shanmonster: (On the stairs)
On Saturday, I hopped a Greyhound to Toronto to go see the Matadors with my old friend Chris. When I arrived, I couldn't reach her on the phone, so I decided to just walk in the direction of the venue, calling her at every phone booth I saw. The streets were cold, and mobs of people in Hallowe'en attire clustered throughout the city. I kept on walking and calling, but to no avail. Finally, I called her friend Jean and was told to go to her place. I got the address, and started power-walking, stopping and asking directions from two friendly-looking fellows outside of Java. They told me I had a long way to go, so I caught a streetcar to what I thought was the nearest intersection, and got off.

I knew only very roughly where Jean's home is, and my city map didn't show this part of town, so I had to get directions. It was dark by this point, and I couldn't see any pedestrians, so I began walking in what I thought was the correct direction. Noticing a police car parked on the other side of the street, I jaywalked in a most brazen fashion over to the passenger side and tapped on the window.

The cop was on a call, so he held a finger up for me to wait, and I stood patiently until he rolled the window down for me.

"Excuse me, sir," I said. "I appear to be a bit lost. Could you please direct me to *** Street?"

"Oh," he said. "I don't know where that is. Hang on."

He called it in to the dispatcher, and was given some rough directions.

"Hop in," he said. "It's too cold to walk. I'll take you there."

And so I got a free ride with the cop, which is much more economical than flagging down a cabbie, I must say.

At long last, I found Jean's place, and met up with her, Chris, and Chris's fiancé Mike. Jean was dressed at Erzabet Bathory, Chris as a sexy French maid, and Mike as Teen Wolf. I got changed into my red, black, and gold tribaret costume, and we cabbed it over to the Matadors show at the Kathedral.

The club was full. Very full. The band started shortly after we arrived, and they played a bitchin' set. I've never been to a psychobilly show before, and I would like to go to another. The crowd energy was high, and the stage theatrics were over the top with a giant zombie Jesus barfing bubbles, toilet paper, water, and smoke over the audience. And I just adored the guy playing stand-up bass. He was really rocking out.

When the show ended, I was exhausted. Just utterly shagged out. My Friday night had been rather epic, after all. But the night was still young. It was about midnight, and my hosts had no intention of slowing down. So we ended up in another taxi on our way to yet another party.

The next party was in what looked like a small industrial park, and we walked through several sketchy-looking alleys until I saw the most enormous party I'd ever seen. I think it may have been the biggest party in the province, and everyone in Canada may very well have been there. Although it was cold out, there were so many people standing outside the warehouse that the body heat made the air warm. Still, I was bundled up in my warm sweater, black leather trench coat, and carrying my overstuffed purse and knapsack. I was so tired I could barely walk. The world was a surreal blur, and I was being crowded and jostled by the huge swarm of partiers.

I saw Chris approach someone dressed as Thriller-era Michael Jackson, and the next thing I knew, she was demanding I show him my costume.

"I can't," I whined. "I have all this shit, and it's too crowded for me to put it anywhere."

But my complaints went unheeded, and my purse and knapsack were hauled off by my friends. "Show them!" said Chris.

"Fine," I said, and unbuttoned my coat. My sweater was still tied on. I untied it and opened it.

This next moment amuses me. Where a moment before I'd been caught in a noisy press of souls, I was suddenly surrounded by a buffer of air and silence as everyone saw my costume. I hadn't anticipated such a frigging dramatic response! Michael Jackson said, "You must dance for me!"

"What? When?" I asked.

"My set is up next. Will you dance on stage?"

"Sure," I said.

He turned to Chris. "And you'll dance, too, right?"

She agreed with reluctance, and we followed him inside, where it was even more crowded.

I think there may have been close to a thousand people at the party, all told. It was absolutely overwhelming. I forced my way into the throng, staying close behind Michael Jackson who was carrying my bookbag high above his head.

The inside looked like a gutted warehouse with a second story. The stage was the second story, with the wall knocked out and no railing in place. A narrow, treacherous stairwell (also without a railing) went up to the stage. Chris and I followed him upstairs, and we stashed our stuff in a backstage room. I ditched my coat and sweater, adjusted my costume, and turned to Chris. "What kind of music do they play, anyway?"

"Funk," she said.

Ok. I can do that. I danced to metal the night before. Funk will be a piece of cake in comparison. Michael Jackson (who was actually Russ) came back and asked us to take the front of the stage when they started their first song.

I looked at the stage with trepidation. It was very crowded and very high up. I'd have to be exceptionally careful not to lose my balance. I didn't want to attempt stage diving.

When the band (Mercy Now) took the stage, I saw we'd have even less room to dance than I'd thought. Chris took the spot at the top of the stairwell, and I took centre stage between the vocalist and the bassist. And then it began. My dance space was about half the size of a standard bathtub, and I managed neither to fall nor bash into the musicians. Where I'd just been exanimate, I was now flooded with energy as the crowds cheered and danced and took photos and just had a great time. I realized almost all of them were getting too much of a good upskirt view, but no matter. There was naught that could be done about that, so I just danced my damned ass off. I danced until my once dry hair hung in lanky soaking ropes across my neck, back and face.

I'm not sure how long the set was. Maybe an hour. Photographers kept sneaking up the stairwell to get better shots, mostly of Chris and I, but also the band. I took a couple of breaks during the set and took a few pictures myself, but the set-up wasn't ideal for good band photography.

You can see photos from my night here.

Afterwards, we went back to Chris's and I crashed and slept the hardest, deepest sleep I've had since I had mono all those years back. It was awesome.

And then I came back home.

How was your weekend?
shanmonster: (Spasmolytic)
For some seriously fucked up and unkennable reason, one of the first things I did today was go to Google Maps and type in Nicosia. Do it and see what happens. Then get a satellite view and see what happens. Ougadougou isn't much better. And the entire nations of Haiti and Dominican Republic are AWOL. What the hell?

...

And now it's time for a movie review.

[American Cyborg]American Cyborg: Steel Warrior was produced by the same man who did Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (the holy grail of bad movies) and the new Rambo movie. Based on this track record, you might think you're in for an entertaining B-movie ride, but you'd be mistaken. American Cyborg has little to redeem it, even for a hardened bad movie watcher like myself.

The plot is highly derivative of Terminator, Blade Runner, and maybe even Leave the Bronx (I mean Escape 2000). Here's the premise. The computers have taken over the post-apocalyptic world, but instead of killing off all the humans, have somehow sterilized them and are letting them die off. An underground science team finds the only woman in the world with ova, and succeed in making a test tube pregnant with her baby.

