In a nutshell the whole week was fabulous, and the challenge I was looking for to push forward my dancing technically and creatively. I also had such fun just talking and hanging out with people, eating and drinking, and sharing a room with Rachael who brought lots of laughs! I am also glad to report that logistically the weekend went pretty much smoothly and we got to where we needed to be on time. I’m not someone who is used to travelling much so I am always pleasantly surprised when I get to where I need to be without delay or hassle :P
But now, on to the content!
First off: Rachel Brice was absolutely lovely, very grounded and authentic. Funny too, she is always cracking jokes! I wasn’t brave enough to actually talk to her one on one, but her personality shined through her teaching. She lead us through some challenging technique drills and combos over the three days including layering and doing movements suuuuper slowly (which also make them super hard!). For me this really highlighted how I need to keep working on the basics, and that I need to change up how I practice them to make things more challenging for myself.
The basics are the foundation and it is important to be able to do the main isolations with travelling patterns AND at various speeds. Oh, and with arm patterns too. So yep, loads to work on here! Like Rachel said, it is easy to take these kind of moves for granted once you start to progress (hip bump, anyone?). But to get them looking as sharp as they should be they need to be drilled on a regular basis and perfected. We also covered a gorgeous combination which I shall definitely be using elements from.
Her Saturday workshop was also very challenging, which tested my layering abilities! I did pretty well until it started getting super fast… yup, most stuff to practice…
On to the other teachers. Basically, Ashley Lopez is just some kind of multi-talented superwoman. Her class really inspired me to start working differently on my fitness levels and body muscle balance. I do the same strengthening workout DVD each week but I need to add more variety. I really want to start taking regular yoga or pilates classes now. I am not sure which though. I asked her specifically which to go for if the budget was only available for one, and she said that it depends on the needs of the person, their goals and finding a good teacher. I have done some pilates before in jazz classes, and I know that my jazz teacher hates yoga (lol). But I am thinking for my belly dance goals, that yoga might be worth giving a try for a few months. I want to start incorporating floorwork and backbends in to what I do so yoga seems appropriate for this. Yoga classes are definitely easier to come by where I live and seem to be a bit cheaper too.
I loved the choreography we did with her, it was very fast paced with a focus on musicality. Her tips on floorwork explained a lot of things I hadn’t covered yet. I can’t wait to start applying some of the things I learned! Maybe I will be able to do a zipper someday after this instruction :D
Her masterclass was…. mind-blowing. Honestly, if you ever get a chance to have some performance coaching from Ashley then do it. The things she picked up on and the suggestions she gave transformed how the soloists performed and made them so much more effective and engaging. With my solo piece, she gave me tips to bring out characterisation and enhance story telling. I’m not sure if I will end up working on/dancing that piece further (I picked it because I needed a short song I could improv too as due to neck injury I couldn’t work on choreography) but I will most definitely bare in mind all her suggestions for future, not only to myself but to other members of the group.
Samantha’s class was a welcome creative-based class on the Friday, when we had been focusing on technique for the past 3 days! This was an enjoyable workshop which gave me some more tools for choreographing and changing up my movements and creating fresh combinations, leading with different body parts. I am going to try and create some new combos and movement patterns using this technique more regularly, as I think it was a useful way to work to break out of habitual patterns. At the end we were in groups, put our new individual combinations together and made a little performance, which we then showed the rest of the class. Lots of beautiful movement!
I also got some good tips from Sam’s nooks and crannies workshop on the Saturday. Notably the importance of warming up the face, hands and feet before performing! In my last performance I noticed my hands were limp and a bit twitchy, and it really bothered me looking back at the video (why I haven’t shared it, in fact). So I hope to avoid this in future >_<
The final workshop I took was Mat Jacob’s ‘Big Freeze’. This was a seriously badass workshop, where we used ideas from 'The Matrix’ in slowing down and speeding up movements, adding intention, intensity and dynamics. It was just so much fun, and again I am excited to use these ideas in how I move! Mat is a fun teacher and she breaks things down well. I also like how she paces her class, she gives enough time to digest information and builds on things gradually and step by step. Love her, I am so glad I took a chance and booked her workshop (she was a 'secret teacher’) because I got a ton out of it.
So those were the workshops :) The other participants were additionally very friendly and supportive. I was a bit nervous before I went as I could see that many of the others had performed internationally and were teachers themselves back in their home countries. I still feel like quite a newbie to this dance. As long time readers will know I only started performing solo this year. I was a little shy in talking, and I wish I had networked more but I’m glad I did talk to the people I did, they were down to earth and nice and just a pleasure to spend time with. I hope I see them again at other events and festivals!
