Sunday, January 29, 2012

the owl and the pussycat

Last night, we performed at a friend's wedding. Well, she's actually a friend of one of the velvetRAQS girls and we were asked to dance at her wedding (not Middle-Eastern themed, but we didn't care). They were gracious and the guests were quite enthusiastic.

However, I had mixed feelings.

I don't know if I were just being tired and draggy (as I'm writing this, I'm still feeling tired. I was sneezing and it's usually a sign that I'm going to be hit by a full on cold, so let's just see...), but I'm starting to doubt my performance skills.

It's good that I'm taking a hiatus on performing as BlueDiamondsBellyDance since my school schedule for the Spring Semester (boy, that's a lot of "s") doesn't allow me to go to Thursday rehearsals and classes at FatChanceBellyDance®.

So let's just see where this is going. I'm really hoping this is a false alarm. I'm not taking a full hiatus on dancing because I'm still passionate about teaching.

I guess my problem is that I don't know how much I'm worth. And some nights, like last night, I felt like I didn't give my best. And I feel a headache coming up.

And the significance of the picture with the Owl and the Pussycat? Well, there's something so enchantingly detached and dispassionate about the poem. Not to mention haunting and depressing, with no sense of closure. It just hangs there, in the air, with uncertainty. Just like what I'm feeling right now.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Well, here's my first video on YouTube. Well, not really the first, but someone uploaded it, so why not.

It's not half bad (since it's small and the quality's not so good).

Here's the velvetRAQS plus Lilith, dancing to Washing Away the Dirty by Dirty Elegance at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta, Saturday, 7 January 2012 for Dancewave Center's annual recita: The Dance Within 3D: One World.

In this one, I became Kali-Ma and slayed the Goddesses of Time (Past-Present-Future) so Earth could reset itself. Choreography by me, videography by

I feel that this one's so much better than last year's when my posture was still so pseudo-ATS and I had helicopter hands.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

indian jewelry and vedic culture

So last year (that's right, last year!) on October 5, FatChanceBellyDance® organized a miniseminar on Indian jewelry. The speaker was Ms. Colleena Shakti, the other half of Nakarali and Odissi dancer / teacher. I really don't need to tell you how fabulous Nakarali pieces are. I, err... I bought a piece of silver belt at last year's Tribal Fest and although it cost me an arm and leg, it's a good investment.

But I digress. Let's begin.

The beginning of Indian jewelry can be traced back to 5,000 years ago. The source of inspiration for the aesthetics came from the Vedas (ancient sacred writings of Hinduism). These Vedas have specific description of the adornments worn by the Gods and Goddesses (yes, I'm totally using capital "G"). These descriptions were made into illustrations by painters, and the poses of the Gods and Goddesses were translated by temple dancers into what is now known as Classical Indian Dance. This style of Indian dance is considered the epitome of Vedas, and therefore Indian, culture. The detailed carving of a God or Goddess or dancer from 500 years ago shows the exact same jewelry worn now.

What's remarkable is that every part of Chakra is covered in jewelry. This means there is a specific placement of each jewelry piece. Placing precious metals on the Nadis contains the power / spirit of the Mother / Goddess, therefore binding the Shakti energy.

The Indian idea of divine beauty is adornment. There is no end of adornment in the Indian aesthetics. The purpose of the body is to be adorned. Even in Kama Sutra illustrations (the classic ones, not the FHM ones) and sculptures, the clothes come off, but never the jewelry.

Jewelry also serves as an identity to show the caste and community. The 10,000 year old culture of India is passed on on both conscious and subconscious levels. The style of adornment reflects which tribe the person belongs to. Communal-mindedness is necessary in a tribe; there is no such thing as a stand-outness. Tribal costume (and jewelry) is not just adornment, but a lineage of ideas. The idea is how to represent people for having a pride in the moral system.

For example, the children of Kalbeliya Tribe, a caste of snake charmers, wear beaded jewelry (lighter, more comfortable, cheaper). When the girl is ready to be married, then she will wear silver that weighs at least 1.5 kg on her body. This is for financial security. Imagine, the people in this tribe lead nomadic life. This means no wall, no indoor plumbing, and now ATM. So if you had USD 5,000, where would you put it? On your body!

Jewelry is investment (like the belt I bought), it's also a transferable asset (you pass it down to the future generation), and it even guards you. Ms. Shakti told us the story of her Mataji who had an accident. Her leg was run over by a car, but she was alright because she was wearing a big-ass chunky anklet. The anklet protected her from too much damage, but it was broken to pieces. So they took the anklet to a shop to be sold to cover the hospital fee. The jewelry pieces are not pure or 92% silver, but they have to be mixed with other metals to endure the harsh conditions the tribespeople live in.

The Kalbeliya women are beggars, but they're adorned in jewelry and that's their right. The jewelry is not meant to be given up to feed the family (I know, right? THE IRONY). Sometimes, these people carve their names on the jewelry, like they have their names tattooed on their forearms because they're illiterate. Nowadays (I guess this also happens in Indonesia), Indians don't want to wear the older, more classic jewelry because they want to appear more western.

I was feeling rather intelligent that night and so I asked a question. The illustrations show Gods and Goddesses adorned in gold, so why is it that silver is the big thing? These are Ms. Shakti's responses:
  1. Gold is more precious (more expensive) than silver
  2. Silver mixes better with nickel and other metal
  3. Gold is reserved for Gods and Goddesses therefore distancing mere humans (Silver) with Supreme Beings (Gold - representing Solar energy)
I hope I didn't leave out important details! I'm sorry it took so long to write this. Sigh. Now that one debt is done, I still have two articles to post: Male ATS costuming ideas and the Extended Prayer.

