Gilded Serpent presents...
Horacio & Beata Cifuentes
by Dondi Simone Dahlin
I was recently
informed that in November, 2006 Horacio and Beata Cifuentes of
Germany will be hosted in North Carolina by Kaharaman.
I highly recommend this workshop to anyone who would like to study
with two seasoned professional dancers. I have studied with
Horacio and Beata and consider their workshops to be some of the
is it about certain workshops in which the profundity and joy
of the workshop stays with you long after it is over?
For me, it
changes as I get older. It is not as much within the curriculum
anymore as it is within the hands of teacher who has the choice
to nourish, share and educate. Unfortunately, too many teachers
choose the opposite… to teach standard, trendy choreographies
with little exuberance for the dance or music. They artfully
disguise “just enough” information to allow the students to go
away feeling like they learned. But shouldn’t we ask for
more than “just enough?” I do, and that is why a workshop
that I attended with Horacio and Beata almost one year ago is
still with me, “long after it is over.”
On the weekend
of November 12, 2004, I was invited, with my sister Titanya (Colorado),
by Kaharaman (Linda Barnes) to perform at the “Celebration of
Dance” weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina with Horacio and
Beata Cifuentes. Titanya and I jumped at the chance.
We had been watching videos and DVDs of Beta and Horacio Cifuentes
for a decade and used their video tapes to convince our father
that Belly dance was a classy dance form.
we started Belly Dancing as pre-teens our father wasn’t thrilled,
to say the least. He didn’t understand the dance and didn’t
feel it was a legitimate art form,
we were earning money from it. I believe he secretly felt
it was a “hoochi-coochie” hobby done by women to seduce men.
It wasn’t until 10 years later when we showed our Dad a video
of Horacio that his opinion changed. As we watched
Horacio in Dad's dark den on his big screen TV (usually featuring
a college football game) his jaw dropped. He watched in
awe at the control, power and grace of a trained, graceful male
Belly Dancer on a large stage in Europe… not a woman seducing
audience members in a smoky club. It was then that Dad gave
us, his daughters his full respect and admiration. He was
then proud to call his daughters “Belly Dancers.”
& Horacio dancing at a festival in the 90s
fond memories of our Dad and his recent passing, we traveled to
The Clarion Hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina amongst the splendor
of fall. The workshop was exactly what I look for in a “worthwhile”
I tend to
shy away from workshops that are heavy in choreography.
Over the last decade of studying and performing in the Middle
aware that for most Arabic people, the most important aspect
of Middle Eastern Dance (and what separates it from many other
dance forms) is feeling.
I can only
compare this to the Argentinean Tango. Any master Tango
dancer will say the same thing… you can never become a great Tango
dancer with a set of memorized steps – you must study, practice
and become comfortable with the improvisation and feeling
of the music. For me this is true with Belly Dance.
Choreography is an important tool and almost mandatory when dancing
with a large group, but I became immersed in a culture where I
was performing solo and the people wanted improvisation with
feeling. The people wanted (and still want) emotion
from the heart and soul, for the music, culture and movement.
found that, more often than not, when choreography is introduced,
that feeling is lost.
the ideal workshop for me is one with challenging combinations
and drills but without all the focus on choreography. With combinations
and drills we build endurance and learn new skills, in addition
to the discipline of executing someone else’s movement (hopefully
a master teacher). If choreography is a part of it, that is a
bonus. But, if I go to a workshop with only choreography
then I feel like the teacher did not allow me to utilize my own
creativity and imagination. I am now a robot of the teacher.
Of course, we can go home and “make it our own” but it is not
truly our own… it is someone else’s.
and Beata fulfilled my idealism of a fabulous workshop because
they combined all of the above.
traveling drills, combinations and choreography.
Beata suffered from a sore throat so she didn’t talk much but
Horacio “covered” for her by explaining where the movements were
coming from in our bodies. He described the anatomy of our
legs and hips and how that anatomy related to the movement of
the dance. When our large group (125 people) started to
get tired after 45 minutes, he reminded us that “resting” would
not be accepted in a master workshop in any other dance form,
so we would not be “resting” either. He told stories of
his days with the San Francisco Ballet and how the dance students
would drill for hours with very strict teachers. Horacio
said all of this in the most gentle way and the husband/wife team
fulfilled my other criteria for whom I will study with… they
must be caring, genuine people.
last regular class at the Brady St Studio in San Francisco
in February 1991. Pictures are: Back row- Lynette, Pam Duka,
Juan in red tank, Caliope's mom- Carolyn, Alanna, Caliope
in pink hair, Julia Fox in purple neck scarf, ballet artist
Sally Miramon in black V-neck tank, Suzanne Dennis (now
Tatseena). Front row-Erena, ? Horacio, Jawahare,
been dancing too long to waste my $60 and 4 hours and teachers
who are cold, unapproachable, or dipped in their own ego.
