October 15, 2017
This year I had the opportunity to co-teach with Morocco at Rakkasah East 2017: this special occasion was the first public demonstration of Morocco’s: “The Fundamental Movement Vocabulary of Raqs Sharqi”, although there was only time enough for the “appetizer” version of the explanations and demonstrations! It is soon to be presented in full for the first time in Vancouver in April. I also got to show off on stage, doing a rendition of Morocco’s choreography for “Basboussa,” and having fun on top of my drum! Photos here; video to be posted soon.
Many thanks to the Morocco, the organizers of Rakkasah East, and Carl Sermon, who took these fine photos!
Many dancers struggle with how best to gain cultural knowledge about Raqs Sharqi and other Middle Eastern folk forms, especially since most dance workshops, weeklongs, and festivals, have only a limited verbal cultural component. You may even learn the movements of culturally specific dances like Raqs al Nashaat or Saiidi or Kabeyle, but without much context. While many responsible teachers include cultural information in the classes, there is only so much you can impart and still have time to dance, so it often takes a back seat. Where, how, why are these dances performed in their own countries? How are the movements executed in a culturally recognizable way? Why do Western interpretations frequently fail to communicate the essence of the Eastern dances?
In Prague, Czech dancer Katerina Shereen Safrova has stepped forward to organize an event around cultural knowledge. Even before I got there, I knew that SHRQ would be different from most other dance events I’ve ever attended. Organized by Czech dancer Katerina Shereen Safrova, the focus was specifically on the cultural context of the dance.
****See Part 1 of my full report on my Articles Page****
OK, So a whole year managed to go by without my posting about my trip to Istanbul, Turkey, in September 2013 with Morocco. Well, I’m almost done editing and organizing the photos (over 2000!- blame digital), so by this time next month, they’ll be up, and there will be more to tell!
Istanbul is an amazing crossroads and cultural cauldron, with opportunities to explore rich past history and traditions, as well as to enjoy the best of modern arts and music. This is my 4th trip there but it still felt like discovering it all over again. The biggest problem was how to squeeze as much as possible into the 2 week time frame. Of course I saw at least 4 dance shows, sampled the delicious cuisine, and spent time at iconic must see places, even though I’d been there before. My experience with repeat visits is that you notice different things each time you go, more subtle details, a better understanding of what I am looking at, etc. Of course the Turks are super welcoming, and there were lots of friendly street cats for us to get our “kitty fix!”
We happened to be there in time for the Istanbul Biennial art exposition and caught a Korean-Turkish festival in a park near the Hagia Sofia. Also, thanks to 2 of Morocco’s closest friends in Istanbul, we got off the beaten track to the Asian side, local hangouts, and a fabulous new hamam (Ahhhhhhhhhhhh….). I’ll be posting more next month, so stay tuned!
See my new article: Qualifying your teachers: Is Raqs Sharqi “in the blood?”
Hello, Dance Fans!
Instead of an e-newsletter this month, I’ve posted 2 new titles on my “articles” page, in conjunction with what we have been working on in class:
Developing Your Own Dance Style
Tips For Beginning Choreography
Anticipating spring, our Friday class will be working on a new choreography, exploring the eastern concepts of dalla & tarab, and working out with veils. We are also looking forward to the upcoming visit to NY of the highly respected A’isha Azar on April 6 & April 7. A’isha is an expert on dances of the Arabian Gulf and Egyptian Raqs Sharqi. She will be teaching Raqs Samri and Raqs Nejdi Hadith from the Arabian Gulf and Raqs Sharqi. This is an excellent opportunity to learn Gulf style dance. I hope to see you there!
Info here: http://www.markbalahadia.com/?p=367
Yours in dance,