At the start of 2015, during tea and chats with my friend and fellow dance soul Sundari at one of Temple Bar's hip(pie) cafés, we were all set to sign up for DanceCraft: Key of Diamonds. This was the first ever Key of Diamonds session to be, and we were eager to explore what kind of format Zoe Jakes had created. Key of Diamonds was scheduled from 17-22 June 2015 in Berkeley/California and we were already visualising ourselves as the aspiring, hopeful Level 1 graduates of Zoe's freshly baked format. Eager to get accepted, we hit the booking button the second the applications opened and to our big surprise we both got in.
We took the same flight over to San Fran and shared house with three other dance mates attending the Intensive. Despite numerous logistical mishaps (an epic traffic jam preventing us to get onto Oakland bridge for two hours, resulting in missed appointments with friends and a smashed iPhone screen), I loved the experience of it all. Granted the format is young compared to more mature formats like the ones provided by the Salimpour School of Dance. However, if you love Zoe Jake's stylisation, it provides a great overview and entry point into the wonderful, rich world of Tribal Fusion Belly Dance. Key of Diamonds offers a stunning array of short combos and old school movements as well as an introduction to cymbal playing. The exam at the end of the Intensive which took place at Zoe's Coven Studio was slightly stressful as the wait was long. We were assigned into groups of three and my group happened to be one of the last. After almost two hours of anxiously awaiting our turn, we finally got tested on our knowledge of the L1 format. The exam night was rounded out by being gifted specially forged keys and a post-Intensive decompression party,. Sadly, I had to leave early due to an early-morning flight the following day.
Fast forward a year, and I am after returning from California where I went for a second time in July to join and test for Suhaila and Jamila Level 2. Back in June 2016, I traveled to San Fran to continue the DanceCraft journey and participated in the first ever L2 Key of Spades Intensive. I felt really present and connected all throughout the ten days of the Intensive and loved learning more about the format after passing L1 last year.
Since I was staying in the Mission District in my friend Wendy Marlatt's house, my routine would consist of jumping in the car at around 6 15 am to drive out to Ashtanga Yoga Berkley to practise Ashtanga yoga. I am ever so grateful to have discovered this peaceful shala. Vance Selover's adjustments really benefited me and helped me grow my strength in a short amount of time. After the practice, I would leave my rental car parked in front of the studio and walk up Parker Street to reach the dance studio. Parker Street must be boasting some of the most beautiful houses of the Berkeley neighbourhood! I certainly did not tire of my morning and evening walks at all. There was always a new house, street art and plants to discover along the way. I would then arrive bright and early at the Works Studio on Telegraph Avenue, all eager to get started with Key of Spades for the day.
The Intensive ran over ten days, and a few added evening sessions. We were also given group projects to complete over the weekend. This was definitely a great practice in collaborating with dancers we had not worked with before and we were given the opportunity to present our collaborative efforts to the wider Key of Spades group too! What I loved most about the Intensive was the real sense of loyalty and support within the group. Since many of the same dancers took part in the first Key of Diamonds Intensive, we reconvened and got much closer this year during Key of Spades. I loved hanging out and practising choreography, and movement phrases in the parks with my dance friends and will always cherish the memories of cymbal jams in the sun!
A month after completing the Intensive, I have many different feelings around it. It will take some time to figure it all out and to determine whether to continue the DanceCraft path or if to prioritise the Salimpour Trainings instead. I first met Suhaila Salimpour 5+years ago and after this month's Intensives, can safely say that I have the utmost confidence in her work and mission. I feel safe, and trust the format to help me grow as an individual and help me be the best dancer I can be. I will touch on my impressions of the Suhaila and Jamila Level 2 Intensives in a separate blog post.
I will post pictures of DanceCraft as they get published. For now, see below the group photo of the first ever Key of Diamonds session in 2015.