If I were
20 I would allow someone to “put me in my place” and be tough
on me. I don’t even mind a “bit of the old whip” now. But,
as I age, I want to dance, teach and study with people who are
generous with their knowledge.
I want to train with people who are down-to-earth and more interested
in the welfare of the students than counting heads and calculating
their 70%. Horacio and Beata Cifuentes exuded care and consideration
of the students while educating us on solid, legitimate Egyptian
technique. I had an inkling of this before I went to North
Carolina. In October, 2004, I was touring with “Belly Dance
Superstars” in Germany and Horacio and Beata attended our show
in Berlin. At this time I had never met them and hardly
any of the dancers in our show knew them personally. Nonetheless,
Horacio and Beata heavily recruited their students, friends and
family to attend our show. Students of theirs told me that
they always supported good dance and displayed Belly Dance Superstars
posters and fliers in their studio before we arrived in their
city. After the show in Berlin I met them and was immediately
impressed by their graciousness and yearning to meet every single
“Belly Dance Superstar” who performed. Supporting a big
stage production coming into their city of Berlin is an
act of a true professional.
is a Latin Adonis with perfect posture.
If you get
nothing else out of studying with Horacio, you will walk out of
the class with more awareness of your posture than you walked
in with. In North Carolina, Horacio stood before the full
ball-room of eager students teaching us grace, flair, and power
in our steps. He wove his teaching with uplifting
and humorous stories of his own performances, shows and years
of training. (Ask him about one of his first trips to
Texas and encountering an entire “cow family” at the elevator
of his hotel). He talked to us about what ballet classes
were like when he was younger and spoke highly of other Middle
Eastern dancers in the field throughout America and abroad.
He is eloquent in his style of speaking, teaching and dancing.
is a sensuous angel with the face of a priceless doll.
to us about Oriental dance and the feeling that it MUST be accompanied
with. She inspired our joy to learn because she emanated
joy when she taught. And, even with a “Texas flu” that she had
caught the weekend before greatly compromising her energy and
vocal cords, a genuine smile never left her face.
Beata taught together all weekend taking turns throughout the
day and there was a strong and powerful atmosphere in the room
for the entire weekend. It was obvious to me and others
in the workshop that Horacio and Beata truly enjoyed our company
and were excited to share their craft and talent. There
was a feeling of gratitude. Horacio and Beata created an
atmosphere of appreciation which made learning a wonderful experience.
weekend we learned a full Egyptian stick dance from Horacio (one
of the funnest and most dynamic I have ever learned) that was
a combination of delicate cabaret and strong folkloric styles.
Beata taught a drum solo with clever hand, head, eye and
torso coordination. By the end of it her precise moves convinced
us that “less is more.” Horacio spent time in between the
choreographies working on travelling steps, drills, hip work,
leg work, posture, arms, torso, head and hands.
stayed with me after the weekend was over was the variety that
me of when I studied with Farida Fahmy in one of her larger classes
at “Ahlan Wa Sahlan” in Cairo. We weren’t stuck dancing
within a 5x5 square on the floor the whole time…we moved.
With Horacio and Beata we moved. Travelling steps
are an important part of the dance and were an important part
of the weekend. We drilled large, sweeping lyrical steps across
the floor of the ball room as well as “facing front to the teacher.”
There was never a moment of boredom. It was a workshop well
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
About my teacher Magana Baptiste
by Horacio Cifuentes
the time when her husband placed second in the Mr. America body
building contest, and mind you, these were the days when body
builders took no steroids and were true examples of healthy humans,
Magana placed first runner up in the Miss USA beauty competition
held in Los Angeles in 1951.
Zaharr's Memoir, Part
11- The Minerva
do Greeks know about Belly Dancing anyway?” He just grabbed
my hand and we headed toward the door. Grumbling, I followed him
inside and I was startled to see a big stage with a large wooden
dance floor right in front of it.
Rhythm and Reason
Series, Article 5, Cymbals & the Music by Mary Ellen Donald
that’s not the rhythm. As I say at the beginning of each
workshop, “Rhythm is the patterned arrangement of sound
TARZAN & JANE IN THE
JUNGLE, Oriental Fantasy in Germany Review By Roswitha Mohl
The pace of
the show is almost unbelievable!
Photos of Beata
and Horacio Cifuentes on Tour!
and Horacio Cifuentes have recently concluded a whirlwind World
Tour, which included Japan, Europe, Canada, and the USA.
& Horacio's 15th Anniversary Celebration in Berlin, Germany