New York Show and EPL Month II

Well, folks, it’s come and gone: This Saturday I performed in the sold-out New York premiere of Bellydance Evolution — over 600 people came out to support Jillina and the entire cast.

What an amazing, amazing experience.

I arrived at the theater at 1:30 PM after an hour ride on the subway– just enough time to snag a makeup mirror in the dressing room and get our costumes, makeup, and props out and ready to go. Around 2, we all meet onstage for a group warm-up and pep talk from Jillina. Almost right away we throw our costumes on and begin tech rehearsal on the stage. That’s right, before the show even starts, we were onstage running the entire show in costume! We have one chance to get it marked right onstage — every minute there’s a yell of, “Our line needs to start on the 2!” “This line is supposed to be on the center marley!” or “Flat line in the back!” I have four costume changes in the show, including several quick changes and a change where in less than three minutes, I get completely out of all my tribal gear and into a cabaret costume. Not to mention all my props…

If I can just make it through the show with my sanity intact…

After the show runthrough, we practice the preshow and then book it to grab some dinner. Thankfully, Jillina had some really healthy, light food catered to the theater — salad, bread, pasta, fish, and fruit. Completely ravenous, I inhale a plate in less than five minutes and immediately start on hair and makeup. Luckily we had practiced stage makeup earlier in the week, so I manage to paint myself up in a reasonable amount of time. Before I know it, I hear the stage manager announcing over the intercom, “15 minutes till preshow.”

And before I really even realized that I was in the middle of the thing that I had trained over 50 hours for, it was over! My props were ready for each piece, I didn’t go onstage naked, and pieces that I was stressing about went surprisingly well. I am really happy with how the performance went, and I think all the girls felt like it was overall a success. After the show, I crowd into a van with Sharon, Louchia, Vilia, Liz, and Faith and head to the afterparty in Chinatown.

The next day I was dead the world. I overslept and missed my first workshop, and then get so turned around on the subway that I miss my second one, too. Oh well. I head back to Brooklyn and end the trip with a huge piece of cheesecake from Junior’s — apparently some of the most famous cheesecake in New York. I think I deserve it 🙂

The show also ushered in the end of month II of the “Eat, Pray, Love” Experiment. This month’s goal was training. I wanted to work hard and see results. I have to say, I feel really successful in this month. Not only did I get some really valuable advice and training on creating art from Amy Sigil, but this show taught me a lot about how much putting your nose to grindstone can bring you. Every single day this month I feel like I was actively focusing on setting training goals and meeting them. I’m excited to say I’m in better shape than I have ever been in, and I lost some weight in New York. After this month, I am excited to try and maintain my health and my weight and continue my training regime — I hope that I can continue to practice the skills I have learned in month 2 throughout the rest of this year.

Month 3… I need a few days to synthesize what exactly I want out of month 3. I’ll be posting more on that later 🙂

I <3 New York!

I cannot believe a week has gone by so fast.

One week ago around this time, I was staring at the lights of the New York City as my plane slowly began its descent. As we got lower, the city looked like it was sparkling as the lights flickered through the buildings and trees. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Fast forward to today, where I am sitting with Marisa and Jesse, college friends who graciously offered to let me stay with them in Brooklyn, the night before the show after a solid 7 days (47 HOURS, to be exact, not including tomorrow!) of rehearsals.

Being a part of this show has been nothing short of spectacular. The choreography is brilliant and challenging, the girls (and 2 guys!) are all exceptionally hard workers, the costumes are beautiful, the story is great… and dancing onstage alongside artists like Jillina, Sharon Kihara, Elizabeth Strong, Kaeshi Chai and Bellyqueen (among others) makes me want to pinch myself every rehearsal and ask myself, “Is this really happening?”

I think the best thing so far has just been seeing firsthand how much WORK goes into putting a show like this up. I’ve been in a few small shows before where there were several months to prepare, but working on a professional production is a completely different animal. We get there around 11 and we are on our feet until 6 with maybe 20 minutes or so to eat. Not only is there a lot of choreography to learn, but Jillina’s choreography also has tons of formation changes. On top of that there are costumes changes, tons of props, and completely different makeup than I am used to (we all look like drag queens).

I’ve learned a lot while I’ve been here. I never really studied a lot of cabaret – I kinda jumped right into tribal fusion. In this show, I dance with feather fans, candles, and canes, none of which I’ve really danced with before. I’ve really gained a new appreciation for cabaret, and it’s helped me with posture, lines, and extension. I’ve also learned a ton about dancing with other people. This contest took girls from all over the world (Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine) with all different styles and somehow after a week together, we’re all starting to look like we’ve danced together for years.

While I was here in New York, I’ve also got to do some things other than the show. On Wednesday, I danced at Djam Under Je’Bon, a local experimental belly dance every Wednesday in Manhattan. I got to meet the Beatbox Guitar guys, whose music I’ve been following for awhile, which was pretty exciting. It was really great to let off some steam, dance, drink sake, and eat some pretty awesome pineapple-cashew fried rice.

