Saturday, April 26, 2008

Let's Dance!

Woohoo!! The show was fantastic!

To be honest I'd been feeling quite blasé about the whole thing since the practice on Wednesday night. We ran through the choreography quite a few times and each run through it seemed to get shorter and shorter! When we first started learning it I wondered if I’d ever manage to make it through without forgetting something. All the extra hours we put in for additional rehearsals outside of class time paid off and by Wednesday night everything was running through so well I almost felt as though the show had been and gone already. At the beginning of this process the piece seemed to last forever… so much to remember… but now it just flew by! I almost felt as though it was over already… I figured when it came to the show we’d get ready, wait our turn, stand nervously in the wings then it would all be a blur of light and music … then we’d be back in the wings clearing off the stage again… it was almost an anti climax before the event!

We had a dress rehearsal in the afternoon which made me a bit nervous. The space on stage was a bit different to what we were used to so there were a few last minute tweaks that, despite being really minor it was a bit perturbing given how smoothly everything had worked so well. Would I be able to remember? Crikey… the butterflies were starting to set in!

I called into the pub and had a beer for my nerves on the way home… that helped me relax a bit. Once home I distracted myself by helping Libby get ready. She was going to wear her costume so she got dressed and I did her hair for her while she chattered and told me how she would dance on the stage after me. Before I knew it, it was time to go.

We arrived at the theatre and found our seats next to friends. I wasn’t performing until the second section of the show so we were able to sit in the audience through the first section of the show. Wow! There were some amazing acts and it was almost a shame to have to go and get ready.

I met the others out the back and we got our costumes and had a couple of group photos taken. It didn’t seem to take long at all before our stage call. As we go into position in the wings ready for our entrance I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself to enjoy the moment… I wanted to remember how it was to be performing rather than simply doing it and getting out of there with it all being a blur after…. I didn’t need to worry… man, did I have fun! The moves were all pretty much second nature now, each change in the music signalled another move and it just seemed to be happening… Awesome! This was great, we were doing it! I couldn’t help but smile! I was able to really soak up the atmosphere… fantastic!

I changed back out of my costume and hurried back out into the audience to watch the rest of the show. When I got back to my seat Libby stood up and told me it was her turn to dance. I figured I’d take her up near the front and let her dance in front of my classmates but someone told me to let her go up on the stage. I found some steps up to the stage and helped Libby up them. Then there was no stopping her! She marched up to the start of the front of the stage and stood there… waiting… next thing there was clapping from the audience so she started dancing… so confident and not at all shy! The clapping got louder and people were zaghareeting her… she was in her element! Then, suddenly Libby decided she’d finished, she bowed and marched back off the stage again! It all happened so quickly that Tom didn’t get any photos – he was too blown away with watching her!

All in all a fantastic evening!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Another weekend in

Well, mostly anyway!

Tom had organised a Rug Doctor machine for pickup at 7am Saturday morning so he was up early to get that underway and gave the floor a good going over. I was pleasantly surprised how well the carpet came up... I'd had my doubts that it would do any good but I guess I'll have to eat my words now.

I had a rehearsal for the show at 10am on Saturday morning which went really well... we're counting down to the show now!

Then it was straight back home ready to go and pick Libby up from the airport! She is up for the first week of the school holidays and it was good to see her! She's a real jet-setter these days and flying doesn't phase her in the slightest. The flight was running a bit late but as we waited and watched down the arrivals corridor we could see her being escorted, along with another small boy, up to the terminal. She was chattering away with the wee man and the attendant like they were old mates. There's no stopping her taking every opportunity to increase her social circle!

By the time we arrived back home with her my parents had arrived for a visit. They ran away from home back in February and have been travelling around in their bus living a gypsy life since then! By all accounts they've thoroughly enjoyed the experience. They weren't going to stay the night as they had to get home for business but we had a nice afternoon with them catching up and an early dinner - home cooked fish and chips using some of the kingfish from the freezer... Yum!

