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!

EPL and Sacramento

Here’s a blog I wrote a few days ago when I was still in Cali and never posted:

I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations.

I went into this trip trying not to have any. But the longer I’m here, the more I realize I did have some preconceived ideas about this trip.

After the first month of EPL, I remember having this feeling that the goal I had at the beginning of the month and the result I had at the end were so different from one another. I remember thinking, “Well, in Month 2, there’s no way I’ll be doing anything but training hard. I’m going to California and New York to dance, and I’ll only have 8 days in January when I’m even in Columbia.”

But this trip, while I have danced a LOT and I still have a few days at Shoebox and a day at the mothership with Suhaila, the most important things I have learned so far have been outside of the dance studio. I’ve learned so much about hard work from these women and men. I’ve learned what a healthy, functional dance community looks and operates like. Amy sets the bar REALLY high for these dancers choreographically and interpersonally, and it shows.

Some of the best experiences I have had here have been outside of Hot Pot, even! On Sunday, we went to a Japanese bath house in downtown San Francisco called Kabuki. The first thing you see when you walk in are these beautiful shower stations. Everyone sits down and bathes, and then you enter the main room.  There was a hot pool, a cool dip pool, a wet sauna, and a dry sauna. You’re not allowed to talk loudly and you just slowly drift between the different pools and saunas for as long as you want. When I got out, I felt so cleansed and restored. It was absolutely beautiful. After we got sushi, some sort of crepe-ice cream sundae and walked Haight-Asbury in San Francisco.

Sacramento: The First Few Days

Sacramento is amazing. I’ve been having such a rad time the past few days living here at Hot Pot Studio and getting to meet the community and family here.

The trip started a little rocky. Mark and I drag ourselves out of bed at 5 AM so I could catch my 6:40 AM flight. I get to the airport – and the check-in line, just by eyeballing it, is at least an hour wait. There is a line outside that looks shorter… but damn, it’s St. Louis at 5:30 in the morning, so it’s COLD. I opt to wait outside, barely get checked in the mandatory 30 minutes early. I go toward the security line… and it’s even longer.

I manage to find a shorter security line and get through it in 25 minutes. I grab my bag, computer, and jacket off the X-Ray machine and SPRINT toward my gate. I arrive ONE MINUTE late. I see my plane, still connected to the building. “Am I too late?” I ask despairingly. The security guy nods curtly.

Shit.

I go up to the ticket counter. “You might have to go on a flight tomorrow, everything is booked,” the ticket lady says. “The best I can do is put you on standby.” I get put on standby on a flight 20 minutes later. I miraculously manage to get the only seat available. When I arrive in Las Vegas for my connection, I am put on a flight leaving 10 minutes later. I end up arriving in Sacramento an hour before I was supposed to arrive!

So that worked out well.

My first few days here have just been… amazing. Exactly what I needed. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of really amazing people that dance at Hot Pot, I’ve eaten some of the best food I’ve ever had… yesterday morning I took an amazing yoga class here at the studio, and it just felt so good to stretch after flying and working so hard the few days on getting my website up (which I’ve been having issues with, but it WILL be up soon!).

I’ve taken a lot of classes already. There are several weekly choreography classes, and I also got my first taste of group improv, which is really fascinating. Yesterday I took a long walk around Sacramento after breakfast, and I’m in love with this town. It’s absolutely beautiful.

I am going to stay here for the rest of the week and then spend some time at Shoebox Studio closer to the Bay next week.