The baby's test tube is too small, so the baby must be escorted to the port where it will be transferred into an artificial womb and taken to Europe where it will be used to create a new race of fertile humans. However, a mustachioed Rutger Hauer wannabe is an evil cyborg, and kills everyone in the team except Mom and her baby in a bottle.

There's a whole lot of running through bombed-out Tel Aviv (which is supposed to be somewhere in America), and finally our yummy mummy meets up with a Fabio/Mad Max-looking dude. Before you can say romantic interest, he's saving her butt and his dark secret comes out.

Will the baby make it to Europe? Will the hero's secret be yet another derivative cliche? Will they escape the radioactive, cannibalistic, art historians? Watch this turkey if you feel like it, but be fortified by licit or illicit substances to help your courage along.

The only thing which "saves" this movie are the scenes of the fetus in a giant test tube (ideal for drinking game purposes) and the heroine's cleavage and constantly morphing sunglasses. There are better bad movies to see.
shanmonster: (Spasmolytic)
I begin this post in the perhaps futile hope that LJ is working properly. If not, well, I guess this post will have to be saved for later.

I've been a very, very busy beaver. After teaching a dance class on Friday and having a late-night gaming session, I left bright and early Saturday morning for Toronto. We spent the day at the Ontario Science Centre, which was entertaining for a variety of reasons including:
  • the claustrophia chamber. This was an upright, roughly coffin-sized room where an overbearing male voice talked about slaves coming over on cramped slave ships, people in over-crammed prisons, and other tales of the invasion of personal space. While this went on, one wall started to meander its inexorable way toward me. I think this was supposed to freak people out, but I took advantage of the situation to practice my chimney climbing. Unfortunately my shoes were too slippery on the walls to do this effectively.
  • the checkboard floor. A sign in front of this floor warned people only to step on the black squares all the way into the room. Being the obstinate sort, I walked on the white squares, or one both black and white, and when I got to the end of the room, was pleased to discover some sort of morality lesson about how I probably conscientiously walked only on the black squares. Nonconformists of the world, unite!
  • the water piano. It's an outdoor pipe organ that works through magic. I say this because fountain technology is sufficiently over-my-head to become indistinguishable from magic. Yeah, that was an Arthur C. Clarke reference.


The next day, [livejournal.com profile] snowy_kathryn and I attended a dance workshop with Irene Dowd, who is truly a god among dance kinesiologists. For four hours, we learned her Orbits program as implemented for the hip. The program is designed to work the hip joint as thoroughly and as evenly as possible. I thought I had an excellent understanding of my hip mechanics, but Ms. Dowd put me in my place and left me sore in places I've never been sore in before.

On Monday, still aching from my workshop, I taught two dance classes and (perhaps foolishly) took a fitness class focusing on abs and glutes. Oh, my poor glutes. They were already so very sore, but I put them through another round. I suspect my butt would get sore after doing one hundred and forty "dirty dog" leg lifts on a good day. On my post-workshop-ache day, I worried I may not be able to walk home. But I did. And I even had energy left over for yesterday....

Yesterday I went back to Toronto to go hang out with my old university pal Chrissy. We were on our feet for a solid ten hours. We walked from the bus terminal to Kensington back down to Queens Quay and the Skinny Puppy concert!!! I don't think I used enough exclamation points there, so I'll add a few extra for good measure.

!!!!!

There.

The show was opened by two acts: Otto von Shirach and White Mice. I'd never heard of either before, and although White Mice aren't to my liking (death metal/noise), I am impressed by Otto von Shirach's crazy IDM/industrial sampling and his frenetic stage show. The man is a loony, and a highly entertaining loony, at that. He wore a black spandex superhero suit, complete with a cape, a Zorro-style mask, and a spandex tighty whities. His muffin-topping combined with the outrageous Sue Johanson sex samples created something ludicrous, but in a good way. I am in the process of downloading his free mp3s as I type.

I've wanted to see Puppy for almost twenty years, and the wish finally came true last night. I'm astounded that Nivek Ogre can sustain such a high level of energy for so long. He clearly loves what he is doing and is a consummate showman. He was doing his thing for a good ninety minutes, and from looking at the tour schedule, it looks like he'll be doing this on a nightly basis, without any nights off, after very long bus rides, for a ten-day stretch. Yikes.

I can't say I favour oHgr's new hair-do, but he's still on My List. And much to my glee, they performed "Worlock", which is one of my all-time favourite songs. I couldn't see cEvin Key too well (in fact, I thought he was drumming until I got closer and realized that no, that was him going mental on the Star-Trek-light-panels-of-doom which comprised his synth banks). I don't know who the drummer is, but he's really good.

Nivek wore some crazy contraptions, as usual. He came out covered in some sort of fake blood hydraulic system. Bright tubes wrapped around and trailed behind him as he did his crazy thing all over the stage. His face was covered in gunk from the first time we saw him, and on top he wore a white wife-beater which progressively became stained with blood. His pants were black and pretty straight-forward aside from the white plastic codpiece with what looked like a wrapped summer sausage dangling beneath. I still have no idea what that was supposed to be. It didn't exactly look phallic--just bizarre. Later on, he put on a chrome mask. The front looked a bit like Darth Vader, but with a long antenna sticking out of the mouth or nose. When Nivek bobbed his head, the mask jolted up and down, revealing his face.

I couldn't really see cEvin, but he wore a hat (and presumably other clothes, too).

And today, after about four and a half hours of sleep, I came back home in time to watch [livejournal.com profile] snowy_kathryn graduate, and then go and teach my first dance class at the senior citizens' centre. I think I'm going to enjoy teaching the older ladies. They're a lot more high-energy than many of my far younger students.

And now, the final test, when I click on the "Post" button and see if all of this typing was for naught...

(It worked!)
shanmonster: (On the stairs)
Bright and early yesterday morning, [livejournal.com profile] miami_pony and his friend [livejournal.com profile] entropicana picked me up and we began our long drive to Rochester, NY )
shanmonster: (Don't just sing it--bring it!)
Ticketmaster is a scam. I just bought a ticket to see Skinny Puppy in June. The tickets are listed as $29.50, which is quite reasonable. I've never before encountered a place which told you your grand total only after your payment had gone through. My total ended up being $43 (which is more than I can really afford). What the heck is a convenience charge, and why is it $8.75?

Still, I've loved Puppy since the mid-80s, and am relishing the thought of finally getting to see them live. Oh yes!

Are you going?

