August 31, 2004

August in Texas

Today, I got back from Austin, which is typically scorching hot in August. With a "cold front" and a few showers, the weather was not as unbearable as usual. There still is, however, a dramatic difference between the temperatures in London and Austin. Just standing in your garage in Austin will cause you to sweat profusely. In London, well, let's just say I had to put on a light jacket today.

People always ask me what I am in Austin for. Typically, it's work related or it was because I need to see my orthodontist. But now that my braces are off, I really don't have a compelling excuse to go home. Fortunately, I was between projects.

This time, my reason for going home was for me. There was a big workshop weekend in Dallas. So, I caught a ride with a few friends up to Dallas. There were so many big name dancers and musicians. It was so amazing to be in a room full of talent.

I, personally, do not like learning a choreography at workshops. I guess it is difficult for a teacher to come in and do something that will benefit everyone... make everyone feel like they got their money's worth. Teaching a choreography is the easiest thing to do. I think part of the problem is that all the classes are with students of different levels. While the more advanced dancers have already drilled over arabesques before, the novices ask basic questions that slow down the class.

At Fantasia, a Middle Eastern Dance festival in London, there are levels assigned to each workshop class. So, novices are less likely to take an advanced class. Sorry, but if I'm payinhg $60 for someone's time, I don't want anyone slowing me down.

In addition to the workshops during the days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday!), the evening were full of spectacular shows. Even though, I had signed up pretty late, I was able to get a spot in the Friday night show. I thoroughly enjoy dancing staged shows. I like performing for people who have made a conscious decision to come watch a live performance. Even more so, I like have a designated, well-lighted area to dance in... so I can make floor patterns and move around without the fear of bumping into someone.

Did you know that back in the 1970's belly dancers used to make a living off of just dancing? These days there are a few that might dance in a few restaurants a night, teach classes during the day, and have some other side business that help pay the bills. In the 1970's, people didn't have cable television or DVD's to entertain them at night; they went out for entertainment. Those days are obviously over. Part of it is also that there are more bellydancers now than ever. When there is a potential gig at a party or restaurant, an experienced and talented dancer may ask for $150. Whereas a less experienced dancer desparate to get whatever gig will go for much less. Don't sell yourselves short! If you are in need of experience, perform at festivals or shows. You know you are good when you set higher standards, higher rates.

I have definitely watched more musicals, shows, operas here in London than ever. Austin is the live music capital of the world... what about live dance?

So, what I'm trying to say is: "Go out! Support the arts, your friends, your friends' friends!"

Peace out,

Posted by oneray at 4:37 PM

August 6, 2004

Summer in the U.K.

It's been a while since I posted an entry. You can blame it on the weather making me hang out outside and travel, etc. It's lovely here in London during the summer. Much better than the 100 degrees (F) in Texas! The mornings are cool and the afternoons are warm. Today is one of those days.

The last time I wrote was in June. I've left an entire months worth of activities unrecorded. Let me try to recap the last few weeks so we can all stop wondering what I've been up to.

What has happened since June 24? Greece won the Eurocup. I think that was _very_ unexpected. Oh, now I remember. It's not just the wonderful summer weather that is keeping me from writing... I've been in Knowsley for the past 4 weeks! Weekdays in Knowsley and weekends in London. To get to Knowsley, take a Virgin train from London Euston station to Liverpool Lime Street station. Then take a 15 minute taxi ride from Liverpool to Knowsley. I'd like to call Knowsley the armpit of UK. If you ask anyone in the know, Knowsley is rated the poorest city in the UK. Poorest city probably means cheap property. So, large businesses have big offices there. In the evenings, if I get out in time, we would take a taxi into Liverpool and eat somewhere in the city center or out in Albert Dock. Albert Dock is where the Beatles Museum is. You can even take tours that show you places like Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. I have not been fortunate enough to spend quality time in Liverpool yet.

The second weekend in July, I went to Frankfurt. I needed to be out of the UK for at least 48 hours for work permit processing, and my friend Jon was going to be in Frankfurt for work. So, it was nice to make a trip to a new city. My passport is filling up. I don't have much to say about Frankfurt. There was the Maritim Hotel with a dry sauna and pool, big train station in the middle of the city, and the U ban where no one checked your ticket. I was so impressed with myself getting around in the U ban. My German is minimal. I suppose once you know how to get around in the London Underground. All underground systems seem second nature.

The main train station in Frankfurt.

Two weeks ago, we went to Brighton with Melissa, James, and their visiting friend. None of us had been to Brighton before, so this was our first adventure together. Brighton is about a 45-minute train ride south of London, at the southern coast of the island. The day was nice, part cloudy, part sunny. However, with the winds and no warmth from the sun, goose-bumps start forming when you're down at the rocky beach. Funny enough, there are still people getting into the water. Brrrrr.

Last weekend, we went to see "Jerry Springer, the opera". It's a musical-slash-opera that makes fun of the JS show. The TimeOut magazine has it rated as one of the top musicals. I got bored after the first half hour, which was full of opera-type music with typical words that you'd hear from a JS show. I am amazed at how the actors/actresses keep a straight face. It's so funny. But after the first half hour, all the "jokes" were the same and were performed with the same delivery. So, I got bored. Plus, there was no A/C! Actually, most of the theatres are quite old and do not have A/C. So, after that sweating evening, I decided no more shows until the fall. The next night, we went to watch Fahrenheit 911 at the movies because they have the A/C at a comfortable temperature.

Cheers and stay cool!

Posted by oneray at 8:55 AM