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Archive for May, 2011

Yesterday was a wonderful day. As some of you will know, I feel I am very strongly connected to the element of Water and have been for most of my life. I’m completely in love with dolphins, turtles, whales and fish, I feel incredibly at home around rivers and the ocean, and I have been known to cause heavy rain when I work with elemental water. The dolphin is a very important spirit guide for me, and I have always wanted to meet them up-close in real life.

The team: four bubbly, excited witches. The mission: swim with seals and dolphins. The task: jump in the car and get there before the boat leaves. The last one turned out to be more difficult than expected – after 2 hours in the car we found ourselves literally running along the pier as we watched the other people putting their wetsuits on and climbing aboard. Thankfully, we made it just in time and jumped onto the boat after them. It was already an adventure…

It was a 20 minute boat ride to our first stop – swimming with the seals.

The seals

The beautiful seals in their home! Image by Moonraker Charters

We were greeted with an overwhelming fishy smell and some barking (what do they call the noise seals make?!) before we saw a few little heads popping up from the structure in front of us. This man-made structure was built for the seals to laze around on, and clearly it fulfills its purpose!

What I love is that the seals were not kept enclosed in any way. Rather than being kept in captivity for humans to gawk at they were built a little house that they love and we go to them. A really wonderful idea.

I was very surprised that I didn’t find the water cold when I first got in. People were screaming and giggling at the freezingness of it all, but I managed to slip in without incident. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realised my wetsuit was too big and huge amounts of water were pouring into it. That was cold!

The seals themselves were so beautiful. On land they are so lazy – the lie there and move their heads and that’s about it – the Homer Simpsons of the ocean! But as soon as they dive in the water they are as graceful as any fish. Amazing to behold, and even more amazing when they are swimming all around you. I had seals swimming under my feet, around my body, and one gorgeous little fellow who kept swimming straight towards me as if he wanted to tacklehug, and then turning around at the last minute. So cute!

Being in the ocean is always spiritual for me. As crazy as that may or may not sound, I feel an incredible connection there – I feel like the ocean spirit is hugging me the whole time! At one point I got a bit carried away, closing my eyes and meditating lightly with the sea… I opened my eyes to find I’d drifted all the way back to the boat! Easily distracted? Me? No…

The next bit of the trip was the hardest for me. Climbing out of the water and back on the boat with all that seawater that had leaked into my wetsuit… I swear I have never been so cold in my life! I went to get a hot chocolate and was shivering so much that most of it had found its way out of the cup by the time I sat down! But, the dolphins were next and that’s what kept me going…

Or were they? After what seemed like a long time shivering and giggling with the memory of the seals, we stopped at Pope’s Eye Marine Park, with not a dolphin in sight. I sat on the boat for a while, because I was so incredibly cold, but I did spend a few minutes in the water getting acquainted with the fishies! It was like a little reef – lots of kelp and plants, beautiful fish of different colours, absolutely beautiful. My fishy adventure wasn’t to last long though, sadly, as I was so unbelievably cold I had to get out of the water. Stupid huge wetsuit!!

A bit more sightseeing and sailing along, and then the moment I’d been dreading:

“Ladies and gentleman, unfortunately the dolphins have alluded us today – we can’t find a single one, and so we’ll take you back to the pier….”

What?? No dolphins?? All that waiting, all that bouncing up and down in excitement, and no dolphins for us. I was obviously very upset, but after a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself I was at least able to take the wetsuit of evil off and dry off/warm myself up.

Apparently not finding any dolphins is very unusual on these cruises, as usually they are as excited as the humans are! But maybe today it was too cold for them, or they had decided to be lazy like the seals!

Despite the lack of my favourite creatures, and the teeth-chattering chill, it was an incredible day that I will remember for a very long time. And, if nothing else, this just means I have an excuse to go back!

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Hooray for me finally finishing a post that is more than a paragraph long!! Seriously, you should see my backlog of “posts to finish and publish”. It’s depressing.

So I’m currently still buzzing from my trip to Sydney last weekend for the Sydney Middle Eastern Dance Festival – pretty much the belly dance event in Australia. To my knowledge, anyway…

This year was my first ever festival (to think I was a little beginner bellydancer a year ago!!) and, ambitious gal that I am, I had booked 5 workshops to attend, a troupe performance and *drumroll*… My first ever solo in front of humans. Yes, it was always going to be a massive weekend.

Now, early mornings are not something I’m accustomed to. I go to an arts college, and we tend to be the lazy kind who enjoy our sleep and wouldn’t dream of having a class before 10am. So having to wake up at 7am to get to workshops each morning was certainly a shock to the system. Thank goodness my lovely friend Julia, who I was staying with, took me out to breakfast on the first day. After being forced to wake me up by playing the Urinetown Cast Recording, of course.

Over the Friday and Saturday I went to the 5 workshops:

Figure 8s and Bodywaves was kind of controversial among my friends, who are all Oriental/Cabaret dancers as well, as it was quite Tribal Fusion in style. I actually really enjoyed it. Although not all the moves were things I would necessarily use, I liked that everything got broken down, rather than just “make it look like this”, and I liked being pushed out of my comfort zone into types of figure 8s and undulations I never knew existed! And, I’ll admit it, I do like having a bit of a flirt with Tribal Fusion occasionally!

