September 7, 2008

Musings, memories and dancing on September 11.

Scheduling shows for Mirage is always an interesting and challenging experience. We have to work our dance schedules around that of the University, and take into consideration their breaks and on-campus events. If we’re lucky we get our shows every other Thursday (usually in the Spring) and if not, we end up with some back to back shows (like this fall). There was certainly nothing planned or momentous about the first show of our fall semester, but it is worth noting that we start our season on September 11, 2008. (And, if you’re counting…it’s the thirty-third season).

I hesitated at first at having a show on 9/11. Really, there is still so much emotion, politics, rhetoric and events surrounding that date; it’s hard to just think about dancing. However, I decided to keep that date, simply because Mirage has always kept their shows going…despite what has happened in the world, and with any luck we will continue to do so for another thirty years. Mirage performed before, during and after the Gulf war events, and in 2001 we performed exactly two days after the Twin Towers fell, despite the potential for controversy.

To start off our fall semester we had chosen a more folkloric choreography; a cane number to Farhot Shabob. (Nothing screams Arabic music more than a song complete with mizmar and zaghareets!) And, faced with the potential backlash against all things Arabic, and a country still shaken, scared and confused we had to decide if having a show that week, with that performance was the right choice at that time. And to make matters worse, the University had notified us they would be providing security for our event…just in case something happened.

Now, I love this dance with all my heart, but it hadn’t occurred to me that a performance could be life-threatening in any way (besides of course the wayward zils and swords). The risk of something actually happening seemed low, but it made us all stop and think. However, the group decision was to perform. Not everyone in Mirage chose to dance that night, and I don’t remember who, if anyone was a guest. All I know is that our desire to dance and to keep the shows going was important and necessary. We all needed a distraction from the events of the week, and in the midst of a nation grieving, we personally needed a sense of normalcy, and an opportunity for laughter and joy.

After all the discussion and debate, our fears were unfounded. The show was uneventful and in fact the security guard who was concerned about the potential for danger seemed thrilled to sit, take a break, and watch some beautiful belly dancing instead. As Vonda noted, we were just a bunch of white girls who like to dance to Arabic music. Nothing political about it, it’s just something we love to do.

In writing this, I wanted to take a moment to pause, reflect and share with all of you my feelings about September 11. For many people this date represents an emotional scar that may still be healing. For me, it represents the enduring nature of this dance, the support of this community and the lesson that every one of us can find joy and happiness when we have the opportunity to express ourselves through our dancing.

Any emotion and stories aside, please come join us this Thursday, September 11 as we kick off another fabulous Mirage season. We’re rested from the summer, eager to shimmy and just waiting to ‘rak’ your world! Come show your support for Austin’s longest running performance venue, show your support for some fabulous guests and just plan on being part of Austin’s belly dance history!

Where: Texas Union Showroom (24th and Guadalupe)
When: Thursday, September 11, 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Who: Guests included Baharat, Troupe Amar, and closing the show…the amazing Sonya who will leave you mesmerized and a bit breathless (really…)
Cost: FREE!!!!!! (With the exception of the gracious tips you’ll leave the dancers, of course)

June 1, 2008

If you listen carefully...

the music tells you what to do. If there is one lesson someone needs to take away from belly dancing it is just that. Technique, complex combinations, fabulous costumes and wonderful venues aside it boils down to the music. Sure, I was enchanted and entranced by the costumes and the colors and the sparkles and oh my, all the accouterments that come along with this dance but first and foremost it was the music that moved me, touched me and seduced me. And if you listen carefully you don't need to think about what step or position or pose you can use, you just have to let go and trust that the music will tell you what to do.

I can't tell you how many times I have heard a song and felt a rush of emotions through my body as I watched a dancer perform. People have said that if a dancer is skilled a deaf person could 'hear' the music by just watching the movements on her body. It's true, I've been there...and it's amazing. Some dancers perform to a song, while others let the music come through them. Trust me, the most technically proficient dancer pales in comparison to a dancer who lets go and lets the music tell her what to do.

So, I was so excited and impressed that one of my beginner students 'got it'. I announced tonight they would start learning a short choreography and at first she looked a little worried especially since she's still getting the hang of some steps. But after a moment's reflection she noted that this dance, compared to all others, seems to come from the music. And, she visibly relaxed when she realized that it probably is easier when you have the music helping teach you what to do and when...and how...

And, for the rest of us, we just have to trust that our bodies know what to do if we just listen carefully.

Evilness, continued

So it's been over two weeks since I taught my class. Between a trip out of town for work and Memorial weekend, I've been on hiatus. I had a good friend come teach while I was out of town so at least my students didn't miss out on some practice. I even told the 'sub' that she could do anything she wanted with my intermediate gals and that she should really make them sweat for the first 30 minutes of class. It's been my goal to get them (and myself) stronger each week so we do my version of squats (butt bounces really), push-ups, and the plank along with lots of drills, shimmies and whatever else strikes my fancy. We sweat a lot and I love the fact that they keep coming back for more. It's like belly dance boot camp...not for the timid!

So, I know that the sub really worked them hard (you should see her fabulous abs and glutes...) which made me walk back into my class with mixed feelings. I haven't worked out much in the last few weeks (not even my martial arts classes), so I'm feeling a little out of the groove. I also have a little competitive streak (sorry ladies) that said I should push them further than their sub did...consider it 'marking my territory' or just showing them (really, just myself) that I can push even harder. There were even moments in class when I smiled and laughed in a crazed way before I made them do more. I even scared myself a couple of times.

So what's the result? Well, I was soooo sore before class even finished but I didn't want to show them (probably because I was lightheaded and a little shaky) and now I truly believe that my retribution will come tomorrow morning when I try to get out of bed. And I know, they are probably feeling it as well because mid-way through class they became very quiet, very still, and moved a little slower than normal.

So, is "Najla" Arabic for "evil"...perhaps not...but it may be in the running for "crazy woman who shouldn't kill her students or herself".

April 14, 2008

A gentle reminder

Now that I've figured out how to keep track of various blogs and RSS feeds (yeah Google Reader!), I'm a little obsessed with subscribing to a variety of them. I won't go into too many details, but I am following a martial arts site that has some great practical advice. I loved his last post because I thought, all you have to do is substitute your own belly dance terminology where needed and the conversation would be about dancing versus forms and fighting. Such a great reminder when we are all tempted to go to fast, and forget our own fundamentals! And such a great reason to keep drilling basic movements in class.


Slow down. When I see somebody flying through kata at warp speed I suspect they're trying to conceal something, albeit unconsciously...the real litmus test of expertise is to be found in how well a student performs the most basic exercise taught at the white belt level. Don't be so interested in learning something new - that will come in its own time. Rather perfect the techniques that you're covering right now, no matter how mundane or ordinary they may seem. Remember, the authentic expert is a master of the basics.

April 8, 2008

I'll yearn no more...

Whew, it's finally over. I swear that this last choreography has taken more time to complete then anything else I could imagine. We were supposed to perform this in March, and it got moved (twice now) until our May 1 show. The biggest dilemma I had with this number wasn't inspiration but rather selection.

My favorite choreographies (and the biggest crowd pleasers) are the ones that usually come from a musical phrase in a song that I feel passionate about. So for this number, I had that inspiration and idea from the start, but every section was just such an effort to finalize. I can't tell you how many times I reworked just 4-8 counts in some parts! I had more ideas than I could count, but I didn't really love most of them.

