Friday, February 25, 2011

putting the "sun" in "sunanda" - ats general skills training, day 4

I can't believe it's the fourth day. Everything just went so fast. One day I was in a room filled with strangers, and another day I was saying heavy goodbyes to those very strangers who had become my dance sisters, whom I'll most probably never meet ever again.

Well, there's Facebook, but it still won't replace the true feeling of meeting.

But, when there's a hello, there's bound to be a goodbye. I knew it was going to be this quick, but I'm still being smitten by the feeling.

Remember the two ladies I formed a trio with during the training? There you have it. The one in white is Mirna from Italy and the one in FCBD's Original Gangsta tank top is Karen from Milwaukee. Karen came to SF with her daughter, Daniella, who is also an ATS dancer. Isn't that cool?

Day Four: Carolena Nericcio & Kristine Adams
  1. Slow moves: Wrap Around Turn, Barrel Turn, Sahra Turn, Laybacks, Floorwork
  2. Fast steps: Sunanda, Re-Shamka, Reverse Shimmy, Chico Four Corners, Wet Dog, Egyptian Full Turn, Double Back (with Half Turn), Spins, Arabic Shimmy (with Arms & Turns & Fade, with Arms & Turns & Fade & Circle)
  3. Yoga for Floorwork
I don't know what happened, but I got fazed out almost everytime Sunanda came on. I love this move, but I almost didn't make it to the second half on multiple occassions. I finally did manage to get it on, though.

There's this neat way that Ms. Nericcio uses to explain the Sahra Turn. We always start with arms above our head, then plunge down, both arms to our left hip, our body in profile, facing the left wall - this is the Jane Russel. Then, we do a reverse turn, landing on performance angle - this is the Ava Gardner. The last segment is another reverse turn, finally landing on a rather flat angle facing the audience - this is the Audrey Hepburn. You see, in the pictures of Jane, Ava, and Audrey shown to us, each of these ladies strikes the same poses in the three Sahra Turn segments. Jane in her profile, Ava in diagonal, and Audrey in flat angle.

Later, we did the Laybacks. I have love-hate relationship with Laybacks. Sometimes I think Laybacks have been done too many times. I know I've done it almost too many times. My last attempt was with Lilith on my head. The problem is, if I don't do proper warm up and or cool down, doing Laybacks will hurt my lower back. So I asked Ms. Nericcio if she had suggestions on doing warm-ups for Laybacks and she came up with a great idea: walk on the wall! Stand in front of the wall, and slowly do a Layback with the wall as your spotter!

And as for the cool down, she suggests to squat down and place our elbows inside our knees and push out. It felt so good when I tried it.

For the Floorworks, I spotted again with Ilhaam. She is just amazing. She always told me, "Neck!" and, "Again!" it was like working with a personal trainer! She knew if I didn't keep my neck one line with my spine and dropped my head back (an absolute no!) and she would tell me to try it again until I got it right.

Later during the break, she told me she enjoyed working with me because of my energy. Well, well... This came from a woman who beat me when doing two simultaneous floor drops. I just had to give it to her: she's one amazin' Amazon.

One thing that I realllly, really feel I need to work on is my A-SWAT (Arabic Shimmy with Arms & Turns) and A-SWAT Fade. When we were drilling in our Trio + Suzanne Elliott (!!!!), I had a hard time going on releve, staying on releve, doing the turns, doing the spins, doing the Arabic Shimmy... I will need to drill this with Ms. Lalwani. But Ms. Elliott joining our Trio was like a much needed professional help! And, oops... I stepped on her skirt during one of the A-SWATs. Sigh.

And then came the time for the diplomas. As much as I'm happy finally getting the GS Training certificate, I wouldn't mind going through the experience at least once more. So many good songs, so much energy... When we were circling the little display table to eat our lunch, we were like a big family. Well, there were times when the conversation would be awkward... I wouldn't even want to discuss what. It was so awkward that it was funny.

