Thursday, December 17, 2009

pride, prejudice and on being "the best"

Behold, the Miss Universe tiara (2002-2007). This tiara was created by the international pearl culturer / jewelry house, the Japanese Mikimoto. 500 almost 30 carat diamonds and 120 pearls were used for this USD 250,000 masterpiece. The shape itself reminisces of phoenix rising, the symbol of status, power, and beauty.

A true work of art that befits a woman who has gone through a hard selection and conquered odds to be considered as the most intelligent, the most poise, the sexiest, and of course, the most beautiful.

Indeed, I daren't say that not all of the women chosen for Miss Universe competition are beautiful. But then again, what is beauty? Isn't it on the eye of the beholder? Who is the most beautiful woman in the world right now? Is it Megan Fox? By what, and whose standards?

Even before I danced in "The Dance Within" with Lilith, many people have come to me and said, "You are the best bellydancer!"

I was flattered, of course. My ego was boosted and my head went through the roof. I became ten feet tall and believed I could stomp on other dancers, oriental or tribal.

But lately, it has really become something that gives me the itch. It is really, truly uncomfortable.

I mean, honestly, yes, I do have an ego as big as Jupiter, but one day, when I was browsing the net, I found a youtube video of an oriental dancer who claimed to be the best oriental dancer in her country (and the fact that she once came home as the SECOND RUNNER-UP in the local bellydance competition didn't seem to stop her from using that gimmick: "the best"). I got intrigued, saw the video, and shook my head.

It was bad enough to see her facial expression giving away the fact that she was trying so hard to remember the choreography, but it didn't stop there. Some of her techniques were just way off and I know one oriental dancer also in the same country who dances 100 times better (in my opinion).

She was the one who uploaded the video to youtube and in every youtube video of her and her troupe (that she uploaded herself), she always put "The best bellydancer in X country". Heck, she even put that as her tagline right under the logo of her studio. At least that's what I saw in her website. I've never been to her studio because she's not in Jakarta. She's not even in Indonesia.

So, based on what standards are we considered as the best?

Basically, I think for oriental and tribal, the standards are: techniques, vocabulary of movements, range of movements, knowledge of the dance, costume, make-up, dancing experience, teaching experience, certificates (not necessarily in that order).

Then, in this MTV-oriented world where attention deficiency is everywhere, a dancer needs to keep his or her audience's attention. Props (veil, zills, sword, pot, tray, candle, shamadan) come to mind, so does gymnastic abilities. You know, the sharp-pop-exaggerate-your-maia-lock-fold-your-body kind of thing.

And now, based on whose standards?

Definitely not our OWN standards. We don't live in this world by ourselves. Just one, single, lonely dancer.

Students judge us, spectators judge us, our fellow dancers judge us, our teachers judge us, the youtube judges us.

It just doesn't feel right when you make up a biography of yourself and you dub yourself as the best. How do you know? Who told you that? It is true that you have to sell yourself, your troupe, and the studio that you have, but come on... What if people think of you as a joke?

Whenever someone came up to me and said, "You're the best bellydancer!" I always asked them, "Have you ever seen other bellydancers?" I gave them the names of several troupes and institutions. Some still said I was the best while others succumbed into saying, "The best male bellydancer!" and right away I shot another question, "Have you ever seen other male bellydancers?" and I gave them other names.

Usually they would just smile and say, "Take the compliment, will you?" and I would thank them.

But I still feel some discomfort deep down in my heart. "What if other people think of me as a joke?"

That question nags and nags and nags. My troupe and I always put our best in every performance. Many said we're the best. But we just shrugged it off with a thank you. Possibly because we're trying to keep a low profile and because we're not sure that we are the best.

The Velvet Raqs dancing to "Eternal Triangle" by Paul Danna (OST "Kama Sutra")
during "The Dance Within" recital, Saturday, November 21st, 2009, in RRI Auditorium, Jakarta.
Photo by Stef Manfrotto (2009).

We obviously didn't believe it when people say that we were the best when we were just starting out. I mean, obviously our costumes weren't even proper enough to be called "the best". "Good enough"? Yes. "Just good?" Maybe. We don't mind. "Very good"? Why, thank you. But "the best"?

By what standards and whose?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

my worst nightmare

Today was supposed to be a quite seamless day. Everything went well. Even the streets were agreeing. They were relatively empty. In fact, they were empty enough that I could cut at least 20 minutes from my usual one-hour trip to a studio where I teach every Wednesday evening.

I arrived early (regardless of my infamous image of being unfashionably late, I almost never arrive late to teach) and waited for the aerobics class to end.

When it ended, I said hello to the aerobics instructor. She left and I popped in one CD I usually use to build the Oriental atmosphere. When the participants had gathered, I went on my regular routine: asking if there was any first-timer (no one, but there was one lady who had only joined in last week) and explaining the posture - the most important rules of oriental dance so as not to get them injured.

And then I switched on to the second CD - the one I always use to teach, with the tracks organized to form a flowing exercise: first is the warm-up and stretch, second is the oblique-toning figure eights, third is the abs-toning camel and reverse camel, fourth is the abs and obliques with omis and big circles. The cardio begins at the fifth track with the accents, and the sixth track is for the shimmies. The choreography uses the seventh track, and the cool down is the eigth.

The CD was... unplayable. I tried to load, unload, reload, unreload... And still, the interface said: No Disc.

I had no option but to use the first CD. Thank goodness I could use the tracks to also do the toning and cardio (it was at a gym, so almost no art was involved, just really basic things where I can't be too idealistic and perfectionist).

But, alas... The song for the usual choreography was not in the first CD. However, there was this song that I've been trying to do a cutesy choreography with ("Kol Youm fi Omry" by Elissa - a Lebanese pop song). So I explained to them that the choreography would be even more basic and would be a spontaneous one (I wasn't kidding. I was really familiar with the song and had made a few outline steps a few months ago, but that was it).

I just realized... Ohmigod, Elissa again??? My first solo dance was to her "Ayshalak" and a few days ago I found "Ayami Bik" (also by her) and in the middle of finishing a choreography on the song. She's really something else.

"Kol Youm fi Omry" - Elissa

Sooo, with my very, very, very limited knowledge (plus the fact that I had to teach MYSELF and THE PARTICIPANTS a SPONTANEOUS choreography that I might NOT REMEMBER when dancing the SECOND TIME), I danced.

I did a little thing with the Egyptian walk (step, bump, step bump) and modified the step. There were 10 participants and only one (the lady who just came in last week) who kept losing the beat and the steps.

But the show must go on. I went on with the new choreography the second time (it was, thankfully, easy enough even for me to remember the whole thing), and promised the participants that it was going to be the new choreography that they would be learning the next week. I also told the one lady that I would get back to her after the cool down to explain the steps.

And then we cooled down and stretched and I ended the class, took a deep sigh, and gave the lady an extra ten minute to teach her about the step. I still didn't think it get to her, though. But she nodded and I told her with a big smile to practice because I wanted to see her executing the move next week.

Now, note to self: always bring a spare CD, always know a simple song or two by heart (especially if you teach basic beginners or at gyms) so you at least have a basic frame of the beat and can make a repetitive combo, always try to be patient (I suck at this, really, really), and motivate, encourage, and remind them to be patient with their own bodies.

