The FCBD-ATS-GSI Wrap-up

by Monday, October 29, 2007
When we last left our fearless adventurers, they were settling in for the night after their first full day of the FCBD GSI.

Day two was probably the most challenging day for me personally. The reason being that the moves were still fairly basic and universal...but with subtle tweaks from what we usually do with them. So the movements individually were not hard at all, but the details and the variations and turning combinations were *just* different enough from what we do to bend the brain a bit. As promised, the talking went down and the dancing went up. We and the gals we had hooked up with the first day had agreed to show up early to stake out a better vantage point in the class (center, not faaar left!--the worst position for ATS, dude!), and stay close so when it came time to group up and dance, we would have some partners with some experience. This plan worked flawlessly and Renee and I partnered with Margaret (who incidentally happens to be in a troupe with LuSynda! Like, from Oasis Dance Camp all that time back! WOAH! Tiny world!).

I think one of my few "I wish" from the weekend would be I wish we had had a little more partner dancing time--more drill time in general, without having to try and follow Meg or Carolena. Just getting to internalize the moves a little bit and put feet to floor to music. But as was evidenced, the goal of this intensive is not to really gain any muscle memory or skill in the moves, but to just be *exposed* to the individual moves, and a chance to ask some questions about the moves and format. This we definitely accomplished.

We had our first day of music theory, which was well laid out. I think I would have taught it a little different from a rhythm study standpoint, but it was neat to get to hear Carolena talk a bit about her relationship with live musicians, and the experience of creating an understandable communication system between the dancers and the musicians when it comes to rhythms and developing music for performance. Or more to the point, the way Carolena and Mark Bell talk about rhythms, and the pitfalls of working with musicians who are "always right". We only ever played triples and military, however, during the workshop.

I got to ask a lot more questions throughout this day, as well as at the Q&A directly after the workshop. I was hyper-conscious of not trying to overwhelm the day with my "agenda" of questions, or to appear too overeager. I was worried about speaking too much, and taking up too much time with my detailed explorations and Carolena's and Megha's gracious answers. However, many women throughout the weekend specifically commented on what great questions I had and how they were enjoying my inquiries and the insight they revealed, so by the end I felt confident I wasn't wasting anyone's time. *whew*

We joined our gals for dinner again that night, this time at a bistro tucked into a 102 year old farmhouse about 15 minutes away. It was lovely, with the courtyard and porch lit by oil torches, and stark white tables in a whitewashed "living room". The food was fabulous (Renee and I split a to-die-for baked goat cheese appetizer, then I moved on to She Crab Bisque and finally Atlantic Salmon), we shared a bottle of wine, lots of laughter, and dance philosophy and dreams. We were so lucky to get to meet up with such wonderful women. Mindy with her strong desire (and blossoming ability) to foster community through the dance, and using it as a tool for battered women. Laraine quietly soaking up the experiences of the other women to take back to her "just broke away from our teacher" troupe, interjecting with occasional questions and contributions. Connie with her desire to bring more codification to her troupe, and some pointed questions to Renee and I about our experiences. Margaret with her classes teaching little girls how to dance, drum, and play zills, and the neat exercises and traditions she has developed to help these girls grow up strong, confident, and nurtured by their little circle.

We head back to the hotel and retired to our own rooms. We were all very tired, had to be up early, check out, have a full day of workshop, and then fly/travel home. So no latenight EEMED watching. But Renee and I ended up drinking some wine, eating some junk, composing some mails to the troupe, and pillow-talking until wee hours. We were exhausted, but couldn't sleep! Finally we fell into an exhaustion and dropped off.

The last day had more new information, but was less mentally challenging for me personally. Largely because the moves were so different from what we do that they were kind of using a different part of my brain power than the day before, and because I had most recently been viewing and working with Volume 7 so the mechanics of the moves were very fresh in my mind and were easily called upon. But unfortunately, my back was killing me. It was already a bit fatigued from the previous days, but when we loaded the suitcases into the car, despite me being very very careful, something went wrong. And my back was in severe pain all day long. So it meant I had to spend more time sitting out that I would have liked. But realistically, this was the best day for me to have been down and out. I danced when it was time to break things down and put feet to floor on a concept, but sat out when it was just doodling around a bit or drilling. I simply economized my dance time to the most important moments in the workshop, and it was alright. I did have to go lie down off to the side a couple of times, and I used up all my Advil earlier than I would have liked. I honestly felt like an idiot sitting out, and feared appearing weak or disrespectful or both! But I knew going into this that I had to do what was best for my physical health, so I just sucked it up and sat out as needed.

