Thursday, September 27, 2012

Shake your booty!

I am by many definitions a coward. I'm scared of being alone (in social situations, not relationship status), I'm scared of the dark, of insects of any size, of heights, of rollercoasters and most theme park rides... And so the list goes on to near infinity.

I'm not the type of person who has "bungy jumping" or "sky diving" on my bucket list. I love having my feet firmly on the ground so much, you'd be lucky to get me to even go paragliding. This of course means going to any theme park for me is a complete waste of money, as I do nothing but sit on a bench and wait for others that go on adrenaline-spiking rides that I'm too chicken to go on.

As a result, I'm never regarded as the "fun" friend. I'm rarely contacted for spontaneous, crazy outings; but am instead everyone's emotional rock and mood booster. Not that I'm complaining about this though, as it suits my introverted self just peachy.

But then again, this means my reckless side comes out in other ways.

As I'm too religious and have too much common sense, thankfully this doesn't mean I drink/smoke/take drugs/club. (Whoops, any remaining dregs of coolness just evaporated into thin air.) Instead, I choose to be reckless and to a certain degree controversial with my choice of dance lessons.

I have always loved dancing. I'm blessed with an impeccable sense of musicality and decent flexibility, so despite not being the most coordinated, I can definitely bust a move. Thus far, I've taken 5 different dance classes: Girl style hip hop (choreography based ala MTV), popping, Latin, and the controversial pole dancing and belly dancing.

I gave up both styles of hip hop as it just wasn't the right fit for me. Pole dancing was amazing, but since my beloved instructor migrated I have yet to find a replacement, but fully intend to after I graduate. Which leaves us with Latin and belly dancing, which I still take weekly lessons for.

Initially, only a very select few knew about my dirty little secret; as society's perspective towards the more exotic dances meant I would probably be labelled a slut. (I blame Hollywood, because all I see are not sex promoters but artistic individuals.) On a side note, I probably have the coolest, most open parents in the world that fully supported me in every single one of my reckless decisions.

However, I recently decided to accept my dance instructor's offer of joining her belly dance group, Odyssey, to compete in the Malaysian Dance Open Festival (MODF - we won 3rd place!). I met and immediately liked all my other troupe members, which of course led to adding them on Facebook, which in turn led to them tagging me in pictures we took at the festival.

Obviously, my Facebook friends saw the tagged pictures of me in my belly dance costume, bearing my far-from-perfect physique for all to see. My secret was irrevocably out, and I immediately feared society's retribution towards us "sluts".

It was probably all in my head, but I felt it was ridiculous that a hardworking dancer should be belittled as one with loose morales. I loved belly dancing, and I wasn't planning to give it up as long as I was able, along with pole dancing of course. So, with a firm determination to get my message of "SCREW YOUR SHALLOW-MINDED OPINIONS" to all who may harbour them, I then uploaded the following picture to my Facebook wall:

The caption reads: "Secret's out now that my teammates tagged me in fb pics. Yes, I'm a bellydancer. No, I'm not ashamed of my fats. Yes, my mama and papa approves!" (Btw this was taken from an extremely flattering angle.)

To no one's greater surprise than mine, the picture has gained 84 likes (period), which is probably more than the amount of people that viewed my Facebook profile since it was made. I suppose it also shows that maybe the world isn't such a bad place after all.

So here's the current Odyssey, with our much beloved troupe director Emily:

Honest to goodness, these people were all genuinely friendly, generous, and fun! I had expected there to be a clique system going on with me feeling completely excluded, but I'm glad to have eventually been proven wrong.

Two weeks after MODF, I followed the troupe to Taiping for another competition, where I entered my very first solo category. I suppose I was riding on a high after the last contest, because it wasn't something I would've easily agreed to in normal circumstances. I had disproportionately high hopes for someone that had only trained for 10 days, and it served as a bitter remembrance that pride comes before a fall.

I made it to the final round of my intermediate tabla (drums) category, but wound up dead last in the finals. I was disappointed and ashamed, as my goal had been to not wind up last. Even though I had already beaten out 8 other people to be in the finals, it still felt like a failure to little Asian-minded me.

I am embarrassed to admit it, but I cried in public after getting the results, and I felt very bad doing so because it was right after Emily asked how I was feeling. Emily was also one of the judges, and I would hate for her to think for one second that I doubted her decision.

But hey, it's just my first competition, and I'll work harder the next time. Because mark my words, there will be a next time; and hopefully I will have more time to train for that next time. On a much happier note, our troupe got second place!

Sorry, but this was the best picture I could find. We're the troupe in yellow; and our win surprised me because we were literally half the size of other troupes! We also screwed up one formation, but still came away individually rm64 richer!

Anyone who has ever competed in a dance competition however would know the exorbitant costs involved with it. The bulk of the cost is the costume (rm400 upwards), but other costs like registration fees, make up, and renting studios for practice can really add up. I managed to borrow a costume for my Taiping solo contest, but still have wound up over rm1k poorer over these two competitions!

So this is why you will never see anyone poor in the world of competitive dancing, because even I am struggling to justify spending so much money on belly dancing, regardless that I enjoy so much. Again, another example of how crazy supportive my parents are!

Venturing into competitive dancing has opened up my social confines and allowed me to meet dozens of new people. Granted, I'm half everyone's age so we're not gonna become shopping buddies anytime soon; but you never know, they might have cute sons my age!

(Digressing, I am completely flabbergasted that there are literally zero cute guys in my new semester. There were none in my foundation or year one class either, and I seriously think I'm going crazy with the lack of eye candy in this college, ever since the departure of one very handsome exam invigilator. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO MEET ANY GUYS LIKE THIS?)

