Friday, November 09, 2012

taking care of silver

Just recently, I was lucky enough to come into possession of an antique Rajasthan style waist belt. It's exactly the size I'd wanted, and the price was not ridiculous (when I say "ridiculous", I mean out of my reach - I know how expensive silver can be, but I also know what "overpriced" means). So I made a few some many sacrifices and purchased it.

When I finally received it, I was a bit disappointed and alarmed. It didn't look as silver as it was in the pictures. It looked yellowish, almost bronze-like. I thought I'd been duped. I could return it within seven days, but I decided to clean it, and some other silver jewelry, with baking soda and aluminum foil. The water residue of the belt was so ghastly and murky, but it was not enough. The belt still looked bronze and I was still worried.

But I was determined to clean it. And so after consulting The Great Interwebz, I ordered this polishing cloth. It came in the mail this morning and I just finished cleaning my belt.

Here are the photos.

The waist belt. 

The yellowy tarnish on the clasp was still there even after the baking soda and aluminum foil cleaning. 

Some rub using the polish cloth, and hello clean old silver. 

I'm comparing my contemporary Indian sterling silver bracelet with the antique waist belt, still uncleaned.

The bracelet, compared with the back of the belt's clasps that has been rubbed with the polish cloth. 

A comparison of the bracelet, a part of the belt's been cleaned, and the part that hasn't.

And after 100 minutes of rubbing and scrubbing and buffing (I was watching Lord of the Rings: Return of the King while doing this), look, look, look: it's silver. It's shiny, shiny silver. 

The belt and the dirty, dirty polishing cloth. 

Now it's time to store it so it won't tarnish in a short while. I bought these little zip lock bags

And anti-tarnish paper tabs. These work like silica gel. 

And they're all protected inside the zip lock bags. I place the jewelry that I wear often in a separate bag. 

Also, as a double (or is it triple?) protection, I place them inside this bag that's made of cloth that has R-22 to prevent tarnish. 

One last note, I also ordered  3M Tarni-Shield polish, but it will arrive next Monday and I just couldn't wait to clean the belt. There are still some deep parts that need cleaning and the crevices too deep to reach. I'll clean it again using the Tarni-Shield and old tooth brush. Perhaps it's wiser to clean it first using the Tarni-Shield (or whatever chemical polish) - if your jewelry piece has tarnished too much, so that it will make the job of rubbing and buffing a lot easier. 

All of these might seem excessive and too much, but consider this: you've spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars collecting silver or gold jewelry. I always see precious metals and stones as investments - their value most likely increases over time, so why not take good care of them? God forbid one day we have to part with them, but if the time comes, and they've been well taken care of, then they will sell for a price as beautiful as the jewelry themselves. 

Make time to clean your jewelry, at least wipe the sweat and oil off your accessories when you take them off and store them in the anti-tarnish bag or storage. 

Addendum: The Tarni-Shield has arrived and I used it to clean the belt with an old tooth brush to reach for the deep parts. It worked just fine, although I prefer cleaning my silver jewelry using polishing cloth.

The lower buckle was cleaned using Tarni-Shield and tooth brush and the upper buckle wasn't.

Also, I'm now going to wrap my silver pieces individually in acid-free white tissue paper and then store them in the zip lock bags and R-22 bags.

I'll do the same to my Assuits and I'll share how that turn out later. 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

notes on performing ATS® solo

So, obviously I have tons of homework to be done (and I haven't updated my Pink in California blog for a long time now), but I just can't find the motivation to do so.

Although I like to multitask, I feel that I can do better if I work on one thing first (the one on the top of the priority list and work myself down - well, most of the time) and dedicate my time to it. And this blog entry has been waiting quite a while.

The thing is, whenever I'm back in Jakarta for end of semester vacation, I don't really have anyone to perform ATS® with, so I have to do a solo. At the end of every solo performance, though, I've always become sad because well, American Tribal Style® is never meant as a solo piece. No one told me this, but I used to believe the only person allowed to do ATS® solo is Ms. Carolena Nericcio. But then from time to time, I saw videos of FatChanceBellyDance® troupe members soloing when there're just two or three of them dancing together for a set.

Still, as much as I love performing, for me, ATS® solo was not something I looked forward to. It just didn't feel right.

That's why I'll always remember one recent Saturday when she said in class that even when we were dancing solo, we weren't dancing alone. We have the chance to engage the audience, to dance with them, to invite them in, to include them in our dance. And this can be done through our face and body angle. Always smile and not only with the lips, but also the eyes. Don't squint but slightly open your eyes and let your eyes smile too.

This was a great light bulb moment for me. And I hope this makes sense to you too.

I mean, yeah, I've heard of the concept of engaging the audience when dancing in a group - always maintain eye contact and smile and such, but this kind of falls into the wayside whenever I'm soloing. I didn't think of "dancing" with the audience. I always thought about dancing for the audience.

Speaking about engaging the audience, Sensei Kae also stressed how important it was to always engage the audience whenever we're dancing, even in a Dueling Duet formation when it's easy to be too engrossed in whoever's leading. We can do this by making eye contact whenever we pivot or do a Move or Step that faces the audience.