We did the latter half of the music theory on this day (not much new info there, but from a teaching perspective, good to observe how another teacher approaches it), as well as belly rolls and flutters (too much time spent on this IMO, but what can ya do). We finished with some partner concepts (Arabic Shimmy w/ arms and fade, Arabic Orbit, etc), and then Carolena and Megha presented us our certificates for those of us who had to dash out before the end of the workshop day (we couldn't stay for the Q&A hour, basically). I have some photos of the weekend, but Chris has the cord for the camera cleverly hidden someplace, so I can't get them off the camera right now! WAH!

For me, it felt too short. I think even one more day would have allowed the workshop a little more fleshed-out exploration and drill time. But I do honestly feel I got a lot out of it--in fact, most of what I went into it for, and then some. I got to ask questions that specifically spoke to the philosophy behind the construction of a move, and gained much insight from observing the connective tissue, details, and aesthetic qualities of FC movement that appeal to me. Renee and I got some inspiration for derivative and new moves and concepts for the troupe, and had good talks with each other and the other women about dance philosophy.

Carolena did confirm that she is definitely developing a second-level training program, between this and the "you can only do ATS" teacher training, which will be a teacher training for those who want to learn more FC movement and teaching skills but not teach only ATS. I am definitely interested in that training, and hope it will work into my 2008 schedule, and that I will be accepted to participate (you have to audition).

Gotta go eat lunch!

To sum up: the workshop was everything I hoped for and more. Carolena was kind, engaging, super informative, and felt like an open book to me; which to be honest was not was I was expecting, but was grateful to find. She was respectful of people's limits and motivations, spoke clearly and concisely, and managed to put together in only 15 hours a truly informative practical overview of all the moves in the FC vocabulary. Megha was an unexpected treat--a great addition, and she and Carolena taught well together, kind of tag-teaming. Megha's warmth and smile added to the room, as did the presence of her sweet troupe members who were all in attendance, and demonstrated some of the more complex group concepts for us to see in detail and take notes.

It was more than worth the money (and back pain ;)!

It's da 602, BAYBEE! ATS General Skills

by Friday, October 26, 2007
I am writing from our *excellent* (**second**) hotel room in Atlanta, where Renee and I are attending the ATS General Skills Intensive certificaition program with Carolena. Oh yes, Sharon gets the best adventures and drags other people along, I think. Well, I take the blame because it seems like I am the constant in these things. Nevermind the horrid check-in at the airport. Nevermind the ridiculous security line (idiots running that place!), and barely making our flight in time. Nevermind that the people who volunteered to pick us up from the airport neglected to mention that they also agreed to pick up three other people...three hours after our flight arrives, so despite landing at 7:30, we have to sit in the airport waiting and get to our hotel at 11:30pm... (believe me, I am grateful for the generous gesture, but had we been informed of this, we would have rented a car, which would have also settled a few other transportation issues we are running against now)...

We get to the hotel which was recommended: an Extended Stay America, which is set up with a bunch of individual buildings around a courtyard. Each has yellow "danger" tape around every building and giant trash containers taking up half the parking lot spaces. The very nice lady at the desk (yes, really) informs us they are roofing all the buildings. She doesn't know how early they start in the morning. Hooray. We get our assignment, and we hike off across the parking lot to our building. We open the door to the first room, and aside from it being the most depressing hotel room I have ever seen, it stinks like a chain smoker just left...after a week's stay. So we haul our luggage back to the main office (ow my back!), and get our second room assignment a little further away. We hike out's not much better. Turns out they have NO plan for smoking room blocks. They have rows of smoking rooms with one non-smoking room tucked in between! (You know what my father would say). These rooms are so sad--a single glaring fluorescent light in the center of the room, a bathroom about as big as the front seat of my car, nothing on the walls, a single low dark wood dresser with a 22" TV sitting starkly in the center... It's kind of like a prison as far as decor and charm go, and no I don't think I am exaggerating.

