Exploring the magic world of Middle Eastern Dance!

E-Newsletters 2012

November 2012

 

Thank you,  Alaska!

 

I had no idea what to expect of Alaska on my recent trip to assist Morocco in her Oriental Dance seminar workshops.  Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised on every front!

 

Alaskans appear to make up for their colder climate by being super warm, friendly, helpful, enthusiastic, caring, and optimistic.  All are talented at finding the silver lining in any even remotely negative situation, and the spirit is totally can-do!  It must have something to do with the roaming moose and bears (yes, in town too!), the year-round snow on the mountaintops,  and the wild weather.   And lets not forget that anything you want to buy is imported so you have to plan ahead.

 

Because there are not many teachers in Alaska’s remoteness, these dancers treasure every opportunity to study with visiting teachers, especially someone with the stellar international reputation of Morocco.  The ladies worked really hard during the seminars, few sat out, and, amazingly, most had smiles on their faces start to finish.  One participant explained there is only so much you can learn from videos, and live learning with stellar teachers allows for better development of clean technique, to say nothing of learning new dances.  In addition it is an opportunity to hone one’s grasp of eastern musical interpretation.  And of course, they loved Morocco’s frequent and in-depth sharing of the relevant cultural underpinnings of the dances we taught.

 

Both in Anchorage & Juneau, the dance community held a hafla, so I got to see many of them perform as well.  There was a lot of talent on display, including musicians and singers. Considering the relatively small size of their dance communities, the range of styles presented was substantial, with lovely creative interpretations.  I also had the opportunity to perform for them, and I couldn’t have had warmer audiences!

 

Though the seminar schedule was quite extensive, there were some in-between times off.  Our Alaskan hosts in both cities enthusiastically made arrangements so I got to see wildlife and beluga whales in Anchorage; and Mendenhall Glacier and Orcas and humpbacks in Juneau.  What a fantastic continuous landscape Alaska is!   And the changing weather produced endless dramatic cloud formations, and once in a while cleared for magnificent mountain views!

 

As you all know, I love to teach dance, because it is wonderful to be able to share something that is FUN to do.  I missed my regular class while I was away, but the enthusiastic Alaskans made me feel right at home!

 

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Ahlan Wa Sahlan Dance Festival 2012.

Ahlan Wa Sahlan Dance Festival, organized by Raqia Hassan, is many things to many people, not least of all a 6 day long sensory overload of classes, vendors, and dancing!   It has grown considerably in size since it’s start in 2000, though due to the current political uncertainty, turnout this year was light.

What’s it like?  Here’s a rundown of my accumulated experience over 8 festivals, with details about this year!

Well, after checking in at Mena House, a five star hotel literally right next to the Giza Pyramids, getting oneself registered for the festival is the first priority.  With a roster of  30 plus teachers to choose from, plus the inevitable last minute schedule changes, this is always a challenge.

The first scheduled event was the opening Gala, held this year at the Movenpick in October 6 City   A handsome ballroom was the setting for the dinner (a buffet) and show, which was included in the registration package.  The show was opened by Katya, who danced better than I’d ever seen her dance before – a marvelous performance.  She was followed by Sorraya, whose energy sizzled, and then by a dancer new to me:  Aziza of Cairo.  While lacking some of the polish of the other performers, Aziza had lovely quality of movement and a winning personality.  Finally, Dina performed for us in her own inimitable and endearing way, looking spectacular in one gorgeous gown after another (4!).  Overall a great show.  Unfortunately I was too jet lagged to stay for the singer they had after Dina.

Classes started in earnest the next morning.  A giant ballroom was converted into 3 large rooms with the appearance of floor to ceiling, carpet covered partitions, and several other rooms in the complex were also used for classes.  Most rooms are carpeted and have no mirrors.  The subdivided ballroom has a platform in each space for the teacher

A dance glutton could have signed up for 3 classes a day for 6 days, but most dancers discover very quickly that such a heavy dance schedule is exhaustive & counter-productive, so most took a maximum of 2 classes a day with at least a one day break somewhere during the week. Beginner classes were also available.  Most classes teach choreographies, and some teach technique.

As classes were about to start, several corridors leading to the Ballroom (class) area, in addition to several side rooms, plus additional rooms and a corridor upstairs, were lined with vendors.  There were bottlenecks everywhere as the glitter attracted shoppers,  while others tried to get by to go to classes.  The proximity is only encouragement to take advantage of having paid to come to Cairo and acquire some shiny, glitzy things!  Many also made trips into Cairo proper to visit the legendary Mahmoud’s 4 story costume palace, Al Wikala!   Of course some had to visit luggage vendors for extra suitcases to lug their new treasures home!

