Gilded Serpent presents...

Deep Study of Dance with Culture for 20 Hours!

Yasmina Ramzy’s Crash Course, August 2013

Yasmina Ramzy by Nomad Baker

Workshop Review by Diana Diane Adams
posted December 11, 2013

Workshop held August 16 – 19, 2013
If you have never studied on an in depth level with Yasmina Ramzy of Arabesque Dance Academy in Toronto, Canada, you are in for a real treat! Yasmina offers two 4-day, 20 hr. dance intensives yearly, one for Beginning/Intermediate level, and one for Intermediate/Advanced level.  I opted for the latter and was not disappointed.

Yasmina has the largest school for Middle Eastern dance in Canada.  It’s located in the trendy Church St. village, just a 10 minute walk from the heart of downtown Toronto.  Hotels and eateries abound in this lively area.  The studio is in a compact space that houses two dance studios, a main reception and boutique area, costume storage and changing room. Her administrative staff is friendly and helpful. In addition to herself, Yasmina employs 12 teachers that drill students in every phase of the dance, from the foundation level on up to advanced professional.  She has several different troupes which showcase each skill level plus her pro dancers that perform in major productions.  She has a dedicated world-class Middle Eastern orchestra that is unsurpassed.

The intensive is 4 days, 5 hours per day, with one of those hours being devoted to studying the culture and viewing videos of famous Egyptian dancers. Um Kalthoum was featured, and it was interesting to learn why the Egyptian people view her as such an icon.  She was not only involved musically, but politically in trying to shape Egypt, and was respected by rulers.  After her music was banned at one point, the head of Egypt had her music immediately reinstated on national radio. Yasmina is a wealth of information having danced and lived in Egypt from an early age.  There were nine of us and each received individual attention and correction on everything from basic to advanced moves.  Yasmina said her pro dancers regularly take foundation and beginning classes to perfect technique. 

Check your ego at the door and be prepared to learn true Egyptian technique and correct what you’ve been doing incorrectly for years.

Each day consisted of a different program that consisted of warm-ups, classic moves with a twist or different way of presenting them, folkloric dance, finger cymbals, and work on a choreography.  The choreography we learned was from one of her recent shows to a song by Farid Al Attrache that had the interesting addition of a trumpet in the score.  It was a beautiful piece, and I wish I could have seen her troupe perform it in the September gala. Yasmina’s classical interpretation followed the trumpet notes and was engaging. It had a twist of modern moves and directional changes and the piece was mesmerizing to the audience.

Yasmina Ramzy includes video study of Cairo dancers. Photo by Angelica JordanParticular attention is paid to executing certain moves Egyptian-style, such as shimmies generated from the knees instead of the butt.  One class offered 11 different ways of steps walking backwards, different versions of arabesques and interesting arch and contraction combos.  On another of the days students have the option of taking 3 classes of their choice from one of her instructors.  Even though I’ve been dancing for close to 30 years, I chose a Beginning Level Movement class from Krista who gave gentle corrections on the most basic of moves such as hip circles, etc.; a Beginner Level II drum solo choreography taught by Deb, with moves geared exactly to that level; and an advanced combo and choreography session with pro troupe dancer Melissa.  The class was challenging with many directional changes and turns.  Both Deb and Melissa kindly sent us what was taught on You Tube.  Each day we studied culture which featured the famous Egyptian singer Um Kalthoum, her life and work, and viewed videos of famous dancers such as Soheir Zaki, for styling and technique.  On the last day, participants are asked to improvise to two different pieces of music chosen by Yasmina.  Those watching anonymously describe their impression of the dancer on a piece of paper which is folded and put into an envelope for each dancer.  This gives one a birdseye view of how your dance appears to an audience which was unique and helpful.

I would advise anyone who decides to take these intensives to prepare your muscles for hard work prior to taking the classes.  Bring aspirin and muscle rub if you aren’t used to training that long each day.  I was whipped after the first 2 days, but by the 3rd day, I started gaining more stamina and my muscles felt more limber giving me more flexibility.

This is an excellent experience for anyone who wants to brush up on and perfect technique and take their dance in a new direction.  As Yasmina said, at a certain point there are no “new” moves.  But you can give them a different twist and presentation.  She delivered high quality instruction and we all came away with a new perspective on the dance and culture.  Who could ask for more? 

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