Sunday, November 30, 2003

beer is not my friend

Raining steadily today, cold and dark. I rose at 1 pm, feeling incredibly stupid, just in time for Mama Bear to inform me that she and her boyfriend had been talking about moving in together, and it looked like sooner rather than later, and gosh his stuff wasn't going to fit into the apartment with me there, so I shouldn't worry about writing a rent check tomorrow, she'd just take the last month's rent I'd paid when I moved in, two months ago.

Excuse me?

Boy, she's really sorry, because I'm a great roommate (read: I do everyone else's dishes and only complain about it here), and she's happy to write me a good letter of reference. It only just occurred to me now, hours later, that said letter would probably be written in crayon on the back of some other piece of paper, if our rental agreement is any guide, but whatever. She's resourceful.

Cranky is not exactly the word. Angry is not even it, although David Richo makes a wonderful point about the disservice we do ourselves when we try to represent our anger as something else: disappointment, sadness, peevishness, whatever. But I digress. I mean, I am angry, but mostly I'm surprised. If they've been discussing this, why didn't she say something when she showed me the room? It would have been the responsible thing to do, and she seems (for all of the mess and so forth) to be a pretty responsible person. I don't know.

So, it looks like I jump back into the scary Craig's List pool. Sigh. Princess will have a guest room open soon, and ArchitectX's roommate is moving out to get married, so I have a couple of gracious offers to consider. And I can always sleep in my studio if it comes to it, although I prefer not to. I can't help but think that there's a message in this that I'm not hearing yet.

Other than seeing a cat get hit by a car, which was horrible and haunted me all day (why, if you know you've hit an animal, do you drive away? Bastards. Props to the older gentleman who did stop and scoop up the cat and promise to take it to the SPCA), yesterday was a much bigger and better day than today has proven to be. There was enough material in yesterday to cut out three whole regular days. The kids' class went really well in the morning--my students are really much better aikidoists than they think they are, and Big D was helping me out, which was great. He's 200+ pounds, shaved head, wide as a barn door, and totally sweet. He's also a really good uke (attacker) for me to demonstrate the effectiveness of aikido, because he's a fair bit larger than I am, so when I throw him it looks impressive. We made it through class without having to play the dreaded 'Warball', and they were asking good questions. In a few weeks, on the last day of class, I'm going have their parents come on the mat, and have the kids teach their parents how to roll--I expect it to be a very entertaining morning. Then I went over to the Fat Chance Belly Dance studio to buy a set of zills and a choli top; they have all sorts of awesome books and videos and so forth, and I had to restrain myself.

Speaking of which, not having to work last night meant that I could do both of Jill's classes--beginning and intermediate--which felt totally luxurious. We spent some time experimenting with floorwork in the intermediate class, and while my knees are pretty sore today, it was really interesting. She's showing things in the advanced classes that she doesn't in the beginning class, and I can see that this will continue to be a complex and vexing study--which makes me happy. She had us break into small groups and develop short choreographies where we got to the floor (harder than aikido, although the latter does actually help a bit), did something there, and then came back up. Then we had to show what we had to the rest of the group, which wasn't nearly as nervewracking as I expected, and our classmates made the supportive noises and the zaghareets and so on. Then she taught us something that involved swinging our heads around with our hair loose, which defies description when she does it and made me dizzy and ecstatic when I did it.