So we hike back to get a third room assignment. The nice desk lady says, "Well, we only have three more available rooms. Two of them are the old rooms, which you could try. The rooms you have seen already are our newly rennovated rooms. The older ones won't have the plush furniture. Would you like to try one of those?" (PLUSH FURNITURE?!?!?!) Renee starts to say yes, and I say "Uh...NO! No no no no..." So we try one last "plush" room, and I inform Renee we are moving to the Holiday Inn Express up the street. She halfheartedly agrees (it is a pain in the ass--we will have to walk there, since our ride has gone home) She sits on the edge of the bed and... "Oh damn. These are like slabs of cement with sheets thrown over them." She calls to check on reservations at the Holiday Inn Express.

We hike back to the desk one last time and ask for our money back. It's midnight now Atlanta time, and we have the workshop in the AM. So we grab our bags and head down the street. It is a 5 lane highway, btw, and there are no sidewalks! So we are walking in the road against oncoming cars, ducking into the occasional parking lot to save from walking in traffic. We finally make it...and it is nirvana! Matt The Desk Guy has just popped a bag of popcorn and offers me a handful while he checks us in. Turns out it's all suites, so we get a freaking wicked room (but not before grabbing a couple free cookies and some tea). We dance around the room, leap onto the soft beds, and run into each other's arms, hugging and laughing gleefully at our fortune. We sip our tea, watch the 30" TV (with 70 cable channels and HBO!), and sleep peacefully until morning.

So we have finished our first day of the intensive with Carolena, which was pretty basic stuff and pretty verbose (more talking, less dancing), though we are told that will be less true with each passing day. We were lead to believe the group would be pretty experienced, but really only about half or less have significant training evidenced in their dancing. *sigh* So group work could be dodgy in the coming days, but we're trying to keep an open mind, and soak up all we can! And Carolena is just fab. She has been incredibly engaging, laughing and making jokes, gives a great amount of detail, and has already revealed some of the insights I hoped to glean from taking this workshop with her. Her assistant, Megha of Devyani, is also sweet and well spoken, and I am enjoying their teaching partnership very much. I am enjoying getting to play zills more than usual. I look forward to more hard work--this from the gal with the back issues! Today was no big deal at all. I could have stood more pain to have more real drilling.

After the workshop, we met up with some gals from Tennessee and Florida, who invited us out to dinner along with two other gals we had met earlier (from Virginia and Baltimore). After getting their reservations canceled over at the Extended Stay and (effusively grateful) moved into the Holiday Inn as well, we head out for a meal. We drove a little out of the way for an Asian fusion restaurant they found online, which was delicious, and there was much laughter and dance talk. Great gals, good time. Stopped at the store on the way home for some snacks and wine for tomorrow night--a little EEMED video watching is in store, as is possibly a trip to one of the largest haunted houses in the US, which is just up the road apparently!

Sorry that got so long!
by Sunday, October 14, 2007

Me and mah gurlz got to rock it today at the Totally Tribal Hafla. What a great fun event, and a GLOOOOORIOUS day for it to happen on. Unfortunately, Chris' back was bothering HIM, and he was frowny and hunhappy and needed to leave, so I didn't get to hang out and do anything (granted, he offered for us to stay as long as I wanted, but honestly...I wasn't signing up for him moaning in pain every 2 minutes while I walk around and browse the booths, ya know?)

The hafla itself was lovely, the venue was fun (must go back and check it out in more depth sometime!), and our performance was well received. It was sooo exciting to be back up there with Gen and Kym again (WAHOO!!!), and a special additional treat to have our newest sisters, Star and Kate, with us as well. It just felt...that magic we wanted to feed this it is.

For me was hard, I admit. I felt so stiff and out of sorts. I caught myself not smiling a few times, which for anyone who knows me is ridiculous. But I was in pain and the moves were a real struggle to push from my tight and out-of-dance-shape body. But I got to throw a new combo at Gen to stage-test, and I think it worked out well. There was a smatter of zaghareets from the audience and my chorus ladies, so I think it was good! Considering it has been in my head all week long, it was fun to get to pull it out. Gen rules like that to just pick it up and run with it.