What kind of classes can you take at the Festival?  Classes included Oriental, Theater Oriental (Mahmoud Reda style),  Saidi (Upper Egypt), Assaya (Cane), Meleya Leff (Theater), Ghawazee (Luxor), Sagat (Finger Cymbals), Tanoura (Whirling), Algerian Folk dance, Tunisian, Moroccan, and many more.  Specialized classes, such as drum solo and shimmies, rounded out the offerings.  In short, the cornucopia of offerings made it hard to choose what to take – which is why some of us have gone several times!  There is a lot to absorb, both the pluses (many) & minuses (a few) – sometimes you learn as much or more from bad examples of things as from good ones!  But there is only so much each individual can process at one time.

While there were lots of good quality classes with comfortable class sizes, a few classes with the most famous dancers were crowded, with  participants over one hundred.  If it is too crowded to participate the way you would like, it is just as much fun to sit off to the side, take notes, and watch the famous dancer as she teaches.  It’s amazing how much you can pick up by just watching. (And also fun watching others try to copy her!)  Also, sometimes the best dancers are not necessarily the best teachers, in which case the watchers get the bargain.  😉

Each evening after classes, there was an opportunity to see lots of dancing for free!  Starting around 8:30 PM, the Ballroom (restored to full size) became the setting for dance contestants and festival participants to show off their stuff.  Alternate sets of dancers to live music, and dancers performing to CD’s made for variety.  Dancing went on until 1 or 2 AM every evening for 5 nights!

At the end of the week was a closing Gala (usually $60), again including a buffet dinner, and some famous name dancers, though  I did not stay for it this year.

Some of the GREAT things about the Festival:

  • There are some fabulous teachers here:  it is worth the effort to seek them out!
  • Meet and make friends with lots of dancers from all over the world!
  • You get to see hundreds of dancers from all over the world dance!
  • Try out lots of different teachers and styles.
  • Great work outs!
  • Get a real sense of Egyptian culture and style, especially if you are willing to get off the beaten track and explore a bit of Cairo & environs. (Interacting with the vendors doesn’t count.)
  • Immersion in the sheer range of expression possible in this dance form!
  • Did I mention the costumes??????    😉

The hectic week is an exercise in resourcefulness:

  • Making sure you have lots of water/drinks (the hotel charges high prices, so alt strategies are important!);
  • Keeping track of your personal possessions (cameras, notebooks, dance gear) while engaging in class;
  • Jockeying for position in classes (in some classes, I found the back of the room least crowded and often the view was decent);
  • Avoiding the entreaties of the vendors unless you actually *do* want to look and buy.
  • Watching out for all those super-friendly guys that may just be looking for a green card!   Getting some sleep!!!!

But all in all, a fun and educational experience that is really worth the trip!

One major caveat:  Most Egyptian dancers/teachers do not teach Western style; it’s mostly follow the bouncing butt and lots of repetition.  The ones who speak more English will often try to answer questions or break things down Western style, but generally are not good at this, as they don’t normally teach this way.  There are some exceptions, including Raqia herself, who is an excellent teacher, but be prepared that the experience may be different from what you are used to.  Bring a notebook to jot things down that you want to remember, as by the third day, you will not remember what you did the first day!  Also video taping is officially NOT allowed, although if you bring one, you can video yourself & friends running thru the choreo you just learned to try to remember it better.

NOTE: especially if this is your very first trip to this part of the world, it is important to travel with a group leader who really knows the culture and logistics involved.  While there are certainly a few intrepid travelers who can find their way in an unfamiliar cultural environment, having the major logistics handled by a pro can go a long way to making the trip a fabulous one you will long remember!  Choose someone like Morocco who is known to be adept, resourceful, creative, and highly organized, no matter what happens, and always with a sense of humor.   For  a better idea of how instrumental a good tour leader can be (as well as a delightful account of Ahlan Wa Sahlan 2004), check out an article by Lennie Clark of “Arabic Song Translations” fame, here:  “Cairo Awwal Thaania: Lennie Experiences Ahlan Wa Sahlan 2004,”    The part about breaking her ankle (Not while dancing, LOL!)  is about 2/3 into the story!

Here’s hoping to see you at Ahlan Wa Sahlan 2013!!!!