There's another important note. I've always thought the Arm Undulation (whether layered with Taxeem or not) and Body Wave were beautiful movements, but away from the stage, they could be really subtle, too subtle for a dramatic impact. Ms. Nericcio pointed this out yesterday. Dramatic slow songs (Stamena, Aicha, Arawan) instantly beg for level drops, turns, and laybacks, but that doesn't mean we can't do many of these when dancing to other types of slow songs. Use Arm Undulation (with or without Taxeem) and Body Wave for fillers, for transitions, for moments for the audience to breathe and clean the audience's palate, so to speak. And when you're doing these subtle movements, our body needs to be really articulate, and this means two things: clean technique and the knowledge of all the mechanics of the movements.

Then I remembered that one time I saw a video of my performance and thought how boring my Arm Undulation was, no matter how much I enjoyed performing it and thinking how good it must've looked. Haha.

I'm just going to close this blog entry with this awesome video (I think I put it on the blog one time, but it's just so good).

Sunday, September 23, 2012

where i stand on this cultural appropriation thing

First of all, let's just make it clear of what I mean with "cultural appropriation".

noun /əˌprōprēˈāSHən/ 
appropriations, plural
  1. The action of taking something for one's own use, typically without the owner's permission; the appropriation of parish funds
  2. The artistic practice or technique of reworking images from well-known paintings, photographs, etc., in one's own work
  3. A sum of money or total of assets devoted to a special purpose
These definitions are from Google Dictionary. For this case, let's discard the third definition and add the word "cultural" in front of it, thus making the meanings of "cultural appropriation" something like this: 
  1. The action of taking someone's culture or subculture, typically without asking for permission from those who are culturally or subculturally related or understand said culture or subculture. 
  2. The artistic practice or technique of reworking art (including but not limited to: dance and movement composition, literary composition, musical composition, visual composition like painting - mixed media - jewelry design - graphic design - tattoo - pottery - sculpture) in one's own work. 
For the first definition, many have also added that those who culturally appropriate belong to the dominant cultures (typically the Caucasian), but sometimes, I don't think that's the case. 

The thing is, during my free time, I don't go out and take long walks or run or enjoy the great outdoors. I'm not an outdoors person. The sun ruins the skin. During my free time, I browse the internet. Sure, I get caught in the weird part of the Internet from time to time, but anything's wonderful as long as I don't come across pictures or stories of animal abuse. 

Time and again, I found posts that disrespect (that's a really pejorative term in many cases) belly dance, its culture and origin (which no one really knows), and those who perform the dance. 

Time and again, I found posts that disrespect (again, that's a pejorative term) American Tribal Style® and or Tribal Fusion belly dances. 

Let's focus on the Tribal bashers (the Trishers? Tribashers?). What's really disheartening is that if you go on forums like Bhuz or, you'll see Oriental style dancers bashing Tribal, saying that Tribal is not belly dance. And it's cute (okay, it's not) when you see that in some of their posts, these dancers refuse to call themselves bellydancers because they think the term "belly dance" and "belly dancers" are demeaning. They do Middle Eastern dance. They do Oriental dance. They go to Egypt or Turkey to study with the greats and try to keep the art form intact. They don't like the term "belly dance" yet they tell Tribal dancers to use whatever name but not belly dance. 

But wait, turns out, these Oriental dancers actually use "belly dance" to promote their work, albeit with a cringe, because it's easier to get their point across. 

I won't discuss that in detail and I don't really pay attention to those posts because, well, the posters have made themselves look and sound ignorant. 

The thing that really gets me is the constant telling that Tribal style belly dance and especially ATS® are considered cultural appropriating. 

Okay, I get it. ATS® has indeed borrowed lots of elements from different cultures across the globe. The Puja for one is an adaptation of East Indian prayer, then Megha Gavin from Devyani Dance Company expanded it (I don't know Ms. Gavin that well, but I do know that she is knowledgeable in Indian culture and philosophy) and FatChanceBellyDance® adapted the extended Puja, which I have yet blogged about. I'M SO SORRY. IT'S COMING ALONG!

Then there's the jewelry (Afghani, Yemeni, Pakistani, Kohistani, Turkoman, Kuch), make-up (facial tattoos inspired by the Berber, the Ouled Nail; bindis from Indian culture), costume (India, Middle East), music selection (too many to mention, from folkloric Bedouin to contemporary Balkan to modern beatboxing, and we play finger cymbals too), and of course the dance itself.

Full disclosure: I'm an ATS® belly dancer. I don't have that much money, but when I do, I use it to take dance classes and buy dowry (which includes jewelry and costuming bits and pieces).

For the jewelry, again, since I don't have that much money but I need to get that chunky, more is more look, I sometimes have to opt for cheaper jewelry. I mix and match cheap and plain silver bangles with the monster ones that I've carefully tried to research. I own several pieces of Assuits, only one of them is more than fifty dollars including shipping. My prized possessions include a Tuareg spike and dome ring that I bought from my friend, the amazing dancer/photographer/hair-flower-creator Shelly Swanegan Hamalian, a gold-washed Turkoman ring from, a Carol Felley cat with Amethyst ring (my birth stone is Ruby, but I'm really drawn to Amethyst), and a silver hip chain from NakaRali (I bought this one at TribalFest 11 and I'm still broke now). I wear the cat ring because I'm crazy about cats. Plus, it's silver, it's huge, and it fits in the more is more aesthetics.

For facial tattoos, I use the chin line and the three dots near the outer corner of each eye. I stopped wearing the dots over my eyebrow because I learned that it's used for Indian brides. I'm not a bride, nor am I Indian, although you know, when (I'm not using "if") John Abraham proposes, I'll be one, and y'all are invited to the wedding. In this video, Ms. Nericcio clearly states that bindis and facial tattoos in ATS® are purely ornamental. Also, go here for more information on facial markings

I wear turban when I dance because my hair is short (and I've a small head) and I need something to stick the flowers on. Also, as androgynous as I want to be, men do wear turbans, and in a way, my turban can both conceal and show that I'm a dude. 

