The Body Beautiful-
A Review of Aziza’s
Moving across the country
and learning to adjust to a new environment is never an easy thing, but add in
the difficulty of adjusting to a completely new bellydancing community, and you
have a recipe for ‘Awkward Stew’. I began bellydance lessons 5 years ago
as a way of learning to view myself as beautiful on my own terms without having
to starve myself or put women down who were blessed with bodies larger or
smaller than mine, and I had done a pretty good job of achieving this
Moving to Albuquerque in beautiful New Mexico took me out of my
bellydancing comfort zone and I was starting to panic.
workshop. On June 17th, I attended Aziza’s workshop on drum
solos and taxims that was organized by the original Gitana herself, Amaya, and
sponsored by Amaya Productions. The experience served as a wonderful reminder
of what drew me to bellydancing in the first place, and I was determined to
push through the new-kid-on-the-block blues and continue my evolution as a
The workshop was held at the Hotel Elegante in an extremely spacious and well
lit ballroom with plenty of room for everyone to stretch and dance
comfortably. The drum solo portion of the workshop began at 9:30 and ran
for a little over two hours. Aziza stood on small “stage” at the front of the
ballroom enabling everyone there (including those of us who are vertically
challenged) to see her clearly as she demonstrated each move for
us. Before beginning the drum work, Aziza ran us through an intense
warm-up and stretching session that left everyone wide awake and ready for the
workout ahead of us. Saying that I'm a bit self-conscious about my dancing
and the difficulty I have in learning new choreography would be an enormous
understatement, and the thought of attending my first workshop has always
filled me with a sort of dread at what the instructor would say to me whenever
I made a mistake or couldn't keep up with the class. I was both surprised and
elated to find that Aziza made sure to make everyone in her class feel at ease with
constant reassurances throughout the workshop.
Just when you thought that you
were merely another face in a sea of bellydancers, Aziza would pinpoint the
fine nuances of your individual movements and offer helpful suggestions on how
to make the move look cleaner or give positive reinforcement to the progress
you were making.
Learning choreography is certainly an Achilles’ heel of mine, and it seems to
take me forever to execute a combination and feel comfortable in it. But Aziza
taught the choreography in such a way that even in my most frustrated two-left
feet moments I felt like I was making progress. The constant repetition of
movement and her willingness to answer even the most detail-oriented questions
about the choreography made me feel like my fragile bellydancer’s id was in
After the drum solo
choreography, there was a break for lunch before the workshop resumed and I decided
to answer the bellydancer’s “call of the wild” and buy something
sparkly. There was an impressive selection of DVDs, jewelry, costumes, and
other assorted goodies to choose from; my only lament is that there were not
any costumes on display for “extra fluffy” dancers such as myself.
The afternoon workshop was
dedicated to technique, important dancing concepts, and learning to master the
taxim. Aziza, a bellydancing professional, has an immense store of knowledge
and experience to share with us and there just wasn't enough time to cover even
a fraction of what she felt was important for us to know.
pointed out that as a professional bellydancer who takes the art form quite seriously,
it is of great importance to her that she teaches her students the ins and outs
of stage dynamics and professional etiquette such as remembering to acknowledge
and thank the performing band after a live performance.
drills that she had us do in class focused on improving the quality and strength
of our abdominal muscles, enabling us to impart a richer dimension in our
performance. I can honestly say that I've never before been sore to the very
core of my being for days and felt so great about it! She had us doing things
with our abdominal muscles that I thought were reserved only for masochists and
Russian gymnasts, but her humor and positive reinforcements kept us
going....even through the dreaded ABDOMINAL ALPHABET.
After the workshop I had to
hurriedly limp home (think of Igor with a coin belt) and get ready for her
evening show. I’d heard of just how moving her live shows were and I couldn't
wait to witness it for myself. Aziza wasn't scheduled to perform until the
second act of the show and I had the pleasure of sitting next to her while she
watched the first act of the gala. I'd like to say that I played it cool and
handled things in a mature and calm manner, but I'd be lying through my teeth.
I haven't been in that serious of a fangrrl geekout mode since waiting in line
for the first X-Men movie. Aziza was truly awesome and she handled my star
struck manner like a professional. I can now understand the dilemma that people
who review her live performances face when they try and put into words the
effect that Aziza has on an audience ...there's just no way to do the
experience justice. You have to see it for yourself.
There isn't a way to
describe the feeling of sitting among the audience and listening to everyone
gasp in awe at the beauty and power of her taxim, the laughter at how she skillfully
worked eyebrow gymnastics into her drum solo, or bought the house down hard
enough to receive a minutes-long standing ovation. You just have to be there.
Taking Aziza's workshop was
a wonderfully cathartic experience for me because it reminded me of why I keep
coming back to bellydancing. Bellydancing is one of the few ways that I'm able
to look at my 300-lb body with pride and admiration because I know myself to be
a strong and beautiful woman.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
with the Dance: a Performance Critique of Aziza by Shelley Muzzy/Yasmela
There are several dancers on the scene that I admire and enjoy watching
again and again, but I just saw one that made me stop in my tracks,
sit right down on the floor, and pay attention.
Beginning by another amazing Aziza!
When she came
out to dance in the audience, I thought to myself, "She better
not get too near to my husband!"
9-28-06 Teacher Student Rivalry, Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 16 by Mary Ellen Donald
“After all I did for her, why did she turn on me that way?” “I’ll show her that I can do just a well without her help?”
Drawing the Line by Dawn Devine
Along with henna, kohl has been part of the beauty regimens
of women since the dawn of history, and an unbroken line connects the
eyes of today with those of the ancients.
9-15-06 The Taxim from a Dancer's Perspective:Tarab
or Tyranny? by Najia Marlyz
Sometimes, these improvisations can be quite elaborate. The
effect is somewhat like modern jazz and stays within the framework of
the traditional maqam or maqamat.
9-14-06 Territorialism Undermines Event
Sponsor's Efforts, Interview with Dee Dee Asad by Lynette
Open discussions of such issues will help dancers, musicians
and those people who surround and support them, to recognize similar
patterns in their own local environments.