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July 12, 2012:  Yes, I’m back from Cairo.  What an exciting time to be there!  See my photoblog page for links to a lot of pictures from my trip.  Here’s a summary of my visit:

The trip to Egypt this time was interesting on so many levels this time because of the political situation. One thing that became clear immediately was that people, who had previously been very reluctant to make any comment whatsoever about their government (due to to the fact that you could be jailed for any criticism of the Mubarak regime), were now all busy having lots of political discussions. People were not afraid to speak their minds for the first time in decades! I recall in the past that if I asked certain questions of people there, that there would be this real reluctance to answer, or they would decline to discuss it. This time, one question would launch a whole conversation, and some people who had seemed very shy before, really opened up to share how they feel.

Living in the US, we take freedom of speech for granted, so it is difficult to imagine how repressed these people were feeling. Right after Mubarak stepped down, there was an immediate explosion of new newspapers, television commentary, theatre productions, political flyers and posters, and much, much more, all of which was illegal before. The level of optimism about the future is incredible, no matter what part of the political spectrum people are on. Egyptians are at heart a peaceful people, and do not consider violence a legitimate way to resolve political issues, so while debate can get vigorous, there is little actual physical skirmishing.

The dance festival was smaller than at any time in my experience (I did not attend the last 2 years), with far fewer attendees, and fewer vendors. Most students were from the far east, plus a few groups from South America, a few Russians, and a smattering of Germans and French. Otherwise, hardly any Americans. Many were probably spooked by all the coverage of Tahrir Square, but truly it is like in the US, for example, when the Republican convention was held in NYC and attracted huge demonstrations in downtown Manhattan (and yes there were skirmishes with police & some arrests), it’s a political thing, not a civil war. Tourists are very welcome and safe. Outside of Tahrir Square, life is and has been relatively normal, except for some difficulties caused by economic hardships (gas shortages, job losses). The vendors of course complained that sales were poor (low # of attendees), but at the same time seemed buoyantly optimistic about the future.

Mena House Oberoi Hotel itself has been undergoing massive renovations – we stayed in a renovated room – including the grounds, which now includes multiple reflecting pools and water features and a new restaurant (not yet open) facing the pyramids. And they moved the swimming pool around to the back, where there is another new restaurant and a bar/cafe. Very lush, very gorgeous! Prices for everything were higher, but with the drop in the value of the Egyptian pound, the impact on us was not great.

Driving around Cairo, it was evident that lots of new business, and shiny storefronts, had sprouted everywhere, in spite of economic difficulties. When we moved to the Victoria Hotel, which is in the plumbing/HVAC wholesale district, the place was jumping! Lots of construction materials moving around. The only place construction appeared to have been halted was in some upscale communities of villas which were likely being built for Mubarak cronies before the Jan 2011 demonstrations, and were now in limbo (thousands of them! you could see them from the road from the airport.)

Walking around the Cairo streets was more difficult than before, because the number of street vendors appeared to have multiplied & they take up so much of the sidewalk that the crowds of people have to compress like sardines to bypass the stalls. In spite of that, I witnessed no misbehavior by anyone. An amazing side note is that after 2 or 3 AM when they finally close down their outside tables, the vendors leave all their merchandise right there in the street, albeit covered and tied. Certainly something they would not do if they were worried about thieves. We did walk by Tahrir Square, which at that point consisted of a smallish encampment in the center, and lots of banners. There was no overt activity (speeches, protests), and a large part of the square was already cleared to allow vehicular traffic through. That said, traffic was probably the single biggest problem all over Cairo and Giza. In places it positively crawled, and unless you were going far, walking was better. (Of course, on the way home from JFK airport, we were on the Belt Parkway, which positively crawled for a good distance….)

Many of the people I know in Cairo are from the dance community, or their livelihoods depend on the dance community, so a lot of the feedback I got reflected concerns of that community. Some in the community fear that Morsi will take the country in a more Islamist direction that might go so far as outlawing dance, and requiring all women to veil. But is is surprising that many in this same community actually have confidence that in fact Morsi will be looking to the Turkey model, of keeping government more secular. Only the future will tell us what will really happen, but I have never seen the Egyptian people so happy, expressive, and optimistic about their country. Egyptians LOVE all tourists from all countries. Not clear why some Americans believe that Egyptians have a prejudice against them, because I have never seen any evidence of that in any of my trips, least of all this time. They might not always like our government’s policies, but they welcome every individual as an individual. Hospitality has always been a hallmark of Egyptians, and everyone is anxious to get the tourism sector back on track.