Monday, January 23, 2012

tribal spark

A few weeks ago, on Sunday, 8 January 2012, Tribal Babes Indonesia hosted Indonesia's first ever Tribal Belly Dance and Fusion Festival. They were having a special guest coming over and it's none other than the lovely Ms. Cinzia di Ciocco of Les Soeurs Tribales (LST). I've seen LST's videos and I have to say that I'm most impressed with their fluidity, creative transitions, and very, very pretty skirt work. And as far as I know, in the videos, everything is Improv Tribal Style (ITS).

I danced two numbers, using FatChanceBellyDance® American Tribal Style® Moves and Steps to Caravan by Raquy & the Cavemen for the first one, and Tribal Fusion to Linetzky and Romeo's Sentimientos. I gotta tell you, though, one is the loneliest number in ATS®. There's no sense of the tribe. Nonetheless, I was happy because I got to dance with my Banjara Skirt and my old headdress. So, yay to power in costuming!

I wish I had pictures of me dancing to Sentimientos, but for now, those photos will not see the light of day. HA. I wore my white Tribal garb for that one in case you're curious.

Anyway, I was telling you about one being the loneliest number in ATS®. Well, guess what, at the end of the show when all the performers were called on stage, Ms. Ciocco took my hands and we danced together to none other than Shakira's Ojos Asi. Yes. We danced using the basic American Tribal Style® vocabulary (Egyptian, Arabic, Arabic Shimmy, Pivot Bump, Turkish Shimmy, and of course the luxurious Taxeem). I had seen her doing Double Back and Chico 4 Corners during her performance so I threw them in as well. I also threw in the Chico 4 Corners passing and she caught that. Some of the moves didn't "translate" well between us but it all made sense because later she told me that she did Gypsy Caravan.

Still, it felt really good to dance with someone I'd never danced with before, and we did it quite seamlessly. Of course I blundered by doing Slow Moves when the song was still fast (I hadn't listened to Ojos Asi in ages), but still, doing the on-the-spot improv felt so natural. After the song ended, Ms. Ciocco encouraged me to explain to the crowd that we had never danced together ever and then we shouted, "That's the power of Tribal".

Oh, and yeah, I also made another blunder by CHANGING INTO MY STREET WEAR. Haha.

It was a fun night, although I really wish we could see more Tribal and Fusion belly dance.


Photo credit:

All photos courtesy of Tribal Babes Indonesia.

In the third photo: (left to right) The emcee of the evening, Ms. Vina from Kalimantan (!), Ms. Nabila from Sahara Dance Jakarta, Ms. Miftahul Jannah from velvetRAQS / Dancewave Center (yep, that's my boss... and her ankle boots...), Ms. Enna from Sahara Dance Jakarta, Desi from Tribal Babes Indonesia, Ms. Cinzia di Ciocco from Les Soeurs Tribales, Ms. Christine Yaven from Bellydance Jakarta, Ms. Patricia from Star of the East / Interlude Dance Academy, Yours Truly, and Yulia Bollywood. Quite a lot of line-up, huh?

Monday, January 16, 2012

tribal fusion intensive

I'm teaching again! This time it's for an eight-week intensive program and not for American Tribal Style® but Tribal Fusion.

It's only Rp. 800,000 per person for all eight sessions, but it's limited to Dancewave Center students. We're going to do drills and end with a choreography to a short song (Sourire by Les Nubians).

Here's the little poster:

For more information, check out the Facebook Event page.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

well hello there, 2012

Alright, as usual, when I'm back in Jakarta, I hardly blog. I have reasons! As soon as I landed in Jakarta, the grueling practice sessions and rehearsals began, and I'm not kidding. A few hours after touch-down, I met my velvetRAQS girls and we practiced the two numbers that I choreographed for Dancewave Center's annual recital, The Dance Within 3D: One World. The sold-out show (yes, sold-out. Again.) was held in the legendary auditorium of Gedung Kesenian Jakarta (Jakarta Performing Arts Building) on Saturday, 7 January 2012.

Here are some photographic highlights from the show. Things weren't perfect (I'm trying to be modest) and by golly look at my bloated belly. Sigh.

I resolve to own six-pack abs for the next recital.

No, really. I do.

The pictures of the velvetRAQS in white Tribal Fusion attire (headdress, bra of the girls, my top, and my belt are all made by me) are of us dancing as Snow Flakes using choreographed moves from FatChanceBellyDance® vocabulary. I'm very proud of my posture as it totally slims down my belly. Haha. I wore my new Ivory Tulle bi Telli scarf from Safti Craft. I only have good things to say about Safti. Very timely production and shipment.

The second set of pictures are of us in black Tribal Fusion attire (my top and belt are made by me). I danced as Kali-Ma who slays the Three Goddesses of Time so Earth could return to her glory (before time, before humans exist).

I'm still waiting for pictures from the first Tribal Bellydance & Fusion Festival organized by Tribal Babes Indonesia, right the next day after The Dance Within 3D: One World, where I danced two numbers. I've got a really cool story for that evening.


Photo Credits:

Photos 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are by Diana Tri from PIKME Photography.
Photo 2 by Yudha Wiraghupta.
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