It's always like a mini-reunion at these events, and seeing beautiful ladies like Leslie and Karen and Kath and Ellen and...a huge long list of lovellies. Then add to that all my sweet students who came out, and getting a chance to hang with some of the coolest people I was a great way to come back to performing. I already was excited for next month's Capitol Club, and now even moreso!

Thanks to everyone who came out! And cheered and hissed and zaghareeted (and cried out for encores!! ;). And thanks for my loving hubby who took the pics and endured his back pain to be there to support us. I love you, my darling.

Conscious Evolution

by Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I am fairly certain that most people would agree that evolution is rarely a conscious process. Particularly in art. We definitely try to push our limits, learn new things, and "grow", but I think in art, as in life, "growth" and "evolution" are two different processes. The former is a shorter term experience, fairly easily quantified and observed both by yourself and others. The results are gross...less in the details. Evolution tends to be more subtle and over a much longer period of time. It is more about the essence of a thing.

I am finding that right now, I am becoming conscious of an evolution of my dance self (and without getting too deep, also some very personal parts of my being as well). Something in my core shifting. I have never "seen" this happen before. It was always something happening under the surface, beyond my notice, and over years. This evolution is occurring very swiftly--in the last 8-10 months--and in the front of my consciousness. I am finding myself taking notice of it, and making quite deliberate choices to facilitate it.

More ramblings about dance and change n' stuff after the cut...

The thing with being a teacher is that you end up taking a lot of other people along on this evolutionary journey. I can't just change on a whim, like some dancers might be able to, especially soloists--what freedom they have! Enviable! Instead, I have a heavy responsibility for consistency and clarity in my dance, which goes far beyond myself. So there is a fair amount of consideration and creative practice that I have to do on my own, and keep it separate and pure from my student experience, until I am certain it is something I want to really plow ahead with. That means I am spending about 7 hours a week using my mental and creative energy trying to keep things the "old way" (familiar way) while I what remains of my mental and creative energy trying to honor this evolution that is knock-knock-knocking on my being. I feel pulled two or more directions, and unable to fully commit myself to either because of uncertainty and this flowing feeling of "mustchangemustchangemustchange".

I am not even sure I can articulate all the ways I want things to change. Luckily I have found some tools within myself this year to being able to communicate some *energetic* changes I wanted to see in my and my students' dancing, and it was very effective. Now I want to keep it moving, and to change vocabulary to fit. Another "issue" is Renee (*waving*). My decisions are also not entirely my own in this regard. If I didn't have a co-director, I would make sweeping changes right now based solely on my personal choices and considerations. But I have to run these ideas past Renee, and we sometimes (event often?) have very different approaches to such things. That in itself is a blessing and a curse--to be able to have another pair of critical eyes, but at the same time not being able to just "go" when my heart says "it's time to change/alter/move"... I wouldn't trade it for the world--we have an awesome partnership. With all the ups and downs, it is a beautiful thing in my life, my collaborations with Renee. But that is one of the challenges for me creatively--it is another restriction I have to work with. A somewhat externally imposed structure for me has been good so far--keeps me grounded--so I roll with it.

I am really looking forward to the General Skills Intensive. Frankly, a lot of my current evolutionary impulses are popping like popcorn when I look at FatChance. I have always been an admirer, but I am finding my personal aesthetics and creative desires are more in line with theirs all the time. Do I want to go ATS? Not in a million years. The philosophy of the format is not in line with my spirit. But I would gladly adopt a direction more in line with their aesthetics, and have been slowly adding some bits and pieces in essence and in vocabulary throughout 2007 as a direct result of this personal evolution I have been experiencing. I am looking forward to Renee and I getting to explore the details of FC's style together, in a true "intensive" where we get to examine the vocabulary up close, from the source. I am hoping that she will feel some of what I have been feeling about this format this year, and there will be some freedom to continue to incorporate some of that "look and feel" into our collective style. If not, then that part of my evolution will have to slow down a bit...for now...

