argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
sword arthurs 02

As you might gather from the months of non-updates, this account is semi-retired. I don't plan on deleting anything from it, and I might make the occasional update where there's something I can't say in another way, but for the most part, what's here is it.

Our ATS bellydance teacher is on indefinite hiatus, so we've been practising at one of our dancer's houses. We have three performances in April. The first is a pop-themed event, so we're dancing to "Gangnam Style," which is a lot more fun than it has any right to be. The last is in a theatre an hour away; the first half of our performance will have zills (finger cymbals) and the second half will have baskets. Balancing the basket on my head during a live performance is the part that I'm most nervous about; I recently performed with a sword for the first time and when I went to balance it my entire body felt like it was shaking. (Sometimes I also tense up when playing zills from trying too hard, which makes it harder to stay on beat.)

After April, all we have planned right now is a summer library program and a possible farmer's market.

In June, there's a three-day ATS workshop with zills and sword that I'm really looking forward to. The only downside is it starts the same day my supervisor at work is retiring.

There's another performance at the end of July. I might try to put together a second solo for it.

At the end of September, there's a three-day ATS camp about two hours south; maybe we can go with our troupe? (Even if we don't, we hope to go to NYC at least one Saturday to take classes at Manhattan Tribal.)

As my early birthday present to myself, I bought a doumbek, a common drum in Middle Eastern music. I've been slowly teaching myself the various rhythms. As you might surmise, most of my free time and money goes to bellydance in one form or another, whether it's practising, attending classes or workshops, costuming, finding new music, reviewing moves in my head, etc. This is actually one of the reasons I want to retire my LJ -- all the other bellydancers are on Facebook and I doubt many of the people I met here are that interested (understandably; I was into many other different things years ago when I first made this account).

Work is good, though there are a few changes coming up in staffing. I'm so grateful to have a job with a steady schedule and weekends off; it makes it much easier to plan performances and has improved my sleep.

Fandom is still just Dragon Age 2. I'm looking forward to Captain America: Civil War, but have a hard time getting into the fandom.

If this is my last update, take care and follow your bliss.

Two more photos from recent performances. )
argurotoxos: a woman with a skeleton face holds another woman (Sylvia Ji - sleep)
I uploaded selected photos from the family reunion to my Ocean (Portland, Maine) scrapbook a while ago, but never included them in a post. The first page has all of the 2015 photos.

In other news, I got a job with the county, over three years after I took the civil service exam. My start date is October 5th. I'm working Sundays only at my current job until November 1st, which is my final day.

Shakti! (our American Tribal Style belly dance troupe) has been performing about twice a month. Our first paid gig is near the end of October for a breast cancer fundraiser. Tribal fusion class has moved back to Tuesday, so I'm currently taking American Tribal Style (ATS) on Wednesday and beginner flamenco on Thursday. Lately, I've been staying for the intermediate flamenco class after ATS Wednesdays as well. I'm so glad I got into belly dance; I've met great people, had some wonderful experiences, get to wear costumes and perform, and have learned so much, plus improved my fitness.

Fandom is mostly Dragon Age 2 (Fenris/Male Hawke).
argurotoxos: a lizard with striking blue and white marks (lizard)
I haven't uploaded any photos in a while.

Photos beneath cut. )
argurotoxos: Emilie Autumn sitting on the floor (Emilie - floor | by betterthanlegos)
Both my parents and I bought a belly dance outfit for my birthday. (I justified my part by paying for it with some of my tax refund.) From my parents I asked for a tribal fusion-style bra and belt set from eBay (I was debating between two different styles and my mom helped me decide). I bought an American Tribal Style student set from Flying Skirts. In the photos below, I've also included a few (new) photos of the cabaret-style bra and belt I bought used on eBay last year, as well as some of my practise wear. I'm very curious which of the three outfits people prefer.

I also experimented on face paint for belly dance last month. I initially intended to go for a more authentic tribal look, but most of my sketches consisted of elements from Sylvia Ji, Thief (especially glyphs), and Jötun Loki (both official and fanart).

