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    Amani Jabril: The Mind Behind the Makeup

    Photo by by Robert McCurly

    Best known for her fluid and deeply sensual style of dance, Amani Jabril has built her reputation on delivering stellar dance technique combined with the heart and soul of the Middle East. Trained from an early age in dance and drama, Amani has studied and performed extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East and North America. She was named Best Newcomer by Nafoura International Belly Dance Magazine.

    Rosa Noreen hosts Amani at Bright Star World Dance on April 26-27.

    Which came first, Middle-Eastern dance or the day job as an anthropologist?

    Dance came first. I've been a dancer my whole life. I moved to Atlanta in 1998. I really enjoyed the city and had been offered a great gig dancing five to six nights out of the week. It had always been my plan to pursue an advanced degree. About two years after moving to Atlanta I was accepted to the graduate program in anthropology at Georgia State. So I was budding anthropologist by day and dancer by night. Since that time, the two have very much blended themselves into each other. I am looking forward to starting my PhD program in the fall. 

    How has the day job contributed to your dance career? How has it affected your approach to learning and performing Middle-Eastern dance?

    So, back to grad school... My interest in the Middle East started...oh so many years ago I'm not even sure now how or when it all got started. The thing about anthropology is that it is a discipline that expects you to conduct field work. In short, you have to "go here and do that" to fully understand the people you are working with in their own context. Well, working as a dancer, I was not only in clubs owned by Middle-Easterners, but also getting invited to parties and events where I would have otherwise not been included had I not been the dancer. I really do think that so many of our clients focus on the shiny, beautiful fun that is the belly dancer and forget that there are minds behind the makeup. In that down time between sets, some of us are watching and listening to everything! Well, that was me! My masters thesis was born out of those scenarios and the questions I had about how the Arab-American community was constructing the idea of "Arab" identity.

    My dance life and academic life inform and influence each other. Being a dancer gave me an entrance into the communities I was curious about. Anthropology has given me insight into the fluid constructions of identity that humans engage in. This in turn creates different expressions of this identity, like music or dance. So when you understand how fluid and flexible the expression is, you understand that same thing about the art form. This knowledge, I think, allows the artist their fullest creative potential but also gives them the greatest access to their most authentic artistic voice, because they have been able to place their own selves within the context of the art form's culture and ideology.

    Photo by Meriwan AbdullahFolkloric dance seems to be making a comeback. What is your advice to dancers who would like to include folkloric dance in their performance?

    Good Lord! I do hope so!!

    Sure, our dance goes through changes in style and fashion like anything else. Having said that, folklore is always there under the surface. The folklore, or the culture, is where all of the artistic expression is rooted, of course. When dancers dig deeper into the folklore they give themselves the opportunity to expand their range as dancers, but also to add depth and dimension to their art overall.

    If someone wants to study... I say go for it!!! But be prepared for a journey with no destination. You will always be seeking knowledge, new sources, and inspiration. There are many ways to do this and some very good teachers out there. If you can travel...this is the best way to really get to see 'it' first hand. As for choosing teachers, my only advice... if they tell you theirs is the "authentic" way and the only away! I am always a bit suspicious of a teacher who can't prove it on the dance floor or if a teacher can't handle hard questions from their students.

    Who or what are your primary influences in dance?

    What I find is that I continue to return to the people for my inspirations. In this case the people may be a cultural group or it may be that spontaneous energy coming off of an audience. But if you open your senses a bit, you'll find that inspiration is everywhere.

    A lot my stuff rests squarely on my theatre, jazz, and ballet backgrounds. I am influenced by my travels and the people I encounter there.

    Photo by MaharetTell us about your upcoming dance intensive.

    The raison d'être of the Dancers' Intensive is to give dancers an opportunity to focus less on their product, more on their process, and to work intensely on the craft that is dance performance.

    Dancecraft is a term I use when referring to the technical aspects of theatrical dance and its production. From your first choice of music, it includes, but is not limited to, conditioning your body, constructing choreography, designing and staging your performance. It also includes those supporting functions, that without them, no artist could even conceive of presenting their art.

    More technical than artistic, Dancecraft is the practical implementation of an artistic vision and that's what we will focus on ....Crafting the Art of Dance!

    Over this weekend-long event, we will explore our artistic connections with our bodies, the rhythms of the Dance and our interconnected and interdependent expressions of art through a series of intermediate/advanced level workshops, forums and shows designed to help Middle Eastern dance-artists refine their craft in a unique and conscientious way.

