Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Let me tell you a secret: I hate goodbyes. I hate to leave someone or something because of inevitable priorities. I am someone who's attached to the past and when I love someone or something, unless there's a turn of events, I'll stick to that someone or something until the death.

That explains why I almost invariably order vegetarian fried rice and either mineral water, iced tea, or iced lemon tea whenever possible.

When I resigned from my *ahem* 9 to 5 job of three and a half years in early 2009, I cried so hard at the end of the 15th year anniversary party of the company I worked for. The last event I helped organized.

I left my job to prepare my *ahem* studies abroad. During the preparation, I got so engrossed with dancing and the first The Dance Within that I missed the admittance deadline.

But this year, I was prepared. Or... rather *ahem* more prepared. I'm leaving for San Francisco on January 5th, 2011. It will either be for six months or more. I'll definitely be home for Christmas if everything goes well.

Going away for such a long time means leaving dear friends, colleagues, and students I've come to grow with over the past years. It's been such a privilege to be able to also learn from them.

When I return, I will not see some of them ever again. Some of my students are foreigners and they will have to come back to their respective countries when I'm gone. And one of my colleagues is getting married and staying abroad to settle down with her husband.

I have resigned from the studios I worked at, teaching Oriental dance. My last class will be on Thursday, 30 December 2010.

A little Christmas gift and several farewell presents, and that... that really makes me sad.

But somehow, though I feel emotionally down, there is also a hint of hope that I will come back and teach again. And there's also this little budding feeling that everything is on its perfect timing. I'm on that path, the path that will lead me to the place I want.

In San Francisco, I will become a full-time student. There's a zilch chance of me joining a troupe (student visa only, lack of time management skill, and most probably lack of talent).

And then, there's always another goodbye there. And hello again Jakarta, some time after.

And that... that hello makes me smile.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

room for improvement and the midas touch

I love dance and I love the stage. That's why I always try my best to watch dance performances.

And yes, that includes dance performances and events from other dance schools and institutions. There are always things that can be noted to be applied or avoided. Second-hand experiences are sometimes just as good and even better than first-hand.

First, the factors that are not related to the dancers: building (location, facilities such as toilets, parking, climate control), stage (stage floor, curtains, lightings, sound and sound system). Surveying a place is one thing (going to the backstage to see if the backstage capacity is enough to accommodate the cast and crew), but looking at the place in action is another.

Then the dancers: costumes, music, stylization, blocking, mood, stage presence.

I've only been dancing for three years. I still consider myself a baby dancer. And I learn from anything and everything. Youtube. DVDs... But a stage show is something that I always crave and covet. It's an opportunity to learn from someone else. To take the positive things and leave the negative things.

I had a chat the other day with Monique. Some of the things that we talked about included taking lessons from other teachers and seeing the shows. Monique has tons of dancing experiences, that's why she "had the nerve" to open a dance school along with Misya and Mifta. They have been dancing for years and decided to give it a go and created Dancewave Center.

But Dancewave Center is not the only dance institution in Jakarta. And the Western dance scene (Hip Hop, Jazz, Ballet) is also flourishing in big cities such as Palembang (West Sumatra), Bandung (West Java), and Surabaya (East Java). And so, it is really exciting to have dancers from other cities dancing with us, even as students.

These places offer dances and some are the same with Dancewave Center (Hip Hop, Burlesque, Bollywood, Oriental and Tribal Fusion bellydance). So why not also learn from those places as well? We encourage our students to always learn from anywhere.

And they do. They enthusiastically gobble up Youtube videos. They go to dance workshops. They attend dance recitals. They note down things that appeal to them and things that don't and they share them with their classmates and teachers.

When I was in school, our teachers also said the same thing: Do not just learn from books at school, but expand your horizons, learn from sources that are not given to you, seek your own sources of information.

Of course I didn't do that because I was not interested very much in learning things at school. I was always an average student.

But in dance, it suddenly makes sense.

Oh, and about seeing the shows from other dance schools, it doesn't matter if you're the owner or creative director or general manager or CEO or whatever from a dance institution or company, by attending a dance show, aside from the fact that you can learn a lot of things, it also shows your support to dance.

You see, it's not about competition. It's not about personal feelings or pride. It's about something bigger than that.

It's about dance.

If you want dance to be respected, you need to appreciate and support it. Do this by attending the show. Especially if you have nothing better to do.

If you're really creative and gifted, you can even take some of the negativity from the performance and turn it into something gold. Like Midas.

I know I still have a lot of things to improve. One of them being my posture. Balancing something on my head does great things to it, but years of slouching can only be fixed with making good posture a habit.

