Monday, March 24, 2014

Sample improv video

Here's my troupe's performance from Sunday. Watch and see how the transitions and lead changes work

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Practice Video - 3/18

Music is "Lawn Oyounak" by Nancy Arjam (the 4 minute version)it is available on Itunes and Amazon

Monday, March 17, 2014

Great event for you to attend!

If you are in Athens this Sunday night, you need to check this out. Not only will my troupe be dancing, so will several dancers. I saw a wonderful guitar rehearsal today plus a fun debke perfomance. AND the tickets are super cheap for a show at the Morton!

Monday, March 10, 2014

More thoughts about "that article"

It has been really interesting to see the discussion around the article in my last post. This discussion is not limited to our own little dance world, the original article has been reference by several articles/posts on mainstream sites. Here are a few more people's thought on it:

and - Luna's blog to me was especially interesting since it address the original article as an issue of blatent racism. She brings up some points and examples that I had not really ever stopped to think about.


I do think that as dancers, we need to be mindful of our roots. I think that anyone with more than a few months of classes under their belt needs to know something about the music and people this dance represents (which is why I rarely use western music in my beginner classes). However, art is not stagnant and incorporating new ideas is part of growth. For example, Samia Gamal used ballet and latin dance in her raqs sharqi in the 1940's. I think it is a dangerous slope when someone claims to be teaching "authentic" anything unless they have the years of study to back it up. Those of you who have taken classes with me have heard me explain that is why I don't teach Indian dance - it is because I know very little about it and don't feel I could do it justice by teaching it.

I do think it is incorrect to assume that skin color is the only qualification in being a knowledgeable dancer. Two members of the "old guard" in the dance form are not native but probably have a deeper understanding of the dance and it's roots than all but a few people from the middle east. These two women are Morroco (Aunt Rocky) and Sahra Saeeda. Both have done extensive scholarly studies of middle eastern dance and the people who live in these regions. But based on the original article's premise, neither of them should dance because they are "white," but as someone who has taken workshops with both of them, I know their knowledge is encyclopedic and their passion for sharing is real. So which wins out - DNA or knowledge?

Friday, March 7, 2014

All sorts of drama....but it starts an important conversation

Last week, this article was published online and immediately it created a firestorm in the dance community. It argues that "white" dancers have no right to be doing any form of middle eastern dance. Touchy subject, but it brings to the forefront topics that are important to consider when learning a dance form from another culture. As several people have mentioned in online discussions, is it cultural appropriation or cultural integration? Your decision to make

A few responses to this argument - the second half of this article really deals with the issues at hand

And some thoughts from someone outside the danceworld

And a similar argument from several years ago that some of the above blogs reference

Two fascinating videos

"Lauren of Arabia" by Karim Nagi

More about Karim

Syracuse lecture by Donna Meija - she dances at about 3:30 and starts speaking at about 1 hour into the video

More about Donna

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Halfway point for Lawn Ouynack

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tribal Musings........

Over the past decade or so, I've had a little bit of a love/hate relationship with Tribal dance. Part of this comes from my first teacher who's style was much more traditional Egyptian and she didn't particular like tribal. Some of that rubbed off on me - and the fact that while I studied with her I may have seen all of 2 tribal performances. During a teacher-less time after she moved out of town, I took a Tribal basics class with Ziah of Awalim. I'll admit, I wasn't crazy about it; the idea of trusting a performance to following a leader was quite terrifying. As a western choreography based dancer, the idea of performing without know exactly what you were going to do every moment was overwhelming. But I loved Ziah's energy (who doesn't??) and the combos we learned.

My second teacher was the exact opposite, she was most at home in the fusion and improv worlds. She decided we were going to learn a variation of Gypsy Caravan style and perform it. I wasn't thrilled, but went along with it and realized that it wasn't quite as painful as I imagined. In fact, in a later troupe performance under her direction I had a major a-ha moment. We were performing a very long, slow improv to "Whisper Hungarian in my Ear" by the Toids at Nicola's in Atlanta. As it ended, arms stretching out slowly to meet each other, the energy in that chorus was sizzling between us and it became a moment of pure magic. That proved to me how different improv feels when compared to choreographed pieces.

As I mentioned earlier, the base of my tribal style improv is Gypsy Caravan and I still look to Paulette as one of my inspirations. I love her passion, energy, and why she dances - so others can join this community. I also love that Paulette encourages you to tweak combos so that they work for you and your tribe of dancers. Unmata is another inspiration, kick butt combos with tons of attitude.

Some lessons I have learned from improv - you do all the hard work on the front end learning the combos and formations. This makes performing much easier. Second, the performance more easily adapts as the number of people in the group changes or if you need to add an additional piece of music in a short amount of time. Third, you pay better attention to your fellow dancers when doing improv since it is clearly a group of dancers working together instead of individuals dancing at the same time. Forth, it is just fun, I laugh, smile and enjoy myself on stage more when doing tribal. Finally, group improv prepares you for solo improv - we've become so choreo-heavy as dancers that relaxing and just dancing is difficult.

More that with other dance, with improv you are not just learning moves and combos, you are learning a language the same way we all learned verbal language. In a blog post earlier this year and in a conversation at Tribalcon, Ziah pointed out that as you dance more exclusively with your group, you develop your own dialect of improv, complete with variations that are uniquely yours.

I love the camaraderie in a group that know how to improv. You share the same history, the same challenges and the same victories. All of this leads to a common trust - like some of you have heard me say - Improv means never having to say you are sorry. No apologies, No Takesies Backsies!

This sums up how this dance bring us together, even though outside of the dance we have very different lives