Leonie and Alpen SukanGilded Serpent presents...
Hosting Australia’s
Leonie and Alpen Sukan
by Samiya

I met Leonie when I decided to host her for our annual !BELLYDANCE! workshop and concert series in Maryborough, Queensland, in January of 2005. I knew a few of her choreographies and originally contacted her to seek her permission to teach them to our students so we could perform them. A few emails back and forth and I fell hopelessly in love with Leonie’s warmth. Leonie’s husband, Alpen, a percussionist whom Leonie referred to as capable of teaching basic rhythms so that workshop attendants will come out with a sound knowledge of the rhythms, was also invited.

What was going to be another dance choreography workshop weekend turned into a weekend of dancing and drumming. It is now over year later, and people are still talking about that weekend.

Of course Murphy’s Law was popping in every now and then, and I won’t even mention the shocking MC (me, who hates microphones of any size!).

Sydney is a long way from Maryborough Queensland…over 1000 kilometers away. We had planned for Leonie and Alpen to arrive in Brisbane by plane, and my husband Darryl would drive down and pick them up, bring them to quickly meet me then take them straight to their motel so they could rest and refresh before the concert. Brisbane to Maryborough is a three hour drive.

Friday 21 January 2005.
Murphy’s law 1: The caretaker of City Hall was given specific instructions in how I wanted the venue to look in regards to seating. Tables and chairs were to be set up like a restaurant with dance space in the middle of a circle. I arrived at City Hall to find that I needed helpers to quickly arrange seating for about 100 people, and because we couldn’t find the tables we had to settle for normal theatre seating. Murphy’s law 2: Someone was supposed to go over the lighting system with me. Yep, it happened—for all of two minutes, “these switches are for here and here and these are for here and here. Oh and don’t use”…what switch was that?

I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off when my husband tapped me on the shoulder and said, “they’re here.” I looked up and saw the most beautiful smile. Actually I should rephrase that…the most beautiful smile with a hint of cheekiness, then a pair of sparkling laughing eyes. This is Leonie, and as I found out over the course of the weekend, this IS Leonie. I can only describe her in one word. Beautiful. Inside and out. Alpen also seems to have cheekiness to him, and he has a wonderful sense of humour. I didn’t have time to set up all the fabric I had bought for the stage setting…I will make costumes out of it later. That will be my revenge!

Friday night 21 January 2005.
The concert is over. It went ok; a few hitches, and I’ve certainly learnt that my MC skills suck. Ha…next time I will record introductions onto the CD before each dancer’s song and go out in a camel suit or something! Leonie and Alpen’s performance together was great. Leonie performed to “Shik Shak Shok,” and we finally saw “Mona,” the choreography we will be learning tomorrow. It’s gorgeous, and as usual Leonie makes good use of the music.

That is a trait of Leonie’s. The dance fits the music so well that it flows seamlessly. Can’t wait until morning!

I performed an improvisation based on Dondi’s Marilyn and heard giggles throughout the hall. I’m an ugly blonde! My mother, fellow Flaming Sands (dance troupe) AMED teacher, Evelyne, performed to Yanni's "Aria" with a set of wings I adapted for her from a pleated skirt

Saturday 22 January 2005.
Back again. Wow, what a day. In between running around and trying to learn the song "Mona" at the same time, missing bits, catching up then off again somewhere, I was glad for the lunch break. Leonie and I went for a walk downtown and had a good yak along the way. I feel like I’ve known her for years. In the course of the workshop I learnt a few things and wonder if other dancers did too.

We tend to favor one side in our dancing. In doing flamingoes with veils, I’ve always brought it over my head from the right. In Mona, it’s opposite, and so are a few other movements. So after this weekend I will be doing a lot more concentration on opposites.

I can do opposites, but it seems that it is during performing that one side is favored. I’ve noticed this in many dancers I’ve seen, so it has to be a subconscious thing.

I need to make some ‘dance notes’ from the choreography notes and my notes here. Leonie is a brilliant teacher. She explains things effortlessly and breaks down movements really well, which was fantastic because eight of our beginner students were there and they were learning what we would term an intermediate choreography without having problems with moves they had not learnt yet. It was a full workshop with dancers and teachers coming from as far as four hours away to support us and to support Leonie and Alpen being here. What a wonderful dance community we have!

All during the Mona workshop Alpen was next door with his group drumming away. Being a drummer as well as a dancer, I was a bit torn between the two workshops, and at one stage I think I was doing the choreography to the drummers! I could hear Alpen’s broken down rhythms, then the group following, then all of them going at it at tempo. During the break one student came to me and said, and I quote, “This is better than Hossam Ramzy’s workshop” (we hosted Hossam and Serena in August 2003). That was not a reaction that I expected, and I made sure that I mentioned it to Alpen, who seemed surprised. Now I laugh at Leonie’s description of Alpen being ‘capable’. He is more than capable; he is excellent.

Day of Departure.
Alpen Sukan, Darryl Bullen, Leonie Sukan and Samiya
Drum Dance happy hour…..what fun that was with the drumming group joining us so that Leonie could go over some steps to drums. It was easy for beginners who were there, and I joined in anyway because, well….where there’s a drummer there’s me, unless I’m the drummer.

Sunday 23rd January 2005.
Do we have to take them home?
See, I am a sook* ! I cried after we left but we got a nice photo of us together. We went and had a nice lunch in Brisbane. Leonie and I gasbagged all the way to Brisbane….over two hours of talking, and before we knew it we were 25 kilometers out of Brissie. I really didn’t want this weekend to finish. Spending this weekend in the company of two of the most lovely and supportive people you could ever meet has been amazing. I will have them back again for sure.

*sook--Picture going to a really sad movie. It gets to the sad part and all your friends are dry eyed but you are in tears because it was just sooooo sad and emotional. Your friends would laugh at you and lovingly call you a 'sook' to tease you about being teary eyed at something that didn't affect them. It can be used for animals.....say you're cat is outside crying to be let in and you're ignoring it? It's being a 'sook' because it wants to come in and you won't let it. This is an Aussie term that I haven't heard anywhere else in the world. Love Samiya

Leonie's website

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