Oh well, now I need to finish the choreography.

Monday, November 30, 2009

(parts of my) dreams are coming true... soon - belly dance festival asia 2010: shimmy in bali

One of my friends who also belly dances sent me a message through the ever-practical-really-useful Facebook *sighing longingly at Mark Zuckerberg's picture*.

Apparently, the Belly Dance Festival Asia 2010, which was originally going to take place in Malaysia, is relocated to... *drumroll...*


Well, not exactly in Jakarta, though. I mean, come on. Jakarta's filled with big yaks of hypocrites. Where else would a belly dance festival take place but in Bali?

The perfect excuse to get on a plane and see my boyfriend (he lives in Denpasar).

JillinaSharon KiharaElizabeth Strong
Jillina, Sharon Kihara, Elizabeth Strong

So, on February 25th until 28th, Indonesia will host Jillina and the Belly Dance Evolution. That's like... four freaking days of workshops. I'll obviously be taking lessons from Sharon Kihara and Elizabeth Strong. There's one particular workshop by Louchia - the Armenian Dance that I'm interested in joining. And for the closing is the gala dinner and show by Jillina and the Belly Dance Evolution.

To tell you the truth, I'm happy. Really, I am. I mean, I get to see Sharon Kihara and Elizabeth Strong! And learn from them! I pass Jillina's workshops. I mean, seriously, I'm not on her level. I'll let my teacher, Ms. Miftahul, learn from her (she's a big fan of Jillina's) and cascade the lessons down to us. Hopefully Jillina won't be as gruesome as Sadie. Earlier this year, Ms. Miftahul went to Malaysia to take Sadie's workshop and she came back drilling us like crazy. I'm telling you, the amount of sweat and pain almost killed us all.

However, yeah. I'm happy but I'm not ecstatic. I was already planning to go to Malaysia for the Belly Dance Festival Asia 2010 and a huge reason was because of Ansuya. I don't know why, but she's not coming to Bali for the workshop. Ozzy's going to be there, but no Ansuya.

I've said this many times before and I'm going to say this again. Ozzy is a hottie.

But then again, NO ANSUYA!!!

She's like... the epitome of American Oriental. Okay, I don't know where she's heading with all her cabaribalusion thing, but I really enjoy her dancing. Just like I enjoy Anaheed's and... well... Most American Oriental dancers in general.

The Belly Dance Festival Asia 2010: Shimmy in Bali is proudly presented by The Haremqueen Dancers and Magnificent 9 Production. I've heard about Haremqueen for sometime now and I'm so happy that they're doing this for the sake of Oriental (and Tribal) dance in Indonesia.

To all belly dancers in Indonesia, I'm not going to overrate Jillina or the Belly Dance Evolution, but this is the time to really spend your hard-earned money and invest on the workshops.

Monday, November 23, 2009

next stop, las vegas!

"The Dance Within", the first annual recital of DanceWave Center Jakarta, was a success. We danced in front of a sold-out audience. It was just too bad that some who had bought the tickets didn't come to the show.

There were mishaps with the lighting and the sound, but in overall, the audience was impressed. We got great reviews and we're currently attaining the feedbacks from people for the post-mortem evaluation.

That evening, I danced three times. The first one was in the first act, I danced with our professional troupe, The Velvet Raqs, with veils to "Eternal Cry" from Kamasutra's Soundtrack and "Ice Queen" by Paul Dinletir. Up next was Lilith and I dancing a Balkan number to "Fanfara Mocvara" by Figli di Madre Ignota. The third one was a hip hop vs. oriental dance battle to a Middle-Eastern influenced hip hop song by Che'Nelle called "Teach Me How to Dance".

In the battle song, the hip hop and the oriental troupes demonstrated that there are several movements in hip hop and oriental that look alike and follow the same principles. These movements, although alike, are fairly different, yet can move together in harmony.

Okaaay, so I danced four times. The last one was a cheesy dance number that I choreographed as the closing dance for all performers to dance to. It was cheesy, really fun, and really easy. It was so High School Musical type of dance to "Dance Little Lady Dance" by Tina Charles.

I got flower bouquet from a dear friend, three kisses from my boyfriend, a big hug from Mom when I got home (the entire family watched the show), and loads and loads and loads of fans who asked me to pose for a picture with them. Of course I tagged Lilith along. She deserved the credit as well!!

Anyway, I'm glad we can put the show behind us and still bask in the afterglow of the spotlight. Here's a picture of me balancing Lilith on my head.

Dancing with Lilith in
Photo by Troy Norman (2009)

Next stop, Las Vegas!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

succumbing to standards

My troupe is set for three performances in the upcoming two weeks. One on Saturday, another one on the next Saturday, and the last one on the Sunday. Performances mean so many things for us, or for me, at least. We get to put on our costumes, put on our make-ups, show off our moves, study our moves and mistakes (if any) later on (in the video), have a chance to show our existence, get more stage-time and experience, and of course get paid.

I was excited. My costume was almost ready (except for the white top with white/silver paillettes and sparklies that will make me look like a belly dancing member of the Ice Capades) and I got the moves right.

We were already confused as to why we were hired by one big gym franchise while the events are organized in places that not only not have those gym clubs, but the competing gyms of big names. But we brushed the thought aside and were even excited that we could perform and be seen by people from other gyms.

And then one night as I was returning from teaching, I received a message from my teacher. Apparently, the organizer was not our gym, but a fitness equipment manufacturer and distributor. And the organizer only wants female dancers. I was disappointed. Sad, even.

I mean, everyone knows I'm a total show-off and attention whore. And desperate for dough.

But seriously, folks, Oriental Dance is a dance for everyone. Male, female, gay, straight, stick thin, slim, standardly built, voluptuos, curvaceous, plain big, tall, short, young, old. Heck, I even know dancers with bipolar syndrome and one foot that's shorter than the other.

And that's right. That's exactly what it is. This is a dance that demands everything from you but keeps you liberated enough to not care about those things above. Oriental Dance can be as low impact as walking (gorgeously, that is) to medium-high (shimmies, powerful accents). And yet everyone can do it, unlike the the more complicated dances like salsa or hip hop (I know I can't). But don't get me wrong. Oriental Dance is just as challenging. I know dancers who've been dancing for a long time (modern, contemporary, hip hop, salsa) that can't dance Oriental.

However, when it comes to being hired or dancing semiprofessionally or professionally, you have to be ready for the ultimate challenge: the rejection because of the said points above.

And I have been rejected for being a male.

I can deal with the rejection. But I can't help but think the reasons I got that kind of reaction. And so I formed three theoretical answers:
  1. The organizer thinks that Oriental Dance is a women's only dance
  2. The organizer thinks that Oriental Dance is a women's only dance, that's why if it's danced by a male, he will dance in drag (and the organizer doesn't want it)
  3. The organizer thinks that Oriental Dance is a women's only dance, that's why if it's danced by a male, he won't dance seriously but just to illicit laughter from the audience (and the organizer doesn't want it)
The answers above are very much related to the organizer's knowledge about Oriental Dance and the men who dance it. And I should say it's right next to nothing.

But on a lighter note, thank goodness I haven't worked overnight to finish the white top.