In any case, it was a great trip!

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June & July 2012:  Going to Ahlan wa Sahlan Festival – See this month’s pictures on my new E-Newsletter PhotoBlog Page

Yes!  I’m excited about going to Ahlan again this year!   In spite of the political uncertainty, the Festival is ON!  This year, I will be assisting Morocco with her classes, and I’m hoping some of my other favorite teachers will be teaching, so I can take advantage of their classes.  We will be there, as it happens, when power is turned over to the new civilian government by the military.   I have high hopes for Egpyt, and hope the new civilian government will recognize and treasure all of its cultural heritage, including all forms of its native dance.

The Festival is always a wonderful, international event, with so many students of all levels from around the world, overdosing on classes, evening parties, and glittery merchandise.  Usually some of Cairo’s most famous dancers will be teaching, and Dina, probably the hottest of all, will be performing again in the Opening Gala (besides teaching her usual class).  I look forward to reconnecting with, among others, Dandash, Khariyya Maazin, Magda and Atef, Dina, Mona, and of course, wonderful festival organizer, and choreographer to the stars, Raqia Hassan herself.

It’s always hard not to give in to the impulse to spend the entire time shopping, since the costume selection is fabulous, and Egyptian workmanship is the best!  However, I have to remember that my closet is getting crowded.  I will, however, be picking out a selection of hip scarves to bring back – one day in July, I’ll bring them to class so you can shop too!  I’m sure I’ll have lots of good tales to share!

Karima

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May 2012:   Visiting Cairo:  Glimpses of Dancers  – See this month’s entry on my new E-Newsletter PhotoBlog Page

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April 2012:  Visiting Cairo, Part 2 This month I’m sharing some pix of some things not to miss while you’re in Cairo!  -See April’s entry on my new E-Newsletter PhotoBlog Page

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March 2012:    Visiting Cairo,  Egypt .   NOTE: As you know, Egypt is currently undergoing a revolution involving a massive political reorganization.  While there is still political uncertainty, it has largely been safe to travel there, and our friends who live there report that intrepid travelers will find Egyptians eager and happy to entertain visitors! I thought it would be fun for the next few months to share a few pics of my previous travels to Cairo.  Tourism is a huge part of their GNP, and they are as hospitable as ever.  Friends who were there on a tour a few months ago said that, since tourism is down (due to all the revolutionary news), they were treated like royalty everywhere, and the tourist destinations were all pleasantly uncrowded.

See March’s entry on my new E-Newsletter PhotoBlog Page

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February 2012

Wow!  How did we get here so fast! Yes, class is still on every Friday at Cap21 (see Classes page)

Topic of the month:  How to Get the Most Out of Class – Part II

Part I dealt with the basics of what you should be paying attention to when you first start taking classes.  Here, I’ll talk more about things to pay attention to once you’ve mastered basics.

In its folk roots versions, this dance is generally done in place. Traveling, or moving across a dance space or stage, describes steps that have been added to the movements to enable the dancer to cover the greater available spaces as the dance has shifted to performance dance spaces and stages.  Stepping/ moving from place to place usually involves using a movement from the dance vocabulary and utilizing foot placement to incrementally move in one direction or another while doing the movement.  The focus needs to be on the movement first and the traveling second, and the stepping must still be in rhythm with the music, or it becomes a distraction.  Some movements are more adaptable to traveling than others.  Also, making “steps” too big/wide will detract from the movements, so it is important to remember to make minimal steps.

One of the basics of any dance is the ability to isolate one movement from another.  In other words, to do a movement with one part of one’s body without that movement unduly echoing through or affecting other parts of the body.  The ability to isolate then allows one to do multiple movements at the same time, either in tandem (traveling while undulating, for example) or on top of each other.  Often, one movement is dominant with one or more movements layered on top.  An example of this would be starting with an undulation, then stepping in rhythm with it, with a shoulder shimmy added on top (3 movement types).  In this example, the undulation is the primary move and the other 2 can be considered enhancements of the primary move.  Another example would be a typical traveling step like  forward, in place, back, in place, with a hip quiver layered over it, giving the look of a continuous shimmy.  Layering is possible because we use different muscles for each movement, so the body can generate the movements independent of each other, like chewing gum & walking at the same time, or (if you drive) operating the gas pedal with your foot & steering with your hands.  You can think of layering as the body’s version of multi-tasking!  We do things like this all day without thinking twice, because we have been doing them for so long.  With dance, it is just practice and a matter of time before layering becomes as automatic as some of the other things you have learned to do.

