Inside the Raq-On Clubhouse

I *finally* made the trek up to Amity Alize’s studio, Raq-On Dance, on April 21 when she hosted Aszmara of New York. I’m embarrassed that it took so long. And I’m so glad I finally did.

Raq-On Dance is a wonderful little studio set deep in the heart of a street mall in Lebanon, NH. It’s very easy to get to, really. You just point your car north, more or less, and take some combination of Routes 93 and 89 til you reach Lebanon. The trick is finding the studio - it’s tucked away amongst Lebanon College, Upper Valley Radio, and several restaurants.

The studio feels like a fabulous clubhouse, the kind you’d see on kids’ shows. Each room is painted a different color. The main studio room is brilliant coral with inspirational dance quotes on the walls. There’s a smaller studio that serves as a private study room and the green room for performances; the store, a dressing area, and lobby/entryway.

Aszmara is one of Amity’s favorite teachers, dancers, and inspirations. I’ve admired Aszmara since first taking a workshop with her at the annual belly dance event in Keene (NH) hosted by Catherine Skove. (Dancers of my generation will remember that annual event fondly). From the beginning of any of her workshops or classes, it’s easy to see why Aszmara is so beloved and admired. She creates a warm, safe container for learning, filled with humor, funny accents, and bad puns. You work hard, but you don’t realize it because you are having so much fun. And before you know it, you’ve mastered - or can at least get through - a choreography, combination, or new concept.

What really sets Aszmara apart from other teachers -  for me, at least - is how she teaches you to think about, and work with, music. I still tell people about that first workshop I took with her, in which she taught us how we could perform the same movements and steps to a beledi and a 9/8 (the secret is counting the first 4 “ones” of the 9/8 only). Magic! The move repertoire is doubled for each rhythm!

At Raq-On Dance, Aszmara taught a fan veil workshop that, once again, turned what you think you can do with fan veils inside out (Think fan veils used to accent hip shimmies!). She also taught a great class in stage and music dynamics that got all of us thinking about how to move (or not) onstage in performance.

Of course the day concluded with a show. The studio was transformed into a cozy cabaret, where a small but dancer-friendly audience provided enthusiastic support for the performers. The show lineup was nicely varied and included classical Oriental, veil work, troupe choreography, fan veils, and cabaret style dance.

Thank you, Amity, for a great day!

Amity is hosting the Fred Elias Ensemble for the Raq-On Dance Student Recital this Saturday. Live music, performances, open dancing, food, cash bar, and vendors - now that's how to throw a party! Details on the Raq-On Dance web site