Egyptian ... that's NOT.

Aisha Azar

New member
Egyptian

Dear Starrbursts,
I highly recommend anything by Shareen El Safy, though her stuff might sometimes be difficult for very beginner dancers. Some people also think she talks too much, but I disagree! She is imparting valuable information that helps the student to understand that there is a cultural connection there. I also have a DVD out, specifically dealing with the fundamental movements of Egyptian belly dance. For more info, go ti my website (Raqs Azar) and go to the video section. I Think Sahra Kent does and maybe also Zahra Sohair, who is a wonderful dancer. Anything by those three dancers should be worthwhile. (I hear good feedback on my DVD also and I think it is especially good for beginners and for those who really want a deeper understanding of Egyptian dance as Egyptians execute movement.
Shareen el Safy has been my favorite of the Americans who teaches Egyptian dance.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Kharmine

New member
Thank you for pointing out those filmmaking factors, A'isha, for the people who didn't know anything about them.
 

Ludmilla

New member
Aziyade - A fantastic subject!! Pointing out the distinction between what mght be "Egyptian Technique" and "Egyptian Style" in dance or choreo is brilliant!!! (I haven't been able to put my finger on what is so illusive about understanding these concepts!!!!!!!!!!!!)
A'isha - I'm so excited about the articles on your website - I pla n to read them all!!! (ESp. the one about contract/AM Cab and Egyptian)
Now, Sedonia - One of my main questions is about what you referred to that:
American/Westerners may "lack...repetition" in the choreography!?$(#*@#Y%
Does this mean that a trait of Egyptian style-Choreography is that it has repetition?
WOWWWWW!! Let me tell you why this is mind-blowing for me! (again, I sensed something and have asked myself how ME dancers "choreograph"?? (from a form that originated from folk/gypsy or other pretty natural and although prescribed and based on principles of one sort or another) If I look at dances from the "golden age" (Naima Akif, others of the 50's -- which I've read were very influenced by Hollywood and Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire - whether you want to believe that or not -- I do -- this was a great time where the Hollywood greats got into the psyche of many throughout the world, it seems to me.
THEN I look at ME art -- the symmetry and balance and intracacy of the patterns that one sees in temple/mosque painting, pottery - tapestries -- you name it. (This is not Picasso/Kandinsky or Pollack) This is highly refined and intricate and regular - I don't see wild patterns or abstract "ideas" -- The Pattern IS the art --

Who among us disagrees w/ me that this shows in ME dance as well? (Coming from a dance background of Jazz, ballet, modern which can be all over the place and VERY a-symmetrical - (This is highly revered in our relatively peaceful, homogenous....(bland?) Western society and culture.)

The ME which is full of spice, a sense of pretty harrowing turmoil over centuries, seems to revere orderly, patterned and yes, confined (within a space, within the body, not too radical....) patterns in dance.

So Sedonia again, from your comment -- Is repetition the preferred in ME dance? I guess I think so -- ESP where themes in the music repeat AS DO then, the movements repeat again during that musical theme (in a taqsiim or rythym variation - of course that's when the movement pattern can and may change considerable - only to revert to the movement pattern of the theme and repeat again -- ( It may vary a little for visual interest - but some of the more appealing moves - maybe a specialty of the dancer etc - do repeat - which I like a lot - It gives the dance piece and the dancer - a look of accomplishment that a pattern and a system are being followed to demonstrate their craft -- (Not trying to invent a new dance form as so many in the West always are in the dance world - not that that's "bad" but that for me is what is so appealing about ME dance -- The wholesomeness, wholeness, Unity and Continuity of the underlying movement patterns and emotion throughout a dance piece. The pattern IS the art (unlike in Western dance - Modern/Ballet etc where some Idea drives the drama of the dance) -