Fabulous Fan Veils was, I have decided after much deliberation, my surprising favourite workshop. The story goes like this: I fell in love with fan veils after watching This Clip, and found a cheap pair in my preferred colour on eBay, so I grabbed them and was then too scared to play with them for a while. This workshop changed my mind though – I’m officially in love with them again! It was a great intro, talking about not only the basic moves with fans, but also about the history and how these Chinese-inspired props found their way into Middle Eastern dance! Plus, a room full of 100 dancers with beautiful fan veils swishing around is pretty amazing to behold!

I was really looking forward to Belly Samba, but sadly it just wasn’t what I thought it would be. This turned out to be, more or less, a zumba class. Now, I haven’t done very much zumba in my life, but I’ve done/seen enough to know I find it really tacky and cheesy and just plain irritating! The whole thing just seems to be so hyped up and the music with people yelling “ZUMBA FITNESS, WOO!” every few seconds is a little bit cringey. And hey, if you enjoy it and find inspiration from it, it’s great exercise and that’s all fine – good for you! It’s not for me, though, and I was expecting some cute belly dance choreography with some inspiration from Latin dance. Melissa was lots of fun though.

Get Your Head Around Feet was my other favourite workshop, because I just decided I can have two. Now, as someone who has done jazz/tap/ballet since I was 5, I’ve never felt that I was particularly clumsy on my feet, but I’ve heard really great things about Jrisi, who was taking the workshop, and so decided it would be a good one to do. I’m so glad I did – Jrisi is a wonderful teacher who is personable and friendly, explains things really clearly, choreographs very cleverly and is just great fun! We worked on many different grapevines and pas de bourees for 2 hours and I wasn’t bored once.

Talisman was the last workshop I did – a beautiful choreography put together and taught by Rose. I was proud that I got through this one – it was advertised as a workshop for advanced students, and I really wanted to give it a go. Despite the fact that I was getting super duper tired by this stage, I powered on through and managed to still be standing by the end of the class! We got through the whole choreography, which was wonderful as I really love fast-paced classes. The only annoying bit was that she didn’t bring enough DVDs of the choreography – they went very quickly!

The Showcase Concert was the big cherry on top of the cake that was the festival. The theme was Classics and Cliches, which I thought was a really cool idea, although I would have liked to see more ridiculous cliches, because there are so many!! Performances were from mostly teachers and professional dancers, with a few student groups thrown in for good measure. They ranged from the absolutely amazing, to the very awesome indeed to the “meh”, but it all balanced out! Standout performances were Tais from New Zealand, our very own Prue and Melusina (and I’m not even biased – the Underbelly ladies were amazing!) and the Hathor Dance Theatre.

I left the concert feeling very confused as to whether I was super inspired by all the amazing bellydance from around Australia, or super depressed at the fact that I’ll most likely never be that good!! I think it was a bit of both, but thankfully the former seems to have been the lasting impression – I pretty much haven’t stopped dancing all week since I got home. I think I’m frustrated and impatient when I watch professional dancers, because I’ve come a long way in the past year and I think I’m at that stage where all the basics are really easy and I can pick up choreography easily enough, but I haven’t got that refinement in my movement or the general amazingness that they have. “But but but… I devoured the basics and intermediate stuff so quickly, so why can’t I just hurry up and be super awesome??!” Sadly it doesn’t quite work like that! But I need more experiences like this festival to inspire me!

The final day of the festival was a big market featuring pretty much anything a belly dancer could want to buy, as well as student and troupe performances throughout the day. It was really cool being able to shop and watch dancing at the same time! Multitasking is a wonderful thing! My wallet did notice the rather sizeable hole the market left in it, but I bought a beautiful new hipscarf and a new bra + belt costume that I am still completely in love with!! I will post a photo when I find a skirt I can put with it!

Just before lunch was Bellique’s turn to perform – the usual deal with big smiles, “ham and cheese” Arabic pop music and our ice cream coloured costumes! Hehe, I love our troupe so much. I think we are all getting much more comfortable performing together, as we were all especially smiley and peppy, despite being in unfamiliar surroundings with mostly unfamiliar people. It’s such a ridiculously fun dance, and with Prue threatening to murder anyone who didn’t smile, you can see why we were so into it!

Some tasty lunch and a bit more shopping later and it was solo time. *gulp*. I always laugh when I think how scared my little piano students are about performing in a little concert in their school hall for a few parents and friends, and I guess that’s kind of what I was doing with my solo, but now I completely understand how my students feel!! Nerves-of-steel gal was suddenly a pile of shivering mess!

I actually don’t remember very much about the dance, except that I made my entrance at the wrong point in the music and forgot my choreography towards the end, but managed to improvise my way through the gaps so I suppose it could have been much worse! For a first choreography and a first solo, I guess I was proud of it, but there’s still that part of me that wants to be amazing right now. Hopefully, one day…

So there you have it: Shelley’s Sydney Adventures in one rather long blog post. And you know the effect it had on me because it was enough to kick me into finishing a blog entry!! There will be photos soon… stay tuned…

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