Friday, October 02, 2009

fusion confusion and the trouble with tribal...

... Is that people think it's just doing the ooey-gooey stuff like Rachel Brice, or dressing up with flowers stuck in their hair and big chunky bracelets and armlets, or doing that crazy layback drop (again) like Rachel Brice, or having tattoos (preferably on the stomach area), or mixing styles from all over the world and call it Tribal Fusion.

To me, "Tribal" is not that easy. I don't care if people call me a Tribal Purist. Heck, I don't think I even want to take "Tribal" workshops from dancers except from The Indigo Girls, Naimah (yeah, right, when is she coming here), Elizabeth Strong (she's coming to Malaysia next year! Aaarggh, gotta save money!!), and possibly some of the BDSS Tribal Dancers, but just because I've seen them dance. God knows how much I want to study from Zoe Jakes and Mardi Love.

The thing is, when I had that crashcourse on "American Tribal Style" (ATS) and "Tribal Fusion" with Ms. Joe in Tokyo, I was exhausted. Especially my upper body parts like the shoulder blades and my arms. The posture kills me! But That's why I love ATS.

And then we began training on "Tribal Fusion". She had prepared two choreographies: one Tribal-Jazz and one Tribal-Hip-Hop. We didn't have time for the Hip Hop one, so we tried out the jazz. Did I like it? Yes, a lot. Although I've two left feet for jazz. But I liked it because the choreography was so rich. The repetitiveness was minimal and 98% of the movements is oriental.

Yes. You read correctly. "Oriental".

In my opinion, it's really important to step in on the right track at the beginning, and that first step is Oriental.

There's nothing to argue, really. Even ATS is largely influenced by oriental dance. Where else will you find figure eights, shimmies (particular shimmies, not like the salsa ones), and camels but in Oriental?

Ms. Joe constantly reminded me to always ground myself and make the movements look earthy, by doing things flat footed (doing flat-foot maias look so different than doing them while lifting your heel alternately) and not being too bouncy. Unmata dances to fast music so they couldn't help but being bouncy, but there's still the earthy quality in their dance (possibly because those girls don't shave their armpits, but hey, why should they anyway?)! And I find Sharon Kihara the bounciest, at least in her performances in the Tribal Fusion Fundamentals and her Instructional Video. And I don't like that.

And some people think "Tribal" is... "Tribal". They praise the dance without even knowing the very existence of ATS's Tribal Pura (FatChance Belly Dance's collaboration with Devyani Dance Company) or "Improv Tribal Style" (ITS), the more international form of tribal cues.

As for fusion... Personally, again, call me a purist (although I am definitely not one), maybe this is why I opt not to take Hip Hop or Salsa or Capoeira, because I know for a fact that some people are so Hip Hop that they look Hip Hop when they're doing Salsa or Oriental. I know for a fact that some people are so Salsa that they look Salsa when they're doing Hip Hop or Oriental. I greatly admire Zoe Jakes. She does that pop & lock thing without looking like Hip Hop pop & lock.

But one thing is certain. You can't wear a bare-midriff outfit and do whatever style it is, throw in figure eights for eight counts in a song that's five-minute long and call it "Tribal".

Sorry for being so bitter, but I just can't stand people who say that they do "Tribal" just as an excuse not to learn about Oriental, or worse, not to learn about ATS. Granted, there's no ATS class here and you have to have at least one partner to perform ATS (or ITS), but at least know where "Tribal" sprang from, forgodssake.

And I'll bet lots of "tribalists" have never even heard of Jamila Salimpour, Bal Anat, Masha Archer, or Carolena Nericcio.

bal anat
Jamila Salimpour (seated middle with black dress) with her Bal Anat troupe

Just for your information, Carolena Nericcio has been doing that layback-drop way before Rachel Brice. And don't get me wrong, I love RB and have a lot of respect for her. She's clearly taken Tribal Fusion (or as she labels herself and the Indigo now, "Burly Fusion") to a new level and helps promote Tribal, Tribaret (Tribal Cabaret), and ATS and ITS to a new level.

I feel so bitchy right now.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"the dance within" - the first annual recital of dancewave center jakarta

Yep, it's official!

The dance institution I'm currently involved with, DanceWave Center Jakarta, is going to throw its first ever annual recital!

Not only am I excited to be able to perform in the event, but also because I'm serving as the chairman and co-originator of the concept. Yeah!! Finally, something that I can be proud of.

The Dance Within
"Defying norms, disobeying regulations. To dance, to live, to celebrate"

Saturday, November 21st, 2009 - 7 PM onwards
Auditorium of Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) Jakarta
Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat, Jakarta

Tickets are Rp. 75,000 (House / Stage Level)
and Rp. 65,000 (Wing / Stage Level)
Contact me at or +62811939906 for tickets

Now, I'm going tell a litle bit about the concept to you.

We started off with a very simple idea: two rival dance schools trying to outdo one another. Of course, one of the hip hop teachers said that it was too much like Step Up 2! Meow. I hadn't watched the movie at that time so I didn't know. So off we went on our own merry ways, trying to figure a great story line.

You might probably be thinking, oh what's so hard about finding a story for a belly dance recital? Well, that's the problem. It's not just a belly dance recital. DanceWave Center Jakarta teaches not only American Cabaret Belly Dance, but also Hip Hop Dance (with Sexy Ladies / Hip Hop Burlesque Dance as the offshoot).

Some of you might know that Indonesia has this newly installed porn-bill. It's umm... a set of laws that regulates pornograpy in the country. The bill is very controversial because many people (especially artists and those who work in the fields of art) fee that it really limits their work. After the bill was officiated, one of the traditional dances here, the Jaipong Dance from West Java, recently got mentioned as being too porn-y to be danced in public, thus inciting public outcry from the much publicized incident.

Se we thought, why not use it? Belly dance (or dance, or art in general) is definitely not a porn dance, yet it is considered as vulgar by many people. Then a story was built. We created a character, a nameless dictator with his two loyal henchmen. The dictator forbids all kinds of dance in the country and with his two henchmen always manages to ruin dance shows and performances.

The dancers are so fed-up that they throw a secret underground dance party, not only to show off their talents, but also to do what they really love: dancing.

Sadly, the evil dictator and his henchmen were able to slip into the party. Yes. He comes, he sees, and he conquers. But what does he conquer? Does he conquer the dancers, imprison them for good, and finally restore his version of peace in the country? Or does he conquer himself and let the passion from within - the dance within - to overcome and overtake him?

You gotta come and see the show to know.

And I'm not going to overrate it (no, seriously), so all I can say is that all these dancers, both the hip hop dancers and the belly dancers are doing some serious practices and rehearsals.

The hip hop dancers are ready to show you dancing feats that are, as they put it, "really rad". Like steppin', stompin', poppin' & lockin', crumpin', other in'-s, as well as classic hip hop moves and PussyCat Dolls type of semi-Burlesque dance.

Meanwhile, the belly dancers will showcase their talents in using props such as veils and zills and precise drum solos. There will be Isis Wings and yours truly here will dance with Lilith the Scimitar. YAY!!!

So yeah. I'm excited.

And I want you to come. Seriously. Indulge your eyes, ears, and soul and open your mind to these two dances that so different, yet can move so harmoniously together, one after the other.