And here I was tonight, dreading going to practice because I didn't have the ending...after all this time. I hate to let people down, and I wanted so badly to have it all tied up so neatly. I even left work early in hopes of finding that last minute inspiration. (note to self...rushing inspiration is never a good idea). And it just didn't come...no great ideas, no wonderful movements...the only good thing is I didn't do any damage in the house. (This is a sword number by the way)

My solution? It was there all along...you just phone a friend, or in this case ask the group. As it turns out, all I needed was someone to help me with a few counts, an idea, an interpretation of the song, a fresh eye and ear to the music. In less than 15 minutes we accomplished as a group what I haven't been able to do in close to a month alone. Thanks ladies!!!!

Now some of you may think that's a hard pill to swallow--when someone else comes in and makes it all look so easy when you've been struggling. But here's my take on that. Sometimes we struggle because we haven't learned to let go and allow our inspiration to come from other sources and other people. So, come see for yourself the result of our efforts on May 1...we've got floor work, sword work, yearning, passion and in this case, completion!

April 7, 2008

If I could turn back time

By the way, I know I've been a little slow on the blogging the past few weeks. At one point in time it looked like March postings would surpass February (for those of you counting), but gosh darn it...my typing slowed, okay it stopped.

I have lots of lovely show pics to share and some wonderful stories. If I could only set them to appear a few weeks ago, I would look really sharp and on the ball. However, I didn't and I can't so you'll have to just hear about them in the future.

Now, I know you can change the date and time of your blog but that would be deceptive. Maybe not along the same lines as Google's Custom Time Stamp which actually turned out to be an April Fool's joke.

And yes, I believed it at first. I was seriously torn up about the potential deception that could occur with emails but equally intrigued by the idea that I could make up for correspondence omissions. I had just started thinking about what would be my 'ten' emails to send out when I realized it was a joke. And, I was quite ashamed of myself...so no fake dates on the blog from me...consider it my penitence.

Balance shouldn't leave you stressed

We really can't do it all, have it all and still be happy, content and relaxed. But ohhh, that urge to multi-task runs deep!

So here is an excerpt from an IM conversation with a good friend this evening. We often vent and share snippets of our own daily angst and frustrations, tonight she was bemoaning the fact she can't do everthing.

her: I have always found it hard to balance

me: here's the thing about 'balance', people think it means holding everything in equal proportions or simulataneously. I think it means moving in and out of things so that over a period of time you aren't stuck in one place. It's very fluid, adaptive and subject to change

Perhaps I was having a rare and brilliant moment, maybe the planets did align and the right words flowed from my fingers, maybe it's just something I've been thinking about lately...really and truly thinking, and contemplating. Whatever it is, I think the word 'balance' is over used, a little trite and leaves people feeling stressed and inadequte when they can't juggle everything. I know I feel that way....all too often.

So, let's spend less time thinking about balance and think more about focus, flow, resiliency, fullness and at times, emptyness....

Overzealous?

I must have been overzealous last night in my intermediate class. This is what one of my students sent me this morning. I'm wondering though if I should be embarrassed to admit I like her translation?

Am I the only one who woke up at about 4:00 this morning to go to the bathroom and nearly fell out of bed when her legs wouldn't support her? Or the only one who sneezed about 15 minutes ago and almost cried?

"Najla" must be Arabic for "evil".

March 17, 2008

Meet Egyptian Barbie

Now, if the notion of Barbie conjurs up unpleasant thoughts from your childhood and you're ready to head out and join some radical feminist group to rally against the barbie name...just stop, take a breath and let me explain. When I'm talking about Barbie, I'm talking about that gal who is sweet and charming and always dressed to perfection. You want to play with her, invite her to meet your friends and above all else, rummage through her closet. So, meet our Egyptian Barbie, Rania.


Being around Rania is contagious, dizzying and delightful...she's playful and fun in person and on stage...and from the looks of her latest costume debut, even her outfits channel the Barbie persona. They behave perfectly and add a sweet, charming element to her dance...a perfect companion to a dancer we all love and adore! So put aside any judgments you have about the B-girl and enjoy one of our favorite gals in action!



I would kill for those legs and abs...

Really, if I could swap body parts with anyone I would head straight over to Katarina and take those long legs, tight behind and flat abs off her hands (or body rather...). I have several items I would gladly exchange if it was ever possible. I know it may not be appropriate to covet another dancer this way, but gosh darn it I can only dream. In our troupe, we've learned that if you think trying on costumes is fun, try dressing Kat up in costumes...ten times the fun and none of the disappointment of a poor fitting costume. And to top it off, she's witty and smart and devilishly coy.
This last show she lit up the stage, and the room with her kick-butt drum solo and intoxicating smile. I can't remember the last time I've seen anyone have so much fun on stage...wow! She loves her drum solos and always picks music that really get the crowd going. Her performances are sharp and peppy whereas I'm always in the mood to do something slow and moody. For that reason alone (we'll leave her body out of this now)...I envy her willingness to go all out on each number. Plus, she's just one of my favorite people. Yeah Kat!!!!


The show, the show!

So, I am a woefully poor photographer, I'll easily admit it. My biggest problem is that I forget to take pictures...so when I do have photos that come out clearly...I get very excited. I also get a little sad when I realized how many other beautiful moments I failed to get on film. Bad photojournalist...bad! To the dancers I didn't get photos of...I'm so sorry, but I got a little distracted with Sherry, Katarina and Rania and my batteries only last so long. *sigh*

That being said, here are some moments from our show on March 6. And keeping to our semester tradition, we still didn't have all nine Mirage dancers at the show. It's funny, our biggest concern about having a troupe so large was our fear of too many dancers at one time...the truth is that it has allowed us some scheduling freedom we didn't have before. And, each show has such a different flavor and style to it because of the ladies in attendance. It's really quite interesting! This show, we were missing our long-time members Nisaba and Jeanette (I think this was a first!) as well as Dana Winn...everyone was missed, but they will be extra-rested for the next shows.

Okay, enough preamble...here's the scoop on the show. It was short and sweet...and everyone was hot, really hot!!!!! The audience would have been unable to tolerate a longer show because of the fabulous performances...they would have left gasping for air and breath...we love our audience but we just don't want to risk their safety...so we kept the show short. You cannot say we don't practice 'safe shimmies', now can you?

Our guests include the Jasmine and Maribel. Jasmine first performed on our stage last semester when we had a live show with Belahaar. She's smart, sultry and such a sweetheart as well. Rumor has it that when she finishes school she'll be leaving Austin...I'll just pretend to be in denial until it happens...and in the meantime go watch her dance again. You should do the same.



Maribel has of course graced our stage before, but it's been quite a while...our schedules just didn't seem to sync up. She honored us by closing the show and had everyone dancing behind stage to her beautiful music. (Which I have apparently only on tape...I believe it is Amany Blue). If I had to come up with one word to describe her, it would be 'juicy'. In a nutshell her shimmies have their own law of gravity...even Newton would be jealous about the perpetual motion of her hips, When my hips grow up, they want to be just like hers!



I've also have a photo and a clip of Eva Tennessee...who is blazing her own trail of 'modern folkloric' belly dance here in Austin. One viewing of this video will have you hair tossing every time you dance now!