    At the 2014 Intensive, we have made the move to having all live music in classes and in performance. Like last year' s event, we will again be working with Jonatan Gomes Derbaq from Mazaag. Jonatan and I worked together on the Mazaag debut album that released last year and we are looking forward to working together on shows and workshops in 2014 & 2015.


    Interview with Dr. Laurel Victoria Gray

    Za-beth hosts Dr. Laurel Victoria Gray in a workshop and showcase on April 26th in Arlington, MA. Dr. Gray will teach two workshops: "Azerbajani "Nalbeki" Choreography" and "Introduction to Uzbek Dance from Bukhara". See Za-beth's event page on Facebook for more information.

    What first attracted you to Uzbek and other Central Asian dances?

    From childhood, I felt an affinity for all things Eastern, or at least the things I could find in my hometown of Spokane, Washington. My favorite composers were the Russian Orientalists like Borodin and Ippolitov-Ivanov. I searched for books and recordings in our main library for everything I could find about these mysterious cultures.

    In 1979, while enrolled in a Russian translation class in grad school at the University of Washington, I learned there was a group coming to Seattle from Uzbekistan. Of course, everyone in the class wanted to talk to Russian speakers. I volunteered to provide transportation for them and discovered that Seattle was a sister-city of Tashkent; in fact, it was the first of the American-Soviet sister-city relationships. When I drove to the motel where the Uzbeks were staying to pick them up, there was a young woman standing in this little garden area behind the hotel. She was the first Uzbek person I had met and she was none other than the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan, Kizlarkhon Dustmuhamedova. And if that wasn’t kismet I don’t know what was! Neither of us had any idea of what was to come and that we would forge a lifelong bond.

    When the Uzbek dancers performed that night at Seattle University, Kizlarkhon’s dance absolutely riveted me. I knew I had to learn this dance. Thus began a lifetime pursuit that is much too lengthy for this interview but documented elsewhere. (Editors note: Read more about Dr. Gray in Habibi magazine here.) 

    While we're at it, what exactly is the Silk Road and why is it important, historically?

    The “Silk Road” may sound like an exotic fantasy, but in reality it describes a network of caravan routes that extended from China to the Mediterranean. The term "Seidenstraße” (Silk Road) was coined in 1877 by German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen, but the trade routes themselves are quite ancient and go back to the 2nd century BC.

    From a geographic perspective, the heart of the Silk Road is Central Asia, so it includes places like Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, and so on. This is why it is so strange that recently the belly dance community has appropriated the term “Silk Road” for their troupes or concerts when their dance styles have little or no relation to these traditional cultures. There seems to be no awareness that Silk Road territories are inhabited by real people who have real dance traditions.

    In a broader sense, the Silk Road represents cross-cultural exchange. More than just trade goods traveled along those trade routes;  music, dance, fashion, religions, languages, innovations, ideas, and philosophies moved along the Silk Road as well. This is a positive reminder of how humanity can benefit from peaceful interactions..

    Your troupe, the Silk Road Dance Company, has been together for almost 20 years. What's your secret? 

    As any Artistic Director can tell you, it can be challenging leading a dance company. When I lived in Seattle, I participated in several groups, co-founding one, and then establishing my own Tanavar Dance Ensemble in 1982. These experiences helped me in the formation of Silk Road Dance Company (SRDC). The ensemble has evolved throughout the years, aided by our Company Handbook that was originally created by Keylan Qazzaz, who was our Assistant Director for ten years. The handbook serves as a guide to expectations, procedures, and the benefits of participating in SRDC.

    We have high professional standards that require a tremendous amount of work and dedication from our dancers. For this reason we have a six-month apprentice period to make sure that new dancers understand the demands and expectations required by participation in SRDC. Frankly, not everyone makes it through this probationary period, but it does prevent disappointment down the line.

    Most important is our communal commitment to creating “Cultural Understanding through Beauty and Delight.” Everything we do must serve this mission.

    There's been some online debate about whether Western (read American) dancers should be performing dances of other cultures. In your opinion as a scholar, performer, and choreographer of folkloric dance, what preparations and considerations should Western dancers undertake if we want to perform such dances? 

     Respect for, and knowledge of, the Cultures of Origin should guide our presentations. This is, after all, the Information Age, so all kinds of resources are now at our fingertips, things that were almost impossible to find in the past.

