Monday, June 6, 2011

Raaaaaachel Briiiiiiiiice!

I love this picture! Rachel Brice and Vorpal Shimmy! (I'm now an honorary member of Vorpal Shimmy. I live too far away to participate in practices, but I like to think that I provide valuable services in the area of brain storming, awesome music suggestions, moral support, and occasional emergency jewelry supplying) If you're wondering why the gentleman in the front row is holding up his cell phone, it's because he's displaying a picture of our friend Meghan who had to go to a wedding instead of spending the weekend at the workshops.

So, as you may have already gathered from my exhausted posts over the weekend, the workshops were pretty amazing. 10.5 hours over the course of three days, and pretty high-intensity stuff, too. I'd forgotten how good a deep muscular tiredness really feels (though it does make it hard to catch up on all the housework).

Let's start with Rachel Brice herself. It was a real treat to find out that not only is she a phenomenal dancer and a great instructor, she's just really nice and encouraging and fun to be around. I was especially touched by how she worked with the newer dancers in the workshop, helping them through the more challenging exercises. I also liked that on Saturday and Sunday morning, she asked us at the start of the classes if anyone had any specific issues they wanted to work on in the warm-up, then built a yoga practice around that.

After the yoga, we'd learn some combos and then do them at increasing speed for a good cardio workout. There wasn't a day that I didn't get drenched in sweat! I wish all belly dance classes were that intense, maybe then I'd be as slender as Rachel and all the other tribal fusion greats ;)

As it turns out, my favorite part of the workshops was the part that I was most apprehensive about -- building our own combos. I don't tend to think in terms of combos when I do improv, it's all about whatever the music tells me. So I didn't feel like I was really capable of developing combinations. But Rachel broke it down in a really sensible way, and she also had us work in pairs. It was really nice to be able to share ideas and brainstorm on sticky parts. On both days, I worked with my friend and Anaya classmate Jen (standing in the center of the back row in the above photo), which was great because not only do we have similar skills and vocabulary to draw from, but she has family here in Tucson and comes to visit sometimes, so we can get together and practice our combos in the future. I'm very excited about what we came up with!

Another thing that I enjoyed was the "Scales" which are series of belly dance moves to practice together, like a musician playing scales. They're the perfect way to grab a few minutes of practice here and there on a busy day. I definitely want to drill them until I remember them, so I can make use of them when I go on vacation later this year.

On Saturday night, there was a big show to go with the workshops. Rachel performed two pieces, and the rest of the show was filled with some of Arizona's best dancers, performing in a variety of styles. Pretty much every performance blew me away. I also got to see Eric Salazar and Bastet, from NM, who performed separate solos and a really beautiful duet piece. I'm pretty sure it was the first time I've seen a man and a woman perform a belly dance duet, and the dynamic was awesome (helped along by the fact that they're both great dancers and they had gorgeous costumes).

The picture above is from the meet-and-greet held after the show. Rachel Brice and a few of the other performers were on stage, chatting, signing, and posing for photos. I thought this was really nice as it gave people who weren't taking the workshops a chance to get a photo and a signature and talk a bit with the dancers.

All in all, I had a really amazing weekend. I learned so much at the workshops, I was delighted by Rachel Brice and her awesome business partner Sol (who handled the organizational details, merchandising, and putting out tasty snacks during the breaks!), and I got to spend time with friends that I see far too infrequently.


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