Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Costume Frenzy

Have I mentioned lately that burlesque is where costume design, dancing and acting like a ham collide? It is, which is totally perfect for me.

With the burlesque retreat less than a month away, I had to start getting a costume together. I don't know what kind of costume they want us to bring and I think my email with that question got lost in cyberspace. I don't have a gimmick yet and I have several weeks of rehearsals for my play before my trip. I had to use the bits of time I had over the weekend to get started on something.

I decided to do a simple corset, skirt and bra. I found some fantastic fabric at JoAnn Fabric on Friday for under $10 a yard. I had the corset built by Saturday night and was basting the lining to the outside on Sunday. Andrew and I went to Michael Levine in the fashion district to get some trim and rhinestones for my costume. Last night I added an extra panel under the arm on the corset to accommodate the bra and I started attaching closures. I also machine stitched this amazing beaded trim to the bottom -- it looks really antique.

With a week of heavy rehearsals, I'll be able to do the closures and work on the top and bottom ruffles before dinner each night for about twenty minutes. This weekend I'll have to start on the bra and skirt so I can finish those next week when the rehearsals thin out.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Check Out My Hair!

I got my Red Snapper wig today. I'll get to wear it at burlesque camp and whenever I perform as Red Snapper. I did a little survey on my myspace page to select the best wig. This one was the winner.

I've never worn a wig before, so it was a completely new experience to pull it out of the protective bag and put it on. I looked really weird at first. I was barely wearing any makeup so the wig looked even more unnatural. I also have a very short forehead so it felt like I was wearing it really low even though I barely had it covering my real hairline.

Since I was sweaty and fresh out of rehearsal when I first tried it on this afternoon, I decided to give it a real test when I got home. I tucked my hair into an evenly distributed bun with four bobby pins and slid the wig over it. I darkened my blonde eyebrows and put on some real makeup, complete with black eyeliner, mascara and sparkly lip gloss. Surprisingly, the wig worked when I was wearing more makeup. Of course, when I do a burlesque act, I won't be the fresh faced girl-next-door in clean and youthful makeup. I'll be Red Snapper, something completely different. I think that's what's going to make the hair really work.

My next step is completing a costume to go with the hair.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Too Many Activities?

When I was a kid, there would usually be one notable activity planned for my summer, like camp or a big shopping trip to Little Rock or a trip to Six Flags. The rest of the summer was spent in a haze. I'd play in the yard or read a lot of books and watch soap operas. There was very little to distinguish the difference between weekdays and weekends. College was the same way, except when I went to summer school for two sessions and Italy at the end of summer school. I've tried to make life more interesting by filling my time with tons of activities while still making it to work every weekday so I can make enough money to pay for these activities.

This summer has seen my belly dance and burlesque debuts, an amazing acting class, a few burlesque classes and a new belly dance class. I've entertained family and worked on choreography to entertain strangers when the play opens in September. I've been a dutiful pole student and an occasional Pilates student. I haven't had a boring summer.

The upcoming weeks present many opportunities. I'm going to drop in on a burlesque class in Silverlake when my acting class is done. I plan to return to Jenna's belly dance class in Atwater Village/Silverlake when they're not on vacation and my Saturday is free. I also hope to drop in on Princess Farhana's belly dance class when she starts back up in August. I've signed up for the burlesque retreat in Seattle at the end of August. Of course, now I'm finding out about other activities that I'd love to squeeze in, but I don't know how I can squeeze out the money for all of the activities. There's a belly dance bra and belt making workshop on four Saturdays in September that would leave me with most of a custom costume. There's a six-week burlesque workshop in L.A. that starts some time in August and culminates in a performance. There's a belly dance workshop that results in a performance at Arabia Exotica one month later. There are so many things to do.

Any wealthy person out there want to adopt a grown girl?

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Desert Dance Class

I know I've talked about the performance on Saturday and my video has gotten 106 hits in two days, but I haven't really talked about the class itself. That's the topic of today's blog.

