Upgrade Your Social Life: So You Think You Can Dance?! pt 1

belly dancing is not a game, this morning my abs, quads, and lower back can attest to it. yesterday, I visited the nazeem allayl belly dancing studio in perimeter. I was feeling a little shy and unsure of what to expect, but leena (instructor) and aseelah (member of the nazeem almassah dance troupe), made a sista feel right at home.

the studio is wall to wall deep orange with the requisite mirror and small stage for the instructor. I took a belly dancing fitness class, a good instructional for beginners or for those who want to work on their moves as they attend another nazeem class. belly dancing can't be learned in one session, but leena's class showed me the benefits of the art.

1. sorry fellas, but this class is just for ladies. belly dancing is all about hips and curves and celebrates a regular woman's body. it's hard to find anything that celebrates that these days. so ladies, no worries about sucking your stomach in for once.

2. belly dancing works your core. it's a beautiful, but isn't just about looking pretty. the isolated movements required, tighten your stomach, abs, and gluts.

3. the fitness class is actually fun. the instructor teaches you various belly dancing moves to latin, middle eastern, African, and r&b music. we even danced to mary j. blige's "just fine," which was so apropos because a big portion of belly dancing is about your own body confidence. if you're low on that, I think belly dancing on a consistent basis can help you out.

4. nazeem allayl studios have a perimeter and little five points location, plus a very thorough website explaining everything from belly dancing's origin to what to wear to your first class.

5. I thought I knew how to dance, but my body had to learn how to move in a different way to get those belly dance steps right. thankfully, leena and aseelah helped those of us who were belly or hips challenged. after an hour of class my belly could make it dancing through at least one song and what more can you ask for? lol

6. the nazeem allayl studio has six-session belly dancing from beginner to advanced, along with a performance troop. i recommend the six week class if you are serious about teaching your belly to dance..

next up for my social life upgrade: Chicago steppin' and salsa…in the meantime I gotta give these abs a rest. J


national slam blog: day 6...in conclusion

first off…I got aholt to some squeaky cheese (a+), fried cheese curds...check the pic (c-), and frozen custard (b) all in a matter of a few minutes, and of course videotaped the whole thing. as soon as I get to the crib and compress the footage I’ll post it here in all it’s goofy glory! lol

ok the championship bout on final stage was crazy good! and I found out who that fourth team was. lol Austin, new york louder arts, charlotte, and boston. final stage opened with a montage of arts stuff. an African band performed and then First Wave, a University of Wisconsin program dedicated to creating a community of hip hop and spoken word at UW danced with some poets mixed inbetween, including Mo Brown and Phenom (Detroit). poet josh healey, head honcho of first wave, performed a great piece about peter Norman, the Australian Olympian who stood with Tommie smith and john carlos at the 1968 olympics as they raised their fists in protest.

nps gave Shannon leigh’s mom, affectionately known as dr. Sheila, the spirit of slam award, followed by a very moving group performance of a poem dr. Sheila wrote about her daughter. during this dedication the poets read off stage, leaving the spotlight and one mic center stage in shannon’s honor. there were lots of tears on this one. Shannon made a definite impact in the poetry community and she is truly missed.

Dasha Kelly, this year’s national slam coordinator, performed an original piece and introduced the hostess with the mostest, Sonya renee. so the judges were in place, scorekeeper and bout manager, at their table, Sonya renee at the mic looking fabulous and an audience full of some Madison residents but mostly poets and poetry aficionados who had traveled across the country for this.

the bout was filled with interesting perspectives from personal accounts of homelessness and domestic violence to comical tributes to the state of texas to a letter from the perspective of charles chapman, a black man falsely accused of rape then exonerated decades later, to his accuser. charlotte stole the show with a group piece likened to the stolen identity commercials, where blkswan stood on stage alone at the mic, mouthing bluz vocal as he spoke from the perspective of a rapist while offstage. the piece was phenomenal and scored the only thirty of the night securing the championship for team charlotte. congrats to bluz, blkswan, starr, carlos robson, and mike simms for doing their thing again this year! down south all day!!!

