Sunday, January 30, 2011

fcbd dance conditioning class

If you go to and seek out "Anita Lalwani", you'll notice that she has all the highest ratings. And all the ratings and stars are true: she is one hell of a lady.

Just so you know, today, I woke up with the sound of rain. Yes, it was raining AGAIN. And it was bad because I had to be in FCBD's studio by 10 AM. So I got dressed, hurried down to the dining area to have breakfast and went on my way. Turned out, it was not only raining, it was WINDY as well. So the wind blew my poor little green umbrella upside down (who knew that Samsonite didn't make sturdy umbrellas like they made the suitcases?) and I had to wear my puppy-ear flap hat to cover my head. It didn't cover my face, though, so the drizzles (it was only drizzling, thank goodness) hit my face.

Well, at least the BART station is near so I could get there in a jiffy.

It was also drizzling in Mission, but I got to the FCBD studio in time. Yay!

I've been to so many all female dance classes that I'm accustomed to the sight: yes, once more, I'm the only guy in class. It's a good thing that Dance Conditioning (with Ms. Lalwani) is not a general class so I can join.

We started with the floor work routine. There was this hard rolling styrofoam that we use underneath our calfs, butt, hips, inner thighs, and spine that act as a massager. Oooh, my calves hurt like hell when I was rolling on them, but it felt good afterwards. After that, we did the crunches on the mat.

And then came the dance drill and we worked on the Arabic, Arabic Hip-Twist, Arabic With Flourish, Turkish Shimmy, Turkish Shimmy with Arms, and Shimmy with Turns. Ms. Lalwani divided us in two groups: beginners and intermediates. I hurried off to the beginners but she told me to join the intermediate instead. Yeah. I had doubts myself. They turn out to be true.

The intermediate group was later divided into two trios and I joined two ladies. They knew the timing (and the vocabulary) very well. I blundered a lot. *sigh*

Next came the station work-out. Ms. Lalwani set up stations for us to work for two minutes on each station and go to the next for another two minutes and so on. The first station used a weight, the second one had a tiny inflated ball to be put underneath our lower back as we did leg lifts and under the center of our shoulderblades as we did the upper-ab crunches.

The third one had the big fit ball and we were supposed to do back-ups for one minute and change to push-ups on the next minute. The fourth one was shoulder press. The fifth one was lunges. The sixth one was squat and leg exercises using leg restraints. The last one was triceps work-out.

A red-headed warrior named Bethany who also lead my intermediate improv group, called me to spare with her (each station was done by two people). Holy cow. She was even more powerful than I was. I mean, I'm embarrassed. I know I've quit the gym a long time ago, so I can pat myself on the back and offer myself a proper justification. When I stopped to rest, Beth didn't. When I took the lower level challenge, Beth took the higher one. She later confessed (as I was catching my breath when we were doing the leg restrain exercise on the sixth station) that she had been taking body conditioning classes with Ms. Lalwani for years.

Well that's endurance.

After the whole station thing ended, Beth told me that Ms. Lalwani would make us redo the whole thing all over again. I glanced at the clock and saw it was already five minutes to eleven. I doubted it.

We regrouped and did dance drills to two more songs. I felt better than the first try. Yay! Although my arms were droopy due to the station work-outs.

And when it was done, ding ding ding... Ms. Lalwani told us to go back to our stations and do each one for only one minute. Thank goodness.

When everything was finally done, I felt exhausted. Extremely exhausted. But extremely happy. It had to be the most gratifying exercises I've had.

Beth told me to smile whenever it's painful: the more pain, the bigger smile.

I'm just glad I spared with her. I need the challenge.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

floorwork - fcbd style

During the Bellydance Evolution workshop series in Bali last year, I took a... Hungarian dance workshop with Louchia. Was it Hungarian? I forgot what it actually was, but it was Eastern-Europe and we had to wear wide skirts (of course I didn't have one... I improvised). The steps were absolutely frenetic (I have two left feet). What did capture me was the floorwork in the beginning. It was hard, but I loved it.

