Thursday, February 25, 2010

Catching Up

Although I've been quiet on the blog front lately, a lot has been occurring in my little corner of bellydanceland. I've taken a couple of workshops I've been remiss in writing about, added a number of new instructional DVDs to my growing collection, and I'm now taking two classes per week, each with a different teacher in a different style.

Back in November I took workshops with DC area dancers Asharah and Belladonna. Based on the extensive warm-ups and drills on Asharah's DVD, I was really expecting to be utterly decimated by her workshop, but it was surprisingly one of the less strenuous workshops I've taken so far. I'd like to pretend that's because I might be in better shape than I was for previous workshops (ha!) but I think it's more likely that Asharah was able to gauge the overall level of the participants and was merciful :) The particular workshop I took with her revolved around the sort of almost mechanized, hip-hop influenced movements (e.g. ticking, strobing, etc.) which are part of her signature style. Much of the main material was similar to what is taught on the DVD. It was very internal and involved a lot of fine muscular control. We did a great deal of working with the glutes and used variations of Suhaila's drills to help sharpen hipwork and make it look more staccato. For some reason that is unclear to me I've never had a problem isolating those muscles (quite the contrary actually), but I'm not used to contracting them in such a deliberate way while standing and simultaneously executing hip movements. Asharah was a very enthusiastic, almost bubbly, teacher and I liked that she frequently walked around to give attention to specific individuals during the workshop. I got to purchase a lovely headdress from her which she actually wore in the first Gothic Bellydance DVD which made my inner fangirl squee with joy.

Belladonna taught us one of her signature combinations, in this case a flirty, burlesque-influenced number. She primarily teaches a version of improvisational bellydance using longer combinations which may last for 16+ counts (an approach similar to Unmata's) in addition to the standard 8-count moves typically used in the ATS vocabulary. This one in particular cued from Arabic. It took nearly the entire workshop to cover the whole combination and the material was presented very quickly. I wish I could remember more of it, but my learning style and short term memory issues makes these types of workshops very difficult for me.

A week or two ago I got to take a short workshop with Jasmine, a dancer of Middle Eastern descent who performs in Las Vegas. She taught us a simplified version of debke and the beginnings of a cane choreography. I really appreciated learning about her firsthand experiences at family gatherings where debke is actually performed. The cane portion was honestly out of my range as I have zero experience dancing any sort of raks assaya while the other people in the workshop seemed to have prior knowledge. Of course it would have helped if I had a suitable cane. The only one I could locate on such short notice was an actual walking cane which was far too heavy and cumbersome to be of actual use.

I really want to touch upon the new weekly classes I'm taking, but I think I'll save that for the next entry.