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  1. #41
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    What's the line from Python:

    Quite frankly I'm against people who give vent to their loquacity by extraneous bombastic circumlocution.

  2. #42
    Junior Member AngeliqueHanesworth's Avatar
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    Yup, as owner of that choreography, I can tell you that it was not very good. I can also tell you that the girls did a wonderful job in realizing my "vision", and I am very proud of their hard work and commitment. As a student myself, I am continually growing. Just yesterday I told one of my students that "you should only be discouraged when you look back at something that you've done last year (or in this case - 4 years ago) and you do NOT see room for improvement". And yes, using this as an example, there is a LOT of room for choreographic improvement for me as an artist.

    That being said however, I know where I am trying to go as an artist. And I understand where this fits in on my path. Yes, I know the SSBD format is very divisive - people either seem to love it, or hate it. I happen to be one of those who love it. Since this choreography, I have completed my L4 training, and I can now say that I understand more fully what Suhaila's vision is. Yes, at lower levels, it is very technically oriented. But the goal is to merge high dance quality from both a dance movement perspective, as well as a bellydance technical perspective. When you do that, and you dance from an emotional place - magic happens. I've seen it. Yes, there are many paths to the same goal, and I've seen countless beautiful dancers that do not have Suhaila's training, but for me, this path works, and it is a "look" that appeals to me. (ie: Nar El Ghara is absolutely *stunning* to me).

    So, is this a choreography I am proud of .... ? Yes!! Because I know how much work I put in to every aspect of it. And because of pieces like this, I can now look back half a decade later and see how much I have grown. :-)

  3. #43
    Junior Member AngeliqueHanesworth's Avatar
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    Default Part 2 - addressing the subject line

    So, here are my thoughts on the title of this post. I am leery to put my two cents in, because I have read countless threads like this and they never really end well. We all know the whole "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" discussion, so no need to go there, and yes, I have read the whole "you drank the kool aid" viewpoint, so no need to go there. So let me give you a little background as to who I am so you understand my viewpoint. I am a 38 year old married mother of 1 (and a half). I have a Comp Sci degree and I worked at IBM for 10 years. I studied Wing Chun Kung-Fu, (intensively) for about 7 years, and I also have a black belt in Ishin-Ryu Karate. I started studying BD because I thought it was a beautiful art and I was deeply inspired. I had a couple of early teachers who belly danced more for "fun". There was no explanation of movement, there was no historical context ... most times, we didn't even break a sweat. I was considered an "advanced dancer" in these classes in about 2 years. (I hope I hear a collective, horrified gasp from all of you out there). Because I wanted more, I started traveling to NYC to take classes with as many people as I could, often attending workshops hosted by the Sharifs. The classes were phenomenal, and the choreographies were stunning, but I couldn't figure out why it seemed like I was doing the same thing as the girl next to me, but she looked soooo much better than me. Because it was 1997, and YouTube wasn't around yet, I bought practically every video / DVD (although they were mostly videos at that time) that came out. I studied alllllll of them. In my collection (which has stopped growing some years ago), I have over 150 DVD's / videos. I "learned" from everyone - what I liked, and what I didn't like.

    Then, by chance, I happened to find an old dusty video - a bootlegged copy of Suhaila's Unveiled that was given to me by a friend and was my first ever BD video. I had long since forgotten about it because at first viewing, I didn't know what I was looking at. I thought everyone was incredible let alone Suhaila! When I was able to go back and look at the video, after having some years of study, I was blown away by the beauty of what I was watching. That caused me to sign up for a weekend workshop in NJ (this was 2002 - I was the only one who showed up in a skirt for those of you that were there...) and by the end of the workshop I knew she was the teacher for me. Why is this? Because I loved the way she danced, I loved the way she broke down movement, and I loved that there was a clear process of development. Since then, I have trained primarily with Suhaila, even though we are on opposite coasts. I did all of this before there were online classes, before there were manuals, or a certification program. I did it because I really, really loved it, and I wanted to do justice to my art by working hard.

    As one of the few L4 certified dancers in the field, I feel a have a unique perspective on the program and Suhaila as a teacher. There are a few points I would like to make:

    1. Having been around for awhile (in the whole community, not just in the SSBD format), I feel I have the right to say that I have received a well rounded education from her school. I can hold my own on a variety of topics including, general BD history in America, music understanding, knowledge of popular singers / composers, rhythm id, some cultural context about the art in Egypt, etc. I can pick up choreographies from other instructors much faster than had I not studied with Suhaila, because I have been trained to think about BD on a dance level, not just a BD level. I can also hold my own with finger cymbals, cane, sword, veil, double veil, Jamila format, improv, chroeography and I have a basic understanding of jazz and ballet concepts. It's true that you may not like what I do, but there is no denying the dedication I have put in to my work (and fortunately for me, there are lots of people who do like what I do. :-) ).