I love doing floorworks, with or without Lilith, my sword. It really shows off my flexibility and strength. Although at times, without proper warm-up and stretch (of at least 30 minutes), I can go wobbly.

Synchronized floorworks have been my dream. My troupe tried to stay away from floorworks, but in our last recital, I forced them to do the Berber Walk and it was so fun (I miss you guys!).

And now, I have the awesome DVD of Tribal Basics volume 8: FloorWork in my hands!! Okay, not quite. The DVD is inside the DVD player of my laptop. I bought it at FCDB's studio last Friday. And my shoppaholic self also browsed their online store and found a very cool black hoodie jacket. Oh, and it rained today! I guess it's still raining out there as I'm writing... So a jacket with a hood will come in extra handy!

Where was I... Oh yeah: the Floorwork DVD.

The video is opened by a yoga routine for floorworks designed by Anita Lalwani - a certified yoga instructor and FCBD member (AND MY TEACHER!!). I've always been somewhat baffled by yoga. There was a time when I would avidly join yoga classes in my old gym, but somehow after I got too busy with work and stopped coming to classes, my interest waned.

However, the yoga section of FCBD's FloorWork DVD, just like the yoga section in Rachel Brice's Serpentine DVD, is very beneficial not only for floorworks, but for my overall muscular strength and posture. So I'll look into it.

And then Ms. Nericcio explains about the way to get down and start the floorwork, getting up again and dance on our feet, and the floorworks themselves.

I like the crystal clear instructions and the spotting tip is very, very good. However, I don't understand why they have to shrink the size of the video during the drills section instead of showing the video full size like in the other sections. In the drill section, FCBD shows all the moves, but the frame is within a black box, smaller than actual screen. I'm very, very stupid when it comes to details, so I have to really look closely, so this is an issue for me.

You might remember the Tribal Pura (Tribal Basics volume 7: Creative Steps & Combinations) with the Devyani Dance Company. Now I LOVE that DVD. The drills have the same black-box type, but the camera stays still, no zooming in or out or panning left or right whatsoever. We can see one whole body and the movements of the feet (YAY!) of either Ms. Megha Gavin or Ms. Nericcio.

I love the Tribal Pura DVD and the Advanced Workshop DVD (Tribal Basics volume 4). In the volume 4 DVD, it's even much better because we can see the front view of Ms. Nericcio in the mirror and her back view. So it really feels like she's teaching in a class. Well, just like volumes 5 and 6.

But actually, in a way, I can always look back to the explanation sections of the DVD instead of the drill section to review the moves.

Last but not least: check out the features! It has the behind the scene part and it's so funny! I know, I know... I'm such a stalker, but it's hilarious. I just wish I they still had the FCBD chocolate bars to sell.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


The day didn't start quite as expected. I was late for ten minutes, thank goodness there was only one class that day. And when I got there, I was handed the sheet of paper that contained by GRE/GMAT Argument essay and it wasn't relevant enough to address the issue.

I always know I have a hard time conveying a message in an effective and efficient manner. Oh, and I was so burnt-out the day before whatwith the application and everything and so I slept late and woke up late and didn't have a chance to eat breakfast.

After the class, I went straight back to the hostel, had a very quick lunch of triple decker peanut butter and honey sandwich, and, thinking that I was already late, decided to walk rather fastly to the UN Plaza BART. I stopped a bit, though. There was this lovely bazaar of strange things like rings and necklaces... Things that could've been easily found all over Bali and even in some places in Jakarta, but still: I love trinkets.

The BART ride was fast, as usual. There's only one stop between UN Plaza and Mission. Waiting usually takes longer time than the ride itself.

I blogged earlier about finding FCBD's Red Door instantly when I went there for the first time. Nope, it didn't happen yesterday. I got lost for about ten minutes and definitely knew that I was going to be late. However, when I instinctively reached for my cell phone to get hold of the time, I was relieved: it was only 2:32 PM. The class started at 3 PM. So, I cleared out my mind, took the map that I drew, retraced my steps, and got to the studio very much way before time.

