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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! 😀

Take class with Aszmara!

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.

Souren Baronian and Haig Manoukian.  These two musicians I toured with for so many years taught me more about music than a Doctorate Degree ever could!

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.

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Popular Rai artists (L to R): Cheb Hasni, Cheikha Rimitti, Khaled

 

This past weekend I went to Anahid Sofian’s Saturday class (www.anahidsofianstudio.com). Anahid is the best because she exposes us to all different forms of Middle Eastern and North African dance and music, like Rai. In the past I  have danced to Rai, and Saturday she brought it back – woop!

SO WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH RAI????

Rai is cool because of it’s content and it’s beat. Rai literally means “opinion,” it’s full of passion and expression. It’s rebel music, sung by the youth for the youth about poverty, police harassment, survival, alcohol, sex and love.  In a way, in terms of message, it can be compared to hip-hop in the early 90’s – Tupac, Biggie, Nas, Public Enemy… that kind of thing.

Anahid explained to us that Rai rhythms are mostly 2/4 and 4/4 with the heavy beats on the 2 + 4 like Western music instead of the 1+ 3 like Middle Eastern music.  When dancing to Rai you use your whole body to express yourself, it’s very loose and free with African tribal influences when appropriate.

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