Tuesday, 19 July 2011
I am on a roll of sorts:). Every now and then I read something, or have a conversation regarding a particular topic, then feel the need to express my mostly confused thoughts in a post.
I went to see a hafla by another school on Sunday night, and they featured two male dancers, one an dancer who is openly gay, and claims to be a "feminine gay male", and another was clearly a keen bellydance enthusiast who is well on his way towards becoming a skilled bellydancer.
Now, I've been to bellydance performances where I've seen Arabic people openly laugh and ridicule male bellydancers up on stage. But just because they do, does it mean that other bellydancers should say that feminine style bellydance/cabaret bellydance is only for women, and men shouldn't perform in public unless they perform a masculine style of bellydance?
Of course not. I love Egyptian-style bellydance, I love Egyptian music, Egyptian food and I love aspects of their culture. But just because I love Egyptian stylings, does that mean I have to accept everything about their social values/culture as gospel? Again, of course not.
Nor do I support people who have this opinion. I had a discussion with someone about this after the hafla I attended. I think gender is complicated, and we can't judge how others self-identify. Me personally, my physical gender is female, and I identify as a woman, so I feel like my outside matches my inside, to put it simply. But I have many male friends who are gay, express feminine qualities, yet have no interest in a sex change. The point is-people have the fundamental RIGHT to be themselves and express themselves without fear and with pride. I am not an expert on gender by any means, but I do support the right for others to express themselves as they see fit, and have the right to determine their gender, or basically their right to self-identify. My conversation partner felt that since in Egypt, it isn't socially acceptable for a man to dance like a woman in public, this social/cultural value should be adhered to in Indonesia. I've also heard various statements to that effect by others. Hmmm. I imagine this would be akin to someone telling me that since being fat isn't socially acceptable, I shouldn't think about performing in public, since this goes against a social value that seems to be rampant at the moment. I know I can't really compare being fat to gender identity, but to me, that was the way of looking at it in a way I could relate to. Basically being told that you aren't allowed to express who you are based on an inherent characteristic you have. Discriminated against, in other words.
My personal opinion on the matter is that, people are entitled to be who they are. Just because there's discrimination out there, doesn't mean I have to add to it. If you want to dance as a woman, and this makes you happy, and this is your bliss-then go for it. If others find it aesthetically displeasing, that's their problem, not yours. They can simply not watch. But I will not contribute to this kind of discrimination. I think it takes guts to get up and perform, and to perform in a way that goes against so-called societal "norms".
I know that talented teachers/performers such as Khaled Mahmoud moved to England where he could be more accepted socially, and when he performs I forget that his physical gender is male, and he dances with more femininity and elegance than many female dancers. I guess this means that in Egypt, he can't perform at public venues where other dancers such as Randa etc perform, and when he is in Egypt, he only performs at the festivals such as Nile Group, where this is a closed event in a ballroom, and only select people can attend.
Anyway, my point is, you can't simplify the issue- we can't just say, "oh, you're a man-don't dance like a woman, or if you want to, just get a sex change so it will make it easier for audiences to identify with you". That feels a tad ludicrous and it upsets me. Discrimination is hateful in itself, and obviously I don't know what the above reality is like for gay/transgender bellydancers, but I for one, don't want to contribute to the negativity. For me, it's the fat hate equivalent saying, "hey fat girl, don't bellydance in public unless you lose some weight, it will make you more palatable to the average person watching".
You get my point right? Because there were some in there. It might have gotten lost in the jumble of words that rolled off my keyboard though. It might also mean that it's time for sleep. Night Night.
So, I'm sitting here, in my little crappy hotel room in Kupang, NTT, feeling a small bout of insomnia coming on. I decide that NOW is the time to give a teensy update of my 2 month absence:).
