Sunday, February 10, 2013

Say You Missed Me

2013 is under way, and even though it's not quite the middle of February, there have been some exciting opportunities that have presented themselves for my performance and art careers.

Here is the first stellar example... the fiery fabulous ladies of Lux Arati and I were featured in the latest music video for Sunshine Superman and their song "Say You Missed Me."

Their Facebook page describes their music as "Catchy tunes, snarky lyrics" and "innovative pop" -- and although my first thought was "Okay, how are we supposed to bellydance to this?" -- we are fortunate enough to now have a mistress of modern dance in our midst. The inspiring and multi-talented Geri Vanore, aka Lady Omni, is one of the newest members of Lux Arati, and even though she is new to the world of fire, she has an extensive background in choreography and dance instruction (among other things, of course.) She also happened to be the link between Sunshine Superman and Lux Arati, and was asked by their snarky-sexy songstress Valentina to help choreograph dancers for their next music video. Geri mentioned the Luxie ladies and the band was sold. Guided by some seemingly magical unseen forces (and a lot of hard work), in one week we were able to put the pedal to the metal,  as Geri adapted some of our existing dance sequences to fit the tempo and mood of the music and we did our best to learn the new material in time for the video shoot this past Tuesday evening.

Still shot of Lux Arati with Sunshine Superman lead singer Valentina in the center 
during the video shoot for "Say You Missed Me."
(Photo courtesy of Valentina Raffaeli)

It was edited by their band member/resident videographer in just a few days and now has over 2000 hits on Youtube, which is totally mind-blowing.   

I can't wait to see the rest of the footage -- we shot a TON of takes that night, freezing our little butts off in a friends newly purchased warehouse space not too far from where we practice. There's always a measured degree of suffering with performance art, especially what we do. For awhile there, it seemed like every time we had a show there was a threat of rain or snow and one too many nights with frigid temperatures -- or, during the summer we were lighting things on fire during some of the hottest & most humid days of the season, which is almost worse than the cold. (Heat + humidity + fire = seriously unpleasant conditions.)

It looks like Lux Arati will be exposed to a whole different audience thanks to our involvement -- hopefully this will lead to more (paid!) gigs and performances in the future. Next stop? Not sure, but we are tentatively scheduled to perform at Poet-Tree in Motion again this spring at the Rotunda in West Philly. More information on that and other performances will be posted soon.  

****Sunshine Superman is playing in Philadelphia tonight at the World Cafe Live. Click here for the Facebook event page and more info. ****  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On to the next one

Goodbye, 2012, and good riddance.  
(I mean, Happy New Year guys!) 

Those close to me know that I am happy to move on to 2013. It's just another day, just another year, but something about the shift from December to January has us all reflecting on how we've been doing, what we've accomplished in the past 12 months, how we feel about it and what we want to change for the next year to come. I've always resisted the New Years resolution thing, on the premise that I should be able to make changes ANY time of year, not just in January. But I welcome it now. I think I need the reassurance that in 2013, things will be different.

I couldn't figure out what image to use at the beginning of 
this entry, so... here's THIS.  (Photo by Alex from Burning Man 2012)

2012 had, among other things, a rocky start, literally from New Years Eve on. It was a rather turbulent year from start to finish. Not just for me - in fact, more so for those close to me, including my friends and family. There were many beautiful moments, and plenty of difficult times, and a whole hell of a lot of hard work. But life goes on, and here we are in January of 2013 and I have assured myself (and those around me) that this year will be better. 

It may be because come July, I'll be turning 30, or because things were so chaotic this past 12 months - regardless my willingness to move on and keep going is strong and steadfast. It's not that I've never had (or written down) concrete life goals -- I think usually a vague direction of where I want my life to go has been enough in the past to get me by the day to day. With so much chaos, drama, tragedy... it's hard to sit down and think about your 5 year goals in a calm, collected manner. That was then, and this is now. Changes abound, and I've been pondering where I want to be, what I want to do, and how I want to get there in the past few weeks. Who knows what date this entry will post under, but I've been working on this entry since the first week in January, and now it's FEBRUARY and I'm finally able to understand what my brain has been processing since the start of 2013.

What I want to accomplish in 2013

1. More opportunities to show my work in and around Philly.
Last year I was ridiculously busy with enough extra projects I didn't have time to focus on exhibitions. I had one solo show at a local cafe and submitted my work in several group shows at First Friday events, parties, and so on. I'd like to show my work at several new venues, and hopefully organize another solo or partner show. Providing I can find appropriate outlets (sometimes these things just cost tons of money in entry fees) I'm hoping to submit my work to local group shows as well. 