------

I went to Toronto on Saturday to attend two dance performances: Tedd Robinson's REDD (a contemporary dance piece) and Denise Fujiwara's No Exit (a butoh piece). I must admit, I am not a fan of REDD. Although there were elements I enjoyed (Robinson is a wiz with fabric draping), overall, I found myself literally falling asleep while he was onstage. Robinson's hour-long performance was broken into three parts. The first part opened with him coming on stage with a crooked walking stick. He began doing a quick side-to-side sway with his hips. Then he stopped, balanced the stick on his head, and resumed the hip movements. A man in the audience was very impressed by this rudimentary balancing act and yelled out "Bravo!" I suggest he check out a raqs saif, raqs shamadan, or Moroccan tea tray performance to be truly blown away by dancers with stuff on their heads. The rest of the performance consisted of Robinson reading text written on large bits of fabric, occasionally wrapping the fabric around himself kimono-style. He talked about country living, and bears in the woods. The whole time I watched and listened, I couldn't help but think he sounded like a city slicker talking about something he'd never experienced. It just did not ring true. Then again, I grew up on farms and in forests, living off the land, so go figure. If I were to dance city living, I'll betcha it wouldn't ring true, either.

The next piece he did was his most interesting. He came out with a blinding kimono. It was covered with reflective sequins or paillettes, so glaringly bright that the kimono seemed electrically powered. After posing reflectively (in both senses of the word), the odd, off-kilter music began to blend with an Irish ballad. He stripped off the kimono, and underneath was wearing a kilt and sporran. This is the only time he evoked a physical reaction from me. I laughed at the incongruity. And then he did a stomping sort of dance.

The third dance consisted of Robinson showing up onstage with a giant stick balanced on his head. He talked about being a professional balancer. And then he stuck the stick upright in the stage, rearranged his t-shirt and some more wrapped/draped cloth so he looked monk-like (he actually was a Buddhist monk, by the way), and sat under the stick. That was the end.

As the lights faded and before the applause began, a man in the audience said in a loud voice, "I can't believe I paid money for this."

Although I believe the man's response was unconscionably rude (it was obvious to me that Robinson had been crushed by the outburst), I understood where he was coming from. This performance had come across to me as self-aggrandizing, second-rate performance art. Other people in the audience, however, would disagree. I heard much laughter during the performance (and not the derisive sort, either). So maybe I just didn't get Robinson's art. I don't know. I do know I'll never choose to watch another of his performances. I am glad I didn't pay money, though. I was seeing the show on trade (I volunteered to hand out surveys in exchange for watching the performances).

Up next was Denise Fujiwara's No Exit. This was the real reason I'd come to the show. I've done workshops with Fujiwara before and found her kind and knowledgeable, and the workshops illuminating. I'd also attended the Can-Asian Dance Festival (one of her pet projects) and it was excellent. So I wanted to see the butoh choreography she'd built around the Sartre play, No Exit.

I was not disappointed. Although I'd never read the play (bad Shan--not doing the research before seeing the dance!), I have a passing familiarity with Sartre's works and philosophy. And I certainly wasn't sleepy during this performance.

The performance has no dialogue, but the story-telling is visceral. Three individuals die and go to hell: a small room with three chairs, a table, and a knife. The mood is oppressive and crushing. Sasha Ivanochko's character is Inez, hate-riddled and malevolent. Miko Sobreira is Garcin, traumatized and neurotic. Rebecca Hope Terry is Estelle, sexually desperate and unappealing. The three interact in an ugly romantic triangle, reaching for one another in cloying, violent desperation before turning on themselves and one another.

Hell is other people.

Performance-wise, my eyes were constantly drawn to Ivanochko. Her face, body, and movements barraged me with palpable waves of emotion. It was hard to pull my eyes away from her to the other dancers. That being said, the others were also very strong performers, but it is difficult to share a space with such an incredibly strong stage presence.

---------

Afterwards, I left to walk back to the bus station. Perhaps influenced by the dance shows, I still felt a mood of oppression and doom. Although it was a Saturday night in the largest city in Canada, the streets were very empty and dark. I walked through ill-lit streets and past construction sites. A few homeless people were preparing for the night, setting up sleeping bags on street corners. A rifled-through purse lay abandoned on the sidewalk. I kept a lot of space between myself and the shadows, striding with purpose close to the street and with my peripheral vision on high alert. One man asked me for money. Another asked me for drugs.

By the time I got home, it was 1:30 in the morning, and I collapsed in bed thankfully.
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
Yesterday I attended Yasmina Ramzy's teacher training workshop. It was my second time taking a workshop with her, the first being an Egyptian dance workshop in Moncton, NB several years ago. This workshop was held in the Arabesque Studios in downtown Toronto.

The workshop was fairly small, with about fourteen or fifteen women in attendance. These ranged from longtime teachers to relative novices.

The material covered was quite straight-forward and taught, at least initially, in a lecture format. As the class progressed, we moved onto some practical exercises and then to a question and answer period.

Yasmina has been teaching dance and giving workshops for over twenty-five years. She has taught thousands of students, and this experience puts her in good stead to be teaching teachers. Although she specifically teaches Egyptian dance, her teaching methods can be applied to other varieties of belly dance, as well.

The Good: The most useful part of the workshop was the lab section, where a volunteer did a dance move and her technique was corrected. A novice dancer got up and did a shoulder shimmy, and by way of doing similar dance movements (a shoulder "punch" with a bouncing Saidi walk), was better able to understand the origin points of the shoulder shimmy. At the end of the exercise, her shoulder shimmy was appreciably better.

Yasmina is eager to share her experiences with teaching students, including those with various disabilities. For example, she demonstrated how she instructed a blind woman who went on to become a performer. These anecdotes are useful because they show how teaching methodologies can be modified to help students with special needs.

We covered such topics as:
- posture being the foundation of movement
- the importance of regular drills
- technique correction including looking at the entire body, and not just the working parts
- teaching complex steps by starting at the foundation movements and building way up
- aesthetics and body alignment
- drilling techniques

The Bad: Yasmina holds a strong bias toward Egyptian dance, and her dislike of other dance styles (especially modern and interpretive dance) comes through in the forms of little digs and snide comments. She also claimed that no Arab would appreciate tribal belly dance or tribal music. In my opinion, this is like saying that no Midwest American would appreciate anything that isn't country line dancing.