I am NO EXPERT but I just thought of all this due to this great thread --
Sorry this is so long and ponderous - BUT can any of our experts and teachers tell me -- Is this issue of the pattern BEING the art - and the repetition, if the music repeats - (and also the regular number of steps - I notice a lot things are in series of 2's 4's and 8's in so many choreos for ME pieces which for me brings some of the pleasure from this symmetry (must be some sort of primal thing like rocking in a baby chair or something - rocking in a simple pattern seems to waken my sense of primal instinctual peace or something.........(in W dance that would not work in most principles of Choreo as I understand it) -- Again sorry so long -- (this may seem stupid to some who know far more than I do, but am desperately trying to understand some principles if someone familiar w/ Western (ie ballet/modern dance etc principals of chreography) could tell me a few essential ways ME dance differs - other than what I can observe for myself - even if there are not any "rules" - and I think there are -- those would be rules/principles in themselves - for creating some ME dance choreography.......Ludy
 

starrbursts

New member
Thank you aisha!!! Now I definently know what I want for christmas! :D I couldn't make up my mind of what dvds I should get and what not. I didn't want to waste my money on something that i wasn't going ot understand.

THank you!!!!!!!

XD
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Egyptian, etc.

Dear Ludy and Starrbursts,
You are both welcome, and thank you for listening!

Ludy, I would say that Egyptian belly dance is NOT about the pattern, but instead about something more visceral than intellectual. It is about a personal response with certain cultural boundaries. Sedonia pointed out that Egyptian dance is more repetitive than the usual American brand, in which some dancers ( though not all, by any means) try to show you every movement they ever learned during every dance regardless of its fit or feeling inside the music. Most Egyptian dancers have a more limited vocabulary than western dancers, but it is not like they are trying to show off movement, as so many westerners are. They are concerned with movement as a tool for expression and not as the entire dance.
However, Egyptians know how to do something wonderful and instead of needing a humongous vocabulary,they show off many angles and sides to the same movement. They create variety by doing things like standing face on to the audience to do a movement and then standing angled toward, say 10:00. Same movement, whole new view.
Try this and see what a difference it makes. Stand and shimmy in front of a mirror facing 12:00. Now, doing the same exact shimmy trun your body so that you are facing 10:00. Now, tell me what you see and I will tell you a little more in detail about this little technique of angling the body.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Ludmilla

New member
Dear A'isha -- Thank you so much for responding to my question. This is plaguing me w/ trying to grasp this idea -- :
How does a dancer or chreographer of BD/ME Dance base their decisions to use a certain move A, rather than a different move B?
Is that like asking the secret pumpkin pie recipe that can never be revealed?
Or is it a simple "because they want to"?

I am so intrigued by what you have explained that it is not intellectual, etc but sorry if this Western mind needs to ask, again: .....somewhere somehow in the dancer's brain, something is determining why to do move A in this spot (and I read your aricle about phrasing - another great epiphany, for me - I will read it again till I grasp it better, too)

Can I phrase this question right? -- What "rules" or principles determine the dancer/chreographer's decision? Do dancers "always" do 3/4 shimmy w/ this certain beat - but do camel walk w/ this other beat?
No -- that would be really boring if it were a 'dance by numbers' exercise.

Can you give me an example possibly of why perhaps in a particular dance you have done, why you chose X move there and Y move here? Or is it one of those wizard of oz things - I have to just discover it for myself.....?

Again, coming from an approach of anthropology (ie of the ME origins), as well as dance (which is somehow universal - even on the most "primitive" level -- Someone made a choice in creating a dance - and don't most of us want to create something new that retains classical justice and credibility, but is fresh, creative and a new slant on things? SO w/ this, how much is individual "whim" or sheer creative effort vs. working within some sort of system of rules or principals in order to still be called ME dance? (It's got to be more than being ME dance just because it has ME music, or uses ME dance steps............) -- Thanks again --

And, any light you might shed on this at all would earn my forever gratitude....................Ludy
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Egyptian, etc.

