Friday, August 19, 2011

Confessions of a Belly Dance Hoarder ...

Hello. My name is Amanda/Aziyade. And I'm a belly dance hoarder.

Not the costuming kind -- I have 6 costumes, I think, and that's just because I needed more folkloric looking ones for some of our troupe dances. I'm the information hoarding kind. You know the type.

I have every issue of Arabesque, all those of Habibi I could get my hands on, years and years of magazines like Belly Dancer, Chronicles, Jareeda, Aramco World, and anything else I could find on ebay or at swap meets. I have read them, taken notes on them, and filed those notes in a 4-drawer filing cabinet, organized alphabetically by both concept and country of origin.

Books -- got everything on ME dance, music, and women's culture that was commercially available, except Nelly Mazloum's book, which is $75 and somehow I draw the line there. Again, read ALMOST all of them, made notes, and filed those notes.

YEARS of old MEDance mailing list posts are archived (but not actually organized) on a separate hard drive, along with selected posts from tribe, oriental dancer, bhuz, and some of the lyrics forums. I'm not sure exactly what to do with some of this information -- do I really need the list of the "Top 40 songs on the radio in Cairo in 1995" ? Do I need to keep those ancient (although recurring) debates on where shimmies come from, or how to do a "jewel," or the analyses of hip drops we've often gotten into on the forums? YES -- I have to keep all of that until I can find a good reason to throw it away!!

Now let's keep in mind that INFORMATION is taking up less and less space these days :) I have pdfs of almost every article in 2 volumes of the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, but they're all on one DVD. All those forum posts are in word documents and pdfs on another dvd. (The books and magazines take up the most space, sure. But they have pictures!) So it's not like this stuff is piling up in my house! Well.. then there's the media library...

I did a physical inventory of my Instructional (not performance) DVDs and Videos last month. Ya'll ready for some crazy? I have 381 instructional dvds and vhs tapes. Well actually, I have more now since I just ordered Nadira's Improv Toolkit 2 and bought a couple of newer Raqia Technique dvds off another dancer. But last month I had THREE HUNDRED EIGHTY ONE of the buggers!! How the heck did that happen????

(That isn't counting the 200 + performance dvds and videos. I have so many of those, and they're spread out all over the house and with my students, that I haven't yet gotten around to counting them all. I think some of the old bootleg footage is probably repeated here and there so sorting these is going to be more work than sorting the instructionals.)

Some of them are beginner instructionals that have little to no value to most dancers. But I bought them because I thought as a teacher I could learn from them -- new ways of describing movement, new little tips and tricks. Most of the older out-of-print ones I bought off a dancer who was quitting dancer, and many of them I got when vendors decided to quit vending and sold their stock 1/2 off. (Almost my entire collection of Little Egypt videos came from a vendor retiring.) Of course, I used to vend for Dahlal also, so I took the opportunity to use my 15% off and bonus money to expand my inventory. And ebay was a great source for used older tapes and dvds for a while.

I bought a lot of them because I didn't have access to a weekly class and because I was somehow incapable of creating a decent practice session for myself without the structure of the video. I'm much better at that now, but I admit I'm still inclined to just throw in a dvd when I'm feeling intellectually lazy. (Or do an online class -- which I don't count in my inventory.)

So those tapes and dvds have their own bookcases and shelves, and they probably take up the most room. Unless you count the now over 500 Middle Eastern, Turkish, and Flamenco CDs in the library ... :O

Music is one place where I just can't give in and go all digital. I HAVE to have the original liner notes. I can't stand downloading full albums from iTunes because I need the security of the liner notes and the jewel case (wherein each CD has a big post-it note with my personal notes for each song. If you ditch the case, where do I put the notes???) (Plus I swear I can hear the diff between an mp3 and an aiff file). I haven't been able to toss the cases and put the individual CDs into binders. I just can't!!!!! So yeah, those are sort of leaking over into the rest of the house. And the garage. And the studio at work. ...

My friend says my home studio (where most of this stuff is stored) is like the Library of Alexandria but without all the Romans. :) I laugh, but then I look around and wonder when it's all going to fall over on top of me (metaphorically -- I really don't have stacks of DVDs lining the walls. Well, not anymore. Not since we got more shelving.)

If information hoarding is a crime, take me to jail. Slowly but surely I'm organizing and digitizing as much as I can, and trying to figure out a way for all this stuff to be put in a searchable database on the computer, instead of in manilla file folders and plastic binders. (Did I mention I have all of my workshop and class notes in binders? And all of the online class notes? And all of the notes I've taken on various instructional and performance dvds? Yep, all in binders in the bookcase with the Habibis. I DO get those out and read through them a lot, so it's not like the information is forgotten.)

So, I'm a hoarder. But I use MOST of my hoard. I write little articles about music for my student newsletter. I study my notes and create class exercises and educational material out of them. I share that with other instructors who ask for it. I share as much as I can -- with the caveat that I'm always learning and refining, so be prepared for me to revise what I once told you.

Am I crazy? Maybe. But you know something: I never get bored. And I am very rarely "uninspired." Some days all I have to do is just flip through a few CDs, or pull out a random DVD or file folder, and I'm energized and excited again about dancing, music, practice, performing -- whatever. Knowing I have access to some of the world's greatest authorities on our dance -- well, that's pretty darn inspiring, you know?

Oh and by the way: that necklace with the series of half moon shaped pieces that you often see the Ghawazee wearing? It's called a "kirdan" (according to Habiba/Barbara Siegel.) Didn't know that? Now you do. Welcome to my obsession :)


Naima said...

So what is your recommendation on sorting notes? I have workshop hand outs, workshop choreos, my choreos, my notes, zill/music, etc. I just can't seem to decide how I want to organize them. Everything is in a big binder in order I obtained them only. I tried sorting once and got overwhelmed because I couldn't decide how to sort them.

Amanda said...

Naima, I think I'll blog post on that this weekend. I have several different systems I'm working with, so I'll try to describe the good and bad of each one. Maybe one will help you out!

Naima said...

That would be most awesome.

Anonymous said...

You can put comments next to each song in iTunes. You just have to put a check mark next to "comments" in your preferences for it to show up. Then you can categorize different songs into playlists like I have a list for Taxeem and a list for Drum Solos etc. I like this way better than the cds because maybe I have several compilations that have music from one artist scattered throughout but I just want to search for that artist's work. This is easier to me than sorting through disks, and it keeps my notes/playlists organized with the added bonus of not having to transport my precious original disks and running the risk of scratches. I do have all the cds in a cd binder with the artwork behind each disk but it's tucked away for emergencies. I'm a little anti jewel case but that's mostly because most of mine came to me damaged in shipping.

Most of my notes are digital also, broken down into lots of categories and divided by folders.

Both of these methods are insanely time consuming. But I think it's worth it if you don't have a lot of space or feel overrun.

If you come up with a good way to organize books or dvds, let me know. I'm at a loss with those. I anxiously await the day that all books are on kindle. Right now I have DVDs in a binder with the cases stored in a rubber tote under the stairs. I tried to sort them by content but every time I get a new one, I have to re-sort the whole thing.