Transitions and directional changes involve creating a smooth flow while moving from the execution of one movement type to another, changing the direction of a movement, or both at once.  Crucial to smooth, organic transitions is an awareness of where the body weight is, as that will determine what movement or direction is most naturally possible. Awkward transitions will cause breaks with the rhythm which, even if slight, will appear out of sync to the viewer as well as feeling cumbersome to the dancer.  When a combination/movement/step ends, note your position & weight, as that will determine what a natural, logical next movement or step could be.

One reason to keep your feet fairly close together & take only small steps is the need to keep your weight as centered as possible for transitions & direction changes.  If you are centered, you can go in any direction.  Is your weight on your left leg? Then do that hip circle to the right, shifting the weight right, then left, as you circle around.  Is it on the right?  Then start your up forward up back hip drops on the left.  Don’t fall into the trap of  picking the direction you want to go before you know where your weight is/will be, or you may find yourself adding a “fix -it” step to correct your weight before you can go into that move.  And some “fix-it” steps look just like that: add-ons that disturb the fluidity of your dance.  During our warm-up, notice how we transition from side to side when doing our fast hipwork.  This should help you get a sense of how effortless it can be.

Combinations:  Once you master basic transitions, you will be able to put together various combinations of movements.  Instead of doing 4 of these, and 8 of those, you will be able to do 1 of A, plus 1 of B, followed by 2 C’s, and finishing with Z.  In other words, you will be able to introduce greater variety & complexity into your dance.  You will find that certain combinations work well with certain rhythms, and others work to slower music but are difficult to execute (and likely look frantic) to faster music.  At the end of every Friday class, we spend time on transitions and combinations.  Notice how the combinations fit with the music.  And,  OK, here’s a little advance choreo tip:  don’t throw every single move, combination, complicated layering, transition, and the kitchen sink into your choreography.  It WILL look frantic.  Remember, you are interpreting the music, not showing off everything you ever learned in one song!  (More next time on Choreography.)

Musical Interpretation:  I have been asked why we often use some songs over and over in class.  A primary reason is so that you can become intimately familiar with the music, the rhythm, and the nuances of the musical interpretation that the musicians and/or the singer has chosen.  Then it is our job as dancers to pick up on those interpretations and express them in a complementary way.  If the singer draws out a note (emoting, perhaps), then we should draw out the movement (a hip circle, perhaps) to match the singer’s passion.  It is at this level that movement becomes a dance as opposed to a bunch of movements, and it is the ability to allow the music to flow through one’s consciousness, and have it be expressed in your movements so the audience can “see” the music, that makes you a dancer.

You need not have mastered more than basic movements to begin to think in terms of musical interpretation;  you need only to listen and allow yourself to be in the music. This is certainly more accessible, though, if you are thoroughly familiar with the music.   When you feel you have reached this point in your development, go back to what I said last month about expression.  When you have gotten there, you will own the music!!!

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January 2012 HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Topic of the Month: How to Get the Most Out of Class  

You may not realize this, but there are multiple levels of information available to you in our classes.  Each student, whether rank  beginner or someone with prior dance experience will find lots of opportunities to learn on different levels. The following discussion can heighten your awareness of how to fully access all the available information, and which things to concentrate on, depending on your level of experience.  While I am writing this specifically with reference to Morocco’s classes, the learning methods I’m describing are relevant to most classes you might take, including intensives or specialty seminars.  In fact, you might want to print this out and reread it from time to time to see what you could be working on next!

1) The Friday night class is our basic technique class, and therefore perfect for beginners, as well as for dancers with background in other dance forms or from other studios who wish to acclimate to the technique used in Morocco’s classes.  For all incoming students, the most important firsts are to focus on getting the basic movement vocabulary, checking and correcting proper posture, and beginning to listen to the rhythm.  Posture in Middle Eastern dance is always erect: the chest lifted (without arching the back), the head tall, the pelvis relaxed, knees relaxed (NEVER locked), and feet no wider apart than the width of your hips. The movement vocabulary in Middle Eastern dance is torso based – in fact, it’s mostly in the hips.  So at the beginning, your efforts should be directed at learning the proper motion and placement for the hip movements.

