December 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
2014 was a productive year!
At the beginning of December, I graduated with two associate’s degrees: one in nutrition and one in pre-health science: pre-exercise science. I have to complete a lot more schooling in order to reach my ultimate career goal of working in physical rehabilitation, but it is definitely nice to reach a milestone.
As for dancing, things have really taken off for my dance troupe! This year, Desert Darlings Belly Dance performed at many events and venues and secured two regular performance slots: every Saturday night at Anatolia in downtown Albuquerque and every Sunday night at Kaktus Brewery in Bernalillo. We put on two full-length dance shows and were invited to re-show our most recent production, Nightmare Before Christmas: A Belly Dance Adventure, in Santa Fe in early February. I also got a new toy: podpoi with capsule handles! These poi are the coolest, most versatile glow poi I own. They have a ton of lighting patterns and color options. Now, when I am developing a new poi performance piece, I am not only a choreographer, I am a lightning designer! It’s so much fun! It has been a great year for dancing!
In 2015, I will begin working toward two bachelor’s degrees and hope to perform twice as often as I did last year. I am going to choreograph my first group veil piece for Desert Darlings and plan to attend at least two workshops and maybe a dance festival. I would also like to practice more with both my poi and hula hoop. I think it will be a good year!
Happy New Year, everyone!
June 3, 2012 § 3 Comments
Isis Wings! They are fun, flowing and flashy!
It is difficult to find information on the origin of Isis Wings. The Dancers of the Desert write on their website “in doing research on Wings of Isis I found that there is no specific history on Isis wings. They started in Las Vegas [as] a prop used by show girls, and I am assuming, because of their similarity to Isis, the Egyptian goddess of love, fertility (She is depicted usually as a kneeling lady with wings), got their name…It is an American prop and does not fall into traditional Middle Eastern dance, but was developed with so many other props, into the middle Eastern art of belly dancing.”
There is this video on YouTube circa 1895 which was the first hand-painted movie. The props used are not Isis Wings, the description says they are veils (obviously attached to sticks), but the effect is rather Isis Wings-esque.
No matter where Isis Wings came from, they certainly awe audiences and capture the imagination. Sometimes they remind people of other, often-whimsical things.
One person told me this prop reminds them of the artificial swallowtail butterfly developed by researches to study how these beautiful and oddly proportioned insects stay in flight:
A spectator at one of Lumani‘s shows saw these…
…and thought them reminiscent of this popular caped crusader:
Personally, Isis Wings make me think of this:
Less whimsical, but this deadly Jurassic Park dino comes to mind every time.
Like everything, Isis Wings get reinvented with new technology. Behold! Some really cool LED Isis Wings!
After seeing this video, Princess Farhana said on twitter “WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! that was better than being a kid at Disneyland’s Electric parade!!!!”
Do Isis Wings remind you of anything?
March 14, 2012 § 3 Comments
I have re-immersed myself in dancing. It was really easy. I love how it seems no matter where I go, there is a flourishing and welcoming belly dance community. I went to a Farfesha student show and started taking classes at their studio shortly after. I signed up for an eight-week course with some American Tribal Style dancers who got their start at the same Santa Fe studio I did. I introduced myself after the first class and we talked a bit. After the second class, they invited me to join their troupe, The Desert Darlings! So how about that; I thought I would be stepping back from the tribal community, something I have thought before, yet it always seems to find a place for me. I guess it’s meant to be. And the Desert Darlings are, well, darling! I am still pursuing Oriental belly dance in my self-practice and will soon be seeking a weekly class.
Last month, I attended Oriental Potpourri, an annual event put on by Amaya. It was wonderful! The guest teacher was Karim Nagi of Turbo Tabla who is amazing! I took a Drum Solo and a Raks Assaya (cane) workshop. It was educational and inspiring! If you ever have the chance to take workshops with Karim, do it! If I had the means, I might travel all over the world taking his workshops. I would learn so much! He has published some DVDs and sells them at a discount to his workshop students. I haven’t gotten to watch mine yet, but I will post about them when I do.