Dear Ludy,
This is difficult for me because I often get accused of making a big deal out of the differences in the approach to music, dance, life, that we see between Arabs and westerners. These differences do exist. They are real and color every aspect of life, including dance. It is often really difficult for people to step out of their own world view to try to experience things from someone else's viewpoint. Since you are an anthrppologist, it might be different for you. You are aware of and perhaps more accepting of the fact that while people all over the world feel the same feel the same feelings, we might not all think and express in the same ways. I mean no disrespect to anyone, but in order to see the dance as it is, we must all try to look at it through eyes that see things that we generally might not.

Your first question, how do dancers "decide" to use certain move A as opposed to certain move B? The music makes 3/4 of the decision and the dancer's personal preference makes 1/4 of the decision. For example, most dancers will not use an undulation by itself to express the feeling and physical movement of a plinky instrument like the qanoun. The music says shimmy. However, the dancer may feel like the layered movement might be an undulation or a circle or a series of locks, etc, becasue that is the way she/he personally likes to express it in further depth. ( This is stuff that the dancer learns with time and experience, for her/himself.) The Egyptian dancer is not necessarily choreogrpaohed in the western sense, or often not at all. Instead they know their music sidways and backwards and so are prepared to dance to it with emotional response instead of intellectual memorization of a series of movements.

There is no set "rule" as to what movements are used with what rythms and tempos, but some that are just sensible in interpreting music. For example, when there is a smooth violin playing, the dancer will not not go into a full all out shimmy because there is nothing, not even the slightest tremor in the violin at the time, to suggest termulous movement. Rythms, combined with tempo and mood, suggest things to dancers, but since there is the element of the personal response, not all dancers will use the exact same movements to express the music. And after you have danced for a long time, you no longer really think in terms of indiviudal movement, really. It becomes the response and not the shimmy or the lock or whatever. (That is a really bad explanation, I know, and I apologize for not putting it better.)

Yes, we make "choices" in creating dance, but often those choices are made in parts of our minds that are not consciously analyzing what we are doing on the physical basis. I do not choreograph my belly dances. I practice instead until the music is a part of myself, if that makes sense. I have been dancing long enough now that my body automatically responds, leaving me free to explore the essence and feeling of the music on other levels.
I also use the same pieces of music for very long periods of time. I want to fully explore and grow with a piece as I come to understand it and find more intriguing things in it. I have been dacning for about 7 years now to a couple of pieces from "Sohair Zaki in Germany". I keep finding new dimensions in the music all the time!!
I hope this was all helpful. I often feel very inadequate trying to talk about the actual movement of dance without being able to use my body.
Regards,
A'isha
 
Hi Aisha,frankly you can't say it often enough and I completely understand your explanation. It's a hurdle that many westen dancers try to overcome, trying to intergrate Arabic music with the emotional and physical response. An example I want to share is during our classes, we combine the isolations to the music, nothing elaborate, the students enjoy this part and often ask me if the combinations are written down so they can practice them later. They are surprised to know that I'm making it up as I go along and I couldn't remember them if my life depended upon it.
On the other hand they dislike the improv section, where we play music and they are to just connect and dance to the music. It is so hard for them.

Yasmine
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Egyptian, etc.

Dear Yasmine,
Thanks for the vote of confidence!
Have you tried letting them bring the music they are practising to at home? I find students do better with music they are familiar with, just as I do!
Regards,
A'isha
 

Ludmilla

New member
Hi A'isha -- This really helps a lot and I really appreciate your patience in addressing the issue behind my question -- (not just "what" to do w/ certain music tempo, etc, but how to approach this.) Like it or not, I approach this as a westerner. (but I have spent time in various cultures and all over the world including the Middle East, as well have met so many Middle Easterners in Europe, US etc. I can't say I am blind to cultural "flavors".

In your articles, some of the things I really like are your explanation of certain Arabic words - Arabic language phrases and "concepts", including as they relate to ME dance.