Tribal fusion-style outfit photos. )

American Tribal Style (ATS) outfit photos. )

Cabaret-style outfit photos. )

Face paint photos. )
argurotoxos: (Emilie - Opheliac)
One of my local belly dance teachers just returned from a one-week intensive with Rachel Brice. Rachel is very methodical and also uses a lot of yoga in her practise; I always think of serpentine torso figure 8s, long undulating arms, and her famous and incredible backbends. I was looking for videos of her on YouTube and discovered she's done a duet with my first ever belly dancer, Illan! You can watch the video here. Rachel and Illan's styles compliment well, though Illan tends to do more turns, use a wider stance, and incorporate more sharp pop/lock moves. It was amazing to see my two favourite belly dancers dancing together!

I've been working off and on on dance ideas for a possible family reunion talent show. Probably something from 3-5 minutes in length with broad appeal from 6 months to 80 years old and a good introduction to tribal belly dance since I don't think most of my relatives have ever seen belly dance. I'd prefer not to use any props, except perhaps zills if I decide to do an American tribal style solo or there's no easy access to a music player. One of my favourite songs to work with lately has been Diary of Dream's "Malum", but I think that's probably too dark and heavy. (By the way, if anyone knows where the animation used in this video comes from, that would be great to know.) I have a few Loreena McKennitt songs, but they don't inspire me as much. Vas's "Remembrance" is currently my top pick.

In the realm of fandom, there hasn't been much new Loki/Thor fic to catch my interest and I've been getting a bit restless even though my backlog of fic will last a few months. Some of the tumblrs I occasionally check (pretty much all people in the Thor fandom) have posted about Dragon Age lately and I remembered that, way back when, I watched some of Dragon Age II's relationship scenes. I haven't played any of the Dragon Age games (or Elder Scrolls or Gothic) and the only game I have that seems similar is Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption. Nevertheless, I've read a few Fenris/Male Hawke fics. I've also bookmarked a few Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Star Trek, and even Yami no Matsuei and Loveless, stories. The last time I was in this phase - I think I was getting out of Batman/DC comics for oversaturation/lack of interest and The Authority for lack of any new material - I had no idea where my next fandom was going to come from and it took half a year to suddenly discover the Thor fandom. I watched a few episode of the original Hunter x Hunter anime a week ago, but don't think I'll get further than that, so I'm doubtful I'll find my new fandom home in older fandoms. Who knows; maybe the next Marvel movie will give fandom new ideas?

(That said, I was more active in the Hunter x Hunter fandom, as far as posting, interacting, writing fanfic, and cosplay, than I have been in any other. These days, I'm pretty much passive, just reading fanfic, occasionally searching for fanart or music videos, and following a couple blogs. I even deleted my cosplay list; there's not anyone I have a burning desire to dress up as and my spending money is going elsewhere.)

Edit: Near as I can tell, I got into the Thor fandom around March of 2011; four years is a pretty good run, and probably a bit over my typical fandom investment. (Most of my fandoms last 2-4 years. It tends to be shorter if: (1) the fandom is small [Earthian, Alexander], (2) my investment is half-hearted or peaks and drops suddenly [Sherlock, the Aubrey/Maturin series], (3) the type of fic I'm interested in isn't much written [Farscape, Merlin], or (4) there's limited source material [Maurice, Brimstone], but there are exceptions [Stormwatch/The Authority]. I suppose a (5) would be I stop liking the source material, either through time or new developments.)
argurotoxos: a lizard with striking blue and white marks (lizard)
I signed up for my first 'gym membership' last week, except that the membership was for a dance studio. This dance studio is actually the most expensive of all the local belly dance classes, but they also offer the most variety, including the only American Tribal Style (ATS) belly dance class in the region. By paying a membership, I can take as many classes as I want each month. I debated over signing up; when I started taking dance classes again, I set a rule for myself at the very beginning that I wouldn't take more than one class a week, out of consideration for time, money, driving, and energy/commitment level. However, even if I continue taking just one class a week, paying for a membership is still the cheapest option.

The classes:

Tuesday - Tribal fusion belly dance
Wednesday - American Tribal Style belly dance
Thursday - Beginning flamenco; belly dance basics

I've been to the tribal fusion and ATS classes twice each. Thursday's classes I've yet to try; the basics class sounds like it's more Egyptian cabaret style.

So, what's up with all the different types of belly dance? I don't know that I have enough experience to write a thorough response, and even though I've grown enamoured with tribal fusion and ATS lately, I still have the most experience with Egyptian cabaret classes (and only about six months of those).

