Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Problems with Posing

The last week has been a whirlwind. I completed a costume for a photo shoot I had lined up and that alone seemed like a race to the finish line. The photo shoot was an impulse event spurred on solely by the fact that a really wonderful dance photographer was going to be in Austin for a couple of days only. Pixie is her name, and very cool photos are her game.

I knew I had less than ten days to get everything ready to go. Although I knew I couldn't lose 20 pounds in that time, I wanted to feel completely confident and fabulous. The costume was more work than expected but came out wonderfully. I tried waxing my underarms for the first time (ungodly painful....but actually worth it), did my nails (which means I can't type fast right now), and even practiced eye make up applications several times.

I spent so much time working on the logistics I forgot about the emotional and physical sides of this. I've done shoots before but they were much more posed and choreographed. Imagine my surprise then when she wanted me to move more, but not in the way I was used to dancing. Every little nuance that would work on stage looked really bad on film, which now explains why my dance photos rarely turn out!

Between her barking out instructions and my mind rushing to interpret them, somewhere along the way my self-confidence and ego were just shattered. I felt overwhelmed, stiff, uncomfortable and awkward. Even my hands didn't know how to behave! I'm known for my graceful hand and arm movements but apparently they took the day off. It was an incredibly long hour and I truly felt stripped, exposed and not very joyful.

That one hour taught me more about where I need to improve as a dancer than any workshop I've ever attended. It was such a hard lesson to learn and not at all what my ego was expecting this week. She wanted joy, but I fell short. She wanted smouldering, and I fizzled. She wanted warrior and I wimped out. She wanted confidence and grace and I had none. In the end I felt like I had run a marathon without the endorphin rush.

I did learn that what translates on stage doesn't always translate to photos. You can make grand sweeping gestures, flick your hair or dazzle people with spins, however one on one with a camera those moves don't matter, they don't count and they don't work. I learned yesterday that I hide behind a variety of moves in my dance that may not always serve me well. So, my work is to let go of them, explore different movement and really assess how I want to be perceived as a dancer.

In the meantime, I do have some lovely photos to enjoy. I walked away with over 200 photos taken, about 35 that I'm pondering, and I'll end up with 12-15 that will be edited for publicity purposes. So, there were moments where I triumphed, where I hit the mark, where I was completely in the moment but it sure took a lot of work to get there!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Moving along...

Well, I have five days left in my quest to make a costume in time for a photo shoot. Although it doesn't seem like I'm very far along, I do believe I'm over the hump. Personally, I think the bra construction is really time consuming in order to get a good fit. Once that is done and it's covered, then the decorating can begin. I really should have starting taking pictures from the beginning, but here are a couple of shots so you can see the behind the curtain. The first one is just the back of the bra strap. This, along with the inside of the bra will be lined with felt (so you can sweat in it) at the very end. I tried to make my corner as neat as possible.

Here's the insider of the bra. I just happened to find a pink bra (maybe that was a sign) but really, it could have been any color you just need to worry about shape and fit. The original straps and elastic on the sides have been replaced by buckram and grosgrain ribbon, covered in fabric and then stitched down. Not so pretty on the inside, but very functional. I've also made numerous adjustments to the fit at this stage of the game because it's much harder to do once you've covered it.

The infamous beading? Well, here it is in this photo. The color is a little wonky on the close up but you can see the trim. This is going around the edges of the bra, belt and arm cuffs. The bra, including all edges and lines was about 120 inches of beading. The beads are in sets of six sitting on top of each other in a semi-herringbone pattern. By my calculations, I used over 5,000 seed beads to complete the bra. The belt won't take nearly as much!

Here's a shot of the trim that will be going on the costume. I'm not beading the entire thing, but I have loads of these chains. They are actually rhinestone belts that I snatched up on sale at Kohl's last year (go figure). My plan was to finish adding them to the bra tonight, but I can't seem to find my pliers so that may be tomorrow's plan.