Does that make me, an ATS® belly dancer, a cultural appropriator? I guess for some people, yes. But I do know my limits, because I know which elements I need to use, which elements I can go without, and not only because of aesthetic reasons. Having knowledge and information on the things we wear and create (and for some, the things we eat) is one of the ways to adopt a culture and promote its beauty. If you go to FatChanceBellyDance® studio, you'll see stacks of books about tattoos and jewelry and textile. Those ladies, especially Ms. Nericcio, know their trade.

ATS® is not an authentic representation of Middle-Eastern dance. That fact was established a long time ago. Some people are ignorant of that, and that's also another fact. So let me write this again: ATS® is not an authentic representation of Middle-Eastern dance. 

But many ATS® dancers (I'm not saying all) are well aware of the origins of the jewelry they wear. Some of them can even point the places out on the world map. Some have even been there. These dancers help expose the world to a culture rich with tradition and exquisite jewelry (and then some), which means more production, more income, and eventually more revenue to the craftsmen and the overall tourism industry. 

At the Indian and Vedic Culture miniseminar several months ago, Ms. Colleena Shakti said that the NakaRali silver supplier and craftsmen had doubted that their products would sell well in the USA (and subsequently, the world), because they had low demands in India. More and more young people in India prefer the more modern (and sometimes cheaper) jewelry. This stroke a chord. Many Indonesians, I for one, don't wear traditional clothings or promote the traditional jewelry, which by no means is less exquisite than Indian jewelry. 

In Evolutions: The Exotic Art of Tribal Bellydance, Zoe Jakes talks about her costume and jewelry inspiration. One of the pieces she wears is a heart-shaped pendant from Java. Is it a religious symbol? I don't think so. What if it is? Should I care? I don't think so either. Is she culturally appropriating one culture from my country? Maybe. But here's what I do know: when I heard Zoe said "Javanese", my heart leapt with pride. She's an international performer and I don't care that I sometimes don't like her style, but she promotes something from my homeland. Also, every time I hear songs that incorporate musical instruments from Indonesia, I feel honored, I feel respected.

Heck, I was ELATED when I saw Kecak dance in The Fall (frigging awesome movie, by the way. Very beautiful, very strange, very surreal, very emotionally exhausting, with Husband #16 Lee Pace in it). 

Also, another thing. There's this Tumblr blog that bashes people wearing Native American headdress. I get it. The thing is, the same writer said that he celebrated Halloween, which is a Celtic tradition and is nowadays commercialized (like Christmas and Easter and the Eid). So, double standards? 

My friend Julia sent this link to a great article (the conclusion is, it's hard to draw the line as to what exactly is "cultural appropriation", but the rule of thumb is to not wear something that has a deep symbolic meaning like a war bonnet, nor something that has religious meaning like the Rosary, and always make sure that the craftsmen get respectable cut because, well, they need the money to keep producing those gorgeous items. By the way, in terms of turbans vs. war bonnets, you know, many turbans are worn because of the functional purposes). 

Well, I'm beat. I was supposed to do my homework, but I really felt that I needed to get this one out first. 

Man in orange and green turban photo is taken from Pink.City.Mag and check out its page on Turbans!

Photo of Carolena Nericcio by Kristine Adams

Photo of me taken by Shelly Swanegan Hamalian.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

folkloric look for ats®

All I knew (and this was said repeatedly whenever we had classes that focused on creating a folkloric look) was that generally, when one wants to dance ATS® to a folkloric music (with the mizmar, oud, doumbek, without any of the synthesized sounds), complete with the vintage head wrap and tassels, it is best to maximize the folkloric look by staying away from swirly, swishy moves. This categorization had eluded me for so long (a year, probably), but last Saturday, I finally received the answer. 

Ms. Sandi Ball gave me the permission to copy this list. I've added some that weren't on the original list (look for the asterisk). 

Folkloric Look:
  1. Egyptian (I assume this means all variations of Egyptians, including Triple Egyptian, but excluding Egyptian Sevillana since this has a more Flamenco feel to it)
  2. Arabic (but not Arabic Hip Twist nor Arabic Hip Twist Flourish and its later descendant: the Alabama Twister)
  3. Pivot Bump
  4. Choo Choo
  5. Shimmy (including the variation with a slight dip on the one in every four counts. Since the Shimmy is a two-count move, it goes like this: one - two - one - two - one - two - one - two - one - two etc. The underlined is when you slightly dip) 
  6. Turkish Shimmy (including Quarter Turn and Half Turn, but excluding Turkish Shimmy with Arms & Turn)
  7. Arabic Shimmy (excluding Arabic Shimmy with Arms & Turn)
  8. Reach & Sit (well, this one comes from the Tahtiyb / Stick dance, so it works well with songs with Saidi rhythm)
  9. Up 2 Down 3
  10. Double Bump & Single Bump
  11. Shoulder Shimmy
  12. Wet Dog
  13. Ghawazee Shimmy
  14. Reshamka
  15. Chico Four Corners
  16. Ribcage Rotation
  17. Head Slides
  18. Circle Step*
  19. Camel Walk*
  20. Corkscrew, Propeller, Reverse Turns*
  21. Torso Twist*
  22. Circle Step*
  23. Bodywave*
Modern Look: 
  1. Arabic Hip Twist and Arabic Hip Twist with Flourish and the Alabama Twister
  2. Turkish Shimmy with Arms and Turn
  3. Arabic Shimmy with Arms and Turn
  4. Double Back
  5. Sahra Turn
  6. Wrap Around Turn
  7. Barrel Turn
Now, obviously this list is ever evolving. For example, the Water Pot from Devyani or The Box Step and Push Forward Push Back from the Ghawazi Caravan vocabulary are not on the list. Granted, the Water Pot is swishy and swirly (meaning it has lots of turns and spins), but it does have that folkloric look. In my opinion anyway. And the Push Forward Push Back and Box Step have that folkloric hard edge. 