As you develop some facility with the movements, you should be listening to the rhythm in the music to note how the movements relate to the music.  Dance technique takes time to develop. While this dance form goes naturally with the body structure, you may be using muscles that have not been exercised much lately, so give them a  chance to wake up and get with the program.  Don’t have unrealistic expectations of yourself regarding how quickly you should be getting the movements.  Remember, the best professional dancers train for years to perfect their technique. You would be some kind of bionic person if you could do everything perfectly the first class!  As for the arms, at the start, concentrate on generating the movements correctly from the torso,  and follow with arm movements as demonstrated when you feel comfortable with the torso movements.

2) Ok, so you’ve got the basic hip movements pretty well and don’t have to think about them so much.  Now you can start to shift your attention to include other things.  Relaxation is extremely important to executing the movements with quality in this dance.  First, note whether your body is relaxed or tense in making the movements.  If you are feeling tense anywhere (this happens sometimes when one is learning something new and is trying too hard, or if you are stiff or tense from, say, sitting hunched over your computer all afternoon), try to get in touch with which parts of your body are tense, and begin to consciously relax those areas.  You should see improvement in your quality of movement right away if you can relax those tense shoulder & neck muscles, or that clenched leg or butt muscle!  Relaxing actually makes it easier for you to do the movements.  Also keep checking your posture, especially keeping your chest lifted, as poor posture will make the movements more awkward, and can contribute to discomfort in doing some moves.

3)  Once you’ve allowed yourself to relax a bit more, you can now concentrate more on coordinating your movements with the music.  See if you can count with the music, if you can hear where the marker beats are, if you can discern how the teacher is using the counts.  Begin to work on the arm movements.  See how the arm movements also fit with the rhythm.  Notice how arm placement frames the movement without distracting from it. When we change from one movement to another,  or change direction (like 4 movements left, then 4 movements right), the change is a transition point.  Notice where with relation to the musicthe teacher is making transitions, and how those transitions fit with the music.

Listen for musical phrasing, where there are pauses in the music, where the singer seems to be finishing a “sentence,” where the singing stops and an instrumental part starts, where a solo singer sings a line, and a chorus sings the next line.  These musical transitions guide the teacher in making dance transitions.  Learning to hear this in the music is a first step to your being able to interpret the music into a dance yourself.

4)  Once you’ve got some of the basic movements down, traveling -moving across the floor- will become easier for you. Keep your feet close to the floor, and just come up on the balls of your feet enough to get your heels off the floor.  This makes it easier for you to glide (no marching steps in this dance) across the floor with the least resistance.  Also, just because you are moving in a particular direction does not mean to take large steps.  Take small steps and keep your feet close under you, so that your feet are always just below your center of gravity.  Directional changes and other transitions become difficult (to say nothing of awkward looking) if you first have to call your feet back home before you make the new move/direction!  Other than carrying you around the dance floor, feet do not have a role in this dance.  All of those lovely torso moves you are learning look best when your feet are right below you!  Many of the traveling steps are driven by the hip moves, not the other way around, so when you are learning the traveling steps, watch the hips first.

5)    So now you’re an experienced student but this is the only night you could make technique class?  If you already know our warmup, you should be working on expression.  Execute the warmup like it’s your most important performance!  How would  you be doing it if an important audience was watching?  Would you nap through it?  Or would you put on your performance face (smile, for heavens’ sake!),  make sure your movements are perfect, make sure your arms are graceful, make sure you are with the music.  Note the way your head is held, what your posture looks like, if your shoulders are relaxed.  Get into the music (Our slow music is titled “Beautiful Friends”–couldn’t you put some love/emotion/expressiveness into your “dance?”) No matter what level the class is said to be,  there’s always another level to get to as a student.  Watch the teacher:  how is the teacher interpreting the music, how is the teacher moving his/her hands, arms, etc.  What qualities of movement does he/she have that you would like to work on?

When I’m a student in one of the other classes, and the teacher gives a correction, even if it is not meant for me, I check to see if I am doing that thing correctly,  because sometimes when I think I know something, I get lazy, and maybe don’t do it quite right.  If this happens too often, I could develop a bad habit that will be harder to break.  Since we develop good technique by repetition and practice, it is extremely important to constantly check one’s technique to make sure we don’t develop quirks or habits that can become problems later.  The best dancers are always evaluating their own technique and striving to elevate their quality of movement.  And this is one of the reasons that in THIS dance form, most of the best dancers are the older  ones! MORE TO COME!  To be continued next month…….. Coming up:  discussion about understanding layering, combinations, musical interpretation, weight changes in transitions, and nuance of movement, plus some tips on starting to choreogaph.

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See E-Newsletters 2011 for earlier posts


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