March 13, 2008

In the presence of a goddess

There are some performances that really hit home, they make you feel a deep emotion (yearning perhaps) or move you in ways you didn't imagine. There are also some performances where you just say...doggone it...how does she look so hot and how can I have some of that! (I mean that from a dance perspective not a 'I'm changing teams' perspective...in case you are now wondering).

I have to admit that Sherry's performance at our last show hit home on all those marks. Really, she's channeling some goddess or sultry 50's movie siren, or one of the classic, golden age belly dancers we've all admired. Her music is always intriguing and interesting and she moves so effortlessly across the stage, it's like she's floating! If you missed the show...shame on you, you'll just have to sit back and imagine the entire performance. The following photos and clip may help a bit but you'll only experience 1/10 of the passion and emotion everyone felt in her presence.


Now for a collective sigh...


March 12, 2008

The anticipation

Okay, last weekend I did something spontaneous and bought my first costume online. I know, it doesn't sound that dramatic and everyone is doing it anyway...but I took the plunge. It's all because I've been jonesing for a new costume for quite a while and it's difficult to find one I like and that fits well. You could argue that all I needed to do was order something to fit and I'd be set but the truth is I have a hard time visualizing how things will look on me. I also have some difficulty because of the girls*, which complicates costume shopping. So, I only buy costumes that I can try on.

This weekend, the allure was too great and the costume was so pretty...and blue...and I don't have anything blue right now. So, I splurged and bought a beautiful Hanan costume online and I'm worried about how it will fit and look. Will I love it???? Will it love me???? I just want to know, and soon!

They** told me it would ship promptly and even though I know it wasn't sent overnight I was disappointed that it didn't appear yesterday. Today when I came home, again my heart fell when I didn't see a box at my door. However, when I opened my mailbox I found a note saying it did come today but it's sitting at the local post office, aargh!!!! Really, if I had known I would have snuck away from work just to retrieve it.

Now, the anticipation is even worse because it is so close and yet so far away and I have to wait until tomorrow morning and then make a special trip over there to pick it up. And all I can wonder is if it lonely right now, and is it looking forward to meeting me as well?

*One of these days I'll do a post on the 'girls'; some people who know me have already met them...not everyone will be that lucky though.
**If I'm happy I'll tell you who 'they' are, but I may not...especially if I want another one (which I already do).

Imagine the Possibilities

There is nothing like the promise of a new costume to send dancers into a tizzy. We are in the process of picking out one color (yes, just one right now…) to order some skirts, gauntlets and tops for the troupe. Here are the samples of the fabrics we received from L-Rose. I put them on the cards for easy viewing (and not to lose any), and the photo cannot do justice to the beauty of them in person.

I don’t have an actual photo of us looking at the samples, but I wish I did. You would see us huddled together, lovingly examining each small sample. We all had to touch, hold and caress each little square of fabric. And, when one of us would suggest a color choice a collective chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ went up, as if a world of opportunity was contained within each small square. The process is delightful, but the product will be absolutely yummy...I'm sure of it.

March 6, 2008

Would the International Olympic Committee even care?

If only we could get scores (Olympic style of course) for daily challenges in our lives. I'd enter the packing/coordinating/traveling/performing/unpacking part of my Thursdays into the competition, and I think I'd walk away with a gold medal. Even the Russian judges would give me extra points based upon degree of difficulty. Not convinced? Here's a look at the contents in the trunk of my car for just today alone.
Notice that the bag with palm trees is large enough to carry a body (it does have wheels though), the lovely polka dot number is packed to the brim and difficult to navigate simultaneously with the other suitcase because of the size difference, the red bag came along for the ride because it's my work stuff (which I'm not reading tonight like I should), and the black bag contained a change of clothing so I could transition from work to the show. Please note, this does not include the skirt hanging in the back of the car so it won't wrinkle. Four bags, four clothing changes, just to cover my life from 5:30 a.m. until now. You try training for that!

March 5, 2008

Another thought...

In case any of you were worried that I really did think I would pass out while dancing tomorrow night (see my note about giving blood in the previous post), don't worry. If I can make it through a two hour martial arts class so early in the morning, I'll be fine...but possibly moody :-)

And in case you're wondering...the pants are in the dryer, and I've picked my music, whew!

What are thinking about tonight?

What are you thinking about the night before a performance? Are you rehearsing your steps, listening to your music, lovingly pulling out your costume the entire time you are mentally, emotionally and physically preparing for the next day and show? If you are, I want your life and now!

This is me now:
  • I just realized I don't have pants to wear to my martial arts class tomorrow which starts at 6:30 a.m. (no, that's not a typo)
  • I have just put a load of laundry in so I will have a pair of pants for tomorrow. This means that they have to wash and dry before 6:30 a.m.
  • I just ate something for dinner because I realized I was hungry.
  • I was just thinking about food because I taught a class (last minute) tonight and missed my regular dinner hour.
  • I'm lying about the regular dinner hour, I don't have one...but I did have some chicken for tonight, which will have to wait until this weekend because I'm not cooking chicken at 10:30 at night.
  • I have no idea what to wear to work tomorrow and I'm hoping I don't have to do laundry for that as well. My two options are either something I can wear to the show (and lug the backdrop and other gear in) or something I will change out of for the show. My hope and prayer is for the first option so I don't have to worry about changing again.

****Side note, if you're keeping track we're looking at 1)an outfit for martial arts; 2) an outfit for work; 3)potentially an outfit to travel from work to the the show; and 4)a costume. Packing is really a huge issue for me on Thursdays...seriously...if I could hire someone to pack for me for this one day...I would! Now back to the list:

  • I don't know which costume I'm wearing tomorrow because I don't know what I'm dancing to.
  • I don't know what I'm dancing to because the song I originally picked was slow and a little moody.
  • My song choice must be different now because I have to go first in the show, and therefore must do something peppy and upbeat (it's a Mirage-thing)
  • I'm not feeling peppy and upbeat tonight and I'm not sure I will be tomorrow.
  • I gave blood today, and I'm not trying to get sympathy however I'm wondering if peppy and upbeat is violating the rule that you shouldn't engage in strenous activity for 2-3 days after donating blood. And, if I pass out while dancing can I just go back to the slow and moody song?????
  • I'd rather write about not packing versus packing and preparing...that should tell you something.

My gosh, I so want to be the dancer that has everything laid out so neatly, every step rehearsed, and every nuance memorized. I imagine she is gleefully gliding into her bed just about now, and falling asleep (you know she gets at least 8 hours) so she'll be refreshed and ready for the next day. I envy her, admire her but most likely despise the fact that she doesn't have other limits on her time...but that's another story.

If you really are out there...can we trade lives for just one day???? Or, or at minimum will you pack my bags, pick my music (and costume) and tell me what to wear...I know you have the time!

Hold your applause

Before I go anywhere else, I am proud to announce that during the month of February I posted 15 (yeah baby) times on this blog. For some people that is just a pittance of what could and should happen, but given that I only have a total of 23 posts over a six month time period it's exciting news. I'm not going to jinx anything by stating that I'm on a roll here, I just simply want to call attention to the fact, pat myself on the back just a little, and vow to post again soon.

February 26, 2008

Choregraphy, part 4????