Also, I believe Floorwork falls into the Folkloric Look category. 

One of the main reasons I post this is to remind myself that there are moves that are considered Folkloric Look. When I dance, especially when there's mizmar or any kind of wind instrument that's not droning, I like doing the swishy steps like the Arabic Hip Twist. So, the list gives me a kind of boundary in a good way. 

I was going to include a YouTube snippet of The Tattooed One, but instead, I'm just going to post this.

When I stumbled upon it, it was like opening a treasure chest. Seeing Ms. Nericcio's fast solo is a rare treat too. 

Sunday, September 02, 2012

le moroccan six

I rarely get the opportunity to take a class with Ms. Marsha Poulin. Come to think of it, I think I've only taken one class with her once way back last year or earlier this year. Yesterday was my second ever. She taught us the Moroccan Six zil pattern. 

Before I begin, let me give you a full disclaimer: I took piano lessons from when I was five years old to when I was fifteen. Ten years. And I still didn't know how to play anything if it's not on the C Major scale. I have a really bad musicality and my eyes and fingers just can't coordinate that well and I just couldn't (can't?) commit the songs into my muscle memory. Learning to play finger cymbals is and always has been a challenge. I was first taught how to play the zils by Ms. Maria Aya when I was in Greece back in 2008. She taught me several patterns including the Triplet and the Baladi. It wasn't hard, but that was because we were sitting down. At that time, even moving the arms and walking while playing the zils was hard. 

In ATS®, however, only two patterns are used regularly: the RLR and the Military. The Military is only used for Up2Down3 and Double Back while a slight variation is used for Push Forward Push Back. Sometimes Ms. Kristine Adams or Ms. Sandi Ball would drill us on Baladi pattern and Moroccan Six, but yesterday, we really focused on the Moroccan Six.

You can listen to Moroccan Six pattern in Moroccan Six (duh) by Helm in Tribal Dance - Tribal Drums album or Ishwini Fik, also by Helm in their Spice Box album. As you might have guessed, there are six beats in a measure, instead of the regular eight, so although Moroccan Six and Ishwini Fik can be considered as up-tempo, two things won't fit: RLR pattern and Fast Steps. That means, only Slow Moves can be performed to these songs. However, not just any Slow Moves. Ms. Poulin advised us to do Dramatic Slow (fancy turns, Floorwork, Layback, Dueling Duets) to songs with a Moroccan Six pattern.

While the featured dancers do their things, the Chorus backs them up with a special zil pattern called, you guessed it, the Moroccan Six. All six beats must be acknowledged by playing the zils on each beat but only the first and fourth beats are accented (played louder). Then play another six beats on the zils evenly (without accent).

This is the written pattern: R - L - R - L - R - L - R - L - R - L - R - L

The bold and underlined letters are the accents.

Now, as opposed to the RLR or Military zil patterns, the Moroccan Six should be played a bit muffled. The Chorus is already in a Slow Move mode, so arms are down (with the elbows lifted as always), and the hands  are in the position where the thumbs are above the rest of the other four fingers. You know, like when you're gathering water to wash your face. Let gravity bring down the zils on your thumbs to the ones below, which are resting above the middle finger and (as in my case, because my zils are quite big) the index and ring fingers. This will make the the ziling sound more muffled.

One more thing: featured dancers don't need to play the zils when dancing to a Moroccan Six song. And if the dancers in the Chorus aren't confident enough to play the Moroccan Six, then don't. A little tip: start slow, then build the speed.

Here's FCBD® and Devyani dancing to Ishwini Fik.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

what ATS stands for

Let me say this up front: I am a perfectionist. I've blogged about this and some of you are tired of me whining about this, but really, I'm cringing every damn time I see a video of myself performing ATS®. 

Well, actually, I cringe not only whenever I see videos, but also photos. I'm not talking about the flabby midsection (although that's a huge problem, pun intended). I'm talking about the A, T, and S in ATS®, which are:
  1. Attitude: no ego, know when and how to lead, know when and how to give up lead, know when and how to follow, no drama, no bullying, no seniority, no jumping on pedestal, no belittling. 
  2. Technique: no floppy arms, no floppy wrists, no hunched back, no sunken chest, no unclear cue, no unclear shimmy, no zoning out, no low energy level. 
  3. Smile: neutral smile for Slow, big, toothy smile for Fast. 
I'm lacking in all those. 

I'm working on my smile, though. Anyone who's ever met me knows that I don't have a perfect set of teeth and I always try my best to conceal my teeth (I've been doing that for more than twenty years, so my jaws have muscle memory of their own), and smiling during ATS® Fast is always a killer.

And about the negative list above (maybe some will think it's demotivational since the list has so many no-nos and I didn't try to word it out more carefully using positive phrases), well, the list is for myself and I'm not being too hard on myself (HAHA I just wrote "hard on"), I just don't want me to misrepresent ATS® that I know. 