"The Dance Within" - the first annual recital of DanceWave Center Jakarta will be held on Saturday, November 21st, 2009 at Auditorium Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) Jakarta, from 7 PM onwards (the show's around 80 minutes).

Tickets are already available. You can buy from me. Just contact me through my e-mail or cellphone at +62811939906. I'm selling two types of tickets: House (Stage-Level) Rp. 75,000 per person and Wing (Stage-Level) Rp. 65,000 per person.

Buy as soon as possible. We're selling like mad here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

whatever lola wants

I know I was supposed to blog something about sword care and all the hooplah, but one night when I was struggling with my insomnia streak due to the fact that I slept all day long, I went to IMDB to search for news about the movie I've been anticipating for about a year now: Whatever Lola Wants.

Whatever Lola Wants is a film by Nabil Ayouch, a Moroccan film director and it is Mr. Ayouch's first (or is it second? I don't know, IMDB and Wikipedia give me conflicting data) attempt in creating a foreign movie. The original film is in English starring Laura Ramsey (Lords of Dogtown, She's the Man) as the title character.

Whatever Lola Wants tells the story of Lola, the New York postal worker who also tries to have a career in dance (she auditions, takes jazz dance trainings) but never succeeds. Until one day, her gay Egyptian friend, Yussef (Achmed Akkabi) shows her the video of Ismahan (Carmen Lebbos), the legendary bellydancer from Egypt. Ismahan was once famous but became ostracized because of her affair.

While delivering mails, Lola meets Zackariah Akef (Assaad Bouab), an Egyptian man living in New York. With a little help from Yussef, Lola finally gets to know Zack. However, Zack leaves Lola because he has to return to Egypt. Needless to say, Lola follows him, much to the disapproval of Yussef who says that Egypt is not a country for a woman. He's gay and that makes him even worse than shit ("Je suis pede et donc je suis pire que merde"). But Lola has made up her mind and is going to Cairo.

In Egypt, however, Zack disapproves of Lola's passion for dancing, saying that no good Egyptian woman dances in clubs. After Zack leaves, Lola begins her search for Ismahan, begging to be taught by her, and later winning her respect and becomes a star.

Ismahan teaching Lola
Ismahan (Carmen Lebbos) teaching Lola (Laura Ramsey)
the basic movements of bellydance

The movie has a happy ending (I cried tears of joy). The version I downloaded (yeah! But I will buy the original! I promise!) is in French. And thank goodness all those years of learning French, including a six-week homestay stint in Nice, France has finally paid off. I understand almost all dialogs but I am still going to need to buy the original DVD because it has the original version which is in English. UPDATE: I have purchased the DVD and found that the French version is actually better.

There are so many cool characters in the movie, especially Adham (Nadim Sawalha), Ismahan's butler who is also her friend, number one fan, and the vanguard of her sanity. Adham at times enlightens Lola over why Ismahan's behaving the way she is.

Needless to say, Whatever Lola Wants is a very good movie. It has everything. It has the hard transformation from a stiff jazz dancer into a flowing, elegant bellydancer (Ramsey has done a fine job, and although I personally think Morocco - like Suhaila Salimpour - is way overrated, she has also certainly done a great job in creating the choreographies).

One of the most memorable scenes from Whatever Lola Wants

It shows what Egyptian people think of women who dance (sharmootah/ prostitutes) and yet have double standards about it (as shown in the Nile Tower where the best and the most authentic bellydance is performed - including later by Lola), it shows how Egyptians think of foreign women who dance (stealing their profession although later can be befriended), it shows how Egyptians think of homosexuals (I only heard about it, but somehow it makes me feel reluctant to go there and learn Raks Sharki, although Ms. Maria Aya once told me that they wouldn't do anything to tourists or foreigners), it shows a glimpse of Egyptian culture as well (albeit more modern cultures).

But most importantly is how the movie tries to explain what exactly is belly dance. In her speech after she dances on the last night of her performance before returning to New York, Lola says that bellydance, the dance that is very important to Egyptians, has become an important thing also to her. And she adds that it's why she's returning to New York to share the joy of the dance with Americans.

Through Ismahan, Lola finally discovers what tarab is. It is the soul of the music, of the dance. In Indonesia, we call it taksu: the life of the art. Each work of art has its own breath, its own life. As artists, we are responsible to give life to our work of art. Dancers do that with their bodies. Tarab is shown not only through the facial expressions, but also through the movement. But tarab doesn't stop only in one person - the artist. Instead, it is transferred to the audience. If the artist can make the audience feel the tarab, then the artist has succeeded.

There is also a very important point that is being made by Ismahan when she teaches Lola. When you dance, you dance for yourself. Never, ever, dance for a man.

Ismahan and Lola
Lola doing the Tango with Ismahan after tricking Ismahan to dance. Ismahan danced and Carmen Lebbos did an excellent job with Ismahan's facial features - it was filled with so much joy when she dances. I really love it when people can project the feel of the dance (and from within themselves) through their facial expression.

And that about sums everything we need to know about real bellydance. It is not an erotic dance to seduce others. Sensual? Yes. Sexual? Of course. Seductive? Never.

Another thing that I would like add is the fact that thousands of bellydancers and nonbellydancers around the world has anticipated this movie since we first heard the buzz in December 2007 during its premiere in the Dubai Film Festival. However, it fails to attract more major film promoters. I have tried persuading some friends who work for the Jakarta International Film Festival to show this movie, but I don't think it'll ever be shown.

There is one cineplex who claims to be idealistic and promises to show independent and lesser-known movies, but I think (and I accuse that) it succumbs to capitalism (which can be a good thing) and will never play Whatever Lola Wants. The cineplex network here plays the cheesy High School Musical, Honey (seriously, I hate that movie so much. I don't think Jessica Alba can dance), and can you believe they have Step Up 2??

The poster of "Step Up 2".
*gasp* I see the girl baring her belly but it's okay because it's not bellydance!

Don't get me wrong, I love contemporary and Hip Hop dances too, but when Save the Last Dance was released, we've seen everything! And I don't want to alarm you, but there's actually Save the Last Dance 2.

See? I'm not joking.
And it's released by none other than the great, M(indless)TV

All I can say is, come on, we need something new and fresh here! There's nothing porn about bellydance, there's nothing porn about Whatever Lola Wants either! Heck, sometimes I feel that I can't even see the movements because of the camera angle and some of the glamorous, fashionable, yet unflattering costumes.

A scene from Another still from
These two pictures show a scene from Step Up 2. See the girl in red? She's dancing in the rain with a cropped tank top that clings to her skin because it's wet. She's also baring her belly, and oh, grabbing her left breast.
You'll never see that (touching oneself with that kind of facial expression) in real bellydance, like the one shown in
Whatever Lola Wants.

A screen-cap from
Meanwhile, this is Lola. Gorgeous, gorgeous costume.
Sexy? Hell yeah! Trashy? Hell no!

But all in all, watching Whatever Lola Wants is really the cherry on top of a fine day for two reasons: first is finally watching a dance movie that is honest and speaks a lot on my behalf (bellydance and homosexuality) and the second one is I finally got a chance to (forcefully) practice my French.

Nuff said.