Okay, I'm back to the whole choreography story again. You see, we're still in the process of working on the number that we will be performing on March 20. And, I'm only a little over half way through detailing all the steps and pieces for it.

One of the hardest parts is trying to work on staging and positions for so many people at one time. I don't have enough cats to cover all the dancers (thank goodness), and they don't do well taking instructions from me. Now, they are wonderful at improvisational forms of movement and dance but just don't ask them to repeat what I try to teach! So, I'm often left trying to figure out how to take some great idea in my head and transform it into reality with six to nine dancers on any given occasion, it's quite a brain twister.

So tonight's only goal was to rework the beginning of the number, really only the first minute or so. I had ideally wanted everyone to do floor work at the beginning however it’s not a given for all dancers. So, in order to make sure it worked for everyone…it was back to the drawing board.

Now some people may think that would be an inconvenience and not worth the effort. However, I like to think of it as a greater challenge. It’s like someone reads a paragraph you wrote and says this is good, but you can’t use these five words in it…come back when you have it rewritten. It forces you to distill down the essence of the movement or the feeling you’re trying to capture and rework (or rewrite) until you come up with a better product.

And tonight although we didn't make substantial progress in the number we did come up with some nice movements that will be fabulous on stage. It was nice, easy and collaborative evening and I think we walked away feeling productive. We still have some floor work included (my thighs are killing me tonight) but we also have some new height dimensions that weren’t there in the original plan. The good news is that we still have three more practices to finalize everything and I have three more weeks to work out details if needed, yeah!

February 24, 2008

All things happy

I really am still very new at this whole blogging thing, and like most other things in my life I just started doing it (literally one evening)...then bothered to figure out the details. In this regard, I am so much more like a man, I don't read maps (or bring them along), I don't read instructions and I obviously wait until later in the game at time to ask for directions. On a basic level I know that if you want your blog to be read by people you have to do a little marketing, include links, get yourself listed on other blogs...and oh my gosh so many other things. At first I thought that the labels portion of my blog would allow me to help market the blog (and things related to the troupe) better. So, at first all of my labels referenced the very same things:
  • Mirage

  • Troupe Mirage

  • Belly Dance

  • Austin

  • Middle Eastern Dance

Do you get the picture????? I was adding keywords to all my posts thinking this would help in the great netherworld that is the Internet. Well, now that I've thrown together several blogs, I've started reading and taking note of what others are doing and it just dawned on me this weekend that the label section is just a method for me to categorize my posts in case someone wants to search through them by topic not just by date! Duh!!!!! (My favorite example of categories is on http://www.dooce.com/ ) So, now I'm trying to go re-label everything I've done and figure out if there is some system or method to my posts (short answers is no) and do I have logical categories I want to build on (maybe).

Which brings me to the topic of my newest label "All things happy". I have one post for this label (my zil saga) because I couldn't think of a more appropriate category. So now, in addition to the pressure of finding things to blog on (is that the correct term?) and taking photos to enhance my blog (I am the most random photographer...) do I need to worry about fleshing out each category in advance or just let them organically grow and develop? Whew, it's a lot to think about. So, here's my attempt at hitting all three worries in one blog:



Hip scarves with coins; always a happy thing!


There is a trend out there to not wear jingly, hip scarves in class. Well, although I may do that when I'm taking a workshop for myself...I just can't bring myself to give them up while teaching. Why you may ask?


  1. It helps me tell if the students hip movements and shimmies are consistent,

  2. I can see what they are doing at a glance during class,

  3. They really do frame your hips and tush nicely, and

  4. The sound is one of the most delightful, joyful noises you can hear on any given day!

Settling in

So, I had my last class in the studio near my house. It's been quite an experience there and my students have been such troopers! I had been on the fence for so long trying to decide if I wanted to teach beyond UT or not. I think there was a part of me that worried I wouldn't have enough to teach beyond what I've done so far. Since I've been doing the 6 week sessions at UT, I've moved to the point that they are easy to coordinate and pull together. So, the thought of teaching beyond that was a little daunting and a part of me kept thinking I may just be a "six-week wonder", good at short classes but not enough substance for the long haul.

Well tonight I'm feeling quite different, not only do I have a brand new beautiful space to move into but I also found that there are sooooo many things I want to do in class that I can't quite figure out which way to go. (Hopefully the class doesn't mind my short bouts of randomness on some nights). It also helps that the ladies taking the classes realize that belly dance takes more than just a few classes, that it really is a long term process that requires work and dedication. So, instead of trying to keep everyone's interest for six weeks, I feel like I can settle into the idea of drilling deeper on movement and really pushing myself and the students each week.

The coolest thing about teaching an ongoing class? Beyond the opportunity to help teach this wonderful dance form, it will allow me to learn from them as well...which in turn will make me a better dancer. So yeah for new classes and the new studio...and yeah for working hard and sweating (and a small shout out for my sore quads this evening, especially the left one).

February 22, 2008

There really was no debate

Okay, our show was scheduled for the same night and time as the Clinton-Obama debate here in Austin, and literally the debate was being held just a few blocks away. I put on a brave face and kept telling people don't worry about the traffic, it's on the other side of campus, and of course, we'll have good audience! Well, as I walked up to the Texas Union this evening the most incredibly long line of students had wrapped around the building and up the street. Apparently they were going to show the debate live in the upstairs ballroom and it was open to several hundred students.

So here I am lugging the biggest suitcase in the world (for our backdrop) and my little suitcase (for my costume) through the crowd and all I can think is please, let there be room for us inside, or at a minimum maybe the line of people waiting for the debate could just snake through the Showroom...they wouldn't be bored waiting and we would have an instant crowd. Well my concerns were for naught because one I was inside all was normal. And the best part about the evening? We had a really great show and a really good audience to boot, all in all an enjoyable time for everyone. There really was no debate for us, we were the best ticket in town. Great music, great variety...lots of props and styles of dance. Yesireee...it was the best place to get a sampling of all things wonderful about belly dance.

Now for those of you who didn't make it (you know who you are) here's your recap, take notes...there may be a quiz in your future...at a minimum enjoy the pics! (By the way, please ignore the speakers in the background, we normally cover them up...but they just got missed this time, I promise we'll be more diligent in the future).

Nisaba opened the show (with zils of course), and I absolutely love this picture of her...it really captures her smile and essence! The funny thing is she and Eve had picked the same music for the evening, and the truth is the two performances were so dramatically different you wouldn't have known that it was the same song twice!





Next came Dana Winn doing a beautiful number with Isis wings. You should have heard the crowd gasp when she came out with them...and the image of her in gold and red against the backdrop was stunning! I managed to take a short video of her...pardon the shakiness (I'm still learning this stuff) and I can't explain the poor sound quality here...however, I still like this!





Jeanette was next...and did one of her all time favorite numbers (Habibi Ya Eni), and I think to the original version of the song. Very classic Jeanette...playful, cute and upbeat. I've included a picture (it's a pose she does so well) as well as a short video clip (the quality on this one is a little better), remember to sing along.