The Strangely Absent: No mention was made on how to ensure a safe class environment for students (aside from a mention that for elderly students, perhaps backbends are not a good idea). When one workshop attendee asked what she should do in an instance where a student exclaims "Ouch!", she only said to ask if they are ok and then to continue with the lesson. Also, the issue of warm-ups and cool-downs was not touched upon at all.

The Just Plain Strange: During the lab technique, I volunteered to be a guinea pig and did some Mayas. In coaching me, Yasmina told me to stop lifting my heels off the floor. At first I thought she might have been talking about weight changes, but no, she said my heels were going up into the air. As the students beside me attested, my heels were firmly on the floor the entire time. Yet Yasmina was certain I was raising them, then doing them with heels down, then doing them with them lifted again. Very strange....

Over all, I would recommend this workshop to new instructors. However, if you teach a style other than Egyptian folkloric or Egyptian raqs sharqi, you'd better have a thick skin.
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
I ... I think I need this dress. I haven't a clue where I'd ever wear it, but damn. Talk about a sexpot dress....

Pornaments: Merry XXXmas.

Poor Moose: A bull moose gets stuck up in the power lines, way, way up in the air....

Nataraja-asana (Dancer): My favourite yoga asana today. At some point, I mean to incorporate this into a dance, but it hasn't quite happened yet. Maybe it will fairly soon. I can see putting it into a sword dance.

[The Belly Dancers of Cairo]Last night, I watched The Belly Dancers of Cairo. It's an excellent but sad documentary on the state of raqs sharqi in Egypt today. Despite the increasing popularity of the dance internationally, belly dance is dying in Egypt. Through interviews with Egyptian dance legends (eg. Dina, Nagwa Fuad, Lucy), current performers, a Muslim feminist, and a variety of Egyptian men from different walks of life, we can see how dancers are simultaneously loved and reviled. We are given cultural and religious context for this apparent contradiction.

Although raqs sharqi from the golden age of Egyptian cinema is looked upon fondly by the conservative men interviewed, their appreciation is conflicted. Dancers are looked upon as whores, a view reinforced by the dance films shown on a daily basis. Dancers in movies are invariably portrayed as wanton women, or gangsters' molls. To allow a female member of one's family to become a dancer would bring shame down on the entire family. More liberally-minded men may date a dancer, but once they get married, or once she bears children, she will have to end her career.

The film touches on how women in the public eye are considered to have questionable virtue. However, there is no mention of Oum Kalthoum, who was considered a national treasure. I can't help but be curious to see if she was considered a floozy at the same time that she was revered.

The documentary ends on a bittersweet note. Although the dance is dying in Egypt, it has spread itself over the world. These non-Egyptian dancers are responsible to carry on the legacy, and to save what would otherwise be a dying art form. And just so we're not without context, the DVD has an excellent features section which contains full-length performances by a variety of Egyptian dancers.

I need to get myself a copy of this. I recommend it to students of all varieties of belly dance (whether traditional Egyptian or any of the more modern fusion variants).
shanmonster: (Don't just sing it--bring it!)
Ugh. I'm tired, and don't much feel like writing, but I shall, anyhow.

The last couple of days have been very cold, and driving to and from Toronto was nasty because of it. The driver is a smoker, and instead of rolling her window down a crack and letting the smoke get suctioned out, she rolled her window about halfway down for most of the drive. This meant that instead of pulling the smoke out of the car, it blew it into the back seat. So I sat and shivered in frigid smoky wind for a couple of hours. She'd only roll up the window when she wasn't smoking, and since she's a chain-smoker, that meant the windows were rarely up. My lungs are pretty pissed off, now My asthma is in a steady state, at the moment. I never want to drive anywhere with her again. Ugh.

The show was held at the Funhaus. It's a spacious club, and a rather dirty one, too. I think one of the reasons clubs use low-lighting is to hide the horrors on the floors/walls. When I first got there, it felt like I was walking on old flypaper.

I stashed my stuff backstage and helped a bit with the setup. My first duty was to write out the lineup for the evening. The show opened with Holocaust-427, went to Defence Mechanism, then Virtigo, then Android Lust, finishing up with Fractured, with DJ sets in between each. Having finished that, I went for a walk on Queen St. West and killed a few hours (remembering to purchase foam ear plugs!).

[Shikhee]Despite having been an industrial DJ for a decade, this was the first live industrial performance I've ever attended. I was looking forward to seeing how stompy music plays out in person. Generally speaking, live industrial is not very interesting to watch. Mostly, it seems to be about a couple of black- or camo-clad guys standing around their microphones and keyboards, occasionally making a somewhat violent gesture. It's better to listen to than it is to watch.

Defence Mechanism was a nice exception, though. The frontman has good stage presence, and hams it up now and then with the audience. And their music is good, too! Check these guys out. They're solid.

The only divas I encountered were in the audience and not the bands. I dealt with a couple of questionable personalities while working the door. Jesus, people. There really doesn't have to be a chip on your shoulder. And if you're going to indulge in illegal substances, keep your freakish, space-invading behaviour confined to your home. One seriously cracked-out guy was dancing around like a maniac. He smashed into an enormous, cranky-looking rivet-head man who in turn sent him flying. The crazed dancer then ran behind the couches and started kicking/crawling across people, which did NOT go over well, and he was soon escorted off the property.

When I wasn't working the door or watching a performance, I sat backstage with the bands. It was a lot quieter back there, and there were plenty of comfortable couches to lounge on and lots of snacks to eat. All the musicians I interacted with were all really friendly and easy-going, which is somewhat of a miracle, considering the discomfort they must have been in. That back room was fucking cold (Note to Funhaus staff: get space heaters, stat!). The Android Lust folks politely requested (and received) some nice, hot cups of herbal tea.

[Shikhee]Most people were there to see Android Lust, of course. I was no exception. I've enjoyed their music for a few years now, and although I didn't speak much with them, was happy to discover they are friendly and personable.

By the time they hit the stage, I was exhausted. I found myself an excellent spot on stage left, and plunked my weary arse down on the edge of the stage. While they were getting their equipment and levels set, I actually dozed off, leaning against an enormous, blaring speaker. Now that's what I call tired....

Android Lust's stage show isn't as interesting as their videos, but I still enjoyed it. Shikhee wore some really funky black pants with overlapping scalloped layers. I wish the detailing showed up in the photos, but black on black is awfully tricky to see in pictures. She wore black opera gloves with all but the middle and ring fingers removed--something I find very interesting, and now I might tinker with gloves to see what I can come up with. And her geometric blocked crop top is really cool, too. The guys, alas, wore very generic outfits (plain shirts and cargo pants, mostly).