Right so, a special mention has to go the Friday Main show. It was the best bellydance/tribal fusion show I’d ever seen, the standard was so high. Alexis’ Juniper project were the perfect show opener and I was so happy to see friends dancing and enjoying the performance and doing their thing! If I had to pick other highlights: My favourites were the London based trio Agua Doce, (who were so elegant and flowed effortlessly), Orchidacae who BLEW MY MIND (look them up, urban tribal fusion and hip-hop, a crew of 10 women moving perfectly in sync with crazy stylization and dynamics), Ashley Lopez (who is just a powerhouse performer) and of course Rachel Brice. The woman who inspired so many of us to start this style of dancing. She oozes charisma and seeing her live was breath taking. The lighting for her set emphasised her dance and added that extra atmospheric beauty. SUPERB!
The Cafe Infusion show was also very, very good. The standard again, was very high and I loved seeing so much variety in the acts. Lamia Barbara headlined and she glows and has such a strong presence. I wasn’t able to take any workshops with her this time around but I hope to someday.
I would also like to note that before the Cafe show I bought my first 'proper’ tribal fusion belt from the Tribal Temptress. It’s just…. umph, so STUNNING and I NEED to perform so I can wear it soon! <3
Phew… well I think those are all the main points covered! It was a challenging week for sure, but very inspiring too. In many ways dance has been difficult this past year, feeling a sense of disconnect from the community at large and having to prioritise the classes and experiences that I felt would benefit me most, even if they weren’t really the norm. I feel like I have achieved a lot this year and this intensive gave me a glimpse of where I can take things next year.
Up until Christmas I will continue with my jazz classes and work on the new things I took from this week. I will be making damn sure I warm up properly from here on out to avoid any injuries again. There’s one or two workshops coming up in London which should also give me a few more bits to think about and work on. I may try and take the occasional drop in yoga class to try it. And obviously Datura Online too ;)
In terms of dance classes for 2015 I am still thinking it over. Watch this space I guess! I will start choreographing again Jan 2015 though ;) Thanks for reading :)
I’m back in London! Glad to be home but I’m not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. But I do still have today so I want to make the most of it and write about the Infusion Emporium Intensive experience whilst it’s all still fresh.
I’m not really sure how I can do it justice but it’s worth a go!
First of all, I just want to note that thankfully my neck injury has now subsided and it was fine throughout the week. So relieved. Thank you Mr. Physio, life saver.
The longest intensive I’d done up until this point was 2 days. So this was a very new experience for me and I wasn’t quite sure how I would do physically and mentally with a 4 day intensive, then a few extra stand alone workshops on Saturday and Sunday too. Day 3 was definitely the hardest one, I powered through it but felt more numb then anything. I learnt a lot from the classes but I think at that point I was definitely physically beat! Funnily Enough by day 4 I felt LOADS better, so I think I definitely hit that wall then worked though it. I’ve heard from other friends as well that for some reason the third day feels like most of a struggle, but if you keep going it gets better.
For this post I just want to make a note of the content for my future references. I have taken the descriptions from www.infusionemporium.com . Please see my next post for my thoughts on the experience!
Rachel Brice: Level changes, Spins, and Floating Footwork -
Learn Rachel’s newest sequences and approaches to conditioning and movement in this intensive geared toward the intermediate belly dancer. After a strengthening practice, we’ll delve into the tribal fusion approach to isolations, carefully learn combinations, and end with a deep stretching practice. Combinations will include backbends, level changes and spinning practices, but participants are encouraged to go at their own pace in a challenging, yet supportive environment.
Tuesday AM – 10:30-1:30 Wednesday PM – 12:30-3:30 Thursday AM – 10-1
Ashley Lopez: Core-relation, Floortastic Floorwork, Choreography and The Masterclass –
In the beginning, we will awaken, align and stabilize. The training that you do to improve your trunk strength has a massive effect on your balance, ability to turn well and do safe backbends and body rolls or undulations. Let’s also mention the importance of range of motion through the core (think circles and figure-eights in the hips and chest.) So we’ll start off at the heart of it all: At the CORE. We’ll begin with a few gentle exercises designed to build body awareness in alignment and posture while warming up our deep stabilizing “core” muscles, then move into an intense mat workout designed to strengthen the abdominals, back, glutes, and hips—all while applying those mindful postural principles. Training on the mat will evolve into standing dance drills as we discuss moving from the centre and creating energy for bellydance from, well, your belly!! This workshop will give you the tools you need to implement essential exercises and dance drills for core strength that will inspire an edge in your dance.
Armed with a powerful core and the knowledge of alignment and stability, we come down to explore the realm of the floor: a world that opens up endless possibilities to embellish our dance. We will start with some fabulous stretching and strength-building exercises derived from yoga and Pilates. Then we’ll explore a few dance sequences and poses that are especially scrumptious on the floor, with an emphasis on how to smoothly transition from up to down and back up again. Modifications will be offered to accommodate a wide range of abilities. Some of these poses and sequences may be applied to a choreography later in the week.
