Changes

You may have noticed that it has been a loooooong time since I posted to this blog 😦

I have been reviewing my commitments as part of my ongoing de-cluttering process.

As a result of this, I have decided to close this blog for the foreseeable future. This site will remain as an archive, but there won’t be any new posts (the more things change, the more they stay the same!)

I will still be blogging at my other site, verdant.1, including about belly dance.

There are three main reasons for this change:

  1. I have realised that dance is too intertwined with the rest of my life to easily separate it out for blogging
  2. I don’t have the time or energy to maintain two blogs
  3. I’d rather BE dancing than writing about it 🙂

Thank you for reading this blog…

…I hope to see you over at verdant.1

 

Creative ebb and flow

Something I’ve been ponderering a lot recently is the ebb and flow of my creative energy.

As you can probably guess, this means I’m in an ‘ebb’ phase: I do more pondering when I’m not busy flowing…

There’s several aspects of my ebb I am pondering:

  • why I am ‘ebbing’?
  • how do I flow again?
  • how do I cope in the meanwhile?
  • is the ebb a necessary part of the flow?

The ‘why’ of the ebb is in itself a complex matter with multiple reasons:

  • I had a fabulous time at my first MEDANZ festival in April, but may have a touch of ‘post-festival-itis’ (it is a testimony to the fabulousness of the festival that it took nearly two months for this to start 🙂  My thanks to all the wonderful teachers and dancers there)
  • The season here is late autumn: greyer days, cooling temperatures, earlier nightfall and the urge to prepare for hibernation
  • My non-dance work is fairly routine at the moment
  • I’m not teaching a night class this term, so don’t have that weekly source of inspiration

As to how I flow again, I’m sure the answer is at least as multi-faceted:

  • first up, rest: allow myself the chance to wind down and ponder. Then,
  • re-inspire: search out the music and dancers and whatever that inspires me and gets me moving, which will require
  • discipline: to practice when I don’t feel like starting, to seek out inspiration when I don’t feel like starting, to get out of bed and get moving when I don’t feel like starting (you get the picture)

Meanwhile, I continue to move and dance, just not in a formal-disciplined-practice way. I still play music. I still find myself grooving to the beats on the stereo or in my head.  The dance is still alive within me; which is a huge comfort.

Meanwhile, I engage with other activities that feed, restore and comfort my soul.  These are at the ‘pottering ‘ level, rather than the ‘go-get-em’ level – the ‘comfort food’ of my activities.  So, I am knitting a simple shawl for a friend, crocheting simple blankets for my sons, tending my garden…

Meanwhile, I am exploring concepts of ‘chi’ and ‘feng shui’ to see if and how I can improve the energy flows in my life; which mainly seems to involve de-cluttering my house and life (an ongoing process you are welcome to read more about on my other blog), and ensuring a healthy balance in diet, exercise and sleep.

And I am coming to the conclusion that the ebb IS a necessary part of the flow:

  • flowing with bright, strong creativity is a precious thing, but not something I can sustain all the time without burning myself out
  • taking time to ponder and rest is a precious thing, but not something I can sustain all the time without turning myself too far in

After all, the tide must go out before it can flow in again…

A quick round-up of the last few months – oops!

Sorry, folks.  I didn’t mean to let so much time pass without posting…

Here’s what’s been happening in my dance world since I last posted:

The Supper Club hafla back in November was a success (some photos are here).  I was proud of my dancers – one performed her first solo, another her first taqsim as an intro to our group dance (which also went well).  I was super-pleased with my own solo – definitely a case of hard work (both physical and emotional) paying off.  And, as a bonus, no one seemed to notice that I nearly lost my balance during my dramatic entrance!

The Supper Club is back in action again for 2012.  My community education night class starts next week.  Life is getting back to normal!

As for me – I’m preparing to head to my first MEDANZ festival in April.  My flights and accommodation are sorted (yay!), now I just need to book for the workshops – oh, and improve my fitness, stamina and general dancing enough to cope with 6 hour dance days!  I’m very excited about going 🙂

I’m also continuing to work on my broader Middle Eastern music and dance knowledge: several of the workshops I want to take at the Festival are about aspects of folkloric dance or music.  For Christmas, I bought myself this album (I ❤ iTunes vouchers!), which I’m hoping will help me  understand more about the melodies of Arabic music.  I also have good intentions of  improving my knowledge of different rhythms. And, of course, my Amazon cart is filling up with tempting delicacies – some of which may actually get bought this year! (Suggestions for inclusion most welcome!)

