Upcoming Events

A quickie to list some events coming next in the next few weeks/months, which I should add to the event calendar, but want to also mention specially:

  • September 15th: Workshops with Hilde Cannoodt and Alexis Southall in London: Drills and Belly Dance Geometry, more details and booking on Hilde’s website
  • September 19th: Tribal Café at the Blue Man in Brighton; details and booking also on Hilde’s website
  • October 13th: Orient Expressions; Tara Ibrahim will be teaching Khaleeji. View details in their Facebook Event page
  • December 14th-15th: Fantasia Festival; lots of workshops in different styles, competitions and a show. View details and bookings
  • February 8th-9th: Choreological Study of Tribal Fusion Dance with Hilde Cannoodt; view more details
  • May 2nd-5th: Tribal Remix in Brighton; Tribal Fusion at its best! Details and early bird booking
  • June: ATS General Skills and Teacher Training Certifications; no further details yet, other than it will be taught by Carolena Nericcio

Review: Rosangela Silvestre Intensive

I attended this workshop back in July, but I’ve delayed writing about it not because I had anything bad to say, but because it’s just so difficult to explain *why* it was so good, as it was quite an intense experience. And sadly, for part of it, I could only say “you had to be there”.

First things first: Rosangela Silvestre is a contemporary dancer from Brazil, who has developed a full technique for dancing that she’s rooted in the Brazilian culture. Her technique is often called “esoteric”, and in a way, you do get to hear, during the training, about things like four Elements, Chakras (energy centres in the body that correspond, roughly, to major endocrine glands and that align along the spinal column), and Orixás (Yoruban Nature deities that were adopted and further developed in Brazil). These four elements are the same as the traditional Greek four elements that were later picked up by ceremonial magicians and several flavours of Pagans. Same goes for the Chakras, you’ll find a lot about them in the New Age section of any library or bookstore.

Yes, all of this sounds rather… “interesting”. New-agey. Pagan.
Does it mean you have to believe in all of this? Absolutely not.
What does it have to do with dancing then?
Turns out, A LOT.

Rosangela has developed a full series of moves to work with each element, to begin with, that correspond with certain aspects of our dancing: earth goes with balance, air and water with expression, fire with perception, and all of them combined turn into Will. Each of these series of moves does give you a really good conditioning routine that, when followed, will work as a good dancing conditioning would, while emphasizing certain “qualities” of that particular element, so you can work on “Water” to make your movements more fluid, or Air to work on what other people call “opening” to allow your dancing to express and transmit this to your audience more, or Will to gain focus and energy and intention when dancing, and not just going through the motions.

The workshops were two days, 5 hours each day. The days were split in two. On each day we worked for around 2-3 hours on the Elements, first starting with the conditioning moves, and later on going onto combinations and, on the second day, a small choreography. Then we had a bit of “theory” where Rosangela told us about her vision, why she developed what she developed, and how it worked and what it was improving. After this break, we then worked on Orixá dances, learning stylised versions of dances she codified and developed from traditional dances done during Candomblé rituals in Brazil. Throughout all of this we worked with Rosangela’s instructions, sometimes singing (she’s got a beautiful voice) and with Sabio’s live music, which was fully improvised, and done to match our moves and the general atmosphere of what we were doing. As an aside, I did like that Sabio did the warm-ups with us, even though he wouldn’t be dancing, but I suspect that gave him a good chance to atune to how our bodies would work for the rest of the day.

The warm-up and conditioning part started SLOW. And I mean almost glacially slow; I’m used to having cardio-style warm-ups, and doing slow bends and pliés with holds allowed me to realise that my body much, MUCH prefers this type of work. I found that problem areas like my knees were far more pliable than I was used to feel, my bends were deeper and my muscles were moving a lot more at ease than what they normally do. Rosangela also made sure that we understood that not everybody has the same body shape or muscle capacity, so she worked a lot on letting us get comfortable with our bodies’ moves before pushing it a bit further, all the while also encouraging healthy movement and attitude. This is brilliant for ANY body shape, as it encourages you to find the ways that your body prefers moving, but does require some effort from your part to realise what it is that your body prefers, and make an effort to improve where things are not right. Trust me, this will also push you to re-examine a LOT of what you do daily, from how you sleep and work to how you spend your time.

The Elements work included what you could call “embodying” each of them through the series of moves. If you are esoterically inclined, you could say that you were channelling each element, but you could just as easily think that you are trying to achieve particular things, like flowing for the Water, or focusing on the grounding and balance for Earth.