In the studio, I met Ms. Kae Montgomery (I knew her from the videos!). She was minding the store and told me that Ms. Anita Lalwani would be there soon. She showed me the changing room and I changed in there, my gaze transfixed on the posters and Indian accessories that were hanging there. This was truly the room where magic was made.

And soon, Ms. Lalwani came and oh my God... It was just incredible. It was just amazing. I was ecstatic. I mean, we did the Pooja and so many slow and fast moves and we jumped right down to cueing and she even let me take the lead.

I told her that I would be in San Francisco for at least six months and that my goal would be to open a sister studio back home.

After everything was done, she told me that I was already in Level 2, which means I've basically graduated from the six-week course of Level 1. Boy, that was fast. Although still, I need a lot of practice with taxeem and arm undulation and basically, the slow moves. There's the T-turn in Circle Step and Torso Twist that I still can't get right, so I need to work on that. Ms. Lalwani also reminded me of my posture. "Lead from the heart," she said. That was it for me.

Remember when I blogged about how Ms. Pooja Bhatnagar from the Nehru Center in Jakarta commented on my slouchy posture when I was taking Kathak? Yep... Apparently nothing changed. Or not much has changed.

Ms. Lalwani asked if I were interested in the Dance Conditioning class on Sunday morning, of course I said yes. She said that she would ask Ms. Nericcio if it would be okay for me to join. She explained about how men had this energy that would require constant attention. I almost blurted out and said, "It is not hard for me to be invisible."

Although that could sound depressing.

So, when we were in the changing room and chatting, suddenly someone entered and it was... Ms. Carolena Nericcio herself.

HERSELF. As in person. I was sitting and my heart leaped out and I just had to stand up.

I guess I made a fool of myself but I was just so startruck. I mean... This is the creator of American Tribal Style. I told my boyfriend about this and I said it would be like him meeting Jamie Oliver (my boyfriend's a huge fan of Jamie's). It's when you have an idol and you're finally meeting him/her and you're being treated very kindly.

Ms. Lalwani then encouraged me to say my goal in front of Ms. Nericcio and so I did. I repeated the whole thing: that I would like to open a sister studio in Jakarta.

When I went to FCBD's website late last year, I noticed that they had a General Skills Training in February. People who want to open a sister studio must take (and pass) GS Training. After that, there's the ATS Teacher Training 1 and ATS Teacher Training 2. I was going to ask Ms. Lalwani whether she thinks I'm ready for the GS Training... But before I could do that...

Ms. Nericcio asked if I was interested in joining GS Training.

Needless to say, I almost died.

I forgot what I said... Did I say yes? I guess I didn't. I think I said I was worried that I wasn't up to it but Ms. Lalwani said that although I needed some pointers and corrections, I could do it.

Everything became a blur after that. All I remembered was finally going back to the hostel where I almost cried in Union Plaza.

The day started out like hell... It's amazing how that one session at FCBD studio changed everything.

Even if I didn't get accepted in any of the universities of my choice, I'd still be happy to spend six months training for that little studio somewhere in the near future, where I can teach Tribal Pura.

Oh, and that lesson with Ms. Lalwani really kicked ass. When she was talking and laying everything down so clearly, I could see how passionate she is with ATS. And learning something who's passionate about that something is the best.

This is my favorite video of FCBD. You can see Ms. Montgomery (orange skirt), Ms. Nericcio (black skirt), and Ms. Lalwani in the background in orange choli top and green skirt.

And no, there's no choreography. Only improvisation, cues, and transitions.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

jill parker

I took my first lesson of Tribal Fusion Bellydance today at ODC Commons Studio with Jill Parker.

Yes, THE Jill Parker of Ultra Gypsy.

THE Jill Parker I used to only see in Youtube and other videos.

