Photo by Lauren Weissler
From early in Assala’s childhood in Iraq, she was surrounded by the rich traditions of Iraqi culture and Oriental dance. She spent many evenings accompanying her mother to work, where she assisted in the preparation of weddings and henna parties. Assala would watch in awe how the women danced at these parties. These past experiences played a major role of her interest of dance, and helped influence her art.
Assala studied at the University of Baghdad, graduating with a degree in Education. In 1993 she moved to Switzerland, and was determined to preserve the rich traditions of her heritage through furthering her studies in oriental dance. She turned to the shaabi people (people from the countryside and working class) who keep their traditional way of dance and music. Assala believes that learning authentic traditions is where wisdom in dance comes from. This is why Assala has found the shaabi people have transcended a highly refined school of dance. She also furthered her studies with the addition of pilates, yoga and breathing techniques. Her ultimate goal is to combine traditional folk dance with proper technique.
With an immense repertoire of dance styles, Assala is trained in shaabi (Nubi, Saidi and Gezwazi), classical and modern Egyptian Sharqi, Baladi, Sufi dance, Zar, Tribal Fusion, Iraqi Gypsy and El Kawliya dance. Assala pays particular attention to dance forms that are at risk of becoming lost like Zar and El Kawliya dance. She has helped to preserve these dance forms by reintroducing them in her teachings and performances. Through her many years of research, performance, and teachings, Assala has developed her dance into a recognized and highly appreciated art form. Currently, Assala performs and teaches internationally in Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and also Switzerland and now in the U.S.
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Iraqi born Assala Ibrahim will be teaching two workshops in New York City February 20-23, 2014. Iraqi dance and Zar. Please keep checking the event and tumblr pages for updates. http://assalainnyc.tumblr.com/