Thursday, July 24, 2008

How NOT to choreograph a bellydance solo.

Hello, everyone!

My troupe, Alchemy, wrote a new policy into our troupe contract about a year ago stating that each member had to have at least one solo prepared, preferably one traditional and one non-traditional.

Well, I'm not a big fan of solos, and I've never made a secret of that. Why, you ask? Well, I enjoy the challenge and dynamics of a group of dancers working together to make a complete show. I respect soloists and I realize it takes something special to hold an entire stage by yourself. However, if you are a soloist, and an experienced performer, short of falling on your butt or out of your top, no one ever has to know if you mess up because it's just you out there. You're independent, a free agent, no one depends on you and you don't depend on anyone! You have no one else on stage to support you, and because of that, you get all the glory or all the infamy when the music stops.

When you dance in a troupe, it's a completely different story. You are all dependant on each other, sort of like the Three Musketeers: all for one and one for all. It takes something special to choreograph a number for multiple people, and then there are the weeks of practice to get the blocking just right, make transitions to new formations smooth, make sure each member knows their part and their part within the whole, then practice practice practice to cement timing. Angles have to be perfect, every arm or hand in place, the group must move as a single entity, even when everyone is doing something unique, everyone has to share the vision and believe in it so that when the music stops, the audience suddenly snaps back to reality and starts to breathe again. You share the applause with everyone on that stage, and you are proud to do so because you know how challenging it can be to wrangle all that talent, creativity and ego into a cohesive unit and you know everyone put themselves aside to support the group and create something greater than the sum of its parts. You really have to put your ego in check when dancing in a group, and it is both incredibly humbling and amazingly uplifting.

When I first started dancing with Alchemy, I was completely unknown. And, due partly to the transformation that takes place when going from ordinary, everyday person to fabulous, larger-than-life stage persona, I remained unknown for years. I would greet dancers before a show, before I was made up and in costume, and even though I'd met them on several previous occasions and I'm co-director of my troupe, they would have no idea who I was or they wouldn't know my name. This lead to a bit of an identity crisis for me for a little while, but in the end, I simply couldn't give up dancing. I love to perform, but even more, I love to choreograph, my favorite part of being in Alchemy is hatching a new vision and presenting it fully-formed to my group, from the song to the costuming, from the choreography to the emotion and backstory that we are trying to present. I simply love it.

Now, back to the solo. The reason Mari and I wanted to write the solo into the contract was to give people the incentive to learn to choreograph a bit, the experience of bringing their vision to the stage, from beginning to end. As of July 12th, everyone else in Alchemy has gone through the trial-by-fire that is a solo. I was the sole holdout, and I was one of the people who made this a requirement for everyone else. How could I be so hypocritical? I knew I just had to get it over with. It wasn't the the performance that I was struggling with, it was the choreographing for just one person. Suddenly, I felt like I was an artist with just one color in my palette. BOOOR-ring!!!

So, like I do whenever faced with a task I'm truly dreading, I procrastinated. I had picked out a song for my traditional solo way back in September of last year: Redemption by Solace. I've been wanting to choreo this song for YEARS! and I thought this might be a good song to use for my solo. The more I worked with it, though, the more repetitious it seemed and the more I couldn't get ideas for a group number out of my head. I simply avoided the whole subject for months when newer members of the group had already performed their solos. Mari has done a solo or two before Alchemy formed, so she wasn't pressed to perform another one in any certain time frame. But when even she choreographed a new solo and performed it at a recent library show, I really felt the pressure. I committed myself to perform my solo at the next library show, which occurred this past Monday on July 21st. I could no longer procrastinate.

Well, I managed to hem-haw around until the very day of the performance. We were set to go on at 7PM, and around 1PM I picked out a new song. From there, I listened to the song over and over until the moment the show started, even while showering, dressing and doing makeup and hair, and driving over. I wrote out the music, breaking it down into groups of eight-counts to start the choreo process. I choose a short song for the same reason you tear off a band-aid: it's just easier than a long, drawn-out ordeal! The song I decided to go with is Mounira by El Almaas Band from The World of Bellydance Volume 3, disc 1. I managed to choreograph and memorize the whole number, and I performed it without a hitch. Right now, it's a blur, and I can't remember much of it other than the fact that I managed to not mess it all up! lol Mari taped it for me, but I haven't gotten the courage up to watch it yet. If it's any good and I put it up on YouTube, I'll let ya know. I'm going to be performing it again next Tuesday, July 29th at our last performance in our Summer Library Tour, so no one can say I didn't fulfill my obligation! LOL

On one hand, I'm proud of myself for a couple of reasons: I managed to create a solo, from beginning to end, within a matter of hours. I also managed to perform it without incident that same day. I even wrote out the music and choreography, which I NEVER do! (Mari is always the responsible one when it comes to our group numbers. Thanks, Mar!) This way, I can reproduce it as necessary, or we can flesh it out for a duet or group number. And, finally, I just plain got it done and over with.

On the other hand, I'm not so proud of the fact that I had to be under the gun to get it finished. I let my dislike of solo choreo beat my usual sticktoitiveness and creativity. I didn't stand up as a good example for my troupe and I'm embarrassed about that.

