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  1. #51
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Dear Brea,
    In any case, good luck there at the college. I do agree that the dance can sometimes be altered when people have too much of a western dance background, and this shows in many people's styles. With Cassandra, I believe it is a choice, since I have seen her dance truly fine Egyptian as well as the more westernized stuff she seems to be doing now. I also think she is one of the few who can actually make it a choice!! I like her very much as a person and have respect for her as a dancer for sure. I have taken a few classes with her and always have come away with something of value.
    Regards,
    A'isha

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    Hi da Sage-

    I'll let you know. I might not do privates with her, just a technique workshop (drilling with different things, etc). I'll have to see; I am not in the money so much myself at this time.

    I am under the impression she started at a 'cabaret'...perhaps I am misunderstanding what that means for the time.

    A'isha-

    Thanks! I really appreciate Cassandra, not just as a dancer, but as a person. There are a lot of nasty dancers out there and she has always been very sweet and helpful with advice for me.

  3. #53
    V.I.P. da Sage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brea View Post
    Hi da Sage-

    I'll let you know. I might not do privates with her, just a technique workshop (drilling with different things, etc). I'll have to see; I am not in the money so much myself at this time.
    Don't worry about it unless it's a private...all my teachers drill me nigh unto exhaustion, but I have some stubborn issues I don't feel comfortable hijacking a group class for. Unless I "break through" on my own soon, I'll need privates to fix them.

  4. #54
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A'isha Azar View Post
    I still feel that teaching in an academic environment is not going to be really great for the dance. I think I can use one if Cassandra's choreographies as an example.
    I'm not quite sure how you're using this as an example. Was this a class choreography taught as part of a college course in Tunisian dance? Otherwise I don't really understand the relevance ??


    Looking at her Tunisian video on Youtube, somehow the "Tunisianess" of the dance is lost in her choreography, and the dance looks nothing like either modern or traditional versions that I have on video from Tunisia.
    Looks to me pretty much how Aisha Ali does it, and shows on her video of North African dance. ????? Except this piece fades in -- looks like pieces put together into one video.

    What IS the ethnic dance that is known as "Tunisian" ? Is it Tunisian before the Andalusian influx? Is it Tunisian in the Ottoman era, or before the modern era, when they hired French and Russian dancers to perform in the Folkloric ballet? Is it malouf now, since people have decided to dance to it? Or is a kind of regionally-variant Tunisian folk dance? Or is it whatever Leila Haddad is teaching around the country?

    When thinking of the pot dance, I have these in my notes:

    Tunisia Tube

    Tunisia Tube

    MySpaceTV Videos: TUNISIAN FOLK DANCE by kalypso

    YouTube - Zahra Zuhair, Classical Tunisian

    (The first 3 were given to me by a Tunisian travel tour organizer. The last one is one I had in my notes.)

  5. #55
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brea View Post
    Frankly I didn't even ask the dance department, because I was originally just looking for space to hold the class in. I didn't expect to be offered a position at the university doing it! I was sent to the health and wellness center.
    Because I'm nosy, because I'm also looking for another space for classes, and because I want to know how to approach my school, can you answer these questions for me, pretty please ?

    1. Is this a for-credit or non-credit class? If credit, is it comparable to any other class, or is being offered at a reduced credit rate (like if your Sociology 101 class was 3 credits, would this class be 3 credits or 1?)

    2. Are the students signing up through the university, or through the PE/Fitness center?

    3. Do you get final control over how many people are in the class?

    4. Will you be paid by the university itself or by a specific department, or by the students?

    5. Will you get "instructor" status? Or does your school have that?


    We've taught 6-8 week "Continuing Ed" non-credit classes at my alma mater, but I never thought to go to the PE dept for a regular gig.

    Hmmm.....

  6. #56
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Dear Aziyade,

    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    I'm not quite sure how you're using this as an example. Was this a class choreography taught as part of a college course in Tunisian dance? Otherwise I don't really understand the relevance ??