And there you have it. Ms. Nericcio and me with my certificate. I forgot two things on that day, though: my booklet (I left it in my room) and a big envelope to store the certificate. I was contemplating the idea of holding the paper from FCBD all the way back. Luckily, I remembered the Original Gangsta FCBD hoodie that I coveted. I got a 10% discount on that! So I bought it, asked for a bag and was given a bag big enough to safely store the certificate without crumpling it. So in that bag was two things I cherish the most: my FCBD hoodie and my ATS diploma! I'm wearing the hoodie right now too! It's so warming. However, I'd better remember to bring a big and sturdy envelope for the next two trainings to store my other certificates!

Oh, and Kristine Adams is the rockstar of ATS! She has this commanding presence when she teaches, she is very encouraging and giving, and she always has time to goof off with either Kae Montgomery or Suzanne Elliott, both of whom were there. Kae Montgomery and Kristine Adams have the best arms frame evah!

And Suzanne Elliott... What can I say about one of the original members of FCBD? ATS is like her second nature. When I grow up, I want to be like her: all bubbly and full of energy.

Well, I'd better rest now. I'm going to Jill Parker's class at ODC in the afternoon!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

devotion - ats general skills training, day 3

Day Three: Carolena Nericcio & Sandi Ball
  1. Slow moves: Camel Walk, Ribcage Rotation, Head Slides, Belly Rolls, Flutters
  2. Fast steps: Arabic Shimmy, Arabic 123, Waterpot, Arabic Hip Twist (with Half Turn & Flourish), Arabic Orbit, Shoulder Shimmy - Hip Drop Combo, Ghawazee Shimmy Combo
  3. Music for Tribal Bellydance
  4. Quartets and Duets
It was a somewhat somber day for all of us. To begin with, it rained and stopped and rained for the most part. There were forecasts that said it was going to snow. If snow happens, it's going to be the first after thirty years of going the Bay Area going snow-free.

And then Ms. Nericcio came into the studio holding a bunch of DVDs. When she asked us to do the Puja to bless the DVDs, I thought they were new DVDs that FCBD was going to sell. Turned out, those were last year's Devotion DVDs.

The good news is, each of us was given a copy of Devotion: the Harvest DVD. The bad news is, the 2011 Devotion show, which is supposedly in June, is seriously under threat; the place of the upcoming performance has been claimed unviable. So now, FCBD is looking for a place that can hold up to twenty companies (or dancers - I'm not quite sure) and enough room for an audience of fifty people or more. Preferably (well, I'd prefer it so) in San Francisco. Or at least somewhere near San Francisco. Oh, and there has to be enough parking space. If you have any idea of a place, go to FCBD's website and send an e-mail to Ms. Nericcio.

FCBD's 2011 Devotion theme is "The Home", which is ironic because this is its 4th year and FCBD is still looking for a home - a sanctuary where they can perform their yearly Devotion show.

I just finished watching Devotion: the Harvest DVD and I gotta tell you... Everything is just so amazing. I could really feel the "harvest" theme without the dancers pushing it on my face. I don't know which ones are improvisational and which ones choreography. What I do know is I WANT TO HAVE KAE MONTGOMERY'S AND KRISTINE ADAM'S BINDIS!!

Speaking of bindis, I remember that Sandi Ball is a bindi artisan. I asked her about her bindis after the training ended but sadly, she is currently not producing bindis due to lack of materials. Sigh.

The third day of GS Training went fairly well. Ms. Lalwani dropped in and I was so glad to see her. When Ms. Nericcio was explaining about Music for Tribal Dance, she played Hossani Oo and Ms. Lalwani and I glanced at each other - Ms. Lalwani gave that song for me to learn as a homework. It had changes from Maqsoum to Fallahi rhythms. The song was used to demonstrate how the FCBD format fits in to the music no matter if the rhythm changes. However, dancers need to really know the song (possibly even count the measure to determine which steps to use) to be able to dance to it with full confidence.