    2. Training for the certification program caused me to work harder for it than anything else I have ever accomplished. (Except ChildBirth - but that is another story and that only took 9 months and 7 hours). While working towards my L4 certification, I trained a minimum of 2 hours a day, every day, for a year. Regardless of your feelings about how things "look" there should be a polite round of applause for a format that is driving dancers in this way. Aren't you tired of people belittling what we do? Don't you want everyone of us to pursue our art with ruthlessness? I sure do...

    3. As part of L4 it is required that you study with X # of teachers not associated with the school for X number of hours. I have heard Suhaila speak highly of some of the teachers I have chosen to train with, and I do not feel that she tries to discourage me from doing so.

    4. With regards to the whole "doing too much technique" discussion... I understand. When I was working on choreographing my L4 personal piece (La Campagnella by Paganini) I mistakingly assumed it was supposed to have all L4 technique in it, all the time, no commercial breaks. As a result, my choreography did not have "life" in it, so Suhaila made me do it again. With her direction, I changed my approach, and danced at whatever level I wanted, whenever I wanted, including sometimes doing nothing more than dance movement with no technique whatsoever. Through the positive feedback from Suhaila and my colleagues, I realized that it is not, in fact, about showing off your technique, but dancing in such a complete way that the technique happens naturally. But you have to be so strong in your technique that you can get to this place. That begin said, we go back to the "beauty in the eye of the beholder discussion" because if you don't think Suhaila danced beautifully in the Nar el Ghara video that was posted, than there is no changing your mind. And that of course, is ok! :-)

    5. As you have seen from her repertoire, Suhaila is not interested in "dancing Egyptian", so it would be unfair of you to hold her by that standard. She has always encouraged us to be well educated and well trained, and then try to cultivate our own expression though that. I have been to numerous L3 workshops were I have seen her work with dancers that range through the stylization gamut. And each personal choreography of the attendee finishes still feeling "personal". (At least, that is my perspective not having spoken in private to everyone attending).

    6. Suhaila has never EVER let me say "I can't do it". No matter how hard I cry.

    In closing, I would like to say that I generally try to stay out of these discussions. But since you used my video and this thread has been viewed thousands of times (ugh!), I felt I had to speak up. I think it is ok that people don't like what she does. Some people don't like tribal, ATS, Cabaret, etc. I do think she is a great teacher, and I don't think you can really judge the quality of her students for another 10 years... because it will take that long for most dancers to have the process "click". Myself included.

    I hope that as a community we can put aside our personal preferences for what is pleasing to our eye, and at the minimum, celebrate a teacher who demands more from her students. Yes, there are others out there, but not so many that we can afford to be exclusionary.

    Okay, I hope this came across respectfully, which is how I intended it. I have to go refill my cup now. I think I'll try Cherry flavor this time... >;-)
    Last edited by AngeliqueHanesworth; 10-05-2010 at 10:13 PM.

  4. #44
    Moderator Yshka's Avatar
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    Dear AngeliqueHanesworth,

    I must admit I didn't like the choreo in the video much either, but that is my opinion, and nobody here was disrespectful in expressing theirs. Nobody has said anything about your artistic dedication or the work put into it as far as I can see, and I cannot see that anyone was disrespectful to you or your work.

    I am always amazed that when people put a video online, or place themselves out there in public wether it is through video or a live show, they act completely surprised and upset if they receive criticism. This is a discussion forum and we are here to discuss anything about this dance from videos to music to costumes. When you put a video out onto the internet, or perform in public, people are entitled to criticise and may do so.

    Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, meaning people are just as well allowed to have a different opinion. If one cannot deal with any opinion that doesn't match their own, they should not put their material out to the public.

    I apologise if this sounds harsh, but I'm tired of reading endless 'defense stories' when somebody expresses a negative opinion.
    Last edited by Yshka; 10-05-2010 at 11:46 PM.

  5. #45
    Junior Member AngeliqueHanesworth's Avatar
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    Yshka -
    This is the perils of internet debate. I thought my post was actually open and humble, and I did not feel defensive in my response, but I did feel an explanation was warranted. I think there are two topics of discussion here (which is why I broke them up):

    1. My video that was posted. I've been around the block long enough to expect and not be hurt by criticism. I thought I expressed that actually quite well.

    2. Suhaila as a teacher and her vision as I understand it. I have a perspective some might not have just watching her videos or doing the online classes, so that is why I detailed the work we are required to do.

    I am confused on why you thought I was bashing the rest of the group as disrespectful. Maybe the last line of my second post? There was no double meaning there. I meant it only as a representation of how I hoped my post to be read as things can get ugly quickly in these types of internet debates. I truly do not want that.

    So no. No hurt feelings here and that was not the intention of any of my posts. I can handle the criticism, but I did feel the need to offer a point of view since really... I deserve it, don't ya think? :-)

  6. #46
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AngeliqueHanesworth View Post
    5. As you have seen from her repertoire, Suhaila is not interested in "dancing Egyptian", so it would be unfair of you to hold her by that standard. She has always encouraged us to be well educated and well trained, and then try to cultivate our own expression though that. I have been to numerous L3 workshops were I have seen her work with dancers that range through the stylization gamut.
    I agree with a lot of your post, and I include her drills and training in my regular practice.