By the way, my boyfriend and I recently watched the movie Ready? OK! about a boy who defies the norm of a Catholic School he's in that says boys can't be cheerleaders. That boy's definitely gay (I just adore him. He's like Ugly Betty's Justin!) and it has a happy ending too! Now that is an even deeper and more conflicting movie than Billy Elliott.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

what do they think of us?

Last week was one of the pinnacles of my dance career, dancing American Cabaret three nights in a row. It was supposed to be four nights, but the Samarra people cancelled the event. Needless to say, the experience was not only fun and exhausting (not the dance part, two of the venues were located so far away from home that getting there was challenging), it also brought my dance sisters and me closer together, what with the endless hours of waiting for our turn to dance and the late supper and juicy gossips afterwards.

It is ironic how some simple (and sinful) gossips can lead you to evaluating yourself. After the second performance night, I went back with my teacher and one of my dance sisters. I drove and we shared tips from other experiences, listened to good drum solo songs for future haflas, and talked about other troupes and classes.

My teacher gives courses in different places and teaches different levels. Some of her students have seen us in our Shimmering Shimmies hafla earlier this year. It surprised me to know that our group (since we don't have a proper troupe name) is called by my name & co. So instead of my teacher & gang, it's Yuska & gang. Despite the pride, I also feel a bit worried about the image. I mean, when alone and not dancing, I won't be bothered by it. But in dancing, I have a mission to educate people on what belly dance, and more specifically a guy doing belly dance, is all about.

I don't just shake my hips. I learn how to move in unison with the song. I learn props like veils, zills, and the scimitar and how to handle them properly (although I have failed lots of times due to the lack of practice). My teacher always strives to improve us, always checks the details. I have dance sisters who are so zealous about blocking and positions. One other sister always thinks meticulously about the costumes. Me, being a nerd, I'm always interested in sharing the details about the history of the dance.

Granted, no one can ever clearly define what makes a dance be called a belly dance. I mean, there's the costume for a start. Most dancers when they're not dancing a folkloric piece, use the two-piece bedleh with the optional body suit. Many dancers for whatever reasons (mostly aesthetical), prefer the one-piece costume. Some dancers prefer to wear pants, others skirts, others skirts on top of pants. Costume-wise, however, I think all belly dancers in general wear some kind of a belt or a scarf tied around the hips to accentuate the torso movements. Some wear coined hipscarfs while others wear fringed hipscarfs.

However, costume is not the only way to distinguish whether one is dancing Middle-Eastern Folkloric style, Egyptian style, Turkish style, Lebanese style, American Cabaret style, American Tribal style (ATS), Tribal Fusion style, or even belly dance at all. Read this one website that so aptly writes about costuming (and something with a TV repairman putting on scrubs and suddenly he's a heart surgeon. Wouldn't want to risk your life on it, would you?)

Holy Smokes!
She seems to be forgetting her skirt. Or pants.
And I am so going to shoot whoever sewed the paillettes on her bra.
Sadly, this photo was taken at a party somewhere in Indonesia.
So I suspect that the Asian-looking girl is Indonesian. *sigh*

Obviously the girl in the picture above, although she's wearing beaded bra with sequines and a coined hipscarf, she is not doing the belly dance, because no belly dancer would ever be caught dead with no proper bottom garment. Nice tummy, though!

The next visible thing that can differentiate the belly dance with other styles of dancing is the extensive use of stomach muscles that may or may not include isolations. There is a school of thought that believes Egyptian style belly dance does not restrict itself to crazy isolations like Western dancers do. Think of Taheya Carioca vs. Sadie or Samiya Gamal vs. Ava Fleming. I have seen performances of ATS and they have smaller, more defined movements.

I think the isolation is the core reason why some Tribal Fusion style dancers look a lot like break dancers (Sera from Solstice comes to mind - just look at her end performance in the East Coast Bellydance DVD. It's more to break dance instead of belly dance. Dusty in Bellydance Superstar's Tribal Fusion DVD is also doing it. Still very cool, though, but it's not belly dance).

But if you're talking about Rachel Brice, now that's isolation. She's indeed very earthy and serpentine-like, even in her "bouncy" drum solos. Sometimes I prefer watching Sharon Kihara (that girl seriously has cool shimmies) to Rachel. And like Ms. Joe, my teacher in Japan said, Kami Liddle and Mardi Love are so going to shine new lights to Tribal Fusion scene. Kami is soooo gorgeous and I am so loving Mardi! Zoe Jakes has some crazy fast turns that I think I can never master. Then again, no one can beat Carolena Nericcio or Kajira Djoumahna (although I think Kajira's Mo' Rockin Hip Hop movement is a bit awkward).

Now let's put ATS and the offsprings (Tribal Fusion, Tribal Gothic, Gothic, etc) in a box and return to Oriental. Indeed, "Oriental" refers not only to the Eastern countries such as China and Japan, the origin of the word actually describes something that is not Western (European). And that includes the Middle East. In some cases, if you listen to Middle-Eastern music and compare it with Chinese music, especially those with strings (whether using instruments like the guitar, violin, or harp), you can hear striking similarities in the chords.

The biggest groups of the Oriental style belly dance are Egyptian style (that may include Egyptian Cabaret style), Turkish style, Lebanese style, Greek style, and American Cabaret style. If you are a big fan of Bellydance Superstars Live in Paris DVD like me, based on my (unfair) classification and other dancers' opinions, you'll notice that Jillina can be classified as having Egyptian and Egyptian Cabaret style. She also sometimes incorporates traditional dances such as the Khaleegy (Raks al Na'shar) in her drum solos.

Sonia's gracefulness and her movements that I consider as heavily influenced by ballet and jazz remind me so much of the era the bellydancers call the Golden Age of Belly Dance. That's when the great Lebanese dame Badia Masabni opened her Opera Casino in Cairo and recruited such dancers like Taheya, Samiya, and Fifi Abdo. Therefore I classify Sonia as an Egyptian style dancer (if only she would smile once in a while).

Amar Gamal, another incredible dancer with the best shimmies I've ever seen, probably falls into the category of Egyptian cabaret style dancer. Like Jillina, Amar Gamal also incorporates serious isolations, instead of more flowing movements like those of Sonia's. In her DVD "Mastering the Dance", Amar Gamal shows heavy influences from jazz.

From the very first time I watched the Bellydance Superstars DVD that features solo studio performances, I fell in love with Ansuya. I later realized that she dances American Cabaret style. I have the same attraction to dancers like Anaheed and Salome. They are not balletic, sometimes even rigid. But their movements are powerful and showy, with uninhibited (but still cool and coy) facial expressions. I'm a Leo and I love performing with a sense of pizzazz, so I'm more drawn into American Cabaret (AmCab, or also known as American Oriental). AmCab dancers, like ATS dancers, use zills extensively too.

Ansuya balancing two swords
That's Ansuya.
Oh, and did I mention that her drummer boyfriend, Ozzie, is a hottie?
Yeah. Talented AND lucky. Her mom is the Jenaeni Rathor,
one of the most famous Am-Cab dancers in the American circuit at that time.

I can go on and on about other styles of belly dance. Like Didem Kinali or the legendary Sema Yildiz for Turkish styles. Sema even puts lots of Turkish Rom dances in her performances, making it even more distinct and authentic. I especially love Sema's performance with the Turkish hottie Ozgen.

such a tease
Ozgen. *shudders*. I think in this picture,
he's dancing the Turkish Rom style, not a typical Turkish bellydance.
He usually wears his chestless costume when performing the belly dance.