So there you have it, my little secret let completely out of the bag. I'm a fledgling belly dancer, who has no intention of stopping until my body can no longer handle it. And I fully encourage everyone to take up new things one might be interested in, because you only live once!

Now in the meantime, I shall start digging around for an outfit to wear and dance in for my first ever dance party at Emily's birthday this weekend, where Odyssey is giving a little tribute. I'm expecting booze (which I don't drink), conversations in Cantonese (which I don't understand), and feeling bored and out of place, due to being much younger than everyone around; but am also hoping to be yet again proven wrong.

Here's to an exciting venture into the world of belly dancing beyond the classroom!

Friday, September 14, 2012


Rhiannon had already pondered the what-ifs in all scenarios involving Callum. They all usually ended up at the same resolution: they had missed their window of opportunity, and it was unlikely to ever come around again. Rhiannon believed she had long relinquished hold of the naive hope that persistently suggested a passionate reunion between two starcrossed lovers.

We wouldn't have worked out anyway, she thought to herself, as she remembered the numerous gaping differences between them. Differences that made them incompatible, and would inevitably lead to disagreements and dissatisfaction for both of them.

So why the feeling of loss when Callum was leaving to pursue further education? The noticeable dip in her mood whenever she thought about his departure?

Rhiannon chalked it down to this: you never forget your first love.

Callum was not her first relationship, but she had never fallen for anyone like she had fallen for him. Her infatuation with him had taken up a whole quarter of her life thus far; but she did not see it as wasted time, as she had truly believed at that time that he was The One. For all those years of mostly unrequited infatuation, Callum had occupied the role of her knight in shining armour in all Rhiannon's fantasies.

She had loved him in a way she had yet to love another. It was such a shame that his intensity did not match hers, but it did nothing to dampen her feelings for him.

But now, Callum was leaving. They parted with promises to keep in touch, which she knew they would keep. But she also knew that the Callum she once knew and loved would never be the same again, because going abroad permanently changes oneself; and Rhiannon hoped that the Callum she would meet in the future would have evolved into a man she would be proud of having once loved.

Callum had been her dream guy once, and Rhiannon was unprepared for the shock reverberating through her as she realised she still, despite everything, held on to the tiniest spark of "what if?" for a reconciliation. His departure had such momentous finality, it put an irreversible strain on the spark. She keenly felt the loss of a love once had, and marvelled at how it affected her despite all the time that had passed.

It could be compared to losing one's leg, and then feeling the loss of becoming a prima ballerina, even though one hadn't danced for 10 years. Rhiannon wondered if she would even be having these thoughts and feelings, had there not been a ticking clock on the time Callum had remaining on native soil. The shared memories of what had been fleeted through her mind's eye like a Rolodex, leaving her uncharacteristically sentimental and wistful.

Rhiannon sighed, and resigned herself to always holding a soft spot for the only person she had truly given her heart to (nevermind that he practically trampled on it). With the benefit of hindsight however, she resolved to not let history repeat itself, and only give her heart away again to someone that would reciprocate in kind.

As she waved to Callum's departing figure as he entered the boarding zone, Rhiannon smiled, and lifted a silent prayer for her friend's safe flight and happiness abroad. Callum would go on to encounter new experiences and new lovers, and she was genuinely excited for him.

Because it was better to have loved and lost, then to never have loved at all.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Idiot box.

Forgive me if I seem a little flippant. I have crammed the entire first season of Gossip Girl (18 episodes, 45 mins each) within the last 48 hours, and my inner voice still sounds like Kristen Bell.

Prior to this, I had a similar obsession with Jane by Design. Of which was cancelled after one season, and I was very distressed about it because I loved it very much, and also because I have a soft spot for Brits and wanted to see Jeremy with Jane; but I digress.

What draws us to watch these soaps? What fuels our somewhat manic desire to stuff our faces with the scandalous lives of fictitious people, and get hooked onto these characters?

The answer is simple enough: an escape from reality.

These soaps draw us into the world of impossibly good looking people. Every single person is flawless and clearly too old to pass off as teenagers; and after watching so many episodes my self esteem has taken a nosedive. There are never any ugly people in the main cast, which only makes us more attracted to these superior people and their glamorous lives.

They draw us into a world where impossible things happen. A world where a high school teenager can actually succeed in a demanding full-time job in high fashion, and where a high status girl like Serena van der Woodsen would actually fall in love with a lower caste member; but of course things like this would never take place in real life.

They show us stories of mean girls. Of horrible, scheming, selfish bitches who plot heinous schemes against our beloved protagonists, and how they are eventually felled. We've all faced our fair share of assholes that could not care less about trampling on others to reach the top, but more often than not, never receive any form of come-uppance. We live vicariously through our hero/heroine's triumphs, hoping one day justice will actually be served.

Of course, they show us drama. Deceit, lust, jealousy and the lot. We are hooked onto the craziness of these people's lives, because they are such a welcome break from the monotony of our mediocre lives. We feel like we're standing right beside them through all that happens; we cry and laugh with them, and we enjoy the emotional rollercoaster ride we are taken on.

Good scriptwriting clearly plays a strong part too, as everyone needs a plucky heroine to root for, and a beautiful, manipulative bitch with hints of softness to fall in love with. (I'm currently hooked on Chuck Bass, the beautiful bad boy.)

Gossip Girl will probably be my sole companion through many, many nights from now onwards, until I'm done with all six seasons. I suppose I was trying to justify my obsession with it, because I am completely neglecting certain other important responsibilities. Like rehearsing for my dance competition in 8 days.

But then again, season 2 is calling my name. Xoxo.

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