Monday, September 26, 2011


A few months ago, I got connected to a male ATS dancer, the first male to ever receive the Teacher Training 2 certification for the FCBD format. His name is Valizan. I shot him an e-mail, asking him about the costuming guidelines for male ATS dancers. He told me about two more dancers, one of them is Michael McElhaney (formerly of Azure Bellydance, the first male ATS dancer, and part of FCBD student troupe in the nineties). Michael's name came through quite a few times during Teacher Training 2 where we discussed male ATS dancers, and both Ms. Nericcio and Ms. Sandi Ball agreed that he was very handsome. Valizan sent me Michael's photo and I had to concur.

In our e-mail exchange, I told Valizan that I was envious of the fact that our dance sisters could wear skirts that accentuated their movements (have you ever seen ATS dancers spinning while wearing the full, 25 yard skirts? It's a gorgeous sight to behold!) and he told me to try one of those Banjara Skirts.

So, thanks to Valizan (he's the male dancer in the video above that showcases how awesome Shades of Araby is), I caught the Banjara Skirt bug. After many months of the fever, I finally relented and began my quest for the perfect skirt. Tribal Fest 11 came and went and still the skirts were too Goldilocks-and-the-Three-Bears for my taste (too blue, too red, too orange, too many colors, too little colors, too wide, too short, too expensive, too new, too old, and other toos). Then I scoured for many nights and days (mostly nights, therefore sacrificing my precious sleep time) for the perfect one. If I had to be broken in, it must be perfect.

My trusted didn't have anything, and so, with a heavy heart, I opened an eBay account. Then I found Sirik's store. It's like a candy shop for kids, a sex shop for lonely adults, a sequin shop for Cabaret Oriental dancers. It has so many things to offer for ATS dancers, and then some. And I saw it. The Skirt.

Alas, it was still quite expensive (USD 89, plus USD 10 for shipping and handling), so I retreated. From time to time, I stalked Sirik's page, looking at the beautiful thing (and some others), and then it happened.

A 30% discount. So I bought it without thinking more.

After a few hassles (Erec, Sirik's owner, didn't respond to my initial messages asking for the tracking number, and then during my search on the Interwebz, I realized that the USPS Priority Mail didn't offer tracking number unless requested - and there's a fee for that; I ended up not knowing when the package would arrive, and finally received a notification in my mail slot that the package was waiting for me in a nearby USPS office), at long last, I received it.

And yes, it is beautiful. Despite the initial mixed-up, I highly recommend Sirik. He replied to my other messages with genuine concern, so yes, there is a good chance that I will buy from him again.

Monday, September 19, 2011

class notes (spins, shimmies, smiles)

Yes, I know. I didn't post anything for more than two weeks and I know I have my notes with me, beginning from a Thursday night class two weeks ago until the Saturday two days ago.

I'm really glad to be able to generate hits from help people who are looking for specific moves and steps, like the Chico Four Corners pass, for example. I hope I did help you, whoever you are! Probably next time you can leave some comments?

Okay, now on to the notes from Thursday night class with Ms. Stefanie Kelly:
  1. Spins: When doing them, always make sure that you open your feet as wide as your shoulders. This might not be automatic at first, but it comes with practice. Ms. Kelly gave a cool analogy: the Nutcracker doll! Feet planted firmly shoulder-width apart, arms and elbows are gracefully up, not droopy. Hmm... So I took one minute to look for a picture of the doll and wasted ten minutes to drool over ballet guys in tights. Here. You're welcome. Here's uh... Some more... If you're into that sort of thing.
  2. Spins: Remember the Phone Booth / Pizza Box (PB) concept? Well, Spins is one of those things that will greatly improve with the help of PB. The head faces the right corner of the PB to spot. This way, the whole body opens up and not closes up, therefore providing an excellent Kodak moment.
  3. Spins: Another thing to remember (and to help angling the body) is to make sure the outer side of your right foot faces the right corner (see the picture I made. Haha, sorry for the quirky-looking toes and footprints, but you get the idea. The red square is the PB outline).
  4. Spins: in addition to not setting your feet too wide apart, watching the body alignment will also help balancing your spins. Make sure you have a straight angle from the top of your head to your feet.
  5. Performance Drills: Ms. Kelly reminded us about checking in by turning whenever we assume the lead position (this works for both one-side and multiside gigs, although assuming the leadership can be trickier during multisided performances). However, if you happen to screw-up, keep smiling! Don't change your facial expression, don't mouth or drop the F-bomb, keep your cool and do a smooth transition. It happens, and if it does, then let it slide off. There's no disappointment with yourself or other dance members.
  6. Shimmies: make sure to bend your knees to create larger shimmies and more upper-body stability (therefore, your upper body won't jiggle along with the hip shimmy). Ms. Kelly showed us a really neat thing: she did the Turkish Shimmy with Arms and Turns WITH the Turkish Shimmy, meaning she didn't lose the shimmy even while turning. That's my goal. I mean, seriously? Sometimes I just get too caught up in the turn itself that I lose my shimmy.
The following Thursday, we had a class with Ms. Elliott and I was late. Of course. I missed the bus and I ended up missing the BART ride, and so I came to the studio about ten minutes later. The disadvantages about coming late to a dance class are not getting a good spot (I can be very nit-picky about positioning myself on the back right of the teacher, because it's the follower position) and not being able to mingle and chat with the other dancers before class.

In the class, she also taught us the regular Oriental Shimmy (not the Tribal Shimmy where it's actually the Three Quarter Oriental Shimmy). She likened it to the unhinging of the hips, so the hips go up and down and up and down in a rhythmical way. I find that by bending the knees lower, I can get bigger up and down range of motion.

She also drilled us on milking the movements. She said that it was impossible for a Slow Move to be too slow, but it was possible for a Slow Move to be too fast. Then she reminded us about the Arm Undulation while circling. Sometimes we get too carried away with trying to get from Point A to Point B that our feet star to move fast and our Arm Undulation automatically follows. We need to remember to isolate our arm movements from our feet.

Last Saturday's classes were taught by Ms. Wendy Allen and we did a very mind-blowing exercise for multigig performances!

We grouped up in trios and here was the plan:
  1. Shimmy to expand and move into position (leader, followers)
  2. Arabic and Turn
  3. Arabic and shrink (the dancers bunch up together, sort of like a modified Arabic Orbit)
  4. Arabic and do a quarter turn
  5. Back to Shimmy to expand and another dancer take the lead
It sounded pretty simple. It was level 1. Then we moved on to level 2: use corners, instead of the walls, for the audience. Then we moved on to level 3: use whatever object in the studio as the audience.

Honestly, I found that the level 2 was the hardest. I believe this has to do with my needing more PB exercise. I also found that this exercise helped me in three things: be aware of my body alignment / performance angle, give a clear-cut cue, and take the lead with conviction.
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