Aisha Ali Workshop in Phoenix, AZ

A Review by Lucy Lipschitz

This workshop was held on Saturday, June 17, and Sunday, June 18. Esther Gengler of "Salome's Secret" provides two events like this per year for dancers who come from all over the U.S.A.. Aisha Ali, a long time pioneer in North African-style dancing, was the teacher for the Saturday workshop. 

In the morning, Aisha talked about the history of the Ghawazee people, where they came from, where they lived, and her experiences dancing with the Banaat Mazin, a Ghawazee-dance family. She also talked about the style of dance that is also called Raks Ghawazee. She had the students warm up with "sagat" (zills) and instructed them to accompany Ghawazee movements and combinations with finger cymbals.  

After the warm up, Aisha taught choreography to a tune called "Hamama" which means "Pigeon" in the Egyptian language.  Ghawazee is a very energetic dance form; it uses more hip movement and shimmies, usually keeping one's feet flat on the ground. There are also some prancing and pony steps, done very quickly. There are not many fancy arm or hand movements.  The teaching of this routine continued until noon when we took a lunch break. 

Many of the students brought their own lunch, and had time to converge upon the vendors. The prices were quite reasonable at all of the merchant's tables; there were four vendors, including Aisha's table. A variety of tapes, dumbeks, canes, and different styles of costumes and accessories were offered for sale. 

After the one-hour lunch and shopping break, Aisha showed us how to make a Tuinisian style tasseled-belt made up of skeins of wool. She followed this instruction by showing us how to wrap it around the Tunisian skirt, called a "melyah". The whole effect is a very free-flowing robe that moves with the body when one dances. The costume dates back to Carthaginian times! 

Go to another article by this author: Dancing to Live Drumming by Lucy Lipschitz

Go to an article by a different author: The Dancers of the Infidel Emperor by Kirk Templeton

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