But taking this from a non-verbal viewpoint, I will really consider the idea of the response as you mention - It sounds like a sponteneous (after years of practice and study) response. Don't know if I really will achieve that (based on the time and energy level and years to devote to this.)

Again, forgive me if this is not a relevant question -- But some dancers I so admire - namely Saida from Argentina. The clip of TAmil of her dancing shows (to me) such ballet movement w/ a hint of Latin as well -- It has the "look" to me of a choreographed piece...-- and stress again that I love this clip to pieces!!! -- but maybe I would say it is her own interpretation, but not a "strictly Egyptian" choreography/style. I love her style - but don't think I'd call it "Egyptian" --- Am I right on this, or perhaps not...? (Saida herself states herself to be "a ballerina" --- ) -- it's a great background and she makes a wonderful style.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKc0Z2Z1bCU

All I am saying is that one may not be 100% pure as far as ME dance (in- deed, being from the west -- would I ever be (100% together with this art form)? anything I do is still going to be "an interpretation". And I don't want to be what I am not -- but recognizing due to ballet, modern dance styles somewhere in the psyche may rear their head upon occasion -- Thank GOd, as far as Saida is concerned I think.

And good for that, too because I find the range of styles -- Suhaila ----------Saida ------------(Egyptian, AM, Tribal etc etc etc) part of what makes this dance so interesting --
I guess I look to the excellence as a dancer of the person first before I note that yes, they use jazz or ballet steps occasionally, too.

(By the way, I learned a Dr. Mo Gedawi piece w/ a teacher in class and was absolutely blown away by how "Martha Graham" some of the moves were -- they were called 'a new modern belly dance' style or s'thing like that-- To me it felt like modern dance-BD fusion of sorts...These dance styles seem to go retro and across the world pretty easily -- spontaneity notwithstanding -- Or maybe the human body can only do so many moves -- foot pointed etc -- (who can "claim" this as a dance step? it's just there for all to use.)

So perhaps I'm thinking to keep going as I am and improv and see what happens -- I admit I am a bit confused by this but am so much more interested in improv and making my own dances than just learning other's choreographies although I love that, too but ultimately self expression is for me what an artist wants -- (One wants to create, and in a way does not want to be called "wrong" -- I'm not talking about anything radical, but recognizing that as long as one knows the difference betw/ what is Egyptian and what is fusion, Lebanese, Turkish etc or something else -- the artist will only have themselves to look to (or blame) f0r the result.....

Yasmine - glad to hear from you on this, too - I was hoping for your comments --

Thanks again -- Ludy (Hope I haven't said anything really really stupid)
 
Dear Yasmine,
Thanks for the vote of confidence!
Have you tried letting them bring the music they are practising to at home? I find students do better with music they are familiar with, just as I do!
Regards,
A'isha
Hi Aisha,you may have a point there, I'll check with my teacher/boss to see if it's ok.


Yasmine
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Egyptian, etc.

Dear Yasmine,
I know it certainly helps my students when we work with familiar music.

Dear Ludy,
I am happy to have been able to help a little bit. I am also gratified to hear it when someone finds info of worth on my site.

To get back to discussing the issue, I looked at the video clip of Saida, I think she is a fabulous dancer, too. Do I think she is a fabulous belly dancer? No. Do I think she is an amazing and beautiful fusion dancer? Yes! I would call her style American Oriental, no matter where she is from. This style has traveled the world, nearly as I can tell. Good fusion is a wonderful thing and I have always said so.
Regarding your statement about as long as one knows the difference betweren the dance styles, etc. I would have to say that I disagree. It is not only important to know the difference oneself, but to make it VERY clear to the audience that there is a different thing goiing on, on the stage. In Saida's case, I would announce something like:
"The Middle East and the West have a long relationship and these regions of the world have influenced each other. In our relationship there is sometimes a melding of two cultures and the result can be the creation of something new, inspired by both. Said brings to the stage a unique fusion of dance styles where East and West do indeed meet. We call this new style American Oriental."
This is a tiny example of how easy it is to be honest with our audiences, which is all I am asking. there is certainly room for all forms of dance. But, we have to start being much more clear/honesrt/truthful about what we are presenting and stating so in ways that are understandable to our audiences.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Amirah (Hawwa)