[Android Lust]I found it interesting that although the music is sad, angry, or panic-stricken in tone, Shikhee is very upbeat between songs. Nevertheless, while singing, her body language matches the subject matter. She cringes, rages, and clenches her way through the performances, thanking us for listening at the end of each song.

I moved out of the way when the guitarist got going, or else I could've been bashed upside the head with his guitar (yeah, I was that close).

My favourite songs of the night were "Refuse (This Rotted Heart)", "Dragonfly," and "Body." In "Refuse" (you can watch some of it here), a few new verses are added. One stanza goes "but did you ever realize my strength that you devour will rot your heart from the inside out?"

So don't devour Shikhee's strength. It's just not healthy.
shanmonster: (Don't just sing it--bring it!)
[Asala]I was terribly afraid I wouldn't make it to see Asala last night because traffic was so bad. I ended up missing the first performance, but no matter. The rest of the show is awesome, and I had an excellent seat: balcony, front row and centre (thank you so much for the ticket, Dharlene!).

First, the negatives (which are few and relatively minor). The lighting is not always ideal. The spotlights shine straight down on the soloists, when an oblique angle would be far more flattering. In one dance, half of the dancers show up in cool blue, then are joined by dancers in warm coral. When the blue dancers are by themselves, they look splendid. But the contrast with the coral is not a flattering one, as the coral makes the blue look washed out in comparison. Also, the male dancers, as a whole, aren't quite as polished and tight in their choreographies as their female counterparts. That being said, they certainly have their share of fans in the audience. There were several shouts of "Valizan!" as he danced.

But despite these quibbles, Asala is the best dance show I have ever seen, hands down. The group choreographies are intricate without being chaotic, colourful without being garish, and the formations complex without muddiness. The show does a superb job of showcasing the various dance styles of the Middle East: mesmerizing devotional Sufi spinning, Khaleegy dances in glittering thobes with subtle movements and grand hair tosses, ultra-feminine and flirtatious Melaya Leff, militaristic tahtiib dances and stage fighting by the men and the contrasting cuteness of the women's raqs assaya, the competitive courtship of the Hagallah, the intricate footwork of Port Said Simsimiyya, and of course the most well-known style of the bunch, raqs sharqi.

But the show isn't just about dance. It's also about the music, and the orchestra is phenomenal. Bassam Bishara's oude taqsim brought tears to my eyes, as did Najwa Tannus's vocal renderings of the epic Inta Omri. And who can forget the insane, intricate drumming of Suleiman Warwar? Zaghareets aplenty issued forth from the audience for that performance.

If you're in the Toronto area, you're in luck. The show continues until December 3. Being dead is your only excuse not to go.
shanmonster: (Don't just sing it--bring it!)
Oh dear. Where do I begin?

First of all, I'm glad I didn't pay money for Shake It Up!: Exotic Bellydance Performances. I saw it at the dance studio where I teach, and since I had some time to kill, I put it in the DVD player.

I suppose I should have guessed from the "Exotic" in the title that this video would pander to all the stereotypes. The video is an Orientalist's wet dream. Let's see what stereotypes are to be found:

Reclining pasha? Check.
Veiled mysterious women leaning up on said pasha? Check.
Hookah pipes and Turkish rugs and King Tut busts? Check, check, and check.
Dancers using those hokey walk-like-an-Egyptian arms? Check.
Dancers making porn faces at the camera while they dance seductively? Check.
Belly dancers as strippers? Nope.

So they missed one. Maybe their next DVD will cover that one.

Some of the performances had me staring with my jaw agape. Although Meleah's floorwork routine starts out interesting enough (if I ignored the faux sultan and seraglio in the background), it soon becomes bizarre, when she gallivants around the room in stirrup pants with some sort of vagina-enhancing metal jewellery. Yikes!

Kaya's performance to "Al Heyla" borders on pornographic with her over-the-top pouting, moues, and silent gasps of pleasure. If she spends half the effort on her isolations as she does her facial gyrations, I bet she'll be a fantastic dancer.

That being said, not everything is bad. Adam Basma's dance company, although not the best I've ever seen, look like they're having a great time, and the feeling is contagious. I'll betcha they're terrific to watch live.

Sohaila's khaleegy dance is cute, and I really love the serenity of her facial expressions. She never looks like she's faking her smiles, and she shows just how good a dance can look in a body-obscuring thobe.

I also really enjoy Sadie's dance. She dances with effortless grace, and although her backbends are extreme, they don't leave me cringing in sympathetic pain. They look very natural for her. She really looks like she knows what she's doing, and she gives us the standout performance on the DVD. I want to find more performances by her, now.
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
The workshop wasn't at all what I thought it would be. It was advertised as "Combining Bellydance movements with modern dance. Ideal for a dramatic entrance to exciting fusion music." I thought this meant we'd be working on showy entrances and modern (as in Martha Graham or Lester Horton) fusion.

Instead, what I got was a straight-forward Am-Cab choreography not so very different from Jillina's instructional videos. The only modern movement I detected was a chassé (spelled "chase" on the handouts), which is a pretty standard travelling step for raqs sharqi performers, anyhow. And even then, it's more balletic than modern.

The workshop was held at a seedy old 60s-style banquet hall. Half of the room was carpeted, and the other half had tile floor. Fake plants hung from the ceiling, and the fully-stocked bar had engraved plaques listing the names of who I presumed were old-time regulars. It was very dark in there, and not just because I was wearing sunglasses to save the other students from seeing my poor, sick eye.

A sound system with strategically-located speakers made it possible for us to hear the music and Jillina's instruction over the noise of many dozens of coin scarves.

Which reminds me.... I think these should perhaps be banned from workshops. They're noisy, and many of them leak coins and beads which invariably get stepped on. But I digress....

The room was seriously overcrowded. There were about twice the amount of dancers in the room than it could comfortably hold. Throughout the entire choreography, people were getting smacked upside the head, rammed into, and jostled by each other. It was unavoidable, and made this [livejournal.com profile] shanmonster an unhappy camper. If I couldn't even stand in one position with my arms outspread, then how am I supposed to be able to do a choreography with lots of expansive arm movements, especially when there are high-speed travelling spins thrown in?

Organizers, please bear in mind the size of the venue when selling workshops spaces. Either get a bigger room, or cap the attendance at a smaller number. Thank you.

The workshop began with a simple warm-up consisting of "diva walking" laps around the room, moved on to stretches and pliés in first position, and culminated with some very basic technique. As Jillina explained the mechanics of how to do rib circles and hip slides, I realized I was in for a workshop geared more toward novices, and I began to worry if the money I'd spent had been spent wisely.