Zanjabil did a short number to Gabe's Cat off the Light Rain CD. Oh my gosh, this song takes me back to my baby belly dancer days!!!!!! Jeanette taught this choreography to us in class, and I did this as a duet with Shane (yes a male student) with zils on the Mirage stage. I may have mentioned that event before...it was not a pretty event (zil-playing wise) but this was the song that brings it all back. The funniest part? Jeanette still remembers that choreography (and danced it behind the stage) close to ten years later...too funny for a woman who may not remember what happened 30 minutes ago, but still very impressive! Of course, Zanjabil did a lovely job and interpretation of the song which will help me get over the scars of that previous performance...I'm sure of it!

I believe I danced next, and to a song I wasn't that sure about. I was trying out a new costume and wanted something fast. However this costume has some of the longest fringe I've ever had and fast doesn't work well with it, there is just too much hang time. When I tried to do faster hip movements I was literally whacking myself silly with the fringe...so a fast song and the need for slower movements to accomodate the fringe's personality may have not been the best combination. I've been debating on selling this costume and I'm still on the fence about it...I love the color and I got a great reaction from the audience on it...but it's the darn fringe, it makes me look like I have no torso! The verdict is still out on this one...

A little side note here, Elizabeth was another guest dancer for us, but I didn't get a picture of her (I'm sorry!). She's awfully sweet and has danced with us several times before, in fact she gets major brownie points for doing the December Ararat gig with us, and freezing in the process.

Final Mirage dancer was Eva Tennessee doing a hot cane number. For a gal who doesn't have much traditional belly dance under her belt...it doesn't show. She really takes well to the folkloric styles and I love the emotion in all of her movements, yeah!



Our headliners for the evening were Midnight Breeze, a troop from the San Marcos/Wimberly area. They are great fun to watch, and as a bunch of dancers...they really are some of the nicest ladies you'll meet. Always entertaining, and a real crowd pleaser. Unfortunately I don't have pictures of all of them...and my camera batteries died before their last set (sorry ladies)! But here's what I do have (and I included one I took from behind the stage...which is what we see frequently).



The only down side of the evening was our three missing Mirage gals. Rania is uber-busy with her work and took a little break, Katarina was home sick, and Sherry had a 'column emergency' to deal with in her alter-ego engineering world. Hopefully next time we'll all be together...okay, now I'm off to bed!

February 20, 2008

Coriander???????

Okay, I'm still in the process of reading from this woman's blog (same one with the time of day quiz), and came across the "What Spice are You?". Figuring that I would come up with something sultry and sexy...I tried one more for the evening. Again, go figure!

P.S. I love the part about being subtle ;-)

Your Score: Coriander

You scored 50% intoxication, 50% hotness, 50% complexity, and 75% craziness!



You are Coriander! You're subtle. So subtle that people often forget about you. You are refreshingly clean and rather odd. You're often misunderstood. Your key word is "latent;" all your potential is wrapped up tightly until "BOOM," one day you're cilantro. Funky.

Link: The Which Spice Are You Test

I'm obviously in the wrong time zone

Okay, I saw this quiz on someone else's blog and thought it would be cute to find out "What time of day I am". This must be some type of karmic joke being played on me:



The additional description is below. Keep in mind, I think coming into the office at 9:00 is early and I normally eat my breakfast in the car.

You're 6:49 a.m.
You're the time of day right around sunrise, when the sky is still a pale bluish gray. The streets are empty, and the grass and leaves are a little bit sparkly with dew. You are the sound of a few chirpy birds outside the window. You are quiet, peaceful, and contemplative. If you move slowly, it's not because you're lazy ? it's because you know there's no reason to rush. You move like a relaxed cat, pausing for deep stretches that make your muscles feel alive. You are long sips of tea or coffee (out of a mug that's held with both hands) that slowly warm your insides just as the sun is brightening the sky.


February 18, 2008

Belly Dance Costume Errors

Okay...read the blog below, take notes and don't ever repeat these mistakes...really.

http://1001nightmares.blogspot.com/

So much for planning everything.

Okay, although I certainly can embrace ambiguity and uncertainty in life I'll admit I need a healthy dose of order and organization to get me through the week. There is a part of me that likes to mess with rules and order while another part of me that craves the continuity it brings. I've been reading a great book that talks about surrending control and really being in the moment (Eat, Pray, Love), a book I highly recommend! A friend at work had recommended it to me, and said I reminded her of the character who essentially takes a year off to travel to Italy, India and Bali in search of pleasure, duty and balance in her life. I've made it through Italy (and it took all I had not to book a flight imediately), enjoyed hearing her challenges in India (which reminds me I should meditate more) and now we're in Bali. What struck me the most is the fact that this woman (true story) headed off to a country to live and train with a Balinese healer with zero planning or preparation. She didn't have a map, didn't know where she would stay, and didn't even know if this man was still alive and would even consider working with her. Really such a great exercise in letting go...and yes, it did all fall in place for her. It sounds corny, but sometimes if you let go and surrender the Universe does give you what you need.

I really have been trying to trust in that, but lately I've been a little worried about the actual implementation of the idea. I've been teaching Informal Classes since 2001 and keep thinking I should teach outside of UT at some point in time. The logistics have always bogged me down though. Do you find a location and then find the students or do you find the students and then the location? Such a quandry! Well, last fall I had students and decided I've give it a try and quickly found a location that was convienant for me and would suit my needs. Then, I just had to trust that there would be enough students to cover the rent...and make it worthwhile. Well, without any advertising...that was accomplished (and quite quickly). So, I started out in December with some classes and eager to put plans in place for the spring to expand the number of students and really focus on helping my students (and myself) evolve as dancers.

Well, January came and I found out that the studio I was renting may be sold...and I panicked! I thought perhaps I should cancel instead of disappointing students down the road but I really didn't want to go that route. So, I thought I would let go, surrender and trust that the location would just turn up. A few weeks later, I found out that as of the end of February...no more space. Originally I thought I had plenty of time to work things out and I had some secondary plans...but the truth is I really wanted a permanent space of my own (maybe not owning the building...but not teaching at the same venue as another belly dance instructor). Well, most of my plans and options didn't work out and literally today I told myself something better turn up quickly because I was feeling panicky again.

The good news, it did... and before I started calling locations (off of a long list I had made), I got a call instead. (Really, I was just scanning my list and the phone rang!!!!!) And, the call was from my first (and optimal) choice for location, a beautiful studio called Tarrytown Dance. The owner was excited about the idea of me teaching there, there are no other class conflicts...and it's a perfect central location. Whew, what a relief! So, for today at least all I'm feeling is "yeah, Universe", thanks for taking care of me! And...what a nice feeling it is to let go of worrying and find out that everything does take care of itself in the end! Now tomorrow, we'll have to wait and see ;-)

February 16, 2008

Is it good to make it look easy?

So, after my class this morning I asked my students how things were feeling. This is the fifth of a six-session beginner class. Or, to be exact...7.5 hours of classroom time and for the majority of these students this was this first and only class. When teaching beginners I'm always torn between making things too simplified or overwhelming them. Over the years, I've settled into my own little groove on this. All I want is for them to walk away with a better appreciation of their own female form and the basics of good technique. After they leave my class, I would hope they continue to pursue classes...and I can't police everything they do, but at least I showed them the basics and made them sweat a little in the process.

So today, one of them said everything still feels awkward, and the most frustrating part is watching me do the movement, because she said I make it look so easy. I gave her my party line on that...I've been doing this for more than a decade now...and with work and practice it will become easy for her as well.