I'm almost relieved that there's no photo of me doing ATS® at Taqsim Festival: Semarang.

Taqsim Festival: Bandung. Just Tribal Fusion workshop. 

July 2012 saw me and the velvetRAQS director, Ms. Mifta, traveling to two cities in Java. That was the first for me. Ms. Mifta already has lots of out of town workshop experience. We did Taqsim Festival in Semarang (Central Java) on July 9th and Bandung (West Java) on July 21st. The Taqsim Festival in Semarang had both workshops and hafla while we only did workshops in Bandung because it was held on the first day of Ramadan. Then I went to Bali for vacation on July 26th, and a friend was hosting a small hafla and I also danced there. On July 1st, I danced at TAQSIM: the celebration of Oriental and Tribal belly dance, a hafla hosted by the velvetRAQS and Dancewave Center. I had been working on a drum solo by Drumspyder and I was confident enough to present it. 

I was absolutely wrong. 

First try on July 1st: Floppy arms, floppy wrists, weak shimmies, I messed up the Sunanda. 
Second try on July 9th: Floppy arms, floppy wrists, weak shimmies, too-low arm positions when doing Split Arm 2 (right arm above, left arm table top). 
Third try on July 26th: No more floppy wrists, but still floppy arms (although much better than the first and second attempts), more powerful shimmies, higher arm positions when doing Split Arm 2, but my arms were too frantic when doing Arabic Shimmy with Arms and Arabic Shimmy with Arms and Turns. 

Dancing in Bali: NO SMILE.
Ya know, I'm just trying to get a decent video here so I can upload it to our website. I guess it has to wait. 

I heard Rachel Brice videotaped herself when rehearsing. I believe it. 

Fortunately, I don't have to be all negative. I discovered this photo and I thought, hey, there's still hope. 

At TAQSIM: the celebration of Oriental and Tribal belly dance.
I'm leading the dancers in the finale. I wish I'd smiled this big during my real ATS® solo. 

Saturday, June 02, 2012

shimmies and shimmies

Ya know, it's a bit ironic that I call myself (on this blog anyway) "the boy who shimmies", and yet I find myself unable to shimmy properly, well, the Oriental shimmy anyway. However, when it comes to ATS® Shimmy, I feel very confident and at home.

Sensei Kae, Ms. Sandi Ball, and Ms. Wendy Allen all did shimmy drills on the course of two weeks. Beginning with Sensei Kae (another shimmy & spin class) on Thursday night (we also learned the tricky art of Over Shimmy), Ms. Ball on Saturday afternoon (have you ever seen how she flawlessly executes ASWAT? I have her tips below), Ms. Allen on Wednesday (I felt a bit adventurous and took the 51A bus to cross Oakland and Emeryville to Alameda where she teaches, then Sensei Kae again just a few hours ago (more shimmy drills).

So, okay... Here are the tips from Ms. Sandi Ball:

  1. To make your ATS® Shimmy even, if you're like me (my left shimmy is weaker than my right when I'm doing Turkish and Arabic Shimmy), then switch your focus from your right hip to your left hip. Concentrate on the left hip only. Your right hip is already shimmying big and nice and juicy, now it's the left hip's turn to get some lovin'. This was a lightbulb moment. It works for me. 
  2. When doing Arabic, there's this contrast going with your upper body (chest and torso) and arms. When the right foot steps down on one, think of stepping down but your upper body goes upward, like floating up, this is to get your chest to lift and your torso to undulate). Then as the left foot steps down on two, it's like your upper body (down to your hip, actually) sits down. On one, as the upper body goes upward, the arms plunge down in front of the body, then floats up on the side to over head from second to eighth counts. Add shimmies and you have Arabic Shimmy. 
  3. For ASWAT, this is how you achieve Ms. Sandi Ball's ASWAT flawlessness: as you're turning on fifth to eighth counts, keep your left hand near your left hip on five and six and left it float on seven and finish on eight. Letting the left hand sit there for five and six gives more aerodynamism, plus you won't hit your dance partners as you turn. 
This is one of my favorite videos, despite its lighting quality. Although I think the dark lighting adds the mood. 

Well, I'm blogging at San Francisco International Airport now, waiting for a grueling economy class flight back to Jakarta. I'm so sad to miss classes at the mothership for three months, but I'm glad that I closed it rather well: I got to dance with a guy! His name is Russ, he's from Seattle. He's at the studio for General Skills and Teacher Trainings. So that means... Another male joining the clan!

Sensei Kae just had to do the Shimmy drills. Then I had to drag two suitcases, each one weighing 23 kg (50 pounds), from my apartment on the third floor, all the way down, and walked five blocks to the bus stop. Then one block to the BART station. One of the suitcases contains Kali, Lilith's twin. I was a bit worried because I thought the suitcase containing Kali was oversized and Singapore Airlines has restrictions over the combined linear dimension of the suitcases. I even phoned their rep in SF, and I thought I had to pay USD 109, but it turned out fine. They checked in well. 

I'm so tired. I just want to find my seat (I get window seat this time, YAY!), get comfy, see the in-flight movies, and cocoon myself. 

I'll see you soon. I need to blog an addendum about ASWAT and Sunanda. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

tribal fest 12: year of the unicorn and the emperor's new clothes

Vell, vell, vell, Tribal Vest... vee meet again...

When you see a dirty rear window of a Toyota, with what appears to be an om sign missing its hat drawn on the dirt, instead of something that says "I'm filthy, wash me?" you know you're in another realm.