On Thursday, I went out with my roommate for the week, Marisa, to volunteer at the Coalition for the Homeless food drive. We took a van and stopped to hand out soup, milk, oranges, and bagels at ten stops all around uptown Manhattan. Afterward, Marisa and I walked to Times Square and Grand Central Station, ending at Sardi’s for hot chocolate. It was a great night.

I’ve been really appreciating the subway system in New York. I bought a week-long pass for $27 bucks, and it allows me to take any subway or bus in New York. I’ve also appreciated that New York streets are based off a grid – it makes it a lot easier to get around.

Well, off to bed – I’ll be posting soon with an update on how the show went!

New Website/Tattoo/Travels!

A few updates in my life:

— My new website is up and running! A big thank you to Nichelle Lawrence for her beautiful images. Columbians, if you’re looking for someone to help out with your website or show you the ropes of Dreamweaver, I believe she’s expanding her business here to include web design.

— I got a tattoo in Sacramento on my rib cage. Thank you to Amy, Raven, Julie, and Mr. Todd for sandwiches and distractions 🙂 It’s a modernized Bastet (an Egyptian goddess associated with music, drama, joy, and dance), some flowers native to Sacramento, and some hidden symbols;) Those in California: I had a very postive experience getting tattooed by SteveO of Something Wicked Tattoo. SteveO took a bunch of my random ideas and wove them together in something better than I could have ever come up with. Thank you, SteveO!

— NEW YORK! I am gearing up to spend a week in New York to dance in Bellydance Evolution with Jillina, Kaeshi Chai, Sharon Kihara, Elizabeth Strong, Heather Aued, and more! I’m really excited to be working with such talented artists. I am learning the choreographies now — get ready for drum solos, veil pieces, cane dances, tribal fusion pieces, and a whole lot of theater. While I’m there, I will also be dancing at “D’jam Under Je’Bon,” hosted by Kaeshi Chai of Bellyqueen! I am so grateful for Stephens College for letting me use their dance studios to prepare for both these shows.

Keep checking back — I still have more to blog about Sacramento and I will be posting while I’m in New York 🙂

Youtube Clip of the Week: Sera Solstice at Tribal Fest ’09

I got a ton out of my workshop with Asharah — she talked to me about business, artistic development, good books to read, etc. One of the little gems she dropped that weekend was that I should check out a dancer by the name of Sera Solstice. Lord, am I glad I did. Here’s why:

Seriously. SERA IS AWESOME. This video is just incredible. Here’s my thoughts:

— The story. I’m not going to share what I got from this piece, because I think it’s important to watch the video and see what story is spun for you, but honestly, I was tearing up by the end. This piece is an incredibly powerful and emotive piece, and Sera just did a fabulous job morphing her body into images that conveyed strong messages. The intensity and emotional connection resonated with me. I think we can all learn a lesson here: I think all artists should remember that our ultimate goal is share something and connect with our audience. I would much rather have someone HATE my dancing with a passion than feel indifferent, since I know then I conveyed SOMETHING to the audience. I connected with Sera Solstice in this piece. I feel like I know this woman better after seeing this piece. It’s a feeling I hope someday I am talented enough to pass on to someone watching MY dancing. Brava, Sera — I feel like you’ve accomplished the dancer’s and the artist’s ultimate goal.

— Creative fusion. If you had told me someone was going to fuse mime, lyrical, belly dance and combative imagery together, I would’ve probably been skeptical. But look at all that she fused together and how effectively it conveyed a message. I believe that this is not only a testament to Sera’s creativity and unique dancing style, it’s a testament to the variety and seriousness of her training. It’s hard to fuse things together without a deep knowledge of all the elements you are fusing — believe me, I’ve tried. And wow, what an undertaking to try and seamlessly fuse such a wide variety of elements without doing one poorly or neglecting one. Hats off, Sera. I caution dancers, however: Be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Not many dancers could pull this off. Sometimes fusing too much can have the opposite effect — none of the elements are performed well. At that point, the piece looks amateurish, and the piece stops being a dance and just becomes a series of tricks with background music.

— Strong belly dance technique. Sera does not sacrifice her belly dance technique to her emotionality or to the elements she is fusing. Sera definitely had less belly dance in her piece than, say, Aubre’s Fosse Fusion piece (check out my review), but I didn’t mind because the belly dancing in the piece did not seem forced and I feel that the music called for any more belly dancing.

— Arm work. Do yourself a favor — watch this piece again and just watch her arms. I feel that this video is a treasure trove for dancers looking for new and creative ways to use their arms in their pieces. The lines created by her arms alone made this piece very visually interesting. I saw again some combative imagery, some Indian influences, and some theatrical elements.

— Strong interpretation of the music. The drama in this piece is heightened by how Sera moved to the music. Again, I feel this is the sign of a true artist — she interpreted this song and made it come to life. At points I felt like her body was creating the music, not vice-versa. I posted about a competition recently in which I was finally able to “turn off my brain” for the first time, and at points the music was moving my body, I wasn’t moving my body to the music. Artists like Sera show us a higher level of musical interpretation, another element I plan on working on in my own development.

I’m hoping to publish a new review of a bellydance clip on youtube every Sunday, so keep checking back!

Click here to learn more about Sera Solstice and Solstice Dance Ensemble.