INTERVIEW WITH KAY
On the 15th of last month, I was lucky enough to be included in Kay Kizi’ah’s event: Katrina’s School’s Out Hafla Summer Edition. It was the first time I ever really got to spend time with Kay, who is very prominent in the NYC bellydance scene. She is a talented, passionate dancer and such a warm and sweet person.
In addition to dancing, Kay has been working at a high school for eight years as a special education teacher working with emotionally disturbed children. She has also been an adjunct at the College of New Rochelle for six years, teaching courses in the Psychology Department.
In fact, her event, which included 17 performers, was also offered as a part of a summer college course called “Dance as a form of Cultural Expression”. This course is 6 credits, matriculated, and was the first Middle Eastern dance course offered at The College of New Rochelle. The course, taught by Kay, was offered last year and became SO popular that despite budget cuts, it was offered again this year and recieved double enrollment!
Kay has her students approach the study of Middle Eastern dance from theoretical, cultural, spiritual, historical and practical angles. They study the history of the dance, learn basic movements, interview dancers, write poetry, and view clips of the great stars like Fifi Abdo and Nagwa Fouad. Attending shows, like the Summer Hafla, is an important part of the course. Students get to see dancers of different ages, genders, sizes, and races express themselves and dance in a way that is true to them and their own style.
I was so impressed with the organization of the show, the line up of dancers, and with how amazing and chill Kay is, so I approached her about an interview, and lucky for me – she said yes!
TBB: How and why did you get started in bellydance?
KK: I was a middle school teacher, and one of my colleagues wore a low key hip scarf to work. I liked how she walked with it on and I asked her what it was. She invited me to class, and as usual, I was hesitant, but it sounded like fun. I passed on it the 1st Friday night and the next one I said, ” Ok, I’m going.”
TBB: What is your favorite bellydance style?
KK: Definitely Egyptian! To me it’s about the music. There are so many instruments and hidden layers, so many dynamics and I really feel at home when I hear it. I used to say “I like that song” for instance: Alf Leyla, Princess of Cairo (Princess of Cairo on iTunes), Bitwannes Beek (Bitwannes Beek on iTunes) and people would say “That’s Egyptian.”
TBB: If you could only dance to one song, over and over again, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
KK: Wow that’s a tough question because I go through phases with music where for one month I will listen to a song over and over and then I won’t listen to it for a whole year. It would have to be a challenging song that I could not master that would keep me interested. Perhaps Alf Leyla or Ma’ood because there’s so many parts to dance to and you could always take them in a different way. My new Favorite song is Romantic Beledi, I feel it’s the perfect combination of slow and fast, melody and percussion.
Listen to Kay’s Favs!
Mawood (Ma’ood), Abdel Halim
Fe Yom We Layla, Warda
Beledi (I couldn’t find Romantic Beledi, but it’s by the same person), Mohammad Ali
TBB: Who are your biggest influences?
KK: So many to list because I try to have unique style that kind of follows the rules but is very different from everyone else is doing. I started with American cabaret and have taken classes or a workshop at every studio in this city with almost every teacher. I’ve worked collaboratively to help organize shows and events and this allowed me to build my artistry. Recently I have been training in Modern Egyptian and my colleagues still say to me, my trip to Egypt really influenced my dance. I also have studied ballet at the Ailey Extension and now Broadway Dance Center.
TBB: If you could meet any dancer past or present, who would it be and why?
KK: So many, but I think Alvin Ailey because he took a story of pain, trauma and stories no one wanted to revisit and made a beautiful dance out of it. I also think Mahmoud Reda just to hear his insights and get a historical account of Egyptian Style and I would want Michael Jackson to be one of my dance teachers. By the way he was a modern dancer.
TBB: What is the best dance advice you’ve ever gotten? And what advice would you give?
KK: Be yourself, everyone’s journey is different and don’t let the dance change you. I would say to dancers: ” Don’t give up,” which is what my teacher told me, keep pushing your dance forward, and just know that the dance is always with you through life’s ups and downs.
TBB: As a teacher, what do you hope is your students biggest take away from your class?
KK: I’m once again proud of the research and the rigor of the course allowing the students to see Middle Eastern Dance as an academic discipline in itself. I am honored that they understand the spiritual aspect of the dance and that they realized that Dance is a powerful healing tool. The students reported that their self-esteem was raised and that they could see a story being told through this art form. One guy stated it improved his jumpshot on the basketball court! and he was serious. One of the many things that I love about the course is that it brings the community together. The students learn so much from interviewing the other dancers and the community gets to tell its story in the dance.
TBB: After seeing you put together such a great show, can you explain some of what goes into producing and planning such an event?
KK: It takes an intense level of preparation and organization. You have to have the ability to think clearly, fairly and about the group as a whole, yet balance being sensitive to the individual needs of each dancer. Everyone in the show is a friend so it’s most important that I treat everyone in the way I want to be treated.
TBB: Anything else you want to add?
KK: Thank you and looking forward to supporting your events soon, K
KAY’S UPCOMING EVENTS:
Look out for future dates on Kay’s School’s Out Hafla we plan on having them seasonally/during school breaks when Kay is on vacation.