    In addition to doing the homework of studying a particular culture, it is also imperative to work with a teacher and not rely exclusively on YouTube! Videos can provide wonderful inspiration, but a video cannot correct your dance mistakes or curb an “American accent.” And even the most beautiful videos can be misidentified or can contain misinformation. Use discernment and try to verify information from different sources.

    Dance can open the door to understanding between cultures. It helps dispel the stereotypes. When audiences watch a performance from another culture, it gives a sense of the soul of that culture. It humanizes “the Other” and helps people see them as human beings with the same kind of joys and yearnings and sorrows as any other human being. All of a sudden they’re not the enemy anymore.

    But this is a huge responsibility. In places like Iran and Afghanistan, there are no professional women’s dance ensembles giving public performances. These dance traditions survive privately and informally, in the home. These forms are being preserved abroad, often by women who are not Iranian or Afghan. The positive aspect of this is that the dances are surviving and may eventually make it back to their homeland. The downside is that any errors in transmission create a false impression of the dance tradition.

    For example, Afghani dance has nuances, gestures, and subtleties that go beyond simply spinning around in one of those beautiful dresses, but this is often all one sees in American stage performances. Likewise, some genres of  Iranian dance presented in the US have been diluted with belly dance movements and costuming elements. Yes, innovation is natural with dance, but we must all take care that the original traditions are not lost and discarded along the way.

    Dance is the most ephemeral of the arts. It resides not in books or on canvas, or even in musical scores, but in the human body itself. Like a genetic heritage, it must be passed on from teacher to student, from one generation to the next. And if that fragile lineage is broken, the dance is in jeopardy of being lost.

    Is it possible to study Uzbek dance in its home country?

    For decades now, dancers who hear about my travels have asked when I would create a tour to Uzbekistan. Not everyone is an intrepid traveler, so in the past, conditions were not right. Under the Soviets, visas were very hard to get and contact with the locals was discouraged. Even the officially invited delegations that I led faced many challenges. 

    Happily, the infrastructure for tourism has blossomed in independent Uzbekistan. Thanks to a wonderful partnership with Silk Road Treasure Tours, we have created the very first dance study tour to Uzbekistan that will take place in August 2014. Participants will be able to learn first-hand from native dancers while experiencing the culture. The regional differences in styles make perfect sense when one realizes the distinctions among these places. And watching people as they go about their day-to-day tasks reveals much about the quality of moment and provides a genuine context for the dance.

    For more information on Dr. Gray and her dance company, see the following sites:

    Laurel Victoria Gray

    Silk Road Dance Company



    Interview with Aszmara of NYC

    by Amy Smith

     Photo by Alice Gerbura, courtesy of Aszmara

    Aszmara brings her high-energy grace and style to two workshops at Moody Street Circus this weekend. She graciously answered a few questions for BDNE.

    Your motto is "Dance is emotion in motion". It sounds like this means that dancers need to draw on inner feelings and emotions to inform their movement and technique. I think that is how many of us of a certain generation were trained, especially for improvisation. How can newer dancers who may have learned dance primarily through choreography begin to incorporate their emotional landscapes into their practice and performance?

    Amy, you are exactly on target with your description of "Emotion in Motion." Dancers drawing on their inner feelings to fulfill movements while connecting to music is what makes a performance true. Audiences 
    respond to your being in the moment and experience what you are expressing - it is the same as when you see a actor on stage and respond to their emotions. Dancing is acting.

    Achieving that true expression comes from different techniques: working your movements in different ways so as to expand your vocabulary; getting inside music so you can feel it intuitively as well as intellectually; freedom to play without expecting outcome; choreographing to music so you know it inside out and front to back 
    while discovering all of it's nuances - then allowing the choreography to change as you feel the music differently each time you dance; and finally watch and study other dancers for new influences and work, work, work.

    I will be using some of the techniques mentioned above in the workshop this weekend at Moody Street Circus.

    You'll be teaching some challenging Turkish rhythms in the January workshop - 7/8 and 9/8. Many dancers are intimidated by syncopated rhythms. Can you talk a little about your teaching approach for these rhythms? Also, for those who like to prepare, can you provide the names of some songs that use 7/8?

    These odd time signatures, 7/8 and 9/8 are so interesting! There is a feeling of suspending in space before the one of each measure that, for me, creates a connection between heaven and earth - reach for the sky and stomp the ground!

    In teaching these rhythms, I start with the musician's way of counting and morph into dancer's counting. We explore the rhythm throughout the body with movements and floor patterns as well as attitudes. 
    Short choreographic phrases help us to connect the rhythm with our brain and body.

    For music being used in this class, see below.

