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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Great Gatsby Hafla, or My First Bellydance Solo (with Video! :^0)

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Great Gatsby Hafla, or My First Bellydance Solo (with Video! :^0)

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About a month ago, I was at dance class, stretching out with my instructor Jessica, and she mentioned an upcoming hafla (dance party) that she wanted me to consider performing in. I have been working with Florence, my fellow intermediate class dancer, on a raqs assaya* number for a few months. Florence, however, was going to be on her honeymoon during the hafla. Jessica said, "Well, I can dance the number with you." Then about five seconds passed, and she said, "Or you can dance it solo. You're ready for it."

*Raqs assaya is a traditional southern Egyptian dance that is performed with a cane.

I've skated solo many times in shows, but I've only been bellydancing for a little over two years, but why not? One has to start somewhere, and Jess assured me that this particular hafla was very casual and fun, and a mere intermediate like myself dancing solo would not be looked upon as inappropriate or weird. So I agreed. (Solo is actually easier than dancing with someone else because you do not have to worry about sticking strictly to the choreography, minding your spacing in relation to another person/people, or staying in-sync with them.)

I have been off-and-on regretful about that for the past month, not because I was worried or nervous about dancing solo but because 1) the very next week is when I pulled my piriformis, which took me fully out of dance for a week and very tentative for the week after that with some lingering effects even now, and 2) I have been ridiculously busy, so the time for regular practice, including videoing and critiquing myself, just wasn't there. Know when I finally got to video myself doing the dance in costume? Yesterday afternoon in our cramped, low-ceilinged basement. :^| Ah well.

Yesterday was ridiculously rainy, and the studio, which was located in a business park, was hard to find in the dark. We had to keep driving up and down the divided highway, trying one driveway after another and, when that wasn't the one, driving back down the highway, making a U-turn, and trying again. I will admit that, in that moment, as the clock crept perilously close to the time I was due at the hafla, I said out loud that I wished I hadn't agreed to it.

But that was short-lived. We found the place eventually, and I had an awesome time. I am nowhere near satisfied with the dance as it is, but as I watch the video, I am also not cringing in horror. I did a decent job for someone who has only been dancing (in this form anyway) for two years. And, yes, it was ridiculously fun. I love performing and always have. (Take that, tumblrites who think that introversion = social anxiety!) Jessica asked me if I was nervous, and I said, "Eh ... no." She laughed and said I was Zen. She insists I am the most laid-back person she knows. (Which is funny because I so rarely feel laid-back at all!)

Me and my instructor Jessica (Halima). Proof that I can put on makeup and shine up real nice when I want to. :D

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The theme of the hafla was holidays and Great Gatsby. My number fit neither theme. (I wasn't the only one!) Jessica did a 1920s number and then a more traditional drum solo; she rocked.

All of the dancers, serious and then silly. One of the things I love about bellydance is its acceptance of all women, no matter their age, looks, shape, or size. It is an art form that shows that beauty is not limited to the unrealistic expectations of the fashion industry. This particular hafla also included all ability levels, from beginners to pros.

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And last but not least, the video of my dance.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • Looks like you had a fantastic time! I loved the costume you wore. :) Everyone looks so stunning and happy to be there.
  • Congrats on your first solo! That looks like such fun. You did a wonderful job, and you look quite composed throughout. Love the cane!

    I love performing and always have. (Take that, tumblrites who think that introversion = social anxiety!)

    I hope you'll pardon me while I tangent a bit off this. I really, REALLY dislike the attitude that introversion and social anxiety are synonymous (certainly they can articulate in interesting ways, e.g. in my case I suspect I'd be rather less introverted if I actually didn't have sometimes crippling anxiety about being around people, but I'd still be introverted!). And even more, I dislike the assumption that either introversion OR social anxiety = performance anxiety and/or lack of performance skills. I love performing and don't get nervous about it; what I DO get nervous about is casual social situations, particularly with strangers whom I don't know whether I have anything in common with. It rankles the hell out of me when people automatically assume I can't act/sing/lecture/whatever, and by the same token I've seen many very talkative people freeze up and falter when made to do such things. /rant
    • Thank you! I used to freestyle rollerskate. Performing a solo then was much more nerve-wracking, especially since they always liked to wax the floor before the show so it'd be shiny, never mind that my skates would slide sideways on it. (Fun fun fun landing jumps on that!) So I feel like bellydancing is a big step down in the nerve-wracking department, hence some of the composure, anyway. ;)

      I hope you'll pardon me while I tangent a bit off this.

      Consider yourself pardoned. :D This topic is a pet peeve of mine. Lately, it seems that introverts are getting a lot of love, and by "love" I mean meticulous explanations of how best to tiptoe around them, both in the mainstream media and in popular conversation. Introversion is a personality, not a pathology! I test as 100% introvert. I am also not shy (although I tend to be reserved in groups where I don't know most of the people), not socially anxious, don't get stage fright, and certainly am not fucking meek. I've been performing in music and dance/skating for most of my life, I teach for a living, and I have an active social life thankyouverymuch.

