click for larger photo
names:L to R
Saba, Sarah, Marilou, Maryfer, Emese, Samara (lower).
Karima, Mary, Melissa, Laura
of being a part of Arabesque Dance Company (ADC)
was one of the main reasons I moved to Toronto in 2005. I had
bellydance passionately in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but my options
were limited there and I wanted to make this dance my career.
The reputation of the company and Yasmina along with my great
experience in her Professional Course (a two week course for
dancers wishing to “go pro”, covering such topics as technique,
Arabic music and culture, working with different audiences,
representing the art form, etc) and the possibility of working
with live musicians made a very convincing argument for my
move. I hoped to find a job while taking classes and slowly
building up some gigs while working towards joining the company.
feedback from Yasmina and my own comparative observations,
I realized that my technique needed a lot of work before I
could think about auditioning for the Company. I took regular
classes at Arabesque and every workshop made available to me.
I found the girls in the Company to be friendly, but they tended
to all hang out in a tight group and as they are all gorgeous
dancers, I found them a little intimidating.
two auditions and a lot of classes, I was accepted as an apprentice--
under the condition that I work on my arms.
rehearsals were terrifying. The girls were learning new
choreographies and positioning and I would follow along
in the back, feeling like a bit of a dolt and getting in
in bellydance all came from teachers in Halifax and various
workshops, so there was a lot of variability in what I was
doing to how the other girls danced. I learned that there is
a definite Arabesque style that is decidedly Egyptian and unpredictable.
For example, Yasmina almost always turns to the back when switching
sides from profile to profile, and I was used to just taking
the shortest route! What I had learned in Halifax gave me a
great base but was not specifically Egyptian and the technical
differences were vast. Yasmina’s style is highly skilled and
professional with an Arabic audience in mind; my previous classes
were more recreational in comparison.
were brilliant and difficult. I was not used to choreography
at this level. I was accustomed to more repetitive numbers
geared towards less experienced dancers. Yasmina has professional
dancers to work with whereas my troupe in Halifax was made
up of people dancing just for fun. Yasmina’s pieces aim to
be unpredictable, innovative and authentic. I struggled to
keep up with the generous help of the lead dancers and other
apprentices. Choreography has never been my strong point and
it was my goal to change this. Inevitably it would take an
upcoming show that I was expected to dance in to force me to
crack down and master a number. This is how I learned to do
proper barrel turns and overcame some of my nausea from spinning,
among other things!
It took a long
time to feel comfortable and not intimidated by the lead dancers.
After some time, the girls and I warmed up to each other and,
one by one, I started to feel close to them.
it was Emese doing the terrifying evil-bird-veil shtick,
or Melissa and Marilou bumping stomachs, Mary tactfully
correcting choreography, Christina’s wardrobe malfunctions
or anyone’s combination of afro-burlesque-charleston-robot
fusion, rehearsal was often hilarious and generally a blast.
Of course I
was always stressed about getting the choreography and technique
right, not disappointing Yasmina, (avoiding that exhausted
look that I knew meant I should have got my shimmies down by
now) but I did my best to keep up.
I became aware
of habits, I had no idea that I had, such as crazy claw hands,
constantly bent knees and a lack of lower abdominal strength,
and started on the path to correct them. I still struggle with
these issues but the regular feedback was pivotal in recognizing
these details. The weekly rehearsal was something to aim for.
I gained a deeper understanding of Arabic folkloric dances
and props. I started performing solo and with the company at
gigs here and there, and felt so proud to be a part of such
a professional and artistic group. When the large-scale production
“Asala” came to fruition after months of rehearsals, I was
thrilled to be a part of it; representing Arabic folklore,
music and culture to a large audience. The choreography “Inte
Omri” was moving and beautiful and very powerful to dance.
Working with the musicians at our weekly Layali Arabesque show
and Asala has been incredibly valuable. Having recently been
made a lead dancer, I feel that I have achieved something to
be proud of, having overcome many difficult challenges while
reaching major goals in my life. I consider myself very lucky
to be able to work with such incredible artists and continue
to look forward to our future endeavors.
a dance company is not for everyone. The art comes first
and personal pride and vanity must be put behind ones self
in a concern for the greater good of the group. It
requires a lot of patience and humility.