As always, I’m endeavouring to lift my dancing game and my teaching game up another notch or six.  To do this I’m always looking for new resources – so, a couple of questions:

  • What are your favourite, or most useful, resources?
  • What helps inspire and encourage you to stretch your dancing or teaching a little further?

Any answers and reviews welcome – just add to the Comments 🙂

Exciting times

I’m excited.

Tomorrow is hafla night for my dance club.

We have two other troupes coming as well as some solo spots (and hopefully some musicians!)

I’m going to spend from 4 pm tomorrow turning the kindergarten we meet at into an ‘exotic locale’ worthy of hosting lovely dancers (it ain’t completely easy, but my sari collection helps).

This week I have taught two classes and run a dress rehearsal for the club, and done my own practice (I’d like to say “of course”, but that wouldn’t be quite accurate…).

A small voice inside keeps trying to say that I should be all danced out by now, with nothing left for tomorrow night.

But…

it’s wrong

I’m finding it hard to believe how much energy I have at the end of this busy week (there was busy times at work and whiny angsty kids at home as well) and I’m putting it all down to my dancing.

I do feel a bit tired, but there’s a solid core of energy left in me – which I find very exciting.  It’s certainly not something I’m accustomed to.  It is something I’d like to get used to.  And I have noticed it starting to flow though into other things (like being able to cope with those whiny kids).

I am delighted that the small voice is so wrong.

It gives me confidence that I have made good choices in letting my passion for belly dance take over my life.

It gives me hope that I can keep on doing this for a loooong time.

It gives me courage to dig deeper and enrich my dance.

I cannot recall ever feeling so happy or so much myself.

It’s cool.

I love it!

And…

…I am going to keep on dancing 🙂

To ponder

There is a form of creativity that reaches for the stars and is sunny and bright,

but there is another kind, just as fruitful, that is dark and deep,

more hidden than visible,

motivated sometimes by anger and envy.

This deep source of the creative spirit is difficult to express in our world

because we have difficulty appreciating the positive qualities of the dark emotions.

But they give a person depth,

strength of character,

and an earthy honesty

and counter any tendency towards the sentimental and naive.

from Thomas Moore’s A Life at Work (2008, p91)

Quick practice update

The 10 minutes practice a day thing was working well – then I got over-enthusiastic and tried to do strength training as well.

Bad move!

Sore muscles killed my practice routine – and it’s taken me over a week to confess that, during which I haven’t really practiced 😦

On the plus side, I was truly amazed at the effect on both my dancing and my overall flexibility of only a few minutes practice (this included lunges and stretches, as well as dance moves).  And once I got started, it was really easy to find the time to move for more than just 10 minutes.  Although it probably says a lot about me that most of my practice was done after 10pm!

So, what have I learned from my lapse?

Well, a few things:

  1. Don’t mess too much with what works well
  2. It’s easy for me to get caught up by new ideas – which leads to…
  3. I’m rather too optimistic about how much energy I have (and how strong my muscles are).
  4. Oh, and, don’t teach belly rolls the day after starting sit-up stamina training…

So, now it’s back to the original plan – and this time I’ll try to stick with what works!

 

 

Life, dance and procrastination

Trying to fit life around dance, or dance around life, is always going to be a juggling act for me.  As well as my dancing commitments, I have work and family commitments to fit in each day.  This is not something I find particularly easy.

However, if I’m honest, the regular commitments – the ones that come with set times and obvious responsibilities – I do find straightforward.  I can get to work on time, I can pick up my kids on time, I can prepare for and lead a class on time.  Where I fall down is the commitments with non-set times, and most especially the ones where I have no one to answer to but myself.  Which is when the procrastination comes in.  Unfortunately, it is also when my own dance practice comes in.

Confession time: I really struggle to practice.  I have goals and aspirations for where I would like to take my dancing, but what I really aspire to (apart from being able to do back bends on the floor) is to have good practice habits.  To be honest, I don’t know here to start.  Whatever routines I have tried to set up I seem to end up sabotaging or the kids get sick or it’s school holidays again (school holidays are great for destroying my routines!), and I don’t know how to fix it.

I want to practice my dance every day.  By this I don’t mean, the listening to music in the car or while doing chores, I don’t mean the shimmying and grooving to whatever music happens to be playing at home (usually Queen – thanks kids!), and I certainly don’t mean reading dance blogs and watching Youtube.  Not that there is anything wrong with any of these things, but they do not count as the formal practice I need (and indeed crave).