Jillina is a real sweetheart. She's friendly, engaging, and eager to help. When she saw students doing a basic move incorrectly, she'd rush over and correct the technique.

Her videos are offered for sale at the workshops for very reasonable prices. The drum solo DVD, for example, complete with accompanying CD, was only $35.

The choreography was broken up into small, manageable chunks which we drilled until we'd gained some facility with them before moving onto the next chunk. At the end of the workshop, all these modules were put together with the song, and voila! We were dancing the choreography (well, except me. My weeks of sick caught up with me and I was completely shagged out by the last half hour, and staggered more than danced).

The choreography itself is fairly simple, with nothing any more complex than a shimmy layered over a reverse undulation. It is certainly not the crazy mixture of daunting combinations I'd get at one of Tarik's, Aziza's, or Morocco's workshops. It is geared more toward beginner through intermediate-level dancers, and as such, it is very successful. If you fit into this category, please take a Jillina workshop! I think you'll get a lot out of it. But if you're any more advanced, you might want to skip it and buy her videos if you want to learn her famous choreographies.
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
I think [livejournal.com profile] f00dave is going to practice some of my dance drills with me (the more basic bits). This will either be great or an exercise in frustration. I guess I'll find out which once it happens.

I have an appointment next week to talk about setting up dance classes for the new year. My per-student rate scared the gym owner, but perhaps we can work out an hourly wage. And then, if negotiations go well, I'll be teaching beginner-level classes once again.

My sewing is still achingly slow. I finished another panel. Now I have three to go. I'm averaging one a day, so in theory, I should be finished this costume in about five days (including the top). I hadn't anticipated needing to restring some of the fringe. Gah!

[BDSS]I received my copy of Bellydance Superstars - Solos Monte Carlo this week, and over all, I must say I'm disappointed with it. I think it's the weakest of the three DVDs. The Paris DVD had the benefit of being performed live, and I think that most dancers do their best work in front of an appreciative audience. The Monte Carlo DVD was recorded in a studio, and for the most part, the dancing seems to be done by the numbers. The dancers just look tired in many of the performances, which is likely the case. I'd be tired, too, if I lived out of a tour bus, eating food at truck stops, and doing the same dance routines night after night. The dancers liven up the most when they dance to Issam Houshan's drumming (probably because they have an appreciative audience).

The video suffers further from the camera work. Once again, I think they chose a camera-man with ADD. Please let the camera linger on a dancer for more than three seconds before switching views. And as for all those clever view changes done during musical transitions, well, guess what? Those are often the most interesting parts of the dance, and we're losing it! Gah!

I am disappointed with Rachel Brice's dancing in this one. Her shoulders are often very high and tense, obscuring the line of her neck in a way I find unappealing. She is lit terribly, too, looking wholly washed-out in both sets. I know what colour her tattoo is, and it's not grey. Her make-up makes her look tired, and her eyes sunken deep into her skull. It's a shame, because she's a gorgeous woman and an excellent dancer.

The stand-out performance on this DVD is Bozenka, who I've never had the opportunity to watch before. Her technique is flawless and she dances seemingly without effort. Her dancing floats from one move to another with mellifluous grace. If she ever makes it up around these parts, I'm going to have to check her out! Live dancing is always better than recorded dancing.

Adoré has the most baffling performance on the disc. She forgot to wear pants, and sashays around in showgirl fringed bra and panties, doing some sort of samba/belly dance/club dance fusion. I don't understand why she chose to go bottomless, but I still maintain that Egyptian-style shimmies look far better when you can't see the legs pumping away like pistons.

The worst make-up award goes to Saida, whose face is made up to look like a 70s porn star. Maybe this makeup looks good on a big stage, but for close studio work, it's garish, whorish, and unfortunate. That being said, I'm not won over by her dancing. Although I like her spins, and she uses a little kick which I enjoy, her backbends look forced and painful (especially during the shimmying backbend sequence. Ow, ow, ow!), and if she doesn't have back pain yet, she soon will. I find her raqs assaya performance is the stronger of the two pieces. And indeed, it is nice to see more traditional-styled Egyptian dancing in the Bellydance Superstars repertoire.

Petite Jamilla does a dance which I could barely stand to watch--not because she's a bad dancer, oh no. I quite like her dancing, actually. It's because of the zilling. The finger cymbals appear to have been overdubbed, and they don't quite sync up with what I see on my video screen. Also, they don't sound right with the music, which was driving me crazy! Zilling has to be perfect, or else it's up there in the musical hell room with badly played bagpipes and violins.

One of the extra features on the DVD is a series of vignettes featuring each of the performers. Most of these aren't terribly interesting, aside from the sections on Sharon Kihara and Rachel Brice. It is nice to get a behind-the-scenes look at these women, and to see what they go through to get ready for a show. It's also interesting to get an idea of how Issam Houshan goes about crafting drum solos for each of the dancers.

All in all, I don't recommend buying this DVD, but it is worth checking out.
shanmonster: (Peeking)
Last night, I watched the Janak Khendry Dance Company perform Chandrakauns, Dream of a Drunken God, and Gayatri. With a few notable exceptions, glittering like diamonds in a dung-heap, it was one of the worst dance shows I've ever seen.

The first dance, Chandrakauns, ostensibly tells the story of the Moon, his beautiful wife the Moon Light, and his children the Moon Rays being the link between heaven and earth. The stage is set with an enormous disk of white on the floor, shaded just so to look like the full moon. It looks pretty nice. But then the dancers come out and spoil it. Well, that's not entirely fair. The wife of the Moon (Kala Vageesan) is a good dancer, and I ameliorated my shocked senses by watching her. I hoped to see more of her throughout the evening, but this was her only performance.

Her presence doesn't stop the choreography from being possibly the most boring dances I've ever seen. Indeed, for all you MST3K fans, this is the Sandy Frank production of dance, with interminable walking scenes. And running scenes. At times, it felt like I was watching dancers do laps around the moon. The story is incomprehensible from the dance (I only know what it's about from the programme notes), and several of the dancers kept fudging their choreography.

The music is ok, but the bridges between scenes are extraordinarily cheesy, with tinkling Wayne's World-esque dream sequence sound effects. The first time I heard it, it made me cringe a little. But it kept continuing. Those twinkling sounds must repeat themselves a dozen times or more throughout the performance, and I sunk deeper and deeper into my chair, curling in on myself, foetus-like.