And I had a most unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. I have a love/hate relationship with safety pins. I know some great dancers do not endorse safety pins, but sometimes they greatly help.

And in dance, it's all about the posture, the stage presence, the PERSONA: Posture, Energy, Refinement, Stamina, Ornamentation, Nerve, and Attitude.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

a note to videographers and photographers

Dear Photographers and Videographers of dance recitals (or any event),

You are the last threshold of all dancers, cast and crew. It is your work that will be used as THE ONLY remembrance of that moment under the spotlight.

If the performance is only once, then it's not you that's screwed. It's the dancers. But if we're going down, we're taking you with us.

That great moment under the spotlight is shared by all dancers on stage: fat or thin, curvy or twiggy, male or female, physically blessed or challenged.

Everyone deserves to be photographed. Imagine if you are one of the dancers and there is no photo of you. And yet, you are the choreographer of the piece, or worse: you are the dancer who always shows up on every single, painful rehearsal without excuses.

If you are unsure about what kind of photos the other photographers take, ASK! It's more than irritating to see that all the photographs are taken from the same angle, and all close-ups. No full-frontal group shots. Or vice versa.

Show up during rehearsals. It's the best time to actually find out which moments are the best photo-moments. It will make your portfolio more interesting. Dance is the art of movements. And it gets better with props. It's one of the most challenging things to take picture of. So use it to enhance your photography skills. That's if you're serious. This is also applicable to videographers.

Videographers of dance... Ah, your skill is the most crucial as you will capture the motion itself and immortalize it for the dancers and everyone else interested in seeing the recording for whatever reason.

This is the ONLY RULE IN VIDEOTAPING DANCE: TAKE A FULL BODY SHOT. Dancers are interested in seeing everything to learn from mistakes (if any). To re-learn intricate steps and correct posture and body alignments (if wrong).

If there happens to be another video camera, then you can play around, WITH THE CONSENT OF THE CLIENT. I had the most unfortunate video where I had Lilith balanced snugly ON TOP OF MY HEAD and only MY FEET were shown.

And when you are combining footage from multiple cameras, please, DO NOT BE GENEROUS WITH THE COMBINATIONS. It is okay if the three minutes from a three-minute-thirty-second song is only from one angle, one camera. It might be boring for you, but YOU ARE NOT A DANCER. If you happen to be a dancer, you will know what I'm talking about.

If you don't, well this is why: Dancers are interested in seeing everything to learn from mistakes (if any). To re-learn intricate steps and correct posture and body alignments (if wrong).

Sounds familiar? Of course. It is cut and pasted from a paragraph a little before this.

That being said, I'm glad the photographers and videographers for this year's The Dance Within 2: Beyond the Dream are so much better and well-informed than last year. Well, especially the videographers.

Monique and I just learned why editing could be so costly today. We edited the two-hour show (and more, whatwith backstage preparation and the aftershow mingle shots) in eight hours. It is a very painful and tedious experience, but Mr. Wawan from OneStudio Jakarta was so very patient with all our whims and wishes (and downright madness).

20 pieces of chocolate biscuits. 10 digital video tapes. 9 hours of footage. 10 hours of nonstop editing. two crazy bitches. one depressed video-editor. one computer.

One final masterpiece umm... thing that we can really be proud of.

The DVD of "The Dance Within 2: Beyond the Dream" will be released soon right before Christmas 2010.

Friday, December 10, 2010

bollywood enchantment

Several months ago, I believe it was the beginning of 2010, I went to Nehru Center, the Indian cultural center, to fulfill my New Year's resolution: to study Kathak.

Nehru Center is ridiculously near my house. And I had always wanted to expand my dance repertoire. So away I went. I had been making phone calls earlier, but decided to just go. The registration fee was next to nothing and so I thought, "Wow, this is a great bargain!"

I told my friends from Dancewave Center and velvetRAQS to join, and finally, Monique, Mifta, and Yulia came on board.

Alas, work overwhelmed me and I missed lots of classes, and when I got in, it had become awfully hard for me to continue. I had to let it go.

In the end, only Yulia and Monique stayed. Yulia even got to perform with the teacher!

To tell you the truth, I've always been a fan of Bollywood movies ever since I was in primary school. Probably because of John Abraham. Okay, so I just spent fifteen minutes searching for the hottest, yet SFW (safe for work) pic of John Abraham, and I found so many that I'll just give you this link. And yeah, it's SFW, despite its warning.

But another more definite reason is because of the dancing and singing and the wide-angle shots and the gardens and the glitters and the sequines and the saris... When it's happy, it's bursting with colors and joy. When it's sad... It's dark and gloomy. Everything is full of drama.