However, I've been thinking all day that maybe it isn't good to tell students it will get easier with time. Sure, your body acclimates, adjusts and sometimes even embraces the movement, but I'm not sure it becomes easy. It just becomes familiar.

For me, I always work harder teaching the class than the students do because I want to make sure every movement is precise and 'text-book' perfect. So, while they are trying to learn one perfect hip drop I'm trying to ensure every hip drop of mine is good, solid and certainly worthy of watching. I may not grimace or groan (or even sweat too much) during certain moves but they never feel "easy" because I spend so much time thinking about every part of what I'm teaching.

So, thinking about my student's comment I wonder how much I should share with the class. Do I tell them it never gets that easy and it's a lot of work, and then possibly scare them off before they are suitably hooked on this dance form? Or, do I just take the compliment and keep on going...I'm thinking I probably fall somewhere in the middle depending upon my mood that day. And today, after class (and after watching a great show with Suhaila), I think I'm feeling that the moves don't get easier...you just appreciate it when dancers make them look effortless.

February 13, 2008

Is it worth the effort?

I often ask the question, "Is it worth the effort?", and by effort I mean the prepping, the traveling to and from a show, the changing from mere mortal to belly dancer and the dolling up we all do in order to dance for 5-10 minutes? I have to admit there are some days when it just seems like too much work, but the truth is...I honestly do think those few minutes are worth every bit of effort, I just have to remind myself of that fact from time to time.

Case in point. Mirage was asked to come dance at a gig through University of Texas called Act Local, Think Global tonight. They asked us to dance for 10 minutes. Four of us (myself, Jeanette, Dana and Ginger) were available and so we said sure...why not...it's a way to get our name out and also help out UT's Informal Class program who so graciously gives us a performance venue for free. The original information and instructions were simple, show up at 6:30 in costume ready to dance. We decided on doing two numbers back to back, and I had already prepped by putting them on one CD. We would dance around the audience, do our opener number, remove zils (while noodling on stage), do our choreography and noodle off. (I'll define noodle in another post...)

However, the event coordinator emailed me early today asking if we could dance longer...which really isn't a problem, however she just couldn't define "longer" which meant I was stuck trying to figure out what we could add (is it 5 minutes or 10?), who would dance, what order...how should we transition and hmmm....I guess I need to burn another CD. So, all day long I pondered the possibilities (while listening to whatever music I had on hand in the office) and the other dancers and I emailed back and forth with suggestions. But it was all for naught, at the end of the day...nothing changed, and we were still on for the original 10 minutes.

Next I had to leave work (earlier than I had originally planned), find a parking spot, lug my bag in, and then work on transforming (in a short time) from Chris the busy professional to Najla the dancer (sometimes the distance between the two is long...but thankfully not tonight). We checked out the stage (which incidentally was a 360 degree view...no front or back) and talked through some changes (dancing back to back, altering our ending poses, etc.) to make sure we were ready.

When it was finally our time to dance, all of the tedium that goes with prepping for performances just melted away (at least for me), and once I heard the music start (thankfully it was pretty loud) and we started zilling (and zaghareeting...) the energy was contagious. Then, off we went twirling, spinning, shimmying and hip-dropping into the crowd. The cool thing is most of them probably hadn't seen belly dancers up close and personal. So, with a crowd of about 200-300 people, we certainly were the center of attention. And...boy oh boy...there were more cameras snapping away when we danced that Clinton and Obama's press campaigns combined. All I hope is that they get a pretty picture of me...I'm always captured in photos in really odd poses or with strange expressions (which by the way don't seem apparent if you watch my videos...).

And there we were, with the rush of the dancing, the pleasure and enjoyment of the faces of the crowds, and the glee of dancing with people you really like! So, for the record if you wonder whether or not all the work and effort are worth it...especially if you only get to dance for 5-10 minutes, I'd say yes, yes, yes!!!!

February 12, 2008

Creativity continued...

Okay, so this blogging thing is actually starting to groove for me a little more. Last night I managed to send out two (yeah) posts within a short period of time. In just a little over six weeks I have now surpassed my total posts for 2007. I admit, it wasn’t a tough record to beat but you have to find the challenge, the kudos and the excitement where you can. So, imagine my surprise to find out that someone had read my recent posts, and felt obliged to comment back and add their whole take on the creative process (thanks Debra). So, here are just a few things that now come to mind after reading her notes…

It is one thing to be creative and give into that process. However for me, it takes on a different meaning and purpose when you are trying to be creative in a set time, for a set format where it’s not a matter of if your work will be displayed publicly but rather when. There is also a responsibility related to those who must end up dancing and performing your work (for example forcing people to hop when they don’t like to…). And now, with nine of us in the troupe I’m having difficulty finding a balance between just getting a basic, sound choreography complete that everyone can remember and skillfully dance and my desire to add the unpredictable, the more organic, less patterned staging that I dearly love in the dance. So, that’s my dilemma in a nut shell.

But, I’ll figure it out; my short term solution is to wait one week before teaching anything. Now that the song is decided (for me at least), I can let it filter in and out of my brain for a few days…I’m humming it at work and sneaking little practices moves in the bathroom at work, and I’ll be dancing it in my car numerous times.
After a few days, I’m sure it will all percolate into something good, solid and exciting…and since I have all the faith in the world creatively with my fellow dancers, we will make it work, regardless.

My other final note…when I mentioned the great deal on shoes, I wasn’t talking cheap Payless styles…these were lovely fashions, and yes I’m on my second pair (you can't just buy them and not wear them immediately) today and yes…my feet have been hurting, but it’s such a good hurt ;-)

Bare feet may be best.

Okay, after trying on several pairs of shoes I remembered that I do my best thinking barefoot (and actually bra-less but that's another story). I must have been distracted by my recent shoe purchase over the weekend where I bagged not one, or two...but three new pair of heels for a low, low price of $20. (Yeah, let that settle in ladies). It was meant to be, they were my size, they were on sale, and I had a coupon...I think women don't really find their shoes...the shoes find them. **See, and I'm distracted once again, argh!**

The whole point of this second post (in such a short time if you didn't notice) was to talk about finding inspiration to not only dance, but choreograph a dance for others. And, although I can do it under pressure if needed, I prefer for the music to speak to me. Some of my favorite choreographies started out with one musical phrase, less than 8 counts of music...something that I couldn't let go of and wanted to expand it to an entire piece. Really, it's like picking out your outfit based on your shoes first (god, I'm channeling Sex in the City now) or picking a vacation destination because of something you bought...but in the case of dance, it can work, and work well.

I really believe you cannot dance to something you don't feel inspired by, and just picking a number because it is a certain time frame, or it meets the style criteria you're seeking is just a recipe for disaster. It sets up the dancer to get bored quickly, become disengaged and just go through the motions. We may not want to admit it, but we've all been there at one time or another, and it just plain sucks, for us and even the audience. They may politely tell you the dancing was lovely, or that you looked pretty...but even when we can't put our finger on what we didn't like about a dance, we walk away a little hungry...and wanting more of something we may not be able to name.

I also think there is a formula to good choreography. You need music that has changes, ups, downs, fast and slow to keep people interested. You need to change the dynamic of the dancers and sometimes move with the rhythm and occasionally against it. I also love the idea of juxtaposing crisp sharp, traditional movements with some elements of randomness, chaos and ambiguity. That's the hardest part of all since it requires all the dancers in the troupe to let you of their need to control each and every movement and surrended to the notion that the choreography will never be exactly the same each time.