      Part of me was grateful when introverts started waving their hands and saying, "Hey, we exist!" because I was getting rather sick of education and professional settings being geared toward extroverts all the time and "people person" being held up as a virtue rather than one of many personality traits among a diverse human species. But *sigh* it went a step too far when people started treating introversion like it required special treatment or like they were victims or mistreated because they were introverts.

      I want to be treated with respect as an individual. I want my employers, for example, to understand that everyone's strength doesn't lie in spending the day in collaboration with others and that, even though I'm not a "people person," I still have a lot to offer. (More than most "people people" in my chosen profession, I'd wager.) But I don't need special treatment, and I don't need to declare my personality type at the top of my social media profiles like it's the A-number-one thing people should know about me, and I don't need to see a personality trait belonging to a third to half of the population treated like a disease. /rant
      • Performing a solo then was much more nerve-wracking, especially since they always liked to wax the floor before the show...

        Fun times. "Well, the performers all broke something, but at least it was shiny!"

        Re: introversion etc.

        I suspect those things that go around on FB like "how to care for your introvert" or whatever may have been well-intended, but yeah, it does kind of frame it as though it's an abnormal condition. Introverts + internet probably has a lot to do with the "we exist!" thing. The internet is a good place to, well, be with people and not be with people at the same time, if that makes sense. Like, in a way I'm socializing while writing this comment and in a way I'm not because I'm happily sitting in my room by myself; this kind of non-physically-present social activity is something I can carry out on my own time/terms, and that suits. Online's an easier place to soapbox from, too. Now it's almost faddish to be an introvert online.

        And "not being a people person" definitely is not something that is always correctly understood. I've had strangers look at me funny when I say I'm introverted, as though I've just said I kick puppies in my spare time, and say "You don't SEEM introverted." And then, as you mention, with employment...that's a can of worms I won't bust open right now.

        I do often put my personality (if you're talking the MBTI) on my profiles, but the "I" part of the equation is the least of my reasons for that. I get underestimated so often due to a lot of factors (stature, looking way younger than I am, temperament), that I find "INTJ" a comforting shorthand to "probably actually way smarter than you [the general you]". Even if not everyone knows what the hell the letters mean. It helps keep me from saying something rude or overexplaining myself in profiles.

        Also, I'm snickering at my use of the rather equivocal term "performance anxiety" in my last comment. Stage fright, yeah, that. =P
        • "Well, the performers all broke something, but at least it was shiny!"

          Dawn: Why did you wax the floor the weekend before the show?

          People: Because it looks so nice now with the lights on it!

          Dawn: It's going to look super extra nice with all the blood that's going to be on it too!

          (We did actually have a girl break her arm once while simply standing in line during the finale. She slipped and fell on a lightbox. Oops.)

          I suspect those things that go around on FB like "how to care for your introvert" or whatever may have been well-intended

          I think they probably are too. And they are inspired, at least in part, I suspect, by the fact that a lot of extroverts are completely clueless where their introverted friends are concerned. But it also smacks of overcorrection.

          Like, in a way I'm socializing while writing this comment and in a way I'm not

          I totally agree. I like that I can respond on my own terms to things. I don't have to respond right away, and I have "think time" to figure out how I want to respond. (As an ed student, I remember being taught that, to make the classroom friendlier to introverts, to allow a few seconds after asking a question before taking responses.)

          I do often put my personality (if you're talking the MBTI) on my profiles

          I was thinking of the people on Tumblr for whom it is literally the first thing they say about themselves! :D I've written about mine (INFJ ... only one off from yours! ;) here before too. Mostly because I think I am the only human, in the Western world anyway, who made it 30 years without knowing what mine was and it was kind of cool when I did find out.
  • Congratulations on your solo! I'm glad you had a wonderful time.

    (Ah, yes, the introversion = social anxiety = no performing thing is such a complex mess. Even when I didn't have anxiety, I was still introverted and never wanted to perform.)
    • Thank you! :)

      I get annoyed when introversion (a personality trait) gets conflated with shyness/meekness/awkwardness (completely different personality traits) or, lord help us all, social anxiety disorder (a psychopathology). I don't know if introverts experience social anxiety disorder more than extroverts; I'd guess that they probably do. But that still doesn't make them the same, and the "Woe is me, I am an introvert!!" attitude is very annoying. I don't need special treatment as an introvert; I need the same respect one would grant to anybody, which (to me) begins with the assumption that my personality is not a pathology. Social anxiety disorder is owed accommodation and support. But introversion?? Nope.
    • Popping up for a second - and I may be completely off base here, so people with more than one semester of neuroscience should come and correct me - but as it was explained to me, one theory of introversion is that introverts and extroverts have a different strength of connection (or maybe it was a different connection) between the amgydala and the frontal cortex, so it could be introverts experience social anxiety disorder more not because of the introversion, but because of the increased wiring of fear (amygdala) to "oh shit, I better think about this" (frontal cortex).