THE Jill Parker who taught Rachel Brice and Sharon Kihara.

THE Jill Parker Sharon Kihara said had the strongest and most graceful arms.

Okay. I'd better stop there.

Anyway, the first one started at 1 PM for about an hour. We began with a yoga-based stretch and moved on to warm-ups. Jill didn't take too much time explaining or breaking things down, but when we asked, she would so meticulously put things into perspective.

She showed a very good way of making sure your body is in natural position by imagining you are holding a bowl of water inside your stomach. If you are tilting either way, the water will spill. So you have to make sure that the water doesn't spill.

The way the class works is that after warm-up, Jill asks what things we'd like to drill on for the day. Today, we practised on hips on the down and ups, three-quarter shimmies, omis, and more shimmies. I'm telling you, my shimmies had never felt so perfect. Of course when I got back to the hostel and tried to re-shimmy, I sucked. I was just too tired.

After the Beginner class ended, Jill said that anyone who'd like to stay for the Intermediate class were welcomed. So I stayed. I mean, the Beginner class was very nice and I could follow everything, but I also needed a challenge. The Intermediate class turned out to be quite challenging and I loved it. We even began with the Suhaila glute exercice (I hate it so much), but I could feel the squeezes greatly improving after the initial contact with glute exercicse with Sharon Kihara last year in the Bellydance Evolution workshop in Bali.

Nearing the end of the Intermediate level class, the students rehearsed a very complex choreography with Jazz fusion and there was another newbie in the class so the two of us just followed along. I'm telling you, it was a work-out. I am not at all familiar with Jazz so there are just so many things I need to work on, including layering a bodywave with a shimmy.

At the end of the class, I introduced myself to Jill. She congratulated me on doing a great job following the choreography (well, a bit), and I apologized if I had disrupted the class's atmosphere, but she said it was fine and she enjoyed seeing men dancing.

I was so glad.

Well, I can't wait for next week!

Oh, and like the cool girls from Unmata, Jill also appears to not shave her underarms. It was noticeable at first, but like, after 30 seconds later, I wasn't even aware of it. Here's a thread on Tribe about hair on underarms.

Friday, January 14, 2011

so much drama

I finally got to see Black Swan this evening, and I have tell you: it was intense. The last time I came out of the theatre feeling the adrenaline rush was after Matrix: Reloaded. It is so... in your face. Almost everything is in a close-up and it gives the feeling of being there with the characters.

The movie is filled with so many female erotic scenes and a lesbian scene and I didn't feel a thing. I'm. Just. That. Gay.

But again, the movie drained me. It took me on a roller-coaster ride and I greatly enjoyed it. It's not just a dance movie. And I don't think it's a dance movie. I mean, yeah you get to see some moves here and there, but not too many. Still, it's a gorgeous movie.

Black Swan is a story about a ballerina who becomes so obsessed about playing the most important role in the world (Swan Queen in Swan Lake). She gets the part but is still very protective and competitive about it. Nearing the end, she gets more and more insane, but the ending is just... perfect. In so many ways.

What I really want to blog about is how exciting the whole thing is. Okay, please excuse me if that previous sentence sounds so vague. I'm typing at 2 words per hour and I'm so sleepy but I also have to finish downloading something.

But seriously: it is not just a dance. It is everything. I know how ballerinas work, they take it as a full time job because when you are young and agile (and thin), you have to work your ass of to reach the pinnacle of their career really quick because as you put on age, you're out of the business. Well, not quite. You can still teach and maybe own your own school or dance company, but that's it. It's like air-hostesses, athletes, and to some extent, models.

Ah, athletes. I think that's one more reason to really compare dancers and athletes. After all, real dancers must pass rigorous training in the discipline(s) of their choice to reach a paragon.

The character, Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) loses her mind getting into the character.

One can argue that if it's how it's going to be, so be it. After all, the show is the most important thing.