For me, being
in Arabesque Dance Company has given me something to work towards,
and something to continue to strive for as I attempt to represent
this dance with pride. Being a part of Yasmina’s vision is
an honor, and the camaraderie I feel with my fellow dancers
is something I would never want to give up. I would absolutely
suggest this sort of experience to other dancers as a tool
for growth and as a wonderful experience altogether.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
for more? Note
the different Yasmin/Yasminas and the very different international
Yasmina: Evolution, Oum Kalthoum, & Cover ups by Yasmina
first column in a once-a-month series: GS is proud to present
this passionate and knowledgeable expert in the field of Middle
Eastern Dance; she is an artist, pioneer, and creator of the
International Bellydance Conference of Canada.
Wa Sahlan 2008, Not So Welcoming this Year by
have gone up everywhere, and Egypt is no exception. The reality
hit me as soon as I walked into the Mena House. Bottled water was
$4.00, where out in the street the same bottle was $.50. A bottle
of beer was $10.00. Internet connection was $30.00 / hour. At those
prices, life's little pleasures didn't seem important anymore.
Masr, Music and Songs for Oriental Dance" CD Review by
by Nader Zakaria, at Merryland Studio Heliopolis, Artistic direction
by Yasmina. Depending on your mood and tastes, there should be
something for just about everyone on this CD.
8-11-00-Yasmina's First Club Gig by
"You're so beautiful! Wouldn't you like to audition
to dance for us?"
Gala Peformance Part 1 of the International Bellydance
Conference of Canada video and photo report
by GS staff
include: Lopa Sarkar, Sacred Dance Company of Victoria, Nath Keo,
Roshana Nofret & Maria Zapetis of Bozenka's BD Academy, Ensemble
El Saharat of Germany-
Mayyadah & Amir of Germany, Ferda Bayazit of Turkey, Arabesque Dance Company & Orchestra
Part 3: The Community Response- Dream Big by
Betsey Flood, Photos contributed by Masouma Rose
did those who attended that Las Vegas event last August –the
one that strove to become the biggest belly dance convention ever
-- think about their experience? Their answers may surprise you.
reviewed by Two- Pop, Lock and Shimmy! Belly
Dance with Michelle, by Yasmin
and John Clow with Introduction by Shira
the current titling issues of Pop, Lock and Shimmy and IAMED’s
upcoming Kaya and Sadie release however, I decided to pull out
my notes and give the original drill DVD its due.
Drum, Dance, & Music Festival Raqs Taiwan with
Karim Nagi! by Lisa Chen
wishes to find the bridge between dancers and musicians, performers
and audiences while still keeping its cultural roots alive. DDM
is the platform for dancers and musicians working together and
exchanging their professional experiences.
What? Improvement Ideas for the Growing Dancer by
article is for those of us that would like to delve into areas
of the art form that may be beyond the usual class topics.
Annual Blood Moon Regale: Disease 101 Photos and
text by Brad Dosland
interpretations ranging from comic to poignant, dancers portrayed
a gamut of disorders from Scarlet Fever to Head Lice, Elephantiasis
to Anorexia. Many of the performances were touchingly powerful,
while others such as Origin’s depiction of Crabs had the
capacity audience at the grand old Colonial Theatre laughing
out loud (and scratching themselves subconsciously).
Dance is This, Anyway? Where Do Men Fit into the Belly
Dance World? by Lara
soon as he was born, dancers of all stripes immediately started
in with "Oh, a new little drummer for the troupe!".
Excuse me? Why is there an instant assumption from birth that
all little boys will be drummers and all little girls will be
dancers just like mommy.
---Added Feature! See our Gallery of Men
in Middle Eastern Dance
in a Name? Orientalizing Oriental by Paola
had already managed to use my definition of my dance form against
me, to paint me as marginal, politically incorrect, and strangely
enough, to “orientalize”me within the context of
that symposium in the ways that Said describes in Orientalism.
I was now, officially, “Other”.