As a dancer, I think it's important to take any class that makes you a better dancer. I started taking dance classes as an actor in hopes that they'd help me with fitness, flexibility and coordination. I advise the dancers I'm working with in A Midsummer Night's Dream to take whatever movement classes they can because the classes will only make them stronger. Of course, there's something really special about a choreography class. You're challenged to learn all the parts of a dance in a short amount of time. You also learn about someone else's musicality so you can develop your own.

The first thing I noticed about Jewel of Denial was that she was a very patient and caring teacher. She would compliment our overcoming small challenges in the choreography and apologize if something was unclear before explaining it. The class was open to women of all shapes, sizes and ability levels. She came up with a dance based on that information. Everything was easy to remember and repeated, which is fantastic when you have two hours to put together a routine to be performed that night. She had us run through it a few times to smooth it out, and she gave us some interesting little moves that we can steal for other dances (like the two different glove peels). Another thing that really communicated to me as a choreographer and a dancer was that she incorporated stillness into the dance. We'd have little pauses to stand before going into the next move. In music, you have sound and silence. I liked how she used stillness and movement.

Anyway, I highly recommend taking any sort of movement class to everyone -- not just dancers. It's very enriching and you never know what you're going to gain.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tassels and Sparkles and Rhinestones, Oh My!

I took a pastie making workshop Saturday afternoon with Venus de Mille. I learned how to make pasties from Jo Boob's ebook a few months ago when I first questioned how one makes tassels twirl. I've made a few pair since, using felt as the base. While I knew how to make a pastie, I'm still a baby burlesquer and wanted to learn something new.

Venus is a costume designer by trade so she had a basic pastie pattern drafted on light cardboard for us. We just had to measure our nipples and cut out the pattern piece. It was interesting being in a room of women eager to make these little body badges with no embarrassment of what it took to make them. We all pulled down our tops to make measurements with no self-consciousness. We plotted out our basic pattern on the cardboard and cut it out.

The base for these pasties was buckram. We actually used two pieces of interfacing stuck together with fusible web, but it gave the sturdy base that buckram would. The first thing I noticed was that the fakeram (mock buckram) made the pasties look less flat than the felt does. After the base was glued, we took stretchy fabric and covered the pastie so it was seamless. We trimmed the fabric around the edge of the fakeram and treated the edges with something so they didn't fray.

The last part was embellishment. We put trim on the outside and stabbed a hole in the middle for the spinner for the tassel. The pasties I made with tassels before weren't as easy to get spinning. With a fishing spinner attached to the point of the pastie, the tassel can easily be changed out and is very easy to get spinning. We glued a tad of bathing suit fabric inside the pastie so the end of the spinner didn't irritate any tender parts. I decided to put rhinestones on my pasties so they were nice and sparkly.

I feel that my previous experience with making pasties was very valuable in my success with this workshop. I don't think my pasties would've turned out as pretty if I hadn't made pasties before. Of course, the new pasties look very professional.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ta-Da!

Here's my video, in all its glory.

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Post

Last night was my official burlesque debut. I had a very educational day in the world of burlesque. I'll detail both classes in individual blogs and save this one just for the performance.

There were five people from the afternoon choreography class who were able to stay to perform the routine at the 7:00 PM show. I was on the downstage left corner, maybe four feet from the first row of seating on the front and side of the thrust stage. We wore black Stiletto t-shirts, black opera gloves, black skirts and black boots. I found some black striped stockings at Ozzie Dots in Hollywood to complete my outfit. My teacher, Jewel of Denial, gave us all a pair of earrings to make us look very go-go. I put glitter on my eyelids, rhinestones by my eyes, and put on my sparkly gator necklace. I was ready to dance.

The song we danced to was only two minutes long so it went by really fast. I wasn't nervous at all. It felt like play time, a feeling I try to replicate in all of my activities. We did our little ditty, went back to the dressing room, gathered up our stuff and were free to go. I bought tickets to watch the rest of the show with Andrew so I joined him in the audience. I loved watching the rest of the show. It was so wild that I was backstage getting ready with all of these ladies, and now I was seeing them perform live. Dude!

Andrew shot footage of me doing the dance during the show. I'll post the link when he has the footage uploaded to You Tube. I had so much fun! I'm a little tired today, but I'm ready to go do it again!