But let me just get back to the topic. When my teacher, my dance sister and I were gossipping, suddenly my dance sisters asked what they thought about Yuska & gang.

The first performance night was not so good. It was for a birthday party of a friend of a student of my teacher's. The crowd had no idea what belly dance was (or is). When we stepped into the venue and the dressing room, I saw a guy crossdressing in a two-piece bedleh. Apparently, he was the emcee for the evening. I had realized that it was going to be a nightmare. And I was right.

The crowd was okay, but it was the emcee who kept badgering us, giving us freaky and degenerating hoot calls. In the end of our performance, he went into the middle and did some disgusting sexual display. We left the dance floor, of course, cursing tongue-in-cheek. It was a test to our professionalism and we succeeded in putting our best faces forward. No frowns. It was just work.

However, it was really disappointing to know that some people still regard belly dance as a just a sexy dance. I am never going to say that belly dance is not sexy. Hell, I even think Wade Robson is sexy and he dances a different style of dance that I do. What's more saddening was the fact that there are people who force the notion that belly dance is supposed to be sexy in a vulgar way. Like the said emcee.

Hell yeah!
Wade Robson. Although too skinny for my taste, I still think he's hot.

Then we questioned ourselves, what do other belly dancers think of us? Do they know that we're dancing American Cabaret style? Do they dismiss us and saying we're the bad dancers and that their way of the world is the right one?

As for my teacher, my dance sisters, and myself, we always try to respect other belly dancers if they know what they are doing and what kind of dance they are performing. I've had Egyptian style teachers and although I enjoyed learning from them, I have made up my mind that Egyptian style is not the one I am going to do.

Whenever I substitute for my teacher to teach the very basic class of Am-Cab at her studio or cardio belly dance at the gym, at the end of the class, if there are any students or participants asking me about the dance, I always try to explain to them the many varities of the belly dance and that at the gym, it's just for cardio exercise, not really dancing. If they want to learn Am-Cab, go to my teacher in her studio. If they want to learn Egyptian style, go to another teacher.

The truth is, tolerance is needed, at least in the Jakarta / Indonesia belly dance scene. We hardly know each other, some of us compete by bad mouthing each other and stabbing the back of one another without realizing that we're creating our own little war.

My teacher and I have always dreamed about creating a hafla where all belly dance teachers and their students can perform without competition. After all, it is a hafla, not a belly dance championship.

One day, perhaps.

Oh, but not to worry. The other two performance were done well. The crowd was lovely and the pay was good. Not as good as the first one, though. It seemed as if the first one had bought our pride in exchange with a hefty sum of payment.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

two cups of starbucks in shibuya

"I always make it a habit to learn belly dance whenever I visit a country."

That is what I wrote in every e-mail I sent to a few bellydance teachers in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka - the three cities that I had planned to visit earlier. I found their names and e-mail address through Shira's website.

Two teachers responded: Ms. Henna and Ms. Filiz Eren. Ms. Henna teaches American Tribal Style (ATS) and Tribal Fusion style while Ms. Eren teaches Oriental Style. I was really interested in learning the belly dance with a Turkish teacher (Ms. Eren is Turkish) however I had to concede to learning ATS because it is what I am interested in most and I find it very intriguing (what with all the coded movements and stuff).

However, Ms. Henna is not in Tokyo - she's back in the US for a while after giving birth to a baby boy, congrats congrats - so she referred me to her dance partner, Ms. Joe. Of course with all the recommendation and the gorgeous website, I said yes.

I also want to learn ATS dance from those who've had direct ATS learning experiences. Ms. Joe's background in Flamenco is also one of the reasons why I was sure - ATS's posture and movements are heavily influenced by the Flamenco. Plus, from what I read, Japan has some really weird Tribal Fusion style going on, and I am not wasting my time and money learning from someone with whom I can't communicate, eg. Japanese who don't speak a word of English.

At the end of the lesson, I realised that the only thing I was going to miss from Tokyo is learning ATS and Tribal Fusion with Ms. Joe. I told my friend, Tokyo is a bad imitation of Paris at its best.

I requested a four hour lesson with her, two hours in two days. On the first day of the lesson, I came very late that she crammed two hours of lesson into a short 45 minutes.

Ms. Joe taught me the ATS posture, (ATS) Egyptian steps, Turkish steps, Arabic steps, and the basic codes and cues. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. It was like opening a Pandora box and knowing the secrets! Or reading the Bloodline of the Holy Grail! Or discovering that T-Rex mothers nursed their babies!

We then discussed the matter of belly dance and the next day's lesson over Starbucks which was only a minute walk from the studio El Salaam in Shibuya where I took the lesson.

I was planning to buy bellydance props in Tokyo and she informed that right on top of the very studio, there's this shop called El Hobb. However, when I got there on the first day (April 11th), it was already closed. Because I was late.

The lesson on the second day (April 12th) was not held in El Salaam, but in Shop Kwaies's studio - also in Shibuya. It was a small yet cozy studio, with all the goodies in El Hobb shop left unattended. The owner of the studio (and the shop) so trustingly gave Ms. Joe the key to that goldmine. Had I been a kleptomanic, I'd surely run off with all those cool zills, CDs, and DVDs. Heck, I'd even help myself to one of those made-in-Taiwan bongos!

Before heading to Shop Kwaies's studio, I went to El Hobb and purchased a few things: bigger brass zills for my (future) Tribal Fusion pieces, FatChance Bellydance's DVDs, and a pair of pink Isis Wings. The shopgirl was a very nice young lady with good English.

the goodies in el hobb's store in shibuya
Goodies hanging inside El Hobb's bellydance shop.
See the end of this blogentry for the complete address and phone number.

They had a shamadan on display, but thank goodness it wasn't on sale, otherwise I'd be fighting with Mom on how to bring the big thing all the way to Kyoto and Osaka by trains and Shinkansen. And then I'd regret buying the whole thing. But one day, I will definitely dance with a shamadan and maybe do the tea tray dance, and the candle dance... Yeah!

Anyway, the lesson on the second day was even more interesting. We got into layering, more ATS combos and movements, a deeper look into the ATS, and finally a crazy Tribal Fusion choreography with a jazzy feel.

It's jazzy, and let me tell you something about jazz. I hate it. I mean, I LOVE dancing, but not jazz. The intricate steps, the hands, the multitasking thing, the quick thinking thing... It's just too much!

However, I think I finally got the hang of it at around the umm... 10th time we redid the dance. Hah! What a record. I usually couldn't get it together even until the 30th, or whenever I started losing counts. I think it's because Ms. Joe did a very good job in explaning the movements with clarity. The fact that I'm adding more years in dancing also helped a bit (okay, so there! I'm giving myself a bit of a credit!)

And, there was also a Starbucks near the studio. How neat is that? And we chatted for almost an hour. I gave her a little present, a pendant made from aged silver and a shell of a clam. It's a traditional handcraft from Bali - I got it from Sarinah, a famous old-school handcraft and traditional souvenir shop in Jakarta.