closing comments:
this was my first year at nationals and I heard A LOT of poetry this week. so much poetry in fact that i might need a poetry break. no haikus, no sonnets, no couplets, i might not even listen to hip hop...ok...that's taking it too far. lol i'll be listening to hip hop as soon as i get back to my wonderful car coltrane. lol), the poetry...some good, some not-so-good, some inspirational, and some so abstract I still don’t get it, some amazing, and some that really spoke to my life.

there’s a slam phrase that gets thrown around quite a bit, that the points are not the point. but when you rehearse for weeks, memorizing, writing, meeting, strategizing how you can win, you start to feel that the opposite is really true. and sometimes maybe it is.

but on the way home to Atlanta (which I have sorely missed), after I rest up from the crazy schedule we’ve been keeping here and settle back into my normal routine, I hope to return to the heart and passion that sent me to penning words in the first place. I hope to remember that twelve year old girl who kept her poems in a steno pad and never thought about if an audience would like them. the freshman in college who just had something to say and stayed up late writing, only to get up early and write some more, wrestling with questions she wasn’t sure she’d ever have the answers to.

art in its truest form is never about the points, whether the points come from a judge’s scoreboard, soundscan ratings, uproarious applause, myspace plays per day, or the amount of dineros paid.

ahem…don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to have points and we all love dineros, cuz artists like to create just as much as we like to know someone’s looking or listening to what we do. and we especially like it if what we love to do can pay a bill or two. ☺ but I hope that no matter how many points or dineros I get for putting these words together that I still find it in my heart to do this because i love it. that waking up with words I can’t ignore is still what sends me to the page. I hope that will always be the point.


national slam blog: day 5

dear readers, there is good news and not-so-good news…good news is our team did their thing thing at semis. gypsee and chas went up first with a group piece “obligation” about speaking up for those who don’t speak English. henzbo went up with “danny” an ode to his autistic uncle. gypsee yo went up with “autobiography” a piece about the pain and triumph of women across the globe. and we closed the bout with gypsee, bryan, chas, and I doing “krakatoa.”

not-so-good news, the bout was no cake walk, going up against Hollywood, Austin, Richmond, and Denver. all of the teams were putting up good work in hopes of making it to final stage. we came in third with Austin winning the bout, leaving Austin, charlotte, louder arts (ny), and one other team I’m not sure of, going to final stage tonight. I’ll reportback on that later. ☺

I must say, that is has been a joy being on the slam team with chas, bryan, henzbo (you too henzbro ☺), and gypsee. we have a good time together and it’s cool to admire the work of your teammates and actually dig them as people. so to that…l’chaim!

tonight we’ll be cheering on the four teams who made it to final stage and dear reader, I will be partaking of some Wisconsin cuisine. I hear that you have to have cheese curds (hoping this tastes much better than it sounds) and frozen custard while you’re here, so I am endeavoring to reportback on these food experiences. ☺

I’ll hit you back tomorrow with a final blog on who the winner is.


national slam blog day 3, day 4, lit conference

check out the pics: me, seth and jessica tondry and me at the lit conf, and henzbo, and versiz (detroit) at a prelim bout wed. night

got back to the hotel around two a.m. after watching a really good bout between charlotte, Detroit, Columbus, and cincinatti. great poetry and a lot of creative ideas brought to the stage. charlotte pulled the win with a good combination of creative group pieces and strong individual pieces. went back to the room, packed a little bag, slept for a couple of hours, and with henzbo, henzbro, and bryan in tow headed to the airport for a 6am flight. delayed in Detroit because of birds on the plane, which is decidedly different than snakes on the plane (and brings a kanye line to mind but that’s for another time).

