Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Belly Dance Class Notes (Level 1): Maya Hip Drop

I hope everyone is recovering from Hurricane Sandy and fared as well as possible.  I haven't heard word on Friday's class and will let you know when I know.  For now, here is a video breaking down the "Maya" hip drop, which a few of you had questions about after class. There is a video and a written transcript. The instructor on this "eHow" video is Tara, who is a student of the Belly Dance Superstar Ansuya.

Also, on November 7, Ranya is hosting (assuming recovery goes as planned) an Arab Dance Night at Je'Bon (on St. Marks Place) with some of the best musicians in the city!  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

New York Times highlights Le Sajj in Bay Ridge

Photo by Dave Sanders for The New York Times.

On the eve of Hurricane Sandy, I'm admiring this slideshow in today's New York Timewhich gives a favorable view of a lively night of debke and dancing in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.  The pictured dancer in the slideshow is the fabulous LaUra,!.  Read: "Smoke, Dance, and a Sliver of Lebanon."  The dance in the title refers to dabke dance.  Some will dislike the overall portrayal, too stereotypical.  Still.....looks fun to me. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Orientalish NY: Ballet Next at the Joyce Theater

Ballet Next by Paul B. Goode
(from the Joyce Theater website)

Though this doesn't relate to main focus of Orientalish, this week I’ve seen two modern dance performances: Pina Bausch’s company at BAM on Saturday and tonight Ballet Next at the Joyce.  The three hour Bausch performance (“…como musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…”)impressed me with its stamina and single-minded vision.  The stage rent itself apart in jagged lines(or was designed to appear to do so); dancers groped for each other and grasped at ropes.  Couples batted at love with rollicking Latin dance music.  Melodramatic men adored women and then solos showed the inevitable aftermath, including the work’s end: one lonely dancer, bleeting on all fours, lonely animals.  We.

Tonight’s show at the Joyce, however, had an edge I didn’t realize I was wanting.  Out of the three premieres, choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti’s “BachGround” startled me most.  In comparison to the show at BAM, the much smaller cast on a much smaller stage spoke more loudly.  The staging was far more minimal, two spotlights my friend told me were called “specials,” dancers in black lycra (men can wear skorts), and black folding chairs.  The minimalist, urban chic highlighted the grasping and elastic choreography. 

The work opened with a row of dancers on chairs.  Their solemn gaze and line beneath the dusky spotlights created a tension that was one part boxers waiting in the corner of the ring and two parts chorus in line to render a Greek tragedy, both images fitting for the melancholy anguish and technically stunning movement.  The male soloists, Clifford Williams and Jesus Pastor, fully surrendered to Bigonzetti’s complex and sometimes intentionally busy composition.  Yoga seemed to work its way in, but what yoga it was….Compass poses were turned on their heads.  Hanumanasana was simply a prep, and Williams’ uddiyanabhanda was pleasingly obvious in a few balances.  The men jabbed each other, women competed, lovers paired off for a couple of rounds of eensy-weensy-spider up and down each other’s bodies.  The chair-slamming, driving energy of the piece seemed to only secondarily succumb to the staid, continuous flow of the piano, Bach, of course.

In a nearby Cuban restaurant, I kept talking about Bigonzetti’s piece.  My overworked friend wanted only to eat his fried plantains and I kept bringing the choreographer and his work back into our conversation.  I let the topic drop, resolving to post by night’s end.  But behind us, other diners were mimicking the hand-puppet like movements, gestures that chopped and undulated and jabbed, that were a significant repetition in the work and an effective repetition, one that brought stingers together for a moment on Eighth Avenue.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Writing News: Reading at the KGB Bar on Dec.6

Advanced notice!  I'm reading at the KGB Bar with others as part of Columbia University School of the Arts "Faculty Selects."

Please join if you can:
Dec 6. , 7-9 p.m.

(Also found out today, a section of the novel I'm working on made Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train's Short Story Award for New Writers. Top 5% out of more than a thousand.  Almost.....again!  Thank you, GT.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

For Dance Students: Soheir Zaki

In class this week we looked at a movement, (sharp hip drops on the balls of the feet) I associate with Soheir Zaki.  As we discussed, the more natural movement is to put weight onto a hip lift rather than the hip drop.