We chatted, shared thoughts on ATS, Tribal Fusion, and the basic Tribal scene in Japan. I was so honoured to be able to learn from her, and learn new things (almost too many new things, even) and even more honoured when she said that she could see that I am very much into dancing, and belly dance, and that I can dance well.

ms. joe and yours truly!
Ms. Joe and me as The Starbucks bellydancers!

I was awestruck by her comments (can you believe that she even asked me to compete in the upcoming Japan National Bellydance Competition - or something like that - the first ever bellydance competition in Japan with Tamalyn Dallal and Bozenka as the judges??? I'm still not that good, but I may return to Japan for workshops. That means living frugally.) that my inferiority complex kicked in again. But I made up my mind that it won't stop me from learning and dancing.

Oh well, I still have three days until I reunite with Lilith (I miss her so much) and pursue my dreams that include going to San Francisco and learning ATS from the master, Carolena Nericcio.

El Hobb Select Bellydance Shop
4th Floor Inter Building (above the Studio El Salaam)
1-9-11 Jin Nan
Shibuya-Ku Tokyo-To
Phone: 03-3868-2083

Saturday, April 04, 2009

dancing with lilith

I met Lilith at She was the last of the owner's stock for that period. The owner, Merilyn, was so helpful that even when I had problems with PayPal due to some technical difficulties and absurd stupidity (you don't think it was possible, do you? Well, think again), she promised to keep Lilith for me.

On 21 January 2009, I finally got her in my arms. Some tips for those living in Indonesia and expecting a really important package that you simply have to track by the minue, apart from tracking the item using the website of the delivery handler (DHL, FedEx - Merilyn used the Australian Post), you can simply go to Pos Indonesia's website and use their tracking system. It actually worked.

Actually, it was Pos Indonesia's tracking system that informed me that my package was sitting at the post office because Mom refused to pay a helluva amount of money (about USD 100) for the custom. I went to the post office that day and the next day during lunchtime to settle the bill. When I got there, it was not USD 100, it was only USD 10. Well, still a lot of money, but better than USD 100. I had no idea how it could get mixed up.

Also, when you're picking up a package at Pos Indonesia, always, ALWAYS ask for a valid receipt, with a stamp and a signature and all the works. Thanks to Anisa for this advice.

As soon as I got the then unnamed sword, I balanced it on my head, all the way while driving back to the office.

Michel Emile "Wael" Kfoury. My, my...

I have two songs in my head that I feel are perfect for sword dancing. The first one is by Wael Kfoury (such a hot, hot Lebanese hunk) entitled "Aahat". If I'm not mistaken, "Aahat" actually means "heard" in sanskrit (as opposed to "Anaahat" meaning "unheard). Ansuya uses the song for her floorwork piece in the Bellydance Superstars Live in Paris performance.

The song is only 2:55 minutes. Short yet dramatic.

The other one is a haunting number by Massive Attack, "Inertia Creeps". Now this is a very long song. I might do this one when I have enough vocabulary of movements in sword dancing and enough agility to balance the sword for about five minutes.

There are several reasons why I chose this type of sword. To be correct, it is actually a scimitar because of its shape. And based on my research, it might be the Turkish kilij. The dance community will know it as the Balady Sword, a smaller replica of the legendary Cas Hanwei sword.

I chose the kilij because it is actually affordable (unlike the Saroyan), it looks gorgeous and fierce at the same time, it gets terrific reviews, and it is available at TribalLine. TribalLine is based in Australia, a lot closer to Indonesia than the USA and it promises to send to everywhere in the world, and it has kept its promise.

"Lilith" by John Collier (1892)

Not so while ago, I christened the scimitar "Lilith". In Judaism, Lilith was Adam's first consort. However, she refused to lie underneath Adam during copulation because she believed that she is equal, not inferior to him. A fight erupted and Lilith abandoned Adam and Eden to the edge of the sea where she was said to become a demon and gave birth to baby demons. Even the two angels sent by God after Adam's whinings couldn't bring her back because her mind was set. But they finally made an agreement about demons and human babies.

Now, scholars and feminists have placed Lilith as an archetype of strong-willed women. She was the victim of patriarchy and served as a scary bedtime story for intelligent women who just couldn't keep their mouths shut. I am sure lots of women - even today - share Lilith's burden: to be called a demonness, to be cursed, to have to run away.

Remember Sarah McLachlan's "Lilith Fair"? The music and arts event was designed to celebrate women in music. Strong, intelligent women. Lilith is now a name that is synonymous to emancipation and fierceness.

And so I named my scimitar "Lilith". In the story, you'll also find that Lilith slays human babies, except when the human babies wear the amulets bearing the names of those two angels that tried to get Lilith back to Eden.

I hate babies and children, so it just seemed like it fell into place. Ha!

Want to know more about Lilith? Go here.

My first time dancing in public with Lilith happened on April 1st, 2009. It was during a surprise party for one of the general managers. His wife takes classes at the Interlude Dance Academy under the tutelage of Ms. Venyci Yefriadi. The GM's wife invited me to dance and I said yes and I would try to dance with my scimitar.

It was in Samarra, one of the most popular middle-eastern eateries in Jakarta and there, I met my other general manager and the financial controller. Thank goodness Friday, April 3rd, 2009 was my last day at work (I'll tell you about it later). So I danced my heart out.

I so hate my belly here. That's what no gym in three weeks can do to you!
Photo by Mrs. Suci Shipman.

It was almost perfect, but when I did my turns and rolls on the floor almost at the end of the song, my Lilith fell! Of course it was my mistake since I kind of tilted my head and hadn't isolated properly. But something unbelieavable happened: the guests, most of whom are complete strangers, wanted more!

The CD only contained that one song, "Aahat", so it got played again, and this time I improvised. And on that second time, Lilith stayed still on my head (and my thigh). I still can't believe the amount of praise I got. It just felt so underserved, especially because I flunked on the first try.

We all danced again with Ms. Ve at the end, and thank goodness I knew the songs, so I could improvise good enough.

Well, Lilith is now officially out and about. I hope in the next hafla (sometime in June or July), I'll get to dance with her once again.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

nothing escapes the lenses

One time in my life, during senior high, I remembered that one of our assignments was to write a short story. It was so fun that I ended up writing a very long tale about a sappy high-school love story. Boy to boy, of course. It was not only loaded with love, but also with witchcraft, revenge and gore. I got the highest score at that time: 90 out of 100.

The funny thing was, although I did read and reread and proofread my writing that time before submitting it to the teacher, I couldn’t bear to read it once it was graded. And then I read a great quote that I hold true in many facets, even until today: you know you’ve written something good if when you read it one day, you love it and not embarrassed because of it.

Well, I’ve been reading and rereading many of my online writings, at my old weblogs at LittleScars and the Notes at my Facebook and I can say that I love them to bits. I mean, yes I am narcissistic and borderline megalomaniac, but I do love my writings and I’m proud of them. They may not be like Salman Rusdhie’s or John Updike’s, though, but I’m getting there – crossing fingers -.

The same thing is also applied to my dance. During the performances in Bellydance Jakarta’s 3rd Annual Recital Ball, I sucked at the veil number but thought that I did perfectly in the drum solo. But up until now, I don’t have the guts to watch the videos. During the performance at Shimmering Shimmies, I thought I did well in all the pieces, but I didn’t have the nerve to watch the videos… Until last night.

