Tuesday, January 19, 2010

velvetRAQS: the professional bellydancers

This entry marks the cyber birthdate of the velvetRAQS and this blog having a new label post: velvetraqs (doh, what else?). Okay, so the second one is probably a lot less important than the first one. *rolls eyes*

Now let me tell you a bit about the velvetRAQS.

The velvetRAQS is the one and only Jakarta-based bellydance troupe that specializes in American Oriental and Tribal Fusion bellydance styles.

Our repertoires include flashy usage of veils, Isis wings, zills, and scimitar, with very distinct floorworks (yes, I'm proud of our floorworks) and theatrical presentation.

Another thing that makes us stand apart than most other bellydance troupes is that we actually know what we're doing, we have (quite) an extensive knowledge of songs and range of movements. As for the costume and our dance styles, well... You be the judge.

The website itself will feature a one-of-a-kind on-line store that will ship to anywhere in the world, but especially all around Jakarta and Indonesia. Plus there will be a resource center with articles that will hopefully be helpful to other dancers and those looking for enlightenment to the dance.

I'm sooo excited! Yeah!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

cowries, cases, and creative chaos

Oh, whoa... I'm doing two posts in one day! In less than one hour after the earlier one was posted! How unthinkable.

Anyway, yeah. About a year ago when I was really new to the whole Tribal thing, I found a really cool link at LiveJournal. It was a cowrie-shell hairfall tutorial. I was in love with cowrie shells. I mean, there's something that's just so... Shaman-y of them that draws me. Not to mention that somehow, when being strung together, they look like a spine. Pretty creepy, huh?

But the tutorial seemed so hard and I kind of forgot about it.

A few weeks ago, I remembered that I had bought cowrie shells like a long time ago and remembered the tutorial and went to search for it. I mean, I didn't want my cowrie shells to go to waste. They'd been sitting there for almost a year then.

I found the tutorial again (click here... but omigod I don't know what happened but the pictures are gone!! Maybe I should notify the girl, huh?) and tried doing it and now I'm officially addicted to weaving cowrie shells, both for hair falls or other adornments. I even made one (well, two) for Lilith.

Oh geez, you know what, I'm still thinking how lucky I am to have found the tutorial just in time before the pictures went off!

Anyway, finding cowrie shells in Jakarta is rather hard. I mean, I used to get really nice big ones from a store in ITC Kuningan called Violetta. The store also sells really cool beads. I'm now friends with the salesgirls and the owner and they always give me good bargain! Violetta is on the fourth floor.

So one day I went to Pasar Pagi Mangga Dua with Alex. Half of the third floor sells beads and steel clasps for shoes and belts, and oh my god, more beads and paillettes and shiny stuffs!! I found a really good bargain for cowrie shells here (I forgot the name of the store, I'll need to get back to you on that). It's like a whole bag of cowrie shells and it only cost USD 4. Neat, huh??? Too bad the sizes of the shells really vary so I need to pick the shells and arrange them based on the size.

Another stand-out store in Pasar Pagi Mangga Dua is Istana Payette (Paillette Palace). Everytime I went there, I always splurged! It's not my fault! They have really cool Indian (although modern) accessories that you can use to adorn your belt, bra, etc.

For the wool, I went to Lenny's, a really neat store also in ITC Kuningan, 2nd floor if I'm not mistaken. They have all kinds of wool. Glittery(I bought gold), synthetic, etc. I got a big bundle of wool for USD 2.

If you're looking for peacock feathers, pheasant feathers, boa, etc, I think it's best to spend your money in Toko Renda (available in Plaza Indonesia and Senayan City). A peacock feather costs only USD 1 in Toko Renda yet costs USD 1.5 in stores in Pasar Pagi Mangga Dua. UPDATE (December 17, 2010): Toko Renda (at least the one in Plaza Senayan) somehow stops selling the big, big peacock feather. Only the small, blade-like ones are available. So if you want nice, big peacock feathers, go to Pasar Pagi Mangga Dua.

So here they are, the results. I'm really addicted to making them that I might do this for a living!

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(From up left to bottom left, clockwise or up to down: a blue-gold cowrie fall for a wristlet, a red-black cowrie fall for Lilith, and long black cowrie hair falls)

Now everyone who's been to my house will notice that in every place I spend a long time in, there'll be a mess. When I was still working in a cubicle, my cubicle was the messiest, most chaotic place in the whole office. And I was working in a hotel.

I needed boxes and cases to store my needles, whole and cut-out-don't-throw-me-out-just-yet fabrics, scissors, beads, clasps, cowrie shells, tweezers, etc, and luckily, Alex and his mate gave me a nice can of chocolates. And what's so nice about it is that there's not only the tin can, but also two bags used as the package for the tin can. Neato!!

