Rak the Casbah

I am experiencing an overwhelming sense of gratitude as I prepare for Rak the Casbah this Friday night in Madrid.  This is only the second event I’ve produced on my own since arriving in Spain, the first being Raks Arabi Cabaret last November that featured my dance company Raks Arabi from California and included a variety of dancers Madrileñas.

For this event, we are trying to bring an “old-time” feel to the stage with a classical belly dance and cabaret fusion show.  We want to take a detour from electronic music and have an evening that blends the music of old with fresh modern faces and training. I’m excited to present a number of my students here as soloists as well as several of my dances performed in duos and trios. We also have a number of talented guest performers that are guaranteed to rak your socks off!

In my previous blogs I touched on the deep gratitude that I was feeling for the dance community at home and internationally.  For the coming together of this show, I am blown away by the amount of supporters that have offered their time, talents and special skills to make our event something extraordinary.  In addition to all the personal upheaval that accompanies moving abroad, with it comes a tragic loss of networks.  In California I had the women I knew who could make my costume ideas come alive, the people who could edit and mix my music, camera people etc.  Upon arriving in Spain it wasn’t only the task of starting over as a teacher and a dancer that faced me, but also how to recreate those invaluable networks.  I can really see with the organization of this event how spectacular the artist community in Madrid is. I can’t deny that my skill set is limited to primarily dance, choreography and instruction.  The team that has come out of the ether to manifest all those other vital elements of producing a show has astounded me.  From the creation of the event flyer (yes my boyfriend kicks ass) to cameras for photos (Miguel Angel), videos (JM Rye), audio controlar (Richard del Olmo) – all of these incredibly talented artists have stepped up to be a part of this special evening. I am eternally grateful for their participation and artistic expertise.

We will donate 50% of all ticket sales to UNICEF to aid in the effort to bring vital medical supplies to the earthquake victims of Nepal.

Thanks again to all the magnificent dancers and to the Madrid community at large for your participation in this event. Countdown of 5 days ’til we Rak the Casbah!

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Rak the Casbah

4 Years in Spain

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April 1st marks my 4 year anniversary of living in Spain!

I will preface this entry by saying that this is not the first time I’ve spent an extended amount of time abroad. I’ve had a series of episodes or traveling, studying and teaching overseas mostly throughout Asia, but this “trip” has been nothing like the others. It was a trip that was not initiated out of curiosity of another culture or language or wanting to help others. It was initiated by the spark of something else entirely.  The one thing that can make even the most sensible and rational person abandon all sense whatsoever – it was ignited by love.

4 Years ago I embarked on a journey from the Golden Coast across the Atlantic, taking a leap of faith to create a new life in Spain.

We all know the brilliant quote “you are that which you are searching for.” In theory we all know it and it makes sense to us somewhere deep inside. But do we really understand it?  This never meant so much to me before as it means to me today. The spark of love that initially ignited my move has given birth to a blazing fire altogether different from the one I had been anticipating.

I’m not going to go Deepak Chopra here and start talking about the importance of self-love, but really I’ve come to know and appreciate my self in an entirely new way due to the trials and tribulations I’ve experienced alone living in a foreign country.

Through spreading the joy and love of my craft and coming into contact with so many amazing and talented people, I can say that my life has been extremely fulfilling here. While it is true that “wherever you go, there you are,” sometimes we need to shake up the external environment to refurbish the internal environment.  For me personally, living abroad in Europe has come to be an experience of immense self-growth and expansion. I feel that I have evolved in a way personally and artistically that I may not have been able to had I stayed within the comfort of my external environment.

I am grateful.

Grateful to be alive and to have been given this unique opportunity to share the knowledge and gifts that I have, and to be able to learn with and from so many others.

I am grateful for everyone who has touched my life along the way and has offered me love and support and to those who have given me the opportunity to reciprocate that love and support.

To all who have been a part of my journey –

dancers, students, friends, family, international dance community, supporters, random encounters and most recently a special person who has made my life exceptionally sweeter…

I thank you for making my life awesome.

Ole Ole Ole!

4 Years in Spain

Authenticity in the Arts

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The arts have never been an arena for conformity.

Art is a vehicle to express our deepest sentiments where words alone cannot. I dare not say that art need be “original” to be authentic. Don’t confuse the two.  It’s hard to say anything is truly original anymore. Even Michael Jackson’s moonwalk didn’t come from Michael Jackson, but he popularized it and made it “his” by way of popularity.

What I’m seeing today in several fields of the arts is a move toward conformity. This is puzzling to me. Trends are common, they always have been and they always will be even within the arts, but rushing downstream because the water flows that way is not what I call being authentic.

What do I mean by authenticity? I mean being true to your self.  What am I feeling? What do I want to say about how I feel? How do I express who I am or what I imagine? If this is the conscious or unconscious dialogue in your creative works, congratulations, you are an artist. Creative expression of your self or surroundings through your eyes, ears, imagination or experience. This, to me, is art.

Since when has the number of “likes” or followers become a marker of our self worth? Or better yet, an incentive to do something that you don’t truly identify with to be a part of an image or a movement?

As I dancer, I call bullshit on inauthenticity. I can see and feel the difference from dances that are expressed from within, and dances that are simply – without.  It’s not my place to judge these pieces. I’m merely remarking as a dance enthusiast that I much prefer to “experience” a dancer in his/her true form.  Costumes, make up – they are elements to enhance a theatrical performance, but should not be the performance itself. It doesn’t even mean you have to be a particularly brilliant or skilled technician as long as you are authentic. Martha Graham said “Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.” Word.

Art can be beautiful as well as hideous, uplifting as well as saddening.  We live in a complex world and experience a full palate of emotions from the very high, such as the elation of love, to the very low as in the suffering of loss. If art is meaningful, it can have the power to transform and inspire, that’s what makes it magical. Human expression through any creative outlet makes the world a more comprehensive place and is our greatest gift to channel the mundane into something extraordinary.  Let’s not make the arts ordinary by removing ourselves from it.

Keep it real by being you.

Authenticity in the Arts

Joy to the World – My Blog has Come!

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No seriously though…

Hello! My name is Crystal. I imagine if you are taking the time to read this, you probably know something about me. I’m a dancer (teacher, choreographer and performance artist) from San Francisco, California entering my 4th year of living abroad in Madrid, Spain.

I originally set out to write a biography about my life – where I come from, where am at and things to come, but in the state of near completion I felt that it was lacking the essence of something great.  I don’t work so well in reconstructing timelines of events (let’s face it, I can’t remember what I did yesterday) but find that my day to day musings may serve as more inspirational than a mere revision of my life’s passing events.  I’ve since decided that a blog post is a better medium for sharing my thoughts, experiences and insights relating not only to dance but life as I know it and experience it.

So sit back, grab a cup of organically grown coffee with a cruelty free non-dairy choice of milk and enjoy my musings & más.

Joy to the World – My Blog has Come!