There was also a lot of encouragement to “will” our bodies to avoid repeating, and instead “re-doing” moves with full awareness each time. Talking with hubby later, I found this is a common concept within some martial arts, as it encourages muscular memory with a level of consciousness, so moves don’t become predictable or drilled wrong. This “will” also extended to trying to find better ways to work with the body, and to encourage things like learning weight shifts or using inertia from one move to flow into next naturally. This was best exemplified by a combination we did on day 2. It included a backwards spin with a jump. Jumping, that thing a lot of us absolutely DREAD. And yet, the way she guided us into it, it felt like a natural progression. And even with my weak joints, and notoriously bad balance, I went through it without issue.

The second part of each day, after the break and the “theory”, was devoted to the Orixá dances. They were a good chance to learn a whole new vocabulary and mode of expression, with emphasis on one or several of the Elements. We worked on the Welcoming -a dance done to open the floor for the Orixás, so to speak- and Oxumaré dance on the first day, and a very long Yemajá sequence on the following day. Rosangela picked both for Water-based Orixás, as, most of us being belly dancers, she felt we would be able to connect better to a lot of the moves. We worked in “families” of 3 or 4, doing passes along the studio as most of the steps were travelling steps. A lot of them were rather low on the ground, and this was killer exercise for quads too, but most of all, she was interested in seeing us do our dancing strongly and projecting intention.

And over all of this, during the 10 hours, we had nearly uninterrupted, improvised live music provided by Sabio, which managed to set the tone for everything so perfectly that at some points, if it hadn’t been for the repeating nature of what we were doing, it would have been more a party than anything else.

Overall, I was very impressed, moved, and felt that the workshop gave me a lot of food for thought, and a lot to work on; it helped me become friends with my body again, and break some mental barriers I had in place goodness knows for how long or for what reasons. Whether you are taking the Elements/Chakras/Orixás associations as “real” or as metaphors for what we do while dancing, I do believe there was a lot to learn and take home. The most important thing I got out of the workshop was a newfound trust in my body and its limits… I almost didn’t book for it, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to survive the first 5 hours without collapsing. Turns out I was wrong. Also, the style of the work made it so that my body did re-assess itself, and I found that during and afterwards, I was able to do quite a few things I hadn’t been able to do for a while. This workshop allowed me to remove mental barriers that had been put in place ages ago, and although some still remain, they are also on the way out through careful training… after all, identifying these mental barriers is half of the battle. As an example, before the workshop, my knees protested loudly at me every time I tried to do any level change, no matter how small. Afterwards, part of the “listening to my body” work made me realise that sitting too long (and badly) at the computer was causing my legs and knees to get this impression, and now I’ve changed my work routine to have frequent active breaks to remove this source of issues, and of late I’ve started doing level changes training within the ATS class… I still haven’t managed to break through the barrier of doing a full one in class, but at home I have managed to do changes from standing to tiptoes to a full crouch and up, and its only a matter of time until I can do these as part of my dancing… I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing that when I started ATS a year ago!

Would I take another workshop or intensive with Rosangela? A resounding YES, I feel I got a lot out of the work I did with her. She was also very accessible, and was a pleasure to chat with someone that was born and raised in South America as I was.
I hear she might be coming again next year, and I’ll be ready for it. In the meantime, if you want to see a bit of the kind of work done, talk a look below:

Review: Emma Champman’s workshop at Orient Expressions

When I first read the theme for the February workshop at Orient Expressions I was very excited. I’d never seen Emma dance, I hadn’t heard of her as a teacher either, but the workshop theme sounded different, the kind of thing we normally don’t see. “Don’t just do something, stand there!” was the title, and it suggested work on stillness and slow movement while maintaining energy levels. I booked in December, as I was leaving the OE December hafla.

Now, at the beginning of February, I hesitated about going, mainly because I am still recovering from the tendinitis and sprains I did back in early January, but I thought a slow workshop, even if long, would not be counter-productive. Emma did ask if anybody had any injuries or issues before starting, but said the workshop would be slow and shouldn’t cause much problem, but to be careful and judge my movements because it would be “light”. Well, the workshop didn’t cause any problem, but it wasn’t “light” work, and I’m glad!

We started with a handful of basic core movements: takseems, undulations and omis, slowing them down to almost treacle-speed. This was a wonderful core workout, and allowed us to focus very much on technique and intensity. We then moved onto a couple of basic slow combinations, where we covered things like initiating movement, strength, energy containment, stop and release, weight shifting, focus, shapes and lounges.

