The International Bellydance Conference of Canada held in Toronto
by Meagan Mayada Hesham
posted May 30, 2012
The first day of IBCC is always exciting – participants are full of pep, hungry to learn, and ready to try it all! Selecting which of the tempting workshops, lectures, discussion panels, and shows to attend is daunting. Like many others, I found it really difficult to decide what to go to and what I’d have to miss; with so many things happening at the same – and overlapping times – not being able to take in everything you want is unfortunately inevitable.
Mahmoud Reda’s Workshop
I arrived Thursday bright and early for a 9:30 workshop with the legendary Mahmoud Reda. He was teaching the first part of an Andalusian choreography (the second part to be taught at his workshop later in the afternoon). He warned us that it was a challenging choreography and rhythm to dance to. The choreography wasn’t so difficult if you just went through it in your own way, but if you actually took the time to listen to Mahmoud’s direction and tried to capture the nuances he spoke of, it became very challenging! As he watched us throughout the workshop, his main note was “slow down”, something I personally have to remind myself of often! Sahra Saeeda and Ranya Renee, two dancers very familiar with his style, were on stage with Reda helping to demonstrate all the movements and dance the choreography with us – an invaluable resource!
Panel Discussion on Competitions
Next, I checked out a panel discussion entitled “Bellydance Competitions: Pros vs Cons”. Panelists included Cassandra Fox, Brigid Kelly, Aurora Ongaro, Saqra Raybuck, Sahra Saeeda, Zahra Zuhair, and DaVid. As panelists introduced themselves, we learned this was a great mix of competitors, competition promoters, judges, and prep coaches. Some were totally for competing, while some thought competitions were a little harsh and led to dancers all dancing alike to please a judge’s particular tastes. Much discussion centred around how judges need to be trained more on how to judge properly. A funny comment came from Saqra, the only panelist who actually hosts a competition, who said she hates competitions! Everyone seemed to agree that judges need more training and more time to judge, that competitors need to be prepared for the fact that they may not win (and not be crushed by the fact that they don’t win), and that competitions definitely aren’t for everyone. Cassandra and Aurora, who’ve had varied bellydance competition experience and enjoy the process, both come from competitive backgrounds (horses and ballroom dance); it was pointed out that competing might be more appealing and easier for them as they’re familiar with the requirements, stresses, and possible disappointments involved. On the other hand, the point was raised that if bellydancers have never competed at anything and have come to bellydance for the acceptance it gives, they may end up being crushed if they don’t do as well as they wanted. I compete in fitness competitions and have always toyed with the idea of competing in bellydance as well, so this forum really resonated with me!
Tamallyn Dalal’s Workshop
After the panel, I was walking by the main hall and was drawn in by Tamalyn Dallal’s voice talking about ‘four musicians bellydancers need to know’. I strongly believe in this and am always trying to emphasize this fact to my students, so I slipped in and listened to the last half-hour of this totally interesting workshop. Tamalyn was going through the history and telling stories about the main four musicians a bellydancer should know: Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Oum Kalsoum, Farid El Atrache, and Abdel Halim Hafez. Dancers should be familiar with dancing to their songs as well! I think this is such important information for bellydancers. I become concerned about the state of our art when I hear “advanced” dancers tell me they have no idea who Oum Kalsoum is!
Sahra’s Workshop on Saidi Dance
A quick lunch break, and then we were back. I chose to take Sahra Saeeda’s “Saidi Dance for Oriental Dancers” workshop. I adore all Egyptian folkloric dances, so this was right up my alley and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the perfect mix of history and information balanced with actual dance movements and combos. Sahra is a very clear teacher, sharing such a wealth of wisdom from her years of experience dancing in Egypt, blended with academic knowledge. She started the workshop by breaking Saidi dancers into three groups:
- Saidi people dancing together and for each other,
- Saidi entertainers in Upper Egypt, and
- dancers performing Saiidi style dance in Cairo (i.e. Reda and national dance companies).
Then she demonstrated steps that all groups of Saiidi dancers know and dance, later progressing to more intricate steps and combos that only the performer groups know, etc.. Showing how to fuse Saidi style dance into an Oriental show, and talking about and demonstrating some assaya (stick) work brought the workshop to its conclusion. I really loved all the history, geography, and personal anecdotes Sahra included in this session.
Emerging Artists Stage
It was 4pm and time for me to head down to IBCC’s non-curated Emerging Artists stage to watch some students and friends perform, on the roster with a whole slew of out-of-town dancers and groups. The Lower Hall had a very informal fun feel to it, with performers hanging out in the audience and just walking up from the back of the room when their name was announced. There was a real range of levels on this stage; in past years, IBCC called this the “Open Stage,” which I think was more suitable. Quite a number of performers I saw here had been performing professionally for 15 or 20 years, while I also heard one dancer exclaim “This was my first show ever!” as she giddily exited the stage after her piece. ‘Open Stage’ was all encompassing, while ‘Emerging Artists’ seems odd when you’re watching a veteran dancer perform…
I had about half an hour to grab a bite to eat, and then it was time for me to get ready for the evening Main Stage show, where I was performing a Saidi double cane duo with my good friend Christina. ‘Got all costumed, finished my make-up, then slipped on a galabeya and headed down to enjoy the first half of the show. It was a truly varied line-up with a mix of cabaret, Vegas glam, fusion, folklore, and more! My very favorite acts of this show were the gorgeous Melissa Gamal bellydancing to classical music and the outrageous Cassandra Fox doing her Bellydance-Caribbean fusion.
By Thursday’s end, I was feeling both exhausted and full of bellydance goodness, inspiration, and excitement. I rushed home and got some shut-eye so I’d be fresh and ready to start the next awesome day of IBCC!!!
Author (center) performing with Banat el Sharq on Wednesday eve, the opening night.
On the left is Sabine, and on the right is Nashita.
Ready for more?
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This is the fourth, and we hear, the last International Bellydance Conference of Canada held May 2-6, 2012 in Toronto Canada, produced by Yasmina Ramzy and staff. As in past years, we will be reporting on this page as internet coverage and time allows. Video reports will be added when possible. Expect interviews, performance clips, demonstrations, and more.
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