We also experienced dancing in duets and quartets. I did the Arabic Orbit with Ilhaam, a dancer from Spain who did really awesome job leading Chorus on the second day of GS Training. She is as tall as I am... Okay, she's a little taller... That's why I chose to work with her.

Ilhaam and I had difficulties in Arabic Orbit, so when break time came, I decided to try it again alone. She saw me and quickly joined me and we did it together. And finally, with a little help from another dancer, Diana, a Puerto Rican, who talked to her in Spanish on what we did wrong, we got the Arabic Orbit nailed down! Yay!

There are two little things that I like to point out. I really love the way Diana handled the situation. She didn't act all know-it-all, and when she did come to the rescue, she didn't gloat in the afterglow (when we thanked her profusely).

The second thing was that, as I was talking to Karen (one of my Trio members - GO GROUP FOUR!!) before the class started, she said that she was staying in a hotel where the owner didn't even know about FCBD.

That reminded me a lot of the fact that no one in EF knows about FCBD and that American Tribal Style - now considered a bellydance genre of its own - was born and now resides in San Francisco.

I mean... FCBD is like world-renowned. I'm not saying this to suck ass. I'd rather suck on something else - but that's for another blog. I'm saying this because I wonder whether Americans are really ignorant. I always thought that I'd been living under a rock, but when a foreigner asked me about an Indonesian(s), I'd usually know right away.

Also, I have a teacher who was surprised when I said I quit my job to become a dancer. He didn't know that being a dancer can actually support a decent living. Well, obviously, my teacher doesn't know anything about this business. It's both fun and money-making.

Sandi Ball is a bubbly, joyful creature with a face and voice that make her look like a 30 year-old. And it's just amazing to see that the FCBD dancers are so fit. They carry themselves in such an elegant way. I guess that's what years of dancing in a powerful posture can do to you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

double bump? more like double blunder - ats general skills training, days 1 & 2

I've said this once and I'm going to say this over and over again, like this instance, for... err... instance: Learning bellydance from a video will never replace learning bellydance in a real classroom setting.

No matter how interactive the video is, nothing beats the real life human contact in a classroom. Especially when you're trying to decode American Tribal Style (ATS), an improvisational-based dance form that works in a group (hence the word "Tribal"). Everything is seamless and works as if it were choreographed, but it's not.

The term "ATS" is now exclusively only for those in the FatChanceBellyDance (FCBD) format. Others, such as BlackSheepBellyDance and the oh-so-cool Unmata, are classified as Improvisational Tribal Style (ITS). But the concept is the same: the leader gives cues on which combos (combinations / series of movements) to use.

I'm very lucky that while I'm in San Francisco, I'm able to join the series of certification programs of General Skills, Teacher Training 1 and Teacher Training 2 at FCBD. After all, this is one of two reasons why I came to SF in the first place.

Ms. Nericcio has given me permission to review the General Skills (GS) Training, so I'll do just that, hopefully on daily basis.

Eep. I might have to crash that hope. HAHA... It's already the SECOND day and I didn't post anything for the FIRST day, so I'm going to combine Day One and Day Two and the little tidbits.

Day One: Carolena Nericcio with Kae Montgomery
  1. Posture
  2. Puja
  3. Slow movements: Taxeem, Reverse Taxeem, Hand Floreo, Arm Undulations, Bodywave
  4. Fast steps: Egyptian Step, Arabic Step, Pivot Bump & Choo Choo (with Arm 1 & Arm 2), Shimmy
  5. Group formations
  6. Working in a chorus
We started off with a lengthy yet fascinating lecture called Basic Anatomy for ATS. There are sixteen pointers that Ms. Nericcio explained to us. Mesmerizing, strong stuff. We hear words like propriaceptors, closed chain, open chain, and all about muscle work. During this segment, we learned why certain ATS (or bellydance) movements look ooey-gooey and just defies gravity (there's the closed chain & open chain movement right there) or why turns are designed to keep the arms close to the body (to maintain balance).