    A. writes- I am saying that this quality of work is what we see that Cassandra is doing, and that we can pretty well understand what she is teaching and doing from this example. In general, people will teach pretty much the same way in one venue or another. For example, when I have taught at colleges, my content was not different than when I taught at the YWCA or in private studies, etc.




    Looks to me pretty much how Aisha Ali does it, and shows on her video of North African dance. ????? Except this piece fades in -- looks like pieces put together into one video.


    A'isha writes- It looked VERY different from what I have on A'isha Ali's videos in that the dance was not choreographed and performed by all pretty maids in a row, so to speak. The costuming was the same, but movement base not so expanded in the Cassandra video, and much more formal and precise. I have Ali's videos from the 1970s and the style there for Tunisian is very traditional. I also have some modern Tunisian stuff on video, where there are dancers performing with.... god, what's his name??? He is a very famous Tunisian singer. Again, there is no choreography, but there are a few more stylized hand and arm movements that are not seen in traditional versions. There are a few more variations on the basic movements. None of it looks like the very formalized and clearly choreographed version that Cassandra presented.

    What IS the ethnic dance that is known as "Tunisian" ? Is it Tunisian before the Andalusian influx? Is it Tunisian in the Ottoman era, or before the modern era, when they hired French and Russian dancers to perform in the Folkloric ballet? Is it malouf now, since people have decided to dance to it? Or is a kind of regionally-variant Tunisian folk dance? Or is it whatever Leila Haddad is teaching around the country?

    A'isha writes- I do not know the answers to all of those questions, but I can say that people HAVE danced to it for longer than we can say, so that part is not new. With the jars, etc, it is a regionally variant dance from the islands of Djerba and Kerkenneh. I have never studied with Leila Haddad, but I have heard she has some pretty artistic interpretations. I do not have any video of the folkloric ballet, but I DO have videos of Tunisian natives.

    Regards,
    A'isha

    When thinking of the pot dance, I have these in my notes:

    Tunisia Tube

    Tunisia Tube

    MySpaceTV Videos: TUNISIAN FOLK DANCE by kalypso

    YouTube - Zahra Zuhair, Classical Tunisian

    (The first 3 were given to me by a Tunisian travel tour organizer. The last one is one I had in my notes.)


    PS: Of all of these the one that looked the most like Tunisian folkloric dance as I have it on video by Tunisians is Tunisian FolKdance by Kalypso. I am not sure who Kalypso is, but I would study with them!!
    Last edited by Aisha Azar; 01-28-2008 at 09:37 PM.

  7. #57
    V.I.P. da Sage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A'isha Azar View Post
    I still feel that teaching in an academic environment is not going to be really great for the dance. I think I can use one if Cassandra's choreographies as an example. Looking at her Tunisian video on Youtube, somehow the "Tunisianess" of the dance is lost in her choreography, and the dance looks nothing like either modern or traditional versions that I have on video from Tunisia. What she presents on stage is lovely and it is done in proper costume, with the right music, and the totally wrong essence. Now, maybe this is explained in the program that more than likely is given to those who attend the performance, but unless she also shows a more Tunisian feeling dance, the audience is not going to know the difference and what she presents becomes the reality of the dance for them, whether or not it at all represents an ethnic reality.
    Regards,
    A'isha
    Hi Aisha,

    I think that teaching bellydance and other middle eastern dances in an academic environment is great for the dance. Other ethnic dances are taught that way; why is our dance somehow different?

    Of course, a single course can't offer the same depth that a few years of "normal" dance study would, but I do feel even abbreviated study is valuable; to exclude bellydance implies that it is somehow less culturally valuable.

    And I must also disagree with you about the "essense" of Cassandra's Tunisian choreographies, which I have seen live on more than one occasion. If their "essense" is wrong, then I cannot imagine what the right "essense" would be! Barring extensive (and expensive) personal research on location in Tunisia, I doubt I will ever have reason to change my assessment.

    I agree that Cassandra sometimes chooses modern stylings for her solo dances (which might not be to everyone's taste), but I really cannot find fault with her traditional and folkloric presentations. Perhaps one day I will find a nit to pick, but so far I have found the energy and flavor of her traditional dances to be very traditional.

