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Photo by Carl Sermon
Gilded Serpent presents...
My Teacher, Fahtiem
by Lucia

She appears on stage – embraced with grace and poise, her flaxen hair and passionate facial expressions, the unmistakable trademarks of this International Star. She is Fahtiem….

In 2005, I approached this legendary performer for private classes. Although I was an experienced, award winning performer, I felt that something was missing in my dance. Through the years as I watched Fahtiem perform, I noticed she performed with predictable professionalism, yet exuded an unabashed, genuine emotion and grace in her movements. She danced with completeness - a rare quality. 

During my classes with Fahtiem, I discovered she is a genuine, committed and generous instructor with a quick wit and playful soul.

I still recall my first class with Fahtiem – it was particularly challenging. Despite my dance experience, I felt as though it was my “first day” of Middle Eastern Dance class.

Fahtiem began the lesson with a “core focused” warm up, which consisted of movements geared to isolate your major muscle groups, with graceful arm movements that challenged your hand-eye coordination and balance. Then Fahtiem watched as I danced to some unfamiliar music. This was a bit unsettling, but I managed to get through it and quickly realized that my goal of ‘getting through it’ was very transparent. It showed in my face, gestures, and moves. I felt uncomfortable and it flowed through my dance. I wanted to snap out of it and start over. What was going on here? Did I forget how to dance or what?

This part of the lesson was a “step one–self realization“ in movement and more difficult than anticipated. Why?

As performers, we tend to often dance improvisation with moves that are ‘safe’ and comfortable. It is often difficult to step out of the box.

With Fahtiem’s assistance, I learned to use and focus on different muscles in dance, some muscles which had been ignored! She also taught me how to focus on the energy I was creating and the energy being created - one step at a time. For instance, enhancing awareness in my finger tips to toes. This process illuminated incomplete movements, incorrect and rushed technique. I was learning how to “breathe life and fulfillment” into my dance. Fahtiem described some helpful concepts to further comprehend how to evince the special magic that Middle Eastern music exudes.

It is well known that in Middle Eastern music and dance, there exists a certain mystery. Our dance is a communication of the music – subject to our interpretation, skills and emotion. We cannot ignore this. Instead, we should communicate this magic by our entire presentation of this art from head to toe. This process helped me to realize the many layers in Middle Eastern dance which had not been tapped into.

This was exciting – I felt like I was finally learning to move in a way that I had been searching for: that soulful, oozy and calmly passionate way of Raqs Sharki.

Fahtiem’s emphasis was to breathe from the heart and dance with your heart. What a concept!

Fahtiem has a gentle, yet direct manner of instruction. She will correct your movements and demonstrate proper form. Her antics are hilarious but memorable. I recall one example of a pseudo job interview that Fahtiem performed – she pretended to be a potential candidate for a job at an interview and asked me to decide which person I would hire: Fahtiem acted as “Person A” – shy, mumbled, unconfident, slouched shoulders, non committal, confused. Then she acted as “Person B” – outgoing, happy, confident, exuberant smile and handshake, great posture and charming gestures.  The choice was obvious. What a difference, the same person with such diverse energy and expression. We are all capable of being “Person B”. Being a Middle Eastern dance artist is no different – it just takes self realization, effort, beautiful thoughts, practice and time.    

During my classes with Fahtiem, I have continued to improve in different aspects of dance. It is a never ending process and I relish that.

I share this information with my students with hope it will inspire them and enhance their dance experience. I also encourage students to attend workshops, learn from different instructors to further enrich their technique, skills and enjoyment of dance. We all have such unique styles – which add to the richness of this exotic, special art. By selecting and savoring quality instruction, you and those around you will grow.   

If you want expand your horizons and step ‘out of the box’ in dance, I highly recommend private or semi-private classes with Fahtiem. You will not regret this special learning experience.

Fahtiem's workshop participants in Richmond, CA, Spring 2007
Click for enlargement. Names?
Soroya 2nd from left front row, Yasmine from frow red skirt, Fahtiem blond in the middle

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