Sunday, May 29, 2011

props to props

For the first time in a long time, I'm going to blog about something other than FCBD. Well, it's ATS-related (okay, so it's also FCBD-ATS related!), but not in a direct kind of way. Oh, alright, in a somewhat direct manner.

A couple of years ago, I read an article that compared and contrasted classic Egyptian set and classic American Oriental set. The article mentioned that both sets were 45 to 60 minutes long, but the similarity ended there. One thing that caught my attention was that a dancer in a classic Egyptian set might use his/her props in different ways from a dancer in classic American Oriental set.

Egyptian-style dancer uses different veil - heavier, more opaque, smaller, with trimmed edges. The dancer comes in with the veil covering his/her body, and after about 2 eight counts, sheds the veil and starts dancing (Sarah Skinner, in her Bellydance with Veil DVD by WorldDanceNewYork, also confirms this information). American Oriental dancer comes in with a veil wrapped around the neck and waist and usually doesn't unwrap it until the second or third song and even dances with the veil for one whole song.

Ms. Christine Yaven from Bellydance Jakarta said that Egyptian dancers weren't so big with playing zills. It wasn't that they were unable to play finger cymbals, it was more because the dancers wanted to show that they could afford to pay the whole orchestra - including zill players. So, instead of playing the zills, they would just focus on dancing. Meanwhile, zills for American Oriental dancers are like rice for Asians (if you think that's a stereotype, that's what I'm aiming for). For all intents and purposes, zills do catch attention and bring texture to the music, even if it's a canned one.

I think I've written somewhere in the blog that I asked Ms. Nericcio if an ATS troupe could call themselves ATS if they weren't dancing with zills, and she said that zills were mandatory for all ATS troupes. In last year's Devotion Show, there was one number when Sensei Kae and Kristine Adams danced without zills, but it was because the song was so fast that they just forwent the idea of dancing with cymbals. It was also understandable because they came in just to dance to that one song, whereas when FCBD dances to a set, they keep their zills on from beginning to the end, even when they're not using them during slow songs.

American Oriental dancers use more props (veil, zills, tray, sword, pot, Isis Wings, skirt) and actually incorporate those props in the performance because the dancers need to grab the audience's attention and maintain it. The US audience, thanks to MTV, has shorter attention span and can get bored in 5 minutes, let alone an hour. The Egyptian audience is somehow more resistant to boredom. Although I'm not really sure if it's still like this, since MTV (and stupidity) seems to be prevalent everywhere.

Did you know that despite the name, Isis Wings are actually an American invention? Loie Fuller was the first person to ever dance with "Isis Wings" in her "Danse Serpentine" number. Not sure why she called the performance that way since she looks more like a fluttering butterfly than a snake.

As for me, I'm a sucker for props. I love dancing with veils, zills, sword, and Isis Wings. I don't know if I'm still going to use veils and Isis Wings now that I'm dancing ATS almost full time. However, there's one prop that I don't think I'll ever use: Snake.

It's not that I'm scared of snakes. I love animals, and although I don't think I want to handle reptiles (or insects, for that matter), I still don't believe animals should be used for entertainment. That's not the only objection I have, though. I really, really don't want to buy poor little rodents to feed the snakes. The thought of that really makes me sick. However, seeing the Serpentessa video really made me aware that dancing with snakes is not an easy feat.

Shira wrote that Jamila Salimpour was the first person to ever incorporate snake in a bellydance performance, and that it was unintentional. You can read all about it here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

tribal fest 11

I can't believe I'm in Sebastopol, CA, getting myself spoiled by taking classes from Ms. Carolena Nericcio, spending at NakaRali and Silk Road Tribal's booths, and watching hours of performances by my idols. Yes. I went to Tribal Fest 11.

Okay. Let's begin the review.

I wrote a separate thought on the location of Tribal Fest on my San Francisco blog.

It was sheer luck that I still managed to squeeze myself in Ms. Nericcio's workshop. And what a workshop it was.

We were taught the essentials of performing: formation, grand entrance, eye contact, absolutely no verbal communications while dancing, fade, chorus work, technique on taking a bow, and the grand exit. Ms. Suzanne Elliott also taught some new moves, a.k.a. Devi Mamak's addition to FCBD's movement vocabulary. We learned the Pulse Turn, Rainbow, Box Step (and Turn).