I discovered something the last couple of times I’ve traveled. I don’t like to drink a lot of anything when I’m flying because I hate plane and airport bathrooms. so what happens is, I get dehydrated. and when I get dehydrated my sinuses act a plum fool. so on the flight from Detroit to Jacksonville my sinuses were crazy irritated and I kept sneezing. add to this that I was sitting next to a guy that looked and dressed like Kevin federline. I was sneezing up a storm even as we were filing out of the plane. I sneezed one last time and mr. federline backed away like he was afraid I was going to get him sick. had I not been sneezing like crazy I would have LOL.

kimpossible and I met up in Jacksonville to be a part of the lit conference, an event targeting high school students and encouraging them to live their faith in a way that could change the world. got a chance to meet some cool people, cody and Katie deese who help to run the lit conference, katie’s mom, dad, and brother, 16-year old author/activist zach hunter and worship leader seth tondry and his wife. the video blog is coming together people, I even did some interviews this time, so it is coming soon.

just heard the report from our team historian chas jackson, that we won our second bout. gypsee and henzbo performed a group piece, “sing us a song” which is full of insightful political commentary, bryan did “icebergs and electrical outlets,” chas performed “three-letter word” which is about the hurt of being wrongfully accused of being homosexual, and gypsee closed out the evening with “the universe is a love poem.” I am so proud of our team! l’chaim! ☺

ok I gotta go to bed soon. gotta leave for the airport at 4:30 a.m. to be back in WI for semis. til next time dear readers…


national slam day 2

it was nearly 2am here in WI when we got back to the hotel and a sista is drag down tired. we won our first bout against cincinnati, Detroit, and Philadelphia. henzbo went up in round 1 with “shake the world,” a piece about turning world leaders and the status quo topsy turvy for the greater good.

bryan came in round 2 with “spiritual band,” a piece about a sick with it band whose players just happen to be jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad, to name a few. gypsee yo and I did my poem “Margaret” as a group piece, which is an ode to judy blume’s book are you there God it’s me Margaret and all the womanhood lessons that came along with it. and gypsee yo closed out the bout with ema’s poem, a dedication to her young daughter, telling the story of motherhood, and the hope of raising a child in the way she should go.

Detroit gave us a run for our money, they came in second to us by only tenths of a point, following by Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. we went and had celebratory pizza and most of all a sista enjoyed some celebratory sleep. ☺

next up…our next prelim bout is Thursday. I won’t be here for that one because I’ll be scooting down to Jacksonville, fl for the lit conference. but as promised the blogging won’t stop. I’ll keep you posted on the goings on in WI and you’ll get to follow me down to FL as I meet with kim p, steve fee, and a bunch of high school students at lit.

slam nationals is like a relay race where you play your part and hand off the baton to someone on your team to make sure the job gets done and that it gets done right. winning this first bout was like the first leg of the race for us, but of course the ultimate goal is to win the whole shebang.

I’m gonna go catch the last of this continental breakfast and get ready to run through some pieces. ttys

Check here for constant bout updates!


national slam day 1

I arrived in Madison, wi for the national poetry slam yesterday. the java monkey team and I will be spending the week up here competing and meeting other poets from around the country. right now, I’m in the lobby of the hotel about to jump on the free continental breakfast. ☺ (check out the pic of me and the crew: bryan, chas, gypsee yo, and henzbo)

those of you who tuned in to my challenge 08 blog are well aware of how I feel about the jet plane. made for a great American song, not for a good stomach experience. ☹ but the little bitty jet from Milwaukee to Madison turned out to be a 15 minute flight. not enough time for a sista to get nauseous. lol couple of things to note:

1. I still stand by Midwest airlines and those freshly baked cookies. you need to fly Midwest at least once in your lifetime. and instead of having first class and coach, they have equally divided the seat space so that every passenger gets some leg room. no more walking by the first class cats as they look down at their newspaper and try not to pity you. equal opportunity leg room and chocolate chip cookies for all!