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Debut

Tomorrow night is my official burlesque debut. Sure, I did burlesque pole stuff in class, but this is for a real paying audience. w00+!

I signed up for these classes at Stiletto 2.5 at the end of May. One of them teaches pastie making and the other teaches choreography for a performance that night. I won't be stripping down to my chonies in my group number with the classmates. I'll be dressed in black like all of the other girls. Don't worry -- I'll post pictures. There's a great lineup of burlesquers for both shows tomorrow night, and they're putting the class graduates somewhere in the first show.

I have so much to do tonight! I have to find my little black skirt, make my packing list and prepare for a long day in San Bernardino (about an hour and fifteen minutes from home). I hope to return tomorrow night with more mad skills, another notch in my belt and a video of my performance for You Tube.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Burly-Q Pole

My pole teacher had a client appreciation night on Tuesday. She held a free burlesque pole class for past and current students and their girlfriends. I offered to help her with the class because I'm used to helping her with parties, and I like having the teaching experience because it helps me understand my own dancing better. I got two friends on the guest list before it was closed.

When she and I spoke a few days before the class, 50 people had RSVPed and there were 15 on the waiting list. She got lots of calls the day of the class from people who wanted to attend but didn't respond before the list was closed. We wound up with 43 students that night. I'm glad not everyone made it so there was room for people to stand and watch while students took turns on the dance floor.

How do you teach 43 students burlesque pole dancing with seven poles, one needed for the teacher? Gabrielle started the mini-routine she taught with a chair dance so we could teach ten girls at once. When we moved to pole, they went in groups of six. Everyone had a good time and learned a little something new. My two friends had fun. She had a number of new people sign up and some past clients reactivate. I thought it was an amazing promotional action. Of course, 43 women are more than a handful. Glad I was there to help and learn from that.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Getting So Emotional

Acting class on Sunday was filled with drilling, as per usual. We did some of the same drills that we've been working on for weeks, and we added some new things to those drills. It was awesomely fun.

This past week we concentrated on emotion. We did these neat drills where we had to create emotional isolations, much like belly dancers to chest or hip isolations to just work those muscles. Isolations are great in dance class because they strengthen and tone the area being worked and they develop speed. I'm sure over the next three weeks I'll get even more awesome as an actor with the drills I'm doing in class.

I've had more auditions recently now that I'm not worried about entertaining family on potential shooting days. I had one last Friday, one Saturday and another tomorrow. Maybe I can get back to making money as an actor again!

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Mr. Good Deeds

There are a lot of street people in Los Angeles -- a LOT. It can be a little troubling to see so many people down on their luck. It can also be troubling to know that if you give them money, many of them will spend it on booze instead of food or toothpaste. When someone who's sitting on the sidewalk in Los Angeles asks me for money, I don't give it to them most times. I have to work for my money and I work really hard. I provide a service for my pay. Oftentimes, these blokes demand money in a very aggressive tone. I don't hand out dollars for threats. We did take a photo of a homeless street punk in Hollywood with a flat Stanley for a kid's project and we gave him a couple bucks, but he actually did something to earn that money.


Andrew is far more troubled by the homeless than I am. He really wants to help them, but he knows where the money will usually go. We don't support psychiatric abuse, and a lot of these folks were drugged, abused and put on the street.
Andrew and I went to McDonald's Saturday when I was between meetings. There was a hard-luck fellow perched on the sidewalk outside the door. This guy didn't hit anyone up for anything. He entered the restaurant once to refill his cup of coffee and once to use the restroom, not bothering anyone on his way. (A lot of these guys get confrontational, so this was abnormal for what we usually see.) Andrew saw the man eyeballing his big Mcburger at the counter and decided to do something about it. We finished our Mcmeal and he got five Mcbucks for the fellow. This would allow the guy to eat and insure he couldn't spend the money on booze. The guy was appreciative and Andrew Moore was a hero.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Eager Beaver

I'm going to be honest with you. I like studying things. Before I pursue an activity, I like to read all about it before I commit to it. That way I know what I'm getting into, fully understanding the risks and benefits. Andrew Moore does the same thing, which is why we're such a perfect match. Back before the internet was so awesome, I'd have to do all of my research at small town libraries (where I lived) and didn't find out much at all about new topics of interest. I'm very fortunate to have the internet to contribute to my nerdiness.