    What other dance forms do you study, in addition to Oriental/belly dance?

    Over the years, I have studied ballet, flamenco, West African, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Haitian, with modern dance being my strongest influence for keeping the dance body healthy and expressive. I also still study Oriental with Anthropological Master Teachers Sahra Saeeda for Egyptian, Lee Ali for North African trance dances, and Aretmis Mourat for Turkish.

    Photo by Hilde Eberhardt, courtesy of AszmaraWhat's playing on your iPod this week?

    Of course this week's iPod work out is all about the workshops at Moody Street Circus this weekend!

    "Eve Dönüs" - Burhan Öçal & Istanbul Oriental Ensemble, Sultan's Secret Door
    "Hicaz Mandira" - Barbaro Erkose Ensemble, Lingo Lingo
    "Laz" - Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Mystical Garden
    "Pantzar" - Saffet Gundeger, Turkish Belly Dance
    "Gürcü Kizi" - Osman Yudal Tokcan, BendeCan

    "Segah Roman Havasi" - Ahmet Kusgoz Ve Arkandaslari, Gypsies Of Turkey
    "Mastika" - Mustafa Kandirali & Ensemble, Caz Roman

    Zap! Pow! Pop! Wow!
    "Mashaal (Hani)" - Cairo Orchestra, Belly Dance Classics with Fifi Abdo

    That's enough to get everyone started! Enjoy the music and I look forward to dancing with you at The Moody Street Circus event this weekend! Thanks for the interview, Amy!


    Loom Gracefully: or, Taking Up Space for Tall Broads

    by Jennifer Pelland (Zia)

    Zia performing in Abraxas Theater's Paradox. Photography by Ravenwolfe Photography.(An aside before I begin this essay -- while I'm writing this specifically for tall dancers, I want to emphasize that I believe that all non-body-typical dancers should find a teacher or workshop instructor with their body type at some point early in their dance studies. There is someone out there who can prove to you that you can be an awesome dancer even though you're too short/too tall/too old/too round/too flat/too stiff/too [fill in the blank].)

    My first belly dance lessons took place in the early 90s in the basement of the now-closed Arsenic and Old Lace in Cambridge. Every time I tried to raise my arms over my head, I'd scrape my knuckles on the ceiling beams. That was the first time I felt like I was taking up too much space in my dance. Between that and my subsequent teacher demanding that we wear nothing but body stockings to class (I was a size 16 at the time and the teacher was a pencil), it didn't take long for me to quit.

    Fast-forward fifteen years, when I decided I was ready to try again. I signed up for lessons with The Goddess Dancing, where all the teachers were decidedly on the short side. "You have such lovely long arms," they'd say. "I wish mine were that long."

    When I looked in the mirror, I didn't see "lovely." I saw "awkward." Whenever I tried to copy what they were doing, all I saw was a gawky, angular nightmare. It didn't help that from my back-row vantage point*, I seemed to be looming over all the other students like that giant, spindly alien at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. On top of that, I needed to uncomfortably shorten my stride when doing traveling moves to keep in sync with all the other students. I felt like a mincing chicken.

    (*Side note for teachers: please don't try to get your tall students to stand in the front row. If they volunteer to, that's great. If they're hanging at the back, realize that they've spent their entire lives being told not to block people, so they'll feel unbearably rude and uncomfortably exposed if forced to the front.)

    I heard the same admiration of my arms from my next teacher, the average-height Phoenix Avathar, although I felt less gawky in her class, which was a step in the right direction. Tribal belly dance's devotion to very deliberate, strong arms seemed to suit me better. I still needed to shorten my strides to match everyone else's, but in ITS, which is generally a non-traveling dance, that wasn't as uncomfortable.

    And then Phoenix hosted an Aepril Schaile workshop in her studio, and the tumblers fell into place.

    Aepril Schaile was just what I needed at that point in my dance education - someone with a body like mine, six-foot wingspan and all, who knew how to work with it rather than against it. I walked away from that workshop a changed dancer. From then on, when I performed, I would make sure that they could see these arms of mine from space!

    Phoenix introduced me to the local belly dance scene, and whenever I went to a show where Aepril performed, I made sure to pay attention. I also discovered Sara Ford and Juliana, two other tall local dancers, and took mental notes on how they moved as well. The main thing these women had in common was that they owned their space. Their posture was impeccable, and they projected every inch of their height to the audience with pride. Even when they danced in troupes, they didn't try to minimize their arms to make them look more like everyone else's - they spread them wide, they lifted them high.