There's a debate raging on med-dance, the Middle Eastern Dance listserv, about authenticity and culture and so on. I've stayed out of it, mostly because I'm studying with one of the more cutting-edge teachers and feeling almost personally attacked by all the dancers who say what we're doing (tribal/fusion/industrial/gothic/flamenco-influenced/whatever) is killing the form. Oh, please. I just finished reading Palace Walk, the first book in Naguib Mahfouz's Cairo trilogy (set around World War I), and while I am interested in and respectful of Arabic culture, I don't understand people who seem to believe that we need to be slavish in our replication thereof. I mean, Amina (the mother of the family) is threatened with divorce because she dared to leave the house when her husband was away so she could go to the shrine of a beloved saint to make obeisance. The women wait to eat until after the men have finished. The women who dance the form from which ours is drawn are generally understood to be lower than 'ladies', no matter how gracious, refined, and self-reliant they were. Do we need to replicate all of that as well as making sure our costumes and movements are perfectly authentic? And do I need to point out that we're Americans, dancing here, with our own histories of movement and culture? We're not going to move the same way, the music doesn't necessarily stir us in the same way (how many bellydancers know the words of the songs they dance to? Although many do admittedly make an effort to find out), we're not dancing in the same settings in front of the same people.

I know I'm making a rather absurd argument here. But bellydance isn't even specifically, purely, Arabic; the gypsies initiated it. Belly dance and flamenco share roots. The Tsingano, to whom I am tangentially connected, were as responsible for its manifestation as the Egyptians or the Turkish or the Lebanese. So should we be making sure that we're doing it exactly like the gypsies, who themselves adjusted what they were doing according to taste, whim, and audience? I appreciate the poster who says bellydance isn't a ladder with narrow rungs where we have to step on fellow dancers to rise; it's a series of wide plateaus with room for everyone.

Anyway. Later I got a chance to show what I've learned when I went to see my buds the Red Elvises at Slim's, and they played "I Wanna See You Bellydance", a song I've been dancing to on stage for, what, five years now? I'd had this idea that I was going to do something relatively polished, but of course that went all to heck, surrounded by cables and amps and the new drummer's kit and of course all the other people who wanted to shake their hips with Oleg and Igor and Oleg (yes, they now have TWO Olegs, an embarrassment of riches). I was also right behind Igor, who was wearing a pretty wide zebra-print suit, so if anyone could see me besides the drummer, I'd be amazed. So I danced with the other crazed audience members (including several guys, which was a nice change) and tried to build on what they were doing, and was entirely too conscious of a postural problem Jill had identified earlier in the day, and had a good time. Slice did turn out to be there, which I'd expected and braced myself for, but I didn't see him until after the show. Oddly enough, Bride of Slice wasn't there with him, but her friend was--"are you the stunt double?" I asked, managing to stop myself from asking if she was the body double--we all chatted nicely for a moment; he and I said nothing about the whole wedding registry ugliness, he didn't mention the wedding and I didn't ask. So. Better than expected. And then I went and hung out with the guys until about four, which mostly consisted of watching other people trying to impress them (including an insanely long story about how this one fella smoked out Jimi Hendrix's bass player at the Boom Boom Room) and wishing I had some Doritoes to go with my cerveza.

I think I've written before that it's sort of a struggle dancing socially now, because every time I'm out on the floor I'm thinking about stuff like my posture, or how a certain move will work, or practicing a turn. The first time I noticed this, I was dancing to house music with PRobot in a gay club, and I was able to stop caring what I looked like in motion because house is so forgiving. I'm trying to not worry about this, that my natural intuitive form might suffer from the domestifying effects of dance classes; eventually I usually relax enough to get out into the wild places. I have a plan for Burning Man 2004; I want to go out onto the playa with a big rug and a boombox and just dance, intuitively, for hours. Until I drop, maybe. I'll have a thermos of iced tea to share with anyone who comes by to watch or dance with me. This is a little different than dancing in one of the clubs, mostly because I'll have chosen my own music, and because I don't want to be enclosed. It's like the '50 drawings' exercise my drawing teacher gave us years ago. We set up a still life, and had to make fifty drawings of it without changing the arrangement of the objects. We could change everything else: our perspective, our materials, whatever. The idea was that after we had exhausted everything we thought we could do with the set-up, we would have to dig deeper to find something new, and we might be surprised by what we found.

I think about '50 Drawings' a lot. It's a great exercise, and can be applied to so many other things.