I want to go to school next month. There's this awesome weekend intensive of burlesque history and performance classes in Seattle. I took a class with one of the teachers when she came to Los Angeles last month. The other teacher is based in New York. I've read her ebook (which helped fuel my desire for learning) and want to study with her. What an opportunity!

The problem is that it's going to cost me about $600 for the weekend. The timing isn't great financially. We just had visitors and missed work to hang with them. We're deliciously close to paying off our car but the final payments are a little higher. I made some money from a special project at work but had to put all that money toward bills and expenses. I've been trying to figure out some way to collect up the cash to go. Too bad there aren't burlesque scholarships available. I wanted to sell some of my stuff on eBay but the stuff I have to sell other people aren't selling for much. Andrew suggested doing a burlesque & puppet show as a fundraiser but we don't have much time and we're already rehearsing another show. Any bright ideas out there?

On a very happy note, my pole video has been viewed 929 times since May 8th. Rock!

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Roped in Again

I like to rope Andrew Moore into doing things with me. It's always more fun, and it guarantees I have someone to talk to who has shared the experience with me. A few weeks ago it was the ballroom dancing infomercial. Today it was a game show audition.

I submitted for it while the sisters were here. It's this pilot for a game show where teams of two will select which combination of items would auction for the most money. I think the studio audience first guesses the auction value of the items to determine the price standard for each thing. Anyway, they were looking for married couples. That's something we can easily portray. We went in with a couple that had been dating for four months, two guys who had been friends for a few years and two guys who were business partners for five years. We all had to say something about ourselves and talk about our shopping and bargain hunting experiences.

At the very least, we were cute. We both talked about hunting for old albums with great zest. If that's what they want, we'll be called back in to go on camera next week for another audition. (If that's not what they want, too bad for them.) I think the third round of auditions involves playing a mock game with producers, then they decide who goes on the show. If I wind up with any additional story on this one, I'll share it. But most importantly, we're cute and I got Andrew Moore to join me in my antics once again.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why John Mayer Rocks




I love the way he handles the slighting and forked tongue of the media.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sickness and Surcharges

Andrew and I were going to take his sisters to see Brett Dennen last night. We first caught Mr. Dennen on a side stage at the John Mayer concert in Irvine last fall. His music reminded me of Paul Simon. I loved that here was this tall redhead strumming on his guitar and dancing around with no shoes. He's since been the official opening act for Mr. Mayer for part of the tour, and it was our hope that we could catch him live last night at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood.

It wasn't meant to be. I think I got a hold of some bad Ben & Jerry's crazy Dave Matthews "get high special" ice cream. (No, I did not get high in order to eat it. I'm a bit of a square.) With the layer of ice on top of the container when we bought it, I was curious about it's edibility. Silly me, I ate most of it anyway. Nonetheless, I've been losing weight rather rapidly out my back end ever since and it shows no signs of stopping. When I was having visions of Dave Matthews tormenting me as my insides rumbled on the way to the concert, I realized I was in no condition to enjoy the barefooted and poetic Mr. Dennen. We returned home to watch a DVD. I think I've consumed a total of 400 calories since last night.

I felt bad that I wasn't able to share this musical experience with Chelley and Becky, but we hadn't gotten our tickets yet. I was going to buy tickets on Monday through Ticketmaster, but I discovered that each $18 ticket had an additional $7+ "handling surcharge" and $2.50 "facility fee." I thought that the $18 ticket was supposed to pay for the venue, staffing and artist. What is this crapola "handling surcharge" and "facility fee"? I know that's not a guarantee of clean bathrooms and easy parking. Because of those crapass fees, I didn't get my tickets through Ticketmaster. We were going to buy them direct from the box office where we could save at least some of the fee. That was kismet since I wound up reading Mensa magazines most of the evening.

To be clear about it, I believe Brett Dennen is worth a $27 ticket. I don't think very highly of the monopolizing Ticketmaster.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bucking Up

I don't usually tell people I'm a writer. I'm an actor who acts like a writer. Sure, I have an awesome blog that's been going strong for nearly two years. I wrote a novel last year in a month, and I wrote two one-acts for a play contest that may never be held. Andrew Moore is the writer in my household, and I like it that way.