It’s about to get quite strange, my friends. Here’s a choreography that stimulates the intellect and indulges the imagination. Delve into a bizarre world of broken beats and beautiful oddities. A dance that will take you out of your comfort zone, that will require you to try some different movement principles, that blends the bizarre and futuristic with a dark and lovely ancient twist. Be prepared for a little floor work (bring knee pads), come with an open mind and heart and get ready to find new ways to express yourself through movement. Now is the time to apply all of the knowledge you’ve gotten from your classes this week.
Traditionally, a master class is a laboratory: an intimate, safe environment in which students are offered an opportunity to perform, observe, experiment, discuss, and grow. This is a tradition borrowed from the theater and opera worlds: a select number of students prepare a piece to perform for the workshop instructor and their fellow students. The instructor then proceeds to coach the student, giving them cues for dramatic interpretation or discussing technical details, for all spectators to observe and learn from. Occasionally exercises will be practiced by the entire group. Be sure to bring something with which to take notes. This will be an intensive learning experience!
Using different body parts to initiate movement you will create your own combinations and experiment with new tools for choreography works. Includes solo and group work.
Building on an original combination, experiment with dynamic ideas for creating interesting movement patterns and shapes to add to your existing Belly Dance vocabulary. Samantha will share games and ideas based on fresh research, guiding you in a safe and fun environment.
Friday AM – 10 – 1
Alexis Southall: Breaking Bad – Dancing Around Our Habits
Even the most experienced dancers can develop habits and movement patterns that inhibit their performance quality and versatility. This workshop will work through common habits bellydancers tend to develop in an effort to break through embedded biomechanics and into improved technical ability and expression. We will use this workshop to fine tune common problems such as problem hands, what to do with your arms, clean up and balance out isolations, and training your non-dominant side. The workshop includes a short choreography that forces us to train our opposite sides, outside in and inside out!
It’s been a loooong week and a bit without any dancing! But my shoulder is loads better :) I’m confident it’s going to be fine. I’m going to take this weekend off too just to make sure its fully settled, then ease back in to dancing/exercise slowly sometime next week. Been using this break time to think about new dance goals, classes and what exactly I want to do. There’s lots of tribal fusion options now on the London scene which is brilliant. I think the break has done me good, as its made me re-evaluate how I’ve been training and how I want to move forward.
I haven’t come to any conclusions yet, but, as the Rachel Brice, Ashley Lopez and Samantha Emanuel Intensive is now only around 3 weeks away *SQUEAL* I just want to focus on preparing for that, and taking good care of my shoulder. I also have jazz classes booked until Christmas so I will see those through.
I am hoping that the intensive will clarify some things for me and inspire me in how I want to proceed in dance. After this I am hoping I will be able to choose/decide what I want to focus my time and money on in terms of practice, classes and mentors.
I plan to take plenty of notes, photos and also blog about the whole week! I will probably do all this on paper as the week goes on then type out/upload when I return. So please do follow me here if you would like a peep in to the experience!
By some kind of crazy stroke of luck I managed to get on the Soul Movement Intensive at the Infusion Emporium Event, later this year! So… I will be training for 4/5 days with none other than… Rachel Brice, Ashley Lopez and Samantha Emanuel! I’m so grateful to Alexis Southall for bringing this to the UK
I just feel SO ready for this. As anyone reading regularly will know, its been a bit of a struggle motivation wise so far this year, but I have kept up practice and slowly just keep going. But now I have this as another goal and I feel rejuvenated. I know that this is what I need in my dance, I am ready for it, and I want to get the most out of it that I can.
I sent my registration email at 12pm today, then I thought, well I’ve booked the day off work. I might as well dance! I did two hours of just improv and stretching, and I really enjoyed it. So clearly this is something I just need to do more instead of drilling and choreography. The last few weeks doing jazz dance has also really inspired more movement and step work, and thought on shapes and lines. It’s awesome. So I just have to keep going, keep slowly working at my choreography (I added a little more to it today, aiming to get a lot more done this weekend!). I am so close to finishing it now, theres just the end section to work out. Just. Keep. Going!
My boyfriend edited my track for me, it took all of about 60 seconds. For some reason I thought this was going to be hard? But he is very good at tech and knows what he is doing, unlike myself. But now I have no reason not to finish my choreography. I basically just have to do the last 45 seconds.
I managed to find a lovely skirt for my costume, and hopefully a bra too, which will need to decorate. So its coming together :)
To be honest though I am still struggling motivation wise, it comes and goes. Although still getting stuff done. Which I guess is commendable! Think I need to practice more improv to find my enjoyment again. Also need to find another class I think, to keep inspired. Though I am loving jazz on Mondays. I really wish I had started it sooner! I leave every week feeling more confident and improved.
Infusion Emporium (UK) workshops with Rachel Brice/Ashley Lopez/Sam Emanuel bookings open next week, I’m pretty much dying to get on them! Fingers crossed. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford going abroad to study with Rachel or Ashley in person, so although it feels expensive, compared to going to the US its by far better and may be my only opportunity to learn from these women any time soon! If I can get on those I won’t feel like I’ve gone the whole year without intensive study.