Tribal fusion belly dance was my first belly dance exposure. The performance was set to a techno/electronica song and incorporated various dance, and even acrobatic, moves. Tribal fusion seems to be the most open and creative of all the belly dance styles; dancers use all kinds of different music and costumes and blend in whatever other styles or disciplines interest them. The teacher at this studio sometimes throws in hip hop moves, which are challenging to me as I've never learned that style. Even two of the most well-known tribal fusion solo dancers, Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes, have quite different styles. Tribal fusion often has a strong focus on isolating different parts of the body, grounding, and sharp pop/lock movements.

ATS belly dance is quite different. It's not the type of dance I would have though I'd like, but it's currently my favourite class. ATS teaches set patterns of moves along with cues. The dancer in the top left corner takes the lead and the rest of the group read her cues to keep in time. In this way, a group can dance together on the spot even though there is no choreography. It can be challenging, especially when I'm still learning a move, to focus on the moment and on the dancers around me. In a way, I could think of ATS as the extroverted side of belly dance. During my first ATS class, I was under the idea that it would take months to learn just a few of the set patterns, but only two classes in we've covered at least 15. (The patterns seem to be split into slow and fast moves, and fast moves are usually performed while playing zills [finger cymbals].) Having other belly dance experience, and practicing with zills on my own, have been hugely helpful.

Oddly, I find defining Egyptian cabaret difficult. It's probably the most widely known and taught style in the US, is usually done to Middle Eastern music, and often features glittery costumes. Personally, Egyptian cabaret feels more airy and playful to me. When I started taking tribal fusion classes, one of my teachers explained that, while there's often some bounce in Egyptian cabaret movements, tribal aims to minimize bounce as much as possible. Most dancers I've talked to started with Egyptian cabaret before moving into other styles, which was also true for me.

I've done a couple flamenco DVDs from the library, but that's the extent of my experience. I was surprised to learn that my ATS teacher (who actually started with ATS belly dance first) was also in the intermediate flamenco class. Unfortunately, I must have sold or donated the black character shoes I used for plays in high school, so I'm hoping the black shoes I bought a few years ago at Salvation Army that look sort of like flamenco shoes will suffice and not be uncomfortable. (Real flamenco shoes often have 2" heels and nails hammered into the soles to emphasize the sound, but aren't required for the beginner class.)

Wednesday's ATS class is the one I'm most committed to. I don't plan on spending three nights a week at dance, and actually prefer to take dance classes on days I work so I can dance on my own on my days off, although I sometimes wonder if I'll have the energy to go right from work. However, since I have the membership, I feel I should take advantage of it and maybe alternate Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as Wednesdays. (I never signed up for Netflix or the YMCA for similar reasons -- if I have a membership, I feel I should take advantage of it as much as I can to get my money's worth, but on the other hand, I don't want to just sit and watch things/be in the gym during all my free time. And if I'm just watching a couple things a week, well, I can just go to the library for that.)

I have some guilt that I'm not going back to the studio I was at in the fall. Several things motivated my decision: the studio was farther away, classes ended later and I often wasn't home until 9:30 or 10 pm, I'm not as interested in Egyptian cabaret as tribal, and I felt that most of the time would be spent putting together and rehearsing choreography for the end-of-year performance, which I wouldn't be in. Sometimes I leave for class at the new studio right from work, eating a quick snack and changing in the bathroom, but the advantage is that I'm home by 8:30 pm at the latest. (The Thursday class ends later.) One disadvantage of this new studio is that traffic is often quite heavy when I drive to class; even when I take the back roads, it still takes longer to get to class than to get home.
argurotoxos: an elegant half-nude woman standing in green skirts with head facing down and butterflies at her feet (Fée verte)
As I tend to get really into things for a few years and then lose interest, I've been tentative in my belly dance investments. I went through all of the library's DVDs before I bought some of my own, and started with some cheaper props and accessories first. So far, though, my interest has kept growing. (I tried to take photos of all the props I describe below, but the lighting wasn't very good and I didn't like the results; there are still a few photos at the end.)

My very first belly dance prop was a veil. It was a solid-coloured piece of chiffon from Jo-Ann Fabrics, unhemmed. Eventually I bought several colours of chiffon and trimmed some of them to different lengths, from two to four yards. There are so many types of veils, from colour and length to shape and material, that you could have quite the collection. (The variety and temptation is similar with hip scarves.)