On Sunday Rob, Stacey and the kids came over for a visit. It's been quite a while since the kids had caught up and after some initial shyness (and refuelling on lunch) the girls raced about dressing up, having make believe birthday parties and rescuing each other from a plague of rebel frogs that apparently invaded the bedroom intermittently... what great imaginations! Braxton was somewhat excluded from the girly games but that didn't seem to phase him in the slightest. He happily drew pictures of us on the magnadoodle and showed off his creations. He's talking a lot more now and is a real little character! When it was time to go there were tears, Tialia wasn't ready to go, she was having such a good time! It was good to see them and catch up with Rob and Stacey, it's been a while!

The rest of the afternoon was pretty quiet. Tommy spent some time writing on his blog, Libby watched her favourite movie - Madeline, and I worked on my next movie pulling together photos and video from different events... something I'd been meaning to start on for a while now... the first one for the year is up over on the "family blog".

So it was another relaxing weekend... even though we had plenty going on! I guess with winter looking like it's nearly here we'll have a few more of these coming up!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hippy Shake Update

So, on the Belly Dance front all is going swimmingly ... or perhaps that should be shimmyingly!
The dance we have been working on for the upcoming show is really starting to come together now. We've had some extra rehearsals outside of class time and that has really helped! The most difficult part has not been the actual dance moves, but the "formation flying"... the parts where we change positions on stage and interact with each other. These bits are really starting to work well now after making some small tweaks to how they come together... it's going to look soooo cool on the night!
As for my solo development class, that too is progressing nicely! I had a few spots in the music where I had the moves sorted out and it has been a matter of joining the dots... coming up with moves to join the pieces I found relatively easy to choreograph. Working in stages like this has made it far less daunting and I've pretty much sorted out the first half of the piece... just a bit of refining needed there so in the next week I want to sort out the remaining half. It should be relatively easy as this was the part of the music I was most attracted to initially and I have a lot of ideas to get started with. It will be a matter of trying them out and seeing what works best. This class has been extended by a few weeks to allow us to get our choreographies finished and test run them on each other so we can refine them from an audience perspective. We have the opportunity to perform them for a wider audience at a drum and dance jam in May.... and... if we're keen in a show later in the year! Cool!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Golly... it's been a week!

Wow! No update for a week... and I'd been doing so well on that front!
It's been a pretty ordinary week, which is lovely for a change! And we had no plans to go anywhere or do anything for the weekend so it was spent pottering around home... not very exciting I suppose but it was really very nice having not done it in a long while!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sparkles Galore

I needed to find a dress to wear in the show at the end of the month. We had fairly loose guidelines to follow, basically a straight dress, any colour pretty much (except for fluorescent) with sparkly bits and preferably pattern or fringe across the hips to accentuate any shimmying. I had a bit of a look around but didn't see anything that would fit the brief. I started trawling through trademe and found a few possibilities but generally anything remotely suitable was going to be far too small… I’m no waif!

I began to resign myself to making a dress and decorating it and then I found a compromise... a plain dark blue stretch velvet dress in the right sort of style... I was a bit hesitant about the sizing but after confirming the measurements I started bidding. I won the auction in the finish and I could hardly have made it for the $20 I paid for it.

When it arrived in the post I tried it on immediately. The fit was snug but it was perfect for the show! Now for the fun part… the sparkly bits!

In my treasure cupboard I had some purple beads I’d bought I Bali quite a long time ago… they’d be perfect for making fringing from and although I wasn’t entirely thrilled at the idea of threading them all they really were the perfect colour. I also had some pre-strung gold sequins but I felt I also needed sequins that would pick up the blue of the dress as well as the purple from the beads… I knew just the colour I wanted… a paua, or oil slick colour would do me. I went down to get some at John’s Place Emporium. I found exactly what I was after straight away but you can’t go into that shop without looking around at the other goodies… and thank goodness I did! I found pre-strung beads in the exact colour I had at home… if I bought those then I could save myself hours of painstaking work. I knew that it was going to end up costing a lot more but given that life has been so busy lately, time could become an issue. I didn’t want to have to rush through this and be disappointed with the results. I could also supplement it with the beads at home… at the end of the day I was still going to pay less than I would for a ready made outfit, and it would be unique, one of a kind!

