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Tuesday, 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!

Sunday, 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).

Friday, 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!


video


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.



video


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!

Wednesday, 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.


Monday, 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 ;-)

Saturday, 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.

Wednesday, 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!!!!

Tuesday, 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!

Monday, 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.

Wednesday, February 06, 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*

Tuesday, February 05, 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!