So here it is, my being cheap and recycling.

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(From up left to bottom left, clockwise or up to down: The chocolate package, the peacock-feathered hairfalls go into the tin can, the little and not-so-delicate beads go into the tulle bag, and everything is stuffed within the black cotton bag for easy and safe travel)

Mom gave me a really cute shoe box (is glittery pink) and she told me to store away all those beads and lead a cleaner life.


a shiny sword is a happy sword

Oh, man, this was supposed to be done in JUNE!!! As in, June 2009. Oh, and happppy new year!! I wish you all the best for this whole year of 2010.

But yeah, maybe I should wait a little (as in more than 6 months) to actually write something like this.

I met Lilith almost a year ago through Triballine.com and I'm going to share with you the way I clean and dance with her. I've been doing this for almost 8 months now and she's still in good condition. So I think whatever I'm doing actually works for her and me.

I'm really new when it comes to dancing with a sword and there're things that I think are really helpful to keep the scimitar balanced.

Tip #1: Don't get a haircut too close to the performance.
Or if you do get a haircut, don't cut your hair too short. I love a clean, spike-haired look, and it works for me. One time I got a crew-cut and Lilith tended to fall off when I balanced her on my head and did the spins. The hair, even without hair wax, really hold the sword.

Tip #2: Smooth and silky hair is... smooth and silky.
And steel (or metal... or almost anything else in the world) tends to slip more easily on smooth and silky surfaces. How to not get smooth and silky hair? Easy. Don't rinse your hair for at least two days. Again, I've the advantage of being a guy so it doesn't matter. Some of my dancing sisters have really long hair so I know that'd be really inconvenient for them if they had to give up shampoo for two days.

Tip #3: Wax.
So you just washed your hair and suddenly a friend of yours called you right when you were just drying off. He wants you to do a sword dance to entertain his clients in a posh middle-eastern eatery. Don't fret, don't panic. Just wax the balancing part of the blade. Rub a candle on that part or, for a better grip, get the wax used by surfers to rub on the surfboards. I don't find this in stores in Jakarta, but if you happen to be in Bali or in other surfing paradise in Indonesia, go buy two. One wax can last for at least 5 years, though. Or so I think. I recommend a brand called Sex Wax.

Sex Wax
My boyfriend bought two of this for me. The copy on the packaging is just sooo cheesy!

Tip #4: Work those muscles!
I've been doing crunches, push-ups, back-ups, balancing poses with Lilith on my head. The exercises not only form a deeper tsahaylu (I can't help myself... I'm such a James Cameron's "Avatar" freak. Tsahaylu is "bond" in Na'Vi language) between Lilith and me, but she also acts as a weight, therefore creating a more challenging routine. And of course, what's a crunch, push-up, or back-up but a form of floor work? Oh, and balancing a sword on your head is child's play once you master the isolation techniques. Try balancing it on your hip, palm, or fingers, chest, shoulder, of course while manipulating the scimitar and doing movements at the same time.

Like this video here.

Okay, so I know she's doing a double sword routine, but oh my God, did you see how she handles those things? Amazing! I mean, she's not just balancing them, but she's also making those scimitars as the extension of her body. I notice twirling the sword like a cane, I notice spinning and doing barrel turns with the swords like doing double veil, and other powerful stuff.

Now that's sick.

Tip #5: Leather makes rust.
Lilith came with a leather scabbard. Never put a scimitar in the leather scabbard and store it that way. It'll rust faster. The scabbard is good to carry the sword (it covers the sharp edge and the pointy end). I'm saving my paycheck to make Lilith a really nice velvet carrier.

Great. We've that one covered. Let's move on to how to clean your scimitar.

Lilith is a Balady Sword, a smaller version of the Cas Iberia Sword. The blade is stainless steel while the hilt is of brass with a wooden grip. It is shiny and it grips really well. It is rather heavy, though, like 1.3 kg (try putting that on your head), so it's a good work out.

Here's what I do to her.

Step #1: Take off all adornments.
I embellish Lilith with two shelled opals, back to back. And there's a hole on the end brass knob on the hilt that I use to tie in short cowrie shell accessory (I'll put up the picture in my next entry). Take off whatever adornments you put on the scimitar to get a more thorough cleaning.

Dark Opal

Step #2: Spread metal cleanser.
I use KIT Metal Polish Cream. I spread them on the blade and later on the brass hilt and knob.

Metal Cleanser

Step #3: Wipe clean.
A soft towel will do. A harsher towel will help clean off harder stains such as wax residue. I use a really soft cloth to make sure I don't scratch the blade when wiping it.

Soft Cloth

And there you have it! Three simple steps to clean your scimitar! Happy dancing!
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