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Aziza-other lady removed- sorry!
Gilded Serpent presents...
The Body Beautiful-
A Review of Aziza’s workshop
by Eve

Moving across the country and learning to adjust to a new environment is never an easy thing, but add in the difficulty of adjusting to a completely new bellydancing community, and you have a recipe for ‘Awkward Stew’. I began bellydance lessons 5 years ago as a way of learning to view myself as beautiful on my own terms without having to starve myself or put women down who were blessed with bodies larger or smaller than mine, and I had done a pretty good job of achieving this goal. 

Moving to Albuquerque in beautiful New Mexico took me out of my bellydancing comfort zone and I was starting to panic. 

Enter Aziza’s workshop. On June 17th, I attended Aziza’s workshop on drum solos and taxims that was organized by the original Gitana herself, Amaya, and sponsored by Amaya Productions. The experience served as a wonderful reminder of what drew me to bellydancing in the first place, and I was determined to push through the new-kid-on-the-block blues and continue my evolution as a dancer.

The workshop was held at the Hotel Elegante in an extremely spacious and well lit ballroom with plenty of room for everyone to stretch and dance comfortably. The drum solo portion of the workshop began at 9:30 and ran for a little over two hours. Aziza stood on small “stage” at the front of the ballroom enabling everyone there (including those of us who are vertically challenged) to see her clearly as she demonstrated each move for us. Before beginning the drum work, Aziza ran us through an intense warm-up and stretching session that left everyone wide awake and ready for the workout ahead of us. Saying that I'm a bit self-conscious about my dancing and the difficulty I have in learning new choreography would be an enormous understatement, and the thought of attending my first workshop has always filled me with a sort of dread at what the instructor would say to me whenever I made a mistake or couldn't keep up with the class. I was both surprised and elated to find that Aziza made sure to make everyone in her class feel at ease with constant reassurances throughout the workshop.

Just when you thought that you were merely another face in a sea of bellydancers, Aziza would pinpoint the fine nuances of your individual movements and offer helpful suggestions on how to make the move look cleaner or give positive reinforcement to the progress you were making.

Learning choreography is certainly an Achilles’ heel of mine, and it seems to take me forever to execute a combination and feel comfortable in it. But Aziza taught the choreography in such a way that even in my most frustrated two-left feet moments I felt like I was making progress. The constant repetition of movement and her willingness to answer even the most detail-oriented questions about the choreography made me feel like my fragile bellydancer’s id was in safe hands.

After the drum solo choreography, there was a break for lunch before the workshop resumed and I decided to answer the bellydancer’s “call of the wild” and buy something sparkly. There was an impressive selection of DVDs, jewelry, costumes, and other assorted goodies to choose from; my only lament is that there were not any costumes on display for “extra fluffy” dancers such as myself.

The afternoon workshop was dedicated to technique, important dancing concepts, and learning to master the taxim. Aziza, a bellydancing professional, has an immense store of knowledge and experience to share with us and there just wasn't enough time to cover even a fraction of what she felt was important for us to know.

 Aziza pointed out that as a professional bellydancer who takes the art form quite seriously, it is of great importance to her that she teaches her students the ins and outs of stage dynamics and professional etiquette such as remembering to acknowledge and thank the performing band after a live performance.

 The technique drills that she had us do in class focused on improving the quality and strength of our abdominal muscles, enabling us to impart a richer dimension in our performance. I can honestly say that I've never before been sore to the very core of my being for days and felt so great about it! She had us doing things with our abdominal muscles that I thought were reserved only for masochists and Russian gymnasts, but her humor and positive reinforcements kept us going....even through the dreaded ABDOMINAL ALPHABET.

After the workshop I had to hurriedly limp home (think of Igor with a coin belt) and get ready for her evening show. I’d heard of just how moving her live shows were and I couldn't wait to witness it for myself. Aziza wasn't scheduled to perform until the second act of the show and I had the pleasure of sitting next to her while she watched the first act of the gala. I'd like to say that I played it cool and handled things in a mature and calm manner, but I'd be lying through my teeth. I haven't been in that serious of a fangrrl geekout mode since waiting in line for the first X-Men movie. Aziza was truly awesome and she handled my star struck manner like a professional. I can now understand the dilemma that people who review her live performances face when they try and put into words the effect that Aziza has on an audience ...there's just no way to do the experience justice. You have to see it for yourself.

There isn't a way to describe the feeling of sitting among the audience and listening to everyone gasp in awe at the beauty and power of her taxim, the laughter at how she skillfully worked eyebrow gymnastics into her drum solo, or bought the house down hard enough to receive a minutes-long standing ovation. You just have to be there.

Taking Aziza's workshop was a wonderfully cathartic experience for me because it reminded me of why I keep coming back to bellydancing. Bellydancing is one of the few ways that I'm able to look at my 300-lb body with pride and admiration because I know myself to be a strong and beautiful woman.


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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
5-8-03 Reconnecting with the Dance: a Performance Critique of Aziza by Shelley Muzzy/Yasmela
There are several dancers on the scene that I admire and enjoy watching again and again, but I just saw one that made me stop in my tracks, sit right down on the floor, and pay attention.

3-22-00 The Beginning by another amazing Aziza!
When she came out to dance in the audience, I thought to myself, "She better not get too near to my husband!"

9-28-06 Teacher Student Rivalry, Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 16 by Mary Ellen Donald
“After all I did for her, why did she turn on me that way?”  “I’ll show her that I can do just a well without her help?

9-22-06 Kohl: Drawing the Line by Dawn Devine
Along with henna, kohl has been part of the beauty regimens of women since the dawn of history, and an unbroken line connects the eyes of today with those of the ancients.

9-15-06 The Taxim from a Dancer's Perspective:Tarab or Tyranny? by Najia Marlyz
Sometimes, these improvisations can be quite elaborate. The effect is somewhat like modern jazz and stays within the framework of the traditional maqam or maqamat.

9-14-06 Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts, Interview with Dee Dee Asad by Lynette
Open discussions of such issues will help dancers, musicians and those people who surround and support them, to recognize similar patterns in their own local environments.

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