This time, I didn't take any workshops nor stayed near Sebastopol. Instead, Laura picked Julia and me up at Julia's apartment in Berkeley, and we went from there. We arrived in Sebastopol on Saturday, May 19, 2012, at around 10 AM, just in time to catch Laura Elizabeth's performance. 

We only came on one day: Saturday, and boy it was a treat. It was the day of ATS®. We had Ujbaba from Russia (those girls... I've said this once, and I'm going to say this again: Ujbaba proves that no matter how far removed you are from the mother ship, you can still have the ATS® posture and attitude), Spin-Off (Ms. Wendy Allen's student troupe from Alameda, CA), Blue Diamonds Belly Dance (student troupe of FatChanceBellyDance®) and of course, FatChanceBellyDance® themselves.  

It was a day of shopping (I finally got two saye goshas that I'd been eyeing ever since last year's Tribal Fest) and Silk Road Tribal did not disappoint. Thank God I didn't have that much money and they were out of red talhakimts, or I'd be more broke. If that's even possible

Other notable mentions were: Donna Mejia-Ela Rogers-Hilde Cannoodt Intrepid Bodacity, Donna Mejia's solo, Ela Rogers' solo (I finally understood her. She had this... amazing stage presence, and her facial expression was so spot on), Ambush Bellydance (I don't understand why this group is named this way, but they were spectacular), Devi Mamak & April from Ghawazi Caravan (using Flamenco and ATS®, they were moving poetry), and Paige Lawrence (he can actually dance, and this is probably inappropriate, but I don't care: I find him really attractive). That being said, I was busy going in and out and eating with my dance sisters, and so I didn't really sit still and see the whole show. 

And we took off earlier for dinner at Infusion Cafe (or something - great tea, but the food was total rip off, and it took them ages to make our dinner, and they let two crazy dudes in: one was playing the guitar in the parking lot and then came into the cafe, STILL PLAYING THE DAMN GUITAR, and the other was high beyond belief. The high guy was spotted at Tribal Fest too). So I missed this (somehow NSFW): 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

i am sorry... but here's a treat...

Okay, so I apologize. My last post was 128 years ago. But I have reasons. Well... Had. The Spring 2012 semester was a bomb. The hours weren't fun at all. But, I'm alive. And in two weeks, I'm heading home. I'm so excited. My boss, Mifta, has lots of plans for me: hafla, performances, out of town workshops, so I can't complain.

Dance wise, this semester has also been very, very fruitful. I went to Rakkasah in Richmond, then to Tribal Fest 12 (my second!), but each of them will have its own entry. Or at least one entry for both where I'll compare them.

But this entry won't talk about Rakkasah or Tribal Fest. This entry will talk about the annual National Dance Week showcase at the FatChanceBellyDance® studio on Saturday, April 14, 2012 (which was 72 years ago). And I happened to dance there, as Blue Diamonds Belly Dance, student troupe of FCBD®.

Here's the snippet of the performance in the first set, to Caravan by Raquy & the Cavemen. Guess which one is me.

Well, I guess this post breaks the lazy spell.

Come to think of it, this entry won't have anything much, because, I'm too lazy letting the video do the talking.

Last year, I went to the National Dance Week / Observe the Creative Process at the studio. I was... blown away by the performances. I was blown away by the students were so graceful and powerful at the same time and those were students except for Ms. Kristine Adams & Ms. Anita Lalwani who perfected the icing on the cake by dancing to the crazy fast song called Drum Solo 2:31 by the adorable Tobias Roberson (cue le sigh here). Some of the ladies have become my friends, and I have to tell you that I am blessed to have them as my dance sisters. When I got back after the show, I told myself that I needed to work my ass harder to have at least half their skills.

Then this year, National Dance Week happened again, and the studio once more opened its doors for observers, and the students put on a show.

Needless to say, I was happy. I still am happy as I'm writing about it 2 months later. And I'm glad that I shared a session with Yuka, whose husband Ben took the video, though mostly because Yuka's there, but that's not the point. The point is: I was there and I danced there and even though it was hot and I had to ride the bus back home with my make-up on, an old lady told me that I looked beautiful, I was happy.

Cue le sigh again.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

foot, elbow, face

Some Saturdays ago, Ms. Nericcio was there to teach the class. I was away in December and January and those were actually the months when she wasn't travelling and dedicated her time to teach (and observe). So of course came rain or high water, I went to the studio.

I know I'm still struggling with so many aspects of many of the moves and steps. I realized that I've been very, very bouncy. I mean, with the flailing arms and the bobbling head and everything, so I'm working on it. But Ms. Nericcio pointed out something else (well, not only to me, but to the whole class). She said she wanted to see a beautiful entrance when we're coming out of the Chorus to be the featured dancers.

Here's the checklist:

  1. Feet: Glide, don't walk. Long, supermodel steps. 
  2. Elbows: Lifted to convey a feeling of emphatic entrance. When you slide back in to the chorus, make yourself small so you can fit right back in, without dropping the elbows, of course. 
  3. Faces: Smile! Toothy smile when doing Fast Steps. You can also show your teeth when doing Slow Moves, but it's okay if you don't, as long as you smile. 

Here's a little video to emphasize on the three aspects above. 

I was late for two consecutive Saturdays and so I didn't have the time to tell the teachers (Ms. Allen on one Saturday and Ms. Lalwani on the next) that I was working on my bounciness. But after class, I asked Ms. Lalwani about this and she said that she didn't see me bouncing too much. 

