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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tribal Fusion Bellydance

Today I'm happy. Happy that it's finally done! Done with my first tribal fusion bellydance choreography plus all the hard and long rehearsals with dancers as well as the elaborately ornamented costumes. A week of both ecstasy & agony. What a journey.

Elaborate details fascinate me. But I think one needs to be psyched to contrive something perfect that it looked accidental. I call it art. To be naturally obsessive with the mission at hand, of course helps. Usually when I’m in the creative mode, I plunge into the zone and switch off from the rest of the world until the job is done. I become inaccessible to anything or anyone - nothing comes into me and nothing gets out of me, heh...literally. Workaholic to some, and yes, maybe psychotic to others.

And so tonight, the dancers performed it at our new restaurant Mandi-Mandi. Most times it’s hard to tell if what you imagined, something so elusive, would work effectively in reality. Especially when you got no chance for trial runs and no time for failure. It’s a transcendent situation, if you know what I mean. It therefore required lots of daydreaming but more importantly, lots of common sense. I just have to rely on power of my imagination, especially with the costume design and image creation, with some help from divine tribal bellydance goddesses like Rachel Brice & Sharon Kihara (my teacher).

Of course, above all, the dancers must be able to carry the performance and essentially the costumes well enough. Tonight’s show was therefore the show of the power of visualization.

The minute the dancers were done dressing up, it was as if sunlight had filtered through my heart’s darkest chamber. And I sighed with relief. They looked magnifiscent! Despite little imperfections, I could be sure all was not futile.

Truth be told, I may not have been totally satisfied with the way some of them had performed but I’m happy with the visual impact this dance have impinged on those watching it. It described my reveries. And tells the story I’ve crafted for Madonna’s Shanti/Ashtangi. There wasn't any another I could relate better... I remember once chanting this specific mantra before an Ashtanga yoga class.
I love the way Madonna had made it into her own. Love the dark spirituality of this song. That bit of grunge generated by the electric guitar so aptly complimented the image of my dance, as the girls had on that Sharon Kihara-inspired long black dreadlocks for the punk effect.

I love how the sense of drama in the visuals and the choreography enhanced the effect of Madonna's song. I feel’s funny, maybe it’s my enormous love and respect for Madonna that I find when choreographing to any number, especially from her Ray of Light album which in my opinion is her best yet, is a wicked task. Whatever steps I’m cooking up better not downplay the song. It has got to be done well and done right. This puts me in a wicked spirit.

The sense of newness always excites me. To begin with, this is a new dance style that is first of its kind in Malaysia. I mean, I’m not able to do those incredible undulations perfectly either so I substituted with a lot of isolations, body rolls and ripples instead, which are all common practice for most dancers. So at the least I expected a tight routine.
Ever heard of the saying ‘a good chime also needs a heavy beater to make it sound right’. So it all depends on how I tune the girls… this was deemed the toughest part of the entire teaching process. Mind over matter – tell your body to move this way, to not do that, to use this muscle and not that etc…

Then there’s the creation of costumes…between divine inspiration and primitive logic, there came something wonderful. I'm learning... learning from my queen of reinvention. I love the fact that somehow I was able to put all of my own precious hilltribe tapestries & jewelery collection to good use. I’m proud of that and it was great great fun creating each set using antique and tribal jewelery, some of which I’ve kept for years and refused to throw out even though I hardly wear them anymore. Others I’ve combined, inlaid with turquois and strung with red corals and black pearls. They turned out to be such charming embellishments, making each piece unique. This part of the creation process felt so personal it’s like a spiritual journey for me.

My hope was, the dancers see what I see once they put on the costumes; why they require a certain rare grace laced with sharpness in executing this particular tribal fusion bellydance routine, and why ineffectuality cannot exist...not when performing to Shanti. I'm sure they'll be better in the next show. Again, despite the flaws here and there, the late nights, sore back & tired feet and blistered fingertips, the torture has been worthy:)

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