First of all, Bellydance Jakarta was invited back again for the second year in a row to be part of the prestigious Jakarta Anniversary Festival. Which was fabulous. Except for the part where we only had 2 months to put it together. Yikes. Since none of us are full-time dancers, we juggle bellydance with our work/family and other commitments. Plus several of our troupe members already informed Christine, our artistic director/founder of BDJ that due to hectic work schedules, they would be out of town a lot, and unable to commit to upcoming performances for a few months. Double Yikes. Eeeek!
In the end, it worked out fine. We decided this year to indulge ourselves in using love as our theme. Good ole' lurveeee. It gave us a chance to use classic love songs such as Enta Omri, Bitwannes Beek and more modern stuff by Fadl Shaker. We also took on the challenge of working with a live-band. For those of you who are lucky enough to always get the opportunity to work with one- I am envious! I loved working with a band! They give me that little extra bit of oomph and energy- it was such a fantastic experience. In Indonesia, there's not that many bellydancers who work with bands. At least not in a complementary fashion, anyways. They're just both doing their own thing, they just happen to be sharing a performance space. Well, as far as I can see. The bands here obviously don't gear their musical arrangement to suit a dancer, because they've never had to. We worked with a really talented group of musicians, El-Wahda and put in a lot of rehearsal hours to get the arrangement to a stage where it would really showcase their skills and complement our dancing at the same time. Not everyone got to perform with the band as we only had a few short months to prepare. Christine did all her solos except one with the band. I did my solo with them. My intermediate class also did, the four of us danced to Zay El Hawa and I danced with a male singer named Bobby Baraja to Ya Ghayeb (originally by Fadl Shaker). This was really ironic in a sense- the song means "Absent One", and Bobby was unable to have a rehearsal with me until the day of the day of the performance. He was pretty busy, so he was in fact, Ya Ghayeb the whole way through until D-Day:). Despite my obvious stress over that, it worked out fine. We hit if off and had great chemistry on stage. There were many women who were envious over the fact that I danced with a rather good-looking, talented male singer:).
The band came up with the most amazing arrangement-slow with lots of heavy percussion, just the way I love:). Here's a photo from that performance :
This photo is courtesy of Widiyanto Saleh.
In short, it was a fantastic experience for me as a student, to be able to dance and rehearse with the band. My performance was completely improvised-all though I wouldn't really call it dancing, more like some hipdrops, some shimmies and some chasses interspersed with some clapping and general merriment up on stage:). Oh well, I hope I will be better next time:).
I've realized that I am now in my fourth (more eeks and yikes!) year of bellydancing, and I have been thinking- Where the f**k does time go?
Instead of lamenting over my slow progress, I would rather have a giggle over a giant metal chicken. If you think this could potentially be something that might cause you some mirth, have a look below:
I feel a rant coming soon, so stay tuned!
Sunday, 24 April 2011
Hmmm. For those of you who swear by Hadia's technique-you'll know how revelatory her training can be. For me, it changed the way I dance on a profound level. Now I know this sounds cheesy and overblown to those of you who are skeptic, but I swear it's true.
I know some people have issues with her style of teaching, but hey, the woman is amazing. Yes, she is very strict. Yes, she won't hesitate to fix you in class until she feels you understand what she is trying to convey to you. Yes, she is very direct and won't mince words. Yes, she will call you out every time you repeat poor technique/body positioning. Some people find this too demanding and perhaps even offensive if they are also teachers/have been studying for years. But Hadia is really passionate about teaching. She is willing to do whatever it takes to improve your dancing. She really cares. She won't take your money and feed you bullsh*t about your dancing when she needs to be correcting it because she doesn't want to offend you.
She has an ingenious way of teaching technique, she calls it "Body Logic". She takes everyday movements then builds on it. She teaches you technique without you realising it!The best thing about Hadia's courses is that my body doesn't hurt or ache. The woman is phenomenal, she knows how to dance without injuring or placing undue stress on the body.
We worked on a choreography to "Talisman" from Beata and Horacio's album. She really went into the technique in detail, and as a result, my arabesques have improved, my hip drops are better, and I feel like my understanding of music has really improved. She also gave us one-on-one coaching which I feel really helped me. Changed my dancing in terms of my performance skills. She pointed out that even though I smile, I need to focus my gaze and lift my chin up more to embrace the audience. She came up with a few exercises that I repeated several times. I literally felt something change inside me. Like something clicked and released emotion that I had been holding in.