New member
Dear Aisha Azar,
You said that Zahra Zuhair is great dancer. I'd like to ask what do you think about her instructional dvds? Her new dvd is "Magnificent Moves - Egyptian Technique, Combinations And Styling"
Thanks for your answer ;)
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Egyptian

Dear Amirah,
I wish I could be more helpful here, but I have just seen a couple of Zahrah's videos and do not own them, so I don't know the names. I have also seen her live and think she is a wonderful and warm dancer.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Ludmilla

New member
Dear Yasmine,
I know it certainly helps my students when we work with familiar music.

Dear Ludy,
I am happy to have been able to help a little bit. I am also gratified to hear it when someone finds info of worth on my site.

To get back to discussing the issue, I looked at the video clip of Saida, I think she is a fabulous dancer, too. Do I think she is a fabulous belly dancer? No. Do I think she is an amazing and beautiful fusion dancer? Yes! I would call her style American Oriental, no matter where she is from. This style has traveled the world, nearly as I can tell. Good fusion is a wonderful thing and I have always said so.
Regarding your statement about as long as one knows the difference betweren the dance styles, etc. I would have to say that I disagree. It is not only important to know the difference oneself, but to make it VERY clear to the audience that there is a different thing goiing on, on the stage. In Saida's case, I would announce something like:
"The Middle East and the West have a long relationship and these regions of the world have influenced each other. In our relationship there is sometimes a melding of two cultures and the result can be the creation of something new, inspired by both. Said brings to the stage a unique fusion of dance styles where East and West do indeed meet. We call this new style American Oriental."
This is a tiny example of how easy it is to be honest with our audiences, which is all I am asking. there is certainly room for all forms of dance. But, we have to start being much more clear/honesrt/truthful about what we are presenting and stating so in ways that are understandable to our audiences.
Regards,
A'isha
Dear A'isha -- Thank you, thank you, Shukran and Gracias!!! I am very glad to finally have this explained to me!!
Lest my many questions be seen as redundant --- may I explain? With your clarification above which would be very good to announce at or before a performance, can you imagine how extremely confusing this is for the student or novice (me) to figure out how all these 1001 styles called "Belly Dance" can't all be The (official) Real Belly Dance.
Now I can read and re-read again your notes here in this thread and understand finally (some seem to think they do "belly dance" just because of having a certain style of costume, music etc and just did not seem right... But I can gain a new respect for dancers who do explain the term "Dance Orientale", or Am Oriental... Others I have asked did not seem to know -- what makes Belly Dance that, and not fusion, or one's own personal "interpretation"? I can also look at traditional Egyptian style (especially) dancers and appreciate now, what makes these very different from fusion or other styles. (That may seem obvious, but til now the clarity of this just eluded me).
THis has defined it so well by taking this clip of one of my dance favorites (Saida), -- so I can relate to that.
From now on, in improv myself, or in recognizing what is being performed by other dancers, whether anyone else distinguishes this or not, I will at least know what a particular dance piece represents -- BD or Am Oriental, etc. (and per your suggestion, clarify this myself for others or an audience and try to give integrity to the art form, to the best of ability possible.)

Thank you again from the bottom of my heart -- This question has bothered me for such a long time and as I try to know what it is in fact I am learning, or presenting in my own dance etc -- (this goes back partly also to the great disparity in terminology in BD even in dance steps....Someday hopefully people may agree across the oceans, too as to defining different "sub-genres" within BD...Very best wishes--
Ludmilla-
 

teela

New member
Thank you

I have enjoyed this thread as I've been really interested and had the same questions. Thank you for some awesome info.
 
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