With the decision made I scurried out with my goodies and went home to get started. I had been thinking about the pattern I wanted and had decided to keep it fairly simple with clean curves and the fringing. I was about to started sketching outlines with chalk when I realised that I probably should do this while I had it on so that I could take the stretch into account … along with my curves! So there I was standing in front of a mirror drawing on myself … or rather on the dress with chalk! Then the stitching began in earnest… first the lines of sequins then the beading… oh how I thanked myself for using the pre-strung stuff… no threading, no chance of beads coming undone… just stitch it on! Because of the stretch in the material I had to ensure anything stitched on allowed for this so it was all done with the dress stretched over an embroidery hoop.

I couldn't tell you how long I've spent on it so far but at least now it is now at the stage where if I don't do any more it will be fine for the show. I'm picking it's more than likely I will add more at some point however I'm aware that I could over do it and it will end up with too much on it so for now I'm letting it rest awhile. I am very pleased... it actually looks better once it's on!

I took it along to class last week and everyone wanted to see it on so I ended up wearing it for the whole class... I love it! The fringing sits in just the right place and moves beautifully when I dance! I can't wait to wear it in the show!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Back for more ...

Sunday rolled on around and as I peeked out from under the covers to see it was daylight outside I thanked my lucky stars Daylight Savings finished this weekend giving us an "extra" hour to sleep in this morning. As I rolled over to check the time a groan escaped... good lord was there any part of me that didn't hurt? We had another hour before we needed to get up... I carefully snuggled up again and tried to remain as still as possible in the meantime.

We all met at the shop at 8:30 and along with coffee discussed the weather, where to find weather reports and how to utilise them to plan a day trip. Based on the forecast that predicted southerly winds we were to be paddling on the northern coast of the Whangaparoa Peninsula.

Off we all went and met again at the boat ramp at Tindalls Bay. Andy parked on the ramp and we unloaded as quickly as possible so as not to tie up the ramp for too long.

We each picked out a kayak, different to the one used yesterday so we could get a feel for the different makes. Once we had adjusted the foot pegs and loaded up, Andy showed us how to enter the water "gorilla style" - scooting the kayak forward with hands over the sides pushing against the sand. Once we were all afloat we set off as a group.

It really is a relaxing way to travel, cruising along and chatting to whoever happens to be near you at the time. Looking out to sea we could see Great Barrier further out and closer in the birds were working in several spots. Every so often the bait fish would rise and skitter across the surface close to us... Tom wished he'd brought his rod along!

I had realised pretty quickly after we left the beach I'd made a mistake when I set my foot pegs... I'd tested them out with my legs straight out in front but of course when you're on the water you bend your knees pushing against the pegs to lock yourself in. This wasn't an major but it meant I was on tippy-toes for the first leg of the trip and this got quite uncomfortable towards the end... I'll not make that mistake again!

We made good progress along the coast although the group seemed to be a lot further out from the shore than I'd expected. This meant we were just paddling from spot to spot rather than getting to look at nooks and crannies in the rocks, which, I think, would have been more interesting. I guess though some people weren't quite as confident about being too close in to begin with.

As we arrived at Army Bay, where we'd planned to stop for lunch, we grouped up and Andy reminded us about how to handle a surf landing. The waves were pretty small but it was still a good opportunity to test out using the paddle as a rudder. We landed one by one on the beach pulled a couple of kayaks right up the the sand to use as tables and tucked into lunch.... ravenous!! While we were filling our stomachs Andy led a discussion on different places to go kayaking around New Zealand, we each had to come up with somewhere and he would give us a run down on the best times to go and things not to miss at each place.

Before long it was time to head back again. I reapplied sunblock, picked out a different kayak and set the foot pegs up... remembering my earlier mistake. As we scooted our way back into the water I realised my skirt had popped off the cockpit... Damn, I was virtually afloat!! I back-paddled a bit, trying to keep the kayak straight into the waves and sorted the skirt out... back out again, this time with a helping hand from Andy giving my kayak a shove to get it afloat. Thanks mate!

Off we paddled.... this time sticking a little closer to the shore and getting a bit of a closer look. The kayak I had on this leg handled a bit diffently and was a bit more sluggish responding to the rudder... a matter not helped by the fact I hadn't tightened the straps up enough... something else learnt! In the finish I gave up on using the rudder and pulled it back up. Instead I played about with the different sweep stroke we'd learnt and used my paddle to steer on the way back.