We then moved onto what was, I think, my favourite part: she asked us to dance with a single hand. I know it sounds strange, but we could all focus on following the music, and start to add feeling and intensity to this little, “simple” thing, which we then increased by adding the second hand and simple weight shifts and stances.

We finally moved onto the end of the workshop, where we used the two slow combinations we learnt before as part of a long improvisation to “Yearning” by Raul Ferrando. The piece is very soulful, and of course it was perfect to apply everything we’d learnt. I had to say that I felt really emotional dancing, simply because I allowed myself, for the first time, to actually connect to something inside me and to let that flow. I know I normally look happy as a clown when dancing, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but that emotion is not suitable for everything, and so far I’d been avoiding the slow pieces because, mainly, I didn’t feel “right” dancing them. Mostly, I have to say, because I wasn’t sure what to do. I was so very surprised when I realised that by the end of the workshop I’d done not one but two full improvisations to the song, and that I had been in my own little world doing them, without a care… I was so focused on letting emotion flow from inside out that I couldn’t give a flying hoot about what the people around me where doing. It felt fantastic.

This was also a first for me on something else. For the first time, my technique felt like it was fully on par with what was requested, all that extra conditioning I’ve been doing as part of the ATS training, and all the painfully slow work in ATS suddenly came out to play along with the years of musical training -which always helps when it’s improv time- and I could *dance*, not just try to get the movements right, but actually let the moves take over because my body knew exactly how to do them in the way I was requiring it to do them, effortlessly.

I have to say that by the end of the workshop I felt my undulations had improved quite dramatically -whether they remain like that or not is still to be seen- and that my moves were very gooey and sensual, something I had hoped to achieve but had never been comfortable about, and my core muscles felt the effects for a couple of days… apparently there is such a thing as “too slow”!

Emma was a great teacher, incredibly encouraging too… “I wish you could see yourselves dancing, you are all doing such beautiful shapes” and other positive words abounded. She also walked around us to correct technique, took her time to help people that were having issues with one thing or another, and did that personally and discretely too… nobody was embarrassed or got corrected in front of the others but everybody got personalised attention.

After the workshop, and during the Hafla, I walked to Emma to thank her for the workshop, as I found it incredibly useful. It did feel like a little leap into a new level for me, it allowed me to finally let go and do the kind of work I’ve been wanting to do for ages but was afraid that would look weird or not work for me and my body, and opened up the well to start experimenting with adding a new interpretative layer to my dancing. I felt excited about the workshop for days afterwards, which I think is the mark of a good one!

Would I take another workshop with Emma? Definitely! She was warm and likeable, her explanations and images were spot on, and she *clicked* quite right with my brain and body in her approach to dancing.

Would I take another workshop at Orient Expressions? Repeated question, but the answer still remains affirmative; I’m already booked for next workshop with Hilde Cannoodt.

You can visit Emma’s Belly Dance blog, and read how she got started, here: http://emmabellydancer.co.uk/how-did-you-start, there are also plenty of videos showing her dancing there. My favourite, that I think shows off a lot of the technique we worked on this workshop, is below. Enjoy!

Body Drum and Percussion and Dance workshops with Paulinho

Originally from Salvador, Brazil, Paulinho has been involved with music and dance since the age of 7. His love for drumming has taken him all over the world for nearly 30 years. At the age of 18 he became a member of Dance Brazil, a music and dance company where American and Brazilian dancers collaborate together. With Dance Brazil he toured in the United States where he settled for many years to come.

Working with many talented musicians and dancers in New York, he eventually joined the world renowned Stomp in 1997 in which he performed for 7 years. Touring mainly in America and Europe, he shared his passion for music and dance with thousands of people. Paulinho continues to inspire people with his love for drumming and has been teaching body drum and percussion workshops for over 2 decades to children and adults of all ages.

Sunday 31st March 2013:
11am – 1pm belly dance workshop with live percussion by Paulinho
Hilde Cannoodt and Paulinho join forces in this fun belly dance workshop with live percussion. We will learn a series of new isolation combo’s, shimmy drills and travelling sequences, working towards a percussive choreography danced to the beat of the drum.

1.30pmm – 3.30pm: Body Drum workshop with Paulinho
In this workshop we will use the body as percussive tool. We will start with a vigorous warm up followed by a number of different body drum techniques and eventually working towards longer sequences. Towards the end of the class we will experiment with how we can apply these techniques into a performance.

