Gilded Serpent presents...

A Day of Middle Eastern Rhythms
Taught by Adriane & Tezrah

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Workshop Review by Nuriya
posted March 6, 2011

Workshop Held at the Brazilian Cultural Center in Rancho Cordova, CA, on January 23, 2011

Every belly dancer who has dedicated herself to the constant improvement of her dance has enrolled in a workshop, only to feel disappointed at having spent money on a few hours where nothing new was learned. That was not the case in my experience taking a day of workshops centered around Middle Eastern Rhythms, put on by Adriane and Tezrah, two prominent members of the Sacramento belly dance community.  The day was split into two workshops.  The morning was spent drumming and zilling to different rhythms with Tezrah, an experienced dancer and drummer who has performed with notable bands such as Flowers of the Nile, while the afternoon was spent exploring dance combinations to each of those rhythms with Adriane, one of Sacramento’s premiere belly dancers and winner of the 2011 Jewels of the Sierra competition in the Live Music category.

The two workshops combined a brief tutorial in the history of rhythms, practicing skills, and learning new combinations.  I received a solid foundation in identifying and developing a familiarity with Middle Eastern rhythms.

Tezrah familiarized the dancers with her background in music and belly dance.  She then demonstrated a variety of drums commonly associated with Middle Eastern belly dance music. Tezrah introduced the group to the basics of drumming, which included technique and provided instruction in the “doums, “teks,” and “kas” needed to interpret Middle Eastern drumming rhythms.  The rhythms ranged from common rhythms such as saidi, masmoudi, baladi, to less common rhythms such as wahda kabira and semaii.  Each was taught according a worksheet breaking down each rhythm according to two varieties, the core beat and a more complex rhythm.  Each rhythm began with a brief historical introduction and an explanation of where a dancer would commonly encounter that rhythm in music. 

Adriane also provided a handout laying out a choreographed set of two 8-counts for each Middle Eastern rhythm taught earlier.  Adriane highlighted the beauty of an individual rhythm.  Although initially I had been intimidated by some of the combinations, they proved simple to learn as Adriane broke down the steps into 4 or 8-counts.  During the combinations, Adriane danced either in front of the group or in the middle of the dance circle. Some of the combinations proved to be more challenging for the group (such as semaii, due to the 10/8 count), but when this difficulty became apparent, Adriane simplified the learning process by removing the motion from the steps.  As the dancers practiced the combination without travelling, the steps became much easier to grasp, and afterwards, the travelling was reintroduced.

Although at times the combinations proved challenging, I felt I had learned a graceful set of interpretive steps for each rhythm.  I finished the day absolutely exhausted and worried that I would not be able to remember the combinations after leaving.  But after a relaxing cool-down, Adriane also allowed the participants to film her performing the combinations to help dancers practice at home.

All in all, I felt that the two workshops complimented each other perfectly so that I not only learned key rhythms, but was able to capitalize upon that knowledge later that same day.  This provided a deeper and more utilitarian experience than most workshops by capitalizing on visual, audio and kinesthetic learning skills.  I left 1) challenged and optimistic for my future dances and musical interpretation, knowing that I had developed a deeper understanding of my dance that would serve me for years to come, and 2) eager to see what future workshops would cover.

On a related note, dancers were invited to showcase their talents later that evening at a showcase with live music provided by Flowers of the Nile, professional photography and videography, homemade Middle Eastern cuisine, and a wide array of dance styles from the Sacramento belly dance community:

Class photo
Class photo
back row: Nuriya, Bonnie Lewis, Zakkiyya, Nancy Asiya, Kathi Gandara, Susan Cole, Kallista, Radhia
middle: Sawako Ama, Julia, Tasha, Jan Lowry, Tisha Leigh, Sara Pope, Ivy
front: Linah, Adriane, Tezrah

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