In the picture above, you can see a little black and white booklet. That's the booklet that was given to us, it's like a mini ATS Bible.

After being given the movements and drilled with Ms. Nericcio and Ms. Montgomery leading alternately, we were told to form a trio. So I bundled up with two nice ladies (I'm the only guy in the room, sigh) and off we went. There were five groups of threes (fifteen participants). I'm so glad I'm with my group. They're just amazing. I couldn't stop smiling when I was dancing with them. I didn't even have to force a smile or fake it: it came naturally.

Finally, we were put in a group setting where the Chorus ("back-up dancers") forms a crescent-shaped line in the back and the "featured dancers" dance in front. Each group did their little number. It felt really good.

Kae Montgomery has a magnificent stage presence. I learn a lot about posture just by looking at her.

Day Two: Carolena Nericcio with Wendy Allen
  1. Slow moves: Torso Twist, Circle Step, Walking Taxeem, Walking Bodywave, Reverse Turn, Propeller Turn, Corkscrew Turn
  2. Fast steps: Turkish Shimmy (with Quarter Turn & Half Turn, with Arm 1 & Arm 2), Turkish Shimmy (with Arms & Turn, with Arms & Circle), Reach and Sit, Arc Arms, Up2 Down3, Double Bump (and with Pivot), Single Bump (with Gradual Turn & Half Turn)
  3. Flock of Birds
  4. Extended Puja
The day followed the same routine: each movement is broken down; questions are asked and answered; drills with the whole gang; drills with trios; chorus.

Today, I got to lead the Chorus. It felt reaaaallly good. In Day One, both Ms. Nericcio & Ms. Montgomery emphasized the importance of staying awake & alert when doing Chorus. Since you're in the back and doing less fancy stuff (more stationary movements that compliment the "featured dancers"), you might get transfixed at looking at the "featured dancers" doing their thing (I know I did), and ended up not following the leader of the Chorus.

When you're the leader of the Chorus, you have to make sure you're not doing something that's the same or too similar to the movements currently being done by the "featured dancers". Ms. Nericcio suggests that when the "featured dancers" are doing movements with both arms up (such as Egyptian Step), Chorus dancers can bring the arms down and do Turkish Shimmy. Therefore, the audience knows that there are two distinct groups working at the same time. The audience can also see the depth and dimension of the groups. Whereas if both the "featured dancers" group and the Chorus do the same thing, the differences will not be visible.

And so it was my group's turn and I (think I) did a good job in going into the "featured dancers" spot - Carolena invoked Valentino's (the fashion designer) mantra when he ushered his models on to the stage, "Long, elegant steps!" and so we did long elegant steps.

Everything was fine until our leader did a cue for a fade. So I went to the front and took the lead. Since we were drilling on Double Bump, I did a Double Bump TO FADE BACK. Bwahahahahaha... I knew Ms. Allen was trying so hard not to laugh.

So when the drill ended, Ms. Nericcio said, "Everything looked good except for one thing," and I interjected her, "The Double Bump, right? It is illegal to fade back with the Double Bump, right?" I guess the term "illegal" made everyone in the room laughed. Including myself. Well, I got a pat on the back. When I was doing the fade with the Double Bump, I realized, "Hey wait a minute... This is like the Pivot Bump / Choo Choo: WE ONLY TRAVEL FORWARD, NOT BACKWARD!" But, too late.

And that was the highlight of the day.

Wendy Allen is just so graceful. Her floreos are just so graceful. And I think she also (almost) solved my problem with the Torso Twist: FINISH YOUR RIGHT ARM UNDULATION! Although, I still need to practise that move.

Well, I'm pooped. I'll blog more later!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

belly rolls, flutters, what's next?

So today in Ms. Lalwani's Dance Conditioning class in FCBD studio, the one and only Carolena Nericcio dropped in, stayed the whole class, and in between the sets, drilled us on belly rolls and flutters.