So, I feel this enormous pressure to come up with great choregraphies that everyone will love and passionately perform, and have all of my required elements from above. I want the drama, the excitement and the sense that you can't predict what we'll do next. I want the audience to sit on the edge of their seats and think, "Wow, I didn't know belly dance was like this!". Hence the waffling between music and ideas. But, once I settled out of my shoes, and let my feet uncurl (we are talking heels here) on the bare floor...I'm feeling more inspired and motivated.

The piece of music that I came back to is oddly enough one that I started thinking about last year. I literally heard it one time and could envision an entire number off of a few notes, and without sounding too goofy...it literally moved me. Really, I'm not joking here. I felt a wave of emotion and feeling sweep through body, my breathing deepened and relaxed and I practically melted into a puddle. The song is called Yearning, and boy oh boy...I yearned! I've danced to it twice in solo performances and although I think I did a good job, I didn't have it dialed in...and I walked away feeling as if I let the music down. Which is why I've been hesitant to pick this piece for a choreography...it makes me wonder if I'm just better at putting together numbers for everyone else versus dancing them myself. So, stay tuned and I'll try to keep you posted on how this number goes for us!

February 11, 2008

Are shoes the secret to inspiration?

The business of belly dancing can be tough, it takes work, effort and a constant desire to seek new inspiration...whew!!!! Trust me, it's easy to fall into a rut, and then throw something together and go dance. After all, this is a dance born from improvisation, feeling, and truly living in the moment, right?

Well, improvisation is great, but it doesn't work with groups or students. So here I am, stuck in a non-creative, anti-inspirational mood trying to be creative and inspirational and feeling quite forced in the process. It's a lot of pressure and all it is doing is pushing me to procrastinate. I had it all planned out, I would stay home from my martial arts class tonight and work on the next choreography for Mirage. I was really happy with the last one (Entrance of the Stars) and excited that we will actually have 6 weeks to work on our next number. That means lots of time to perfect, memorize, and gel as a group, right? It all sounds great unless you're the one sitting here...trying on shoes and getting nothing else done for the evening. Nada, zippo, nil...nothing.

So why the shoes? Well, it was better than facing the fact that I haven't even gotten my trash out yet tonight...and it was a small way of rewarding myself for at least making a final decision on a song. Yep, I've been through about six of them tonight...and I've gone from Indian fusion to sword fusion to traditional cane to cane (with a fusion twist) to sword and cane (combined)....and at last settled back to a sword number with a little veil thrown in. All that waffling has worn me out and now I'm just trying to decide what to wear tomorrow, and that's starting with my shoes (which by the way are pinching...so these guys may not make the cut).

I figure if I can at least nail down a piece of my wardrobe, that will be enough decision making for the evening so I can go to bed semi-content, at least until morning when I will probably pick a different pair of shoes irregardless of all this modeling tonight. If my shoes would provide me with inspiration for dancing, I'd be set...but they aren't, so here I sit...and off to the closet to try on the next pair. If I'm lucky I'll do it while listening to my semi-final choice of music. Oddly enough it is called Yearning...which is what I'm feeling while waiting for my dance muse.

February 6, 2008

Yeah Zils!

A little ray of sunshine came back into my life this evening...I found my bag of zils. Wow, what a relief! If you're not familiar with the term, zils or finger cymbals are used as musical accompaniment for dancers. You can either play them along with the rhythm of the music, use them to create accents that don't exist or add a little musical flair to your performance. And, in case you weren't aware my zils have been missing for about a week.

It seems that dancers either love or hate zils, and there isn't much of a middle ground. They either love to play them or grudgingly put them on because audiences expect it when watching belly dancing. Personally, I used to despise them...and dreaded any time I had to take them out to play. The first time I had to use them on stage was just horrifying, and I do believe the only tape of that performance has thankfully disappeared forever. I found out that when I had to actually dance with them, I was unable to make any distinct notes if my hands were more than a couple of inches apart from each other...not conducive to a good performance!

Over time I have come to terms with my zils, and actually embrace playing them. I don't usually solo with the zils, but if you ask me to pick them up and play...no worries. I think I started to embrace zils after joining Mirage, where it's a guarantee we'll start each show playing zils. That experience combined with teaching informal classes really made me face my zil-playing fear...and I made it through stronger, smarter and more in tune with my inner zil-child. And, now I know…I do love them. It really is true; you don’t know how much you love something until you risk losing it.

It’s been tough for me...I'd already lost one pair of zils this past year, and I finally just ordered a pair to replace them. It took almost an entire year to get over that loss (silver Saroyans) because I loved how pretty and shiny they were; the weight of them; the coolness of the metal and their lovely clear, clean tones. Although I knew where to get another pair, I felt that I was admitting defeat, utter loss by going out and replacing them...but when I was faced with the loss of all my zils, I started clinging to the hope that if I got one pair back, the rest would follow.

And follow they did. I'm still waiting for my new silver zils (darn post office...they didn't come in the mail today), but I found my precious bag of zils, yeah! I have spent the last week searching, calling, seeking and hoping for my little bag of zils to turn up with no luck. I’ve called lost and found at the Union and at UT, searching through all my bags and in my car…with no luck. My biggest fear was that I had left them inadvertently at UT when I was teaching last weekend, and someone picked them up...liked the bag (it’s a cutie) and tossed out the contents. I don't typically lose keys, bags, purses, etc. so I’ve been upset with the fact that I was preoccupied or simply lazy and left my sweet little bag all alone. I worried that I let my zils down…despite the fact they’ve always been there for me…even when I didn’t love them unconditionally.

As it turns out, the bag had fallen out of another bag, and dropped behind a cushion that a cat had subsequently sat on. My little bag of zils was just hidden out of sight, but still safe and sound and in my possession the entire time. So, here I sit happy and content to have my bag back and the three sets of zils they contain. For the record, it's one pair of brass Saroyan Pros, brass Nefertiti and my very first (and dearest set of zils), the little Arabesque's that I learned to play on. *sigh*

February 5, 2008

In Case You Missed the Memo

Okay, we officially started the spring Mirage season on January 24 and there were some questions about the weather and the possiblity of freezing rain or sleet for the evening. So, being the ever diligent (okay maybe not so diligent but randomly inspired) person I am, I sent the following information out to the Austin Belly Dance list serve:

To: abd-announce@yahoogroups.com
From: cbailey00@gmail.com
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2008 21:27:31 -0600
Subject: [abd-announce] Mirage Inclement Weather Policy

Okay, I'm sure all of you have been home trying to research the Mirage policy for cold weather, rain or other possible inclement weathersituations. This has to be top of every one's list because the only reason you would miss the first show of the Mirage 2008 season (and the debut of three new members) is if you were snowed in...and still searching for that particular statutory reference. So to help you save time and energy (you'll need it for applauding at the show) here it is:
  • Belly Dance Code, Section 658.027(f)(1)(iii):Unless otherwise prohibitedby city, state and federal building closures, the show will always go on!
  • Belly Dance Code, Section 227.959(b)(6)(vii): Audience members who brave chilly, and possibly rainy conditions to watch a Mirage performance will betreated to fabulously hot dancing, multiple shimmies, warm fuzzy bunny slippers, and hot cocoa**.

