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Gilded Serpent presents...
Articulating the
Collective Dream:

The Giza Awards, and why the
legacy-making process is important to you.
by Amina Goodyear and Gregory Burke

In the distant past, the mid-nineties I'd say, Amina and I were editing through old vhs tapes, eight-millimeter film, and two-inch broadcast tapes in an attempt to salvage a documentary history of The Aswan Dancers. The rationale was simple: was the image on the tape more prominent than the fuzzy dots? Then we looked at the dancing; the location and time in which it was done. With the help of first generation digital editing tools, the video "Hizz Ya Wizz" became a reality.

Along with that reality came a realization: the fragility of this media. At that moment, The Giza Academy Awards of Middle Eastern Dance Videos was alive and breathing.

A bit of background: The Aswan Dancers are a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational and charitable organization with a primary mission to promote the study and appreciation of Middle Eastern dance, music and other cultural issues. To that mission was added this necessary role of encouraging the preservation of dance, recorded not only in print, but visually on stable media. A note here on what a non-profit is and is not. It is not a way to skip taxes. It is being true to your mission in spirit and action. It is about community outreach: The Aswan Dancers are constantly in schools, arts and academic organizations, lecturing and performing. They are in hospitals and retirement and nursing homes dancing for the bed-ridden and infirm. That means, teaching the children and soothing the aged. And that brings us right back to The Giza Awards.

All media, tape and disks degrade at a rapid rate--rather like their human counterparts. The soul of your recorded work must jump to varied forms of stable media every five to ten years.

It needs to be transferred to the archival media of the moment: usually a disk, with a tape backup. When you think of Middle Eastern dance in the past, especially of the time between the great black and white films and the introduction of videotape, so much has been lost.

The Aswan Dancers, as a cultural organization sponsors The Giza Club, that irrepressible force of iconoclastic individualism, and The Giza Club sponsors The Giza Awards, and our message of preservation. After the first awards in December 1997, we commented that The Giza Awards hoped to look into the history of past great performances and forward into the present and future so that we may better identify the best of Middle Eastern dance available on video. One of our major points is that a dancer must leave a legacy and since video is what we have and what is readily available, it's the media of choice. Our purpose is to continue to urge the legacy-making process. The recorded performance well preserved and maintained is the key to continued generations of dancers and the preservation and evolution of our art form. As an independent group, we will never fall into the trap of being partial to one school of thought. Toward this goal the awards committee will have five or more judges each year, which may rotate, and three reserve judges or "tie-breakers."

The judges may have no thread of personal connection to the material: i.e. be not involved with the video personally or professionally. In this way we have maintained an uncorrupted and clear history. You can't buy or bully a win. We accept no ads, no special favors and no gratuities.

Also, except for documentary and instructional videos, we want the performance to determine the nature of the award rather than being made expressly to fit into a niche. Of course, we look for what is great dancing and exciting and entertaining, but underneath is this feeling of time and place and how this work fits into the greater scheme of things.

The rules are simple. Obtain an application form and send in your material with a small entry fee. This money is used to advertise the awards online and in print media. Or be submitted as an entry by a Giza Club member with a sense of "people must see this!" Then once a year in December we present our selections for the best videos entered and available. In January, members of the Giza Club review the finalists and other selections. If a video did not win, it doesn't mean that there were not great moments within it and it may merit expanded viewing and comment.

Our collected legacy is magnificent: now in our ninth year, with an explosion of categories and subcategories, there is a "layering" effect.

  • First--The documentaries that take you to a specific historical time and location, calling attention to what is important.
  • Next--From the best of beginning instructional videos through to advanced and highly specialized nuances of the dance, the collected winners and other selections create a complete curriculum of thought.
  • And finally--The performance winners, all the dancers that are indeed "stars," of every style, are represented. Why they are stars becomes self-evident to the eye. Watching these great dancers we are reminded how much every one of us loves the thrill of a live performance. That is not in question here. With video we are speaking only of a distinctly separate world: a complete active history of our time to be carried forward to another time.

It would seem that our initial message of preservation may be imbedded into the audience we intended, so it's time for us to broaden our vision, perhaps expanding our content and placing it online. We have always looked forward into the future while gazing into the past. Consider us revisionists and futurists simultaneously. We embrace change however roughly it appears. With video we feel secure in the knowledge that the legacy of the past will never abandon us.

The Giza Awards will always lead in closing the circle, making dance fully international in scope and prompting the study of the history and culture from which it developed, and continues to develop.

Now when we speak of the future, it means delivering a huge and varied critical perspective of Middle Eastern dance and music in visual images intact to the next generation of dancers and teachers and into the next millennium and beyond. It's possible, you know.

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
11-16-01 Giza Club Lecture, Wacky Woman Traveler- Leyla Lanty
Hard work and familiarity pays off.

2-4-05 Comments On American Bellydancer Film Review by Gregory Burke
A documentary film or video is made up of "real" images constructed in such a way to reflect the point of view of its maker. So a documentary film is a fiction, especially when financed by its key subject..

8-31-01 Make a Giza Club!
...She was to become our first Wacky Woman Traveler...

Second Annual Giza Academy Awards by Amina Goodyear

1-4-00 The 1999 Giza Video Awards! by Aileen

3-3-01 Giza Academy Awards of Middle Eastern Dance Video 2000 by Leyla Lanty And the winners are.... Photos added on 5-1-01 take another look!

6-18-05 Gitaneria Arabesca: A Different Approach to the Student Recital by Vashti,
Photography by John Steele
Ah, the student recital. There is nothing like watching fledglings leaving the nest, discovering their own creative wings and flying off into the wonderful world of belly dance.

6-5-05 Rakkasah West Festival 2005 Photos- Saturday & Sunday Page 2 photos by GS Staff and Friends
More to come!

6-3-05 Belly Dancer of the Year 2005 Page 1 Duos, Trios & Troupes photos by Monica
May 28, 2005, San Ramon, California.

12-9-05 Noshing around the Bay by Neran and Nisima
On Neran's first visit back to Bay Area a year after relocating to Knoxville, Tennesee she announced to Nisima, "there are no and I mean no Middle Eastern restaurants in Knoxville; let's go to as many as we can while I'm here."

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