So, yeah. I guess I can work towards a goal after all. Haha. Yay!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

the owl and the pussycat

Last night, we performed at a friend's wedding. Well, she's actually a friend of one of the velvetRAQS girls and we were asked to dance at her wedding (not Middle-Eastern themed, but we didn't care). They were gracious and the guests were quite enthusiastic.

However, I had mixed feelings.

I don't know if I were just being tired and draggy (as I'm writing this, I'm still feeling tired. I was sneezing and it's usually a sign that I'm going to be hit by a full on cold, so let's just see...), but I'm starting to doubt my performance skills.

It's good that I'm taking a hiatus on performing as BlueDiamondsBellyDance since my school schedule for the Spring Semester (boy, that's a lot of "s") doesn't allow me to go to Thursday rehearsals and classes at FatChanceBellyDance®.

So let's just see where this is going. I'm really hoping this is a false alarm. I'm not taking a full hiatus on dancing because I'm still passionate about teaching.

I guess my problem is that I don't know how much I'm worth. And some nights, like last night, I felt like I didn't give my best. And I feel a headache coming up.

And the significance of the picture with the Owl and the Pussycat? Well, there's something so enchantingly detached and dispassionate about the poem. Not to mention haunting and depressing, with no sense of closure. It just hangs there, in the air, with uncertainty. Just like what I'm feeling right now.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Well, here's my first video on YouTube. Well, not really the first, but someone uploaded it, so why not.

It's not half bad (since it's small and the quality's not so good).

Here's the velvetRAQS plus Lilith, dancing to Washing Away the Dirty by Dirty Elegance at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta, Saturday, 7 January 2012 for Dancewave Center's annual recita: The Dance Within 3D: One World.

In this one, I became Kali-Ma and slayed the Goddesses of Time (Past-Present-Future) so Earth could reset itself. Choreography by me, videography by

I feel that this one's so much better than last year's when my posture was still so pseudo-ATS and I had helicopter hands.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

indian jewelry and vedic culture

So last year (that's right, last year!) on October 5, FatChanceBellyDance® organized a miniseminar on Indian jewelry. The speaker was Ms. Colleena Shakti, the other half of Nakarali and Odissi dancer / teacher. I really don't need to tell you how fabulous Nakarali pieces are. I, err... I bought a piece of silver belt at last year's Tribal Fest and although it cost me an arm and leg, it's a good investment.

But I digress. Let's begin.

The beginning of Indian jewelry can be traced back to 5,000 years ago. The source of inspiration for the aesthetics came from the Vedas (ancient sacred writings of Hinduism). These Vedas have specific description of the adornments worn by the Gods and Goddesses (yes, I'm totally using capital "G"). These descriptions were made into illustrations by painters, and the poses of the Gods and Goddesses were translated by temple dancers into what is now known as Classical Indian Dance. This style of Indian dance is considered the epitome of Vedas, and therefore Indian, culture. The detailed carving of a God or Goddess or dancer from 500 years ago shows the exact same jewelry worn now.

What's remarkable is that every part of Chakra is covered in jewelry. This means there is a specific placement of each jewelry piece. Placing precious metals on the Nadis contains the power / spirit of the Mother / Goddess, therefore binding the Shakti energy.

The Indian idea of divine beauty is adornment. There is no end of adornment in the Indian aesthetics. The purpose of the body is to be adorned. Even in Kama Sutra illustrations (the classic ones, not the FHM ones) and sculptures, the clothes come off, but never the jewelry.

Jewelry also serves as an identity to show the caste and community. The 10,000 year old culture of India is passed on on both conscious and subconscious levels. The style of adornment reflects which tribe the person belongs to. Communal-mindedness is necessary in a tribe; there is no such thing as a stand-outness. Tribal costume (and jewelry) is not just adornment, but a lineage of ideas. The idea is how to represent people for having a pride in the moral system.

For example, the children of Kalbeliya Tribe, a caste of snake charmers, wear beaded jewelry (lighter, more comfortable, cheaper). When the girl is ready to be married, then she will wear silver that weighs at least 1.5 kg on her body. This is for financial security. Imagine, the people in this tribe lead nomadic life. This means no wall, no indoor plumbing, and now ATM. So if you had USD 5,000, where would you put it? On your body!

Jewelry is investment (like the belt I bought), it's also a transferable asset (you pass it down to the future generation), and it even guards you. Ms. Shakti told us the story of her Mataji who had an accident. Her leg was run over by a car, but she was alright because she was wearing a big-ass chunky anklet. The anklet protected her from too much damage, but it was broken to pieces. So they took the anklet to a shop to be sold to cover the hospital fee. The jewelry pieces are not pure or 92% silver, but they have to be mixed with other metals to endure the harsh conditions the tribespeople live in.

The Kalbeliya women are beggars, but they're adorned in jewelry and that's their right. The jewelry is not meant to be given up to feed the family (I know, right? THE IRONY). Sometimes, these people carve their names on the jewelry, like they have their names tattooed on their forearms because they're illiterate. Nowadays (I guess this also happens in Indonesia), Indians don't want to wear the older, more classic jewelry because they want to appear more western.