Many of the issues discussed in the workshop were covered in General Skills and Teacher's Training 1 & 2, but there were so many valuable inputs and constant reminders (of posture, eye contact, dance angle - I sucked on the latter), that I kept finding myself nodding to information both I had heard before and just heard then.

Here're the inputs I took note of:
  1. Dance Angle: if the leader does not stand in dance angle, followers must stand in dance angle.
  2. Eye Contact: breaking eye contact can be a nonverbal cue that someone will become the leader. Break eye contact when in the 7 o'clock position to become the leader.
  3. Fade: flat out first to sign for a fade, then stay in flat angle (not dance angle) so the followers can see the cues better. However, when doing Arabic / Bodywave, flatten the angle to the left, and go back to dance angle when in stationary fade position.
Now, on to the performances.

I don't have so much to say, except the good ones were too short (Mardi Love and Rachel Brice each danced to one short song, Kami Liddle did a stellar Tribal-Hindi fusion), the crazy ones were too long (I won't name names, they're a mile better than I am because they actually had the courage to go up on the stage and dance), and the surprises were so, so good.

The numbers that were just perfect were: Zoe Jakes & Special Guests (including Kami! Yay!), Samantha Emanuel's duet with another magnificent dancer whose name escaped my ears (as usual), Persephone Dance Company (I took GS & TT 1-2 with two of Persephone dancers! My God, they're so, so, so good), Red Lotus (FCBD's sister troupe), and FCBD (the headliner, I swear, Ms. Nericcio won the longest flutter award! Although her solo was far, far too short! Ms. Lalwani looked soooo pretty in pink & black.). Jill Parker and her Foxglove Sweethearts were also a highlight, and I was completely awestruck by Unmata's dramatic performance (their ending was so apt, with the troupe members holding out signs that said "Do What You Want" - I almost cried).

I took so many pictures that I got confused on which one to upload to the blog, and yet I didn't take enough. It was so hard to take photos and see the dance. I made a difficult decision: I forsook (that's the past tense of "forsake". Believe me. I checked) taking pictures and just watched the dance.

I'm still feeling the jitters.

FCBD's set was so intense that it left me with adrenaline rush.

I was sitting there with Yuka and Maho (Maho's Sensei Kae's sister), both of them are FCBD students, and a conversation took place after I bought a pure silver NakaRali belt that Maho had put on hold and we discussed about the opportunity of being adopted by Bill Gates.

"I don't want to be famous," Maho said.

"Well, if you're dancing with FCBD, you'll become famous," I replied.

"Is that why you're dancing with FCBD?"

"No. I want to bring FCBD ATS to Indonesia, and have Carolena do a workshop in Indonesia," I felt a glimmer of hope in my eyes.

After Frank Farinaro's set, Maho asked if I wanted to be like him. I said no, I wanted to be like Mardi Love when I grew up.

"Really?" Maho egged on.

"Umm... I guess no... I want to be like Kami Liddle!" I corrected myself with rare determination. Maho smiled and we watched more shows.

During an applause, I turned to Maho and finally confessed, "No. I want to be like Carolena Nericcio!" I said it dreamily, not unlike a schoolboy fantasizing of being kissed by the handsome, athletic classmate.

Monday, May 16, 2011

born like an artist

I just have to share this blog link here.

It reminds me so much of the path I'm taking. Although, as a dancer, I can only do so much that my body allows me to.

See more of the amazing artist's work, Jellyvampire, in the deviantart's page.

saturday, 14 may 2011

This is the first entry that used a date for a title. I'm using that title because I will never forget that day.

I wouldn't mind being alone at this year's Tribal Fest, which I'm really excited to go to, but on Saturday, 14 May 2011, I found not one, not two, but three people who are going to Tribal Fest 11 and taking only Ms. Nericcio's 3-day intensive.

I danced with those three people. We tried so hard with our techniques and skills (mine were just mediocre - theirs were more superior than mine). There are times when I felt I did mistakes, but Sensei Kae didn't point them out, so I supposed the mistakes were tolerable. However, I know we'll never stop learning. Being not from San Francisco, we realized that the women who lived in close proximity to the studio were actually very, very lucky indeed. They could take as many lessons they want, refine their techniques, skills, and drill away with FCBD's elite teachers and troupe members. They will have direct correction from the source, that way no confusion or slight "variation" will happen.

