Drum Solo Master Class with Jim Boz
Sponsored by Azura and Parri
December 10, 2006 in Santa Clara, California. The
workshop scene as it exists today, is overflowing with teachers
both new and established, all vying with one another to invent
new specialties or come up with some new slants on the same material.
Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending a master class workshop
with Jim Boz of San Diego, CA.
you see him in street clothes, you would never guess that Jim
was a belly dancer. With his shaved head tied up in a bandanna,
with a burly torso, powerful legs, and a thick neck, he looks
more like a biker, a bouncer, or a circus strongman. Thus, his
grace and posture is even more amazing.
In this 2-hour
master class, he led us through a short drum solo choreography.
Although the pace was fast, the instruction was clear and there
was plenty of repetition. The combinations used a wide variety
of nifty moves, including Shareen el Safy's famous
He used a
remote-control CD player that allowed him to choose precise spots
in the music and loop them, making repetition of specific portions
very easy to control, without wasting time cuing forward and back.
This same player also could slow down the music without losing
pitch; it was very useful, and really helped us learn the combinations
quickly. I can still remember the entire sequence 3 days later.
Sometimes, you really can take it with you.
his well-organized class efficiently, his demeanor confident and
brisk, but not brusque. He courteously answered questions and
requests for clarifications without losing focus. During the class,
he sprinkled his commentary with humorous quips that betrayed
a geeky sci-fi whimsy, joking that it would be a hard class: "Mwahaha,
foolish mortals!" He even referred to himself a geek, I supposed
he meant that he liked to get technical. He's smart and mentally
agile, traits that no doubt aided him in his former career in
master teacher, he was able to get right to the heart of each
technique he was showing. His movement was very clean and well
defined, making him very easy to follow even through some complex
sequences. Many of his incidental remarks (on stage placement,
pacing and direction of attention, final poses) were right on
he demonstrated in this class appeared to be modern Raks Sharki,
similar to Astryd de Michele (another fabulous
teacher), whom he praised highly during the class. He showed some
very sharp yet delicately articulated hip work while his torso
and arms floated bonelessly above. His arms were exquisite: I
kept staring hard every time he did anything to see what he was
doing with his arms. Even very simple movements like a horizontal
hip 8 can look almost magical when done with this kind of precision.
His dancing also had that "internal" quality, that inner
power, that characterizes true Raks Sharki. His movements and
explanations were so clear that it was easy to pick up even the
most elusive nuances.
being clean and precise in execution, Jim had something more,
a subtlety and maturity of timing that kept him from looking mechanical.
This lilting quality is hard to describe, but it makes all the
difference, and Jim was able to show it in such a way that it
was also easy to pick up. He also mentioned that he has taken
many workshops with Amir Thaleb; so, if you like
Amir, you should definitely try Jim's classes as well.
He took the
time to break down each movement according to which muscle groups
to use, and observed that there are many different variations
of every movement that actually use entirely different muscles
to do the same thing. He had valuable tips for layering shimmies
over other hip movements, such as using your torso to move your
hips, which frees the legs for shimmies. Different teachers have
different movement philosophies, and whatever works is good. However,
regarding the techniques, some teachers’ methods just don't work
for me. I felt that Jim hit the nail on the head every time when
it came to body mechanics. It was nice to see someone who presented
more options, and who didn't insist on “the one right way” to
If I lived
in San Diego, I would definitely take his class on a regular basis.
He appears to have a pragmatic and realistic view of himself as
a teacher, and goes to workshops along with his own students.
Many teachers won't do this because they don't want to expose
themselves in front of their students; Jim is not afraid to make
mistakes. He's not overly self-effacing, either, which can be
a pretension all on its own.
Jim Boz is
conscious of being a representative of a minority in the belly
dance world, being one of the few men who's attained a high level
of skill. His perspective in this area is very refreshing.
It seems to
me that the best dancers employ both masculine and feminine elements,
and are less one-sided than dancers who only do one style and
disdain the other gender as beneath them. Jim's presence is masculine,
but not overbearingly so. He appeared to have both macho and feminine
nuances completely under his command, and could switch from one
to the other literally mid-phrase.
My one complaint
was that his all-black teaching attire somewhat obscured his hips
and belly area, making it extremely difficult to tell what he
was actually doing because so many of the movements were so small,
localized, and filled with nuance. This was frustrating at times
due to the pace of the class and the short time we had together.
had I realized how much I rely on being able to see the instructor's
skin right above the hip belt line and the belly button itself.
I complained about this several times and he agreed, noting that
he simply had run out of t-shirts. When I'm trying to learn new
movements, I also really like to see how the torso is being articulated,
and a form-fitting garment with some design on it really helps
to show exactly which muscle groups are being employed all up
and down the chest and back.
Over the years,
Mr. Boz has applied keen powers of observation to glean some good
home truths about the dance, and he sprinkled the class with a
lot of practical advice from long personal experience. Here's
what I recall:
- When learning
new routines or combinations, try to learn the feet first, and
posture next. Then worry about the other details.
- Don't try
to learn everything all at once on the first try.
- It's not
stupid to practice your ending pose over & over, because
that is what people will remember.
- Know where
the beat is, but don't always be exactly on it (This helps to
avoid appearing mechanical and regimented.)
whatever personal tricks or gimmicks that you need to "fix"
your posture before and during a performance. Try to build these
fixes into your routines.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
10-3-06 Rhea: Greek
Flavor and Flair Article by Rebecca Firestone, Photos by Carl
& Laikis Orientale and Greek Folk Dance Workshop sponsored
by Ma*Shuqa, held Saturday, August 19, 2006, at the Empire Buffet
restaurant, in San Jose, California
Giza Awards 2005, A Cultural
Odyssey, by Rebecca Firestone
it be that the West has been so involved in learning technique
and choreography that the very soul of the dance has been left
to those in the Middle East who are desperately struggling to
keep their art alive?
1-4-06 What You Can't
Get From Instructional Videos by Rebecca Firestone
able to withstand honest opinions is crucial. If one never communicates
directly with one's peers AS PEERS, that is, not as sycophantic
students, one can develop an insular and self-referential mindset
without ever realizing it.
The Costume Contest
Carnival of Stars Bellydance & Comic Book Convention &
Costume Contest Photos by Michael Baxter
Event Sponsors Alexandria and Latifa November 11 &
12, 2006 Centennial Hall, Hayward, California
Fundraiser Part IV: The Berkeley Fire Department and Act 3, Bert
and Najia's Duet by Najia Marlyz Slideshow coding by Tammy
Near the end of our Second Act, the curtain began to
smolder badly filling the air with an acrid stench and blue smoke...
Saturday Photos -Carnival
of Stars Bellydance & Comic Book Convention & Costume
Contest Photos by Michael Baxter
Event Sponsors Alexandria and Latifa November 11 &
12, 2006 Centennial Hall, Hayward, California (Costume contest,
panal discussion and Sunday photos yet to come...)
I Dance; You Follow by Leila
As Westerners interested in an Eastern dance form, we might want
to ask ourselves if we are missing certain critical aspects of
Raqs Sharki because we are not open to Eastern teaching methods.