  8. #58
    V.I.P. da Sage's Avatar
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    I feel compelled to add this, don't know if I will regret it later or not...

    Aisha,

    Very shortly after I began lurking here (about 4 years ago), I noticed that you were very quick to point out on almost any occasion that (in your opinion) Cassandra and her troupe dance with the wrong feeling. I noticed this because she is one of our local Big Names, and so I already knew who she was (by reputation; to my knowledge I had not seen her dance yet).

    As time went by, I noticed that you didn't seem to single out any other dancers/choreographers for that flaw - I'm sure you must have done so occasionally, but it doesn't seem to be with nearly the same frequency. I really don't understand why you are so focused on what Cassandra is doing here.

    As far as I could figure, there could only be two reasons for that: one, that she is getting SO CLOSE to what you consider correct, that the minor difference drives you bonkers, or two, that something about Cassandra or her national reputation annoys you on a personal level. If there is a third reason I'm missing, please enlighten me!

    I admit that I'm not an unbiased party...I've studied under, and greatly respect and admire, several of Cassandra's troupe members. Jawaahir (Cassandra's troupe) does wonderful performances that create incredible energy...it's not always a traditional approach, but often it is.

    I don't know if I'm the only one who feels Cassandra's work gets the "special treatment" in your forum comments. But that is my perception.

    And that is the only reason I didn't suggest Cassandra as a candidate when you asked whom you might study Tunisian with on one of the styles threads earlier...I figured you had already concluded that her approach was wrong. From your comments here on this thread, I see that my guess was correct.

  9. #59
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A'isha Azar View Post
    PS: Of all of these the one that looked the most like Tunisian folkloric dance as I have it on video by Tunisians is Tunisian FolKdance by Kalypso. I am not sure who Kalypso is, but I would study with them!!

    I have to laugh -- that's the one my source claimed was "for tourists" and bad dancing. It's from a dinner theatre there. I think there are more clips from that theatre on that site. Kalypso is just the guy who posted the video.


    Staged folk dance, in order to draw a paying crowd, HAS to be choreographed and flashy. Real folk dance is NOT flashy, the floor patterns may not be choreographed, and it's NOT meant to be watched -- it's meant to be participated in. To make it stage-worthy it MUST change. I can point you to any number of professional folk dance troupes who will say the same thing.

    If you have not seen the Tambouritzans perform, you MUST -- although you'd probably have a heart attack by what they do. LOL. (Technically they're not a professional troupe, though, since they're college kids.) Also, Ahmet Luleci's "Collage" dance troupe in Boston draws rave reviews from Turkish people, many of whom say they admire his innovations.

    While you might be able to get away with a "performance" of folk dance at a hafla, the minute you start asking people to pay money to view it they're going to expect drama and THEATRE. We don't pay to watch kids social dance, and nobody around here is going to pay the old German couples to polka around the church. If we want to SELL a show of German folk dance, it has to be visual varied and appealing. That means color and texture in the costuming, interesting stage and floor patterns, and variance in what is almost always a repetitive dance.

    But a lot of folk dance IS choreographed -- a lot of British/Celtic couples dances have "forms" that you dance through, and a WHOLE lot of American and English country dancing has set forms (floor patterns you walk through). I can name dozens, probably a hundred or so that WE know here, that have set choreography (as far as footwork).

    Staged folk dance cannot equal folk dance done in church, at home, at grandma's bbq, at the town fish festival, or in the pub after the big game. THAT's where real folk dance is done: -- not watched.

    I'm curious -- you've told us that Saudi dance is not choreographed, and yet you perform it as a choreography. How is this different from what Cassandra does with her troupe?

  10. #60
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Dear DaSage,

    Quote Originally Posted by da Sage View Post
    I feel compelled to add this, don't know if I will regret it later or not...

    Aisha,

    Very shortly after I began lurking here (about 4 years ago), I noticed that you were very quick to point out on almost any occasion that (in your opinion) Cassandra and her troupe dance with the wrong feeling. I noticed this because she is one of our local Big Names, and so I already knew who she was (by reputation; to my knowledge I had not seen her dance yet).