      The weird thing is, I find describing myself as an introvert is more likely to get me accommodation than my real and diagnosed anxiety disorder. Which freaking pisses me off. (Don't get me on this subject. We just finished presenting our senior research, and one girl did hers over self-harm and suicidal thoughts. My professors are utterly shocked at the results, many students are sitting here going "So we're supposed to be utterly perfect and on top of things, never get a break, even once we are at the top it's a constant competition to remain there, you want us to find money to go to conferences, and we're never allowed to cry over any of this. ...so, umm, what exactly did you all think was going to be the result? Happy feelings everywhere?!")
      • I absolutely think there is a likely correlation between introversion and social anxiety. I had neuroanatomy more than ten years ago--I can't even begin to speculate as to the neurological basis for it! XD One could reason, though, that introverts seek out social interaction less (because they need it less) and so have fewer opportunities to practice and, therefore, may not develop social skills as easily and may have more traumatic experiences that could cause social anxiety to become more of an issue over time. I would have self-identified as shy when I was a kid (I don't know if I met the diagnostic criteria for social anxiety or not ... but I suspect I fit more of it than I do now) and had to deliberately observe and study human interactions in my adolescence and young adult years to be able to mimic the comfort with social interactions that I'd missed learning in my lonely youth.

        As a one-time psych person, stress and unhappiness =/= self harm and suicidal ideation. I can see the professor's concern. College is stressful and always has been (and professors know that, having been through more of it than probably 99% of the population), but if someone is harming themselves or thinking about it, they need to get themselves to campus counseling like yesterday.
        • I'm doing it this semester! I love it and wish I could take more! But it doesn't fit into my schedule. I think that could be part of it as well, though I've certainly met extroverts with extreme social anxiety (which is weird, but it totally happens. One of my professors was apparently that way as a child).

          I can see the professor's concern too and know they're not the same things, but at the same time, it's fairly obvious to most students that it's not just normal stress. I know that I've sat in professors offices and told them "I am up at midnight and 4 am tutoring people, because you all keep telling us these things, and people literally think that if they don't pass this class, they might as well die, because their life is worthless". It's just...I get that stress isn't the same thing. But living in this department, with all the stress and fear, we all talk. And it's been a repeated thing I've begged people to take note of for a year or so now. Not to help students, but just to be aware that the constant "We want you all to be anxious about this!" isn't helping anything.

          Of course, our campus counseling situation is complicated that they're only open Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, and are located in the main campus building in a glass office...so exactly the things that don't work for panicking students, along with the fact that they tend to dismiss students as just needing to accept that they're fine when they come in and have good grades (which is bullshit, and has happened to way too many of my friends. "Oh, you have a 3.91 GPA and are on track to graduate on time, you're fine. You know you're better than most students, right? Come back if things start to really go downhill.") It's just a mess.
          • Brooke, could you email or PM me please? I've sent you a few emails about the HASA rescue with info I need from you, and you haven't responded, so I'm assuming that you're not receiving them. Thanks. :)
            • PMing you now (and then going to pound my head into a wall). Because now I have the feeling that if I haven't gotten your emails, you haven't gotten mine either.
    • Yes! Dear god, yes! My introversion has nothing to do with my anxiety. Rather, the anxiety makes leaving the house for my writers' group, etc. hard. They are not the same fucking thing.

      The only "special" treatment I need is for people to stop treating me like I'm an extravert or that there's something wrong with me for not being one. In other words: basic respect.
  • Congrats on your first solo, Dawn.
    This looks like so much fun, and I liked the choreography.
    Who created it?

    Your custom is beautiful. I love its colors and decoration both.
    I was just trying to imagine myself doing your movements while I watched.
    It looks hard. I started once for a very short time to learn bellydance, so this brought back some nice memories.
    • Thank you so much, Scarlet! My teacher, Halima, did the choreography. Actually, she performed this dance herself last year at a different holiday-themed hafla. So I was flattered that she thought my dance partner and I were experienced enough to tackle it. :)

      Aww, I had no idea you danced! :D I think bellydance is deceptively simply. It looks really easy. My teacher complains a lot that people think that standing up and shaking their bodies makes them bellydancers. I freestyle rollerskated for many, many years. The moves and techniques were much bigger and dramatic ... and dangerous! Even when I go to the rink now, people will remark on how I skate because even simple moves look impressive, whereas most people look at a shimmy and think, "I can do that." Yet I feel like bellydance is more difficult in a lot of ways. It requires isolating and using individual muscle groups, and then layering all of those moves on top of each other, i.e., shimmying the hips, rolling the ab muscles, and doing an arm/hand motion while also doing a travel step. I honestly wish I had started studying this dance form twenty years ago, as it would have probably made me a much better skater too.
  • You are very good.
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