Oh, and one lady also said that when we're dancing to more folkloric songs, it would be necessary to stick to the older moves and steps (Tribal Basics volumes 1 and 4), whilst the newer moves and steps should be done to more modern sounding or fusion songs. I asked Sensei Kae about this and she concurred. I love learning new things everyday, don't you?

I can't wait to go to Tribal Fest!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

part 4: the love (5/5 of the series)

Welcome to the last part of the series. I knooowww... I'm also sad. In this section, discover Ms. Nericcio's favorite things.



Could you tell me the Fast Step and Slow Move that you love most from ATS? It doesn’t have to be your favorite, though, but the one that you most often use.

The Egyptian Basic. The step is just so big and gorgeous and it’s good for all body types. It fits right into the beat of the song. For the slow movement, I think it’s the hand floreos because they just complement nicely to the slow movements like the Taxeem, Bodywave, and Circle Step.

What do you think is the most gratifying aspect of performing?

Being able to entertain the audience – it was only until recently, during the second Taiwan trip in 2008 that I discovered to just let everything go and have fun on the stage. I used to resent the audience and the idea of me having to entertain them. So, my conscience and I decided to have a talk. I had lots of moments when my Self and I would say, “Let’s have a talk because this thing isn’t working.”

One time, my Self told me to let everything go when I’m performing. I used to think that when people came up to me and ask where I bought my choli or what music I danced to, people weren’t paying attention to me, but to what I wear and the song I dance to. My Self said, “That’s right!” So, at that moment, I decided to just dance and I was so into it.

At the end of the performance, I was there, with people taking hundreds of photos with me. I used to dislike people taking photos of me because I felt they were stealing a bit of my soul, but I realized this made them happy. So I just stood there until everyone was gone, still smiling, asking if everyone’s sure they don’t want to have another photo with me.

And what do you think is the most gratifying aspect of teaching?

It is so good to have that lightbulb experience and lightbulb look on the faces of the students. It’s so good to know that they can connect to what you are teaching.

It doesn’t have to be in the class or about a move you’re currently teaching, but it can also be about the body image. Some people who are really conservative could put on a costume and just have that lightbulb moment when they feel that it is just natural for them to bare their stomach and dance in something that could be too revealing for most people.

This one might be a hard one. Can you point out the things that you love most, in the dance studio, in the book shelves (the resource center), and the goods that aren’t the merchandise.

Inside the dance studio, it’s definitely (the statue of) Quan-Yin. For the books, I have to say it’s Africa Adorned (a hard cover book filled with gorgeous pictures of African jewelry, written by Angela Fisher). For the goods… I have to say my War Rug and my first coin bra.

Africa Adorned? Not even the Art of Bellydancing?

(Laughs). Oh, right! My book. I would add the Folkwear Tribal Dancer Pattern as well. I am very proud of that partnership. (The Art of Bellydancing Kit is a starter kit that includes a book written by Carolena Nericcio, a DVD, CD, belly jewel, and zils. The Folkwear Tribal Dancer Pattern was published by Folkwear Patterns and features Carolena’s original costume pieces.)

Alright! Now, to close our interview: what’s the meaning of the matching pinky tattoo that all members of FCBD have?

That one! Well, we were at Cues & Tattoos last year and Kristine (Adams) suggested we all got matching tattoos… So we did! And to have someone like Kae (Montgomery) who didn’t have a single tattoo on her body to do that (get a tattoo) was a brave thing.

Thank you! That’s the end of our session. I wish you good luck with your endeavors, especially your book! When is it going to be published?

You’re very welcome! Ah, the book! Well, not very soon. Megha is helping me writing it, but I suspect not very soon. But if it does get published, you’ll be the first one to know!

Thank you again! I’m looking forward to it!


So there you have it. To be frank, there're lots to love and talk about with this lady. Her insights are invaluable and one can learn so much from a short chat with her. I apologize if I hadn't covered the tidbits that you would have liked to know.

I hope you've enjoyed reading this interview. You can read the PDF document containing all parts by clicking this link.

I also apologize for my dorky smile in this photo. I look like a geek posing next to Seven of Nine in a Trekkie convention.

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