    As I started internalizing these lessons, I figured out another important piece of the tall dancer puzzle - when you have a lot of space to cover, it's usually best to take your time with it. I love watching quick, energetic dancing, but it's difficult to make it work on a tall body. Larger objects take more time and energy to move through space than small ones do. And when you're dancing in a restaurant or in some other venue with a small stage, it can be flat-out impossible for a tall dancer to do the same sort of energetic work as a small dancer. Where a small dancer can take multiple whirling steps, the tall dancer has maybe one or two steps before she's standing on an audience member's foot, or whacking someone in the face with her veil or cane. So when tall dancers go for speed, they tend to do so in more contained fashion. The energy moves more vertically than horizontally.

    But slow work...oh, now there's where these arms really come in handy. Remember how I said it takes more time and energy to move a large object through space than a small one? The flip side is that it's easier to be slow and gooey when you have a lot of length to work with. I can milk an arm move or a weight shift like nobody's business. Give me a sword, and I can keep you enthralled just by carving it through space. And when I take that slow, lovely arm work, and maybe some juicy undulations, and layer them on top of a choo-choo shimmy, I put the entire front row in my shadow. It's my "loom gracefully" moment, and it's damned dramatic.

    So tall dancers with shorter teachers, find someone to workshop with who looks like you so you can finally have someone to emulate. If your regular teacher is one of those energetic short dancers and you can't keep up with her, you should absolutely keep trying, but don't take it as a personal failure if you don't succeed. If your teacher has you dancing in pairs or groups, take a moment to quietly ask her to group you with at least one of the other taller students in class so you don't feel like you're looming awkwardly, which can be a confidence-killer. And if anyone tries to tell you to take up less space, find a new teacher. You can't be graceful if you can't be yourself.

    Zia is a 5'11" Boston-area dancer. She's currently developing her "Loom Gracefully" idea into a workshop. Please email her if you're interested, or visit her web site. You can also follow her, her dance partner Kezmaya, and their troupe on their Facebook page.  



    Meet Virginia of Miami 

    Za-beth hosts Virgina of Miami - along with other fabulous dancers - for her annual World Champion Diva Crown event August 23-25! Za-beth interviewed Virginia for BDNE.

    What first influence did you have for the dance? 

    My first influence in the dance was when I was working in the fashion industry and one of my regular clients was one of the princesses of Saudi Arabia. One day, I was delivering her purchased merchandise to her home in Miami. I had told her about my fascination since my youth with the culture, the music, and the vintage Middle- Eastern jewelry which I had been collecting since I was about 16. She took me to a private room in the house, donned a hip scarf, played some music on the stereo, and began to dance for me. This was the most inspiring moment for me. It was wonderful to not only see how freely she could express herself but also how comfortable she was with her femininity. She was beautiful, organic, and compelling to watch.

    I had been a singer in a rock band for many years, and when I experienced this, I was able to appreciate how wonderful it was to express the music through this dance. It felt as if one was not enough without the other. They were meant to be together. As a singer and songwriter, I was able to see yet another way to creatively express yourself through the medium of dance. I am certain that much of this came to me later when I looked back upon the experience, but it did push me to take classes and eventually I became a personal performer for many of the Saudi Arabian Royal Families' events in Miami and in NY.  I completed a circle.

    Who were your first professional influences?

    By my first professional influences I believe you mean my instructors. If so, I began my studies in Miami where the teacher who gave me my first eight-week course was a stunning American Indian woman. Voluptuous, with jet black hair down to her buttocks, her name was Sheherazade. After that, (Tamalyn) Dallal had come back from a trip and I continued my studies with her, Jihan Jamal, and Ylsa to name a few. I learned a great deal from them and began to travel very early on to take workshops from people like Horacio and Beata Cifuentes, Raquia Hassan, and more. Mr. Mahmoud Reda was one of them; he became an integral part of my training and has influenced me in my theatrical work and desire to see this dance in the theatrical arena. He has opened doors for me and given me some incredible opportunities. I do feel that the greatest influence, the one who made me feel like I was truly dancing, and the one who influenced my style, vocabulary, choreographic skills, and even my career the most, has been Mr. Yousry Sharif. He has been a Master Instructor for me as well as a mentor and someone who helped to open doors for me and shape my career. He still does, even today, by inviting me to be a Master Instructor at his weeklong intensives in New York, something I attended for over 13 years. To teach there is also a completed full circle for me. He has been the most inspiring artist for me thus far.