Many of the best dance scenes aren't from Moulin Rouge or Chicago or Step Up series, but from Bollywood movies. (I'm not even going to mention Nine because everyone knows it's godawful.)

The real Bollywood dance, as the name suggests, is a blend of traditional Indian dances (I'm thinking the likes of Kathak, Bharata natyam, and Odissi), sometimes with the more modern Bhangra, and almost always with Hip Hop and Modern or Contemporary. It is either danced in a pair, or really epic.

For The Dance Within 2: Beyond the Dream, since the story revolves on dances around the world, Bollywood is on the list. I found a really neat song called "Aaja Nachle", one of the songs from a movie with the same title, starring the incomparable Madhuri Dixit. Just so you know, "Aaja Nachle" means "Let's Dance", so it's really apt for the show. Yulia then choreographed the dance and I could finally do one of my lifelong dreams: to dance Bollywood style.

There was a time when I got so depressed: I wanted to dance Bollywood, but I didn't know how. Everytime I tried, it looked too Oriental and I didn't want that. I wanted it to look Bollywood. I guess that night, our hard work was finally paid off.

The Dance Within 2: Beyond the Dream
"Aaja Nachle" piece in The Dance Within 2: Beyond the Dream.

Bollywood can be cheesy if the choreographer and the director demand it to be so. Bollywood can be over the top if needed. But I'm telling you, it takes more than that. In the show, the piece was danced by both Hip Hop and Oriental students and teachers of Dancewave Center. I heard one Hip Hop student said the dance we were learning was so damn hard that she would never look down on Bollywood movies ever again.

Amen to that.

The shoulder movements are different, the way we carry the movements are different, far different from Hip Hop and Oriental. I found myself trying hard to adjust to this new thing. But still, it is one of my favorite pieces of the show.

There's an Indian wedding gig coming up on the 26th. The client requests two Bollywood songs and one Oriental. Let's just hope we can really entertain those real Indians. One thing for sure: I wouldn't be wearing the dots above my eyebrows as usual when I'm dancing Oriental / Tribal Fusion.

Photo by Si Troy.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

creative juices

Call me an amateur in web-design. Call me whatever you want. I've been designing webs and blogging since 1998. That's been what? Twelve years? But I know we can't judge skills and abilities from the period of time wasted used on doing something.

Last night when I was sorting some four friggin' thousand (that's 4,000) photos from The Dance Within 2: Beyond the Dream, I found some really neat images I could play around and voila! In less than ten hours (yes, it was that long), the new Dancewave Center's website is up and running.

The screen shot.

I live in a house with somewhat little privacy. My parents never allow the children to have television in the bedroom. The TV (and dining) room is where we all meet and talk about the day's work. Sometimes it annoys me because I really want to just watch the television.

I have a laptop and my home is wi-fi enabled so I can bring my laptop to my room and do my stuff. But I really love working with my desktop since it's faster and the monitor is bigger. My desktop is situated in an area in the house with no partition whatsoever. So sometimes the noise from the other rooms reach my ears when I'm doing something.

After years of suffering adapting to the situation, I've become quite nocturnal. I appreciate the silence and stillness of midnights and early mornings or when my family is away. Don't get me wrong, I love their companionship. I'd go crazy without them. But I also like a time of my own when I can put on my headphone and create a choreography in 30 minutes (albeit a simple one).

Ah, Amr Diab... You sexy beast! I can't believe he's 47!
This is the song I'm talking about. It was sitting in my library for months and then one night,
I was listening to it and the inspiration hit me.
It left me sweaty and breathless and my juices running like the Japanese bullet train.

I rarely blog during the day, let alone write an essay or a poem. And since night is the only time I have for myself, to reflect and to think, I didn't have the time to blog about anything in November due to the rehearsals and practices and sewing.

No, I'm not trying to make an excuse as to why I've only written ten (eleven with this one) entries up until now and 2010 is almost over! And no, I'm not trying to write something random just to make it look like I'm being productive. *sigh*

It's really... I don't know... liberating to be able to write something that's almost not related to dance in this blog.

I think now that I can focus on other things in my life (more stressful than managing a dance performance), I can write more. Hopefully tomorrow evening.

Don't forget to check out Dancewave Center's new website, guys!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

of dance and dreams (and manners in watching art performances)

First of all, let me just say that I thoroughly enjoyed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Partly because of this scene below where Harry and Hermione dance to relieve the tension. That's such a propaganda coming from me, I know. But dance does things, and one of them is relieving stress.

harry potter hermione grange deathly hallows dance

And I almost cried three times during the movie, something that never happened during any of the Potter movies. And Beedle the Bard really makes me understand why many people think JK Rowling is a genius. I can't wait to see the conclusion!