The glam tribaret attempt. The video didn't look this good, though.
Photo by Diana Tri Wulandari.

I finally watched the videos. And man! I was so embarrassed by so many things! I commented on this and that, told myself so many should-have’s and would-have’s and could-have’s and tried to pat my back by reassuring myself that it was just a hafla, but the trick didn’t work. I am a perfectionist, at least in dance.

So yes, I still need much guidance and lots of dance experiences. Hopefully in less than a decade, before my hair starts to fall off and I get my first wrinkle, I can present a dance that not only looks perfect in my imagination, but also in videos.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

when the skinny bitch tries to dance

Sandra Bullock is one of my favourite actresses. Yes, I do have a handful of favourite actresses, and although sometimes I doubt Ms. Bullock's range of emotions, she shatters that doubt everytime I watch Hacker, Premonition, Lake House, or the totally awesome Crash.

I remember Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. It's one of the most gorgeous, funniest, totally underrated movies. Plus there are fabulous lines and dialogues in it that I live by.

One that I remember well was from the beginning of it. It was when Sam Fuller (Regina King) "accidentally" bumped Gracie Hart (Bullock) and delivered a non-wholeheart "sorry". Yeah, Hart was indeed pissed.

The following dialogue is ensued before a fight erupts.


Gracie Hart: How about a real sorry?
Sam Fuller: Come again?
Gracie Hart: You heard me. I said how about a real sorry.
Sam Fuller: You are about to feel some real pain if you don't back off
Gracie Hart: You don't want to talk to me about pain, sister. I invented pain alright.
Sam Fuller: You didn't just call me sister, because I don't recall seeing a little skinny ass white girl around the table growing up.
Gracie Hart: HEY! First of all thank you for calling me skinny, second of all what is your problem and third of all you'd better apologize to me.


Now, Bullock (or Hart) is not skinny. Nor is she overweight. She is a healthy, HOT woman. In the movie, she doesn't really emphasize the need of being stick thin, but I think like (almost) all women, Gracie Hart does think that being skinny means being more gorgeous.

When I first entered the gym, my intention was not to bulk up. I said I wanted to look like Kylie (Minogue) - with nice, shapely ass and tone, flat abs. I ended up looking like Janet (Jackson) - with a heck pair of arms and... well, and my ass does look a little bigger.

Earlier today when I checked my facebook account, I noticed that my friend had put up a photo of me dancing during last Sunday's "Shimmering Shimmies" and there was a comment that followed.

I wasn't ready to read what I read. But I did read it and it said, "Wait, the dancer doesn't have breasts and has really thin stomach. How can that be a belly dancer?"

Well, first of all, whoever you are, thanks for calling me thin.

Second of all, I can't forgive you for being ignorant and loud about it. I mean, okay, so you don't know anything about belly dancing. If you don't know anything about it, SHUT UP!

I can't believe how enraged I am. But I am very offended and upset. I am so sick of this body image thing. I am so sick of people telling me that I cannot, may not, and must not dance because of my size.

Those who tell you that stick thin people rule don't know anything about life. We are just as irritated by this hullaballoo as the big-sized people are.

Those who tell you that people who don't have great bodies should just stay at home and never come out and do anything that they greatly desire should be tortured and put to death.

Dance, like EVERYTHING else in this life, is created for those who dance well. And the first rule to dance well, like EVERYTHING else in this life, is to be passionate about it.

I have two extraordinary teachers who are not cut like Giselle Bundchen. I have seen them danced and they deliver the dance perfectly. None of my dance sisters have the zero-fat supermodel bodies, but when we dance, we dance with passion.

So don't tell me I don't have the body to belly dance. Criticize my poor and amateurish technique, but never my physique.

So there.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

i live for you, the best years of my life

OMG. I can't believe this.

My gym teacher, Ms. Miftah is organising a hafla for her cardiobelly students. She teaches in quite a few places and her first ever hafla will be done this Sunday, 8 February 2009, at Shisha Cafe, Kemang.

But that's not it.

I'm going to be dancing too! *screams*


I won't be dancing the elegant Egyptian style that Ms. Yaven teaches, though. I mean, apart from not having the guts and enough knowledge, I am more inclined to the American Cabaret style. I don't even mind calling it "Cabaret" or "Nightclub" because no matter what, I do love cabaret and I do go to nightclubs (although I don't drink alcohol or smoke). But I know for a fact that it is impossible to do any style without learning the basic first. And the basic is Egyptian.

I'll be dancing solo twice. The first one will be the (attempted) American Cabaret style with veil. I've actually been making, completing and practicing this choreography since July last year. The songs I use are "Kamasutra" by Sarah Brightman, "Ayshalak" by Elissa, and a drum solo that I have yet found the title and the artist.

The "Kamasutra" song is actually one of the pieces from the original soundtrack of Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (directed by Mira Nair, released in 1996, rated "R" for American audience). The title of the piece is "Maya's Theme", which I found appropriately said because I love, love, love the maia movement. To tell you the truth, it's kind of a rip-off from the seven veil choreography of Ms. Tamalyn Dallal, because that's where I got the inspiration to do something with the song.

That song will be used to enter with veil.

The second song is "Ayshalak" by Elissa. I first heard this song last year after an impulsive purchase of a double CD Arabic album. "Ayshalak" is the first song in the first CD and I didn't know how, but a set of choreographies just flooded my mind. Below are the lyrics (in Arabic) and the translations.


ayshalak ahla sneen
fil omry ya dayy el ain
wa bi alby ya ghaly haneen
wi gharam min awwel youm fi hawak
kan helmy akoun wayak
law youm min omry maak
wa kteer wana batmannak ya habibi
el alby we bastannak
arabny habibi kaman
ana shoui eleek we elhan
emlani iddounya hanan naseeny
maak kull el ahzan
ashak wana mahma aoul
ana rouhi maak ala toul
dana alby kteer mashghoul
ya habibi el omry baa li zaman
aaah arabny beek


"I Live for You"

I'm living for you
the most beautiful of years In my life
oh gleam of my eye
And in my heart,
oh precious, there is desire
And passion from the first day of your love
My dream was to be with you
Even for one day of my life with you
And much time I spent dreaming of you my love
My heart and I'm waiting for you

Come closer to me my love
my yearning for you "walhan?!"
fill my life with desire,
make me forget with you all the sadness
I adore you and whatever I say
My soul will be with you always
My heart is so occupied
My love, my years have been long

I live for you
Get close to me


I just love the music and when I found out about the lyrics, I was so overwhelmed by the fact that I was going to use it with my first ever solo choreography. And indeed, the best years of my life I've spent with dancing. I've danced my sadness and broken-heart away, I found new friends, new talents and passion through dancing.

Since Elissa is Lebanese, I'm definitely going to (attempt to) dance Lebanese style, fused with American Cabaret. Hopefully Anaheed and Ansuya would be proud.

The second one will be my (attempted) glam Tribaret (Tribal-Cabaret) piece, with a song from Raul Ferrando called "Yearning". The song is quite a sad one, very good for slow, hypnotic, undulating movements.

Show starts at 7 PM, do come if you have the time!
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