Next came zills (finger cymbals), which are worn on the thumb and middle finger on each hand and are musical instruments in their own right. The zills felt rather heavy when I first wore them, but now I hardly notice the added weight. I've become decent at playing various patterns and sounds with the zills, but putting them together with dance steps has been extremely challenging and I sometimes get frustrated.

I ordered a pair of silver Isis wings after reading one of the library's books on belly dance. The wings attach at your neck with a collar; each wing end has a rod that makes it easier to control the massive amount of fabric. I can't practise with these indoors as there's simply not enough open space in our house.

A set of fan veils followed the wings. Fan veils are made of a fan with a veil trailing from the ends; mine lighten from black to white and the veil part is silk. After discovering how different silk feels and moves from chiffon, I was sold and ordered a (non-fan) silk veil. I think these are my favourite prop from the 'pretty material to wave around' category.

My latest purchase was a sword. It's specifically designed for belly dance, so the edges are dull and it's well-balanced. At 21", it's on the shorter end, but was heavier than I expected. Swords in belly dance are often balanced on your head to show your skill in isolation and coordination. I've heard of candelabras and tea sets, as well as baskets and jars, also being used this way, but a sword feels (oddly) much safer. (I should mention that a dancer wearing a candelabra is a wedding tradition in Egypt.)

As far as I know, the main props I haven't tried are a cane, or stick, and a snake. Canes to me are associated with jazz dance, not belly dance -- I think of the black top hat and cane in something like Fosse. Nevertheless, canes are actually one of the original Middle Eastern props. As for a snake, I love reptiles, but can't imagine having one, or any other animal, on me while I dance. If I had tried to dance with my iguana, I think he'd either be totally uncooperative or sit on my head with his claws digging in to my skull. Also, according to Wikipedia, fear of snakes is one of the most common phobias, even more than fear of spiders. (Snakes are probably my favourite animals after lizards, but perhaps that's a luxury of living where there are no venomous snakes and the biggest ones to be found aren't very wide.)

I recently went to my first-ever live belly dance performance, which was amazing. Even though all the belly dancers were from the tribal style, there was a great variety in costuming and dancing. The most common props were veils and fans (just fans, not fan veils). One of the troupes did use swords (of all different shapes and sizes), and the American tribal troupe, which was very impressive, used zills.

However, as one of my teachers told me, props can add excitement and variety to your dance, but they are not a substitute for strong dance technique. In other words, props can enhance your dance, but they should not replace it. When I practise at home, which can last from 15 minutes to two hours, I usually start with warm-ups and isolation drills. During the middle of the session, I'll sometimes pick one or two props to work with. (To do them all would be overwhelming). I usually end with free dance before cooling down and doing some ending stretches. Zills I sometimes practise separately. Even when I'm walking at work, I sometimes play invisible zills and count the rhythms in my head. So far, the only prop I've used in outside dance classes is the veil.

As far as dancing with props to specific songs, I've found some songs will bring to mind a certain prop while others I prefer to go propless. Isis wings and swords are usually used with slower music, but I have relatively few slow-paced songs in my belly dance folder. Zills I usually don't use except with Middle Eastern or Middle Eastern inspired music.

Though I feel I've made progress practising on my own - Rachel Brice's Arms and Isolations DVDs are my current go-to starting points, plus a few dancers on YouTube - I haven't been as dedicated about going to classes recently. I've tried both tribal fusion classes in my area, and they have different things going for them; one is challenging and I feel would teach me more technique, but the other has such a positive and engaging environment. I decided when I started classes I would take no more than one a week, both for time and money; in this case, both classes are at the same day and time! There is one American tribal class in the area and I'd like to try it, but I feel I might want to commit to it and I'm already committed to going back to my fall class, even though tribal appeals to me much more right now than Egyptian or cabaret style. Still, I've been belly dancing less than two years -- I have a lot to learn and more years to do it in!

Some photos under the cut. )
argurotoxos: Emilie Autumn sitting on the floor (Emilie - floor | by betterthanlegos)
It's been so long since I updated that I almost forgot how.

Photos under the cut. )


argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)

March 2016



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