    A'isha writes- First, I do not consider myself to be "singling out" Cassandra for critique, etc. In fact, if you look back over what I have said about her in various parts of this forum, it is mostly all very positive. I happen to think she does great work, and she is one of my favorite dancers. That does not mean that I have to take her every step as authentically correct.

    As time went by, I noticed that you didn't seem to single out any other dancers/choreographers for that flaw - I'm sure you must have done so occasionally, but it doesn't seem to be with nearly the same frequency. I really don't understand why you are so focused on what Cassandra is doing here.

    A'isha writes- It is only the wrong feeling if they are advertising it as techincally ethnically correct. Actually I have singled out Suhaila Salimpour, Angelika Nemeth and several others. I am focused on what Cassandra is doing here because she is one of the few who is teaching in an academic setting, and because I have studied with her. I have not studied with anyone else who is teaching in a university. I have studied with Suhaila, who does the certification thing, and I have mentioned both her and Angelika, whose work I have seen in person, but with whom I have not studied. At the moment I am not sure who else I could name here.

    As far as I could figure, there could only be two reasons for that: one, that she is getting SO CLOSE to what you consider correct, that the minor difference drives you bonkers, or two, that something about Cassandra or her national reputation annoys you on a personal level. If there is a third reason I'm missing, please enlighten me!

    A'isha writes- It seems to me you are trying to read something more into this than is there..... Cassandra deserves every bit of her national reputation as a great dancer. If I see differences between how the dance is presented by natives and by Cassandra, I don't think that has to mean I am either annoyed or in any way upset about it. I am merely pointing out the differences that I have noticed. I am not sure, but it seems like that bothers you. We can not simply put people on pedestals and think that because they do one thing expertly, that there is perfection in everything they present. It is not in some way terrible if we point out differences between what we see in the authentic presentations and the dances as they are presented by people here. In fact, it is healthy so that people will learn to look for those differences.

    I admit that I'm not an unbiased party...I've studied under, and greatly respect and admire, several of Cassandra's troupe members. Jawaahir (Cassandra's troupe) does wonderful performances that create incredible energy...it's not always a traditional approach, but often it is.

    A'isha writes- You know, people point out the warts on some of my favorite instructors very often. I do it myself now and then. Shareen El Safy is my very favorite person to study with, I also love Aisha Ali, Cassandra, Shakira of Ohio, Mouna Said and Mark Balahadia as far as how they teach and what they present. That does not mean I think any of them is perfect, any more than they think I am. Shareen and I have had absolute knock down drag out arguments about the way she teaches posture, but that does not mean I have no resepct for her or her for me. Part of doing our work is having others look at us and say, "you know, they could do that differently."

    I don't know if I'm the only one who feels Cassandra's work gets the "special treatment" in your forum comments. But that is my perception.

    A'isha writes- I am not sure then, that you have ever read what I usually say about her, because I have consistently given her one of the biggest compliments she could get from me. She is literally the ONLY person I have ever seen who can do justice to more than one style of belly dance. She is a sublime Egyptian dancer and a great western one.... in fact my favorite of the American Oriental dancers.

    And that is the only reason I didn't suggest Cassandra as a candidate when you asked whom you might study Tunisian with on one of the styles threads earlier...I figured you had already concluded that her approach was wrong. From your comments here on this thread, I see that my guess was correct.
    A'isha writes- I would not know if her approach to teaching is wrong, but what I see in video as far as how she presents Tunisian on stage, the feel is very westernized. If you do not believe this, go and LOOK at some videos of Tunisians presenting the dance. As I stated in an earlier post, however, that might be what Cassandra is aiming for and she may say so in her programs or announcing or in some other way.

    I get a little tired of always being the bad guy just because I dare to say something critical of our icons. I have been at this too long to look at anyone through rose colored glasses. I learned a long time ago in this dance that all of us, including the most famous of us, is not always right on. I think you should at least compare what is being done to the real thing before deciding I have grudge against this or that person. Many times, I actually love the dancer in question, but that does not make me blind.

    Regards,
    A'isha

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