I wish I could figure out my psychology enough to fix it.  Apparently, being answerable to myself just isn’t enough (though it can help me spend endless hours beating myself up for not doing the things I could have been doing in the time I was beating myself up!). But, maybe, just maybe, I can try making myself answerable to you, dear readers…

So (deep breath) I hereby commit myself to practicing at least 10 minutes everyday from today (even if I have to stay up later to do it – getting up earlier just ain’t gonna fly!)

And I will regularly report my progress with this to you (as well as finding the time and brain to write some other posts, too).

Right, off to dance now…

(BTW – thank you :-))

The reading dancer

Possibly thanks to my former life as a history student, I’m a big fan of reading and researching broadly around anything I’m interested in – aided and abetted by a  quality local library and friends with interesting book collections.

In recent months, I’ve turned my attention to the broader context of belly dance – using the general resources of my local library while I save up for more dance-specific tomes in my Amazon cart.  Over recent months, I’ve shifted my gaze from books on meditation and yoga (the latter being of limited practical use without a class, but of much spiritual inspiration) to explore whatever I can find about the Middle East and beyond.  I’ve been through design and art books, some religion (as part of a university course last semester), and have now turned my eyes towards the Travel and History sections of the library.

What has this got to do with my dance?

Quite a lot, actually!

I’m keen to understand more about this dance I love, and understanding the cultural, social and political context it springs from is part of that.

I am quite consciously and deliberately digging deeper right now – deeper into myself and my emotional wellspring (more about that in another post) and deeper into my knowledge and understanding of belly dance, which is Middle Eastern dance.  Now, I am aware that my own preferences in dance (a strong tribal/fusion tendency) are more American than Egyptian, so I’ve also been throwing a few commentaries on the US and the Middle East into my library bag.  And quite frankly, recent events in the Middle East do point to its strong linkages with the US of A!

So, for better or for worse, here are some of the books I’ve found interesting, enlightening and generally helpful (beyond the usual histories of dance – as the library doesn’t have them and I haven’t saved up enough yet!):

  • Andrew Hampton’s Popular culture in the Arab world – a great overview of popular culture and its context in the Arab world It includes a chapter on belly dancing, as well as an interesting look at popular music.
  • Philip Robins’ The Middle East – an excellent introduction to the modern Middle East.  Done thematically rather than geographically, so you get a great idea of the whole context. He is a lecturer in Middle Eastern politics at Oxford University, so really knows his stuff.
  • Malalai Joya’s Raising my voicea very moving read.  I’ve posted more on this book over at my other non-dance blog.

And my waiting to be read pile includes:

More on these later…

Argh!

I just finished writing a lovely post extolling the virtues of the workshop I was going to review. But when I published it, somehow most of it got eaten. So I’m going to bed instead.
I may trying writing it again sometime, but if I don’t, please be assured that Tanya Bamford-King leads a damn fine workshop and if you get the chance you should go!

Mission statements

The highly observant amongst you may have noticed a small tweak to the header at the top of the page.

Over the past weeks, I have been doing a lot of hard work on personal stuff like aesthetic preferences.  This has been an interesting voyage of self-discovery which has by no means come to an end.  After all, I’m not dead yet!  I will be writing more about how this affects my dance/life another time.

This has lead to a few significant realisations and subsequent adjustments to my life planning.  One of these has been the appearance of a sort of ‘mission statement’ for my dance related activities.  I can’t say I worked specifically on this, but it did pop up when I was looking for a descriptive phrase to describe my approach:

Opulence in motion

Now I’d be the first to admit that this is still at the aspirational phase!   However, I take heart in the thought that this is something I can consciously seek to embody in my dance.  Having uncovered this phrase, I’m now looking to things like my costume choices and even my movement vocabulary to see how I can dance this idea to my fullest ability – feedback on how I’m doing would be most welcome, please 🙂

I am a newcomer to this whole focus phrase/mission statement business, and I will be interested to see how it affects me and my dance over time.  I’m hoping that it will be a help!  I have already noticed a few subtles changes: I’m watching more Golden Age and Oriental dance on YouTube, and my costuming choices are getting richer and more detailed (sumptuousness is a good thing – right?!).

So, here’s a question: do you have a ‘mission statement’ for your dance?  If you do, how does it help you?  And can it be a hindrance, too?

* * *

Coming soon (yes, really!): my review of Tanya Bamford-King‘s “Dancing the Drum” workshop in Wellington

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