And yours truly here, being placed in the Intermediate group, experienced the Staggard position that, at two times, was led by Ms. Nericcio herself. And since it's Staggard (meaning everyone in the group (there were five people) had to go clockwise to be the lead), I got my turn to lead. AND I WAS LEADING MS. NERICCIO. Of course I failed on the first attempt. Miserably. I mean, I thought I was in a movement where we weren't dancing on the beat and I tried to match it but the transition wasn't as smooth as I had imagined. It was good in the end, though.

Like I've blogged earlier, flutters are easier to do than belly rolls. I was lucky because the day before, at ODC, Jill Parker drilled us on belly rolls. When a very nice woman (with an incredible Tribal arm tattoo) told me that my flutters were good, I thanked and replied that I learned from Tribal Basics volume 4. It did take me a year to learn it. My Oriental teacher, Ms. Miftahul Jannah of the velvetRAQS is probably the first Indonesian Oriental dancer to ever master the flutter. She learned it during a workshop with Sadie in 2009. When she attempted to teach it to us, I still couldn't understand it. With Tribal Basics volume 4 and Ms. Jannah's explanation, I put the pieces together and slowly started fluttering.

However, belly rolls are totally different. It takes serious muscle conditioning to suck in the tummy and make it roll. Sharon Kihara has killer flat abs, but when she sucks her tummy in, it's just... IN. It's as if she's creating a vacuumed plastic. If that makes sense.

When Aiza from Malaysia guest-starred in Dancewave Center's / velvetRAQS's second annual hafla "1001 Nights", she did perfect belly rolls. And she has six-pack abs.

Ms. Nericcio doesn't have washboard abs, but they're made of damn steel. Or titanium. Holy crap that woman can suck in her tummy.

And just as I thought I finally got the hang of belly rolls, Ms. Nericcio showed us how she rolled her belly from side to side.

Yeah. That should probably take me about ten years to master.

She gave us a tip, though: practise the belly rolls by doing belly rolls. You can do crunches and whatnot, but it won't enable you to ROLL your stomach (from up to down or down to up anyway).

How I wish I'd taken photos of her and the class. Then again, I might've looked like a dorky paparazzi cum stalker.

And talking about flat objects: (courtesy of

Friday, February 11, 2011

mid-term week

Boy, oh boy.

So today was the last day of the mid-term exams at EF. I was just glad that I've passed the GMAT/GRE Writing mid-term test. Possibly with a good score. My mind just switched off when I saw the topic for the issue statement.

As I hopped on to the bus back to the hostel, I sighed a relief. It was finally over! Yay! And I had time to eat lunch and go to FCBD studio - today's lesson started at 4 because Ms. Lalwani had something to do. I won't mind having lessons at 4 PM, as long as I can go back to the hostel before it gets dark. After all, I live in Tenderloin.

So I arrived at FCBD studio at 3.15 PM. In total, I spent 10 minutes of going to from the hostel to the Civic / Market BART, take the BART ride to 16th / Mission, and walk to the FCBD studio. Wow.

I met Ms. Montgomery there and I paid for my General Skills & Teacher Training 1 & 2 (!!!!!!!) for the end of February. Then I headed to the studio to practise some moves alone. After a while, I decided to just browse around the shop (!!!!!!!) (SERIOUSLY WHY DO THEY HAVE TO HAVE SO MANY GOOD THINGS TO BUY OMIGOD! There were the burnt velvet hipscarves with fringes, Assuits, and the jewelery, forpetessake... I almost succumbed to temptation).

And then Ms. Lalwani came and as I was about to ask her the questions I wrote in my notebook... she said, "I'm going to quiz you," and I almost fainted.

I think I barely passed the quiz. I just have so many things to learn.

In the mean time, Ms. Nericcio will be guest-teaching tomorrow's Dance Conditioning class. She'll be teaching us belly rolls. Man, even after two years, I still can't do belly rolls. Flutter is a lot easier.