There are innumerable clips on YouTube of this Egyptian dancer who remains an icon decades after the height of her career.  What I love in her dancing is her joy in the movement visible on her face, her musicality, control, and her tendency not to cover too much floor space.  This more settled tendency makes her dance more classical and less trendy.  

Orientalish NY: Elena Lentini, James Wood, Orientalism, and Flaubert

Photo of Elena by Mia Moy found on Gilded Serpent.
Elena Lentini at the Cupping Room with Souren and Haig!  All of these artists continue to inspire so many simply by doing what they love to do for decades. Consistency, the cultivation of and attention to craft, and one of the many offspring of those two disciplines, humility, are so rare to see.

On Thursday (Oct. 18), I saw James Wood at Columbia University SOA.  What does this have to do with Orientalish?  In a word: Flaubert.  I love Wood's book How Fiction Works.  On Thursday, he spoke of the changing nature of narrative consciousness and how fiction shifted dramatically from an  "implied interiority" (think the KJV or much of Jane Austen) to an "articulated interiority" (think Virginia Woolf and Flaubert).  
I do think this interior consciousness Wood mentions relates to the changing time in America and the abrupt shift in power and expression.  People became more mobile (Flaubert's artistically pivotal travels to the "Orient" come to mind) and saw the "world" as a commodity to be taken, at times violently and other times artistically.
James Wood's book
from MacMillan

Yes literature shifted and perhaps for the better.  As Woods mentioned, the external mechanics of Austen and the King James Version of the Bible seem archaic.  But their distant, overarching tone seems to keep them contained and careful whereas the interiority of what emerges with "articulated interiority" takes more freely and perhaps, in being more self-conscious, bleeds its needs onto the fantasized "other."  Flaubert is such a part of this lens that saw only itself in the "other."  Emerson later famous complained of the effects of popular travel and its strange effect on consciousness when he said our "giants," or selves/egos, accompany us always even when we believe we are seeing something new.  I'm both simplifying and riffing, but this shift in consciousness must relate to the self-justification necessary for Orientalism.  (Again, Flaubert.)  Great beauty evolved from this shift.  As our world grew larger, narrative consciousness began to grow smaller.

Thank you, James Wood, for context and clarity in the midst of such complicated thinking.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

NYU Fall Class Notes and Dance Videos (Practice!)

Photo of Samia Gamal from Wikipedia
I've mentioned several dancers in class that I've posted here, so here are quick links to see them!

Fifi Abdo, an Egyptian dancer, made this hip circle a standard in modern belly dance.  Though others certainly did it before Abdo, her characteristic mix of folkloric and cabaret styles made her version become an association with her name.  I highlighted this post in which she is wearing a white gallabiyya.  You'll find many more on YouTube.

Randa Kamal is a contemporary dancer who tours internationally and offers many workshops in Egypt.  She is energetic and athletic.  What I like about this particular video is the costume and the angle of the video, which for learning purposes,  highlights how she uses her legs in the Egyptian-style shimmy we've been working on in the beginning class.  She is also just fun to watch:

For "classic" Egyptian belly dance, here are two names you should know with links:
Tahia Carioca, also a film actress from the same era who Edward Said reminisces about watching during his youth in Cairo in this short memoir.  Here is more about Tahia Carioca on Wikipedia.

Practice!  Practice!  Have fun watching these videos.....

Ars Medica: "You Can Be Madonna if You Want To"

I just received in the mail my contributor's copy of Ars Medica, the Canandian literary journal that just published my story, "You Can Be Madonna If You Want To," about two teenagers who think they are at Planned Parenthood but end up at a pro-life clinic posing as Planned Parenthood.  The story is perhaps even more creepy now as these rights are suddenly being revisited in a manner even more conservative than the Reagan-era 1980s when this story is set.  Hard to believe.

Thank you, Ars Medica for publishing my work.