As we got closer to the beach we started out from we grouped up again and Andy encouraged us to try out different rescues before we had to go home. This was by no means compulsory which was a bit of a relief. By this time I was feeling quite exhausted from the efforts of the weekend, all the physical activity combined with a day out in the sun and salt air... I was almost at the stage where I just wanted to curl up in my comfy chair and snooze! Still, I'd gotten in a couple of extra rescues in the lake on Saturday so I wasn't going to feel guilty about not getting wet today! A few people took the opportunity and I assisted someone else getting back into their boat before heading back to the beach to pack up.

Back at the shop we were all presented a completion certificate and an information pack. We each had to sum up our experience in a few words. Mine were... "I want to do more"... ...

I suppose that means I'll be needing my own sea kayak... time to go shopping!!

Oh how I ache!!

Almost every part of my body is sore from overuse or bruising... Why?

A good friend of ours gave us a family membership to the Yakkity Yak club as a thank-you present about 9 months ago. As part of the package a weekend course on Sea Kayaking was included. We have been so busy over the last 6 months that up until now we hadn't booked ourselves onto the course. As we had nothing yet planned for the weekend it was time to bite the bullet and actually do this thing... after all, it would be a shame for the membership to run out without us completing it.

Tom has a sea kayak and uses it on a regular basis so he was looking forward to the possibility of rolling while I was along for the ride, figuring a lot of what we'd learn would be applicable to our sit on tops.

Saturday morning arrived with us on time at the pool and ready to get wet. There were 8 people on the course in total so 4 kayaks were unloaded and taken down to the pool. We were to pair up and take turns in the kayak. Tom, being the gentleman he is, let me take my turn in the kayak first. I slipped off the edge on the pool and into a kayak, sealed the cockpit with the skirt and braced myself for whatever was about to happen next.

The instructor, Andy, called for a volunteer to act as the demonstration model. I took a look around and as no-one was looking likely I thought perhaps it was best to volunteer and get it over with. Before I could open my mouth my kayak jerked forward, a strange voice coming from behind... "Pick me!! Pick me!!" ... thanks Tommy!! So I floated forward and the lesson began.

The first steps involved building confidence in and under the water whilst still in the kayak. Andy would talk us through it, demonstrate what was going to happen using the test model (me!), then one by one each person gave it a go while their partner was there to help flip the kayak over for the exercise and pull it back upright again. The routine involved turning 90 degrees to get one ear wet, then 180 degrees under water and back up again. Next came a series of exercises to help orientate ourselves upside down and under water. The first was to bang loudly three times on the bottom of the kayak (while upside down). This was also a signal for help!! Then a series of exercises banging a couple of times on the bottom to the front and back of the boat back to three times in the middle to signal help... or..."get me upright!!". Then to the front right, front left, back right, back left - Andy called this "the hula". Then finally a wet exit, basically getting out of the kayak while it was capsized.... cool... I was good at this!!

We swapped over so our partner's could go through the routine as well... revenge is mine... bwahahahaaa!! Nah, not really, the last thing I wanted was to be responsible for drowning my Tommy in a pool!!

Next on the agenda was learning various rescues, self recoveries - where you basically got yourself back into the kayak, and assisted recoveries - where another kayaker would help empty and stabilise your kayak for re-entry.

The first self rescue was called "The John Wayne" and involved heaving yourself over the stern of the kayak, swinging a leg over to straddle it and, keeping a low profile, scoot yourself forward, riding the kayak until you were over the cockpit, slipping your bum down into the seat then "folding" your legs one by one into the cockpit. I think this is the move responsible for most of the bruising on my inner thighs... ouch! We also learnt self rescues using a float on one end of the paddle so the paddle could act an outrigger for stability and at the same time also act as a ladder to hook your leg onto to get you back up into the kayak.

The assisted rescues were a piece of cake in comparison but we tried a couple of variations and took turns at being the rescuer and rescuee. At this point I felt as though we'd learnt a lot to help even with the sit on tops and in particular the self resue with the paddle float will be a skill that will transfer should I ever need it.

