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!

7/8s
"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

9/8s
"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!