2. Mural gigs.
The goal I am most excited about trying to accomplish this year is to get a mural gig. My idea is this: Despite having done murals for much of my life as an artist so far, it's been several years and none of them have been in the city I live in - the mural "capital" of the country. I want to find someone to donate an outdoor wall in a public area that I can use as a kind of advertising space for my work. I can fundraise for the materials and donate the time when I can -- possibly through a kickstarter campaign or something similar. I've always dreamed of going into the mural business with my dear friend and fellow artist Kristin Sholz. (Since we both work in the service industry and are otherwise prolific artists doing freelance work whenever we can, and between the two of us I think we can paint anything and cater to any client... yea, we should sit down and talk about this one.) 

3. Fire, bellydance and performance art ; take what I am already doing to the next level of awesomeness.
I created this ridiculous headdresses for performing in and have only worn them each once, for two separate performances. (One for my NYE gig, and I'll post the anticlimactic video of the performance at the end of the entry.) I want be able to incorporate the things like the headdresses that I create into my regular performance outlets, like Lux Arati. I want to get better at creating choreography so I can contribute more in that area of what we do. I want to learn a *new* fire tool, probably fire staff, and if I can afford to get one sometime soon, work on learning the art of sword balancing for bellydance. I also want to put on a concrete show of what we do in Philadelphia, though that may be more than I can handle this year. We'll see.

4. Personal goals: 
Work on fixing up my credit and be on my way to buying a house by this time next year. Work on quitting smoking, cause that is important for you know, staying alive. Especially if I ever want to have kids, which I should probably start thinking about doing before I get too old. I want to travel more this year, and forego Burning Man in 2013 to do so if need be. (Unless I come into a bunch of money, yea, that's not happening. I'd rather buy a house.) Incorporate more yoga/exercise into my daily & weekly rituals, along with more juicing and raw food smoothies, which I already do fairly often. Get better at setting up systems in my life for keeping things clean and organized. And go to bed earlier, because I am pretty much always exhausted. 

Looking back on 2012

1. Changes, changes...

Three of my dear friends and fellow members of Lux Arati either have moved to different cities or are about to leave Philadelphia. Or probably will. We also gained three new members, who are AMAZING and talented and I'm really excited about having them be part of the group. The saddest no doubt was the last minute exit of Lux Arati co-founder (and my closest friend in Philly) Jexime, one of the most talented, inspiring people I know.

Jexi spinning fire fans with the rest of Lux Arati 
(I'm next to her on the right, Nicole and Michelle on the left.) 
Photo by Lindsey Tweed.

Jexi left us to go halfway across the world to join the circus in Thailand. Seriously. And that's just for a few months, until she returns to the US and follows her heart to Taos, New Mexico. Since Jexi and I pretty much only got through 2012 because of our mutual support of one another, this is a hard one to let go of. However, I know she's doing the right thing, as the heart is the only thing you should listen to sometimes. I wouldn't be here, in Philly, if I hadn't done the same thing back in 2007. Ah, love. Le sigh.

2. Some of my favorite things from 2012:

Performing with Aish Tamid Fire Conclave at Burning Man 2012; From the beginning -- assisting with bringing already practiced choreography and seriously talented performers into our fire fan & bellydance sections ; to the hot sticky middle -- just surviving the 101 degree day with 100% humidity the day of the (hot hot fire) video shoot ; to the very end, the actual performances out in the desert -- in front of the Stella sculpture the one night and then at the base of the man, the best seats in the house, surrounded by our Philly fam and representing the East Coast (serious business) under the magnificent, magical full moon the night of the burn. 

Michelle and I performing with Lux Arati at PEX's 
Magic Garden Party in August 2012.
(Photo by Redlite Photos.)

Getting better at doing what I do (and being recognized for it); Especially with performing, I know I have a long way to go to be anything shy of an expert -- but with each performance and each practice session I find myself picking up choreography quicker, I can understand the moves faster and I'm finally ready to graduate to a new set of fans (now that I found someone to make a set that I actually really love.) My comfort level with free-spinning (as in, no choreography) has always been lacking, but this year there were several occasions where I went out there and did my thing and killed it. PEX's Halloween party was the pinnacle moment of that realization -- no awkward pauses, no fumbled moves, just smooth, tight transitions and graceful maneuvers. Thank god. Several friends came up to me after that performance to tell me how amazing it was. And it felt good. 

Nicole and I performing with Lux Arati at the 
Northern Liberties Krampus Christmas celebration, 
December 2012 in Liberty Lands park.
(Photo by Amber)

On a similar note, suddenly I find myself taking on a role and responsibility with Lux Arati that I never anticipated -- I am now the one who knows the most about performing with fire and the one that has been doing it the longest. Wait -- I'm the what? But yea, that's now me. I started playing with fire in early 2009, and now it's 2013. Anyone else who has been doing it longer has moved on, and I'm the resident fire expert for the group. Who knew?