I was feeling rather intelligent that night and so I asked a question. The illustrations show Gods and Goddesses adorned in gold, so why is it that silver is the big thing? These are Ms. Shakti's responses:
  1. Gold is more precious (more expensive) than silver
  2. Silver mixes better with nickel and other metal
  3. Gold is reserved for Gods and Goddesses therefore distancing mere humans (Silver) with Supreme Beings (Gold - representing Solar energy)
I hope I didn't leave out important details! I'm sorry it took so long to write this. Sigh. Now that one debt is done, I still have two articles to post: Male ATS costuming ideas and the Extended Prayer.

Monday, January 23, 2012

tribal spark

A few weeks ago, on Sunday, 8 January 2012, Tribal Babes Indonesia hosted Indonesia's first ever Tribal Belly Dance and Fusion Festival. They were having a special guest coming over and it's none other than the lovely Ms. Cinzia di Ciocco of Les Soeurs Tribales (LST). I've seen LST's videos and I have to say that I'm most impressed with their fluidity, creative transitions, and very, very pretty skirt work. And as far as I know, in the videos, everything is Improv Tribal Style (ITS).

I danced two numbers, using FatChanceBellyDance® American Tribal Style® Moves and Steps to Caravan by Raquy & the Cavemen for the first one, and Tribal Fusion to Linetzky and Romeo's Sentimientos. I gotta tell you, though, one is the loneliest number in ATS®. There's no sense of the tribe. Nonetheless, I was happy because I got to dance with my Banjara Skirt and my old headdress. So, yay to power in costuming!

I wish I had pictures of me dancing to Sentimientos, but for now, those photos will not see the light of day. HA. I wore my white Tribal garb for that one in case you're curious.

Anyway, I was telling you about one being the loneliest number in ATS®. Well, guess what, at the end of the show when all the performers were called on stage, Ms. Ciocco took my hands and we danced together to none other than Shakira's Ojos Asi. Yes. We danced using the basic American Tribal Style® vocabulary (Egyptian, Arabic, Arabic Shimmy, Pivot Bump, Turkish Shimmy, and of course the luxurious Taxeem). I had seen her doing Double Back and Chico 4 Corners during her performance so I threw them in as well. I also threw in the Chico 4 Corners passing and she caught that. Some of the moves didn't "translate" well between us but it all made sense because later she told me that she did Gypsy Caravan.

Still, it felt really good to dance with someone I'd never danced with before, and we did it quite seamlessly. Of course I blundered by doing Slow Moves when the song was still fast (I hadn't listened to Ojos Asi in ages), but still, doing the on-the-spot improv felt so natural. After the song ended, Ms. Ciocco encouraged me to explain to the crowd that we had never danced together ever and then we shouted, "That's the power of Tribal".

Oh, and yeah, I also made another blunder by CHANGING INTO MY STREET WEAR. Haha.

It was a fun night, although I really wish we could see more Tribal and Fusion belly dance.


Photo credit:

All photos courtesy of Tribal Babes Indonesia.

In the third photo: (left to right) The emcee of the evening, Ms. Vina from Kalimantan (!), Ms. Nabila from Sahara Dance Jakarta, Ms. Miftahul Jannah from velvetRAQS / Dancewave Center (yep, that's my boss... and her ankle boots...), Ms. Enna from Sahara Dance Jakarta, Desi from Tribal Babes Indonesia, Ms. Cinzia di Ciocco from Les Soeurs Tribales, Ms. Christine Yaven from Bellydance Jakarta, Ms. Patricia from Star of the East / Interlude Dance Academy, Yours Truly, and Yulia Bollywood. Quite a lot of line-up, huh?

Monday, January 16, 2012

tribal fusion intensive

I'm teaching again! This time it's for an eight-week intensive program and not for American Tribal Style® but Tribal Fusion.

It's only Rp. 800,000 per person for all eight sessions, but it's limited to Dancewave Center students. We're going to do drills and end with a choreography to a short song (Sourire by Les Nubians).

Here's the little poster:

For more information, check out the Facebook Event page.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

well hello there, 2012

Alright, as usual, when I'm back in Jakarta, I hardly blog. I have reasons! As soon as I landed in Jakarta, the grueling practice sessions and rehearsals began, and I'm not kidding. A few hours after touch-down, I met my velvetRAQS girls and we practiced the two numbers that I choreographed for Dancewave Center's annual recital, The Dance Within 3D: One World. The sold-out show (yes, sold-out. Again.) was held in the legendary auditorium of Gedung Kesenian Jakarta (Jakarta Performing Arts Building) on Saturday, 7 January 2012.

Here are some photographic highlights from the show. Things weren't perfect (I'm trying to be modest) and by golly look at my bloated belly. Sigh.

I resolve to own six-pack abs for the next recital.

No, really. I do.

The pictures of the velvetRAQS in white Tribal Fusion attire (headdress, bra of the girls, my top, and my belt are all made by me) are of us dancing as Snow Flakes using choreographed moves from FatChanceBellyDance® vocabulary. I'm very proud of my posture as it totally slims down my belly. Haha. I wore my new Ivory Tulle bi Telli scarf from Safti Craft. I only have good things to say about Safti. Very timely production and shipment.

The second set of pictures are of us in black Tribal Fusion attire (my top and belt are made by me). I danced as Kali-Ma who slays the Three Goddesses of Time so Earth could return to her glory (before time, before humans exist).

I'm still waiting for pictures from the first Tribal Bellydance & Fusion Festival organized by Tribal Babes Indonesia, right the next day after The Dance Within 3D: One World, where I danced two numbers. I've got a really cool story for that evening.


Photo Credits:

Photos 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are by Diana Tri from PIKME Photography.
Photo 2 by Yudha Wiraghupta.
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