Gilded Serpent presents...
An Introduction to Egyptian Saidi Technique
first time I ever handled an assaya (cane) was during a Yousry
Sharif workshop. Mr. Sharif is known for two things:
he is a tough and demanding teacher, and he is the master of the
cane. I could not have been more nervous!
Mr. Sharif’s English is good, his teaching method is very Egyptian
— more “show” than “tell.” The first thing he showed us was how
to hold and twirl the cane: fingers open, holding the cane lightly
at the base of the thumb and using a gentle wrist action to flip
it around the palm of the hand. It was surprisingly easy!
the dancers who were in the habit of gripping the cane in their
fists weren’t able to progress to the advanced moves, like passing
the cane from hand to hand quickly while twirling it. I realized
how lucky I was to have learned the easy way first!
Sharif is Yousry’s wife, partner and student. She told
me they created Rakset Assaya: an Introduction to Egyptian
Saidi Technique (Egyptian Academy of Oriental Dance) to bring
the Sharif technique to a larger audience. Nourhan also told me
why Rakset Assaya is so important to them both. “It is a wonderful,
soulful dance of the Saidi people…and as all of the inhabitants
are moving towards urbanized living, this art form is in danger
of being lost.” Then she adds, “My husband's family background
what could be better than learning Egyptian Saidi technique from
an Egyptian of Saidi background who is the renowned master of
the dance? How about learning it from his partner, who breaks
the steps down verbally in the American teaching style!
production quality of this video is excellent. The setting is
simple, the camera work clean and uncluttered. Slow motion and
close-ups are used sparingly.
is no mirror on the set, but Nourhan turns in all directions while
demonstrating the more complex steps.
Assaya is best suited to the intermediate or advanced student,
but cane experience is unnecessary. Nourhan assumes you know basic
moves, from hip drops to 3/4 and choo-choo shimmies (a student
who can’t do traveling shimmies could do the steps without them).
Nourhan refers to her beginner video for details of a few moves,
but the only one you might have trouble with is a lock she demonstrates
while wearing a galibeya. If you can’t make out the lock, you
could substitute another isolation. (Don’t worry, she only wears
the galibeya at the end of the tape.)
love her constant posture reminders (“I’m very lifted here…my
spine is long”).
also reminds us to breathe, which I found puzzling at first, but
soon I found breath awareness very useful for staying relaxed
while keeping an erect posture.
video covers wrist stretches, holding the cane (the same relaxed,
open hand that Yousry teaches), framing the body with the cane,
and several twirling variations before advancing to Saidi steps.
Nourhan presents dozens of combinations (even the ones she describes
as “exercises” I would call “darn cute moves”) and teaches several
whole phrases from Yousry’s choreographies. Not only can you drop
these bits of choreography into your own dances, but they give
you a feel for how the combinations can be put together. Two
improvisations by Nourhan at the end of the video give you a deeper
sense of how the steps might be used to interpret music.
you prefer a video that can be followed straight through, like
a workshop, you may want to wait for Nourhan’s Assaya choreography
video (which she has promised to do next). Personally, I don’t
mind putting the tape on hold while I practice a move, or rewinding
it until I get a step right. This video delivers enough combinations,
steps and cane moves to build several completely different choreographies.
It’s rare for me to feel like I’ve gotten this much “bang” for
my video buck!
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