Hala Dance Company
Odd Fellows Hall,
Redwood City, California
August 7 & 8, 2004
reviewed: August 7th, Saiidi Folkloric
What you know, leave at the front desk in a little bag.
Then when you leave, you can take two little bags home with you.what
you knew before, and what you learned today. This was the
request Farida Fahmy made to her workshop students
this past August.
swap of instructors when her renowned brother-in-law, Mahmoud
Reda, couldn't get a visa in time, the class was full
to capacity with eager dancers. An elegant and poised lady
who looked to be in her fifties, Farida was garbed in a comfortable
pants ensemble, without a hip scarf.
manner was engaging and sometimes joking, yet with a certain no-nonsense
confidence that must come of leading an influential dance troupe
the class with some simple arm movements and steps. She
often stopped to correct the class, usually trying to demonstrate
the incorrect movement (often comically) rather than calling attention
to particular dancers. Even at this early stage, it was
becoming clear that it would be hard work for us to "leave what
you know at the front desk." Yet she complimented the class
and California in general for its aptitude.
is distinctly different from what was already ingrained in our
muscle memory. She discouraged bent knees, and taught the
class to hold themselves tall and poised, yet relaxed and grounded.
Even during hip drops, when most people reflexively let their
standing leg bend, we were instructed to keep our limbs straight
and carriage upright. At all times, we were supposed to
feel grounded yet lifted, relaxed and neutral.
also showed us how isolations don't need to be "popped," but rather
to let surrounding body parts follow the movement a little, so
that the effect is loose and graceful rather than sharp and tense. This
also puts less strain on the body.
I also noticed
that her kick when she did hip-drops was the opposite of what
I had learned. Instead of letting the foot flick forward
on the lower hip drop, Farida let her foot come off the floor
on her higher hip drop. The movement of the hip made her
foot flick without any extra effort, when it wasn't touching the
As the class
progressed to across-the-floor movements, another contrast between
Reda-style dancing and California bellydance was highlighted.
Sweeping steps and turns were used, rather than simple "step-hips"
or camel walks. It wasn't really ballet or modern, but it
wasn't bellydance as we were accustomed to it.
was difficult to execute all the aspects she had taught us, all
at once - posture, steps, spotting, arms, hips, and energy!
Don't forget to smile! She insisted on this last point.
gliding style led the dancers to feel that they should focus on
grace more than energy, so that many students had a certain limpness
to their expressions and manner. Once we were more or less
solid on the technique and choreography, Farida emphasized the
need to do it all with spirit.
the four hours, Farida took steps to make sure the entire class
was getting the most out of her instruction. She would periodically
move the back lines towards the front so they could see better,
and broke us up into groups to perform the Saiidi dance we learned.
I was pleased that she chose me to be leader in the front line
of my group.in the words of Eeyore, "thanks for noticing me!"
The only downside
was that we all got a little tired out, almost cranky, towards
the end of the class. Perhaps three hours would have been
more appropriate. I have to say that Farida managed this
gracefully, even acquiescing to do a final encore performance
of the dance, despite pleading fatigue.
I found the workshop to be an enriching and amusing experience.
is an interesting challenge to undertake, and is well worth a
try. It offers techniques that are easier on the body than
some other forms of bellydance, and perhaps most importantly,
a boost for your stage presence skills!
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