I also included a disclaimer about the slippers since I really wasn't prepared to hand out masses of bunnies that evening, but my hope was the weather wouldn't hold people back, and we would have a great show. The day came for the show, it was cold and dreary but no freezing rain...no road closures and I thought we should have a nice (possibly quiet) start to the season.

Well, perhaps it was my focus on the weather, or my teasing nature that got us into trouble...but we had a show that was far from quiet and routine. In a nutshell, the music never quite behaved, we had two dancers out sick, and the audience got a special treat from me...courtesy of my bra hook breaking.

So, what's the lesson here??? Maybe it is to expect the unexpected, or to roll with the punches, I'm not quite sure but I do know that by focusing too much on one thing (weather...audience...) you may miss out on other important issues (costume hooks and CD equipment). I will say that our guests were just stunning (Yeah Sharla and Eshta), our new gals were such troopers, and the audience was a good sport. We have pictures to share with everyone...but alas the lovely Katarina has them on her camera. So, when I get copies uploaded I'll be happy to share them with everyone. Until later!

January 21, 2008

The Family is Growing

Well, right after the holidays, you may wonder about the title of this post. After all, most people are making resolutions to lose weight, reduce, minimize and simplify. If you ask Mirage, we've kind of done the opposite! This year we've added on, expanded and although there is the potential of more confusion, the truth is we can't be more excited about the changes in the troupe.

It's a tradition for the group to have an end of semester party where we can let our hair down, share some drinks and food, watch videos of ourselves (really, it's actually quite fun) and talk about the upcoming semester. In December, we also do a little holiday gift exchange which includes everything girly and fun we can imagine. The funny part is we seem to come up with a gift 'theme' each year, without any discussion among the group. Last year, it was body glitter (a precious commodity for dancers) and this year, make-up brushes. So, look out world, we'll be such a neatly coiffed and groomed group!

So in addition to our usual holiday cheer and celebrating we did talk a little business, and made some pretty big decisions for the troupe. We decided to invite not one, not two, but three new members to the troupe, whew! From time to time, people ask how they can become a member and I wish I could give a concrete answer to that question. This really is the only decision we make as a troupe that is unanimous and there really is no set format or time in which we plan for it. It really is an organic decision that we think about and then finally decide in a vote (usually after dessert of course).

The ladies we picked are such a great addition to the troupe, not only in terms of dance style but personality, energy and enthusiasm. The larger troupe numbers will actually allow us to perform at more venues (we've got a lot of really busy ladies) and try some new things in our choreographies and shows. And in case you're wondering, we didn't pick them for their hair color or height (blonde, brunettes, red head; shorter, medium, tall), that was just coincidence! So, I'll give everyone a heads up...you don't want to miss Mirage shows this spring! Without further delay, here they are:

Dana Winn

Dana is our California girl turned Texan, who moved here to be closer to her sweetie and fiance (sorry guys, all three of our new girls are taken!). She hails from San Diego where she got her 'hips wet' performing in local restaurants. She has a smile that will melt the audience and a full repertoire of dance movement that I know will dazzle even the most hard-core belly dance enthusiast. She also gets major kudos for dancing with us last December, outside in 30 degree weather. In fact, her whole family gets major brownie points for sticking it out under those conditions. That's what you get when you have a belly dancer in the family, yeah Dana!

Eva Tennessee

Eve...what can I say about this gal? She captured my heart years ago at a dancer debut show when she performed to "Groove is the in Heart". I don't remember anyone else in Mirage history leaping, bounding and dancing across so much of the stage as she did that night. She brings that same energy to everything she does. It seems like the planets were really aligned for her to come join the troupe. I hadn't seen her in quite a while (she was busy with school work!) and ran into her at ABDA's Year and a Day Show. I really wanted her to come dance again with us, and wouldn't you know it...she had decided it was time in her life to take her modern dance/theatre/director background to another level and focus on fusing this with more folkloric belly dance. It's a match made in heaven as far are we're concerned. (P.S. Eve also braved the freezing conditions last December and was brave enough to play zils with the group as well [it had been a while for her]...we learned she truly is fearless).

Zanjabil

Last, but certainly not least is Zanjabil (and yes, I did spell it incorrectly in our latest post, sorry)...which is Arabic for Ginger. I've known Ginger for many years now when she first started belly dancing here in Austin. She has an infectious laughter that you just can't forget! We thought we had lost her when she moved to Seattle with her new hubby, but that sweet, southern, sassy gal managed to talk him to returning to Austin. Thanks Billy, we really appreciate it! I admire her quick wit, smart style, and oh my gosh...the shoe collection! I had the pleasure (????) of helping her move once and was frankly astounded by the number of shoes this gal owns. Impeccable taste, lots of glamour and intelligence to boot (she has a Ph.D.). Oh yeah, and she can dance as well!!!! Side note, Ginger would have danced in the cold that night, but remember...she's the smart one who made other plans and was warm, dry and well-fed that evening ;-)

And in case you're wondering what to the call these lovely ladies, I think they've dubbed themselves the Mirage Triad...and I can't wait to see them in action!




January 16, 2008

Obligatory Promise to Blog

I have absolutely no doubt that among all the New Year’s Resolutions running rampant in this universe that somewhere among the top ten list is a promise to be more consistent with blogging. I’m not saying it tops the ‘lose weight’, ‘get new job’, ‘new relationship’ promises that always bubble up within each of us…I just want to acknowledge that I’m not the only one out there feeling the need to publicly make this promise.

I started my blog in September, feeling all fresh and rejuvenated from a summer hiatus from belly dancing. I had such grand aspirations, and a lovely list of topics to pull from. The problem I realize is that list…I have come to the conclusion that lists don’t work in blogging world. Why you ask? Well think about it. Blogs are supposed to be train of thought, on-line journaling…they should be spontaneous, sporadic, unrehearsed and certainly not planned out in a systematic fashion. Hence my downfall.

So, I decided to look for inspiration and found it in a couple of sources. First, in several blogs that are well maintained by friends. Wow, I admire their tenacity and dedication…and my competitive side also says if they can do…I can do it more often and better, right????? The second came from a simple Google search. Being the ultimate researcher that I am, I thought I would go look for some tips and tools to help out. (Side note, I really am good at finding things on the Internet…I have even had librarians call me to help locate information).

What I found was actually a little scary and has now sent me scampering to start blogging again. These are the highlights from the article.

  1. It’s easy to start a blog. But effort and consistency are required to
    maintain one.
  2. After starting it, a blog wants to be maintained. It wants fresh posts or articles. It wants it often. And not just anything will do; it wants things people like to read.
  3. Without fresh content, a blog gets stale. It whithers. It becomes another statistic.

My thoughts? Well , it turns out I am one of their statistics! Apparently, 66% of blogs (out of over 4 million reviewed) had not been updated in two months and that over a million were one-day wonders. Wow, I last posted in October…but at least, I lasted more than one day!

So, here we go again…I’m letting go of the need to write well planned articles complete with appropriate links and photos and just use train of thought. With any luck, I’ll have something very soon for everyone to look at and a whole semester’s worth of fabulous belly dancing tidbits to enjoy!