At the end of Chandrakauns, we were asked to keep in our seats for a little while as the stage was prepared for the next dance. This wouldn't have been too bad, except that we sat in our seats for about ten minutes as the moon was torn off the floor with very loud duct-tape ripping noises. Why this couldn't have been an intermission, I don't know. It is very amateurish, and not the sort of thing you'd expect at a $35 per ticket show. There isn't even any house music to drown out the noises. We all just sat there uncomfortably, stunned after the bad introductory dance, hearing the ripping sounds and hoping beyond hope that the next dance would be better.

It was somewhat better. Well, except for Janak Khendry himself, the artistic director and lead dancer of the dance company. I just don't get it. In the program, his biography is the most extensive. He has trained at prestigious schools in India, and with influential and well-known teachers of Bharatanatyam, Kathak, and Manipuri. Maybe once upon a time he could dance, but he really can't now. For someone who's danced since 1955, he has no stage presence or finely-tuned muscular control. His hands and arms are limp and lifeless. His sense of rhythm is abysmal, and he rarely keeps on beat. He can't keep up with the fast parts of the choreographies, and just skips them as the other dancers in the troupe perform them simultaneously. His facial expressions are wanting, and his face is occasionally wracked with twitching little grimaces which I think are supposed to be smiles.

Maybe he knows he sucks.

I felt embarrassed for him. It hurt me to watch him. Photos of him in the 1950s show someone with a lot more expression, and a New York Times review of him in 1978 praises his "particularly fluid arms." Maybe he's been ill, these past few years. I just don't know. Something terrible has happened, to be sure. It's sad. In Dream of a Drunken God, he looks like an extra from classic Star Trek traipsing around the stage. For a little while, while acting out the drinking of copious amounts of alcohol, he's not too bad. But then he starts to suck again. Fortunately, he is joined by Anthony Guerra, and I had something good to watch. Guerra has a commanding stage presence. He fills the stage with majesty. His movements are controlled and precise, from his convincing fish mudra (the name of which is unknown to me), to the flare of his nostrils and the vibration of total body tension as he acted out a creation scene.

The narrative of the choreography is confusing. It is more or less a battling banjos story, with two gods trying to outdo one another. But somehow, the two enemies become fast friends before once again becoming enemies, with no apparent reason for it. It is utterly baffling.

During the intermission, I toyed with the idea of not coming back to see the third performance. But [livejournal.com profile] f00dave's mother has never a big dance production before (aside from the great Karen Kain, back in the day), and is enjoying herself. So we stay.

It's just as well, too, because Gayatri is the strongest choreography of the night. At first, we are worried, because the introduction seems like a more ornate bit of the sign-language karaoke of Napoleon Dynamite. But the next two parts are interesting, with clear narrative structures, and at least some good dancing. Mala Pisharody is bang-on with her head and eye movements, and Sinthujaa Jeyarajah is impeccable with the precision of her arm and hand movements. She's inspired me to drill harder on my arm movements, and to practice the alapadma mudra Neefa taught me this week....

This choreography is the oldest of the three, and I think it's much more familiar to each of the dancers.

So all in all, I wouldn't mind seeing some of these dancers again, but not this company as a whole.
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
Layali Arabesque is a regularly-occurring dance event. It has misleading advertising, as I was to discover last night. All that I knew is that it was being held at the Gypsy Co-op, there would be performances by Prince Andrew, Yasmina Ramzy, and Jim Boz, and that it cost ten dollars to attend.

So I made my way there, paid my ten bucks, and was told to grab a seat as they were going fast. I saw an unoccupied table with an excellent view of the dance floor and staked my claim. A waitress came by and asked if I'd like anything. "Yes. May I see the dessert menu?"

"I could, but I'll just tell you what we have since there are three choices."

"Sure!"

She listed three things, and I chose the ginger creme brulée and a big glass of ice water.

I was settled in an grooving away in my chair to the very excellent live band when a waiter came along. "This table is reserved. You have to move. )
shanmonster: (Default)
Kiyoshi Nagata is a musician-athlete. He has little fat on his lithe, sinewy frame. He wears the traditional thong undergarment, and the spectacle of his physique is integral to the performance. He stands in a low arrow stance and attack the drum--a giant bludgeoning the moon. It's violent. It's frightening. It's beautiful. His muscles flex, jerk, and release with every hit.

Around him are his ensemble. They are hooded, faces obscured by shadow, and they look like malevolant monks. They beat the drums together, or in syncopation. I am thrilled. I'm witnessing a portentous ritual.

I am an empty vessel, but I am being filled by drumsong. It starts deep in my bowels, making my belly twitch and throb. The big bass drums fill me up to my chest. I can feel the beating in my heart. It changes my pulse. My heart races as adrenaline is released. I feel like I am being chased, but I am sitting in a chair.

Did I enjoy Sacred Tree? Yeah, I guess you could say so. )

*yawn*

Sep. 27th, 2006 10:27 am
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
Much to my gleeful surprise, I've learned that my Mother F*cking Chicken Dance video made Google's top 100 videos. How could this ridiculous bit of fluff beat out such heavy competition as porn and hostage beheadings? The key words people appended to my video make me gigglesnort, too.

I've been doing a bit more reading lately than I was a couple of months ago, recently finishing Pierre Choderlos de Laclos's Les Liaisons dangereuses, Larry Niven's Legacy of Heorot, and Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes -and- But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes.

Les Liaisons dangereuses remains one of my favourite books. Every time I read it, I get something completely different out of it. This time around, Monsieur de Valmont is far less sympathetic a character than the last time I read it, and Madame de Merteuil far more (although she remains a power-tripping psycho-bitch).

Legacy of Heorot has a very engaging story, and the villain is both interesting and well-thought-out, but the writing is spotty. This book contains some of the most heavy-handed foreshadowing I've ever seen.

And as for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, well, I fully understand the attraction to the former, and can see why Winston Churchill read it so voraciously during WWII. It's a book filled with sardonic joy and a certain world-weary innocence. The latter is just plain funny.

My current book is Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction. I'm sad to say that the writing style is irking me, and that a book which came to me so highly recommended, is an right and utter slogfest. Here's hoping I can stop being annoyed with it and just enjoy the story.

And now for a few links:

World of Wearable Art: Bizarre and fabulous fashion contest winners. The pictures are too small for me to get enough detail, but they're still interesting.

Man Plans to Feed Placenta to Goannas: Giving the 'gators a taste for baby.

A Place Under the Sun: Plans to build a deep-space launch pad on the moon are meeting with a bit of opposition from land owners.