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to put on my writer hat. I'm a member of this genius society and I get magazines as part of my membership. I expected the articles to be awesome and catch my interest because they're written by geniuses for geniuses. That sounds promising, right? Wrong. I wind up keeping the magazines in my bathroom to serve as catalysts for visits to the loo. (I hope that was subtle and polite enough.) I'm disappointed by the content. Rather than just sit back and complain about the magazine, I'm going to be causative and do something about it. I'm going to write an article for the genius magazine. I just can't decide on the topic -- acting, pole dancing or belly dancing?

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Monday, July 09, 2007

An Emotional Acting Class

Yesterday was my fourth of eight weeks of acting class in this series. I love the class. I love the teacher. (I guess it's obvious by the way I talk about both.) We started off by doing more of the drills so we can easily become another person. A lot of actors go into the profession because they want to pretend and spend a little time being someone else. Along the way, they get battered down by life, bad teachers, mean directors, and false information. They lose that initial purpose to play. These drills make it into a game again.

Sometimes when you drill something, old thoughts and ideas will come up. If you keep drilling, you get to the other side, usually with some brilliant realization. Yesterday I realized that if I didn't like a script or a character, I'd distance them from myself and do a very subtle charicature. I wasn't able to spot that before. Now I can be whoever, I can pretend to be characters I would normally dislike and revel in the game of it all.

In class we covered a scale of emotions that I use at my day job. It's great for understanding human behavior, and that's what acting is all about. We spent a nice chunk of time going over about forty tones on the scale in depth with good dictionary definitions, discussions and examples from films of each one. This scale is one of the most valuable things an actor can ever learn. Next week we'll be doing drills based on this scale. Exciting!

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Living Room Highlights

Andrew and I cut the rug to Brett Dennen in the living room Friday night. Becky had her camera handy so she snapped pictures of us as we took a break from setting up the sofa bed. Aren't we cute?

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Girls Go to Getty

Andrew's sisters arrived yesterday and they wanted to have cheap fun so we took them to the Getty. We love the Getty. We dragged them through the halls of art where they got to absorb tons of ancient (and less ancient) culture.

Even though it was a Friday, they a family craft thing set up. We all made buttons to celebrate Clara, the rhinoceros that toured Europe back in the day. Andrew, Chelley and I made buttons while Becky took photos of every concentration face.

We dragged them around the Getty for the best view of the city. This town is so large that you need a great perch to really get the scope of it all.

We finished off our visit with a trip to the garden. Becky took tons of photos of the plants. I love the Getty. I think the girls had fun as well.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Going Green

I've always tried to help the environment. I was on litter pick-up duty as a Girl Scout. I made a nice wage from aluminum recycling as a kid. I used to cut apart the six-pack rings so no critters would get caught in them. Living in glorious, smoggy Southern California, the need to live green is very real to me. We carpool, turn off lights when we leave a room, separate our garbage and rarely water our yellowed lawn. Of course, we can always do more.

I think that radically changing our lifestyle overnight to live as green as Ed Begley Jr. is unlikely. I've been trying to make one change every month (or so) to be more environmentally friendly. I've found that it's easier to make these changes into routines so I've got one down before I add the next one. I bring cardboard boxes home from work since we have recycle bins at home. I reuse my water bottles and jugs before I pass them to Felicity, who makes games with them before we throw them into the recycling bin. A month ago I made a point of crushing every box or tube before dropping it into the garbage can. The goal there was to have my trash take up less space and thus send fewer bags to the landfill.

This month I'm washing my dishes with less water. I realized that once the water gets funky, we wind up draining the sink and refilling with more water. Instead of filling the sink, I fill it less than halfway and do a handful of dishes at a time. I rinse them with cold water (consuming less fossil fuels) and drop more dishes into my two gallons of soapy water. I've noticed that the sink doesn't have to be full for the dishes to get clean. I've also noticed that I save two to three gallons of water each time.

