Would you travel across the country or indeed across the world to attend the Western Australian Middle Eastern Dance Festival? Here’s why I did and what the workshops were like.
First up – sorry to my followers for the lack of postings of late. I was busy looking after sick kids followed by being really sick myself but I am much improved now, so new post to follow.
This is part 2 to my WAMED review click here if you want to read part 1 – the performance evenings and market plus travel blog of Perth.
At this year’s WAMED, I took a radical new approach to the belly dance festival – well radical for me. As it is such a big deal for me to travel to these events, I usually try and do everything possible. With some reflection I have realised that apart from being exhausted by the end of it all, I find a lot of what I learn blurs into a big mash of movement. Even 1 day later I am struggling to remember what was in each workshop and if it wasn’t for notes or video then it would be a total loss.
This time I tried a slightly scaled down version . I attended 5 of the roughly 7 workshop options. Because I travelled more than 4000km to get there, I kept changing my mind as to whether or not it was a good choice but in retrospect I am happy I chose to do it this way. I feel I remember more of what I learnt and looked forward to each workshop instead of feeling that I was dragging myself through mud to get to the last one.
Ranya Renee (US) –Alchemy Magic
This was held in the Morley sport and rec centre again in a spacious, comfortable, carpeted room. Ranya was easy to hear and see. She had a friendly but no- nonsense approach to her teaching that I think helped keep such a large group on task. The music was kind of old school Arabic and was available for purchase. She covered her breathing techniques, her “ET” , lol (you will have to do her workshop to find out what that is) and we did some combinations. I really enjoyed what we did and some of the moves and combinations were really different to how I usually move. She had excellent knowledge of Arabic music and culture and is a beautiful dancer. That being said, when I asked around about what workshops people liked – this one was the only one that got any complaints. People thought that while Ranya was excellent to work with, the workshop description didn’t really match what we got. The description said “Learn a freshly minted modern oriental choreography”, what was delivered was more of a structured improvisation (Ranya’s words). I have to agree. Even still the overwhelming attitude was very positive. Students were allowed to film themselves after the workshop. Almost no one did. For me it was because this was my first workshop and I knew no one. I had had difficulty remembering where in the music the structured bits sat and I just didn’t have the balls to stand up in front of everyone and solo. Overall, enjoyable and valuable but not really true to description.
Lisa Laziza (WA) – Potpourri – Wings, Rhythm & Zills
I got lucky with this one – low numbers (due to being on at the same time as Ranya) meant we had a great time with excellent personal tuition from Lisa. She was thorough, clear, friendly, and professional. The choreography was fast and longish at 4:25mins but we got through it in 2 hours. I was extremely impressed with her teaching method as I struggle to get choreography quickly but I was able to do a passable job of it by the end. It was squishy dancing in the smallish room with wings, we hit each other a few times, so I was doubly glad there weren’t more students. This time we were in the WAAPA Dance studios at Mt Lawley, it was great to have the mirrors for wings. Lisa’s style is quite flashy and the choreography was true to form and impressive. Lisa had the music available and allowed videoing several times during the teaching and right through at the end as well as providing a written choreography. I left feeling I have something solid to work on.
Michelle (WA) Uzbekistan dance – a fusion of Silk Road Dances
Michelle hit the ground running and crammed a whole lot into the 2 hour time frame. She covered her experience travelling and dancing in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and the subtle differences between the two. She included information about the style and costuming for men and women and easy ways to get a similar look. I was particularly fascinated by the central Asian love of the monobrow (one long eyebrow instead of 2)- apparently they paint them in! We covered several combos and I feel the workshop totally lived up to my expectations. I am currently working on a simple choreography drawing on this workshop for my kid’s class. I think the feel of innocent country girl will work well with my innocent country girls! Michelle had a disc of music available to purchase and in the hallway after the workshop (because we were out of time), she went over the basics and let us video her so we could refer to it later. I don’t think I will become a Central Asian Dance enthusiast but I loved the contrast and found Michelle an enjoyable and enthusiastic instructor. (Notes were given out)
Zahara (Tabetha) (WA) –Saiidi Stick Choreography
Wow! Most stick work I have done previously is dominated by local teacher Ruth Maitland. I think this workshop is what you might get if you put one of Ruth’s Cheeky pieces on Speed. In order to get this fast paced and reasonably intricate choreography complete in the time given, we were driven pretty hard. Some excellent combinations and some interesting formations that would be useful to anyone regardless of whether one intended to run the whole choreography or not. Tabitha has a very assertive, strong style that shines through. I loved that she gave out notes for not only the choreography but also included the song’s lyrics and the translation! (Mayssam Naha – Barido).
Ranya Renee – Character in performance
Ooh, I found this emotionally challenging but that was the idea. No point flying across the country if not to extend oneself! It consisted of breathing exercises, runway walks and improvisation in front of a group with critique. Ranya revised some basic stereotypes of characters and personalities we could attempt to bring into our dance and incorporated them into the exercises. A few I found easy and a few I just sucked at! It left me with a lot to think about and to try and improve at home, like learning to tolerate a dry mouth (breathing technique)! I feel I need to thank Csaba Szirmai and Cass Smith here for their excellent inspiration during the Utopian dream 2011 Zoolander-esque walk off.
I didn’t have quite so much flair but I did a few laps of the runway with verve! This workshop was excellent and exactly as advertised. I have tried a few of Ranya’s exercises (toned down a bit) on my students and have been pleased with how well they have worked. For example, in my Adults class in Bellingen, I had been teaching a simple piece as a solo. I took the final movements and got the students to try them with different attitudes and personae. We had fun and I didn’t think much of it till we ran the dance the following week and I realised that the end has so much more impact now, they were all 10 times better. Thank you Ranya, what I have learnt off you has been gold.
What do you look for in a workshop? What are the ‘must haves’ that make you feel you got your money’s worth? Comment below.
Want to write about your favourite/ most hated workshop? I am open to guest posts (firstname.lastname@example.org)