Friday, August 26, 2011

the birds at tannourine

Last week (yes, last week. I did one heck of a procrastinating job), I finally went to Tannourine, the Middle-Eastern eatery at San Mateo. The restaurant is small, intimate, and quaintly located on a rather ordinary street, in that you wouldn't know Oriental and Tribal decadence regularly takes place inside it.

It was a special night, since not only FCBD performed, but also many of my friends from L3 and L4 - known as the BlueDiamondBellyDance (BDBD) - including three special ladies with whom I was particularly close to (we had a couple of private sessions with Sensei Kae and all of us seem to have a rather unhealthy fondness of cats). Needless to say, I simply had to watch them perform. Julia, one of the three girls, picked me up, her mother (an engaging conversationalist and excellent backseat driver), and Theresa (another friend who was performing).

The show opened with FCBD troupe. As usual, I chose not to take pictures and just see the performances. The numbers were energetic, although at times, due to Tannourine's seating arrangement, I couldn't see when the dancers were doing floorworks.

Up next were the BDBD gals: Michiyo, Theresa, Jennifer, Shelley, Kelsey, Yuka, Laura, and Julia. I'm telling you, when they performed, you wouldn't know that they were students. Even Sensei Kae said, when watching the performance video, that the smiles and the hip works were really the kind of smiles and hip works that she would like to see every single time we were practicing in class.

Another highlight of the show was Colleena Shakti. I just... I have so many mixed emotions whenever I see her dance, and that night was no exception. She was so amazing, so graceful, so effortless, her hand gestures and fingers were so beautiful, I mean, Colleena Shakti is definitely one of those people who couldn't do anything wrong. After being stricken by such grace and beauty, I became envious, and then motivated... and then I went home, saw the bed, and forgot everything. Ha!

The last picture shows the three girls (Yuka-Julia-Laura) I talked about, and we just christened our "troupe" name (there's another girl - Maya). The idea of the name is not that we are going to accept gigs or dance in public on our own anytime soon, but so we know how to call ourselves. I told the girls that I could only stay in the USA for two years and I really hoped to be able to dance with them before leaving. It is truly an honor to perform with people you grow up with, in ATS that is.

I'm getting so melancholic thinking about this.

I proposed "Four Gals and a Dude", but Julia came up with a better one: "Rara Avis". The literal meaning is "rare birds", but the expression really means a miraculous being that exceeds all expectations.

DEEP. And it's Latin! You can't beat that.

Well, my expectation is to dance with Rara Avis before I leave this country for good. I hope I can exceed it. For now, here's to the birth of the Rare Birds.


Second photo by Mr. CheekyMonkey. Third photo by Luke Terheyden.

Monday, August 22, 2011

class notes (fades, dueling duets, passes)

The Thursday class was so nice and it felt a lot like a reunion - a good kind of reunion. On Saturday, after classes with Ms. Sandi Ball, we did a little session with Sensei Kae. I forgot to bring my notebook yet again, so I could only recall some few notes from the class with Ms. Ball:
  1. There is such a thing as a Wet Dog Fade, but the leader needs to angle his/her body instead of being flat like the original Wet Dog (that travels backwards). The angling of the body serves not only as a cue for a fade, but also to give room for the followers in the back to move forward.
  2. Always communicate with your group if you're going to do floorworks and what level of floorwork you will be doing.
  3. Chico Four Corners Passing (duets) can be done in two ways: the first one is while already facing each other, turning flat to face one another, then doing the first eight counts of Chico Four Corners as usual. On the second first count (of eights), step closer to your partner (this signifies that you are going to do the Passing), and then the second set of the Chico Four Corners is done with back-to-back passing on each one-two and five-six (etc.) and stop in front of each other during three-four and seven-eight (etc.). Remember that Chico Four Corners set consists of sixteen counts.
  4. The second way of doing Chico Four Corners is from the usual Leader-Follower position, but the Leader stays in place in fifteen-sixteen counts after doing the thirteen-fourteen counts, this will make the leader and the follower face each other. Then you can do another set of Chico Four Corners Passing just like the above recipe. I hope this makes sense.
  5. Egyptian with Spins Fade: Egyptian, cue Spin, then Fade with another Egyptian. If the Fade leader still continues the Egyptian for eight counts (that means two sets of Egyptian), then spin happens automatically.
Then here are the notes from Sensei Kae:
  1. Dueling Duets can begin in two ways: from a circle and then two dancers fall in to the place to become the leaders for the each of the duet; or with a fade, with the fade leader pivoting and then stopping when in the position for the Dueling Duets, then the others will fall in to their places.
  2. Dueling Duets can be neutralized by going into a circle and circling each other.
  3. Picking Up is done while circling and opening the circle for the next dancer(s).
  4. Dropping Off is done also while circling and then the dropped-off dancer(s) can slide back into the chorus.
Oh, and before I sign off, I just have to share this: Ms. Kristine Adams decided to travel around the world to document American Tribal Style from all corners of the Earth. Amazing, huh? You can follow her blog here: From the Belly of a Traveler. Below is the hilarious and inspirational "press conference".

