Thursday, January 30, 2014

Zill, baby, zill!

Ahh, zilling.  The terror of many a bellydance student, the bane of many a professional dancer.

And I effing LOVE IT.

We started talking about zilling in November, and in January, my class started zilling for realsies. Of course, the first several sessions, my hands could not get the rhythm down for more than a couple measures, and then I'd end up thinking about what I was doing, and the second your brain interferes with a movement like that, it all comes crashing down.  But, then I committed myself to practice. I'd zill two or three songs a day, whatever I had saved on my phone. And then I'd screw it up, get annoyed, and remind myself, "Just two more songs, you can hold pee for two songs when you're driving. If you need to cry, cry and cut."

It would always be more than just two more songs, though, because DAMN IT I want to be the best zill player in the universe. But, by the times my fingertips turned blue (the international signal for "You want I should stop, maybe?") I'd take off the headphones, and feel accomplished. I might have fallen off the rhythm eight times, I maybe zilled only eight bars total that night, but I was trying.

This past week has been a realization for me in terms of zilling. We were working on fast moves with zills in class (Arabic and Egyptian), and I realized as we were drilling the movement, my brain wasn't shitting itself with too much math to keep track of. It was pretty comfortable, actually.

Then, on Sunday, just to be different, I was talking to my folks about dance (The Gentleman and I went to hang with them). I mentioned playing "the finger cymbals", and they wanted me to demonstrate.  So I did... and even with three people looking at me, I didn't fall off the rhythm.  Then, in class today, we did the fun drill of walking around the studio in time with the beat, zilling while we went back and forth across the floor. And... I CAN ZILL!

The big thing is... practice and troubleshoot. When something weird happened with the zills (for example, that delightfully awkward quacking noise they make when you clap the whole thing together), I'd speak up, to try and find out how not to do that. And zilling for even fifteen minutes a night made a huge difference, both in my confidence and in my ability.

...Now to get through those damn taksim drills!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Don't Be A Boob

On January 21st, Grace produced a show at a restaurant in Bolingbrook IL Made nationally famous for the Drew Peterson case, Bolingbrook is not exactly a Mecca of creativity. However, Grace was able to attract tons of dancers, in all styles.  Her student troup Cassia made their debut as well.

She had announced to my Level 1-2 class that we would be joining them next time, if we're interested. As a costumer, my main question was simply, "WHAT ARE WE GOING TO WEAR?"

Grace just looked at me and shrugged. "The other girls were just wearing skinny tanks."

I looked down at myself. The other girls are mostly small ladies. Narrowly built, small on top, almost to a person. One of the ladies is a bit larger than the others, but not by much. I... am curvy.  Full hips. Narrowish in the waist, and a 34DD on top. I have one of those homunculus bra sizes that most manufacturers ignore. The only way I can buy a bra in a store is if someone returns an online-only item with the tags on. Either way, I looked up at Grace again and pointed to my breasts. "So yeah... so about that."

Grace immediately moved to reassure me. "We will find something that works for you, don't worry. There are plenty of women your size and larger that dance. I'll talk to some vendors, we'll figure it out. Don't worry."

Of course I'm not worried, and I know Grace will come through with an idea, but I do not leave things to chance when it comes to costumes. So, I got to thinking. What if I take a burner bra, sew the straps on so they're closer to the back-side border of the ribcage, cut off the straps behind that, sew on some D-rings, and then just pass the choli straps through? And yes, I already have the choli and the burner bra on order.Just need to get the D-rings and make some time.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Path Begins (baby belly dancer)

I'm Katrina, and I dance American Tribal Style belly dance, as begun by Carolena Nericcio and FatChanceBellyDance. My home studio is Eastern Fire Belly Dance, my teacher is Grace Tucker, and I've been dancing, zilling, and enjoying almost every minute of this style for about seven months now.

I started with a little Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance, and by a little, I mean three weeks.  And by three weeks, I mean three classes. It didn't really connect with me, to be honest... the shoulder shimmy felt wrong, the head slide didn't really make any sense to me... the bit of veil work I learned was cool, but I wasn't about to be all "you ladies shake it up front, I'm gonna play with my fabric over here!" So, I decided to poke around a bit, and I figured I'd try some other classes, see what happened, and what happened was I found Grace, and EFBD, and went, "This... this is more doable."

I love the moves, I love how they look when performed properly. I love the costuming, I love the group improvisation, I love sharing the leadership of the circle, and I love the fact that we can have a frank and open conversation about bodies and frustrations and what if I can't, what if it won't, and feel heard and acknowledged, but encouraged to keep on. The three-quarter shimmy was damn hard for me. I have issues with the lower half of me (hip flexors that disagree with me, plantar fasciitis, flat feet, among other things), and it took me two or three months of drilling, of trying, of not quite being able to get there in class but sometimes starting up a shimmy at home, until I'm much more reliable. My hips aren't perfect, of course, but they're getting better all the time. Zilling was a bit scary, but as I drill at home (I use folk music to get my fingers moving, Daft Punk and the Sex Pistols when I'm feeling like a masochist, and songs from the South Park movie's soundtrack when I'm frustrated and need a laugh), I'm getting more comfortable.   I'm at the point where I'm no longer a terrified newbie (I don't think, Grace might disagree). I no longer feel like the mirror at the studio will eat me if I'm leading, and I feel comfortable enough in the vocabulary I've learned so far to tell when I think something is weird.  I'm also relatively close to a dance debut.

I'm also a lot more comfortable in my own skin, with my own body, and out in the wild as well. When I first started, I was a Non-Dancer.  Dancing would happen, and I'd be all, "Cool. I'm going to chill out over here, you guys shake your booties." Now, I found myself dancing wildly at a New Years' party, though I might have been a bit on the inebriated side. Before, I wore the baggiest effing thing I could to dance class. Now, I buy cheap crop tops so I can see what I'm doing. My belly used to be gross and flabby and undesirable... I used to have hideous backfat, and my hips were bulgy, and my ass was big. Now I know that most people get backfat in certain clothes, because that's how they sit, and they push things down. My belly can do some cool stuff, my shimmies fly even when I'm halfassing (derp!), and my ass is still big, but I'm much less likely to fall into a toilet.

I haven't conquered every bit of negative body image, of course... you couldn't pay me to put on a bikini (well, you never could. Even when I was fourteen and a tiny little thing, no dice). And I'm sorry, but I couldn't wear a traditional Egyptian Cabaret outfit either... I'm cool with a spangly bra, a sequined panel skirt and a belt, but put a bigass floofy tiered skirt under those panels, and can I get a Turkish vest so I can hide a real bra, please? Oh, and my eczema is flaring on my legs, so on go the pantaloons!  w00t!

(For reference, I'm an hourglass, big butt and plenty of boobs on broad shoulders, narrow in the waist. Buying jeans is a nightmare. Buying costumes is ridiculously easy.)

I'm nervous about a debut. I'm nervous about putting myself out there, in front of friends, family, and strangers, and maybe doing something awkward or embarrassing. (Ex. "Oh, shit, our portion is only two minutes long. I'm leading and we've been doing the taksim for, like, a minute thirty... um... you can turn the taksim, right?? RIGHT???) You live and you learn, though, as long as you have fun doing it.