4 – 6pm ‘found objects’ percussion workshop
In this workshop we will explore how you can create music with any object. First we will start different techniques with the objects instruments brought to class by the students, leading to working together in group to work together on a piece of music. We will also incorporate the body as a percussive tool.

What to bring:

  • Athletic attire and indoor trainers (for both body drum and found objects workshop)
  • Packed lunch and plenty of water
  • ‘found objects’ for the last workshops. This can include percussion instruments as well as everyday tools. You can be really creative with this: bubble wrap, .. try and bring more than one object!

£ 25 per workshop or £ 60 for all 3 workshops
book here: www.hildebellydance.co.uk/about/paulinho.shtml

The Dance Station
UNIT 4, 57, North Street, PORTSLADE, BN41 1DH

Reviews: Katie Holland Double Veil Workshop at Orient Expressions

I’ve always loved veils. They are very closely linked to the popular image of belly dancing, and most people that have never even seen a dancer before will tell you “oh the seven veils dance!” if you ask them what they know about belly dance. Veils are alluring, mysterious, and incredibly feminine, and can add an extra layer to a performance.

I’d learnt basics of veil usage with my teacher Val in class, and later when I started with the advanced group I also had to learn a full group dance with a single veil. But we never really had any more advanced techniques, and the opportunity to take a workshop was too good a chance to pass. So off I went.

Katie is an engaging instructor, very clear when explaining and fun. She has an interest background too, and this reflects in how and what she teaches. Her workshop took us first into getting re-acquainted with our feet and step (more on that on a different post), and learning to turn properly, including two different ways of turning (toe-heel and paddle turns), and spotting. This first part of the workshop was wonderful, well worth the full price, and has helped me immensely.

And then came the second part, working with the veils themselves. Sadly this didn’t go that well, for several reasons.

Firstly, there was just way too many of us. I understand people do need to make a living, but the hall had about 25 people in it, and for using double veil you need at least 5sq.metres around each, which is understandable when you have an adult with extended arms and two pieces of fabric of about 3 metres long each. We were just too many, even when split in two groups, so many that I could barely extend my arm without my veils coming into the path of someone else’s, which completely ruins the flow of whatever it is you are trying to do. It also means that since you cannot do what you’re supposed to, you cannot pose proper questions as required. This, sadly, ruined my mood halfway through the second part. Having said that, this is not something I would land squarely at Katie’s feet.

There were other things that also, sadly, added to the miserable feel during the second part. I had put my hair up in two small chignons to keep it out of the way, but these turned out to be absolutely *fatal* for double veil work, as they blocked the veils flowing every time I try to get in or out of them, and since I had secured them quite tightly, I couldn’t take them down easily. And to add insult to injury, my veils turned out to be slightly too long and slightly too deep and entirely the wrong shape, and against my better judgement, I would have been far better with my smaller, cheap semicircle veils from the Turkish Emporium, which I despise because they’re too short, but in this case would have been absolutely perfect. Both these issues are 100% my own fault, but combining with the space issue, they made quite a bit of the actual veil work rather difficult to achieve, which resulted in much frustration and less enjoyment.

The instruction from this second part was not that different from what you can find in Petite Jamilla’s Double Veil DVD, except that with the workshop, we got a few things explained more thoroughly, like how to hold the veils for this sort of work, or why it’s a good idea to have an edging on them. To be perfectly honest, I think the workshop has complemented the DVD at least for me; I don’t think I came out of the workshop anywhere near confident enough to do a routine with double veil, but with the instruction I got, I do feel it was a great way of getting started. I would probably still suggest you get the video, for getting a bit more, and to refresh concepts you might have forgotten.

Overall, if I’d had the right veils, hairstyle and enough room, I do feel I would have been able to take more advantage of the workshop, but as it was, even just the first part was well worth it, so much so that when discussing the particulars with my martial-artist husband, he praised the approach Katie used and mentioned that, again, the sort of instruction we got for that was invaluable.

Would I take another workshop with Katie? DEFINITELY
Would I take another workshop on double veil or veil? Yes, but only as long as I am absolutely, positively certain  that there will be enough room, and that I own the required props to avoid frustration. And this time, I’d wear my hair down.
Would I take another workshop at Orient Expressions? Yes, and I’m already booked for one.
So in closing: good workshop, too bad about the number of people present.

Watch below an impromptu performance of Katie, showing off the type of moves we learnt through the workshop.

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