Oh, and I've registered and paid for FCBD's General Skills, Teacher Training 1 & 2 intensives, so umm... MORE TESTS!!

Friday, February 04, 2011

tried by 5 over 4

Don't ask me what the heck the entry title means. It's just is. And it happens to be one of Tim Barsky's most memorable songs. Evah.

Tim Barsky's a one-of-a-kind flutist/beat-boxer/clown circus/all around guy. Apparently, he just wrapped a production in San Francisco that was in January and February. 2010. So I was late by a year. And I realized it after spending 20 minutes frantically figuring out where his production took place. Can I get a DUNCE hat, please?

Anyway, I was introduced to Tim Barsky's song (not the guy himself, although I'd be floored if I got introduced to him... One day) called "Tried by 5 Over 4" in this FCBD video below.

The dances started out with an upbeat music that the transition to a rather slow and, dare I say, emotional song was just electrifying, to say the least. The first time I heard this song and Ms. Nericcio's solo interpretation of it, I cried. There's something about that lady that just grabs your attention. She's just so fixating. Can I say that? I'm flunking over GMAT and GRE English classes, so I'm not quite sure about that word. But I know that my sight is completed glued on Ms. Nericcio. She has that commanding energy around her that just blazes out and radiates to the entire room. And to think that she did all that when barely moving or, as Orientals would prefer it, showing stage presence by travelling all over the stage. I guess Ms. Nericcio's arms are enough. Just one lift, one arc, and her energy is visible.

So today was the third private session with Ms. Lalwani. And I was almost overloaded with information. Who knew that dancing could be so hard? Well, I had some ideas when I first watched Tribal Basics volumes 5 through seven. And then new things were being introduced at FCBD's Youtube videos.

In the private session, we did all those. Or, well, I attempted to absorb all that new information. We began with fast moves and moved on to slower ones. During the slow-move drills, Ms. Lalwani introduced something that took me a long time to understand: dancing while facing each other.

It's not really a mirroring thing. It's more of a parallel kind of dancing. During the Reach and Sit with Pivot, when Ms. Lalwani turned to the left (her left), I turned to her left too (my right). I know. I can't even read maps.

And then there was the Arabic Orbit (I love this one! And finally nailing this move is just so fantastic!) and passes with: Chico Four Corners (fast moves!) and Barrel Turn, Wrap Around Turn, Camel Walk (slow moves). These passes are admittedly fun to do, but ya know... I might need a year to really understand them. They're just so effing hard! They look good up on stage too. It shows the skills of the dancers. But... Well... They're challenging. Ms. Lalwani's so forgiving, though. But yours truly here is a perfectionist.

Now, a little note that I'd like to share. It's really abstract but it struck a chord with me as I was chatting with Ms. Lalwani. We were discussing about manners in the class. Here are some manners that I think should be adhered to in a dance class:
  1. Be on time
  2. Set your cellphones on silent (not even vibrating) mode and put them in the locker or in your bag where you can't see it. If you have something more important to do than a dance class, don't come into class.
  3. When a teacher is in the room, do not try to explain (or discuss) a move to (or with) a friend(s) who do(es)n't understand. Tell the friend to ask the teacher directly. It's not just downright rude, you also might not know how to do the move correctly.
  4. When a teacher is in the room, do what the teacher asks you to do. If you'd like to create a class on your own, do not come into the class you're taking as a student.
  5. Breaks are for drinking, not for checking messages on your CrackBlackBerry, shitPhone or IdiotDroid. Or whatever gadget you have. See manner #2.
  6. Don't be over the top or invinsible. When you have questions, ask. But don't overpower the rest of the class and think you're the coolest of the bunch.
  7. Do not play the zills when the teacher is explaining a move.
When I open my own studio, I'll impose these manners. Yeah!

Oh, and about Tim Barsky's Tried by 5 Over 4. When we were drilling the slow moves, we used this song and I felt all emotional all of a sudden. When I went back to the hostel, the first thing I did was download the song from Now that I have it, I can't stop playing it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...