And one more thing before I faint: I just love the story behind it. It's not just one piece of choreography thrown in one after another. There's a change of set, of decoration, of mood, all following a plot and a story, so beautifully crafted to fit a set of songs. There's a sense of continuity and flow and a story.

I think that's my ideal dance recital. But of course, in an ideal dance recital, money wouldn't be a problem.

Here's one video by my all-time favorite comediennes: French & Saunders, talking about ballet.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

tribal pilgrimage

The walk to the BART Civic Center was filled with perils and dangers, but I survived!

And it so happens that the way to FatChance BellyDance and ODC Commons Studio is just one station away from the BART Civic Center, that's USD 3.50 for round-trip.

The first studio that I tracked was FCBD's. When I found the door, it was probably like when Alice discovered The Hole. I pressed on the buzzer, the door got unlocked, and I went it. It was so warm and agreeable but since I could only be there in a flash, I didn't take off my jacket and overcoat. And so I almost got cooked alive.

Ms. Kristine Adams, my contact for FCBD wasn't there. I had tried e-mailing her yesterday (or was it two days ago), informing her that I'd arrived in SF and I wished to visit the studio, but she didn't respond. So I just gathered all my guts and went.

I was greeted by Ms. Suzanne Elliott, whom I know by face (and I was very proud about that), and she told me to write my e-mail and name and she'd forward it to Ms. Adams. So I did. I wrote a note, actually. I guess that kind of confused Ms. Elliott. But anyway, let's just hope everything would be fine and I could start the sessions very soon.

I took a peek inside the studio and I found people dancing. I should've anticipated from the hypnotic sounds of zills that I'd heard from way downstairs when I was climbing up. What I saw was very beautiful.

After leaving the studio, I realized that I hadn't drawn a map of the location of ODC Commons. And I also didn't take note of their address. It was somewhere there in the Mission District. I just remembered that it was on a street parallel to FCBD. I saw a streetsign that said "Shotwell". That rang a bell. So I took chances and just walked down the road on the direction back to the 16th Street/Mission BART station. If I didn't see the place, then I'd still have to go back to the station anyway.

And there it was. ODC Commons Studio. It looked so small on the outside, but when I came in, it was so huge. It was so big.

I kind of got the front-desk girl confused because, well... I was freezing, and English, despite what everyone says, is not my first language.

When I asked her if Jill Parker (Ultra Gypsy, former member of FCBD) Tribal Bellydance class had any gender restrictions, she said definitely no and that ODC Commons made sure that all the instructors there didn't have that issue either. So I was so glad. She told me I could get the first class for free. Yay!

For Tribal Bellydance, it's a drop-in only class and each session is USD 12. The next session will be on Wednesday. I can't wait.

The front-desk girl encouraged me to look around so I did. And oh my God. The place is huge! There are at least four dance studios on the first floor and two more on the second.

She also told me that in Suhaila's school, there's no gender restriction. Maybe I should check the place. Nigma told me that I should definitely try to take classes from Suhaila. Well... I think I'll start with FCBD and Jill Parker.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

an award? for this blog? really???

I'm an underachiever. I know that and I fully embrace that fact.

I don't have a mantle full of trophies (I only have one little trophy) or a wall full of winning certificates or medals or badges (none of those, even).

That's why I take complements seriously (I've blogged about this) because they're all I have to remind myself that I'm on the right path in life by following my passion.

So when I opened my Feedjit Live report this morning, I was surprised to see that I'm getting visitors from a link that says "Best Belly Dancing Blogs".

I surfed to the website and found out that this very sanctuary of my thoughts and rants and egomaniacal wisdom (???) is actually chosen as one of the Top Five of Bellydancing Blogs by

Although the description somewhat cements my reputation as being a clown (crashing into a glass, anyone?), I am very much proud of myself (something that I very rarely feel).

What a great way to start the new year. I hope this good luck will not fade too soon.

So thank you, good people at!

Now, why don't they make a TOP FIVE BAAAADGE?????? *narcissistic streak*
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