Chilliwack is da bomb!

by Wednesday, April 04, 2007
This past weekend was wonderful fun. Gen and I head up to Chilliwack, BC to teach a weekend chock full of dancing goodness.

We got stopped for a full search at the border which was scary. I mean, had I brought a ton of stuff to sell at the workshops as I usually do, we would have been in a very awkward position, surely. But we didn't, so the car search didn't implicate us in any way. And the immigration guy was so very nice, and we chatted him up a little bit about bellydance and the workshops we were going to... Puts the fear o' god in ya, lemmie tell ya.

Every single time I visit Canada I am struck by how very very nice they all are (except for the border guards, who seem very rude by contrast, but it's kinda part of their job to be intimidating). I feel like I am coming home to old friends, even in a room of strangers. They are so open, and so giving. We were showered with a small flood of gifts right from our arrival in the form of a gift basket, complete with home-crafted bath salts, scented spray, and lotions; a package of digestives; home-canned peaches; and two mugs and a selection of teas and hot chocolate!

We tried to spend some time assembling our performance set for the following night, but kept getting stuck, so we struck out for dinner. Latitude 47 was down the street, and we got a hearty meal and a bottle of yummy wine. The "I love you man's" started pretty early this trip, and we talked about dance and our troupe and wodnerfulness around all that. We chilled back at the room, and chatted late in the dark. The morning came too fast and we were tired, but off we went!

The workshops went well. The group was pretty beginner level across the board, so we didn't get as many concepts covered as I usually get to. I hadn't realized how few of them had any tribal experience, so the movements and stylings felt very foreign to them and were a struggle on some of the rudimentary concepts. When I discovered that many of them were under the impression that a shimmy was pumping your knees, and they didn't know there even was any other kind of shimmy, I had my work cut out for me. But that was good news--I was thrilled to be able to bring some general technique and theory to them, and they were so eager and so wonderful throughout, working hard and laughing along with us. I know I had fun, and they seemed to as well.

Back at the room, we set back to assembling a couple sets for the hafla that evening. We finally settled on a two-song first set featuring the skirtwork they had learned, and a three-song second set showcasing the bhangra they would be learning the next day. The first set was a surprise--we decided last minute to add an additional set, so we weren't on the schedule. We just came slinking up the aisle when they thought the intermission was about to begin, and they erupted into applause. That was fun. :)

I always love dancing with Gen (Hell, which of my sisters don't I love dancing with?!). We definitely have a great rapport onstage, and our comparable height and shape makes us appear even more in-synch. And Gen is great at eye contact and vamping it up with me! LOL SASSSSSSSSY GENEVIEVE!! And it is a rare treat to get to do duets in our group, since we work in trios mostly, and duets tend to be very limited in use. So getting to really connect just the two of us was a treat.

Afterward, we felt like superstars. Folks heaping on praise, taking photos with us, and each of us given a bottle of wine by the beautiful and fun Amy who we became friends with at Kamloops. We felt really good about the performance. Everyone then changed and head out to dinner at a restaurant just a block away, where we stuffed ourselves, drank wine, and then sleepily head back to the room...where we ate cheetos and drank more wine, and again talked way too late.

Morning came too fast, and we had to pack up and load the car to be able to head home right after the workshops were over. We started with some drills, introducing some basics isolation concepts and introducing different shimmies, which had their eyes wide and smiles beaming at something so new and different. I love that! Their enthusiasm feeds me, and I had much fun jamming alongside Gen as my stellar assistant. We finished with Bhangra, which tapered off a bit near the end, as the students lost steam in their 8th hour of workshops in one weekend. It was hard to keep them moving near the end, which was too bad since bhangra is usually such a complete adrenaline kick! But some of them just plain gave up, and I couldn't get them to push through it. :(

We ended with a nice long yoga cool-down, and brought the workshops to a close. I packed up what was left of my vending, which wasn't much, changed into fresh clothes, made our goodbyes with kisses and hugs, and hit the road. The drive is just so easy, especially compared to the Kamloops drive which felt like ages comparatively (well it was over twice as long!). I was welcomed to Seattle by a hailstorm and grey grey pounding rain, and no hubby...puppies, but no hubby. Because he was off in Burbank, CA drinking the Disney Kool-Aid!


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