I hope one day she'll stop by in Indonesia!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

back to the mothership (which is currently on sale)

I couldn't have planned it better: I arrived in San Francisco on Wednesday and planned to go to FCBD on Thursday. I jetlagged myself to Friday. So, I missed the class and had to wait all the way until Saturday to go to the mothership. When I finally did, I realized that I had been so out of shape! I was limping and practically dragging my ass during the second set.

Ms. Suzanne Elliott was in charge and here are the few notes during drills that my brain managed to recall (I didn't bring my notebook):
  1. The Rainbow: it begins with the arms in table-top position; even if your arms are above the head, put them down into table-top and do the Rainbow. It's four floreos on each side, during the first two floreos, the head looks at the direction of the fingers; during the third and fourth floreos, the head looks to the front. Dance angle is important so we won't flat-out on the second section where our right foot crosses behind the left. Wrap Around Turn looks good after the Rainbow, but not necessary (I remember Devi Mamak also said this when I took her workshop a few months ago at FCBD studio).
  2. Wrap Around Turn: Gathering (right arm floats and the right hand floreos in front of the body but not directly in front of the chest, left arm floats down and the left hand floreos on the back side of the left hip); Tension (right arm stays there, left arm floats so both arms are in table-top, while doing the half turn, both hands do reverse floreo, weight on right foot); Release (both arms float up, and while doing the one and half turn, both arms float down in front of the body and follow it through with the arms floating up again to the sides of the body, but with power, as if swimming in honey).
  3. Push Forward Push Back: On the eighth count as the foot switches from one to another, there will be a slight bump, this is acceptable.
  4. Shimmies: unhinge the hips so the shimmies will look better.
Then there are some notes from performance drills:
  1. When there are multiple sides where the audience sits, face the side with the most audience, then switch to the side with the second most audience, and so on.
  2. Come in with a bang, stay in with power and skills, take a bow with attitude, go out with a bang.
  3. You don't have to throw in all the different moves, it's good to have a sort of continuity using the same moves, especially if you're dancing in a quartet or doing pick-ups.
  4. Know the phrasing of the song so you'll have perfect timing to milk it (superslow Taxeems, Bodywaves) and to wow it (rapid Pulse Turns, Reverse Turns, etc), so the number doesn't come out monotonously.
Oh, and FCBD is having a summer sale, 25% off store-wide, except for some items. The sale is until 31 August 2011!

Now excuse me while I tighten the elastic band on my zils.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

lilith's new scabbard

The one thing I missed when I went to San Francisco was my scimitar, Lilith. I was (still am) clueless about taking a weapon, albeit a dull one, on an international flight, into a country as paranoid as the USA. I'm still shuddering every time I remember getting into a full-body X-Ray machine, and if Lilith got confiscated, it'd be even worse.

Being back in Jakarta has been quite surreal, and just like the old adage, as cliche as it sounds, time does go by so fast when you're having fun, and it's been a lot of fun, indeed. Still, it's time to go back to face another reality, and although it is exciting, I'm heartbroken to once again leave my loved ones. I know it's just for a few months (if everything is in order, I'll be coming back for Christmas) and hopefully with all the school work and dance, it will be over before I know it (I have to admit, I'm feeling very intimidated).

As a parting gift to my gorgeous scimitar, I made her a new sheath. Originally, Lilith came in with a leather scabbard and, well, leather and animal products just don't mix with my lifestyle. So, last year when I went to Bali in August, I bought luxurious purple velvet. Being a procrastinating lazy-ass that I am, the fabric sat in multiple places for approximately a year. I was feeling sewy (is there such a word?), so after mutilating and modifying some shirts and turning them into cholis, I decided to finally make a new dress for Lilith.

It was not a tedious experience, I finished it in under an hour. Mom's Singer has been broken for a long time so I'm used to hand-sewing; it gives me calluses, I know, but I don't mind.

Apart from Kenji, my cat, who was just being a cat by lounging on top of the fabric exactly after I set it on the floor, I didn't meet any significant challenge. Then again, the design was also not difficult and I'm quite happy with the result.

I was thinking of putting sponge-like material inside the velvet sheath, but after some thoughts, I remembered why I also decided against leather scabbard: leather makes the sword rust easily, especially when the sword is stored inside the leather scabbard for a long period of time. I'll be leaving Lilith for at least four months, and at least I know now she has a new cover to protect her in dry and breathable environment.

I guess my next project is to sew (or make) handles so I can easily carry Lilith. Maybe attach it to the sword handle and the hilt... Now that would take some ingenious design skills.
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