We clambered out of the pool, helped put the lane markers and covers back, and changed into dry clothes. Once the kayaks were all loaded up onto the trailer everyone headed back to the shop for lunch and some discussion on the types of things you should have with you for a day trip.

Fed and rehydrated, it was time to learn the next skill set down at Lake Pupuke. It was here we learnt different paddle strokes. First off we learnt how to paddle sideways, not quite what I expected, I'd have thought that going forward might have been first!! Still, as we would be rafting up together to watch new techniques at different points during the lake session this was going to be an important stroke. It was a bit windy where we put in and it was hard to tell whether we were doing this properly because we were being blown about. We set off across the lake for a more sheltered spot. Paddling forward with seems pretty straight forward but Andy spent time to ensure we new which muscles should be engaging at the different parts of the stroke, pushing (or punching) the top arm forward rather than pulling the bottom arm back, a subtle difference but it makes paddling less of an effort. He also checked our form as we set off and then had us turn around and paddle backwards for a stretch. Once we were more sheltered we practiced using the sideways stroke... it's a cool movement and not dissimilar to a belly dance move... I almost went into a trance doing this!

Time to raft up... and put this stroke into a real situation. I edged sideways towards the next person, wow, this worked a treat, I was doing it! Then .... whoops, my bad! I thought I was close enough so I reached across to the next kayak, stretch... strrreeetcchhh.... just..a..little...more..... SPLASH!! Ha, I was in... and out!! I popped out from under my kayak to see everyone looking at me!! Ha! At least I knew how to get back in!! Andy came over to assist me by stabilising my kayak and I clambered back into the cockpit without any problems... the lesson resumed...

Next we learnt how to turn using sweep strokes from the front of the kayak, and then make tighter turns by combining a sweep from the back of the kayak... I really enjoyed these moves, it was almost balletic and again, done over and over, something that could set you into a trance.

Time to learn bracing... this involved edging the kayak.... leaning so the water came up the side of the kayak, and push the paddle down ward to help spring back upright. We started small, only going over a little way. As I got the hang of this I started leaning further and further, closer to the point of no return. it was a bit freaky to have the sensation of tipping and react quickly enough, in the right way, to push back up again. As I practised, pushing over further and further, the water got closer to my spray skirt, and then up over it and yet I recovered. Wooohooo!! Yeah, this was cool. I transfered to the other side to try that. I must have been a bit over confident because the first time over in the right and.... SPLASH!!! I was in again!! Oh well, at least I was getting in some additional rescue training!! Might as well get our money's worth... at least that's what I told myself!

So enough of that.... We learnt how to stop next and after a game of chicken to test it out Andy showed us how to use our paddle as a rudder - something we'd need to know in the surf. This was tried out on the way back to the shore buy getting up some speed and then flicking our paddle back to steer while the momentum died off.

Back at the shore we loaded up the gear... that was all for today! I was starting to feel the muscle fatigue from using muscles in a completely different way... it was a great feeling and that night I slept soundly... and snored like a buzz saw, by all accounts. I needed it ...

Sunday would bring new challenges!

Friday, April 04, 2008

What was I whinging about?