Now, on to some notes regarding The Dance Within 2: Beyond the Dream that was finally wrapped on November 27th, 2010. The show took place in Gedung Kesenian Jakarta and was the culmination of the hard work of all cast and crew. More on that later.

One thing that I have to highlight is the fact that you have to be prepared for replacements (dancer, crew, etc). Our music technician got ill just a few days before the show and thank goodness the replacement did the whole thing just as well.

I know it would be another thing to replace a dancer, especially the lead dancer, but fortunately that didn't happen. It would be a lot harder because that means compromising many things, including artistic vision.

That being said, honestly, this year's recital leaves a somewhat different impression on me. Everything happened so fast. Last year, I had the opportunity to watch other numbers from the side when I was waiting for my turn. This year, it was all about costume changes. I danced seven numbers with different props that were new to me (cane and Isis wings). And I had to spend the last minutes before the end of the show as a blind-mute.

Honestly, I was worried about my sword routine. Lilith fell so many times during the rehearsal, and she even cut my fingers and palms at one time when I tried to catch her. But I guess I did an okay job as she didn't fall although I was practically blind when dancing in the show.

Unlike The Dance Within, The Dance Within 2: Beyond the Dream is a lot more gloomy and depressive. Yes, there were quite a few happy highlights like the Bollywood number, but in all, I felt gloomy. I played Azrael, the Angel of Death, and in the end I had to kill The Dreamer, the main character. Although the finale took place in Heaven (with "When Love Takes Over" by David Guetta feat. Kelly Rowland, no less), I still feel it was less festive than the first.

The Dance Within 2: Beyond the Dream
The cast, in the finale scene.

Gedung Kesenian Jakarta did a pretty good job with the lighting. We had positive reviews from the audience and from members of the media who attended the event. There are some inputs as well that we need to share during the post-mortem meeting.

But this is what got me on my nerves: the ticket was sold out a week before the show. We even decided to sell the tickets that were intended for the press when they said they wouldn't come. Some people were actually waiting to the very last minute to purchase the tickets. I even took the time to deliver the tickets myself and there was more than one time when I was ready to deliver and I didn't receive any confirmation message whatsoever. So I sold the tickets to someone else and got complaints from the person who was supposed to purchase them first.

I hope next year I won't have to deal with that.

The next thing I'd like to blog about is manners in watching art performances in theatres or art centers.

The first one is of course: do not be late. Dancewave Center has the habit of starting things (quite) on time. The Dance Within started 15 minutes late and The Dance Within 2: Beyond the Dream started 7 minutes late. That was an improvement. Whoever came in fifteen minutes after the first act had begun had to wait until the intermission to be allowed to enter.

The second one is taking photos and videos. Holly Hallelujah... We've specifically told the audience on the ticket, the flier, the playbill, and the voiceover that taking photos and videos are prohibited. We stated that IN TWO LANGUAGES! And yet I still saw people with handycams videotaping the event. We should've confiscated that. It was very, very rude. I promise you, next year, the security will be much more strict. When we say no video and no photo taking, that means no video and no photo taking.

The third one is: READ THE PLAYBILL!! It's theatrical, and sometimes it's not that easy to comprehend what's happening. The playbill helps you to understand the dances and the story-line. Come on, even in Ballet, the playbill serves as a guide to understand the story.

But apart from that, our audience was the loveliest. I sat sandwiched between two very talkative groups (in front of me and behind me) during Bellydance Jakarta's fifth annual recital. And to make matters worse, the woman in front of me kept leaning to the right to talk to her friend during the show, and she raised her hands to take photos of the dancers. Now that was downright rude and inconsiderate.

And oh, this is the best part: thank you, whoever brought small children and taught them to behave. I didn't hear any crying babies or children during my frightening dance.

Our audience dressed well. That was one highlight. Although I couldn't help but notice a foreigner, who happened to be a hip hop dance instructor from another dance institution in Jakarta, sitting with his CAP ON and his FOOT UP on the back of the chair in front of him. This was after the show ended, I know. And he has long legs and Gedung Kesenian Jakarta has little leg room, I know. But come on, Dude. I thought you knew better.

The Dance Within (1 & later 2) has always been about the culmination of hard work from everyone. I believe that's why we refuse to open (or end) the show with a speech and giving flowers or some other type of ego-fest. We were just glad everything was over and we did all the best we could. And the effort was everyone's.

I can't wait for The Dance Within 3.

Photo credits:
Lilith & me by Diana T. W.
Cast finale by Si Troy
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