In honor of The Belly Blog’s new look, get inspired by all gold everything!!!! #goldisagirlsbestfriend
The first time I saw Aszmara dance was at Je Bon in NYC. I had never seen a dancer like her before. She came out, super high energy, playing her zills so fast that my mind was blown. She completely owned the stage, and it’s so hard to describe, but she made watching her an experience. Nothing she did was expected, it was so incredible. With over 35 years of experience under her belt, Aszmara brings grace, strength, confidence, power and passion to the stage. If you haven’t seen her dance yet you’re definitely missing out!
Lucky for you, she has a workshop coming up in just a couple of days, so please check out the info here! 😀
And now for the interview….
TBB: How did you get started in belly dance?
AS: It all started on a dare from a friend who had a free pass from General Foods for a 10 week Belly Dance class at the local White Plains YMCA. She asked if I wanted to come with her and when I declined she countered, “Are you afraid?” “Of course not!” I exclaimed! So on that dare I went to class and immediately fell in love with the music. Then I saw the movements and I fell head over heels. Over 35 years later, I am still falling head over heels, learning more, experiencing more and sharing the love and joy of this most beautiful art form.
TBB: Who were your most influential teachers and why?
AS: There are so many influential teachers throughout my dance life. Elena Lentini has to be top of my list – throughout her career she has pushed the boundaries of typical Belly Dance to extraordinary areas of expression. She constantly inspires by her looking at things in a different way and has inspired me to go beyond the typical trappings of Belly Dance.
There is the late Alan Danielson, a modern teacher of the Limon style, whose courage, technique, lyricism and musical expression are carried with me. The lyric nature and odd time signatures of his teaching fit so well to the music and expressions I strived to convey; his technique has kept my body dancing strongly and safely. Alan’s courage was shown when one year after his heart transplant he returned to teaching and performing in concerts. Sadly, we lost him this year but we had so many extra years because of his transplant.
And finally, Roberta Koch, my dance partner in SaZ Dance Theatre from 1900 – 2010. Together, we created visions that used Oriental Dance movements as a base and expanded to so many new horizons. She taught me to be braver than I thought I could ever be in dance.
Shaabi music, meaning “music of the people,” came out of Cairo in the 1970’s. Artists that sang Shaabi were often the first of their families to live in the city. They brought with them their knowledge of Beledi music and added a more contemporary feel with lyrics that expressed their political frustrations, sexuality and social commentary.
For context, Shaabi came out at the same time as Rai in Algeria, Punk in the U.S. and Reggae in Jamaica. It also followed the passing of very influential classical musicians like Oum Kalthoum. It was the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one in Egypt and around the world. It was a time of revolution and music was a way to vocalize the feelings of the youth.
Shaabi was mainly distributed by CD and Cassette – bootleg style. This way it was easy to self produce and promote and censorship by the Egyptian government could be avoided.
Some of the most famous Shaabi singers were Ahmed Adaweya, also known as the Godfather of Shaabi, Hakim, and Saad Al Soghayar. Ahmed was known for his emotional mawal, or vocal improv, at the beginning of his songs.
Read more about Shaabi here.
BUY “YALLA” – CLASSIC SHAABI CD!
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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.”
psychedelic turkish music from the 70’s – so cool!!!!!!!
LEARN ABOUT THE MASTER TEACHERS AND WATCH THEIR VIDEOS HERE!