Well, after the torment that was belly dance class last week which ended with me feeling like crap about my progress (or lack thereof, as I saw it) things are looking up.
I had spent time listening to the music and watching parts of the instructional DVD the teacher loaned me, but... I still felt a bit stuck in terms of what moves to put to the music.
On Saturday we had an extra practise for the Wings number we will perform in the show and in our breaks we watched Louise practise her tribal fusion number. I think this is where I had a bit of a revelation, seeing someone performing right there rather than the smooth production of a DVD. I picked up a few ideas to toy with. I also got some unexpected encouragement from one of my classmates who, after I told her how bad I felt after last class, said to me "But you looked so confident! You really looked like you knew what you were doing! Oh no, I wished I'd told you that on the night!!"
To be honest I don't know if I'd have believed her if she'd told me that after class, but after a couple of days of introspection and setting myself a few goals it was just what I needed to hear.
I stopped to buy a cheap MP3 player on the way home so that I had no excuse... I would take every opportunity to listen to the music I could.
I got home, loaded it up and started dancing... I tried out a move I'd seen Louise do, it fitted the music nicely so I started adding a few more moves... Over the next day or so I had moves set out for the first 40 seconds or so of the music.... progress at last!! And I was also starting to formulate a few ideas for parts later on in the piece. I started to allow myself to believe I could do this after all!
Wednesday night rolled around fast enough and this week, while I was so excited to have broken through a wall, quite a few of the others had hit their own wall. Some of them seemed to be feeling like I was the previous week. They hadn't had time to work with their music and were starting to feel like they had made the wrong decision over their choices of style/music. Some of them asked outright for help which spawned the next exercise for the class.
We each had to pick someone elses piece of music and improvise to it. We'd spent a lot of time listening to our own music and only heard parts of each others so it was a bit like improvising to a new piece.
I volunteered to go first and chose the veil number. I borrowed a beautiful silk veil and went for it... it was so much fun! Having had the revelation for my own piece that sometimes less is more and that trying to do ever move in the book at once was overkill I was really enjoying myself. Some hip drops here, wave the veil, a shimmy, a turn, some more hip drops... I was doing it! I spontaneously went to perform angel wings, a move that involves flicking the veil up in front and walking into it as you stretch you arms out wide. When perform correctly the veil flicks over each arm creating wings... really pretty! This is where things went a bit awry....
I had never before worked with a silk veil and they behave in a different way to chiffon or other materials. Being lighter and therefore more "floaty" they are beautiful to watch but you have to be aware they are more... er... temperamental... Silk being the diva of veils they are a bit more highly strung than their plainer counterparts and need a bit more pandering to for them to perform well for you.
So there I was, making angel wings... Flick.... the veil flew up in front of me, twist... ready to fall back over my arms... I stepped forward so that the veil would settle at my throat and the move would be complete.... except... I wasn't ready for the veil to punish me, obviously it knew I was a beginner and I wasn't treating it with the respect and adoration due to a star, the queen of veils. So as I stepped forward the veil settled... it floated slowly down... flutter flutter... oh so pretty... but I was too fast, I was rushing it and this diva wasn't going to be dictated to by a novice. It floated down to settle... not at my throat, it settled over my head!! So there I was arms outstretched with the bloody thing blinding me.... maybe trying to suffocate me for treating it like a mere common chiffon veil. I tried to blow it off as if it was a stray hair on my face... I tried again... and again. There were giggles from the class (including myself) and the teacher was telling me to work with it. What a hoot! I'm not sure how I got it off in the finish and soon after that my minute of music ended. As I sat down I resolved to get myself a silk veil to train and tame!
Everyone took their turn and when someone chose my piece of music I found it really interesting that for one part of the music she danced steps with a turn to the back, a pose and then turned back to the front again ... it was almost the same moves I had already decided to use for exactly that part of the music. This was really very encouraging! To think that someone else heard the music and interpreted it in virtually the same way as I had... it was a confirmation that I was on track.
The whole point of the exercise was to help each other see what others spontaneously did to the music and to help build ideas to get started on our choreographies... a bit of a think tank I suppose. When you've gotten so close to the music, listening to it over and over, finding all the accents and learning it by heart, I guess to an extent you get too close to it. You start trying to plan every move to the music rather than simply letting the music move you. With that in mind I'm going to keep working on my music a few seconds at a time... and let it happen!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A braver woman than I

I was thinking the other day about what it would be like to shave my head to raise money for a cause. I'm not entirely sure where this idea popped up from, maybe I had a dream about it? Maybe because I'm booked in for my first haircut in ages - I haven't had a trim since last year!
So anyway I was thinking about what that would be like to do it, the initial smoothness, the stubbly prickly regrowth that would soon grow out to a softer fuzz. The reactions from other people and the thought of helping out a cause with donations from sponsors....
But... I was only just thinking about it and wondering. After all I've been trying to grow my hair longer, mainly so I feel more like a belly dancer and can incorporate mor hair flicks and tosses into my dancing. Tossing your head about with short hair does not quite have the same effect!!
So, when I saw that Jules was actually going to do this I got shivers up my spine... and immediately sponsored her... to ease my guilt at being vain enough to want to keep my hair... and because it is such a great cause. Go on now... join the fun!