First zero-gravity surgery set to be performed: I don't see any volunteers for zero-G root canals.

And now it's time to do some more unpacking. I fear it shall never end.
shanmonster: (For goodness sakes. I've got the....)
[The Golden Apple]

I was happy to receive my review copy of The Golden Apple: Bellydance Stars of New York the other day. I finally got to watch it last night. This is strictly a performance DVD. You won't find any instruction or voice-overs.

The DVD includes almost an hour of performances by NYC performers Neon, Jehan, Jenna, and Blanca, as well as a jam session with the skilled and talented Taksim ensemble. The production values are strong, and although the camera rarely holds still, cuts and pans are not obtrusive. Face shots are kept to a minimum. The focus is generally on the dancer, or the part of her body doing a particular movement. The sound quality is excellent, whether the music is live (ie. with Taksim's jam session) or canned. If you were so inclined, you could turn the video off and listen to this as though it were a CD.

In general, the dancers have large, expansive movements. Each dancer has her own musical taste. The music ranges from traditional Egyptian to Arabesque hiphop to new age breathy vocals. Although I doubt the style of every performance, costume, and song will appeal to any one person, I do believe the DVD is well worth the cost. )

shanmonster: (For goodness sakes. I've got the....)
[Yoga, Isolations and Drills]

Today I finally got to try Rachel Brice's DVD Tribal Fusion Belly Dance: Yoga, Isolations and Drills. I decided to go with the 30-minute practice drills (there are three: 15-, 30-, and 45-minute). Rachel starts the session off with a sun salutation (for a good warmup) and then with the locust asana (which is excellent for strengthening the lower back). She then goes into drills for various isolations and locks. She starts each isolation slowly, going through the muscles which should be contracted or released. Then each movement is smoothed out and sped up.

Some reviewers complain that Rachel doesn't explain why the movements look so different on her. First of all, Rachel has very little body fat. Therefore, as each muscle is engaged, it is much more evident than it would be on a less sinewy dancer. Secondly, her movements are very clean and smooth because she has been drilling on a regular basis. Although drills are not exciting, repetition and consistency are the key to mastery. If you follow along with the drills on this DVD on a regular and meticulous basis, you will become a more precise, isolated, and technical dancer. I have no doubts on this.

The video isn't perfect. One minor flaw is Rachel's camera-shyness. She never looks directly at the camera, and remains very detached. Once or twice, it is a bit difficult to see what she is doing when the camera pans so the mirror is directly behind her. She's wearing dark pants, and the reflection is also dark. However, the camera continues panning, and before long, it's easy to see what she's doing. Again, this is a minor problem.

The worst thing about the video is the additional performance video. Rachel does a very interesting dance to a dark and gothy song, and the camera-man decides to get all experimental on us. During the 3-minute or so performance, there are more than 100 strobe-like cuts. I can see that they were going for an edgy, music video feel, but considering the audience for this DVD is comprised of people who want to get a better understanding of Rachel's dancing, the edits are inappropriate and frustrating. It's impossible to follow any one movement to completion. It would have been much nicer had there been a performance clip which shows the movements in a clear and unchopped fashion. Edgy, clipped videos could be saved for entertainment rather than educational DVDs.

On the flip side, the camera work for the drill section, although not static, is clear and appropriate. When the camera goes in for a closeup of Rachel's abdomen, it's when she's demonstrating which muscles to contract. When it flows along the contour of her spine, it's showing the correct alignment during yoga asanas. Some videos dwell on the incorrect body part (eg. on a dancer's face or chest when the instruction is focusing upon hip or footwork). This never happens in this DVD.

Also, Rachel has a pleasant and strong voice, and she explains each movement clearly.

[Sa'Iyr a Tribal Metamorphosis]

The music (by Pentaphobe) is a minimalistic fusion of dark electronic and Middle Eastern rhythms. It may not be to everyone's liking, but I enjoy it.

I strongly recommend this video to anyone who wants to improve their isolation skills. I intend on using the DVD frequently.

shanmonster: (For goodness sakes. I've got the....)
[The Ultimate Bellydance Fitness Workout]

The Ultimate Bellydance Fitness Workout DVD is titled hyperbolically. Although I agree it is not a bad workout, there are better dance workout videos on the market. Better videos have even been produced by the same company.

The video has several problems. )

shanmonster: (For goodness sakes. I've got the....)
[Instant Belly Dancer]

Neon recently sent me a wack of dance DVDs, and the first one I watched was Instant Belly Dancer: A Crash Course in Bellydance, Vol.1 - Curves. I have to admit, I was a bit put off by the title. Instant bellydancer? Ha! I get prospective students who expect to be professional dancers by the end of a six-week course, and that's just not going to happen. I mean, would you expect to be a professional athlete after nine hours of training? I hope not!

In any case, the DVD will not be churning out thousands of professional dancers, but it will be giving plenty of people a much better understanding of core movements than will many other videos. The best thing about the instruction in this particular video is its use of simple computer graphics demarcating circular movements.

I've often used similar shapes to explain movements in my own classes, but with gestures drawn by my hand rather than with overlaid images. This video makes me wish I could have similar special effects for my classes! The graphics make it obvious where the pelvis/head/ribcage ought to be at any given time.

Another good thing about the video is the way Neon explains posture and movement. In many tapes, certain safety elements are glossed over (e.g. the importance of not hyperextending your joints), but Neon makes note of these points which are particularly crucial to novices.

Although I disagree with Neon on certain nuances within the dance, I chalk that up to a difference of style. She is a kooky woman, but in a very charismatic sort of way. I found myself laughing at her earnest facial expressions and turns of phrase, but not in a negative way. She looks like a really fun chick. Heh...

I'd like to stress that this video is not aimed at students wishing to learn classical Middle Eastern dance. Instead, it is geared more toward club dancers. Some of the movements (like the bouncing hip circle with hip thrusts) look rather raunchy, and I can't imagine doing them on stage in bedlah. Similarly, I wouldn't teach them in my classes. However, I'm sure these movements are well-suited to the local nightclub/discotheque where a bit of raunch is all the style.

Although this doesn't look like a huge-budget feature, it does have excellent production values. The sound is good. It's easy to see what Neon is doing at any given time due to the high contrast between her and the black background. Although she has a strong Russian accent, she is easy to understand, and her phrasing is articulate and concise.

As far as I can tell, this is the strongest of Neon's videos. If you're planning on getting any (and this is an excellent bargain), this is a good place to start.

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