Hadia is an extremely supportive teacher-and when she does compliment you, you can feel the sincerity since she is very straightforward and doesn't say things she doesn't mean. I can't wait to take another one of her courses.
After taking her course, for the first time ever, I received a standing ovation for my performance last week. I was so overwhelmed! It was a fantastic feeling-dancing your heart out for the audience and having them respond in that way! I think that that was a result of me taking the training.
I am going to work the exercises she gave us while she was here and I hope my dancing continues to improve!
Saturday, 9 April 2011
So, this week was when I attended Hadia's professional intensive dance training. I'd show you some pics, but personally, I don't really make them a priority. My memory is pretty good-for now anyway:) so I prefer to remember things. Actually, I am just too damn lazy to carry a camera, and the camera on my phone is completely and utterly crappy. Aha!The truth comes out!
Because Hadia decided to change the dates to acommodate her students her Japan (her initial workshops were cancelled, she actually landed in Tokyo as the earthquake was happening!), we had a strange schedule. Helen and I worked half-days then attended the training from 3-8pm. The two ladies from Malaysia also managed to change their tickets to join the training.
Anyway, I felt completely transformed afterwards-I hope the improvements show! I will write a more detailed review of sorts later on, but for now I need to say that Hadia is hands down one of the best instructors/coaches anywhere in the world. The way that woman teaches technique is ingenious.
In short, I was really exhausted by the end of the week, not so much from the training, but from both working and then rushing to get to training.
Also, I need to figure out a piece of music for my solo at the Jakarta Arts Theatre in June. We have been invited again to be part of the Jakarta Anniversary Festival-a huge honour!
I have some ideas I'm bouncing around in my head.
Anyway, I'm off to bed soon. Sigh. Night night.
Thursday, 17 March 2011
I just got a call from my Mum and received some sad news. My sister in law's father, who also happens to be my parents' next door neighbour, is in critical condition. He suffered a lung infection, went into a coma, regained consciousness but fell into a coma again. His heart stopped for some brief moments, they managed to resuscitate him, and he's back in a coma. I am so sad for their entire family. My sister in law is at the airport as I am typing this. We're praying that he pulls through. My heart really goes out to them. It's such a sad day today.
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Hadia is truly a dancer's dancer. Madam (as Xtine is fondly known to her students) says that Hadia really appeals to the hardcore bellydance addicts. So-I guess I must be a bellydance addict. Duh!:)
What I love about her is when she dances, this woman radiates joy. Pure and utter joy. She just dances. She just dances from her heart. That being said, her technique is fantastic. She just flows effortlessly from one sequence to the next.
I have put in a couple of videos that I think are fantastic, but they can't compete with a live performance of hers.
For those of you who have seen her perform improvisation live, you can vouch for what I'm going to say next- she just OOZES magic. Literally oozes magic. I can't describe it, it's like honey and molten gold and MAGIC. You can study for a lifetime without learning how to master it. She just has IT.
Hadia is also an excellent teacher, she has a unique way of teaching technique, what she calls her Body Logic technique. I've done a couple technique workshops with her, and they really do feel natural to the body, really relying on the natural mechanisms and rhythms of our body's movement.
I've opted to do her Professional week-long training as I couldn't do it last year. I'm really looking forward to it:).
For more details about her workshops and week-long training in Jakarta, you can click on the links below:
I feel really rusty as I haven't been going to class regularly lately for a number of reasons, so I am feeling a bit anxious about the training. On the bright side, the week-long training is sure to clear out all the dance 'spiderwebs' that have accumulated due to my being rusty:).
Friday, 11 March 2011
Just thought I'd share with you our shamadan entrance for last year's recital. There is always a lot of room for improvement, for sure, but just keep in mind that we're Intermediate 1 & 2 level students:).