If you want to go green, I recommend doing one thing at a time until you're so used to that thing that it's habit. If we all did one new thing a month to help the planet, we'd definitely see the results within this lifetime.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I Love This Country

(I know this is a Festivus photo of me and Felicity, but I needed something with a holiday theme and this is what I found readily available. Felicity is a bit thicker now.)

I have a friend and client through my day job that moved to this country thirteen (?) years ago to practice medicine. She's a fantastic chick, very kind and caring and very good at what she does. She'd been on the waiting list for citizenship for some time, and she just became an official citizen in June. She got to pick out a middle name. (I told her all natural-born citizens get middle names so it's easier for parents to yell at them.) She was really thrilled. I tried to make it to her swearing in, but work kept me busy that afternoon. I figured I'd be really moved and I'd turn into this huge puddle of proud weeping on the floor.


We may not have a perfect government, but it's the best of what's around. If it wasn't, why would so many people want to live here?

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Last Minute Busyness

Andrew's sisters are coming to visit Friday. Yay! It's like having two more sisters of my own. We have all of these neat activities planned to give them a good vacation and let them experience a little of our interests. Friday we're going to the Getty and watching DVDs of projects we've done. Saturday we're going to Chinatown, belly dance class and a Dodgers game. Sunday we may go to Roscoe's before I have acting class, and I think Andrew will arrange afternoon entertainment while I'm busy. Monday we're working while the girls hit Universal Studios. Tuesday may be a visit to Hollywood followed by the Brett Dennen concert. Wednesday might be some beach time before we send them home.

I love visiting with family. There is one small problem I hope one day I'll get over: the cleaning. We have to throw out old papers, wash all the sweaters we've had in the laundry basket for a few weeks, clean up scraps from Felicity's toys, scrub the shower, blah blah blah. There's always a significant amount of work before the vacation/visiting time begins. There's also grocery shopping to be done and shopping for new pillows and couch cushions (thanks to the dogs). At least it gets easier every time. Maybe this means I won't be as stressed when my small sister comes to visit in December.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Drilling

I had my third of eight acting classes in this session yesterday. In week three, you might expect some of the "newlywed" status to wear off. It didn't.

We spent most of the time drilling. I'm used to doing drills from my Scientology studies. Drilling something makes you good at doing that thing. You can become so proficient through drilling that you have the skill and confidence to do the thing you drilled no matter what curve balls you may be thrown. Drilling is like practicing dance or guitar basics.

Anyway, this school promotes that they want you to learn how to become a character in 1/125th of a second. That's pretty fast. And how do you get that fast? Drilling. We did a number of drills to be different characters. It becomes less like schoolwork and more like play time. The teachers give you permission to play without criticizing, invalidating or evaluating your work. It's fantastic. I think I'm down to a second, so I'll have to get a lot faster in the next five weeks.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Something New

I attended a different belly dance class yesterday. It was a short jog in the other direction from where I usually traveled for belly dance class with Jamilla. After a stop by the ATM (I think the website said cash only for drop-ins), Andrew dropped me off in time to pay and pick my spot on the dance floor. It was a very nice, clean studio with a little boutique in the back. I was ready to start learning from Jenna, a slender gal who looked a lot like one of my older sister's friends from high school.

Many dance classes have the same format: warm up, basic moves, across the floor and cool down. This one had a nice, thorough warm up and covered basics before mixing them into short combinations. We'd repeat each little combination several times to the the techno belly dance music that was playing in the background. Since it was "Beginner & Beyond" class, she'd cover just the footwork so if anyone had a hard time they could just do that. That was cool. I'm sure it made the class very friendly to newbies. (I'm taking my sisters-in-law to this class next week so they can have a taste of belly dance while they're visiting us.) Jenna then led us through a very complete cool down. It was great.

Each teacher focuses on something different, it seems. Jenna wanted me to keep my ribcage slightly forward to make me nice and long (and probably to make the isolations easier). She has a different way of doing snake arms so I had to adjust to that. I liked her class a lot more than the one I did with Lois a few months ago. This class seemed like a better fit and had the kind of structure I dig. I think I'll buy a punch card for ten classes and drop in every weekend I can to improve my skill.

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