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Hawaii Workshop
by Latifa
dance photos by
Bob McKeand of Honolulu

We got up at the crack of dawn to get to the San Fransico airport three hours before our 9:10 AM flight.

After our curb side check in and my short detention by Security (too much silver jewelry and an electric tooth brush!) we arrived at our gate for the usual "hurry up and wait " cycle that is so much a part of flying at this time in human history.

After an extremely smooth flight, we arrived in Honolulu at a little after 10:00 AM Hawaiian time. Shadia’s husband met us at the airport with a comfortable air conditioned van that actually had enough room for all of our luggage!

After arriving at our hotel, we had time to get organized and relax. We met with Shadia around 2:00PM to plan our evening which would revolve around a visit to a restaurant called The Pyramid Cafe at which one of Shadia’s students, Melia would be performing.

The Pyramid Cafe is a delightfully decorated restaurant in Honolulu not too far from Waikiki. The customers were numerous for a Tuesday evening.

We were greeted at the door by a very friendly hostess and sat at a table where we could easily view the performance.

Melia emerged in a stunning purple costume designed and made by Alexandria, and gave a strong performance demonstrating excellent isolations and a very polished cane routine. I was extremely impressed with Shadia’s teaching as well as Melia’s ability as a dancer and performer.

Wednesday, we coped with jet lag and planned the Music Class and Hafla scheduled for that evening at Shadia’s home studio.

We have been studying percussion under the expert guidance of Noel Parafina, Alexandria’s husband.

Late in the afternoon we proceeded to Shadia’s house.

I had discovered earlier that the large def I had transported to Hawaii had gone completely flat from the moisture, even after heating it that afternoon. I knew I would have to find a way to keep it heated and dry--which turned out to be holding over a lit burner on Shadia’s stove at frequent intervals during the class.

Around 6 P.M., members of The Near Eastern Dance Company of Hawaii, of whom Shadia is the director and teacher, began to arrive. During the two and one half hour workshop Alexandria and I introduced them to balladi, macsoum, bombi, and malfoof on tamborines, def, zils and dumbek. Members of the class experimented with the different instruments while practicing the rhythms. Most of them were quick to understand and begin to play the different instruments we had. We demonstrated Saidi, but thought it might be a little too complex to teach in a class already inundated with so much material
to practice.

After the class we ate, talked, laughed, played music and danced into the night. When we returned to our hotel, we were completely exhausted -still jet lagged- but full of enthusiasm for our upcoming workshops and performances. The excitement and ability of students in our class was a predictor of our other successful endeavors.

Thursday morning, I got out of bed early and walked to Waikiki Beach which I was surprised to find unchanged since I had visited it when I was fifteen. I passed the early part of the day swimming and relaxing on the beach, which became a regular part of my days before noon. Afternoons were too warm to be on the beach.

Thursday evening, while shopping at the International Market place, we had the opportunity to see a show featuring local dancers and singers. Some of the performances were well executed, although Shadia said that they lacked authenticity. There was one segment combining Polynesian Dance with a hip-hop groove. This piece, in which the dancers were dressed in red and used uli-uilis, definitely captured and held my attention.

Friday evening we had our performance at Anna Bannana’s, a popular venue for local people. M.E.D.A. Members, Middle Eastern Dance Teachers and students, as well as others who enjoy Middle Eastern Dance attended the show. Performances included Saidi performances by Shadia’s students, Egyptian Cabaret solos by Shadia, Melea, and Alexandria, and a great Ghawazee Performance by Shadia and Alexandria. My two solos included floor work since that was to be my focus in our workshops. Ruth Cutty, popular M.E.D.A. member in Honolulu, who gave an enthusiasdtic well received performance, was our guest dancer. The audience was enthusiastic and attentive. Judging by the comments of people who approached us after the show, and attendance at the workshops the following two days, they thoroughly enjoyed the show.

Our first workshop was from 1:00 P.M.-4:00 P.M Saturday. 12:00-1:00 was devoted to vending. Alexandria sold costumes imported from Egypt, tapes, and instruments. She also took some orders to make costumes.

The first hour of the workshop was devoted to floor work. People of various ages and levels of flexibility participated. I offered several adaptations of each move geared to the different levels in the class and stretches to improve flexibility. The approach I use is to help people validate what their body can do and never to force it. Floor Work is a moving Yoga, and as in Yoga, one must let his/her body grow into more flexibility which develops with practice. Several students purchased tapes I had put together of music for Floor work, so they can continue to practice. People were happy with the workshop and seemed pleased with what they could do.

During the next two hour, Alexandria presented a dazzling array of Egyptian Cabaret moves which were enthusiastically received. Although the workshop was full, she was able to give individual feed back and many suggestions for improving the quality of movement.The Sunday workshop was an Ethnic Dance Sampler. Although I have had the pleasure of working with Alexandria for three years, I was not aware of the tremendous depth and breadth of her information. She kept everyone engaged, entertained, and enthusiastic as they explored Egyptian dances of the Ghawazee and Saidi which we introduced by playing the rhythm on dumbek and def. She also taught dances from Algeria, Tunisia, and Morroco with great expertise. Over the years I have taken too many workshops to count or even remember, but I have never been so impressed or enjoyed one so thoroughly. I experienced no fatigue or thought that creeps in occasionally which goes "When will this be over?" At the end of the class I was energized and felt as though I had learned a tremendous amount. The comments made by other participants echoed the same impression and feelings! No none could believe it had been a three hour workshop.

Hawaii, overall, was a refreshing break in my usual Fall routine. It is lovely to sit by the ocean, having drinks and hors d’oevres at the elegant Royal Hawaiian Hotel, or walking down the beach at night sampling different shows which are poolside at various hotels.

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