In the meantime, I got my skirt fixed (thanks D'Anne) and received my L-Rose arm bands and belt I'll use on my base. Those should be easy to get through hopefully. Finally, in the absence of trying to bead, I worked on my technique for drawing leopard spots on myself. There's certainly a plan here (not related to the photos), and it's quite fun. In fact, this is the first time I could really imagine myself with a tattoo...hmmm...

Next posts should have some really cool bra photos and perhaps a semi-finished costume!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Counting to six

In an over exuberant moment I decided a few days ago to start on a new costume to wear at a photo shoot scheduled for July 20. It's an impulsive decision, and my right arm is stiff from sewing beads. I feel like this a race to the finish line, and I just hope I make it.

I've written about being in a dance funk, but I haven't written much about the happy things in my life. Among them, a shorter, brighter, sassier hair cut, wonderful dance plans for my students (and myself) this fall, and a professional photoshoot with an amazing artist!

I've wanted photos for quite awhile so when I learned this last week that Pixie was coming to Austin I knew it was time. I've never met her personally but I've seen her dance photos of other dancers and I'm just blown away by her work. She seems to really capture the personality and beauty of each woman. Besides, who wouldn't love someone named Pixie????
Although I have several back up cabaret options, I really wanted something different, something new. I did a little online shopping but didn't really see what I wanted (in a price I was willing to spend right now). Then, I thought about the supplies for a fuchsia costume that have been sitting in my closet for over a year now, and now I'm off on this mad frenzy. For a gal who shunned pink most of her life, I'm feeling quite obsessed about it right now.

I ordered upper arm cuffs and base for the belt from L-Rose on Thursday (because they have matching velvet fabric) and had them do a rush shipment. (Which they no extra cost...yeah!). Friday after the Patsy's show I went bra shopping and found a new base for the bra, tore it apart and reconstructed it in one evening. Saturday I covered the bra in charmeuse satin and velvet ribbon and began beading.

Today (Sunday) I'm still beading, and in fact have spent way too many hours counting out tiny glass seed beads in sets of six just to make the correct edging. If I make it through the next week I'll have a fabulous new costume and no feeling in my right arm. Wish me luck.

P.S. Here's a photo of the bra as of Sunday afternoon, around 4ish. If I can move my arm tomorrow, I'll check back in with everyone.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Funk Update

I've posted off and on this last year about feeling like I'm in a dance funk, and in the recent months I've been working on how to get out of that funk and on to to other things. I've realized several things in the process. First is I've been performing way too much given all the other things going on in my life. I work a full-time job, teach 2-3 classes a week, take 2-3 martial arts classes a week...and oh, then there's the laundry. On top of all of that, I've been performing 20-30 times a year.

Most of the performances haven't been strategically planned, they just get scheduled or rather I get asked to dance, or I think 'how fun' that would be. For many dancers, this would be wonderful and exciting, but I really have moved beyond the phase where I feel that I should dance at every possible opportunity into a phase of selective solos.

That being said, I've got a solo planned tonight at Patsy's Cowgirl Cafe. Yeah, don't laugh...this is Texas. It's a quirky little place that I haven't danced at since last November when I had a really nasty stomach virus (not related to the restaurant) hit me literally less than an hour after dancing. It's a fun venue and you get to eat queso after dancing!

But, here I am still at work trying to get in the mood. And, after deciding this summer I would no longer put myself in this position, I'm actually a little miffed at myself. I've been working so diligently on my 'plan' for this fall to get back in the groove and focus more on my creative energies, my dancing and myself and this one just isn't fitting in.

My biggest dilemma for the evening? What to wear and what to dance to. Here's the TMI portion of the post: I haven't shaved my underarms and don't want to because I want to get them waxed next week (which is big news for a woman who's always shaved). I have a couple of more casual/fusion outfits with sleeves that would be perfect for the venue, but I'm not feeling the fusion-y dance vibe. I've been feeling very cabaret classic lately. So I may just go with the more traditional song and less traditional outfit, 'cause I'm thinking the cowgirls may not know the difference :-)