So, that is how NOT to create a bellydance solo: do not start it the day of the show. Do yourself a favor, get prepared and be ready in advance. You'll be glad you did! Then again, there's not alot of time to be nervous about performing when you are frantically trying to remember the choreo! lol

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oh, happy day!! (Image Heavy)

Well, friends, it's been a pretty danged good day. With it being Summer, I'm spending every day with my two wonderful kids. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I want to pull my hair out, but I don't want to trade this time for anything, which is why I'm struggling so hard to earn money through my Etsy and Avon sites.

Also, I met a friend of mine, April, for lunch today. She's 15 weeks pregnant and she looks great pregnant. I'm happy for her and it was really nice to see her again. The kids played in the play area after she left and I got to play some Sudoku, which is rare and niiiiiiicccce!

THEN! I got home and my oldest got the mail. Now, I'm expecting some yarn that I purchased from a seller on Etsy two weeks ago, so when he brought in a big evelope, I figured it was that, finally. Then, I saw that is wasn't from the area I know the seller is from, so I thought it must be some yarn I'm expecting from someone on Ravelry that I am test crocheting for; but nope!! I was so surprised to find it is a RAK from someone on Ravelry. She didn't give her Rav name, but her real name is Sue Forbes.

THANK YOU, SUE FORBES!!! You made my day! I've been stalking Cro-Tat tutorials recently and thinking of giving it a try, and in my mailbox arrives a beautiful pattern book just for Cro-Tat edgings! And, the yarn.... oh, the yarn! It's soft, it's cobwebby, it's light and delicate and just gorgeous. There are two kinds of purple, which is my Mom's favorite color, so I may have to scrap the original idea I had for her for the holidays and make something for her out of this. She would really love it, I think. :) Sue, you just made my whole week with your kindness. I'm always so pleasantly surprised when someone thinks of me. Here are a couple of pics to show you what Sue so generously sent to me:

Before we headed out for lunch with April today, I decided to dive into a little project I'd been contemplating: Kool-Aid dying. Brandi, a friend of mine who is also in my dance troupe, recently gifted me some yarn, and in that stash was an interesting skein of vintage yarn from Sears. Here is the original band:

It contained two ounces of 100% wool yarn in brown, according to the label. However, I found it to be more like light tan:

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it and the color was just so drab that I thought maybe I could dye it. I'd never dyed wool before, so I asked some folks over at CSRA Fiber Fanatics over on Ravelry for some advice. Donna, a friend I've made through Ravelry, advised I try Kool-Aid dying because it's fun and easy. I figured it couldn't hurt! So, I picked up some Kool-Aid last night (I hate drinking the stuff, so we don't keep it in the house even though we have a seven year old) and decided to go for it.

I looked up a tutorial and it seemed simple. I knew I wanted to do a varigated yarn, in green, purple, and orange, so I had to make little skeins which took a little time and patience and I knew later it would be hard to untangle, but I couldn't think of another way to do it. I'll have to get some advice for that when I do this again. Then, I added the Kool-Aid to separate bowls, added some tap-hot water and submerged the damp yarn so it was all covered. After a few go-rounds in the microwave, I had this:

Aren't those colors fantastic? They are so juicy, and the yarn retains the fruity smell for a little while, so it really is a treat. :) After the yarn cooled, I rinsed and lightly washed it, then it was into a towel to dry like any other wool:

There are some variations in the colors where light spots developed, but I really like how it came out. The colors look good together (in my opinion) and it was so fun and easy that I WILL be doing this again! I think next time I might try a gray yarn for a heathered effect. Here is the final product (the colors are a little more vibrant than this pic):The coolest part? You know the dye is done because the yarn literally pulls every bit of Kool-Aid out of the water. The water was as clear as crystal! It was so cool and the science geek in me was just fascinated with it. Kool-Aid dying wool may have to be a future science fair project for one of the boys! lol

Now, I just need to find some crochet thread I can do this with! :)



Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Crochet makes you smarter. Exponentially.


Read this article and see why women are changing the world. :)


Sometimes, it's the little things.

Good morning, everyone!

I've been catching up on email this morning (a many-times-a-day task as I have two online stores, belong to several online forums, and all of my friends and family are online) and of course that means catching up on Ravelry in between replies. I looked over some RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) lists on that board, and found a nice thank-you from someone I recently RAKed. Then, I marked the other folks I'm RAKing this month. While I was doing that, I found a post on the Peaches and Creme board about their upcoming workshops in August, some of which are being led by my on-line friend, Briley! I was excited! What's not to love? I'd get to meet Briley, go to and shop in a real yarn mill (Elmore-Pisgah, some of my favorite yarns), AND take my first real class... with Briley! I'm hoping to get some other local fiber artists together and carpool up. Check here for more details.

After that, I discovered the library function of Ravelry. Now, this may not seem like a smile-inducing event, but it really did make me happy to list my four little books up there. I simply adore reading patterns and I have alot printed out from online and some magazines I've been gifted, but I only have four books (actually, five, but one isn't listed on Rav yet). So, seeing them up there just made me happy and made me want to go and read through them.

So, those little, everyday events so far today have put me in a good mood, making me happy in their simplicity and joy. Sometimes, it really is the little things.