    What was your first professional gig? Professional gig would mean a paying gig.

    My first was as as a member of Dallal's dance company in Miami. We went as a group to do a show at an event here. I believe it was four dancers together. It was an exhilarating experience. I always did it for the love of the art, to express the music I so loved with movement, and for how it made me feel. It was quite a revelation when I realized you could actually make money doing something that you loved to do! 

    Where has this profession taken you?

    It has given me the opportunity to create seven teaching DVDs, three theatrical productions, two CDs, countless workshops, Teacher Certification Programs, and my annual Rakstar event in Miami. It has taken me to over 46 countries around the world and almost every continent. It has been an incredible journey, not only physically being able to share my passion for this dance with other dancers and students from so many walks of life and so many backgrounds, but also where it has taken me as a woman and a human being. It is an honor to be able to teach, to have students that want to be inspired by you, who appreciate your work and artistry, and that are as passionate about this dance form as you are. It has given me the incredible opportunity to see the world and its glorious splendors, and also to truly know other women and men. It has given me a greater understanding of the human spirit and how we are truly all connected. We all have the same needs, desires, life's losses, loves, trials and tribulations, joys, sorrows, needs for family, love, and a "Divine Creator". No matter how different we think we are, we are truly all "ONE". This dance appeals to women and even men from every background and unites us through this love of the dance. The need to find this on a greater universal level could help heal the world today!

    How has the business changed for you?

    Obviously it has grown and the prospects around the world have also grown, which gives me and many instructors and artists more opportunities. I am grateful for this. The business itself has also changed. Since its insurgence years ago, we have developed a generation that is interested in a fast track to fame and fortune. Not all dancers, but some. It began for me as a sisterhood and a world where everyone supported each other. Now it is sadly becoming a purely business world for everyone, which in turn becomes a dog eat dog world. Growing pains, I guess; the price we pay for it becoming larger and more widely accepted.

    What worries me is those that are in the business without the appropriate knowledge, therefore, my creation of a Teacher Certification Program. We took many years to train ourselves and to continue training ourselves. We created standard pays for dancers and ethical codes. Some of this has been lost on newer generations. It has a lot to do with undercutting in the business. It also has to do with the Internet and having everything at your fingertips. Copying a YouTube video is cheaper and easier than studying with someone for years in order to develop your art form or paying to take workshops. One can never compare to the other. On the other hand, the Internet also gives us the great opportunity to be seen and respected by our peers worldwide. Instant fame for some. But with this technologically advanced society comes a multitude of ethical and legal issues, such as copyright infringements, and the ease with which audiences are videotaping everyone's performances and choreography without any respect for the artist's work. This does not happen in ballet, modern, flamenco, or any other respected dance forms. You would be thrown out of the theater for such an abuse, yet in our dance form it runs rampant. If we want the world to respect and admire our dance form as much as it does other dance forms, then we ourselves must respect it and our artists. We must treat it with the same respect, ethical codes of conduct, and legalities that the other dance forms are treated with.

    What changes have you seen in the dance over the years?

    The change I have seen over the years has been the development of a higher level of dancer. In contrast to the above, there are dancers that do take time to truly study and learn. The difference is that today you have a workshop in almost every city or area on a regular basis, and therefore have a greater opportunity to better yourself as a dancer, teacher, or performer. Because the dance has grown, the workshops are more readily available than they were for us. We had to spend money and travel to study. This is also something the newer dancer needs to add to her training. But be aware of the experience or knowledge of an instructor. A great dancer is not necessarily a great teacher. We have also implemented competitions, which is another way to raise the level of dance in any area. I was opposed to it until my students I have trained for years were competing and winning, which showed me how much these competitions were inspiring them to change and grow.  

    I consider myself to be a modern dancer with deep Egyptian roots. Therefore, I always incorporate the true Egyptian steps, techniques, interpretations, and feeling in my repertoire, but I also incorporate a fresh new modern take on its interpretation. I am interested in dancing in 2013. This is what I am finding worldwide as well; many are polishing the standards, but many are breaking new ground with the dance as well.

    What do you enjoy dancing to most today? Everything!

    If it moves me emotionally, then it inspires me to move! Right now I am quite into expressing some of the lesser known classics and "Tarab". Amir Sofi's CDs always inspire me to create new work for oriental, drum solos, and, of course, Oum Kalthoum. Dancing Saidi, Khaleegy, and many of the folkloric dances are still a big part of my repertoire today, as they should always be. They are the roots of the dance!