2. first thing I saw after I grabbed my bag full of too many clothes from the claim carousel was isthmus. madison’s version of creative loafing or the village voice. found out there is definitely more to do in Madison than eat cheese and read poetry which for some reason sounds like a bad combination. in fact, boyz II men and midnight star will be performing in town this week. if I come up on some free tickets I’ll let you know. ☺

3. after a day full of travelling and shuttling between hotel and airport, our team is present and accounted for. bryan and chas arrived yesterday morning, I picked up the afternoon shift and gypsee yo and henzbo arrived last night. our first bout is tonight.

I’ll keep you posted as fast as my fingers can type.

10 Ways to Upgrade Your Social Life

1. Read! – I know reading is a solitary activity, but talking about the latest thing you’ve read can be a great jump starter for conversation. So grab a book, a cool magazine, or check out an interesting blog – that way you’ve got something to keep people talking. My latest cool reads: Stephen King’s On Writing, and O Magazine.

2. Take a class! – Your high school teacher told you to never stop learning and as soon as you graduated you forgot that along with how to say “where is the bathroom?” in that foreign language you studied. Want to work on that screenplay or learn how to merengue? Sign up for a class/workshop and you’ll come out with new knowledge and meet some new people in the process. My last cool class: Beginner’s Acting at Pro Actor’s Studio.

3. Get out of your comfort zone! – Set a goal of doing something once a month that is completely out of your typical routine. You dig sports? Go to an art gallery. Into rock music? Go to a live jazz show. Doing something different every once awhile can keep you from getting too comfortable doing your same ole, same ole. Comfort Zone Stretcher: I usually go to soul/hip hop shows, so I went to a rock show at the Star Bar to see band, The Lord is My Shotgun.

4. Talk to strangers – While you are upgrading your social life, you are bound to see some new faces. Take advantage of the opportunity and become a better conversationalist. Great conversations are about the balance of listening and talking, do too much of one or the other and you may find yourself the central character of someone’s terrible night out story. Site for some convo tips: Did You Know? Conversation Starters

5. Go it alone – Going out by yourself has its plus points. You don’t have to worry about staying at a horrible event too long or leaving too early from a great one all because your ride is ready to go. Rolling solo can also make for a great way to meet people, since you don’t have the comfort of chatting it up with the friends you came with.

6. Feel good – Run, walk, yoga, kickbox, lift weights, skip, cartwheel, whatever you have to do get your cardio up and some endorphins flowing. When you feel good about you, it shows, so tighten up those abs, decrease the complaining, and think a little more positive. My favorite workout feel good: Yoga. I dig how it’s relaxing and strenuous all at the same time. I stand by a Rodney Yee video...I guarantee it! A hot yoga blog is coming soon…

7. Join a team – If you like sports, joining a team can be a great way to expand your social horizons. If you’re like me and you’re not into sports, sweating, and the like, cheering friends from the sidelines can be just as fun. ☺

8. Volunteer – From cleaning up in the community to delivering meals and reading to kids, there’s always something you can do to help someone else. When you volunteer you get to be a part of something bigger than you, and the good feeling afterwards makes the whole thing priceless. Find a place to volunteer.

9. Tagalong – We’ve all got friends that are into some interesting stuff. I for one have friends who love trees, hiking, scrapbooking, Indian food, and a host of other things that I would never have been into before I met them. Let the people you know act as tour guides to a new experience for you. My last tagalong adventure: A tree walk. I know sounds strange at first, it turned out to be a cool experience and now I know the difference between a Japanese maple and a dogwood (thanks Bethany!)

10. Find your passion and DO IT! – If you are struggling to get out of bed each morning and drag yourself to your job, you may need to find an outlet to do something you love to do. If you have a dream you haven’t pursued take at least one step towards accomplishing it. Pursuing my dream as a writer is one of the reasons I’m typing this to you. ☺ How to Find Your Passion

Next up: New social adventures…I will be reporting back on how I’m upgrading my social life, inviting your comments and suggestions along the way.