Continuing to develop my work and name in the art community of Philadelphia; Art related, I sold more paintings, prints and received more commissions in 2012 than I ever have. The paperwork for these things I still need to get better at, if I ever want to transition into doing my thing full-time... which may happen someday, you never know. In the meantime it feels good to have 355 "likes" on my art page on Facebook, a handful of followers of this blog, and a number of people who I know read these words occasionally and are hopefully entertained, amused, or inspired.

Shape of the year: Definitely the Merkaba. 
This is the long-ago promised photo of Stella Octangula, the Philly C.O.R.E. 
Burning Man project at night all lit up with LED lights. 

I heard some FANTASTIC music and danced my ass off on numerous occasions; Favorite mix of the year (that would be music, folks, and mix as in a set that a DJ plays and/or records for our listening pleasure) I think has to be Coyoti's set from PEX's Halloween party, Back to Battle aboard the USS New Jersey. Actually, he played from the art car The Blackbird, parked right out front of the ship where we were spinning fire. Incidentally, I am almost positive that my greatest free-style spinning I was referring to earlier in the post took place during this set. Coyoti has come a long way since he started DJing and this mix absolutely shows it. (Click here to listen to the mix on Soundcloud.)

Now, if Mr. Michael Nighttime, one of my FAVORITE Philly DJ's had recorded his set from Sunday night at PEX Summerfest next to the pool... that might have trumped Coyoti's Halloween mix, but as it turned out, unfortunately that fantastic set that saved my weekend was not recorded. Oh well.  

Other notable music moments include seeing legendary drum n bass DJ Aphrodite play at the Opulent Temple stage during Burning Man. Waking up several mornings in the desert, listening to the sunrise sets from our Baltimore brother Neil Kurland travel into my tent -- and I can't forget hearing Neil's private drum n bass/jungle set during the only rainstorm on the playa, played to a maximum of maybe 8 people underneath the semi-shelter and on the modest musical setup of Mosaic Lounge (literally a block down from our camp.) That was a special moment, indeed. We couldn't find any music we liked that night so we made our own. 

All said and done; It was an excellent year for growth in performance and my artwork, and I like to think I made some marked improvement with my costuming projects, painting and even with my technical bellydance skills. I had several decent paying gigs with Lux Arati and on my own, I finally finished "The Honeycomb Merkaba" painting and gave it to it's owner(s), and sold a few paintings and pieces to friends and strangers. Just finished another commission at the end of the year (photo below) and am in the beginning stages of another one.

I survived the chaos, the tragedy, the abrupt changes to my comfortable little world. I had a lot of fun, many times, and worked hard in between. 

"Papaver Somniferum" / acrylic, charcoal pencil on wood 
Commissioned painting for Drew Rodkey, completed at the end of 2012.

"Poppy Box" / acrylic on gessoboard, wood
Sold this year to friends Erik and Hedy after my show at Buzz Cafe in April 2012.

Going to stop there as far as reflecting on 2012.  Though I wasn't sure how this would turn out when I began writing -- if it would be as negative and depressing as my initial reflection on the year at it's end -- I managed to stay hopeful, positive, and concentrate on most of the great things that came from the past year instead of the disappointing ones, the hard times, and general chaos. (Cancelled performances, family drama, breakups, and other rough times.) There were some fantastic moments within the general sludge, and on the whole I worked my ass off in all of my creative outlets.

Now that the initial shock of the new year and the necessary time to reflect and plan ahead has passed, I feel at ease. Writing has always been a form of therapy for me, whether it happens in private journals or here in my blog, on display for anyone to read. I believe everyone should try and write (even if no one else ever reads it), just as an emotional release. It doesn't matter what or why, be it something amazing that happened to you that you want to share with the world or a private message to yourself to re-read in years to come, and especially if you just feel awful that day and need to get some of that emotional baggage off your shoulders. 

I've realized lately also that I'm an incredibly, unnecessarily wordy person. Whether it's a personal email to a friend, info I'm posting to a group online, or most obviously, the blog post you may have not bothered to read this much of, I can't help it. It's my nature to draw things out longer than needed, there is no part of me that is naturally short and to the point. For those with short attention spans that can't be bothered to read my nonsense, I apologize. To the rest of you that have gotten this far and will continue to read whatever words I paint this page with, thank you. In a world that has become increasingly brief -- if you can't say it in a tweet or text message, it's not worth reading -- I'm going to hold on to the essays, the short stories, the gorgeous possibilities of the English language and it's bountiful, copious, innumerable myriad of words to choose from. (I hope that made sense and I used all those words correctly.)

My next post will be less wordy and have more photos of new work, hopefully exciting developments on new projects -- and not take as long to compose as this one did. Happy New Year, in February of 2013 from Xtina. 

And, the previously promised video of my performance from NYE 2012, dancing with fire fingers and wearing one of my headdresses. Also features fire eating by Lauren Raske and Liana Cameris, my fellow performers from the evening. Enjoy and don't laugh too hard. :)