    However, I think we are allowed to hold her to the Egyptian standard when she herself has said that Egyptian "style" is not a separate technique, but simply a "stylization."

    Some of the older posters on OD will remember a time (not too long ago) when it was alleged that Suhaila did actually present herself as an Egyptian-technique instructor. I have the old ads in Arabesque that say just that, but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt that she, along with a lot of American dancers in the 80s, didn't have experience with real Egyptian style/technique and wasn't sure exactly what that entailed.

    I think Suhaila is alone in believing that Egyptian dancers simply have a different "stylization" than American or Lebanese dancers. She is free to have that opinion, of course, but I don't think it accurately represents how Egyptian dancers actually move and communicate the music. It certainly doesn't represent how the Egyptian instructors I've studied with feel about their art form.

    Whether she "dances Egyptian" or not, I think it is a little disingenuous to attempt to distinguish Egyptian dance from American as simply a difference in "stylization." This is my main issue with the program. Although I value what I have learned from the certification process, I feel a lot of it is counter-productive to what I am trying to accomplish as an Egyptian-style, Egyptian-technique-based dancer.

    Fortunately there are other programs available, with standards that are just as rigorous, for the more Egyptian-focused dancer. I admire and respect ANY dancer for finding a training program and committing to it as fully as Yasmina's, Hadia's, Raqia's and Suhaila's students do. !!

  7. #47
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AngeliqueHanesworth View Post
    When I was working on choreographing my L4 personal piece (La Campagnella by Paganini)
    Angie, I love this piano piece, but I'm very curious -- why choose this song for belly dance? PLEASE understand I'm not picking on you -- I just really want to understand why you would spend so much time and effort creating a bellydance choreography to a western song?

    This is yet another thing I do not understand about the program. I had a friend quit the cert. program because she felt the focus was too heavily focused on western music. (Apparently she was supposed to study and dance to Miles Davis -- at least that was what she told me. She said if she wanted to dance to jazz she would have been a jazz dancer.)

    I've learned so much about Arabic music from Simon Shaheen and Sami Abu Shumays and George Sawa, that I can't even imagine a time when I would be bored of Arab music enough to want to dance to Western music. And I haven't even explored Persian or Turkic/Asiatic or North African music yet! Dr. Sawa has said that the dance grows out of the music, and from what I've studied, I can certainly see that. Again, that's just my experience, but I remain curious why Middle eastern music isn't more heavily encouraged?

  8. #48
    Junior Member AngeliqueHanesworth's Avatar
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    Wink

    Hey Aziyade -
    Whoops! In all that I wrote, I forgot to mention that for L4, each year she has a category of music that we need to choreograph to. Ours was classical and as you mentioned, this year is Miles Davis. We had to submit 3 musical pieces and she picked one. The L4 test was divided up into 3 parts:

    1: Improv to a Live Arabic band
    2: Performance of all the L2/3/4 choreo's (which you've seen before)
    3. Personal choreo to the genre for that year.

    Since we were already doing more "traditional" type stuff in 1 and 2, she wanted to force us into a choreographic area where we could NOT say "this sounds like a hip drop" or "this sounds like a shimmy". She did not want us to go to our default dance place. This was very traumatizing for all of us, and very difficult to do (it took each of us months to choreograph), but it yielded very interesting, creative, and original results.

    When we asked her about this, she made the point that there is a lot of "fusion" going on in BD these days, but a lot of people don't know what they are fusing with. I think her point was that when you get to L4, you have a strong enough dance movement background that you really can do fusion well, and she wanted us to showcase it. Also, it really did stretch us from a choreographic perspective in a way that you would not get if you were putting something together for, say, a wedding or trying to authentically represent a certain lineage.

    I think this was along the lines of ballet being done to rock and roll, hip hop being done to blues, etc.

    But yes, it is understandable how this would certainly not be for everyone.

    Also - just as one more side note - to test for L4 you have to submit a 2 hour video collection of your choreo / improv work. Most people dance in their respective genres for this, so if classical BD is your thing, you do spend a lot of time there. And then she makes you submit another 2-ish hours after that, so there really is a lot of work done in that realm.

  9. #49
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Thanks!! That helps me put it into perspective I hope someday you post your video online -- I'd be really interested in seeing it. I know Kaeshi Chai has done some really interesting fusion dances with classical music, and on Karim Nagi's newest CD he has a couple of classical-sampled songs that could inspire a different kind of fusion.

    Sounds fun!

  10. #50
    V.I.P. Maria_Aya's Avatar
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    Very interesting thread in general.
    With some agree with some not, general Suhaila's work is not something I admire, but the WAY she work her business is admirable
    In this bellydance world she is a strong woman (i guess comes from her mom)

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