.  I myself have danced every day, but certainly not with the focus on drilling or refining technique...I've danced but with a little less than the intended focus.  I realize that after one week of the challenge that I too, feel a bit dejected, as if I have failed in the process.  Maybe I wasn't really leading by example..  Especially today when I have to admit that I did not dance, did not practice and put off crawling into bed tonight simply because I'm not caught up on my to-do list.

All too often we set our sights on wonderful goals and we feel optimistic and energetic going in, but quickly lose steam.  Especially if we feel that we failed early on.  I've seen several people advertise various belly dance challenges, and although I didn't join in...I watched from the side, curious to see how far they would go, and quietly cheering from the sidelines.  For me, this simple challenge is not about making leaps and bounds in my dance practice, but creating a process...a ritual...a habit, not a rushed frenzy at the last minute.  It helps me to think less in terms of what I missed out on, and focus on what was accomplished...the knowledge that every day I focus on my dance is one day more than I did a week ago...a month ago, or a  year ago.  So, although I'll hit the pillow tonight with fewer shimmies under my belt, I do hit the pillow with renewed faith that tomorrow I can regroup, refocus and keep dancing.