Thursday, September 11, 2008

Report from the Double Trouble Workshop

Life has been keeping me so busy that I haven't had the opportunity to post about the Double Trouble Workshop hosted by the ladies of Dancers' Oasis on August 24th. It was exactly what a workshop should be in my opinion: a few hours packed with a whole lot of fun and knowledge.

The first segment was dedicated to double veils. Going into the workshop I wasn't sure exactly how this topic would be explored since I've seen different types of double veil performances, all I really knew was that it was involving two semi-circular veils.

I have a rather ambivalent attitude towards the use of veils in bellydance. On one hand I think they are fun to twirl around for my own personal amusement, but on the other hand I'm typically not fond of veil performances. I'm drawn to bellydance by the technique: fluid undulations, sharp and percussive pops and locks, precise muscular control and isolations, and reverberating shimmies. Honestly in most veil performances the focus ends up being on the veil itself and less on the movements of the dancer, although ideally they should be equal partners in the dance. Sometimes I think veils and other props are used to try to distract from or even hide poor technique. Veils can be very pretty, but for the most part I don't find veil dances to be engaging on a personal level.

The two sorts of double veil pieces I've encountered have either been languid, slow dances where the two veils were used almost like Isis wings: each veil comprising a "wing" by being tucked into the belt while the other end was held with the fingers as in single veil work, and a decidedly more energetic dance à la Petite Jamilla of BDSS fame. Her double veil performance on the Live in Paris at the Folies Bergere DVD was the first one to really catch my eye and show me that veilwork can be fast-paced and exciting. Thankfully the workshop focused on the second sort of double veil dancing. Unfortunately, my spinning tolerance is extremely low and I have practically no experience spotting. Suffiya mentioned that it took her three years of practice to be able to spin for three minutes straight, and I think it may take me even longer. Surprisingly (at least for me), I did fairly well with the techniques which were taught. The class was co-taught by Suffiya and one of her troupe-mates (I cannot remember her name offhand and I feel badly about it, I'll have to check my notes again!) who is acclimating to spinning for longer periods of time, and they were really great.

I went into the double veil workshop a bit uneasy, but left with a higher regard for these flowing sweeps of fabric. I even purchased a set of matching silk veils in gorgeous peacock colors. Too bad my small apartment doesn't afford me with enough room to really spin to their full potential.

There was a break after the double veil workshop for a yummy Middle Eastern lunch, and then the double fan-veil workshop began. Suffiya was the first dancer I had seen to perform with fan-veils so it seemed appropriate that my first instruction in their use was taught by her.

I purchased two fan-veils prior to the workshop but unfortunately they ended up being both right-handed* so I could not use them. Luckily Suffiya had matching sets to borrow. My borrowed set proved to be a bit unwieldy and did not like to open and close cleanly, but despite that I was introduced to a lot of great techniques. I really appreciated the information provided on troubleshooting and what to do when the fan-veils get stuck or are otherwise misbehaving. There doesn't seem to be enough instructional material or advice available on what-to-do-when-something-goes-wrong on most DVDs, books, etc. I've been exposed to.

I really wanted to take classes with Suffiya prior to the workshop, but now even more so. Her enthusiasm is really contagious and I miss Cabaret style classes. I just need to find the right niche in my schedule which always seems to be in flux.

* I figured out a way to easily convert a right-handed fan-veil into a left-handed one, so not having a matching set no longer an issue now. I hope to post a little tutorial on how to do it for those with a similar dilemma!