Karim’s workshops got me thinking about some things. First of all, I now realize how important it is to call the traditional dances by their proper names to credit the Egyptians. Going forward, when doing these styles I will do my best to honor them with their true names. I will still call tribal style “belly dance” because it is so Americanized, and I will use “belly dance” as a catchall phrase since I don’t strictly do classical styles.
Second, I now know that I love Raks Assaya! I had never danced with a cane before, and it was so much fun! I already knew that the women’s style of dance came from playfully teasing the men who do Tahtib (an ancient martial art form using a large stick, an assaya), but hearing Karim’s description made it so much more fun! I want to buy a cane, but I have to do some research first because I don’t yet know what I’m looking for in this prop. If anyone has any pointers, they would be much appreciated!
I also learned some very valuable tips for drum solos, like separating the location of accents in the body to reflect different sounds on the drum, and I performed in a show for friends and family of Oriental Potpourri participants. I did my first ever, completely choreographed, non-Tribal solo. It was really fun and a great experience. I will post a video soon.
October 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
It’s funny how hobbies work their way into your thoughts. The more hobbies I pick up, the more it affects my artistic visions. I’ve been belly dancing for quite some time, casually spinning poi, and am a rather baby beginner at hoop dancing. When I listen to music now, I often “see” the music in the form of one of these dance styles. Which I see changes from song to song depending on what the song is saying to me. In the matter of my poi and especially hoop, I am not really good enough to make these visions into reality yet, but I just need to work on that. At this point, I really need all three in order to fulfill my dancing daydreams and mental musical interpretations. This dancing stuff is an addiction!
My next creative project I am planning is a choreographed poi dance. I am getting to a point where I am having smoother transitions between movements and am adding in variations like lockouts and extensions and what not and need to start actually dancing with the poi instead of just drilling and trying new things. I think a choreography will lead to some good practicing. As soon as I pick a song, I will start making a poi vision or two come to life.
September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
Earlier this summer I had my first fire poi burn. It. Was. AMAZING!
I was at a 4th of July party at a friend’s ranch in the beautiful, Middle of Nowhere, NM. It was a bunch of friends, old and new, getting together in the mountainous desert to sing, talk, camp and be merry around a fire under the beautiful open sky.
A friend of mine spins fire poi and brought hers to the party. After she spun a little, and another friend at the party did as well, she asked if I wanted to try. Although I had been trying to psych myself up for it all day, I was nervous. The first time I had ever tried spinning fire poi, they were unlit at a fire jam in Portland, and I hit myself in the back of the head leaving a huge knot. That was when I had only been taking poi classes for a few weeks, but it made me nervous ever since. There were a lot of people at this party and I didn’t want them all watching me if I a)freaked out, b)caught on fire, c)sucked and got stuck in a forward spin for minutes on end, or d)a combination of any or all of the above.
I was around a lot of fire poi spinners in Portland, but I moved to Huntsville just as I was starting to get decent at it myself. I knew only one or two other poi spinners in Alabama and none that spun fire, so I hadn’t had an opportunity to try in a long time. After convincing myself a bit, I decided I had been spinning poi casually for five years, it was time to try the fire poi. I put my long hair up in a bun, wet it a little just to be sure it wasn’t too flammable and mentally prepared myself. I was at least going to try forward and backward spins and some basic turns. No big deal. I was in the company of friends.
I practiced with her poi unlit for a few minutes to get used to the weight and feel. She assured me that I was doing great with them. She told me she would only soak the ends with a little bit of fuel so they wouldn’t burn too long. Another friend assured me that if I caught on fire, he was ready with the hose. They told me I couldn’t ask for a more supportive crowd to try it in front of.
When I was ready, one of my very best friends lit one of the poi for me, I touched it to the other and watched them brighten into a big, orange glowing ball in the night. I backed up, started moving them in a horizontal, circular motion above the ground in front of me (I believe this is called “stir the pot” in some poi-move vocabularies). I brought the poi overhead for some “corkscrew” action (poi moving in same direction alternately between horizontal circles in front and overhead, one making the lower circle while the other is making the upper). I turned a bit with this and felt pretty good. I transitioned my corkscrew into some chasing the sun (poi traveling parallel in vertical circles, alternating in front and behind the body) and brought it into a windmill (essentially the same move, but with the poi spinning in split-time so there’s one making a circle behind while one is making a circle in front). I felt incredibly…comfortable!
It was ON! I listened to the music and I went through all my regularly practiced movements. I flowed into turns, butterflies and weaves…I was threading the needle and extending into some basic flowers…I stalled, reversed, split-timed and moved around with the poi. It was meditative and relaxing. I love the hypnotic flowing of the poi. Being within the spiraling ring of fire, I didn’t feel as if a bunch of people were watching me. The flames were loud enough, I could hardly here them; the flames were bright enough, I couldn’t see anyone too clearly. The way I often feel safe in stage lights, I found safety in the poi flames.
When one poi flame went out and the other began to dwindle, and it was time to spin hard and fast to extinguish it, I wished my time wasn’t up. I could have gone longer. I could have flowed more with the fire and the music. I felt exhilarated!
My friend who owns the poi said it was awesome and that she thought I was going to do a few really simple things, but that I surprised her by going balls out. It was such an amazing experience! I am now completely re-energized about poi. I am so glad that I have friends here to explore this art form with! I have to start practicing more regularly again, and I absolutely MUST invest in some fire poi of my very own.
February 16, 2010 § Leave a comment
I was suddenly able to do poi isolations recently. Normally when you spin poi, your hand is the center point of the rotation, while the poi ball moves in a circle at the end of the poi cord. When doing an isolation, your hand makes a circle as well, so there are two circular rotations, with the center point of the rotations halfway down the cord. This is something I’ve tried to do occasionally in the past, but was unable to make it happen.
I’ve been spinning a little more often the last couple weeks, polishing up some things I already know and adding in some variations. One night I was spinning around the poi in a forward rotation when I was suddenly very aware of the weight of the ball at the very end of the cord. It was in this sudden awareness and familiarity that I felt that I might be able to change it. I started to follow the poi circle with a circle with my hand, and an isolation was born. It wasn’t pretty, but it was there. It was amazing how it just showed up. I wasn’t even planning to work on it.
My challenge now is getting the timing down so the poi doesn’t fall out of rotation. The cord must still be pulled taught with momentum, so it will take some practice. I am so excited to finally be able to work on this. I guess as you get used to the nature of a prop, things start coming more naturally.
January 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
I tried hooping a couple weeks ago. One of the other dancers in my troupe brought her new hoops to our Christmas party and taught us a couple tricks. It was really fun. I can see why people get into hoop dancing.
I was surprised to learn that the circular movement we all made with our hips when we hula hooped as kids is unnecessary. You actually just have to shift your weight back and forth with the rotation, which is also what makes the dancing part of hoop dancing easier to work in.
Hooping was a little more violent than I expected. It looks like it would be so gentle, but sometimes you can actually hear the hoop smacking against the hooper if you’re close enough to them. I guess it’s not uncommon for people to get bruises when they’re first learning. I hooped for about 45 minutes and walked away with just a tender spot right above my belly button and a hoop-width bruise on my thigh. I could tell it was really working my core muscles and it was very fun, so I’d say it’s worth the occasional bump or bruise. And as my poi teacher used to say, every time you hit yourself, you learn something.
In a way, hooping is like spinning poi. You have to watch the rotation and initiate other moves/tricks at certain points. I found turning with the hoop to be very easy. I was able to turn within one rotation or within multiple rotations. That was my favorite trick I learned because it really felt like dancing. We learned the lasso which is where you pull the hoop from your waist to overhead, rotating it on your hand. This was pretty challenging. We also learned to change the plane of the waist rotation, leaning forward or back (I can’t remember the names of these). That was fun and not as challenging as the lasso.
I can absolutely see the appeal of the hoop. It’s great exercise, challenging and fun, and of course there’s a high “cool” factor. I don’t plan on pursuing hoop right now, mostly because I lack the free time, but I can see myself getting into it one day.